Amy Grant was born in Augusta, Georgia on November 25, 1960. She’s the youngest of four sisters. Amy released her self-titled debut album in 1977. It included the songs ‘Beautiful Music’ and ‘Old Man’s Rubble’. In 1983 Amy put out her first holiday album, A CHRISTMAS ALBUM. In 2001 the book ‘CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music’ rated it as #40 of all time. Amy’s second holiday record was HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (1992, A & M). It hit #2 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Christian Albums chart. It was produced by Brown Bannister and executive produced by Amy and Michael Blanton. In the liner notes, Amy shares: “It’s my hope that from year to year, as the Christmas season rolls around, my own children will blow the dust off of this recording and let the songs that were dear to me as a child find a sweet, familiar place in their hearts”.
‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ starts the album off on a sentimental, easy listening note: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Make the yuletide gay/From now on our troubles will be miles away/Once again as in olden days, happy golden days of yore/Faithful friends who are dear to us/Will be near to us once more”. First Call and Chris Eaton provide background vocals on ‘It’s the Most wonderful Time of the Year’, which is playful: “There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and carolling out in the snow/There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.../There’ll be much mistletoe-ing and hearts will be glowing/When loved ones are near/It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.
Brown Bannister and Ron Huff produced the next track. It begins with a majestic sounding instrumental rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ and then goes into George Frederick Handel’s: “For unto us a Child is born/Unto us a Son is given (2X)/And the government shall be upon His shoulders/And His Name shall be called/Wonderful, Counselor/Almighty God, the Everlasting Father/The Prince of Peace”. The London Studio Orchestra and The American Boychoir are used. Next up, is the now holiday favourite, ‘Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)’. It was written by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant and became a #1 Adult Contemporary Christian radio hit for Grant. It serves as a sincere prayer from Jesus’ young mother: “Breath of Heaven/Hold me together/Be forever near me/Breath of Heaven/Breath of Heaven/Lighten my darkness/Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy/Breath of Heaven.../I offer all I am/For the mercy of Your plan/Help me be strong/Help me be/Help me”.
Pioneering CCM artist Phil Keaggy skillfully plays guitars on a laid back version of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. It’s a song of invitation: “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant/O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem/Come and behold Him/Born the King of angels/O come let us adore Him (3X)/Christ the Lord”. David Foster and Linda Thompson Jenner wrote the beautiful ballad ‘Grown-up Christmas List’. It imagines a gentler world all around: “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”.
Jerry McPherson plays guitar and Chris McHugh plays drums on a happy country/pop version of ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. Here are some of the words: “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree/Let the Christmas spirit ring/Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie and we’ll do some carolling/You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear voices singing/’Let’s be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly’”. Woodwinds are added to the mix on the romantic ‘Winter Wonderland’. It tells a story: “Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is the new bird/He sings a love song as we go along/Walking in a winter wonderland/In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he is Parson Brown/He’ll say ‘Are you married?’/We’ll say ‘No man, but you can do the job when you’re in town’”.
Craig Nelson plays bass on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, which was written by Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, and Buck Ram. Clare Fischer plays piano on this light jazz version. It waxes sentimental: “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me/Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree/Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams/I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams”. Carly Simon wrote the gorgeous ballad ‘The Night Before Christmas’. A children’s choir is used to good effect here. Here are some of the lyrics: “You don’t have to be an angel to sing harmony/You don’t have to be a child to love the mystery/And you don’t have to be a wise man on bended knee/The heart of this Christmas is in you and me/The night before Christmas (2X)”.
Amy, Chris Eaton, and Robert Marshall wrote ‘Emmanuel, God With Us’, a worshipful selection: “Emmanuel, God with us, Emmanuel/Emmanuel, God with us/The Son of Israel/And the years they come and the years they go/Though we may forget somehow/That the Child once born in Bethlehem is still among us now”. Closing off the album is a pleasant instrumental version of Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’, with derivative melody by Carl Marsh.
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS is a must have for fans of skillfully presented holiday music. Amy’s vocals are easy on the ears and the instrumentation is wonderful! Style-wise, I would put this record in the light pop and inspirational music categories. It’s a good one to listen to if you need to quiet yourself amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It’s also appropriate music to play in the background during your family’s Christmas meal. You will find songs of both a sacred and a secular nature included here. The pictures of Amy included with the CD are pretty. I’m rating HOME FOR CHRISTMAS a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.amygrant.com or check her out on Facebook.