Prime Cuts: Let Us Be, The Story of Christmas Medley, I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
After all these years, Point of Grace still sounds angelic with their gorgeous harmonies. Time has been very gracious to them: they still have flurry layers of tenderness and verve like they did back in the 90s. In the 90s, these girls were unstoppable. Each single that they released was fated for the #1 position, thus making them one of the most successful groups in CCM. Despite somehow losing their foothold on escalating up the charts these days, Point of Grace is still active in the recording front. Earlier this year, WORD Records just released a double-disc package of their biggest hits. Now within the matter of months we are again graced with another set. This time the ladies have partnered with Lifeway Christian Bookstore to release this brand new seasonal album "Sing Noel."
Other than their copious "greatest hits" collections, the canon of Point of Grace is inundated with Christmas releases. According to the omniscient Wikipedia, "Noel" is their fifth Christmas-themed release. Frankly, they have checked marked everything that makes a good seasonal record. And it's impeccable in many ways, but this also isn't their best Yuletide release. If you have never owned any of their Christmas discs, their 1999 "A Christmas Story" is their best to date. "Sing Noel" is fine but it just isn't as interesting and as inspired. Let me expound on my observation.
"Sing Noel" does have everything you would want out of a Christmas release. There's a judicious balance between the traditional carols (6) and originals (4). With lush orchestration and top-notched backings, the girls are on great command across seasonal favorites such as "Angels From the Realms of Glory" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." In fact, their take of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is stellar. Few could capture the anguish and the joy of the song with believability as Point of Grace does here. As for the originals, "Let Us Be" is a standout. The song captures the trio's later country leaning sound but it in no way comprises on the awesome Christ-centered message of how Christmas changes us.
The other noteworthy mention is "The Story of Christmas Medley." An exhibition of creativity, the song cleverly intertwines readings of Scripture passages depicting the Christmas story with the timeless hymn "Tell Me the Story of Jesus" as well as "Away in A Manger" and "Silent Night." "Fear Not" and "See Amid the Winter Snow" are more or less obligatory numbers that don't rise above mediocrity. The same can be said about their rendition of "The First Noel" and "Mary Did You Know/What Child is This." They are what you would expect from a Christmas release and Point of Grace does nothing to make them anymore exciting.
This is a fine effort. You can't fault the singing, the backing, and the even the gorgeous pictures. But relative to their earlier releases, this set lacks vision, inspiration, and excitement.