Christmas with Matthew Ward
by Matthew WardReviewed by Carol Kurtz
"A real Christmas album with traditional renditions of some of our favorite carols."
I had reservations about another Christian artist making a Christmas album, since so many are virtually unrecognizable as such. But this one is a real Christmas album with traditional renditions of some of our favorites carols. Except for the R&B Silent Night. Matthew’s version has just the right amount of what I know my favorite Christmas carol should sound like, but his signature voice and rich jazzy accompaniment make it all the more special.
Glory to the King probably bears the closest resemblance to the Second Chapter of Acts sound we all remember from 35 years ago. It brought me back to Easter Song momentarily, but not for long. The quicker, more upbeat pace to The First Noel will keep our interest in a song we already know by heart. The multi-dimensional instrumentation and harmony gave it a fresh new feel.
Probably the best rendition on the cd is Carol of the Bells, which brings a full spectrum experience from the deepest bass to the high tinkle of the bells. I only wish this had not been the shortest cut, as it left me feeling interrupted. Matthew could have tripled its length and still had my attention.
A true melancholy beauty was O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The orchestra blended perfectly with Matthew’s tenor, which remains just as flawlessly on pitch and clear as it was in the 70's. The second verse modulated into a classical keyboard accompaniment with Matthew’s harmonies mixing in.
The show stopper of any Christmas show or album always seems to be OHoly Night. But Matthew clearly makes this one his own. His interpretation begins simply enough, then gradually assembles more and more instruments and vocals until we are expecting the customary vein popping climax. But he manages to avoid the showy finish we usually hear and leaves us with a truly meaningful and worshipful refrain instead.
This is the 9th chapter of Matthew, so to speak, since he went solo and started making his own albums. But this 9th project is different. Matthew and his wife Deanne have been fervently involved in Children’s HopeChest, an organization which aids orphans in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, South Africa and Swaziland for years. They’re donating the proceeds from this album to this ministry to orphans. Christmas with Matthew Ward brings an opportunity to remember young lives around the globe this holiday season. And while you’re contributing to this honorable cause, you’ll also be contributing what may be the best Christian artist’s Christmas album to your holiday music collection.
Carol Kurtz Darlington is a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor who works with people who want to lose weight as well as those who just want to enjoy better health. She enjoys empowering and encouraging others to reach their health and fitness goals, feel better about themselves in the process, and enjoy more energy to stay active in all areas of their lives. She is the founder of Totally Fit With Carol, a Christian weight loss website featuring workout videos, health tips, exercise advice, and more. She loves her morning cappuccino and her beloved grand-dog. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and haunting Starbucks.