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Reba McEntire

Secret of Giving: A Christmas Collection – 1999 (MCA)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Reba McEntire

Much of Reba McEntire's recent work has been overwrought, overproduced pop schlock, but thankfully, here, she tones down her pop inclination. That said, the one song that McEntire arranged is by far the most blatantly off-target attempt at rock. "Up on the Housetop" should be lightly produced, not given Reba's heavy-handed treatment. "Mary, Did You Know?" is a beautiful song, but six years and several recordings later, no one has matched Kathy Mattea's gorgeous rendition. The best song is the Rick Bowles/Sonny Russ' "The Secret of Giving." The production is gentle and very country, and the message, although not strictly about Christmas, is a good one. Another fine song is "The Angels Sang," although Mrs. Northcutt's third-grade music students, who sing on the chorus, grate after about the third listen. Reba finishes, appropriately, with "'Til the Season Comes 'Round Again," which originally appeared as the closing song on Vince Gill's Christmas CD. All in all, this album could have been much worse, and it actually has several enjoyable songs.