I've been checking out new Christmas music releases and listening to old mixes and albums. I had considered an official review of the ones I've listened to so far - but I generally agree with ChristianityToday's 2008 Christmas album reviews.
Here's my short version:
- Sixpence None the Richer - The Dawn of Grace is my favorite whole album. Great song choices, good arrangements, and cohesive feel. Favorite songs: "Riu, Riu, Chiu" and "The Last Christmas" (which makes me think of Baby Sandel)
- DO NOT LIKE Casting Crowns' Peace on Earth. They're not my favorite anyways - but I bought it b/c they tend to have a few gems on each album that connect well with people (and are usable in services). But I can't find any on this album. Meh.
- I also found Shane & Shane's Glory in the Highest rather disappointing. It's too mellow and unthoughtful - and I don't mean good mellow.
- There are 2 albums that I'd say are pretty good - but I really wanted them to be amazing: Sara Groves' O Holy Night and Fernando Ortega's Christmas Songs. Both albums have some GREAT songs on them (which will definitely be making my 2008 Xmas mix) - but I had maybe unrealistic expectations on them as whole albums. Sara Groves does too many new, unmemorable tunes to familiar carol texts. But I LOVE "It's True" - which I first heard her do live at an Andrew Peterson concert last year. And the Fernando one is a little too straightforward and really too short for my liking. I'd like to hear some lesser known carols from him since he's such a good arranger.
And finally - I just saw that my friend Chris designed some gift certificates for projects through CMF in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. This was a BIG part of our church's Christmas celebration last year; it's amazing what an impact small amounts of money can have in other parts of the world.