Thursday, October 25, 2007

Variety Abounds on One Wintry Night

One Wintry Night
Artist: David Phelps (www.davidphelps.com)
Label: Word
Length: 15 tracks/54:45 minutes

One Wintry Night by David Phelps has tremendous variety, but finds its unity in the Christmas theme and Phelps’ impressive pipes.

It starts with an a capella version of “O Come O Come Immanuel” that has some jazzy background vocals. “The Singer” starts without a pause, and surprisingly sounds like Queen with its combination of pop, rock and opera. Then before you can say, “shades of Carman,” we are into a hip-hop flavored version of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” This comes with lyrics that Phelps wrote to make it a complete song.

Then comes the dreamy, island sound of “Blue Christmas,” an Elvis Presley song that rarely makes it way on to Christmas recordings. Another infrequent visitor to Christmas recordings is “If Christmas Never Came.” This is a haunting version led by a music box and done with sparse instrumentation.

The jazzy a capella of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is straight from the Take 6 playbook. The hopeful “If Everyone Believed” has a slight punk rock edge. “Hark the Herald,” the chorus being a spin-off of the better known hymn, is an energetic pop/rock song.

Phelps easily alternates between quiet ballads and pop songs like the dramatic “One Wintry Night.” The title presumably comes from the book of the same name by the late Ruth Bell Graham. The song is one of six originals—the rest being a mix of classics and favorites.

This is a diverse collection but it’s meant to be a unified work. Phelps notes that “we tried to approach it as a solid record that just happened to have Christmas as its theme.… It really is a concept project.” He believes that listeners will get more out of it when they listen to it straight through.

The quiet, beautiful moments are shared with the powerhouse vocals of this former Gaither Vocal Group member. Phelps’ dynamic range and Monroe Jones’ production make for a seamless flow.

Fans will want to get this, but the sometimes overly dramatic inspirational style, often associated with CCM, lessens the appeal. It’s a great effort, but more simplicity might have made it better.
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