Prime Cuts: Once Again It's Christmas, The Light, That Silent Night
Kenny Rogers is one of the few artists that defies genres. He could go the nine yards and churn out those story songs such as "The Gambler" and "Lucille" and make us think he's the latest cowboy Casanova around. Then he can make a 180 degree turn and be at home nested in the synth pop sounds of "Planet Texas" and "Lady." Pushing the envelope a little further, he can even partner with Whitney Houston's producer David Foster and create those orchestra jazzy gems setting a new standard to classics such as "As Time Goes By" and "Have I Told You Lately." Of late, Rogers has even dabbled in Gospel where he has delivered stunning duets with Point of Grace and the Whites. Now, he's back with his first Christmas album in 17 years. Released via Warner Brothers Nashville, Once Again It's Christmas takes elements of orchestrated jazz-pop, rustic country, and the finger-snapping fun of Gospel and presents what is a top-notched and classy event.
After all these years, what is still the drawing card of any Kenny Rogers album is his ear for songs with melodies that transcend time. This album is no different. Rogers showcases his mettle for a great song with the title cut "Once Again It's Christmas." Sounding like it's made for the soundtrack of a Disney movie, "Once Again It's Christmas" is a beautiful song awash with gorgeous strings and saxophone as Rogers croons his way through the nostalgia of the season. The same amorous feeling is conveyed with the medley "Here It is Christmas" and "Baby It's Cold Outside." Rogers' duet with country songbird Jennifer Nettles is stunning. Even the oft familiar "Winter Wonderland" sounds exquisitely romantic with Rogers' grainy wasp. Pianist Jim Brickman brings his signature touches to "That Silent Night," another glow by the fire mistletoe hanging romantic escapee ready for repeated listenings.
Rogers has not completely immersed himself in nostalgia forgetting the higher purpose of Christmas. If you love Rogers on his latest Christian album, you will love "Back to Bethlehem." Though some of the words don't actually pair up perfectly with the melody, Rogers is not bashful to point out our need of the Savior on this excellent piece. "The Light" is another highlight; the song utilizes the Scriptural motif of Jesus in ways that are so palatable and appropriate for the season. Alison Krauss who did sing with Rogers on his #1 smash "Buy Me a Rose" offers her haunting bluegrassy vocals to the Americana-slanted ballad "Some Children See Him." Giving the ballads a recess is the finger snapping quasi-accapella (thanks to the group Home Free) "Children Go Where I Send."
Keeping in line with Rogers lofty reputation for setting a high standard for all his music, "Once Again It's Christmas" doesn't disappoint. The season will indeed take on an elegant, beautiful, and Christ-exalting appreciation with this new record.
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