23 December 2014

Sandi Patty The Gift Goes On

Sandi Patty’s The Gift Goes On a Rousing Good Time
By Kristin Battestella

1983’s The Gift Goes On was the first of nearly a dozen holiday albums and compilations from the contemporary Christian singer then known as Sandi Patti, and it’s a reverent, rousing session for the season, indeed.

Worship the King opens The Gift Goes On in sweeping fashion yet carries an easy eighties beat, pleasant melody, inspiring choir, catchy rhythms, and spiritual lyrics that sound both carol-esque and viable for year round praise. The big notes continue for the Worship the Gift Medley of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Away in a Manger/What Child is This and Little Town of Bethlehem but the mix stays soft and lullaby tender thanks to breezy and effortless transitions across the carols as the somber orchestration builds. Patty has certainly given these tunes full-length treatments elsewhere – many which appear on the Yuletide Joy compilation – but there’s enough of each familiar refrain in this warm and graceful sing a long session.

The titular The Gift Goes On is arranged in a fun calypso style with a slightly dated eighties panache, but there’s also a swanky maturity to balance the youthful backing choir. For such an operatically capable singer, Patty also knows when to keep her vocals and music casual in an intimate, gentle mode – as in the short Christmas Was Meant for Children track. This quiet, nostalgic two and a half minutes of reflection adds a personal family time to The Gift Goes On before the Old World flavoring of Jesu Bambino/O Holy Night. A touch of O Come All Ye Faithful refrains accent these less heard and triumphantly delivered carols. Although not as big a showstopper as found on her O Holy Night release, the rousing choir and varied arrangement lead to some excellent crescendos, and Sandi takes the house down as only few people can.

The Worship the King Reprise Medley of Celebrate the Gift: Rejoice/ For Unto Us A Child is Born is a bit of a mouthful of a track listing I know, but this combination takes the catchy of the first tune and adds a little Handel’s Messiah – just in case we weren’t already trying to sing along like we are all so spectacular. Underlining choruses from Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World choir refrains add layers of concert and performance to The Gift Goes On. One couldn’t possibly do all this calypso to classical all in one night so here’s the quick show version in snappy, holding that high note glory. I Wonder as I Wander, by contrast, adds a somber melody and slows down the lingering breaths with seemingly medieval accents before O Magnify the Lord provides more reverence. The shortest track on The Gift Goes On, these 2 minutes seem more palpable pop in fashion compared to the older carols and classical sources. However, it may also be too similar to Worship the King, almost to the point that it sounds like the next verse. Fortunately, this is still another catchy, hand clapping gospel session that can play on regardless of season.

The set’s two longest tracks conclude The Gift Goes On, and due to some low volume, old CD mono, or poor mixing, it’s tough to understand Bethlehem Morning at first. Thankfully, the soft notes and high octaves come together with big lyrics rising and lifting up the first Christmas story in parallel to His delivered fulfillment. At five minutes, this one may seem redundant because we already had some exceptional, stirring numbers on The Gift Goes On, but this remains touching and heart tugging even if some listeners may find the notes too bombastic. Also five minutes, the bittersweet Merry Christmas with Love/Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas finale is perhaps an odd choice to finish The Gift Goes On with an expected December melancholy pop. The album is after all an unabashedly Christian and uplifting half hour otherwise. However, this is a pleasant, hushed end and a fittingly warm fare thee well.
The Gift Goes On is certainly not for solely secular Christmas celebrants or general seasonal audiences considering its mix of short and unfamiliar religious steep or long and long-winded carols. (I also realize not everyone was as addicted to Patty’s 1983 More Than Wonderful record – yes record – as I was.) It’s unusual as well that with such a capable voice, many big difficult carols are absent from this surprisingly short 35 minute session. Nonetheless, this is a fine holiday debut from Sandi – and we’ve had plenty more Christmas music from her since to complete this spiritual family friendly playlist perfect for a night of baking or tree trimming.

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