Jonathan Cain said he wanted to do something “special” with his first Christmas album. As a member of the rock band Journey, Cain has been responsible for co-writing some of the group’s biggest hits including “Don’t Sop Believin’” and “Faithfully.” And “believing” and faith would be the catalysts for “Unsung Noel,” which he released in October.
“I wanted to make a record about the true meaning of Christmas and not the commercialized version — I wanted Christ to be front and center on this album,” Cain said in an interview with the Sun Herald.
“Unsung Noel” is a 14-track album of faith-based Christmas songs that was written mostly by Cain, who said he “co-writes with God,” as well as covers of Christmas standards such as “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Oh Holy Night.” It also includes a cover of Matt Redman’s praise classic “Light of The World.”
Cain said he got the inspiration for the album during Christmas 2016.
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“I led a praise and worship right after last Christmas and I did three songs and I got a really good response and people said I should do an album,” he said. “I talked to my distributor and he said it would be great to do a Christmas album but he had to have it by August, so I wrote seven more songs and ended up recording 14 and I did it on a Journey break, actually.”
And while Cain still gives a co-writing credit to God, he said he based the original songs on scriptures he found in a sermon from one of America’s most beloved minsters.
“I found a sermon by Billy Graham online that was about the heart of Christmas and it led me to a lot of places in the Word and I found these treasures that hadn’t really been used in a song,” Cain said. “God asked me to go as deep as I could go and I just immersed myself in it and what I came away with , was instead of the rituals of Christmas it was about magnifying the miracle of the Nativity and that Christ chose to come into this place of darkness.”
From the album’s opener “The Heart of Christmas” to its closer, “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Unsung Noel” has an almost cinematic quality to it as it tells the story of the Nativity.
“It’s like a play that takes you on a journey through the Nativity,” Cain said.
Although Christ is the center of the album, Joseph and Mary also receive recognition from Cain.
“I wrote ‘Joseph’s Pride’ from the perspective of being a father,” he said. “And ‘Hail Mary’ is about Mary, obviously, and not necessarily in the Catholic way — I thought about the song ‘Mary Do You Know’ and believe me, she knew. She had been told by God that she would be carrying his son — she knew what was about to happen.”