Audio Review: Various Artists – Joy: The Ultimate Christmas Celebration

by | Nov 24, 2018 | CD Reviews, Reviews

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube.

Joy: The Ultimate Christmas Celebration hits shelves a few weeks ago, but I decided to wait until the Christmas season was officially upon us before publishing a review. This is the second various artist release from StowTown Records to bear their Heart & Soul Series banner. Artists from the StowTown family are joined by a few surprises. There are twenty tracks.

Most of the song titles are well-known standards, but a few new songs are included as well. 4th+Main’s “Imagine This Christmas” has a modern country setting. Doug Anderson steps out front to deliver “Peace On Earth,” and Tim Lovelace is on hand for an observational novelty song titled “Some Assembly Required.”

I’m pleased to report the majority of the familiar songs on Joy have fresh, creative arrangements. Set in a classic crooner style, you may not immediately realize that Wayne Haun’s “Light A Candle” is a remake of a song recorded years ago by Avalon. A frenetic fiddle solo you wouldn’t anticipate hearing on “Carol Of The Bells” by Southern Raised is a nice change of pace. Blaine Johnson’s instrumental version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” is rollicking fun. So is “I Wonder As I Wander” by Tracey Phillips.

You’re actually treated to more than 15 songs total given that Trey Ivey’s “Christmas Prelude”, Triumphant Quartet’s “Celebration Medley”, and The Browns’ “English Carol Medley” each encompass several carols. “Silent Night,” featuring the vocals of George Younce, has a fresh orchestration and newly recorded background vocals. I enjoyed hearing Younce’s recitation of the second verse again. Also, I have to note that the swing jazz setting for Ann Downing on “Joy To The World” completely surprised me; I didn’t see that coming.

The slow tempos of a couple of songs make me wonder why they were included on an album titled Joy: The Ultimate Christmas Celebration. Otherwise, this recording is, as advertised, a delightful take on the season when we remember the birth of the Savior. The three instrumental tracks in particular were a nice touch, and I’m glad several new songs were included. You could play this collection softly for ambiance during a party, but I hope folks will treat Joy with more respect. It deserves your intent attention.

Label: StowTown Records
Songs: Christmas Prelude (Trey Ivey); Imagine This Christmas (4th + Main); O Come All Ye Faithful (Jody McBrayer); Carol Of The Bells (Southern Raised); Love Lighting The Dark (The Taylors); Light A Candle (Wayne Haun); Auld Lang Syne (TaRanda); Who Is He In Yonder Stall? (Collingsworth Family); Go Tell It On The Mountain (Blaine Johnson); Peace On Earth (Doug Anderson); Celebration Medley (Triumphant); Some Assembly Required (Tim Lovelace); Silent Night (George Younce); What Child Is This? (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound); Joy To The World (Ann Downing); I Wonder As I Wander (Tracey Phillips); Let The Lower Lights Be Burning (Janet Paschal); English Carol Medley (The Browns);  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Lillie Knauls); We Wish You A Merry Christmas (The Perrys)
Release Date: October 19, 2018
YouTube Link
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars


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David Bruce Murray

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 and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.


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