CROSS-POSTED FROM FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
I’ll have to be honest with you: I’m not a really big fan of Christmas music. There are a few artists/albums which I enjoy, such as Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels, Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs, and Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas, but generally I find Christmas music either stale and overused, or just ridiculous and annoying. In light of those critiques, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God become Man – though not a spotless gem – is indeed a breath of fresh air, and has been spinning almost continually since I received it over a week ago.
Savior begins strong, with what will probably be the most broadly useful song here-in for most congregations – the hymn-like “Christ the Lord is born Today”. From an engineering standpoint it is excellent: a brilliant use of stereo and panning – at times the song is driven by ‘dueling’ acoustic guitars – at times, guitar and piano – and instruments seem to slip in and out of the sound-scape seamlessly. Scott Dente of Out of the Grey lends his guitar skills, and his lead-work is reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn: bright, passionate, and precise. Best of all, the lyrics are Biblical, the song’s sound is a unique combination of ancient and modern and therefore accessible to multiple generations, and the melody is easy to remember – everything a worship pastor is looking for in that ‘special’ to introduce around Christmas-time.
Although there were a plethora of solid tunes here, there were a few that really stood out. I was captured by the abundance of 7th chords in the beautiful “How Sweet the Day”, making the otherwise folky-pop number feel somehow both jazzy and beatle-esque at the same time.
“Wonderful Counselor” is an absolute gem – of the caliber that should be used year-round – majoring on what Sovereign Grace Music does at its best: singable, doctrinally astute, and melodically gorgeous! I could easily make an mix of just those two songs and listen to them non-stop for a week, and if I didn’t feel obligated to listen to the rest of the c.d. for this review, I may have done just that.
Also of note, “Glory be to God” – though not as immediately catching as the fore-mentioned songs, is a driving folk-country-rock praise song, and has all the characteristics that make Caedmon’s Call great. In fact, I’d hope that they would consider recording this, if they ever follow Jars of Clay into “Christmas Songs” territory.
That doesn’t mean the c.d. is flawless, however. “Emmanuel, Emmanuel”, which begins very strong, with mellow-yet-driving verses and very tastefully placed Hammond B3 parts, loses steam moving into the chorus, which is – in comparison – both repetitive and drawn out. Something about singing”E-ma-a-a-an-u-e-el” just doesn’t ‘work’ for me, even though the content of the lyrics themselves is fine. Honestly, the song is not BAD, but the verses were so good that I got my hopes up, and the chorus didn’t seem to live up to where the verses seemed to be heading. Also, though the female-led songs in and of themselves aren’t bad, the production on those numbers left something to be desired. Though the songs have potential, they end up sounding a bit too predicable, and even dated at times.
Overall, Savior is refreshing: a new collection of all original Christmas worship material, with solid lyrics, good production, and memorable melodies. This is indeed the Christmas c.d. which this year’s seasonal memories will be set to. Thank you, Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music – keep them coming, please!
And for those of you who, having purchased “Savior”, would like to get familiar with other great Sovereign Grace Music songs, here’s my iTunes iMix of Sov. Grace favorites – this is a great place to start discovering doctrinally solid, passionate, and beautiful worship music:
SOVEREIGN GRACE WORSHIP.