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Open House Christmas EP Limited Edition
Artist: Jaci Velasquez ( www.jacivelasquez.com)
Label: A’postrophe Records/Word Distribution
Length: 4 tracks/42:00 minutes
For those who enjoy interviews, Jaci Velasquez’s honest reflections on her life the past two years may be the biggest reason for getting this. Musically, we haven’t heard from her since 2005’s Beauty Has Grace.
After going through a divorce, Velasquez has spent the last two years lying low and seeking to discover who she was apart from her music. In an interview that lasts for just over 29 minutes she describes what she went through after the breakup with her first husband: the response from the CCM industry, her depression and counseling, and a brief move to London where she attended school for a semester.
On the brighter side, she communicates the grace of God as she tells of the new things that God is doing in her life. This includes meeting her new husband (Nic Gonzales of Salvador), their decision to start a family (she’s expecting!), the healing she experienced in her relationship with God and her earthly father, and her excitement over a new record due for release in the Spring of 2008.
Having been through one of the toughest experiences that anyone could ever go through, her desire is that the new record would bring hope and healing to those who are going through hard times. “You can be happy,” she would say to those who feel like they will never see better days.
She goes into great detail about the meaning behind several of the tracks on her 2008 release. The producer is Mark Heimmerman, the man behind her first three recordings and some of her most popular songs.
Chris Bevins who plays keyboards and adds programming produced this three song EP. Nic Gonzales makes his presence felt on acoustic and electric guitars and BGV’s.
It starts off lively, with a piano-driven pop rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” This is followed by the dramatic “Quiet Christmas Night (Gloria)” an original Christmas song. A razor-edged guitar propels an anthem-like chorus on which Jaci’s voice soars. This is the best song, but Velasquez sounds as good as ever on each track.
The last song, “Auld Lang Syne,” has programming at the core, which gives it a more modern sound. I give her credit for recording verses that are normally only heard on New Year’s Eve and at the end of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” This Scottish song credited to Robert Burns reminisces about friendships and fond memories. I’m glad to finally have a recorded version.
If you are a fan of Jaci Velasquez, you will want to add this to your music collection. The interview whets your appetite for her next release, which sounds like a must-have for those looking for solace in their suffering.
How often should any given act release a full-length Christmas album? It's been a while since Jaci Velasquez celebrated the holiday on CD, and just like her first such celebration (remember her collaboration with Burlap To Cashmere?), she revisits the Nativity with an EP. And perhaps more recording artists should follow that cue--Christmas is the next greatest holiday to Easter; you'd be a cold-hearted monster not to celebrate it, but maybe you don't have to unload 10-20 songs on the music-consuming public every few years to do so.
Anyway, after divorce, remarriage and probably in the middle of her recently completed pregnancy, Velasquez sounds creatively refreshed from her last English-language album's forays into poppy alt' rock a few years ago. Instead, she opts for ominously arty alt' rocking on the "Quiet Christmas Night." Down-tempo minor key numbers haven't been commonplace in her catalog, but the song's darker tone shows that Plumb isn't the only gal in major cCm circles who knows her way around goth-lite arrangements.
In a nigh altogether different style, she takes "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" into a pop-jazz vein like Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts cartoon soundtracks with a bigger band. That leaves a semi-trip-hop take on the Guy Lombardo New Year's Eve standard. There's the truest approximation of the soft, sweet vocal tone that made her such a radio favorite during her '90s Myrrh/Word Records tenure. It bodes well for her next Christian market longplayer, due spring 2008.
Oh, then there's the peculiarly mic'ed interview by the host of CCM radio show Soul 2 Soul. It runs over twice the length of the EP's three songs, but she's fairly transparent about her trials and joys of the last few years. Current hubby Nic Gonzalez, of Hispanic pop band Salvador, gets in a bit of commentary as well (not like her ex would show up to give his two cents' worth, right?).
The only troublesome aspect of the interview is the discussion of several songs on her forthcoming album WHICH WE CAN'T HEAR YET! You know a married woman's not supposed to tease guys like that, right Jaci?
Jamie Lee Rake