Saturday, April 27, 2013

Music Review: It's the Thought... by Twila Paris

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Songs that will put your thoughts on the babe in the manger
Cons: Dated sound at times
The Bottom Line:
Focus your Christmas
On what it really means, the
Birth of our Savior




A Thoughtful Christmas Release

Twila Paris was ahead of her time.  During the 80's and 90's, the height of her career, the modern worship movement wasn't nearly as trendy as it is now.  Yet she kept releasing her mix of inspirational and worship music.  And it worked for her.  I've sung her praise choruses for years in church.

In 1989, Twila released It's The Thought ..., a Christmas CD.  Instead of attempting to do a normal Christmas project, however, she wanted to do something with a worshipful bent to it.

My first thought when I got the disc was about the sound, however.  This isn't your typical Christmas project with the lush orchestra.  In fact, it does incorporate the 80's staple of a synthesizer at times.  As a result, it took several years before I truly associated the CD with Christmas.  But now I have to listen to it every year.

Seven of the twelve tracks are traditional Christmas songs.  But that doesn't mean they are the familiar songs.  The disc opens with "Midwinter," for example.  I now have several versions of this song, but at the time no one was recording this song.  It starts off with synthesizer and sleigh bells.  Twila tweaked the melody slightly, so this throws me off every time I hear the song somewhere else, but I like it.

Also on the list of the rare songs are "I Saw Three Ships" and "Down in Yon Forest."  The first one incorporates strings and bagpipe into the music while the second sounds like something a medieval minstrel would play and sing.

The disc does have several familiar selections.  Twila does "Away in a Manger" with her sisters Starla and Angela.  "O Holy Night" is lead by guitar with strings behind it.  It's a beautiful version.  She even includes the "Hallelujah Chorus."  This is the one song that pulls out all the orchestral stops.  You'd swear it was part of a performance of The Messiah.  Of course, it helps that it is sung by an octet of friends including Twila and fellow recording artists Annie Herring, Matthew Ward, and Scott Wesley Brown, among others.

But I've left my favorite of the familiar for last.  She does "White Christmas."  It's a fairly standard version heavy on piano.  What sets it apart for me is that she tags it at the end with "Whiter Than Snow," a praise chorus about our status as forgiven sinners.  No, she doesn't change one word of the Irving Berlin classic, so she doesn't change the meaning of the song.  But that tag always makes me stop and think.  I like that.

Which brings us to the new songs.  Twila wrote four of them.  Of course, it's hard to call two of them truly individual songs.  "Alleluia, Christ is Born" and "Glory to God" are just over three minutes combined.  And she does combine them.  Both use the synthesizer, more noticeably on the first.  And both use a choir to back her up.  Thematically, they do flow together as they are praise songs for the birth of Jesus.  "Wandering Pilgrim" closes out the disc.  It's a quiet ballad about the Wise Men.

Then there's the title song.  "It's the Thought" ultimately reminds us what Christmas is all about.  The first verse talks about Christmas shopping, but she switches to the ultimate gift, Jesus and His death of us, in the second verse.  I like the way it ties Christmas and Easter together.  Ironically, it's the most dated song here since it is the heaviest on the synthesizer.

I've left my favorite of the originals to last.  "This World" was written by Twila's dad.  It's also the only truly upbeat song here.  I find myself tapping along to the mid tempo beat as soon as it starts.  Again, it reminds us why Jesus came as it points out that "This old world will never be the same/Since the Son of God was born a little baby."

Sadly, this disc is long out of print.  It isn't for everyone.  But if you want a CD that will truly focus you on the reason for the season, It's The Thought ... is for you.

CD Length: 42:29
Tracks:
1. Midwinter
2. Alleluia, Christ is Born
3. Glory to God
4. Away in a Manger
5. White Christmas/Whiter Than Snow
6. It's the Thought
7. I Saw Three Ships
8. This World
9. Down in Yon Forest
10. O Holy Night
11. Hallelujah Chorus
12. Wandering Pilgrim

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