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Gloria: A Christmas Celebration
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Rocketown Records
Time: 53:30
This Christmas season has unveiled funky Christmas tunes, traditional songs set to R&B and renditions reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters but for the more traditionally minded Rocketown Records has released Gloria: A Christmas Celebration. The album features some of  Rocketown's best; Ginny Owens, Shaun Groves, Watermark, and Alathea to name a few. Guest appearances include Amy Grant ("God is With Us"), Christine Dente, and Cindy Morgan who appears singing "Follow That Star."
The song, however, that steals the show on this album belongs to Taylor Sorenson and the ladies of Eastern Tennessee who comprise Alathea. Their sleepy bluesy "Love Came Just In Time" is reminiscent of Eric Clapton's Unplugged album. If you enjoy Clapton when he is at his best performing the blues, then you are going to love this song. Alathea's bluegrass vocals provide a nice contrast to Sorenson's voice. Alathea sing the part of Anna while Sorenson recounts the story of Simeon.  Ah Taylor if only the producers hadn't convinced you to include your live rendition of Elvis's "Blue Christmas." It was a painful experience. 
As much as I am a fan of Michael W Smith, Shaun Groves and the other men who appear on Gloria: A Christmas Celebration, the ladies are for the most part the ones who really shine on this compilation album.  Christine Dente's "Christmas Kind of Feeling" is a definite highlight. She also combines with Michael W Smith for the beautiful "Prepare A Place."
Another splendid track is Watermark's impressionable "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  Christy Nockels's vocals add texture and beautiful hues to a classic. Nockels also appears on the bonus live tracks and is outstanding as she sings "God Is With Us." She possesses passionate soulful vocals that are set in majestic instrumentals that accompany rather than compete with her voice. 
Aside from the duet of Sorenson and Alathea the closest the men come to challenging the women's excellence on the seasonal disc occurs when Shaun Groves and George Rowe combine for "O Come All Ye Faithful." Sam Levine's mastery over the flute and whistles provide an old world ambience. 
The first half of the CD is couched in quiet reverent tones, highlighted by the soothing vocals of veterans Cindy Morgan and Amy Grant. Throughout the album producers Charlie Peacock and Scott Dente provide us with awesome arrangements. Their ability to blend strings, choirs and instrumentals embrace the singers rather than detracting from their performance. 
Fan favorite Ginny Owens appears three times on this CD. At the tender age of (sorry sworn to secrecy), Owens is already an accomplished veteran on the music scene who has garnered the admiration and respect of her peers. She has proven to be a durable and versatile performer. Her performances on Gloria: a Christmas Celebration only add to that resume. She opens the album singing  the inspirational "Sing Gloria" a duet performed with Charlie Peacock. Okay I need to cut the guys some slack on this song, Ginny as talented as you are the song just would not have been the same without Charlie.  Owens adds a country version of "Go, Tell It On The Mountain" and brings the CD to a close with her live performance of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song." We associate the later song with some of the more highly esteemed artists of our day and Ginny, you looked right at home.

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 


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