The WOW projects have been the providing listeners with the collections of the most popular tunes in Christian pop and rock for years now. While additional projects continue to be released including WOW Worship and WOW Gospel, nothing can beat this year's choice for a new special project - WOW Christmas.
One thing Christmas traditionally doesn't feel right without, is Christmas music. In recent years, the Christian music scene has begun answering the call for more Christmas offerings with the Happy Christmas series and individual artist projects. WOW Christmas offers up 31 cuts from 30 different artists, mixing up the styles quite a bit along the way. Some tracks are brand new tailor made for this release while others go back as many as 10 years. The project, however, opens with Avalon's surprisingly obnoxious rendition of "Winter Wonderland" before leading into the impressive "Emmanuel" by Michael W. Smith. Point of Grace offer up a decent "O Holy Night," followed by Steven Curtis Chapman's original "Christmas Is All In the Heart" and Yolanda Adams' worthy take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Jaci Velasquez's fantastic and delightfully fun "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," is a highlight, followed up by CeCe Winans' Gospel-ridden and forgettable version of "Away In a Manger." Soulful Celebration is an obscure and wasted inclusion with its decade old "Hallelujah!" 4Him's "A Strange Way to Save the World" is a tender original ballad followed up by Amy Grant's also decade-old "Breath of Heaven." Nicole C. Mullen offers a sample of her new Christmas project with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" with Schultz & Nordeman's collaboration of "Silent Night" preceding Kirk Franklin's misplaced 7-year-old "The Night Christ Was Born." Kathy Mattea performs her 9-year-old cut of the renowned Mark Lowry-penned "Mary, Did You Know," with Donnie McClurkin's "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and Rachael Lampa's beautiful rendition of "Ave Maria" closing out the first disc.
The second disc takes the more alternative/modern approach to the Christmas season, opening with Third Day's Southern-flavored "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Jennifer Knapp offers her signature sound with her original "Sing Mary Sing," ZOEgirl serves up their sugary pop-fused "Angels We Have Heard On High." While an occasionally frantic rendition, the girls still manage to capture some of the feel of the original. MercyMe offers yet another CCM take on "What Child Is This?" with their decent recording. tobyMac speaks to the hurting and lost of the season with his hip hop original "This Christmas" which features a hint of "Joy to the World." An absolute highlight is Sixpence None the Richer's somber but undeniably beautiful rendition of the Charlie Brown's Christmas tune "Christmastime Is Here." The 7-year-old Jars of Clay gem that is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" precedes the Caedmon's Call cover of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and the dismissable "A Prayer For Every Year" by Plus One. Rebecca St. James' cut "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," a highlight from her own Christmas project fits well on this project while FFH serves up a decent "The First Noel" and Out of Eden's highlight "O Little Town of Bethlehem" solidifies this disc as the better of the two. It's relatively downhill from here with Fred Hammond's "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and Stacie Orrico's highly carbonated "O Come All Ye Faithful." The biggest surprise on WOW Christmas is actually the unbridled rock offered by Audio Adrenaline's "Little Drummer Boy." This marks the band's first Christmas tune in over 10 years of work in the CCM scene. A little hard to digest at first, "Little Drummer Boy" quickly rises to be a project highlight and memorable way to close out the diverse project.
Far from perfect, but beautifully diverse and well-crafted enough to be a must-have, WOW Christmas gathers your favorite artists into one collection with the common goal of celebrating the highly wonderful and significant holiday we call Christmas.- Review date: 10/14/02, written by John DiBiase
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