Paul Baloche “Christmas Worship Vol. 2” Album Review

Paul Baloche

Prime Cuts:  What Child is This/Emmanuel, When Love Crossed Over, The Newborn King

Baloche solved a conundrum worship leaders face perennially each Christmas:  should the church restrict its repertoire to the Christmas carols or carry on with the usual set list of worship songs?  Part of the reason why many worship pastors are reticent in tackling the traditional carols is that they lack the usage of the personal pronoun in addressing the Almighty.  As a result, many of the yuletide hymns are more like songs about God rather than to God.  Baloche who is a veteran worshipper at heart has provided a viable solution: instead of pitching the carols against worship songs, Baloche has combined both of them again.  Instead of just religiously singing the carols, he would interspersed modern choruses into the hymn functioning as appropriate opportunities for us to respond in worship.  In this regard, "Christmas Worship Vol. 2" is not just a Christmas record.  Rather, it's the sine qua non as far as Christmas worship is concerned.

Baloche is one of the pioneer worship leaders signed to Integrity Music when they were in the midst of launching the Hosanna series.  A series that brought worship music to the fore of contemporary worship music via the emergence of Darlene Zschech and Hillsong Worship.  Still signed to Integrity Music after all these, Baloche has blessed the church with staples like "Open The Eyes Of My Heart," "Hosanna," "Our God Saves," "Your Name" and "A New Hallelujah."  "Christmas Worship Vol. 2" is the second instalment to Baloche's 2013 earlier Christmas album.  Featuring one new song written by Baloche's wife Rita "When Love Crossed Over," the rest of the songs are either carols augmented with worship tunes or older worship tunes slightly tweaked for the festive season.

As far as the carols augmented with worship songs are concerned, some of them work brilliantly.  "What Child is This/Emmanuel" is a lodestar of an example.  While "What Child is This" details with perspicuity the unmistakable identity of Jesus as the Christ-child, "Emmanuel" gorgeously leads us seamlessly into a worshipful response. "O Holy Night/Love Shines Bright" doesn't function so much as a call-and-response mode, rather the two songs function like two identical twins both testifying in unison to the same truth.  Nevertheless, not everything works:  the transition between "The First Noel" and "Above All" sounds uneven and both songs lyrically don't seem to dialogue with each other well.

Baloche's guests are aplenty on the album:  Madison Cunningham, a young Calvary Chapel worship leader and daughter of Costa Mesa worship pastor Scott Cunningham does a soaring rendition of the new ballad "When Love Crossed Over."  Graham Kendrick joins Baloche on the reimagined Kendrick composition "Creation King," now entitled "The Newborn King."  While Onajé Jefferson (Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir/New Breed) gives "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear/Glorious" a soulful gospel vibe.  All Sons and Daughters offer a folk wrapping to "Joy to the World/Our God Saves" that is worth a listen.

Worship and Christmas have been indispensable mates since the first ever Christmas where shepherds and angels lifted up their voices in worship.  Thus, it is right and proper that Baloche would bring the two together again on this disc.   



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