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  Humble King
Artists: various artists including Nigel Briggs, Adele Kane, Jeremy Riddle, Monique Tute, Lonnie Ott, Michelle Stafford, Saroop Oommen, Sibusiso Ntsala, Dean Salyn and Daphne Rademaker, Debby Smith-Tebay, and Sarah Greeno-McCarty.
VDM9400R (2002)
Running Length: 45 minutes 

Humble King is an easy-listening mix of contemporary and classic carols. There are some songs one doesn't usually hear such as "Adoramus Te," "Wexford Carol," and "Once In Royal David's City." Then, contemporary songs are added such as the title song, "Humble King," "Shout," and "Breath of Heaven." The majority of the music is homogenized music with the individual singers and instrumentalists keeping the same beat so that one carol flows into another. Orchestrations are lush and one gets the feeling of walking by a concert hall hearing refrains and walking by again in ten minutes and hearing the same refrains.

There are standouts in this album and one is the first track, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" Many musicians do this one loud, but here it is melancholy and nicely done by Sarah Greena-McCarty. Others are the two instrumental versions of "Advent Carol" and "Once In Royal David's City." Both feature soprano saxophone, keyboard and drums to good effect. Unfortunately, the names of the musicians were not included. Saroop Oommen wrote and sings "Shout" and what a beat to accompany the words, "…peace without end, we will shout with cries of joy." Last, Lonnie Ott does wonders with the Irish carol, "Wexford Carol," which changes the tone of the CD to include penny whistle as accompaniment for a Celtic flair. Ott's full-bodied voice gives emphasis to "…with thankful heart and joyful mind."

Unfortunately, Adele Kane's version of "My Soul" hedges on the "h" sound so that we don't hear the "h" on "humble" or "he." "umble and "e" don't make it. Also, on "I Wonder As I Wander," Michelle Stafford jumps on the ending of "angels" so that we have "ang-jills" instead of "an-gels." These points can make or break a song.

All in all, Humble Pie has a nice collection of 15 carols and if you are ready for an easy-listening album, this may be the one for you.

Copyright 2002 Marie Asner

If you are a worship leader reading this review in the December 2002 issue of The Phantom Tollbooth, quick! Time is short! CCLI numbers, an enhanced CD with chord charts and tabs, overhead masters, and more info are available in _Humble King: Christmas Around the World_ from Vineyard Music.

In my quest to catch up on overdue reviews for The Phantom Tollbooth, I've listened to a lot of Vineyard Music--some sharp and some not-so-sharp--and this collection is a breath of fresh air, encompassing sounds of Vineyard from all around the world, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and India. This is the first Christmas collection I've heard that seldom falls into the stereotypical trap of featuring lightly-tinged keyboards ("let's see how close we can get the electric piano to sound like snow!"). Yet, it captures the essence of a holiday-sounding collection from its variety of a Christmas-around-the-world with two huge reasons this one is special: each song (even two instrumentals) center on the birth of Jesus Christ, and there is a worshipful Vineyard quality to this collection, with one difference....

With each (non-seasonal) Vineyard project I've listened to lately, there seems to be at least one "Breathe"-wannabe immensely intense worship song, which would be difficult to include in a Christmas collection. The closest the listener has to that formula is the title track, "Humble King." I suggest this project as a gift from those of us who enjoy praise and worship music to someone who has never heard praise--or even those who know Christmas music but are vaguely familiar with Jesus Christ. This project could be a very important ministry tool, since it is very compelling, largely upbeat, and features a wonderful variety of musical styles.

I immediately skipped to the South Africa worship team, knowing I'd love their rendition of "Joy to the World" and "I Wonder as I Wander," and I was correct. The former is absolutely wonderful in its group vocals, and the latter features Michelle Stafford's beautiful solo voice. But they're not my favorites. Even though it's nearly straight-ahead rock-pop with a twist or two, "Shout" from the India worship team is arguably the most interesting tune/arrangement on the collection and is an original composition, to boot!

Executive Producer Ted Jeans and Production Coordinator Andy Yoon deserve a nod for a smart combination of familiar Christmas songs, mixed with original compositions, and just enough beautiful worship to give Humble King Vineyard's unmistakable stamp. There are a variety of languages, and not to forget a huge part of worship's roots, the Vineyard Canada team sings much of Dean Salyn's "Adoramus Te" in Latin. A truly unique moment is "Once in Royal David's City," a medley of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Once in Royal David's City," and Vineyard's "You Are God."

While this Christmas collaboration is truly enjoyable, the producers could have tightened up Humble King even more. While Vineyard Canada's reading of "Breath of Heaven" ("Mary's Song") is good, it's too close to a carbon copy of Amy Grant's original. And there are very, very few moments ("Lord Come at Christmas") where the arrangements fall into the light "snow" keyboard that is trite for Christmas projects.

The strengths greatly outweigh the flaws in Humble King: Christmas Around the World. Merry Christmas! Come and worship!

Olin Jenkins 11/30/2002


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