Matthew Ward and his two sisters comprised the iconic Christian group, The 2nd Chapter of Acts, Gospel Music Hall of Famers who put out 16 popular albums in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Ward himself has put out 8 previous to “Christmas With Matthew Ward,” as well as publishing his autobiography last year with WaterBrook Press. He and his family have been deeply involved with Children’s HopeChest for more than ten years, helping orphans in Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Swaziland, and South Africa.
“Christmas With Matthew Ward” contains eleven tracks of the holiday season’s classic carols, most of them richly orchestrated, many of them contemplative in nature. Opener “O Come All Ye Faithful” highlights Ward’s signature emotive vocals, still going strong three decades later. The traditional take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is followed by the gentle worship of piano-driven “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Deeply reverential, the ballad’s warm vocal arrangements build to a crescendo of programming touches, including some sizzling keyboard work. “Silent Night” is offered with the slightest jazz flair, giving Ward the chance to stretch out vocally, adding some swing to the standard favorite.
I also enjoyed the swing feel of “First Noel,” with its sweet percussive nuances and a rock solid bass line. I do wish the album’s liner notes gave more credit information; I found myself searching haplessly for more details when I’d hear a particularly tasty tidbit. “In the Bleak Midwinter” offered several such instances. The quiet opening strings are either dulcimer or mandolin? Either way, they work beautifully, but I find it helpful to know.
The project closes with the sensitively rendered “Holy Night.” Ward’s classic interpretation is quite moving, building as it does to a full crescendo of worship, the backup choir gently echoing the chorus behind Ward’s warm vocals. “Christmas With Matthew Ward” will add an air of the sacred to your holiday season. A perfect gift for the traditionalist on your gift list this year.Merry Christmas To You All! Hope This Christmas And New Year Brings A Lot of Good Memories To You 🙂