The Phantom Tollbooth
Noel
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Via Records, 1995
Tracks: 11 tracks/38:43

In many ways a follow-up to the At the Foot of the Cross albums, this release was again produced and arranged by Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty of the Choir. A selection of traditional songs, this album is more patchy than the At the Foot of the Cross releases. While the opener, "Babe in the Straw," which features Daugherty and Hindalong alongside Riki Michelle, is an excellent track, later songs such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and Kevin Smith's "In the Bleak Midwinter" seem to suffer from a touch of over-sentimentality, slowing down some carols and gaining a slight degree of poignancy at the expense of the songs's joy.

That is not to be overly negative. The high points are very high, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," and "Babe in the Straw," are exquisite, but the album is somewhat damaged by the weaker tracks, and I am somewhat surprised that the usually consistent Daugherty and Hindalong have made this mistake.

By James Stewart (10/28/98)