Friday, December 30, 2011


     Crystal Lewis has been wowing Christian music fans for years now with her unique and powerful voice.  Over the years she has performed such classics as 'I Now Live', 'Shine Jesus Shine', and 'People Get Ready.'  Among her best work was 2000's HOLIDAY! A COLLECTION OF CHRISTMAS CLASSICS which was jazz infused.  With HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (2010, Metro One) Lewis has truly outdone herself.  I have nothing negative to say about this project.
     It begins with three mellow numbers.  'O Come O Come Emmanuel' is based on the following biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel."  The lyrics to the song include this plea: "O Come, Thou Key of David, come/And open wide our heavenly home;/Make safe the way that leads on high/And close the path to misery/Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/Shall come to Thee, O Israel."  'White Christmas' was penned by Irving Berlin.  The first public performance of it was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on December 25/41.  The song finds Crystal reminiscing: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow/I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write/May your days be merry and bright/And may all your Christmases be white."  'Grown Up Christmas List' is a David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner tune from 1990.  Other CCM artists such as Amy Grant and Bryan Duncan have recorded it.  It contains these utopian well wishes: "No more lives torn apart/That wars would never start/And time would heal all hearts/And everyone would have a friend/And right would always win/And love would never end/This is my grown up Christmas list."
     The title track 'Home for the Holidays' was recorded twice by Perry Como.  It picks up the pace musically and echoes the sentiments of many: "Oh there's no place like home for the holidays/'Cause no matter how far away you roam/When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze/For the holidays, you can't beat/Home, sweet home."  'I heard the Bells on Christmas Day' uses nice chime effects and is based on an 1864 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The song proclaims the victory of good over evil: "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;/The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/With peace on earth, good will to men.'"  'Mary, Did you Know?' uses playful piano playing and dates back to 1991.  The lyrics marvel at what the baby Jesus would grow up and accomplish:  "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?/Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?/Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?/That this child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?"
     'Let it be to Me' is a beautiful ballad written by Michael and Stormie Omartian.  It imagines Mary's thoughts on carrying and giving birth to Jesus: "I'm just an ordinary girl with extraordinary chances/To give my body and my soul to serve my God and Lord/Holy Spirit come and bring forth/This gift of life/Let it be to me according to Your Word/Let it be, let it be/Let it be to me."  'We Three Kings' by Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. first appeared in print in 1863.  These words extol the Lord: "Frankincense to offer have I/Incense owns a Deity nigh/Prayer and praising all men raising/Worship Him, God on high."  'Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella' is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 16th century.  Crystal partially sings it in French.  It is a wonderful acappella track that joyfully proclaims Christ's birth: "Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!/Bring a torch to the cradle run/It is Jesus good folk of the village/Christ is born and Mary's calling/Ah! Ah! beautiful is the Mother!/Ah! Ah! beautiful is her Son!"  'Sleigh Ride' will take you back in time musically and is a seasonal love song about two love birds: "Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up/It's grand, just holding your hand/We're gliding along with a song/Of a wintry fairyland/Our cheeks are nice and rosy/And comfy cozy are we/Ooh, we're snuggled up together/Like two birds of a feather would be."  'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' features nice percussion and ascribes worth to the Lord: "Yea Lord we greet Thee/Born this happy morning/Jesus to Thee be glory given/Word of the Father/Now in flesh appearing/Oh come let us adore Him (3X)/Christ the Lord."  'I Wonder as I Wander' by John Jacob Niles, closes the album.  It tries to grasp the grandeur of the incarnation: "I wonder as I wander out under the sky/How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die/For poor, ornery people like you and like I/I wonder as I wander/Out under the sky."
     HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS was produced by John Andrew Schreiner and Brian Ray, Lewis' husband.  Their daughter Izzi Ray, plays guitar, while Frank Lenz plays drums.  Schreiner is responsible for keyboards and programming.  Alan Pasqua skillfully handles piano duties.  I recommend this light pop, inspirational Christmas effort to those who appreciate the vocal talents of Christina Aguilera and Rachael Lampa.  It really is a flawless Christmas cd.  It is both soothing and mesmerizing.  The photos of Crystal with luggage at a train station are just beautiful!  For more info visit  I'm rating this album 95%.