Prime Cuts: It Snowed, Gift of Love, Let the Season Take Wing
Christmas albums are a tricky affair. Novelty, according to many who fork out the money to purchase a Christmas record, isn't necessarily a premium. Many today still want their Christmas music to abide to the tried and true yuletide carols. Yet, how many ways can you interpret the chestnuts such as "Joy to the World" or "Silent Night" and still sound fresh, invigorating and worthy of another rendition? But yet you will be dang with endless bickering if you eschew the classics and go solely for brand new compositions. Mills has tackled this conundrum judiciously on "Christmas Miracle" by keeping a fine balance between covers and new songs. And when it comes to the covers, Mills is wise enough to dust off some more obscure covers such as Frank Sinatra's "The Christmas Waltz," Meghan Smith's "It Snowed," Bing Crosby's "Marshmallow World," and Peter Yarrow's (Peter, Paul and Mary) "Light One Candle."
"Christmas Miracle" is Mills debut seasonal album. Hailing from a background of leading worship where he has had released six studio albums and two live recordings, Mills certainly brings a worshipful attitude to these tracks. He is often careful to ensure that the songs as a whole do exalt Jesus and point to the real meaning of the season. Adopting a lush Bing Crosby orchestrated sound that we have often associated with Christmas music is Mills' take of Frank Sinatra's "The Christmas Waltz." Featuring a jazzy tilt accompanied by romantic sounding strings and bells, Mills could give Ol' Blue Eyes a run for his money. The same can be said about the album's lead single "It Snowed." Mills certainly has an uncanny gift of allowing us to see God's beauty in the falling of snow just by the way he sings.
If you are looking for a Christmas song with a timeless melody look no farther than "Let the Season Take Wing." Sounding like Elton John in his prime, Mills delivers excellently; the anticipation for Christmas has never been more poignantly than on this track. Being a worship leader himself, Mills has included a couple of his compositions that could service the church's worship during this festive seasons: "Precious Baby" and "Gift of Love." Most heart tugging is the latter which brims with lots of quotable lines with one's favorite being: "The most extraordinary things come at a price. I'm not talkin' 'bout the money, I'm talkin' 'bout the sacrifice." Weaving his own autobiography into his song choice is "C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.," a song Mills used to sing together with his family while growing up.
However, in an attempt to bridge into today's sounds, Mills has imbued tracks such as "Light one Candle" and "Angels From the Realms of Glory" with a modern and heavier electronic vibe which doesn't really sit well with the rest of the tracks. If this were a regular album, such a move is understandable. But for a seasonal record, it just creates an unnecessary schism between the songs that have a more old-fashioned sound and those with a more hip hop slant. Other than such a quibble, "Christmas Miracle" deserves two thumbs up for the album's diversity of songs and Mills' thoughtful and sincere delivery.
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