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JFH Music Review

Family Force 5
The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 10 tracks: 33 minutes, 4 seconds
Street Date: October 6, 2009

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

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

To be honest, the very idea of a Family Force 5 Christmas album seems ingenious, especially after the fun and funky "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" the band recorded for a radio station over three years ago. However, as the guys move more away from that crunk rock flavor and more towards dance, hip hop, and R&B, their debut full-length Christmas project has its share of musical schizophrenia. While, admittedly, the album is holiday fun from its start to finish, some of the song executions borrow a bit too heavily from mainstream trends to feel truly Christmasy or Family Force 5 (The squeaky vocal in "Angels..." and the electronic voice effects on several tracks, specifically). However, at the same time, it's tracks like "Carol Of The Bells" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" that are exactly what we can expect from the Atlanta quintet - and they're true gems. Another surprise highlight is the entirely uncharacteristic FF5 original, "It's Christmas Day," a pop ballad that's fashioned perfectly for pop radio and probably will stand the test of time longer than any of their other renditions here. Still, despite its flaws (including such a short running time -- 33 minutes and 10 songs?!), there's a freshness and life that FF5 breathes into the classics that uses the familiarity to capture the Christmas spirit while reinventing them for the modern age. While this may not go down in history as one of the best Christmas albums, it's certainly still a whole lot of fun. I myself will be spinning this one a lot this Christmas season... and most likely for quite a few to come. - John DiBiase of


. Record Label: Transparent / Tooth & Nail
. Album length: 10 tracks: 33 minutes, 4 seconds
. Street Date: October 6, 2009
. Buy It:

  1. Carol Of The Bells (3:02)
  2. Little Drummer Boy (1:55)
  3. Christmas Time Is Here (2:17)
  4. My Favorite Things (4:00)
  5. Angels We Have Heard On High (3:17)
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear (3:57)
  7. Twas The Night Before Christmas (4:04)
  8. It's Christmas Day (3:58)
  9. The Baby (3:12)
  10. Wonderful Christmas Time (3:29)



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