Amy Grant is one of the most successful female singers in the world and undoubtedly holds the title of biggest selling Christian artist of all time with record sales in excess of 30 million. Married to country singer Vince Gill she has a catalogue of releases that extend back to 1977 and even with such an extended career she shows no signs of flagging. Grant has almost 20 studio albums to her name and given her religious themes it was somewhat inevitable that she would release a Christmas LP along the way. And the first one arrived quite early in her career, when she was only 22, with 1983’s ‘A Christmas Album’ successfully balancing a mix of secular and religious songs. Originally only available in Christian bookstores ‘A Christmas Album’ would get much wider distribution in 1984. Grant wrote 4 originals for the release, one of which called ‘Love Has Come’ was co-written by another Christian artist of repute called Michael W. Smith. The album’s lead single ‘Emmanuel’ was another Smith song and Grant’s version broke the Top 20 in the Christian charts. Looking back it may sound a little of its time owing to the plodding percussion and 80’s synths but Grant’s craft and energy is unmistakable.
‘A Christmas Album’ starts off on a decidedly country note with ‘Tennessee Christmas’ which Grant wrote with her first husband Gary Chapman. So redolent was it of the country genre that you could imagine someone like Kenny Rogers giving it a very pleasant rendition. Things changed completely on ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ which better illustrated Grant’s clear and expressive vocals. The famous carol was shown to be very safe in Grant’s hands as it built to a fitting crescendo of strings and heavy drums. On the secular side of things ‘Sleigh Ride’ is dispatched with hearty laughter and joy while Grant strips ‘The Christmas Song’ back to leave only her sweet vocals and some soft piano keys to carry the day. Another Grant/Smith co-authored song ‘Christmas Hymn’ is also worth mentioning for its modern day carol idiosyncrasies, which makes it one of the album’s very special moments.
Although Amy Grant’s second Christmas album would not arrive for another decade she produced a DVD called ‘Amy Grant’s Old Fashioned Christmas’ in 1986 where she performed some of her greatest Christmas songs. The storyline involved Grant and her husband Gary touring snowy Montana before stopping off in a small town and playing songs with the locals. Grant was joined by several friends, family and Art Garfunkel who performed a song with Amy from their little known album together called ‘The Animals’ Christmas’. Given the calibre of the participants involved and the backing of the London Symphony Orchestra it seems quite odd how ‘The Animals’ Christmas’ is all but forgotten. The concept was based around the story of the nativity but sung from the point of the view of the animals who were present in the stable for Jesus’ birth. The album comprised of completely original material with Grant lending a hand on vocals on many of the 12 dramatic tracks.
1992’s ‘Home For Christmas’ was Amy Grant’s second Christmas album proper and this time she held nothing back on the production values with many of the mostly secular songs bolstered by an orchestral backdrop. ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ was typical of the classy fare on offer with Grant vocals maturing wonderfully compared to the singing on her earlier Christmas album. Again Amy contributed new tracks with her ‘Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)’ telling the story of the nativity from the perspective of Mary. Such was the songs impact that is inspired a book of the same name in 2001. ‘Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)’ was written by Grant wherein she explained the inspiration for the lyrics and music behind the song that had touched so many. You wouldn’t have associated a song like ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ with Grant but she gives it a country feel which must have delighted her fans and brought new ones on board. A lyrically amended version of David Fosters ‘Grown-Up Christmas List’ also appeared on ‘Home For Christmas’ with Grant showing that her strength still lay with her powers of emotive singing, something that another original of hers ‘Emmanuel, God With Us’ also displayed in spades.
Amy Grant would release one more Christmas album before the turn of the century and 1999’s ‘A Christmas To Remember’ was promoted via a CBS TV Christmas special of the same name that December. Again Grant was in writing form contributing the pleasant pop of the title track and the quietly delivered ‘Christmas Lullaby (I Will Lead You Home)’. The Christian singer again pulled a few surprises in her song selections, none more so than the jaunty ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and the gorgeous ‘Mister Santa’ which was sung to the air of ‘Mr Sandman’! But for all the clever turns there were just as many reverential moments with Grant’s hushed ‘Silent Night’ competing with the celestial Michael W. Smith written ‘Agnus Dei’ for the album’s true standout moment. A special edition (released via the Target retail chain) contained Grant’s version of the Carpenters ‘Merry Christmas, Darling’. It was included on a 2005 Amy Grant compilation called ‘My Best Christmas’ which also had her version of ‘Child of God’ which was previously only available on a compilation of various artists called ‘One Silent Night’ released in 2000.
In 2001 Hallmark commissioned Amy to record a limited edition Christmas album called ‘The Christmas Spirit’. With the London Symphony Orchestra again on board no expense was spared with the result that ‘The Christmas Spirit’ sounded luxurious. While Grant only featured on 5 of the 12 tracks she left an indelible impression on tracks such as ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and her duet with her new husband Vince Gill on ‘The Christmas Waltz’.
With so much Christmas material to her name it is not surprising that there have been several compilations gathering the best of Amy Grant’s festive catalogue. The aforementioned ‘My Best Christmas’ is to be recommended as is 2008’s ‘The Christmas Collection’ which contained 4 new tunes. The pick of these was ‘I Need A Silent Night’ which was written by Chris Eaton and was a shot across the boughs for the noise and mayhem of a contemporary Christmas. Grant was joined on the song by her 7 year old daughter Corrina who provided a cute spoken word interlude. 2008 would also see Grant take part in the ‘Elvis’ Christmas Duet’ project where many of country’s best known female stars joined Elvis in a posthumous duet. Amy’s contribution was a serene, short and quite perfect rendition of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’. She would again take on a duet for Christmas 2009 but this time her co-star Matthew West was very much alive. Their ‘Give This Christmas Away’ featured on the Christmas Edition of West’s ‘Something To Say’ album which was typically piano led and grew from its quiet intro to something much bigger and triumphant.Author: Kevin