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Spirit

An Evening in December with Spirit (2001)

3.7

February 9, 2002

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 3.7
Innovation / Creativity 3.0
Soloists 3.7
Sound / Production 3.3
Repeat Listenability 2.7
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 3.7
2 Carol of the Bells 3.7
3 The Jesus Gift 3.3
4 Thou Shalt Know Him 4.3
5 There's a Pretty Little Baby 3.3
6 The Lord's Prayer 4.0
7 Sweet Little Jesus Boy 3.7
8 The Prayer 4.0
9 Welcome to Our World 4.0
10 Jingle Bells 4.0
11 Calypso Carol 3.0
12 Children Go Where I Send Thee 3.3
13 The Huron Carol 4.3
14 A Gaelic Blessing 3.7
15 A Quiet Place 3.3

Recorded 2001
Total time: 42:56, 15 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 3
2 Carol of the Bells 3
3 The Jesus Gift 3
4 Thou Shalt Know Him 4
5 There's a Pretty Little Baby 3
6 The Lord's Prayer 4
7 Sweet Little Jesus Boy 3
8 The Prayer 4
9 Welcome to Our World 4
10 Jingle Bells 4
11 Calypso Carol 3
12 Children Go Where I Send Thee 3
13 The Huron Carol 5
14 A Gaelic Blessing 3
15 A Quiet Place 3

As if you couldn't guess from the title, An Evening in December With Spirit is pretty cheesy. It's high quality Christian religious cheese, but cheese nonetheless. Of course it's all holiday music, and for some listeners, nothing could be more seasonally appropriate.

Spirit is undeniably musical. Under the capable direction of Sherri Pilgreen, this mixed jazz ensemble achieves a rare blend. The phrasing is excellent, the pitch superb and, as far as I can tell, not enhanced by studio magic. (Performers who rely on talent. How rare.) (By the way, as a warning to purists, harp and piano accompany a few tracks.)

So if Spirit is so musical and technically accurate, why am I not raving about them? For one, the production, while clean, is no better than average. For two, the singers handle blue notes in a somewhat heavy-handed and square fashion. (Does anyone say "square" anymore? I got that out of a Flintstones cartoon where the "hipster" character draws it on the screen in white dashes. But I digress.) For three, the biggest problem, the sweetness of the tone and phrasing is never placed in contrast with anything. Some form of dramatic tension is at the heart of all great art. What Spirit serves is pleasant and easygoing. The performances are all well-rehearsed, but in the end, nearly everything that's being said by these talented singers has been said just as artfully by other groups.

If you're looking for a rounded, concert choir-type sound on some jazz-influenced arrangements of religious Christmas music, then you could do a lot worse than Spirit. But this reviewer is looking forward to a release where these talented performers become talented artists as well.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 4
2 Carol of the Bells 4
3 The Jesus Gift 3
4 Thou Shalt Know Him 5
5 There's a Pretty Little Baby 3
6 The Lord's Prayer 4
7 Sweet Little Jesus Boy 4
8 The Prayer 3
9 Welcome to Our World 4
10 Jingle Bells 4
11 Calypso Carol 3
12 Children Go Where I Send Thee 4
13 The Huron Carol 4
14 A Gaelic Blessing 4
15 A Quiet Place 3

I like Spirit. They offer a sound that is consistently clean and (equally refreshing nowadays) an approach to the music utterly devoid of irony. Spirit sounds sincere in what they sing, and with songs such as these, it makes a world of difference.

An Evening in December with Spirit showcases the same easy harmony present on the group's earlier albums. Evening also introduces some changes, all good: there is more energy all around, the soloists in particular are settling more strongly into natural niches, and there is even some experimentation, at least more than on previous discs.

The bottom line is, as always, good. Spirit sings with heart and harmony, and this album is no exception to the rule; it is consistently pleasant. It is not innovative, off-the-wall, in-your-face, or any of those qualities so common to the current generation of a cappella, nor is Spirit shooting for that. They sing these songs well, and that is that.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 4
2 Carol of the Bells 4
3 The Jesus Gift 4
4 Thou Shalt Know Him 4
5 There's a Pretty Little Baby 4
6 The Lord's Prayer 4
7 Sweet Little Jesus Boy 4
8 The Prayer 5
9 Welcome to Our World 4
10 Jingle Bells 4
11 Calypso Carol 3
12 Children Go Where I Send Thee 3
13 The Huron Carol 4
14 A Gaelic Blessing 4
15 A Quiet Place 4

Spirit's An Evening in December is another solid album along the lines of their previous release, Zoobilation.

There is a mix of a cappella and accompanied songs. The pitch and blend are, for the most part, beautiful. I enjoyed soloists Deb Waner on The Jesus Gift and also the Bakers on the lovely, emotional The Prayer.

Spirit made some of the traditional Christmas songs more interesting with jazzy arrangements: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, a bopping Carol of the Bells, and also Jingle Bells.

The only problem with this album is what I would like to call "active listening". There are some albums that require my full attention on first listening. The arrangements are fascinating, the soloists fabulous. I don't want to miss a thing.

Spirit's album has few of these moments, most notably the Bakers in The Prayer. But for the most part, the album is nice background music, pleasant to listen to, but not particularly outstanding. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

An Evening in December is both mellow and soothing. It is what you should play during a quiet family Christmas dinner with Grandma. It is not music for a raucous Christmas gathering.


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Ordering Information

For current ordering information, send email to Cindy@FundraisingSpirit.com.

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