Prime Cuts: Another Christmas Closer, Christmas Spirit Medley, I Call Him Lord
Overall Grade: 5/5
Elegance finds its voice in the new Colllingsworth Family's (TCF) Christmas recording. Everything that is needed to create a rich nostalgic sound of an old fashioned Christmas record is here. From the Carpenters-esque stacked vocal layering to the luxuriant-sounding string orchestration, this record exudes a gorgeous romantic swirl that makes the season sparkle brightly amidst the mistletoe and ivy. But these songs not only evoke the sentimentality of the season, they also invite us into the story of Christmas with fresh creativity. When it comes to the familiar carols, TCF doesn't just sing them karaoke-style. Rather, with a deft touch, they have string many of these festive songs together reworking them over newly written string-sections. When it comes to the originals, which occupies about a third of the canon, they are all first-rate entities standing toe to toe with the classics.
The magic begins with the Disney-inspired "Christmas Spirit Medley." Stringing together snippets of songs such as "Spirit of the Season," Caroling, Caroling," and "We Need a Little Christmas," this medley would be at home with any classic Disney movie. Sounding like what Richard Carpenter would do to those classic Carpenters' records, the layered vocals of "Home for Christmas" medley is just pure bliss. Then the jazzy brass kicks in with the delightful Frank Sinatra-esque "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" Don't miss the cascading piano doodles of the instrumental "Sleigh Ride" or the dramatic unfolding of the other instrumental "Carol of the Bells."
Rachel McCutcheon who has become one of StowTown Records go-to songwriters contributes three co-writes here. The first, perhaps the weakest in this trio of offerings, is the 80s sounding country offering "We Do Christmas like We Mean It." Much stronger is the ballad "Isn't that Why He Came" which doesn't miss a note in detailing Christ's mission. Best among the trio of McCutcheon originals is "Another Christmas Closer" - a tearjerker that combines both the melancholy of missing a loved one at Christmas and the joyous hope of the eternal life the Christ-child brings.
Outside of McCutcheon's palette, Dottie Rambo's poignant "I Call Him Lord" is a must-hear. Personalising the Christmas story from more than just a shopping window pageant into what Jesus really means to us, this is the type of songs that give reason to the season. The album closes on a big bang with an eleven and a half minute musical retelling the story of the first Christmas story segueing with snippets of various Christmas hymns. This is in sync with tenure of the whole record, which is essentially a big budgeted affair of gorgeous music impeccably executed over well-chosen songs.
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