Prime Cuts: The Christmas Wish, Singing to the King, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Three years have passed since Kingdom Heirs last released their last Christmas album. Within such an interim, this Southern Gospel veteran band has had experienced quite a few tabloid-worthy upheavals. Citing personal reasons, baritone Brian Alvey announced his resignation out of the blue. Later, fans were shocked to learn that former and founding member Steven French had ended his life in a tragic (and mysterious) heist. However, with the reception of new baritone Loren Harris, the band is set in its matrix to begin a new chapter of their storied career. In the midst of such personnel shuffling, the band recorded and released their first Christmas release since 2013's "Heart of Christmas."
"Glory to God in the Highest" in many ways adopts the same template as their preceding "Heart of Christmas" record. Both albums are front loaded with Christ-centered festive hymns before detouring midway to indulge in a few secular seasonal favorites before circling back to more Christian-themed yuletide tunes to close off the proceedings. Not surprising both albums were produced by label honcho Jeff Collins and Arthur Rice. While "Heart of Christmas" opens with a Matthew West's cover, "Glory" opens with the Oak Ridge Boys' oldie "Jesus is Born Today." Opting a minimalistic approach with understated backing, the cynosure is on the band as they sing in their various parts bringing out the various textures of the song to great effect.
"Glory to God in the Most High," the title cut and lead single, is frankly not the best choice to introduce the album. With the intense sounding brass horns and a full-bodied type singing from all the band members really date the song. "Glory" sounds like a blast from the past with the word "old school" stamped all across it. Much better is Dianne Wilkinsons' "Singing to the King." One of two originals, "Singing to the King," is the re-telling of the Christmas story from the vantage of the angels. The nice Brazilian-samba tilt really gives this tune a refreshing kick.
The other original "The Christmas Wish" comes to us via the pens of Brian Avey and Allison Speer. In sync with Speers' thoughtful compositions, this piano cum strings ballad sounds like the soundtrack of one of those romantic sepia-toned Christmas movie classics that you can't help but be lost in its magic. Returning back to their full-assembled sound is their take of Squire E. Parsons, Jr.'s hymn-like "The King of Eternity" which is passable without being exception. One of their most unlikely cover is Mariah Carey's "Jesus, What a Wonderful Child." Proud to say, Kingdom Heirs have made this song their own without betraying any hint of Carey's R&B antics.
Jeff Collins is to be congratulated for imbuing the classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with some of the delightful piano riffs giving this Yuletide evergreen a jazzy makeover. Overall, "Glory to God in the Highest" does have its valleys and its highs. But when the Kingdom Heirs are on their highs, they really soar.