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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mandisa Christmas CD Review: Not Just the Same Old Stuff

Last Christmas, Mandisa gave us the EP, “Christmas Joy,” which featured four songs.

This year, she’s back with a full-length Christmas CD, “It’s Christmas,” which contains 11 holiday numbers, including three from the EP.

With all the Christmas CDs out there, it’s hard to find one with any original takes on the same old songs. But Mandisa manages to do it more than once…

The CD starts out with the same song the EP did, “What Christmas Means to Me,” which gets things off to a rollicking start…

On the EP, she did “Joy to the World,” but on this one she combines “Joy” with “Feliz Navidad” for a unique track that works well—especially with Mandisa’s beautiful Spanish accent on “Feliz”…

“Christmas Makes Me Cry” featuring Matthew West (another carryover from the EP) is a gorgeous song, but as the title suggests, it’s a sad song. I’d skip it at your more festive holiday parties…

Mandisa’s version of “Silver Bells,” is one of the best I have ever heard, so it kind of puts a damper on it when it turns into the “Christmas Bell Medley.” The choir just doesn’t quite work with the transition into “Carol of the Bells” or “Christmas Bells Are Ringing.” I would’ve liked to have heard two different songs here since “Carol” is one of my all-time favorites…

No surprise, Mandisa does “Silent Night.” It’s a gorgeous version that starts out very restrained and heads to a powerful climax—just what you’d expect from her. It’s not the best version I’ve heard, but it’s pretty darn close…

It’s back to jazzy with a wistful version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” that allows us to hear the softer aspects of Mandisa’s voice. This isn’t the easiest song to put a contemporary spin on, but Mandisa manages to do it well…

On “Christmas Day,” Mandisa is joined by none other than Michael W. Smith and the two sound beautiful together. But the children’s chorus doesn’t quite work…

The last carryover from the EP, “O Holy Night,” is a song custom made for Mandisa’s big voice. But she’s let down a little by the arrangement, which tries too hard to do something different. She still sounds beautiful, but I would’ve rather heard her sing it as written…

“Mary’s Little Boy Child” is a catchy tune that works well for Mandisa’s voice…

“Children Go Where I Send Thee,” is usually done as a spiritual, but Mandisa once again goes the jazz route, and it works, except for the overblown ending, which comes back for a gospel encore…

But the gem of the CD is “Little Drummer Boy.” Again, Mandisa takes a song not easy to give a contemporary sound to and does it beautifully (with some help from a great arrangement), giving the second verse an R&B/gospel feel I’ve never heard before. And she hits those Rs better than anyone I’ve ever heard…

I highly recommend this one to freshen up your Christmas music collection. And I honestly hope this isn’t the last one of these she does…

“It’s Christmas” is available now…

Photo Credit: Amazon.com