Christmas Comes Alive
Posted December 15, 2017
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer
for KING & COUNTRY is arguably the biggest success story in the past decade of Christian music, owning an original sound in a sea of like-sounding contemporaries. Their 2012 Christmas single "Baby Boy" was the precursor to several subsequent holiday releases. Instead of just slapping those same recordings into a full length with a few new cuts added, the brothers Smallbone opted for a live Christmas album instead, bringing the listener to the front row of their Christmas tours with A for KING & COUNTRY Christmas: Live in Phoenix.
Every Christmas song for KING & COUNTRY has recorded in the past is included. The aforementioned "Baby Boy" and last year's radio hit "Glorious" highlight a quality yuletide set. Their rousing covers of some classic carols also make the album a joy to experience. "The Little Drummer Boy" kicks off the album and is probably the most natural carol possible for the band's drum-heavy sound. This live release has gotten them some well-deserved mainstream notice.
There are also a few new recordings in the mix here. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is the standout, a big and bold version that should please longtime fans and intrigue new listeners. There's also an outro to the song called "Won't You Come" that is equally delectable, although it's a bit unfortunate that it is listed as a separate track, which could make playback a bit awkward.
"Joy to the World" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" get a more intimate treatment, with soft vocals carrying the tunes rather than the huge instrumentation the band is known for. A non-Christmas (but equally relevant) song closes the track listing out: "The Proof of Your Love" was the band's second hit, but arguably the first one that really became a smash. This version opts for a softer slow build that erupts during the song's climactic finish. What makes this version special is it features guest vocals from the original Smallbone to grace the CCM radio airwaves: Joel and Luke's big sister, Rebecca St. James. Her vocals fit well into the song's passionate structure.
It's hard to criticize anything put out by such a powerhouse. The record is truly enjoyable start to finish. If anything feels a bit lacking, it's that one or two more songs would have made the set feel fuller. Especially with the softer songs all playing at the end, a few additional high-energy songs could've helped keep the momentum the album began with alive. Still, it's better to have fewer songs that work well than many that don't. When the biggest complaint is that the music is so good that you want more, that's a mark of success in itself.
The Bottom Line: A for KING & COUNTRY Christmas: Live in Phoenix is an experience to cherish for Christmases to come from some of the best voices in the business.
For Fans Of: Rebecca St. James, Everfound, Newsboys, Drums
Song to Download Now:
"The Little Drummer Boy (Live)" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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