Album Review :
Christmastime All Year EP - Various Artists
Artist: Various Artists
Title: Christmastime All Year EP
Label: BEC Recordings
Release Date: 11/26/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Why Can’t it be Christmastime All Year (All Things New)
- A Little More Love (Shine Bright Baby)
- California Christmas (Manafest)
- Little Drummer Boy (The Museum)
- This Christmas (7eventh Time Down)
- Joy to the World (Citizens)
Christmastime is again upon us this year, and it’s almost like a license during this time of year to be able to listen to a lot of Christmas melodies, both Christ-centred carols, holiday songs, and originally written Biblically based CCM melodies as each year brings with it a sense of joy, hope, happiness and friendship and camaraderie as each December 25th rolls around. With so many Christmas albums and EP’s released each year, here is another one for one’s personal enjoyment- the BEC Recordings’s 6 song compilation, featuring original Christmas melodies and some favourite Christmas carol hymns from some of the label’s most prominent artists, from 7eventh Time Down and the Museum, to Manafest and up and coming worship artists Citizens. While this album may not necessarily give to us anything uniquely fresh or exciting (fresh this year would have to be Brandon Heath’s Christmas album Christmas is Here, happy and joyous would be from Sidewalk Prophets and their album Merry Christmas To You); BEC deliver to us great songs nonetheless, which are certain to be enjoyed by any fan of both BEC as well as the artists represented on the label.
‘Joy to the World’, especially this version from Citizens, is such a bright, joyous and sunny spot, not only throughout this album, but throughout all the 2013 Christmas melodies released. ‘Joy to the World’ features heavy bass, strings and a glockenspiel to present to us a rock anthem played in the rhythm of something that would have been around in the 1960s in bars, clubs and casinos across America. Trying to marry heavy guitars against a rhythm of something jazz/motown/blues like is a tremendous art, and Citizens pull it off, with this song musically delivering. Nevertheless, the lyrics still follow a formula, never straying from the original lyrics and somewhat makes the listener feel like they have heard the song before, just sung by a different artist. Maybe it’s because ‘Joy to the World’ isn’t really my favourite Christmas carol, and even though it is very catchy, I somehow feel that while the music is pretty strong, what lets the song down are the lack of originality- an added verse or a refrain written would’ve made the song much better than what it is. Despite this, Citizen’s still bring to us a heartfelt song about expressing joy during this Christmas moment of hope. And while ‘Joy to the World’ can seem a little formulaic, nothing can compare to the horridness of ‘California Christmas’. A song about sun, surf, California, Christmastime and rapping over the melody of ‘Carol of the Bells’, Manafest tries with all his might to give us a song that is hopefully different from his rap material, yet when I hear it, all I can hear is a melody where the artist is painfully singing, to the point where I unfortunately turned off the song halfway. While I feel for Manafest, because normally he writes and performs great songs (‘Human’, ‘Fighter’, ‘Never Let You Go’), this melody is shameful to say the least. The lyrics, rhythm, beat, musical backdrop and everything else about it sadly doesn’t seem to intrigue myself, or even colour me a little bit interested. Normally I don’t think about ‘worst song of the year’, or even ‘worst Christmas song of the year’, yet I reckon that ‘California Christmas’ fits the bill for both categories. A song that sadly didn’t reach its potential (maybe a rap section as well as a singing section), this song about the surf and California pales in comparison to more enjoyable melodies like Hawk Nelson’s ‘California’ or even melodies on the upcoming Switchfoot surfing documentary, Fading West.
While Citizen’s version of ‘Joy to the World’ can feel a little out of place musically compared to the rest of the album (and ‘California Christmas’ shouldn’t have even been made…sorry Manafest), the rest of the album makes up for the couple of mishaps. Mostly famous for their rock anthems like ‘Just Say Jesus’ and ‘Alive in You’, 7eventh Time Down decide to put up their hand and record a 3 minute pop Christmas melody, encouraging us that ‘…this Christmas, I wanna get it right, be a light, leading people through a dark night, this Christmas, I’ve got more to give, I’ll tell the world there’s a God who loves them…’ in this heartfelt melody, appropriately titled ‘This Christmas’. Calling us all to make a change this Christmas (rather than waiting another year), we are reminded that this time in particular during the year is for change, reconciliation, reconnection, family and forgiveness, and all made possible because of Christ all those years ago. Simple in both lyrics and music, yet equally profound in message, a similar message is given in Shine Bright Baby’s original song, ‘A Little More Love’. With electronics underpinning this joyous 3 minute melody (albeit on the short side), lead singer Emily Irene raises a question everyone should be asking- ‘…so what’s the point of Christmas cause I don’t want to miss it, giving in to these distractions, how could I let this happen?…’ Christmas comes around once a year, and for most people, it is a licence to shop til they drop, often spending big on their credit cards, and staying at the shopping malls to absurdly late times during the night, leading up to the big day of December 25th. As SBB remind us that Christmas is about Christ, and that the greatest gift we should be giving is one of love, just like God gave us His love in the form of Jesus in a manger; the BEC sampler continue provide us with a mixture of heartfelt melodies and fun-filled songs full of hope and wonder, with All Things New singing about how Christmas is their favourite time of the year and how we all should ‘…quit your stalling, snow is falling, friends are calling, raise your hand if you wish it was Christmastime all year…’, while The Museum present a commendable rendition of a song made famous by Jars of Clay and now usurped by for KING AND COUNTRY. Covering ‘Little Drummer Boy’ is no small feat, and this BEC Recordings band have done listeners proud with a worthy rendition complete with drum kicks and light electronic keyboards. While not necessarily the gutsiest, like fK&C’s version or even as mellow as Jars of Clay’s, The Museum have placed their own spin on a song that speaks about what this boy gave to the King, and in turn, what we all should give Christ, knowing His own sacrifice for us and how thanks to Him is the least we ought to do.
Overall: BEC’s Christmas Sampler is a nice addition for any Christmas music enthusiast during this holiday season, and also a great way to gain exposure to artists that you may or may not have heard before. While Manafest’s melody of ‘California Christmas’ is the unfortunate low point on the EP, the rest of the melodies are recorded and sung quite well, particularly songs from Shine Bright Baby and 7eventh Time Down. A great way to get into the Christmas mood if you love Christmas music with a rock/worship edge, this album on the whole has done the job- to remind and continually give us encouragement of the gift of hope and light in the form of Jesus, and our reminder to others we know during this festive holiday month of December!
RIYL: KJ-52, Kutless, Jessa Anderson, Jeremy Camp
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3