Review: Gaither Vocal Band – Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style

This is the latest release from the Gaither Vocal Band, and their first Christmas CD since Still The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1998.  Wes Hampton, Guy Penrod, Marshall Hall, and Bill Gaither have taken a totally different approach to this album from the previous one.

Tracks:

  1. Winter Wonderland – The CD opens with this laid back, jazzy interpretation of this Christmas classic.  There is some incredibly tight, complex jazz harmony on this song.  Great cut to start out the recording and set the mood for the rest of the project.  9/10
  2. O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Great acappella rendition of this classic Christmas hymn.  This song would not have sounded out of place on the A Cappella project from a few years back.  Russell Mauldin did the arrangements, and this one is immaculate.  This is probably my favorite song on the disc.  10/10
  3. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Wes Hampton takes the lead on this song, and turns in a fine performance.  This song really fits his voice well.  The arrangement returns to the laid back jazz styles from the opening track and includes some more lush vocal harmonies, especially on the tag.  8.5/10
  4. Oh Holy Night – The track starts with a big sweeping intro, but comes down in intensity for Guy Penrod’s first verse.  Marshall Hall takes the second verse and turns in a masterful vocal.  Hall is a really talented singer, and is very overlooked.  The last few lines of the first verse are reprised and lead to a nice tag, albeit with out the high inverted harmony on the line “Oh night divine”.  They still manage to build to a nice high ending after a couple of unison lines in the tag.  Overall, not a bad version of the song at all, and Hall’s vocals are the real highlight.  8/10
  5. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – Another nice subdued track with some tight harmonies from the group.  Marshall Hall turns in a great performance on the first verse before Guy Penrod takes the second verse into a minor key, which is a nice twist.  A change back to the major key a half step up leads to a group vocal on the last two verses with some nice use of unison interspersed among the tight harmonies.  Solid, solid track, though I’d have liked to have heard more barbershop type harmonies on this one.  7.5/10
  6. Christmas In The Country – The first non-standard song on the disc, this is a laid back mountain/country flavored tune.  Smooth group harmonies abound here.  Bill Gaither sings the first verse, then Guy Penrod sings the second verse  that plays to his strength.  Penrod does a great job on country flavored songs.  The group then sings the third verse with some very smooth sounds.  Nothing here is really flashy, but there are some subtle chord changes in the chorus that keep the song interesting.  This is very solid.  7/10
  7. White Christmas – The soft jazz feel returns for this Irving Berlin classic, as do the complex harmonies.  This is a really nice version, that is easy to picture as playing in the background for a Christmas party.  I like this arrangement.  8/10
  8. Carol Medley: Silent Night/Angels We Have Heard On High/How Great Our Joy – Another incredible acappella arrangement of these carols.  “Silent Night” could have been sung a little more smoothly for my taste, but the harmonies are incredible.  Just try and keep up with all the moving harmonies on the chorus of “Angels”.  I like the dueling two part lines on the second verse of this carol.  They use an almost Gregorian style chant to transition to “How Great Our Joy” and do a great job on this traditional carol.  The dynamics and harmonies are spot on.  They use a modified version of the chant to tag the end.  The harmony on the last chord is not a typical triad, but works very well.  Another pick of the project.  9.5/10
  9. My Heart Would Be Your Bethlehem – The second non-standard song on the project.  There are some really nice lyrics here by Bill and Gloria Gaither along with J.D. Miller.  There’s again some nice use of unison lines along with group harmonies.  This song sounds like it would be a great fit in a Christmas cantata.  Very solid song.  8/10
  10. Come And See What’s Happenin’ – Another new(ish) song that has been sung by the Gaither choir on previous Christmas videos.  This is an uptempo country flavored tune.  Guy Penrod sings the first verse very solidly, then Marshall Hall takes the second verse and does a magnificent job on it.  The chorus is some of the lowest harmony you’ll hear from the GVB.  Penrod takes the last verse after a key change, with some group harmonies interspersed.  They have some nice inverted high harmony on the first line of the ensuing chorus before coming back down.  They use a round like tag that leads to a power high ending that is a great end to the track.  9/10
  11. Away In A Manger – Soft track with a traditional sound to this carol that provides a stark contrast to the “in your face” arrangements on the previous two tracks.  It definitely brings a reflective mood to the close of the disc.  Guy Penrod sings the second verse, with Wes Hampton joining in on the last two lines with a nice duet.  The full quartet sings the last verse with some smooth block harmonies.  It’s a very soft, meditative end to the disc.  7.5/10

Overall:  8.5/10 This is a very solid disc from the Gaither Vocal Band.  The approach to this CD is much more laid back than the previous CD, which I think accounts for the dissapointment found by some reviewers.  When taken for its intended direction, however, I think the GVB has succeeded in their goal.  This is a nice, relaxing Christmas CD overall that would make great background music at a Christmas party.  There isn’t much here that really jumps out and grabs you, but that’s fine, there isn’t supposed to be.  This is supposed to be a nice, easy listen, and it does that very well.  I almost would have ended on one of the slow jazz numbers, to close the disc with a little more interesting arrangement, I think “I’ll Be Home” would have been a great closer, but that’s solely my opinion and a very minor nit to pick.  I think the GVB can be very proud of this effort.

About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

6 Responses to Review: Gaither Vocal Band – Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style

  1. Pingback: Southern Gospel Album Reviews » Blog Archive » Gaither Vocal Band (Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style)

  2. Janet B says:

    The more I listen to this cd, the more it grows on me. It would be very hard to top the previous project, so why not go in a different direction?
    Thanks for the positive review!

  3. DJPhil says:

    Hmmm, “great background music at a Christmas party” seems to be the prevailing sentiment. Music you want in the background but don’t really find it interesting enough to listen to by its self…

  4. J D Miller says:

    Thank you for the positive review of this album, and you comments regarding “My Heart Will Be Your Bethlehem”, A song I had the good fortune to co-write with Bill and Gloria. For the record, Gloria wrote all of the lyrics and Bill and I wrote the music. I agree with your opinion that it would fit well in a Cantana collections, and hope that it will be included as a special message song for many Christmases to come!
    J D Miller

  5. Richard Gomez says:

    I love your song “My Heart Would be Your Bethlehem”. Is it possible if you can add or post the lyrics of the song? Or if it is not too much, email me the lyrics. I appreciate it.

  6. Eric Klassen says:

    Hello,
    I enjoy singing along with the Gaithers. It would be so nice to have the lyrics to Christmas In The Country. Please email them to my return address.
    Thank you for your kindness.
    Eric

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