The Gift

Jim Brickman

Windham Hill Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There's something a little disconcerting about listening to a Christmas album on the first day of fall... but we won't go into that right now.

There's also something disconcerting about listening to a new age Christmas album like The Gift from Jim Brickman. You see, each person has their own idea of what proper Christmas music is. As a child, my view of Christmas music was the Harry Simeone Chorale and the music boxes of the late Rita Ford. As I grew older, I found myself enthralled with the Winter's Solstice discs from Windham Hill, showing just how beautiful both Christmas and new age music could be.

So, what's disconcerting about The Gift? It's just that, whether it's fair or not, I find myself holding this album up in comparison to the first two Winter's Solstice discs. Thankfully, Brickman has crafted an album which holds its own quite well.

The first release from the romantic pianist to feature vocals on more than one track, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Gift takes both old standbys and new compositions to create a holiday album that tries to do something that most Christmas albums don't: it aims for the emotional side of Christmas. "Starbright" brought back memories of when I first heard "Tiny Angels" from Roger Whittaker, and it can easily bring a listener to tears as they remember the nervous anticipation children have on the night before Christmas. It's an incredibly powerful piece of music that still moves me - even though, as this is written, there isn't a Christmas decoration to be seen in my house. And if you want a song that captures the optimistic mood of humanity, just listen once to "Hope Is Born Again". There's a lot you can take from this song... and I'll leave it up to the listener to find their own message.

In terms of instrumentals, Brickman is able to create a natural-sounding balance between his piano work and richer instrumentation than he's had on any album previously. Tracks such as "Joy To The World," "Angels" and "What Child Is This" allow Brickman to place his own signature on each song without distracting from the basic core of the holiday classics. In terms of originals, songs like "Fireside" and "Winter Peace" keep with the basic tenet of any Brickman composition - in fact, these would not sound out of place on any of Brickman's non-holiday albums. But they do succeed in creating a mental picture through the music, transporting the listener to a holiday scene in their own memories.

It may seem odd that I've mentioned nothing about "The Gift," possibly the best-known song on The Gift. To be frank, the song speaks for itself. There's a reason so many radio stations play this one - and it's yet another song that would not be inappropriate outside of Christmas.

It may also seem odd that I've not brought up the guests on The Gift, like Collin Raye, Kenny Loggins, Point Of Grace, Susan Ashton and many others. While their contributions make these moments that much more special, they are not the stars of this disc. For that matter, I'd dare to even say that Brickman isn't the star. In truth, the music is center stage this time around - which is just how it should be.

The Gift is a wonderful holiday album that might just find its way into your CD player at other times in the year - and why not? As Angela Lansbury once sang, "we need a little Christmas now." This is as fine a way to grab some of that spirit when you need it the most.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Windham Hill Records, and is used for informational purposes only.