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All I Really Want for Christmas
Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman
Label: Sparrow
Length: 14/52:31

Christian music's version of the Eagles returns with a Christmas album.   Chapman is a marketer's dream: he's southern enough for the country fans, loud enough for all but metal fans, pop enough for the adult contemporary crowd, and he actually practices the issues he preaches, having adopted three Chinese orphans, and heading a foundation that addresses the need of widows and orphans. 

_All I Really Want for Christmas_ is comprised of old classics rearranged to suit Chapman's vocals, and several contemporary songs composed by Chapman himself.  His oldest Chinese daughter, Shaohannah, helps him open and close the album with a reading of the Christmas story from Luke, and a cute but shaky rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". 

"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is the best of the older songs, a semi-bluesy, semi-white boy funky portrayal.  A duet with Vince Gill, "Christmas is All in the Heart", receives a dusting off with a new version (the song was originally done ten years ago).  Like most of Chapman's recent records, some famous and talented guest stars appear: Byron House plays bass, and bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas adds dobro to this song.   House also chips in on "The Night Before Christmas", another original piece. 

The title track is the standout, though.  Chapman's experiences in China will ring true with any adoptive parent when they read lines such as these: 

 But maybe if I had a brother or a dad to wrestle with
 Maybe they could teach me how to get along 
 And from everything I've heard it sounds like the greatest gift on earth 
 Would be a mom.Or:
'Cause all I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
 Tell me I'll never be alone, someone who's love will never end 
 Of all that I could ask for, well, there's just one thing I need 
 All I really want for Christmas is a family.
Many reviewers have taken potshots at Chapman over the years, referring to him as "safe" or "bland."   Having been to China to adopt a child, I just can't jump on that bandwagon.  These words, as well as a few other songs of late, have melted this cynical reviewer's heart toward SCC.   He'll get the benefit of the doubt from me for years to come.

Brian A. Smith
23 October 2005

Steven Curtis Chapman's All I Really Want For Christmas boasts four original tunes by the singer / songwriter and stylized arrangements on several traditional tunes. In recent years Chapman has gone from being a good entertainer to being a superb songwriter.

"All I Really Want" the title track is an example of that excellence in songwriting and serves as a reminder that so many children in our world just want to belong –to someone who loves them.

           All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
             A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
             There's so much I could ask for, but there's just one thing I need
             All I really want for Christmas is a family

While the words to this song remind us of the orphans in this world it  should also prompt us to remember those who live in loveless and abusive homes or those who have lost a parent through divorce or death. While Christmas can and should be a time of joy for many it can be a very lonely time for those who will go this year without experiencing the love of a mother or father.

Another of the artist's original contributions to this CD is "Christmas Is All in the Heart" a duet with guest Vince Gill. Gill who needs no introduction is a perfect compliment to Chapman's voice. The song brings us back to the real meaning of Christmas that when we take away the tinsel, the commercials, the colored lights we have the hope of Christmas nestled in our hearts. This is the prettiest track on the album and I hope is released as a single to radio this season.

I have heard "Go Tell It On the Mountain" sung in hillbilly style, classically, with soul and countrified but I like the nice simple arrangements that Chapman has applied to this wonderful song of the ages. While he adds some soul to his vocals he doesn't overdo it. You don't become so engrossed in the vocals and instrumentals that you lose sight of the message which is to literally go tell the world that Christmas day marks the birth of our Lord and Savior.

As I listened to him sing Felix Bernard and Dick Smith's "Winter Wonderland" I thought to myself you better watch out Steven Curtis Chapman there could be a future for you in singing old standards. For me the experience was akin to hearing Rod Stewart sing on his American Songbook albums. 

I am not even going to try to name the many outstanding instrumentalists who contributed to this wonderful Christmas album suffice to say if there were no vocals the album would still be worth what ever your local retailer is charging you. Producers Ed Cash, Brown Bannister and Chapman have given us some splendid arrangements, with which we can turn down the lights, turn on the Christmas tree bulbs and relax with loved ones in front of a fireplace.

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.

Stephen Curtis Chapman and Christmas just seem to go together for me know.  His honest passion for putting the Word to song was custom made for the celebration of Christ’s birth.  All I Really Want.. is his second collection of holiday songs offering some old and some new, however this time there is a campaign for adoption awareness.  The Chapmans are huge advocates for adoption as they have added to their family twice with daughters from China.

The CD opens with the Chapmans oldest adopted daughter Shaohannah, tenderly and innocently reciting the Christmas story. Beautiful in its simplicity, it is the perfect way to begin the season.  The title track is about an orphan wanting a family for Christmas lovingly put in a letter to Santa.  This song happens to be my favorite.  "Angels from the Realms of Glory" is a traditional hymn in title only as Chapman adds his own touch and makes the tune his. Other traditional holiday favorites include "I Heard the Bells," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Silver Bells." What make this a standout classic CD are Chapmans original songs. "The Night Before Christmas" takes a novel approach, painting the folks of Bethlehem routine lives, juxtaposed by the magnificent miracle quietly going on the outskirts of town. Guest artist Vince Gill adds some new spice to "Christmas is all in the Heart." Their harmonies are absolute and fitting.  The CD ends with a sweet and funny "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." This song features the Father and daughter that began the CD.

If you’re looking for a new tradition for Christmas, this CD is the one.  Honest, touching, and enough warmth to heat the house.  Chapmans heart is certainly in the right place as his acoustic infused music usher in the true spirit of the season.

Jon Rice  11/26/2005


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