Reviewed by Thérèse McGarry
Having read CR reviews of previous Christmas albums and being aware of the slating they sometimes come in for, it is with baited breath that I listen to Mr M W Smith's new Christmas album! So, I am delighted to report that it passes the test! The first two tracks begin with a childlike quality, though I think the album doesn't really kick in until the third track, "The Promise", which has a grand orchestral opening giving it an almost biblical epic soundtrack feel to it, before Smith enters with strong piano and vocals, accompanied by the orchestra and a choir. This is followed by an instrumental which opens beautifully with "Once In David's Royal City". (Though it seems a bit odd to call an instrumental "Songs For The King", instead of "Music For The King"?!) That's only a minor quibble for a track that features the rather delicate tones of the piano and violin, and again they're accompanied by the orchestra. (Grand orchestral entrances are a feature on this album!) Anyway, this is followed by a contemporary Christmas song featuring gospel diva Mandisa and then we're back to the instrumentals - this time a traditional Scottish "Highland Carol". However, the track which stands out in this reviewer's memory is the beautiful rendition of "What Child Is This", whose Irish tin whistle gives it a Celtic feel. There are a number of delightful tracks on the album that highlight the very beautiful and delicate piano-playing of Mr Smith, who, together with his orchestra accompaniment, is sure to soothe even the meanest of Scrooges this Christmastide!
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