Michael W. Smith & Friends- The Spirit of Christmas
Genre: Christmas (seasonal)
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Record Company: MWS Group, Capitol CMG Label Group, and Sparrow Records

The Spirit of Christmas features all of your favorite songs (and a few new ones) sung in a traditional manner with an orchestral accompaniment. Michael W. Smith sings all of your traditional Christmas songs with star-studded vocalists such as Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Bono, and many more. The songs are sung so sweetly, that this is the perfect addition to your Christmas CD shopping list. Michael W. Smith shows quite a diversity in his singing capabilities by doing duets with some of the top country music artists, doing a jazz-like rendition of Happy Holiday, and a throwback crooning version of Happy Holidays/Holiday Season.

All artists’ vocals are perfectly complimentary, and add to that warm Christmas feel as they take the listener back down memory lane to the meaning of Christmas.

The Miracle of Christmas (Michael W. Smith): Song opens with beautiful, melodic bell chimes backed by full orchestra accompaniment. Very spectacular introduction to the CD.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Michael W. Smith): Traditional version of the song accompanied by a full orchestra to the vocal accompaniment. Song discusses the beauty and tradition of Christmas such as mistletoe, gathering of family, caroling, and generally everything that makes Christmas special.

Happy Holiday/Holiday Season Medley (Michael W. Smith): Throwback version to the forties with a hint of jazz. Song is about Santa Claus, and Santa delivering gifts. Beautiful vocals enhance Michael W. Smith’s performance.

Christmas Time is Here (Michael W. Smith featuring Vince Gill): Traditional version of the song. The song is very melodic, warm, and comforting. It is about the memories of Christmas, family, and sitting by the fireplace.

White Christmas (Michael W. Smith featuring Lady Antebellum): Lady Antebellum sweetly sings the traditional version of the song. Both vocalists blend perfectly on the chorus of the song. Michael comes in on the second verse of the song contrasting Lady Antebellum’s opening by belting out the lyrics a bit more, but not in an overpowering fashion.

Somewhere in My Memory (Michael W. Smith featuring Audrey Smith): Longer beginning with light piano accompaniment that almost seems like listening to a music box. Audrey Smith lends a beautiful child’s rendition to a song about family and music being present.

The Spirit of Christmas (Medley) (Michael W. Smith): Full orchestra enhances this grandiose melody. Medley includes Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Come All Ye Faithful, and ends with a flourish from the orchestra.

Silent Night (Michael W. Smith featuring Little Big Town): Violins at the end are so soft, and beautiful. The cello accompaniment adds a beautiful warm tone to the piece. Michael W. Smith and Little Big Town compliment each other in the opening by singing it harmoniously and sweetly. Little Big Town’s voice adds a soft little country twang to a very reverent song.

What Child is This? (Michael W. Smith featuring Martina McBride): Surreal opening with a hint of vocals playing softly in the background which enhance the beautiful feel to the song. Martina adds her own flavor to the song changing up the melody only slightly. She does not tamper with the original music, but changes it up just noticeably enough. Martina adds a little bit of country to the song, and Michael matches her country vocals perfectly showing quite a bit of diversity in his singing capabilities.

Almost There (Michael W. Smith featuring Amy Grant): Guitar opening playing softly in the opening. Amy’s vocals glide effortlessly over a complex opening. The song is about the prophesy of Jesus and His birth. It also talks of the resurrection and how Jesus was, in essence, born to die so that we may be saved. A choir comes in the middle of the song to add a bit of a movie feel, yet beautiful crescendo to a softly sung song.

All Is Well (Michael W. Smith featuring Carrie Underwood): Carrie Underwood sweetly shows her range in this song. The song is about peace on earth, and the birth of Christ. Piano and violin accompany the majority of this song, with a hint of drums, chimes, and cymbals for dramatic emphasis.

Christmas Day (Michael W. Smith featuring Jennifer Nettles): Michael’s rich voice begins a song about Christmas, family, the tree, and everything generally associated with Christmas. Choir comes in at the middle of the song adding impact to the song. Jennifer is an impactful vocal to the duet.

The Darkest Midnight (Michael W. Smith featuring Bono): Opens with a voice narrarating the birth of Jesus. There is a haunting beauty to the whispering voice which slowly grows a little louder as the song progresses. No vocals at all. Just a narraration in almost prose like style.

Peace (Michael W. Smith featuring Michael Mc Donald): It is a song about peace and strength from the Lord. It discusses the sacrifice of Jesus, and in Him, we will find peace. Jesus’ joy will fill our suffering. The duet with Michael McDonald is so perfect in pitch, that they almost sound like just one person is singing.

I would rate this album an eight out of ten. While the vocals were impeccable and the orchestra beautiful, the songs were very traditional. Aside from The Darkest Midnight, it seemed sweet, but not memorable. It does, however, bring up images about the warmth of Christmas, warming up by the fire, and being surrounded by family.