CD Review: Jeff Collins – The Keys To Christmas

CD Review: Jeff Collins – The Keys To Christmas

jcProducer: Jeff Collins
Label: Crossroads Records
Song Titles: Medley (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; O Come, All Ye Faithful; Joy To The World); Baby It’s Cold Outside; The Man With The Bag; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Linus And Lucy; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Mary Did You Know?; Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?; Carol Of The Bells; O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Rating: 5 Stars

The Keys To Christmas shines a spotlight on a gentleman who is better known for his work behind the scenes. Jeff Collins is one of our industry’s most consistent record producers, keyboard players, and record label execs. His job is to help other artists sound great, so it will be interesting to hear what sort of music he turns out when he IS the artist.

This recording features a mixture of sacred and secular seasonal classics. Following the dynamic opening medley of traditional Christmas hymns, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a relaxing instrumental jazz duet contrasting Collins’ keyboard with Sam Levine’s alto saxophone. There are no original songs on The Keys To Christmas, but “The Man With The Bag” is one I don’t remember hearing before. Collins’ brass-driven, big band version was inspired by a Lee Ann Womack recording.

Fans of Downton Abbey should enjoy the nod to that show’s main theme intermingled seamlessly with the melody of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Vince Gauraldi’s classic “Linus And Lucy” is next. Rather than simply mimicking Gauraldi’s version, Collins elevates this fun classic by adding a Latin feel to the first vamp section and a jazz trio feel to the second and third vamp sections. The guitar gets a couple of features before the song fades out. Next, Collins takes us to church with “Go, Tell It On The Mountain,” backed by some Hammond B3 and brass. I’d have preferred this one with less brass and more of a full-on gospel style, heavier on the organ, but it’s still good stuff.

“Mary Did You Know?” is a bit more somber sounding at the beginning than you’re used to hearing. This makes the dramatic section and subsequent softer extended ending even more powerful. The Latin rhythm that showed up for a few measures of “Linus And Lucy” returns with full force for “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” oozes with sentimentality. “Carol Of The Bells” adds a swing rhythm to your preconceived notion of how the song should sound. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” offers a hauntingly fitting plea for God to deliver us from our world’s current sad condition.

Instrumental music is often thought of as a soundtrack to be played in the background. You can do that with The Keys To Christmas, but you’ll be missing out. This is the sort of music that is worth listening to for its own merits. The Keys To Christmas is a nuanced collection of familiar classics. This is a finely balanced mix of Collins on keys out front sharing his spotlight with an excellent supporting cast of players. The Keys To Christmas is a compelling experience for the listener from beginning to end.

Overall Rating
5 out of 5

5

Excellent
5 out of 5
Category CD Reviews, Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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