There are usually two types of albums that I usually avoid, even if it by my favorite artists; Live albums and Christmas albums. Not that I am against these acts doing the genre, but very few acts can make these purchases worth the money. I own very few Christmas CDs (Barry Manilow, Richard Marx, Mariah Carey’s and Michael Buble’s are the only ones I have), not because I despise Christmas, but because the songs on the CDs are either ones you have heard many times over in the same traditional way, or just badly composed, almost like the company forced the artists to do them. In the past few years The Oak Ridge Boys have changed my thinking with releasing great albums in both categories, especially with their newest holiday product Celebrate Christmas.
Much like their 2014 live album, Boys Night Out, this Christmas CD is an entertaining surprise. Celebrate Christmas is billed as a Gaither Gospel Series release and would been a pass for me if it wasn’t for the band performing two of the songs on their tour when I saw them in August (you can read the review in the “Archives” section), especially the song “Rest in You Tonight,” which does not sound like a typical Christmas song, but more of a Gospel ballad, which is not surprising because it was written by Bill Gaither and Gerald Crabb, focusing on a mother and young daughter having come across hard times and crying out to Jesus. This is a touching song that seems oddly put on a typical Christmas CD, however, that makes this CD even better because the Oaks are not sticking with a normal Christmas CD.
A few other notable songs are “There’s Nothing Between Us (But Love Anymore)”, which features William Golden on lead vocals (which was the other song I saw them before live in concert) which could be played on an Adult Contemporary station, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with Richard Sterban on lead vocals (with great piano playing by Gordon Mote complimenting Sterban on the song), and “That’s Christmas To Me” with Duane Allen and Joe Bonsall’s solid singing on the song.
The track “Santa Claus is Real” has a swing vibe to it and resonates to the listener that the band had fun recording this song, because it has a up tempo fun Christmas feel to it, especially at the end when Sterban sings his Santa “Ho Ho Ho’s”, and Allen’s comments that Santa “sounds like Richard.” I wonder how much fun the guys had recording this one because the song makes you feel good from start to finish.
There are some traditional songs on the CD for those that like their songs unchanged, from the opening track “Joy To The World,” which sounds just like the band does live, to other standards like “Away in A Manger,” “Jingle Bells,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Come To The Manger.” It would be a shame not to hear an Oaks Christmas CD without Richard Sterban doing “Blue Christmas,” which is on here as well, considering his past with singing for Elvis Presley, and proves how underrated his singing is.
Besides “Rest In You Tonight,” another gem on the CD is the last track, “The Hallelujah Chorus,” which has a pop feel to it, channeling the Oaks popularity in the early 1980s when they hit the Pop Charts. The vocal on this song is layered and proves that the guys still have the vocal abilities (and then some). Joe Bonsall shines on this one, along with the others, with Bonsall and Sterban being spotlighted at the beginning of the song, and Allen and Golden coming in towards the end to layer the song with vocal fireworks.
The production on this CD is wonderful- you can hear each member shine not only on the lead, but in the background with their rich harmonies, which is a credit to Allen and his co-producers. This is a great CD that needs to be added to your collection, especially if you like holiday music. The Oaks still have the great vocals and quality musicians on the recordings (along with a great live band if you get to see them live). Celebrate Christmas is indeed a Christmas Present that you need to have.
- Joy To The World 2.That’s Christmas To Me 3.I’ll Be Home For Christmas 4.Santa Claus Is Real 5. O Come, All Ye Faithful 6. Rest In You Tonight 7. Away In A Manger 8.There’s Nothing Between Us (But Love Anymore) 9. Jingle Bells 10. Blue Christmas 11.Come To The Manger 12. The Hallelujah Chorus
Celebrate Christmas is available from Spring House Productions by the Gaither Music Group, copyright 2016.
Part of “Rest In You Tonight” found on youtube.
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