In 2003, Christian music's good ole boy Steven Curtis Chapman released his second Christmas project entitled Christmas Is All In The Heart, exclusively available through Hallmark. The album was comprised of half brand new recordings, half remastered tracks from his 1995 release The Music Of Christmas. Ten years after that original release, Steven has released yet another Christmas project entitled All I Really Want For Christmas.
When Christmas Is All In The Heart was released two years ago, the album was in high demand and became sold out rather quickly, making it near impossible for fans who missed it to get a hold of those new recordings. All I Really Want For Christmas gives those who missed out a second chance. The six new songs from Christmas Is All In The Heart are all present and accounted for here, in addition to six more new recordings (which, ironically, is what I had suggested would be a great idea in my 2003 review). The problem I had with Christmas Is All In The Heart, was its inconsistency in presentation. The songs from 1995 felt too dated to be among the crisper and more modern new recordings. Chapman has migrated many miles from the country roots he still showed a bit on The Music Of Christmas, so those songs just weren't meshing well with the new ones. All I Really Want For Christmas remedies this problem entirely. The Music Of Christmas was a lush, orchestral record but didn't really give the songs a personal, cocoa-by-the-fireplace Christmas feeling. But Chapman's newer songs do.
All I Really Want For Christmas opens adorably with Steven's adopted daughter Shaoey reading Luke 2:7-14 to set the mood for the record. The Christmas classic "Angels from the Realms of Glory" is given a complete contemporary recomposition, and is followed by the wonderful seasonal favorite "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." A brand new Chapman original, the title track, is a sensitive and emotional storytelling of an orphan's desire for a family on Christmas. Bearing Steven's signature pop sound, "All I Really Want" is a sad but hopeful song and is followed by another strong Chapman original, "The Miracle Of Christmas." An acoustic and piano-driven version of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" just cries out to be sung along to and is followed by a fully rerecorded version of the country-flavored "Christmas Is All In The Heart," featuring special guest Vince Gill. Steven includes a few more covers of traditional favorites with great seasonal selections like "Silver Bells," "Winter Wonderland," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Personally, growing up with these songs performed by all kinds of artists like Bing Crosby, Mitch Miller, Perry Como, and others, makes them automatically possess a truly Christmas feeling. He does these songs justice and keeps them cozy and personal while all the while sounding very much like the kind of great instrumentations you've come to expect from Steven. The album closes with the last SCC original, "Night Before Christmas," a beautiful piano ballad that serves as a wonderful sort of holiday lullaby. In the final moments of the album, Shaoey returns with her Dad this time to offer a brief and candid chorus of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to appropriately end the album.
All I Really Want For Christmas is the Christmas project Christmas Is All In The Heart should have been. It's the best Christmas album Steven Curtis Chapman has done yet and if he were to not make another one, it'd be the perfect note to end it on. But for the holiday season this year, you won't find a better new Christmas release than Steven Curtis' All I Really Want For Christmas.- Review date: 9/24/05, written by John DiBiase
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