Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Music Review: "Adore (Christmas Songs of Worship)" -- Chris Tomlin

Four words came to mind at my first two or three listenings to Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas album: slow, acoustic, meditative and melancholy. Many of the 11 songs are new Tomlin originals, mostly arranged and performed simply with acoustic guitar and piano.

The album starts with a new worship song: “He shall reign forevermore.” This is classic Tomlin, a worship anthem that we’ll be singing in church for years to come. But from there the tempo slows down and we get three or four slower songs. “Adore” is almost melancholic. “Midnight Clear (Love Song” takes the traditional carol and imbues it with a new arrangement. I like that Tomlin took the lyric, “It came up on a midnight clear, that glorious song of old” and adds to it with the “melody breaks through the silence” to become “the love song of God.” This has extended that Christmas classic in a powerful way. “Noel,” though, is the weakest song on this album and is not the carol of old.

The middle portion of the album starts with a hymn rather than a Christmas song. “Hymn of Joy” is Beethoven;s “Joyful, joyful we adore thee” and is simply a worship song with a an additional chorus. I am not sure why this shows up here. The next two songs are traditional carols, “Silent Night” and “What Child is This”. The former has a new arrangement and ends with a reading of Isaiah 9, while the latter is powerful in its simplicity.

My favorite song on this album is “It’s Christmas” It begins with a jazzy up-beat rendering of “Away in a Manger” and migrates into pop with the chorus. Adding sax and drums, it ends with “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” This feels like Christmas, with joy and happiness. It  is something to sing about.

The album closes with three new songs by Tomlin: “A King like this,” “Bethlehem” and “A Christmas Alleluia”. The last song brings synthesizer music to the front as it leaves the listener with a meditative mood.

America’s worship leader has given us another Christmas album, once more live. However, I found myself wishing for more upbeat joyful songs like “It’s Christmas” or more traditional carols like “Hark the Herald Angels”, which he recorded on his earlier Christmas Album (“Glory in the Highest”.  I found myself returning to that earlier album, which I enjoyed more. This is not a failure in Tomlin’s resume, just not as good as his earlier albums. It was a little too slow for my yuletide sensitivities.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting / Flyby Promotions for providing a free copy of the CD in exchange for this honest review and post.

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