Monday, September 20, 2010

Bethlehem Skyline: Volume 2 Review

     Centricity Music’s original Bethlehem Skyline was so popular, that they decided to do it again with Volume 2. This time, Centricity incorporates their new 2010 artists, as well as a few artists that a Christmas project would be incomplete without.

     Bethlehem Skyline Volume 2 is off with a good start with Me In Motion. “Give It Away,” co-written by lead singer Seth Mosley, sounds much like a slightly slower track we would expect from the band, and speaks of how “Christmas isn’t really Christmas until we can take all that we are and give it away.”  I particularly enjoyed the second half of the second verse: “The King of Kings gave His life for me/ The least that I can do is serve the least of these.” It is followed by “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” yet another performance by the punk/rock band Me In Motion. By far the best arrangement of this song I’ve heard, it was interesting to hear the lead singer sing low for the first half of the song and then sing in his usual voice for the remainder of the song. This version of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” is bound to become a favorite from this project, as it contains a strong punk/rock sound that defines Me In Motion. I especially enjoyed the brief whistling session in the bridge.

     “Christmas In Our Hearts” and “Silent Night,” both performed by Downhere, were featured on Downhere’s project How Many Kings that released in October of 2009. Perhaps Centricity’s most popular artist, Downhere is perfect for a compilation such as this. “Christmas In Our Hearts” speaks of how Christmas is a thing of the heart, and is not based on the decorations or carols. “Silent Night” is, of course, a traditional carol, and Downhere sings it in the slow piano style that has become the characteristic sound of this carol.

     Next up is Jason Gray, recently famous for his track “More Like Falling In Love.” First, Jason offers us his rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Containing a bit of a country sound, this famous carol is a little redundant in my opinion, and I would have liked to the see the carol blend into another carol, or end sooner. “Love Has A Name” was actually written by Jason, and is pretty much an acoustic track. It is a nice track about “the child Who can make us all children again/ if we bring him our hearts like a present on Christmas day.”

     High Valley performs “Away In A Manger” in a bluegrass/country sound, and is definitely not like any other version I’ve heard of this carol. It would have been nice to hear this band perform another song for this project; nevertheless, their one contribution to Bethlehem Skyline Volume 2 is definitely a favorite on this compilation.

     Lanae’ Hale’s two contributions are very welcoming, first offering her rendition of “Carol of The Bells.” Her flexible high voice, mixed with the “Ding Dongs” in the background made this version of “Carol of The Bells” very enjoyable. Lanae’ then brings us an all-new, hilarious Christmas song entitled “Starving Artist Christmas.” All about clearing “the misconception that musicians have money,” Lanae’ tells a humorous tale about how she can’t afford any heating or food, even though she has “two jobs and a full time honey.” This was the most enjoyable track on this album for me, because of the rhymes that told an amusing four-minute tale.

     With “Morning Star,” the moment I had been waiting for the whole time arrived. It’s Sixteen Cities! Another brand new Christmas song, written by lead-singer Josiah Warneking, Sixteen Cities offers simple, yet profound lyrics: “The Morning Star pierced through the dark/ Hallelujah, Christ is born/ He’s the greatest gift that we could receive/ Hallelujah, Christ is born.” Next, the band also performs “Oh Holy Night”. Although it was a little hard to follow the beat at first, it builds steadily, and I enjoyed hearing some Christmas music from this group on this compilation.

     “Long, Long Ago” is sung by the unmistakable Andrew Peterson. Although it would have been nice to see it build a little more, I did particularly enjoy Andrew’s bluegrass addition to this traditional carol. Following Andrew, is Matt Papa who first performs “Little Drummer Boy.” At first a little unbelievable, since there are no drums, it builds quickly after the first verse. It wasn’t the best version I’ve ever heard, but definitely isn’t bad at all. Bethlehem Skyline Volume 2 is completed through Matt’s original track “Hope Has Come.” Mostly piano and a little strings, it sounds much like “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and has beautiful lyrics: “Hope has come/ let us adore Him/ Born the King of Ages/ God’s Own Son/ Word of the Father/ Now in flesh appearing/ Hope has come.” During the bridge, the strings take preeminence, and make for a gorgeous ending to Bethlehem Skyline Volume 2.

     Overall, Bethlehem Skyline Volume 2 was a great endeavor. Most artists had the chance to put their hand toward a traditional carol, as well as showcase their own efforts. A few songs were typical, yet most were outstanding. Especially, however, I enjoyed the upbeat arrangements, such as Me In Motion’s “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree,” and the hilarious tale brought to us by Lanae’ Hale. Also being a big Sixteen Cities fan, I loved hearing from them on this project as well. This is a great Christmas project!

Rating: 4.5/5

Track listing:

1. Give It Away - Me In Motion
2. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree - Me In Motion
3. Christmas In Our Hearts - Downhere
4. Silent Night - Downhere
5. Do You Hear What I Hear - Jason Gray
6. Love Has A Name - Jason Gray
7. Away In A Manger - High Valley
8. Carol Of The Bells - Lanae’ Hale
9. Starving Artist Christmas - Lanae’ Hale
10. Morningstar - Sixteen Cities
11. O Holy Night - Sixteen Cities
12. Long, Long Ago - Andrew Peterson
13. Little Drummer Boy - Matt Papa
14. Hope Has Come - Matt Papa

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