Review: Ball Brothers – Christmas

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This is the latest release from the Ball Brothers, and according to Daniel Ball, is more of a “table project” than a mainline release.  That being said, this is a high quality table project!

Tracks:

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful – Stunning acappella opener to the disc.  The harmonies are incredibly complex, the blend smooth, and the arrangment impeccable.  This was available on Daniel Mount’s blog as a free download.  If you didn’t download it, shame on you!  I honestly can’t think of any more perfect opening to the CD.  10/10
  2. The Christmas Song – Soft jazzy version of this song.  The tenor lead is reminiscent of the arrangement that the Gaither Vocal Band did on Still The Greatest Story Ever Told.  Once again, there are some nice, complex jazz vocal harmonies on this song.  The understated track helps to highlight the incredible harmonies.  9.5/10
  3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – This song may spark quite the discussion.  The track opens with some chatter, then the instruments kick in.  Let me say this, this sure isn’t “Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem.”  This arrangement sounds like something TrueVibe or PlusOne in the CCM market would have done, maybe 4Him from the early ’90s, or to use a secular reference, think 98 Degrees or N’Sync.  That being said, this is a great performance.  Nice soaring harmonies, smooth vocals, and this stacks up against any secular “boy-band” recording you can name.  I personally love this, but I can see this causing a little stir among more traditionalists than me.  9/10
  4. What Child Is This? – Another acappella tune that is sung in a very smooth, deliberate manner.  The jazz chords don’t come into play as much here, but there are some really nice vocal arpeggios behind the lead vocal on the verses following the first.  These guys are incredibly talented singers and this song showcases that talent.  9/10
  5. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – This song returns to the pop sounds of “Have Yourself.”  Again the vocals are smooth and rival any secular vocal group.  There are some random “Santa sounds” interspersed here.  Once again, a potentially controversial arrangement, but it’s a very solid performance.  They do some nice building up the harmony from unison on the first verse.  Solid performance.  7.5/10
  6. Hark The Herald Angels Sing – Back to a more traditional acappella approach on this carol, there are some nice moving harmonies and chords interspersed here.  If you like Take 6, this is a Take 6-esque arrangement.  It doesn’t quite have the complexity of Take 6’s version, but it doesn’t miss it by much.  Once again an incredible performance, and a nice broadening of the last verse that keeps the song interesting.  9.5/10
  7. Silent Night – This song has some smooth block vocals with an acoustic guitar accompaniment on the first verse that hearkens back to the original performance of this timeless carol.  The second verse adds a little more instrumentation, and some more complex harmonies from the first verse.  Solid performance here.  7/10
  8. O Holy Night – Fairly traditional version of this song.  The first verse is totally solo, there’s a piano solo for the first two lines of the second verse, the solo comes back in with some wordless background harmonies that are gorgeous until the last two lines with full group vocals.  The typical high tag is used and the last word is sung solo.  Solid arrangement.  7.5/10
  9. Blue Christmas – This is an interesting way to close the CD.  The song is performed with acoustic guitar accompaniment.  The complex harmonies return in the background behind the lead line.  It’s a great performance, and the key change in the middle is exquisite, as are the harmonies following.    8.5/10

Overall:  9/10 This was my introduction to the Ball Brothers’ music, and I have come away incredibly impressed.  You’ve read my pleas for more creative arrangements, jazz influences, and you’ve listened to me lament the demise of Friends IV.  Well these guys are an answer to those pleas.  Their vocal arrangements are incredible, their harmonies performed expertly, their blend very smooth, and they have produced an immensely enjoyable Christmas album.  The first half of the disc is a bit stronger than the second half, and closing with “Blue Christmas” is a bit of a head scratcher to me, but if you enjoy the pop songs like I do, then there won’t be anything here you’ll want to skip over.  Kudos to these guys on a great album.  If this is what they consider a “table project”, I can’t wait to hear what they do for their next major release!

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