Producer: Rick Sandidge
Label: The Mansion Entertainment
This trio gets the distinction of being the only group to have a Christmas project come across my desk for review this year. I was looking forward to hearing another CD by Three Bridges, since I was so impressed with their last effort, and after reading a review of this particular one at Musicscribe shortly after receiving the project in the mail, my interest was even piqued.
Kicking it all off is the upbeat, light rock-tinged title track featuring lead singer Shannon Smith. This style seems to be the one that the group clicks the most with. The song takes three perspectives: a traveler going to see the newborn Jesus, the shepherds on the hillside, and someone dreaming on the night of Jesus’ birth. Though the lyrics do seem random in this way, the song ties them together well, and this is one of my personal favorite tracks.
The Drifters’ arrangement of “White Christmas” comes next, reuniting Smith and tenor Jeremie Hudson with their former Imperials partner, Ian Owens, as a guest bass vocalist. Though it would have made it impossible for the group to do this song live had Owens gotten the feature as the original arrangement dictates (the bass got the first verse and standout lines on the chorus in The Drifters version), part of me wishes he had gotten it instead of being confined to background vocals. Baritone Elliott McCoy takes those features instead, with Hudson taking the second verse. Owens shows up at background vocals again on “Mary Had A Baby.” The sound on both of these tracks sounds remarkably like the later versions of The Imperials, especially when Smith and Hudson start ad-libbing on “Mary Had A Baby.”
Other high points include “Mary Did You Know,” which follows the Gaither Vocal Band arrangement pretty closely but showcases the beautiful high harmony of the group, an uptempo arrangement of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” that is probably the most unique I’ve heard in quite a while, a mellow Hudson feature in “He Came Here For Me,” and another unique arrangement of a classic carol in “Noel.”
As a whole, Christmas projects are something that I can take or leave. Unless they offer something different from the stuff that usually permeates the airwaves this time of year, you can count me out. Three Bridges offers enough interesting arrangements and songs that haven’t been recorded by everybody and their brother that it has earned multiple plays on my iPod and in my car. Though not every song is a solid choice, this CD is a fine effort. If you’re a Three Bridges fan, or just want another Christmas collection to play every year, Christmas Must Be Tonight is a good choice.