Churchy Christmas/Joy to the World
JDI Records (2012)
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.
At first, I thought Churchy Christmas was a Beverly Crawford Christmas album, but it is actually an assemblage of JDI artists, Crawford included, and a few singers from other labels, such as Earnest Pugh and Genita Pugh. The project is cut from the same mold as the Norman Hutchins’ JDI Christmas compilation from 2010.
Some of the songs on Churchy Christmas have been issued previously. For example, the Christmas spiritual “Go Tell It On the Mountain” is Chester D.T. Baldwin’s pewburner from the Norman Hutchins 2010 Christmas compilation. “Holy to the Lamb” is the hit single by Genita Pugh. “Hosanna” comes from Earnest Pugh’s breakout live album from 2009, Rain On Us.
This new holiday sampler includes three Yuletide chestnuts and the rest are holiday-ish inspirational songs. Crawford’s original contribution, “Joy to the World,” is the collection’s hit, bar none. She fronts a gospel choir whose unfettered rhythmic attack evokes the Georgia Mass Choir on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack. Later, Donald Hayes plays a smooth jazz version of “What Child Is This” on saxophone. Nakita Clegg lends her bluesy vocals to “Don’t 4get the Baby,” Gary Mayes & Nu Era’s interpretation of the “Jesus is the reason for the season” motive.
JDI chief James Roberson does an exemplary job on Benjamin Winans’ ballad, “I Wanna Be More,” from his Everybody Dance CD. Roberson's smooth tone suggests he do an entire album of Winans covers, if the spirit so moved him.
The churchiest selections on Churchy Christmas are Crawford and Baldwin’s. Otherwise, the CD flows along on an easy-going, contemporary vibe. The production quality is very good, as is typical of JDI releases.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “Joy to the World.”