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Rebecca St. James
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CHRISTMAS (1997)
Christmas - Click to view! Opening with a scratchy strings part, then melding into the steady groove of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," it's clear from the start that RSt.J's Christmas is a celebration like no other. With her distinct, alternative voice guiding the backup of bass, drums, strings, and mostly synth, Rebecca glorifies God with a passion and originality that so many other Christmas albums (and Christian artists) lack. Reading the liner notes (which are really good), we find that The Beatles' song "Happy Christmas" suddenly has a new meaning: "So this is Christmas / What have you done? / Another year over / A new one's just begun." Rebecca says: "First, to use our time on earth wisely, and second, it encourages us to live our lives without earthly fear!" With its pounding backbeat, melodic strings and hard-hitting vocals, the popularity of St. James's mix of "Happy Christmas" can be evidenced by its appearance on playlists of many secular alternative stations this holiday season. Looking further, a re-recording of David Meece's 1971 hit "One Small Child" is amid a catalog of five classic carols, including "O Come Emmanuel," "What Child is This?" "Silent Night" (a half-hummed version held together by this neat guitar riff), "O Come All Ye Faithful" and my favorite, "O Holy Night." A zeal and desire for God is the theme of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," the ageless hymn by Christian composer J.S. Bach. Throughout Rebecca's Christmas, the instrumental arrangements of Carl Marsh provide an oddly perfect backdrop for the tight backup of bass (Brent Milligan), guitar (producer Tedd T.), drums (Dan Needham) and a considerable amount of drum loops and other advanced synth effects, also provided by the multifaceted talents of the producer. As on Michael W. Smith's Christmastime album (the only similarity), the one setback of this disc is that there's only one original--an acoustic, intimate "Cradle Prayer," whose sweet declaration of worship closes the album "Beautiful Savior, my God, my friend / I am in awe of You." Being a paradox of sound, many are unwilling to accept this as a genuine seasonal release--while others readily embrace this long-needed revival of intelligence, passion and worship, all pointing to the redeemer of us all, the baby Jesus.
- Josh M. Shepherd
December 1999
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