Audio/Video Review: David Phelps – It Must Be Christmas

Audio/Video Review: David Phelps – It Must Be Christmas

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube.

Today, we’re taking a listen to It Must Be Christmas, the fifth solo album by David Phelps to focus on the holiday season. This product is available in both CD and DVD formats. If you access the digital product via the YouTube link at the bottom of this review, you’ll get a little of both. Three tracks feature the footage from the DVD, while the remaining eleven are just audio. This review is based on the YouTube version.

“It Must Be Christmas” establishes a jazz crooner setting, moving at a leisurely pace. “Go Tell It On The Mountain” includes video of Phelps, his band, and a small choir of background singers captured at Phelps’ now famous Barn Bash venue. “Tennessee Christmas” is a cover of the Amy Grant standard slowed way down to match the feel of the opening track. “Tennessee Christmas” also includes video footage from the barn. I noticed that the video for “Tennessee Christmas” starts in the middle of a chord that’s already sounding, but that’s a relatively minor complaint.

Just when you’re content to settle in and enjoy some relaxing Christmas music, “Christmas Rush” and “Catching Santa” veer away from that mood entirely. These are frantic songs; think musical theater with an over-excited narrator. The first song is about dealing with the complexity of getting everything done for the holiday season. The second is a fantasy about laying a trap for the fat man in the red suit.

After the fun diversion, the album shifts back to more music like that established at the beginning, alternating slower jazz fare with music that moves a bit. “In The Bleak Midwinter” is set over a simple acoustic guitar. The dramatic “Anthem Of The Lord” uses musical terms to describe how the heavenly host rehearsed and presented their song on the occasion of the Savior’s birth. Then “Angels We Have Heard On High” slips back to the slow, jazz crooner setting.

“What The World Needs Now” is a mid-tempo cover of the Burt F. Bacharach standard. “Sleigh Ride” is the third track to include video from the barn venue. Phelps’ has his band and audience clapping a rhythm as the vocalists sing, “Ooo” for the first verse. The instruments join in for the chorus and remainder of the song. Phelps is joined by Charlotte Ritchie for the mysterious “Fall On Your Knees.” It Must Be Christmas concludes with an appropriately rhythmic version of “The Little Drummer Boy,” probably the best version of David Meece’s “We Are The Reason” I’ve ever heard, and “Feliz Navidad.”

We can always count on David Phelps to create something unexpected and dramatic. Several of these songs are “standards,” yes, but Phelps’ arrangements are anything but typical. I do wish the two musical theater songs had been placed at the end of the album, only because they are so different from the rest of the material. Overall, though, It Must Be Christmas does not disappoint.

Label: Gaither Music Group
Song Titles:
 It Must Be Christmas; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Tennessee Christmas; Christmas Rush; Catching Santa; In The Bleak Midwinter; Anthem Of The Lord; Angels We Have Heard On High; What The World Needs Now; Sleigh Ride; Fall On Your Knees (Duet With Charlotte Ritchie); The Little Drummer Boy; We Are The Reason; Feliz Navidad
YouTube Link
4 1/2 Stars

Overall Rating
4.5 out of 5


4.5 out of 5

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

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