One of the most remarkable Christmas albums of 2006 was Israel & New Breed's A Timeless Christmas, a disc that, once again, proves that bandleader Israel Houghton is as much a soul singer as he is a champion of cross-generational, multi-ethnic praise & worship music. In 2002, he took a departure towards '70s R&B with the impossibly soulful Real, and A Timeless Christmas picks up where that album left off. The disc does justice to its title, as this is yuletide fare that transcends the sounds of the season not only in sound, but also in spirit: Houghton isn't concerned with the commodification of the holidays, but with Christ's birth -- not as a feeble, defenseless babe, but as a King incarnate that's worthy of utmost celebration and glory. Houghton leaves some room for levity, as in the cinematic "Nutcracker" instrumentals, but these are mood pieces for the rest of the album. Elsewhere, he wastes no time in asserting the tone of the album, one where sacred carols are turned into funk-laden praise romps ("O Come," "Hark") or jazzy, bohemian reinterpretations ("Silent Nocturne"), all of which are performed with a dizzying sense of arrangement and cool, but not to the point of distraction. Even the guests on this Christmas spectacular -- CeCe Winans, Matthew Ward, Lalah Hathaway, Gerald Albright, among others -- are almost invisible, keenly aware of the reason of Houghton's season. This reason -- Emmanuel himself -- lies enthroned in the album's centerpiece, the sprawling "Christmas Worship Medley," a ten-minute choral Magnificat that there are very few of in today's seasonal selections. It all makes for a wonderful, timeless companion to the maddening daze of Christmas, as well as a sobering reminder of the occasion's real gift.
AllMusic Review by Andree Farias
Christmas Worship Medley: Alpha and Omega/O Come Let Us Adore Him/Be Unto Your Name/Magnificent and Holy/Magnificent and