Various Artists

25 Songs of Christmas, Vol. 2 [Sparrow]

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25 Songs of Christmas from Sparrow Vol. 2 applies the same strategy of mixing pop songs by Contemporary Christian Music artists with orchestral, choral and solo piano renditions of traditional religious carols. By the time the second volume was released in 1985, Sparrow's relatively traditional lineup of artists was becoming increasingly contemporary and delving more and more into the heavily synthesized sound that dominated pop music in the '80s. So there are even more synthesizers on this edition (e.g., Sheila Walsh's "Season to Rejoice," Michele Pillar's "Angels We Have Heard on High") and even more sentimentality and bombast. Sometimes the schmaltziness gets to be too much, as on Connie Scott's precariously inflated "Do You Hear What I Hear?"; when Scott sings the line "with a voice as big as the sea" she seems to want to demonstrate that voice and almost ruptures a vocal chord in the process. However, the two-record set is not without highlights. Michael Card's lyrics are always good for a few theological insights, and "Joseph's Song," which imagines Jesus' father asking "how can a man be father to the Son of God?", is no exception. Steve Green's flamboyant "O Holy Night" is also worth a listen, and the orchestral carols by O.D. Hall and the excerpts from Handel's "Messiah" are rendered with competent majesty. But on the whole, these 25 Christmas songs are not as consistently listenable as the first 25. And even though it was released more recently, Vol. 2 now seems more dated.

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