Prime Cuts: He's Still the King of Kings, Rest in You Tonight, White Christmas
Overall Grade: 4.25/5
Artists often face the same dilemma when it comes to making Christmas records: how many original compositions can one get by? On one hand, you really don't want to stack a festive record with too many originals as it will rob the album from the familiarity and sentimentality associated with the season. On the other hand, too many traditional carols can turn the album into elevator music where few pay attention to. With All Heaven and Nature Sing, Gaither Vocal Band (GVB) has struck a compromise between the two extremes with a well balanced of tradition favorites and new compositions. Even with the originals, they have kept the spirit of Christmas thriving with songs that canvass a variety of styles and tempos.
Among the originals, the lead single "The Manger and the Cross" is a prime pick. Encapsulating the Gospel from the birth of Christ to the cross, this well-craft ballad packs the message of Christmas economically over a beautiful melody. If you like GVB's upbeat numbers, you'll love "Love is the Reason Why." With brassy horns and a kicking melody on the fore, this track is fun and delightful with lyrics that aren't frivolous. Story songs have been the forte of Southern Gospel music and "Rest in You Tonight" is no exception. The opening story about how a single-mother struggles through the festive season really hits a nerve in the heart. This song is a wake-up call for the church not to keep to ourselves this Christmas.
"He's Still the King of Kings," which borrows some chordal developments from "Silver Bells," is another highlight. The gorgeous use of strings over a top-notched melody makes this a classic in the making. "Hallelujah, O Happy Day" keeps the tempo upbeat with its pop-centric electric guitars. However, melody wise, songs such as "Hallelujah, O Happy Day" and "Look Who Just Check In" are not particularly strong especially when they are placed side by side with classics like "White Christmas" and "Silver Bells." With these classics, GVB have given them a big-band-type of backing which brings out a fresh layer of sentimentality that is enticing.
All Heaven and Nature Sing may not be perfect but it's daring and adventurous. GVB is not afraid to mix the old and the new, giving the record a sense of freshness yet not devoid of the nostalgia that often accompany Christmas music. Most importantly, they are not afraid to speak of Christ and the Gospel through these songs.