Saturday, December 25, 2010

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN Day 25: All Is Well (Michael W. Smith)

SONG: All Is Well
ARTIST: Michael W. Smith
ALBUM: Christmas
AVAILABILITY: Amazon ( CD | 2-pack | MP3 )

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN Day 24: O Holy Night (Sufjan Stevens)

SONG: O Holy Night
ARTIST: Sufjan Stevens
ALBUM: Songs For Christmas, Vol. 3
AVAILABILITY: CD/MP3 (5-pack of EPs)

"O Holy Night" has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, and I was excited when I heard that Sufjan Stevens did a version of it. But when I first heard it, I wasn't quite sure what to think. In fact, I was even a little offended. It seemed almost sacrilegiously low-effort and bizarre. But eventually it won me over with its down-to-Earth charm, and now I think it's one of the best arrangements there is. It actually represents the subject matter perfectly. Because people were anticipating the birth of a messiah for centuries; and when they were told that it finally happened, and it was just some poor people in a stable, and he wasn't even planning to overthrow the government or anything, they also couldn't help but wonder: "Is this it?" But it couldn't have happened any other way. And that's the feeling that this version of the song captures, for me. When all of the instruments finally come in for the final chorus, it gives me chills.

So yeah, I just proved that if you don't like Sufjan's version of this song you don't know the true meaning of Christmas. I win!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN Day 23: White As Snow (U2)

SONG: White As Snow
ALBUM: No Line On The Horizon
AVAILABILITY: Amazon ( CD | Deluxe | Vinyl | MP3 )

This U2 song about a dying soldier is heavily based on "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN Day 22: Greensleeves / What Child Is This (Kevin Max)

SONG: Greensleeves / What Child Is This
ARTIST: Kevin Max
ALBUM: Holy Night

Each of these two tracks would seem incomplete without its counterpart, so I included them both. Kevin Max's 2005 Christmas album adhered to traditional hymnal classics rather than songs about Santa Claus and stuff, but he even went so far as to include the medieval predecessor to "What Child Is This" in a brief, one-verse-one-chorus format. This gives him some leeway to double up on the "What Child" verses and choruses, lining them straight up instead of alternating between verse and chorus. It's thanks to this that we get my favorite moment on the album: the full-octave jump between verses 1 and 2. It demonstrates not only Kevin's amazing range, but that he sounds great at either end of it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN Day 21: Flight Into Egypt (Phil Keaggy)

SONG: Nativity Suite part 3: Flight Into Egypt
ARTIST: Phil Keaggy (featuring the London Festival Orchestra)
ALBUM: Majesty & Wonder: An Instrumental Christmas

The soundtrack to a Christmas movie that doesn't exist. Well actually, I guess the movie probably does exist... well, you know what I mean.