Release Date: October 27th 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Little Drummer Boy
- O Come O Come Emmanuel
- Won’t You Come (Interlude)
- Baby Boy
- Angels We Have Heard On High
- Into The Silent Night
- Hark The Herald Angels Sing
- Joy To The World
- The Proof Of Your Love (feat. Rebecca St. James)
One of today’s most inspiring and relevant bands today in both the Christian and mainstream music market, Aussie brothers for KING & COUNTRY, comprised of Joel and Luke Smallbone, just keep on blowing our minds, with their heartfelt and poignant melodies, and their hopeful and life-affirming message that Jesus Christ is the only One we need in order to succeed in this life. With both their studio albums Crave (2012) and Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong (2014) garnering praise and accolades from critics, fans and general listeners; it is the songs that stick out to me the most- songs like “Priceless”, “O God Forgive Us”, “Fix My Eyes”, “Shoulders”, “The Proof Of Your Love”, “Busted Heart” and “Hope Is What We Crave”, to name a few, are some of the songs we’ll be gladly singing long after the band cease to exist (which I hope and pray doesn’t happen for a very long time). Joel and Luke both have the effortless power and tenacity, in my opinion, to let their lyrics and voices transcend beliefs, morals and world views, enriching us with the knowledge that we are never alone in this world. With the band already recording a live project in 2013, called Hope Is What We Crave, and a Christmas project as well, titled Into The Silent Night, this past week the band married these concepts together with a live Christmas project Christmas: LIVE From Phoenix releasing to all physical and digital formats. And what is my honest assessment of such an ambitious and equally intimate, worshipful and reflective holiday experience? Near flawless, as I am taken away to a magical place, and I allow Joel and Luke to minister to my soul.
With the album containing 5 carols and 5 original songs, we are blessed to hear a seamless 39 minute set list, that makes me want to be there at the concert. The album opens up with “Little Drummer Boy”, which is a fun 3 minute ball of energy, with the duo ardently proclaiming that Jesus reigns on high, and that the only thing that we can do to please the God who entered into humanity to save our souls, is to offer our lives up to Him as a living sacrifice; while the acoustic guitar driven mellow and reflective piece “O Come O Come Emmanuel” gives off a chilling and haunting atmosphere, while also encouraging us to ‘…rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel…’. One of my favourite carols ever is “Angels We Have Heard On High”, as the duo provide us a guitar led celebratory folk/pop rendition, and powerfully recount to us that we can praise Jesus with all that we are because of the fact that we are alive in Him, and made whole and free from his birth and subsequent death and resurrection. The final two carols represented here by Joel and Luke is the slower paced piano led “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”, and the lullaby-ish “Joy To The World” (complete with an impromptu inspirational speech from Joel and why we celebrate Christmas!), and with each of the 5 carols, Joel and Luke make the carols their own, putting their own unique musical spin on things.
On the original melodies side, we first hear a 1 minute spontaneous free worship melody titled “Won’t You Come” quickly followed by previous smash hits “Baby Boy”, “Glorious” and “Into The Silent Night”, With “Baby Boy” being one of my favourite original Christmas songs ever, we are honoured to hear both Joel and Luke ardently encouraging us, that we can ‘…see the king is coming down, and he’s here without a crown, the baby boy without a bed, giving life back to the dead, and hear the angels shout it out, as the people come and bow, unexpected majesty, alleluia, what a king…’, in an epic worship anthem that sounds like something out of an Oscar winning movie. While “Into The Silent Night”, a soft piano ballad, is a love song, as the duo sing about their wives, and how they love them like Jesus loves His church, but sadly “Glorious” is a bit flat. I didn’t really connect with the song for some reason, as the duo passionately sing about Jesus being glorious (maybe it was the overload of different musical elements on the track itself, that made it hard to distinguish what the band wanted the song to be!), and the album ends with one of my favourite songs from for KING & COUNTRY ever. “The Proof Of Your Love” is the band on an entire different level, and talking about the song wouldn’t do it justice. So you can watch the music video for the track, and marvel at the equally enthralling and captivating live version on this album as well…especially if it contains Rebecca St. James on guest vocals.
All in all, Christmas: LIVE From Phoenix is a thought provoking and challenging journey of some of the band’s most famous Christmas songs together with some carols. Though I would have wanted a DVD to be released (maybe it still will!), for KING & COUNTRY show us once again that they’re the real deal, in a precursor to what is probably a new album to release sometime in 2018. Well done guys for a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging project, and I look forward to what God has in store for you in the coming months and years.
3 songs to listen to: Baby Boy, Into The Silent Night, The Proof Of Your Love
RIYL: Tenth Avenue North, Crowder, Coldplay, Delirious?, Michael W. Smith