Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay CD
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MP3 Music, October 16, 2007
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I was, to say the least, apprehensive when I heard that Jars of Clay would be making a Christmas album. When the album became available, I listened with hesitation. What I found was pleasantly original and surprising. In a culture saturated on the bubble-gum Christmas-spirit, "Christmas Songs" restores a sense of mystery and depth that has been lost. What is most refreshing is the effectively balanced range of territory that is covered on the album. It is serious without being grave; it is fun without being flippant; it is experimental without being disoriented; and it is traditional without feeling stringent.
One of the most surprising gems on the album is the completely reconstructed carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The melodies are hauntingly beautiful and permeate the song with an ethereal quality that brings out an appropriate sense of wonder incubated in the idea of the Incarnation.
The album harks back to the 50s with "Hibernation Day", a fun original contribution by Jars about being snowed in with the one you love and is tinged with just the right amount of nostalgia to make even the most calloused of lovers feel at least a little sappy and long for a time out of mind.
Other highlights include a rendition of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime", "Love Came Down At Christmas", and the two instrumental pieces "Winter Skin" and "Evergreen" which bring a mood of enchantment to the album.
Drawbacks to the album are that it can be somewhat too meditative in areas.Read more ›
The disc features lots of rare and original songs. For example, the group wrote two instrumental songs, "The Gift of St. Cecilia" and "Evergreen." There are also three original songs. While "Winter Skin" and "Hibernation Day" celebrate winter and the fun it can bring, "Peace is Here" celebrates the peace that Jesus can bring.
In my Christmas music collection, I had no copies of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." I can't compare it to anything else, but I like their alt rock take on it. I was also unfamiliar with "Love Came Down at Christmas" which is based on a Christina Rossetti poem. I really like it. I especially enjoy the reference to a kids folk song at the end.
Then there are the classics. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" gets a makeover with a new melody. It makes the song very haunting. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is likewise slow and haunting. And yes, they include "Drummer Boy." This is a different version then their single released years ago, but it does sound very similar. "Christmastime is Here" is part jazz and part rock. It sort of works, but I still prefer the original.
And that's the only real problem with the disc. Some artists can pull off a mix of their signature sound on a Christmas release. Jars of Clay comes close, but they don't quite do it. The CD is fine, but I think it will be several years before I consider it a true Christmas project. I will definitely pull it out in mid-December when I am ready for something different. But it won't be the first thing I get out the day after Thanksgiving.
Don't misunderstand. This isn't a bad release. It is quite enjoyable for something different. And it will please Jars of Clay's many fans.
All the songs on the album have a unique feel - not the typical Christmasy feel. They have Jars of Clay's signature sound which isn't distracting. It's just that at times you don't feel like you're listening to Christmas music. Check out some of the song samples. After listening to it for a week however, I've come to appreciate this different take on songs you've had beat into your head by everyone from Bing Crosby to Seals and Croft. Christmas should be a time of contemplating God's gift to us of his son. By spinning the songs a little off center, Jars of Clay has forced me to do that. I focus more on these songs and their lyrics than I have on others. And by doing so, I've found myself reflecting on the upcoming Christmas season.
Maybe I'll move to five stars by tomorrow.
Last year my wife and I bought Sarah McLachlan's album "Wintersong", and found it to definitely be our favorite Christmas album; however, our only criticism was that at times it seems to be on the more depressing side of music, where Christmas songs should be joyful! But even in that she seems to capture the meditative importance of Christmas (God will use whom He will). But I echo the sentiments of others that Christmas songs should be joyful in that Christ was born! There are few things to celebrate as much as that (and they all have to do with Him, of course).
In the case of this Jars of Clay album, there is a real joy in Christmas music without succumbing to a real, for lack of a better term, cheesiness or fluffiness that accompanies almost every modern day Christmas album. Although it is true that the back half of the album is at times too slow, I never got the sense that the joy was lost, and like all Jars albums, it is always very deep, even when they are having fun.
Having said that, I can also understand the desire to have Christmas albums sung with a certain anonymity, and for the most part I too enjoy that aspect of it; but I have come to realize over the years that Jars write with a signature that is fundamental to who they are, and it is difficult to imagine them otherwise. And besides, who doesn't enjoy hearing a classic with a distinguishable voice like Bing Crosby. In the future, we or our children may enjoy the incredible voice of Dan Haseltine and the style of Jars of Clay. But again, I appreciate that review. It was spot on.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Unlike any other Christmas CD you'll hear. Beautiful and original. A must-have for your collection.Published 4 months ago by Douglas C. Stratton
Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs (2007) is as eclectic and unusual a Christmas album as you might expect from the band. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Chip Webb
This is one of my favorite Christmas cd's with a mix of traditional songs but in a more upbeat tune.Published 11 months ago by MJM
Christmas songs with the band's personal twist, great instrumental work behind it! Lil drummer boy is my favorite! Read morePublished 13 months ago by W. King
I hire this cd record because I like the music this group plays, me and my family enjoy in this season , thank you.Published on January 6, 2014 by Rodrigo Satizabal
This is my very favorite music for Christmas. It's a great mix of traditional arrangements and original music. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by CK