The Voice of Christmas| Posted November 17, 2017
Long one of Christian music's best kept secrets, Marc Martel seems to have found a comfortable niche in the business. Known for his incredibly diverse voice that can mimic some of the best singers known to recorded music, Marc Martel has built up an incredibly loyal fanbase. Last year saw him release his first Christmas EP as a solo artist, which garnered some surprising radio success. This year, Martel launched a Kickstarter to fund two more EPs: one a covers EP to be released next year, and the other a follow-up to his successful The Silent Night EP from last year.
The First Noel EP checks all the right boxes for Christmas releases, building on the strengths of last year's EP and adding in new ones. "The First Noel" is a treat and a good radio candidate, taking a slow build from a standard offering to truly exceptional in the song's climactic finish. Martel's vocal chops are on full display here, carrying the song to a position as one of the album's finest.
Other offerings, like a contemplative take on "Mary Did You Know" and a guitar-driven "Ave Maria," add strong complement to the pillars of the album. "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" features guest vocals from Plumb. The song is unabashedly fun and comes with enjoyable musical flourishes, like a banjo backing.
While much of the EP could be described as a sort of cocktail Christmas record that would sound good at parties and for chilling out, Martel sends a curveball finish with "Hallelujah Chorus," which is pretty much as big and theatrical as you'd expect from Martel. With layered vocals covering the entire choral range, Martel is a one-man choir belting out Handel's classic with brilliant bravado. It's a strong grand finale to the EP, and a highlight of Martel's entire Christmas catalogue.
As the Downhere years get farther and farther in the rearview, any offering from Martel becomes more and more precious to the longtime Downhomies. But Martel's proven he can branch out from CCM and offer styles to impress audiences of varied tastes. This is an EP that should have something in it for everyone. Here's hoping it's not the last holiday collection to feature Martel, as his voice seems to make the season a little bit brighter.
The Bottom Line: Both straightforward and surprising at times, Martel's new Christmas EP The First Noel balances fun and reverence for what is sure to be a crowdpleaser.