Normally I hate “deluxe editions” of albums as they oftentimes feel contrived to get you to shell out money for the same album you already have, save for a B-side or two. But, when such a product features some solid extras, it’s a little easier to justify. Thus, if you missed out on Selah’s excellent Christmas record, Rose of Bethlehem, you’re in luck as the group is now releasing it as a “Deluxe Edition” featuring five new tracks.
The original album was excellent, in and of itself. Featuring the earlier lineup of Selah with Nicol Sponberg and pre-Amy Perry, the record highlights Sponberg’s rich, throaty tones on Christmas staples like “O Holy Night” and “O Come Emmanuel” as well as the stirring “Rose of Bethlehem.” Likewise, her brother Todd Smith shines on the release as he harmonizes beautifully on “Silent Night” and showcases his great range on his moving original, “Mystery.” And stealing the show from all of them is the group’s rendition of the Dolly Parton track, “Once Upon A Christmas,” which showcases Allan Hall’s emotive voice alongside a guest spot from Parton herself, creating a must-listen situation.
The “Deluxe Edition” adds five new tracks, or mostly new, which feature the group’s current line up with Amy Perry.
“Mary Sweet Mary,” included on the group’s Bless the Broken Road: The Duets Album is the first of the tracks here and features a guest spot from Plumb. It’s warm and powerful, the group’s ability to harmonize and craft great melodies always at the forefront and this track is no different. “Little Drummer Boy” follows and is a track that takes the title literally, infusing huge African-flavored drumbeats into the mix, lending the song a multicultural feel that really works and gets the toes tapping.
An original crafted by Smith alongside Chad Cates and Tony Wood, “Dance in the Dawn” is a celebratory song of worship with bright tones and warm vocals that proclaim, “Our Deliverer comes as a Child in the hay/Freedom at last, darkness is gone/Come let us dance, let us dance in the dawn.” That’s followed by Perry’s soaring take on “Where Are You Christmas?,” and the artist continues to showcase her amazing vocal chops, infusing the mainstream track with heartfelt emotion. And with a collaboration with the Annie Moses Band on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings,” the group wraps things up in fine form, the string-laden arrangement and extra voices lending themselves to a boisterous conclusion.
Fans who already picked up Selah’s Rose of Bethlehem some time ago might be reticent to buy the album again for just a few more songs but, for die-hard fans and fans of simply great Christmas music, these arrangements are well worth the extra few dollars.