Jesus Culture Music
Release Date: November 4th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Tell Me The Story Of Jesus
- Silent Night
- Angels We Have Heard On High
- It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas
- The First Noel
- Away In A Manger
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
- Let It Snow
- O Come O Come Emmanuel
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- O Holy Night
- Carol Of The Bells
- Winter Wonderland
- Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
- White Christmas
- The Christmas Song
Another week, another Christmas album. With this site reviewing albums this year from 1 Girl Nation, Michael W Smith, Joshua Mills, Salvador and Chris August, there’s now another artist who has released a Christmas album. Kim Walker-Smith, lead vocalist from Jesus Culture, has decided to embrace the holiday spirit and Christmas cheer wholeheartedly, and decided to release a mega album of 17 tracks. Containing plenty of well-known Christ centred themed songs as well as prominent and popular mainstream Christmas tunes; Kim has blessed us with a Christmas album unlike any other, as she unveils plenty of genres wrapped up in an hour of pop and worship goodness, as we praise of Lord and Saviour for being born! Even though I don’t really understand why Christmas music is played in stores and released to the public a few months early; I can still appreciate the Christmas songs for what they are, regardless of when they are played during the year, and that’s exactly what I am doing with Kim’s superb, stellar effort!
Opening the album with the acoustic guitar led slow paced ballad “Tell Me The Story Of Jesus”, a contemplative and reflective hymn like melody, where Kim emphatically yearns to know God more and deeper, and outlines that she wants to fall more in love with Jesus. Evident from the start that this album is going to focus more on the vocals, and have the music as a backdrop; the rest of the tracklist feature 7 Christ centred carols and 9 mainstream carols, showing us Kim’s versatility and ability to stand out of the box that we all have placed her in because of Jesus Culture- the box of worship. And while she has a blast and is in her true element of worship during the songs about Jesus’ birth, Kim excels at the rest of the melodies as well, as we see how much Kim loves Christmas, and how much she embraces the songs about family and friends!
Singing slightly prophetically and satirically, Kim unveils the piano led confronting yet also comforting ballad “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot like Christmas”, which speaks about Christmas coming closer, and the joyous season approaching. Yet this song can also be read on another level of Christmas being celebrated too early, however Kim’s bubbly and fun personality shining through here reminds us that we can celebrate Christmas as early as we want, because of the reason for the season, Jesus being born in a manger, and that is why this 2 minute track has heart and sounds more positive than the lyrics subtly make it out to be.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, led by powerful and commanding synth, exemplary strings and exquisite keys, has Kim eloquently singing a laid back ballad, as this song sounds like it could be featured in a Christmas movie soundtrack. A song about spending the holidays with family and friends, and essentially a message to loved ones that relationships can be mended and people united during the special season; it sounds as if Kim is having a lot of fun here, as she sings amongst the epic orchestral instruments.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” opens with bells, then the piano enters in, and Kim passionately wishes us a very merry Christmas, and is a slower paced jazz infused time warp to the 60’s and 70’s tunes as Kim sings about the season and that it is the season where we reminisce about ‘…happy golden days of yore…’ and ‘…faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more…’. Putting a smile on my face, this melody full of vibrant energy is one of my favourite versions ever, and a fantastic inclusion. Similarly the acoustic guitar driven cheerful and happy-go-lucky melody “Let It Snow” speaks about experiencing a Christmas during the winter weather, and is about family and friends that make the cold and wintery weather worthwhile, bringing a smile to my face as I reminisce about my Christmases over the years.
While both “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas” are also season themed tracks, with the songs slightly more applicable for relating to in the Northern Hemisphere, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate these superb melodies- with the former melody being a jazz themed guitar prominent song about living life to the fullest during a winter ‘wonderland’, and the latter tune where Kim shows off her vocals greatly, and gives us a blues melody that is truly magical, with the tempo slowed down, and the topic about how experiencing Christmas in North America is fun with the snow. Now I want to travel to the U.S. during Christmastime! One day, it’ll happen!
Though seemingly out of place, the blues and jazz inspired piano led “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” is in fact one of Kim’s favourite carols, and is sung with joy, cheer, happiness and aplomb, as we are introduced to a story-song, with Rudolph gaining responsibility pulling Santa’s sleigh, and hence being respected, appreciated and loved by the other reindeers! The piano led ballad “The Christmas Song” is also featured here, and is a track written in the 40’s and covered by many artists, inclusive of Amy Grant, Francesca Battistelli and Newsboys. In this rendition though, Kim ardently and fervently sings out with passion, and shows off her vocals quite well! Singing about turkey, mistletoe and Santa is a far cry from about Jesus’ birth, but hopefully non-Christians can take a look at the discography of Jesus Culture if they enjoy this song! With the final mainstream carol being “Carol Of The Bells”, a rock inspired rousing anthemic melody of enthusiasm and celebratory joy (though it doesn’t match up to the ingenious of both David Crowder*Band and BarlowGirl); Kim has overall created a brilliant first half of a remarkable holiday themed album!
As much as Kim has had fun with singing the mainstream carols, her heart still truly lies in worship, and you can tell from the remaining 7 tracks. “Away In A Manger”, “Silent Night” and “The First Noel” are three traditional Christmas ballads, and Kim has recorded them to perfection. One of the longest song on the album and one of my favourite renditions here, “Silent Night” has Kim unashamedly and unequivocally giving praise to God through song, proclaiming across captivating keys and glockenspiel about how Christmas is sacred because ‘…Christ our saviour is born…’, and soon enough the full band comes in and the song is given a new, fresh and relevant update, that is extremely enjoyable! “Away In A Manger”, led by keys, is a vivid description of Jesus’ birth, and reminds us all of the little boy who was born, and His ultimate purpose in saving all of mankind, filling us all with gratitude, as Kim nails this song once again; and “The First Noel” is given new life through an orchestral anthem as we sing out with Kim God’s praises, that ‘…Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel…’.
The pop/worship anthem “Angels We Have Heard On High” is a vibrant, fun, and compelling worship track led by guitar and keys, that encourages us to dance for joy and praise Jesus as we sing ‘…Gloria, in excelsis deo…’, and has Kim crying out praises to God, and singing about the angels that declared glory and honour over Him that night. Musically the song is quite similar to most versions, with the neither slow nor fast but in the middle tempo suiting Kim’s voice quite nicely- Kim’s enthusiasm is very infectious! “O Come All Ye Faithful” is an acoustic track (which doesn’t really build, but that’s ok, as Kim’s vocals are enough to carry this song to God breathed heights!), and is a praise song, that outlines how we can praise and adore God because He is the Lord and our Saviour; while the electronic/dance themed remixy “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is a stark divergence in genre from Kim, but she records this brilliantly. Employing the use of larger than life orchestration that brilliantly enhances the track, Kim’s explosive vocals soar to new heights as she praises our King, that ‘…Emmanuel, shall come to Thee oh Israel…’, showing us her immense love for Jesus. But the pinnacle of the album, the song that epitomizes our faith, is “O Holy Night”!
“O Holy Night” is a piano only contemplative ballad, and is my most favourite Christmas song ever. It’s pretty bold for Kim to cover a majestic anthem like this, with covers from Chris August, Lincoln Brewster, Kerrie Roberts, Kari Jobe, Mandisa, MercyMe, Newsboys, Third Day and David Crowder all standing tall amongst all other renditions, as well as Group 1 Crew for their alternate rendition. However, instead of being lost in the other versions, Kim absolutely turns all other versions on their head, delivering one of the best renditions every in my opinion. And, she is vocally spot on, fervently giving praise to God for the night when Jesus was born. Arguably the most well-known traditional Christmas carols, there’s something just magical listening to Kim passionately crying out the lyrics with fervor and passion, especially the haunting and chilling words of the chorus ‘…fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, o night divine, o night when Christ was born…’, bringing chills down my spine- a truth that never gets old! Well done Kim for this song (which builds to an epic orchestral crescendo!) and the other 16 tracks, as I contemplate Jesus’ birth and praise along with the majestic and orchestral Christ centred songs as well!
One of today’s most popular and respected female vocalists in the worship industry, Kim Walker-Smith’s album When Christmas Comes is jam packed with plenty of surprises. Kim has recorded an explosive, heartfelt, honest, emotional and poignant mega Christmas album that you will not go wrong with listening to, or even buying these tracks! Though I may have wanted 3 extra tracks on the album, and the record to be split into 2 discs (what about “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, “Joy To The World” and “Little Drummer Boy”?), Kim’s heart and love for Jesus is evident in every note and syllable, and in every second of this release! Maybe some songs are being saved for a 2nd Christmas album, and I definitely won’t be opposed to that! As we can see during the Christ centred lyrics, Kim’s album is a must buy this holiday season, what are you waiting for? 17 tracks… there doesn’t need to be any more convincing, I reckon!
4 songs to listen to: O Holy Night, Angels We Have Heard On High, White Christmas, I’ll Be Home For Christmas
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Meredith Andrews, Chris Tomlin, Audrey Assad, Jesus Culture