|Daniel Kirkley Offers A Nostalgic Christmas Listen | Posted November 12, 2012
Daniel Kirkley's full-length Christmas release has been anticipated for quite a while now and this Christmas season, Love is Christmas is finally here for our listening pleasure. The 11-track release does well at offering a fairly varied collection of holiday tracks that effectively capture the mood of the season.
The album opens with an almost modern Bing Crosby feel as Kirkley covers the popular "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas." The song is a bit slower than one might expect (even from a contemporary artist such as Kirkley) but it still carries a very Christmassy feel and is a fine cover of the classic that is both refreshing and nostalgic. Kirkley's touch to the song is fitting and sets the mood for the rest of the album.
"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" continues a similar feel but appropriately picks up the speed. The sound on this one is bigger and more foot-tapping. The horn backing is catchy and helps round out a fine cover of the song. The only complaint is that it's almost over before it begins, clocking in at less than 2 minutes.
"Light a Candle"--made popular by Christian contemporary vocal band Avalon--feels almost like something off of a collaborative compilation of some sort with guest vocalists Rachel Potter and Marty Thomas having a prominent vocal presence on the track. The song is strong, uplifting, and an album highlight. It's message is pretty good too, calling us to remember those less fortunate than we are during the Christmas season: "light a candle / for the old man who sits staring / out a frosty windowpane / light a candle / for the woman who is lonely / and every Christmas is the same / for the children who need / more than presents can bring." It's truly an inspiring track that has an accessible melody.
"Joy To The World" really kicks things up with the piano-driven music power that Kirkley is known for. With a choir back-up to a rousing performance, it's a memorable rendition. The track weaves in "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and loses just a tad of steam in the process, and only for just a few moments. Kirkley's passionate vocals and the choir help keep the track stirring and exciting.
"Sacred Medley" is exactly what it sounds like, a medley of popular Christ-centric Christmas songs. Kirkley's captivating and powerful voice fits well with every track chosen and he gives each an inspirational and emotional spin. Even without changing the melodies, Kirkley manages to make each his own. I almost wish Kirkley developed some of these a little bit more as some of the songs don't get as much time to shine as they should due to being part of a medley. (Even with the medley being generous in length at over 6 minutes) On the other hand, with many of these songs being overused in Christmas albums as it is, it's understandable to put them together in a 1-track medley.
The title track ("Love is Christmas") is next and is definitely another album highlight. With some almost chanted backup and a soothing vocal hook, the track has a peaceful and yet stirring feel to it that truly brings home the Christmas vibe. It also comes with a relevant holiday message about love not coming in the commercial packages the world likes to associate with Christmas: "I don't care if the house is packed / Or the strings of light are broken / I don't care if the gifts are wrapped / Or there's nothing here to open / Love is not a toy/and no paper will conceal it / Love is simply joy that I'm home."
Kirkley follows with a cover of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas," in a rendition that is again bit slower than we're probably used to. Still, Kirkley's voice adds an effective touch to the pop track, making it more than his own. "The Christmas Song" is done in a fairly familiar way but the song fits well with Kirkley's voice.
And of course, what Christmas album would be complete without "O Holy Night"? I have to be nearing twenty different renditions of this song on my Christmas playlist now. Kirkley does well with the track, choosing a more laid back approach to it instead of going the dramatic route like so many others do. I suppose it's actually a nice and welcome change.
A cover of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is next. Kirkley covered this song once before on Centricity Records' under-appreciated compilation Bethlehem Skyline. I must say that I do prefer that one. This one is good too and there's nothing at all wrong with it. Despite the preference for the other, I do understand why Kirkley chose to start fresh instead of digging out something older.
The album closes with the song Kirkley released last Christmas, "Amazing Grace (A Christmas Story)." No, it's not a cover of the popular hymn. It's a powerful ballad detailing the birth of Christ in relation to our lives today. It's actually my favorite track of the bunch, packing the most punch out of all of the standouts that came before it, and sending out the album strong. With lyrics like, "What you gave was amazing / Hope for every man / No one thought that a baby / Could bring Your joy to world / It all started with a silent night / A gift that set the world on fire / That first Christmas you gave amazing grace."
And then the album ends, and you can't help but want to start it again to keep the Christmassy feel going.
Daniel Kirkley has crafted a strong and uplifting Christmas release. The content is a tad lopsided towards the mainstream, but overall, it's a good listen and a welcome addition to any Christmas music collection.
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