After last week’s bright spot, O Come All Ye Faithful, I was starting to get a little amped on Christmas tunes again. Unfortunately, Bethlehem Skyline didn’t pull in quite as a big of a hitmaker parade to it, and the CD doesn’t shine quite as bright. Not saying you need serious star-power to sell a legit Christmas album, but a few of the artists brought the overall album down a few pegs in my opinion.
Following the first Skyline from 2007, Centricity Records’ artists take on the duty of filling our homes with some Christmas cheer on this year’s Volume 2. The songs are grouped by artist, so I’ll review the same way.
Me In Motion starts things off with two songs that shouldn’t have been included, in my opinion. I agree with the sentiment on original tune, “Give It Away,” but it comes off sounding a bit cheesy. Their upbeat version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” tries to be Relient K, but doesn’t get the job done.
Downhere’s lead singer, as I mentioned before, has a voice quite similar to Kevin Max’s, of dc Talk fame. I like the vocals, but the jazzy horns come off a little too MercyMe, on “Christmas in Our Hearts.” Their mellow and downplayed “Silent Night” is pretty, except for the vocal runs after each chorus. I do like when the harmonies kick in though, and they redeem the song about halfway through.
Jason Gray is an artist I really respect, and have had the pleasure of getting to see in concert twice. I think he is at his finest when it’s just him, his guitar, and his crisp voice. That being said, his sped-up, airy version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is not my favorite. His second song, the original “Love Has a Name,” is much more style though. I really like the closing lyrics “Wise men for ages have looked for him since, and discovered a treasure for beggar and prince. Riches of wonder and a peace to give the weary rest.”
After a twangy “Away in a Manger,” by High Valley, we get a two-for-one from Lanae Hale. The smooth-voiced singer does her job on a somewhat eerie, but pretty version of “Carol of the Bells.” Then she pulls off a tongue-in-cheek original, called “Starving Artist Christmas,” which had me smiling for the first time on the disc. Clever lyrics include not having enough money to feed a cat, and passing out blankets because the heating bill’s too high.
The end of the album is the strongest part, and it shows a lot once Sixteen Cities get their two songs. “Morning Star” is a sincere, original song that I could hear on the radio, and then they do a pretty good job of tackling “O Holy Night” without going too overboard. Then we get to Andrew Peterson whose tune, “Long, Long Ago,” is the highlight of the album. It’s a shame we only get to hear one track from him, as the simple, but beautiful tune had me looking up his past albums for more.
Matt Papa ends things with another one-two punch of a classic and an original. “Little Drummer Boy” was decent, but Jars of Clay’s will always be my favorite. Then the disc closes with “Hope Has Come.” It’s another good new tune and ends on lyrics bearing the good news that “Oh what mercy, oh what grace, the Father’s glory now displayed. Emmanuel, God now with us, oh hallelujah, hope has come.”
Try This Track: “Long, Long Ago”