Most people enjoy music but buying the right CD for someone can be difficult. Here's a brief guide to some notable religious-themed releases that could help provide some holiday cheer:
“FREEDOM,” by Michael W. Smith. One of the premier artists in contemporary Christian music makes a bold departure on his 14th recording. Stepping off his gold-paved track record of pop-music mastery, Smitty creates a neo-classical collection of multilayered instrumentals that he describes as “a soundtrack for the movies in my mind.”
“BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL: A Celebration of Christmas and Faith,” by the Cantate Domino and the Alleluia Singers. Toledo children's choirs, from third through 10th grades, perform 20 holiday selections with reverence and rich harmonies. The CD is available at Boogie Records and St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 243-4214.
“JOY: A Christmas Collection,” by Avalon. Exuberant vocal quartet Avalon puts a bright and shiny spin on a mix of new and classic Christmas tunes.
“HOLIDAY! A Collection of Christmas Classics,” by Crystal Lewis. The mighty and moving voice of Crystal Lewis glows brightly on familiar holiday tunes, backed by a stellar jazz trio.
“COMING TO LIFE,” by the Normals. This gospel rock quintet hailing from Normal, Ill. (except for drummer Mike Taquino, who's from Defiance, O.) is earning comparisons to such mainstream artists as early U2 and John Mellencamp for its melody, musicianship, and honesty.
“THE PROMISE,” by Plus One. A Christian-music alternative to the pop vocal boy bands that dominate the charts.
“GENUINE,” by Stacie Orrico. Barely into her teens, Orrico sings gospel music with a voice that is picture perfect for pop, backed by electronic rhythms and studio wiz-ardry rivaling the Britneys and Christinas of today's scene.
“INTERMISSION: The Greatest Hits,” by dc talk. One of the groups most responsible for elevating the creative and production qualities of Christian music in general, pop/gospel/hip-hop trio dc talk collects 17 memorable tunes.
“FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF SOUTHTOWN,” by P.O.D. This Christian metal quartet from San Diego is achieving broad mainstream success, touring with such artists as Ozzy Osbourne and Korn without compromising its gospel message. The band made the “People of the Year” listings in Rolling Stone magazine and its new disc has reached platinum status.
“WOW 2001,” Various Artists. The latest in a series of annual releases features 30 songs by such top radio artists as Steven Curtis Chapman, Ginny Owens, the Newsboys, and Jennifer Knapp. The two-disc set is specially priced at around $17.
RAMADAN AND EID UL-FITR
“A IS FOR ALLAH,” a collection of eight beautiful Islamic songs mostly written and sung by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). Reflects the basics of Islam.
“WHISPER OF PEACE,” by Dawud Wharnsby-Ali, Canadian folksinger who has embraced Islam, his first recording.
“SYUKUR,” latest recording from Raihan, five-member rock group from Malaysia. Singing Islamic songs in Arabic, English, and Malay, the group is known for rich harmonizing and emotional songs.
“TOWARDS THE LIGHT,” by Zain Bhika. Born in South Africa to Indian parents, Bhika performed on Yusuf Islam's latest album and seeks to write songs that inspire the spirit to love Allah.
- DAVID YONKE and JUDY TARJANYI