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Date: 08 December, 2006

An Irish Christmas by Moya Brennan

 

'Thankfully, for once, there are quite a few cheese-free offerings amongst the many Christmas albums released this year.'

 

In a new Christian music column for surefish, George Luke recommends some stocking fillers for Christmas.

Christmas has never been the most stimulating time of year for us music reviewers; ‘real’ new releases dry up and we find ourselves faced with loads of Greatest Hits compilations from acts we thought we’d seen the last of years ago… and even worse, truckloads of Christmas albums of varying degrees of cheesiness.

Thankfully, for once, there are quite a few cheese-free offerings amongst the many Christmas albums released by Christian artists this year. Here are a few of them:

When a friend told me that James Morrison was a guest on Hillsong’s Celebrating Christmas album, it sounded too good to be true… and it was.

The James Morrison who appears on the all-swinging, big band arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen isn’t the sweet-voiced bloke who gave us You Give Me Something earlier this year, but an Aussie trumpeter by the same name.

Nevertheless, it’s a cracker of a tune. Joy to the World benefits from some cool, bluesy guitar (the bass playing on it ain’t too shabby, either), but the even bigger treat for guitar fans here is the classy acoustic instrumental rendition of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

I’ll freely admit that I haven’t cared much in the past for the MOR worship music Hillsong are famous for. But I did like this. Good album or Christmas miracle? You be the judge.

Click here to buy Celebrating Christmas by Hillsong – every purchase made with this link raises money for Christian Aid.

The voice of Clannad, Moya Brennan, also has a Christmas album out. But since it’s over a year old (and I need to break the monotony), I’ll talk about her latest album instead.

Simply titled Signature, this is Moya at her eclectic, soul-baring best – ethereal and atmospheric, the kind of music chill-out rooms were invented for. Kudos to Eamonn Galldubh for some awesome playing on the Uillean pipes, especially his solo on the opening track, Purple Haze (not a Hendrix cover); likewise to Sam Jackson for the organ solo on No One Talks.

Tapestry is pure bliss, and Many Faces could probably be described as Celtic Bhangra. All truly astounding. And what of An Irish Christmas, Moya’s Christmas album, which I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s more of the same, but with added tinsel.

Click here to buy Signature by Moya Brennan or here to buy An Irish Christmas also by Moya Brennan – every purchase made with this link raises money for Christian Aid.

Don’t let the title A Mary Mary Christmas put you off; the gospel sibling duo’s seasonal offering is nowhere near as bad as that cheesy pun would suggest.

Mary Mary may not have troubled the charts much since the mighty Shackles six years ago (which still gets regular plays on stations such as London’s Heart FM), but, as this offering proves, it’s not for want of trying.

The opener, ‘Tis the Season, is by far the strongest track here; soulful with a hint of salsa, it’s reminiscent of those Motown Christmas albums from the 70s.

The arrangement on O Come All Ye Faithful owes more to The Lion King than to authentic African music, but it proves that the sisters are still willing to take creative risks.

Call Him Jesus is straight-up, clap-your-hands uplifting gospel. Downers? We don’t need another version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and for some weird reason, California Christmas had me thinking of Tupac rather than of Jesus – must be the line about “Christmas the Cali way”, or the reference to how East Coast people spend the season. Still, Christmas with sunshine sounds a lot more appealing than Christmas with snow…

Click here to buy A Mary Mary Christmas by Mary Mary – every purchase made with this link raises money for Christian Aid.