3:1 CD Review: Everything Christmas (Greater Vision)

Everything Christmas3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Grace Has a Face: Several previous artists have cut this Phil Cross song, including the Hoppers, Triumphant Quartet, and Cross himself. But this rendition brings out the richness and power of the lyric. This is the rendition that will define the song.

2. A Cradle in Bethlehem: Though this song has been cut by several noted secular artists, this appears to be the first Southern Gospel rendition. Rodney Griffin’s rendition is so heartfelt that a casual listener might assume he had written the song.

3. Orchestrations: The orchestrations and instrumental arrangements for this album are consistently rich and lush. Care is evident down to the tiniest detail—like a brief, passing quote from “Away in a Manger” in the song “Grace Has a Face.” Gerald Wolfe described this project by saying, “This is how Christmas is supposed to sound.” He’s right.

:1. One thing I would change: Hymn Bridges: Hymn bridges don’t work if they prove the new song to be nowhere near as strong as the hymn. It’s the opposite story on “Grace Has a Face.” Its hymn bridge, “There’s Something About That Name,” doesn’t work because the classic song is nowhere near as good as the new one. Yes, I am serious.

Traditional or Progressive

Middle-of-the-road; classic orchestrated Christmas sound.

Explanation of Review Guidelines Exception

Yes, I know the review guidelines state that SouthernGospelBlog.com only reviews all-Gospel Christmas recordings. When Gerald Wolfe asked if I would review this project, I explained the policy, but told him that I would make an exception for him. Two reasons led to this exception: First, after deconstructing the best fast song from his last mainline, here, I owed him one! Second, the remainder of the project is so strong that, were it not for the secular songs, this would be a five-star review.

Credits

Group members: Chris Allman (tenor), Gerald Wolfe (lead), Rodney Griffin (baritone). • Review copy provided.  • Song list: Everything Christmas (overture); God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Do You Hear What I Hear; A Cradle in Bethlehem; It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; O Holy Night; Sleigh Ride; I Heard the Bells; Grace Has a Face (Hope Has Hands); There’s No Place Like Home for Christmas / I’ll Be Home for Christmas.


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  1. I saw this Christmas review and couldn’t decide if it was late or early! 😀

    This is definitely on my top list of Christmas albums, right beside an old classic Talleys one that goes unlistened to because we only have it on cassette. So this did dominate my Christmas last year.

    • Early! I actually wrote it in July or so, and held it this long for your benefit (and a few other people’s!)

  2. I’ve gotta disagree on your first point, Daniel. I think Triumphant’s version of “Grace Has a Face” is a much better candidate for the defining rendition of the song – except they call it “Hope Has Hands!”

    This CD does have the full orchestration that Lari is famous for!!! And I do like full orchestration!

    • I do think Triumphant’s rendition is a nice rendition, and was easily the best track on that CD, but even so, I’d still give Greater Vision’s a little edge, thanks to the Lari Goss orchestration—and thanks to its placement in the song order, too, since a song this good belongs toward the end of the CD listening experience. 🙂

      • I presume these songs are the same as the Hoppers’ “Hope Has Hands”. It was done on the Left Behind SG CD. I actually have the Greater Vision CD somewhere. I am not sure if I have the Triumphant one or not, but I haven’t listened to them either way. 🙂

      • Okay, I hadn’t read the review before reading the comments. 😀

      • I had wondered! Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the review!

        And sometimes they’re more, umm, interesting than the review. 😆

      • Yes – same one!

        Could someone who has the SG Left Behind CD explain to me how on earth that song would fit the set list? 🙂

      • I still can’t figure out how it fits. 🙂

      • I’m not sure if it were used in the second picture or not. The CD said something like in or inspired by. I don’t know where they would use it either. It might just be using whatever cuts they had access to. 😀

      • Yes, that’s what I was wondering. 🙂

      • I have the CD, but I think I only ripped the two Gold City songs off it, and have never listened to the rest of it. Both Gold City songs were new recordings, so I suspect all of them were (“Hope Has Hands” is also on the Hoppers’ Glad Tidings CD, but that was released a year later). Have no idea how it fits in with the theme of the CD.

      • I hadn’t known/remembered that there were new songs on that one – I’ll need to keep an eye out for it, now. 🙂

      • After some investigative work, it appears Mansion re-released it under a totally different title last year, and it is available for digital download:

        http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Gospel-Perform-Classics-2/dp/B004GGO7S0/ref=sr_1_1_digr?ie=UTF8&qid=1318005880&sr=8-1

        Of course, the original Left Behind CD is only 4 bucks or less, including shipping.

      • Cool – thanks!

        I think Mansion has rights to some of the old Homeland masters.

  3. Love this cd! Thanks for reviewing… I knew it was too good for you to pass it by. 🙂

    • …oh, he didn’t when he could’ve passed by… 🙂

  4. The beautiful thing about Christmas songs is that so many different artists will sing the same song, and do it in different arrangements, but its all good.

    Both Triumphant & Greater Vision’s interpretations are great, but I love the touch of GV’s just a wee bit more.

  5. You’re coming to your senses my friend. They could play a few of these songs on radio, and it would blend right in with the Classic Christmas vibe, Andy Williams, Bing…

    Actually, I’m not sure I’ve heard an orchestra like that on any recent Christmas project, Christian or secular.

    • You mean Southern Gospel radio? Does anyone listen to anything other than the best music in the world at Christmastime?

      (And yes, I’m asking this with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face! 🙂 )

  6. This is a very well-made project, and has that classic Christmas sound.

    I personally prefer more straight-up quartet-style singin’, even for Christmas, so it’s not a personal favorite. But I do enjoy it.

    • I found that if I created a playlist with just the Christian songs, I loved listening through it. Just an idea – maybe worth trying! 🙂

      • Yeah, that would probably be better. But I don’t so much mind the secular Christmas songs, occasionally. Just like on the first GV Christmas CD, a lot of the songs were primarily solos with BGVs. I just like more SG-style harmony, like the Christmas projects the Cathedrals, Gold City, and, the Kingdom Heirs have put out.

        But for what it was designed to do, this one was superb.

      • I also prefer harmony over solo with BGVs. That said, I found myself liking the feel of “A Cradle in Bethlehem” anyhow!

  7. Daniel. Are you really saying that “There’s Something About That Name,” doesn’t work because the classic song is nowhere near as good as the new one. Yes, I am serious.” Could you defend your statement on this?

    • If you want a debate, I’ll leave it to you to invest the time and research to formulate the opening statement.

  8. Thanks for the review… and the discussion. Interesting, indeed! I could go into the details of the reasoning behind the song, selection, arrangements, and production process, but it sounds like “Friday Night” is on the right track. So… we’ll wait to see if he reviews it at some point. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

    • Merry Christmas to you, too, and thank you for doing such a splendid job on “Grace Has a Face.” (Thank you, also, for renaming the song! 🙂 )

  9. Daniel I’m not wanting to debate, I just would like to know why you would make that statement. I have heard that song by all the artist listed above and it is a great song, but there is one thing missing in this song. The name of JESUS. Many great songs have been written but if the name of JESUS is left out there is something missing. The world wants to X Christ out of everything including churches replace it with lyrics like “him” “god” “king” ‘love” “you” In this odd day in which we live politicians, society, and all ism’s, can all get along until someone brings up the name of JESUS. I like this song please don’t get me wrong, and I love Phil Cross don’t get me wrong, but there is something different about that name. No other name, given among men. This was my point for asking, and my motive behind asking you the question.

    • What would you say, then, to the book of Esther?

      🙂

      My case is made!

      OK, I’ll elaborate. I would aver that not every song about Jesus or God the Father needs to mention them by name, especially if referring to Him by another title. (Just like Bible books.)

      Now, I do think it is usually best to be specific, but we have Biblical precedent establishing that it is not necessary.

      • Ok. I see your point, and I hope you see my point.

  10. What level of involvement did Voices Of Lee have on this CD? Were they center stage at any point, or just background vocalists?

    I haven’t had a chance to hear the CD, so I was just curious.

    • I can’t recall anywhere where they were center stage. There were certainly no solos. There may have been choir segments, but I guess (not having credits) I just assumed it was a generic choir.

    • You need to hear it, DMB! The answer to your question is “both”. The Voices of Lee do BGVs on the project, and they’re featured on several passages in many of the songs. They don’t have a “dedicated” cut on the recording, but their presence is undeniable. They are amazing vocalists!