Reviewed by Stella Redburn
Christmastime has always been good for the CCM star. Michael's holiday projects 'Christmas' (1989), 'Christmastime' (1998) and 'It's A Wonderful Christmas' (2007) have all been big sellers. The genesis for his fourth yuletide offering was his performance with country star Jennifer Nettles (of the Sugarland duo) during last year's CMA Country Christmas telecast. Producer Robert Deaton approached Smith with the idea of co-producing a Christmas album and with the addition of musical arranger/conductor David Hamilton (who oversaw the album's work with the London Symphony Orchestra) this lavish offering is the result. As well as Nettles, the album is brimful of country guest stars including Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and Martina McBride. Other guests include the CCM star who has long been associated with Michael, Amy Grant; the bluesy-voiced Doobie Brothers veteran, Michael McDonald; and rock icon Bono, though in the latter's case his contribution is a whispered rendition of a traditional Wexford carol, "The Darkest Midnight", accompanied by a wash of Celtic sound. 'The Spirit Of Christmas' offers a collection of immaculately arranged popular Christmas numbers which comprise a sequence spanning pre-Christmas fun and expectation, moving on to explaining the message of Christmas and culminating in examining how this message can change our lives. "The Miracle Of Christmas", "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", "Happy Holiday" and other opening tracks reflect the popular secular side of the holiday, with the orchestra adding a big, "film music" feel to Smith's personable voice. Lashings of glockenspiels and sleigh bells create the right atmosphere. The powerfully emotional voice of Carrie Underwood on "All Is Well" was, apparently, captured in just one take and marvellous it is too. The group Little Big Town add some luscious vocal harmony to "Silent Night" and there is a new song from Amy Grant called "Almost There" about Mary's journey to Bethlehem. The final track "Peace" features Mr Smith's duet with Michael McDonald and makes a fitting climax to a great feel-good Christmas album.
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|Michael W Smith helps us usher in the Christmas season this year with some help from his friends.|
Smith is joined by some of today's biggest country music superstars: Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Jennifer Nettles and Martina McBride, along with Amy Grant, Vince Gill and Michael McDonald.
This star-studded album is full of timeless carols, Christmas favourites and new versions of some of Michael's most loved Christmas songs.