Various Artists

25 Songs of Christmas, Vol. 1 [Sparrow]

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25 Songs of Christmas from Sparrow is a two record set of holiday music performed by artists from the Christian Contemporary label Sparrow. As is usually the case with various-artists compilations, the album is mixed in both style and quality. The first record contains religious-themed Christmas carols and songs by Sparrow artists like Wendy and Mary, 2nd Chapter of Acts and Phil Keaggy, with typical '80s synth and string production. The common CCM tendency toward bombast and sentimentality seems better suited to a Christmas record than standard pop music albums. And while the Meat Loaf-voiced Scott Wesley Brown can't resist politically loaded references to "killing children before they're born" and "fools who march to win the right to justify their sin" (so much for good will toward men), the rest of the album is innocuous even for less conservative Christians and secular celebrants. Highlights include John Michael and Terry Talbot's folky "Wonderful Counselor," Barry McGuire's exuberant "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and Sheila Walsh's pretty "Star Song." The first record may seem somewhat dated by its '80s production, but the second record consists primarily of children's choir and orchestral music, which is timeless if unremarkable. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir perform the "Hallelujah Chorus," and the National Philharmonic provides solid renditions of "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." The record also includes Phil Perkins' pleasant instrumental piano renditions of several carols. For the most part, the music on both discs is mellow and enjoyable.

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