Every year, the Christmas season seems to start a little bit earlier than it did the year before. For 2009, I guess it starts within the first week of October, as there's already Christmas music releasing in the CCM world. And the first release just so happens to be from none other than Family Force 5. Now this isn't the Family's first attempt at Christmas music, as they did their own rendition of the quirky "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" several years back, but this is their first full-length Christmas album. And they do a pretty good job of making the Christmas classics their own.
Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant gets things started with a Crouton-led, dirty south rendition of "Carol of the Bells." It's already blatantly obvious that much time was taken on this project, as anything FF5 does, which is necessary if they want to pull off an atypical Christmas album like this. So with the quality in order, it's safe to move on to the next track, "Little Drummer Boy." The high-pitched vocals and sped-up beat may throw a few off, but it's still a quality track, and it's given the FF5 touch when Soul Glow comes in with a "Shall I play for Him, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, on my drum machine, watch me play this thing." "Christmas Time Is Here" is next, the famous song from the Peanuts Christmas special, followed by a song that, to my knowledge, isn't actually a Christmas song. It's "My Favorite Things" from the movie The Sound of Music. Regardless of the questionable placement on a Christmas album, it's definitely a highlight of this collection, and it's actually fairly close to resembling a song from Business Up Front, Party In The Back. It's got a nice beat throughout, with some quasi-rocking guitar riffs in the chorus - and a guitar solo as well - that may please some fans of older FF5 material. The similarities to older FF5 continue a bit into "Angels We Have Heard On High," which also includes a beatboxing loop behind the actual drums.
The second half of the disc starts off with a popular Christmas carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Despite the somewhat annoying repeating of "Do you hear what I, do you hear what I hear?" at times throughout, it's actually a well-done remake, with even a slightly industrial-style beat, but mainly starts to go back to the dirty south feel like "Carol of the Bells." FF5 then took "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and gave it a beautiful beat that sounds like it came straight from a Reach Records artist. The musical style changes quite a bit for the next song, "It's Christmas Day," which sounds like a boy band Christmas ballad, but also ends up being one of the best songs on the whole album. The song, which was cowritten with Third Day's Mac Powell, features a guest appearance from an older gospel singer, Jerome Olds, who also just so happens to be the father of FF5's Crouton, Fatty and Soul Glow Activatur. Another style shift goes back to dirty south for a Family Force 5 original, "The Baby." It's sung from the perspective of one of the wise men going to meet the baby Jesus in the manger. A strange-sounding loop of a baby's babbling (Soli's son, Cash, maybe?) plays here and there in the song, but it still is probably a personal favorite song on Christmas Pageant. The final song is a great remake of "Wonderful Christmas Time," which stays a little true to the original, but actually sounds more like Earthsuit's rendition. A good way to end the album, even with the offsetting "ringalingaling."
I'm one who enjoys hearing what artists will put out a Christmas album (and what songs they'll include) each year when the season rolls around. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I heard that Family Force 5 was doing one this year, but I was pleasantly surprised at what they came up with. As the Atlanta boys keep making more music, the quality and maturity of the music keeps increasing. And though some don't approve of the different sounds they've been making as of late, the band still knows what they're doing, and they've crafted ten songs that make up what will probably be one of the best Christmas albums this year - not to mention, what may be the absolute most non-traditional Christmas album to have been made in a long time. I definitely think it's important to have the traditional sounds of Christmas carols, but it would be good to have more of this as well.- Review date: 9/28/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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