A Review of Enfield’s Christmas Album, God of God
Let me admit from the beginning that I am incurable Enfield fan. I know each of the members of this band and can personally attest to their spiritual maturity and love for Christ. I also had the privilege of working with them in ministry for many years and heard their musical gifts each week. So when I knew they were putting together a Christmas album, I had high hopes. Those hopes were exceeded.
Some of these arrangements we have been hearing for a few years around Christmas as they led in musical worship. But this is way beyond that. For me, this is the perfect combination of musicianship, orchestration, arrangement, godly musicians, and an on-ramp for worshiping Jesus, God of God. It was produced by Brian Steckler, producer of Enfiled’s album O For That Day.
What follows is not a formal review. In fact it is unashamedly positive. It is simply a personal review for me to express what I love about this album. I hope you enjoy the project as much as I do. I would encourage you to purchase a CD or download it soon.
1. Angels From the Realms of Glory
This opening song is a classic Enfield recipe. They take a song that is familiar, add fresh orchestration, put in a new chorus and bridge, and throw in a great guitar solo. Wonderfully old and entirely new… at the same time. The use of strings in concert with contemporary instrumentation gives this song (and all their work) a contemporary and timeless feel. John and Lisa Martin’s tight harmonies remind me of God’s sweet providence in their marriage that transfers uniquely into their music. Lisa’s sliding, melodic harmonies just make you smile. Listen for the swelling crescendos, punchy syncopation, tight phrasing, and some great playing.
2. God of God
Leave it to Ryan Foglesong to find an old hymn and make it sound like it was written yesterday. The theology of this piece should drop any believer to his knees in worship or stand him on his tiptoes in exultation. Beautiful strings give a soft step to the marching cadence of this anthem. The break when John sings, “O God of God” (with an acoustic guitar backdrop), aptly captures the album’s title. You can sense he believes in the incarnation with that vocal. David Zimmer’s drums pull you along like a narrator of the story of the Savior’s birth. Being unfamiliar with this song worked to my advantage because it accented the words. Catchy melody, great theology, well orchestrated. I really like this song.
3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
This is such a fun song to listen to and sing along with. The opening strings are huge. And they should be. Few Christmas carols are as rich in incarnational theology as this one. The string intro sets the table for the greatness of the lyrics. And the way the tambre drops as the vocals come in, very cool. David’s kit work is amazing in this song. I hear something new from the drums every time I listen to it. You’ve got to love the “Joy to the World” bridge into the key change… very cool. But the coolest part of this song is the way they use pizzicato to underlay the phrase, “Mild He lays His glory by.” This will be a classic on my iPod for years to come.
4. Who is He in Yonder Stall?
I love this carol because it speaks of Christ’s whole life, not just His nativity. And Lisa sings it as a vocal biography of the Lord she loves. This time it’s John who adds the harmony. The acoustic guitar sets the mood so well in this song. The orchestration is deliberately understated which adds to the drama of the lyrics.
5. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Wil’s dissonant Mandolin intro melody invites the minor key that has always made this song sound like it’s supposed to, a longing for the Messiah. Add to that Nick Brown’s electric guitar and the wistful violin fills and you have a haunting mood. This arrangement creates magnetism to John’s excellent voicing of the lyrics. The intended forlorn of the lyric is captured by the creativity of the orchestration. Superb interpretation of this song!
6. Glory to God on High
The driving back beat and great percussion by David and Ryan make you want to hear this song from the opening measures (listen for an amazing drum fill at 2:02!). The key change works as well in this tune as any I know. You get the full range of John’s voice on this track. Wow is he gifted!
7. O Come All Ye Faithful
This carol is on everyone’s favorites list. I think that is what makes it so special on this album. The familiarity presents a challenge to bring something new to the table. But, Enfield pulls it off. The changes in rhythm keep it interesting. And the new bridge is a welcome addition, both lyrically and musically.
8. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Okay, this is my favorite track on God of God. The layers of creativity are so cool on this song. Great acoustic grove to begin with, and the electric guitar fill between the verses sounds just, traumatic. The gang vocal in this song is just plan fun! I could listen to the last 1:16 of this song over and over without pause. This is what the B3 Hammond organ was made for. The way Scott Frankfurt resolves the Asus-to-A makes me smile every time! My iTunes says tells me I’ve listened to this one the most.
9. Go Tell It on the Mountain
I have to admit, this carol has never been one of my favorites… until now. I think it reminded me of my 2nd grade Sunday School class concert. David lays down a waterfall of percussion and Ryan turns his bass into a lead instrument on this track. There is more going on in the rhythm section of this song than happens from the lead of most other songs. Listen for some really cool piano licks.
10. What Child is This?
I’ve never heard this carol quite like this. What I mean is that it sounds like John is singing the meaning more than the words. The intro violin sits you in a Middle Eastern stable looking through flickering light wondering “What child is this in Mary’s lap?” The highlight of this song for me is the dramatic harmonies Lisa adds (especially from 3:13-30, gives me chills every time). A minor key has never sounded so sweet.
11. Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming
I’m not sure where to even start on this song. This is a beautiful vocal tribute to Jesus by Lisa. I’ve tried to count how many tracks are laid down in this harmony stack, and stopped trying. Great lyrics, amazing vocals. One of the most creative tracks on the album.
12. O Holy Night
This song is usually arranged for a huge and dramatic crescendo from a tenor. Make no mistake, you will hear John’s gifted tenor voice. But it is so wonderfully understated that appropriate attention is drawn to the lyrics. Less is more here. Sweet, soft harmonies by Lisa blend into a staircase for worship. The string arrangement in the break is simply beautiful.
13. Silent Night
Is it possible to have a Christmas album without this tune? Like others, the familiarity of this carol make a new rendition challenging. But the slight change in melody is really nice. The piano adds a fresh level of interest from the beginning. John’s voice finds its softer side with wonderful control and intensity. This song makes you want to sit by the fire and talk about the birth of King Jesus.