Sunday, November 24, 2019

THE DREAM


Sanctus Real formed in Toledo, Ohio in 1996. They released their major label debut, SAY IT LOUD, in 2002. Over the years they became known for such songs as 'I'm Not Alright', 'We Need Each Other', and 'Lead Me'. Fast forward to 2014 and they released THE DREAM (Sparrow), their last album with Matt Hammitt as lead singer. Joining him on this project are Chris Rohman, Mark Graalman, Jake Rye, and Seth Huff.

The album opens with the optimistic pop title track 'The Dream'. It declares: "The dream is alive/I feel it inside/When You're close/I see the light/The dream is alive/And it's right in front of me/It's You (2X)/It's not a place/It's not a thing/It's not a trivial pursuit/The dream is You (3X)". 'I Need You' is a pop/dance track about the importance of God: "I need You/This is serious/I need You more than an experience/I need You cause You're the real thing/I need You".

'Head in the Fight' is an adult contemporary song of encouragement: "You gotta keep your head in the fight/You can't give up in the hardest times/Can't let your spirit die/If you're gonna survive/You've gotta keep love in your heart/A prayer on your tongue". 'Lay it Down' is a spiritual pep talk: "Oh, you can stand up no matter what/March on when times are tough/Be strong and don't give up/All you need now is to shake 'em off and lay 'em down/At the cross where your freedom's found".

'Easier on My Heart' uses synthesizer and includes these prayerful words: "C'mon take, take, take me in Your arms/Don't let me get away/Hold me close to Your heart/Take, take, take me in Your arms/Don't let me fall away/When I'm falling apart". 'Ride it Out' offers these words of assurance: "The wind will take you where you're meant to be/The waves will break when your Creator speaks/And when it's over you will clearly see/That the storm was only there to show you what it takes to believe".

Next up is 'Bend Not Break', a light pop song of friendship: "Take my hand and remember/We may bend but will not break/And if ever you should feel like giving up/Remember that God is with us/And if ever you should fear you may lose/Remember that you don't have to run". 'Same God' is a good pop/rock song about the body of Christ: "All for the One who gives us life/No other purpose, no other pledge/Nobody else has conquered death/Under this banner we are united by the same love".

'One Word At A Time' offers us good advice: "Every morning is a new sunrise/A chance to change the world by living out your life/One word at a time.../Living one word can lead you to freedom/Can make you courageous/Living one word/Can help you discover/Your life direction". '33' is a wonderful adult contemporary ballad: "And now I'm 33/Looking at this path behind me/And all You've brought me through/And I've made my mistakes/I've caused my share of heartache/But I have seen a mother's prayer come true/Oh, Lord my heart still belongs to You".

'On Fire' is a quiet spiritual wake-up call: "You were on fire/And church was more than a place/And people were more than faces/And Jesus was more than a name/Remember when you weren't ashamed/To tell your friends about your faith/A time when you felt the pain of just one lost soul that was slipping away". The album closes with 'The Beginning (Outro)', a short, peaceful, mostly instrumental cut.

If you're looking for the rockier side of Sanctus Real, you won't find it on THE DREAM. This album is mostly adult pop and adult contemporary music. The band performs both well. The three main lyrical subjects are: admitting a need for God in one's life, living the Christian life, and encouraging others. This is decidedly an album of positivity and not negativity. It offers a Light in a dark world. I'm rating it 86%. For more info visit www.sanctusreal.com or connect with the band on social media.








Friday, November 08, 2019

WORSHIP VOLUME ONE: I STAND FOR YOU


In 2000 Tree63 released a self-titled album, their first in the States. It won a Dove Award for 'Rock Album of the Year'. Fast forward to 2005 and they put out WORSHIP VOLUME ONE: I STAND FOR YOU (Inpop). Group members were: John Ellis (vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards), Daniel Ornellas (bass, backing vocals), and Bobby Blazier (drums, percussion).

Starting things of is 'No Other', an energetic pop/rock song that testifies: "Beloved of God, bright, shining Morning Star/How beautiful You have become to me/A treasure so deep/I've given my all to keep/Now that I've found You, I won't let You go". A live version of the popular 'Treasure' follows. Also pop/rock, it is addressed to God: "My heart is where my treasure lies/My great reward is in Your eyes/My every breath belongs to You/You are my treasure".

'I Will Never Be the Same' is a beautiful ballad: "For my eyes have seen Your glory/For my ears have heard Your Name/I have placed my hand in Your hand/I will never be the same". A live version of 'Joy' is next. It includes these requests of God: "Let me be a shining light for You/Let me be a joy to You always".

A new version of 'I Stand For You' comes next. It's a pleasant ballad about spiritual endurance: "Jesus, I've stood my ground/When unbelief was all around/I have felt the sting rejection brings/But Jesus, I still stand for You". 'All Over the World' was written by Matt Redman and Martin Smith. It's an upbeat song that exalts God: "We are the people of God/We'll sing Your song here on the earth/All over the world Your song will resound/All over the world Your praises ring out/We're living to see Your Name and renown/All over the world".

'Lift' is a pop song that includes these words of truth: "Holy, pure and true You are/How we need You Lord/To cleanse us with Your love". Matt Redman is a writer and guest vocalist on 'Nothing But the Blood'. This worship ballad includes these reverent words: "Your cross testifies in grace/Tells the Father's heart to make a way for us/Now boldly we approach/Not earthly confidence/It's only by Your blood".

Next up is a live version of 'King'. It's a bouncy pop/rocker addressed to Christ: "We will give You glory, bring You honour/King above all kings/You deserve our everything/We will lift our voices with Your praises/Jesus, You are our King". 'Have Your Way' is a quiet song of spiritual surrender: "Take me, have Your way/Though I don't feel You/I will believe/Take me Lord I pray/Just have Your way with me".

'Great Kindness' includes words that are very relatable: "How can I repay You?/What can I ever give back to You?/I always will remember/Your great kindness". A live version of 'Look What You've Done' follows. I like these lyrics: "Up to the cross I crawled/Now I'm standing ten feet tall/Jesus, my Saviour, look what You've done for me!" Last up is a live version of 'Amazing Grace', not the Chris Tomlin one with additional lyrics added to the hymn.

WORSHIP VOLUME ONE: I STAND FOR YOU is everything a great pop/rock modern praise and worship album should be. It's full of passion, charisma, and devotion. John Ellis' lead vocals are awesome. This is an album recognizing just how high a price God paid for our salvation. We are His adopted and deeply loved kids. This is an album of gratitude for God's mercy and grace towards us. We don't have to wait till we get to heaven to praise Him with all we've got! Fans of Delirious? and Newsboys will enjoy this album. For more info visit www.tree63.com and connect with the band on Facebook. I'm rating this CD 100%.



Tuesday, November 05, 2019

BUZZ


Guardian released their debut album FIRST WATCH back in 1989. Fast forward to 1995 and they put out their fifth studio album, BUZZ (Myrrh). It was produced by the legendary and quirky Steve Taylor. Group members at the time were: Jamie Rowe (lead vocals), Tony Palacios (guitar and vocals), David Bach (bass and vocals), and Karl Ney (drums and vocals). The CD booklet comes with four interchangeable front covers, all having something to do with the word 'buzz'.

The album starts with 'This Old Man', a pulsating rocker about a spiritual struggle: "This old man/He plays seek and destroy/He comes robbing my joy/He's here spreading the rot/Old man, don't you get it?/What I've got's as good as gold/Good as gold/Better than gold". 'Lead the Way' has some sizzling electric guitar work. It calls out to Christ: "Up we struggle, down we slide/Scared to call on a bigger guide/I'm tired of getting snowed, speed the plow/Lead the way, Lord Jesus, I'm ready now".

'State of Mine' is a rock ballad about depression: "Psalmist with a blues harp/Knew all about the darkest blues/He said his soul was downcast/Lord, I feel the same way too/Won't You tell me why I feel this way, this way?" 'The Lion's Den' is a manly rock song about courage: "Every age at every stage/Lions rage/Pray, stand your ground/They'll lie down.../God wrote the book, He'll fortify/And like the eagles we will fly/We're gonna fly".

'Are You Gonna Keep Your Word?' is a ballad about marriage: "And as we watch our children sleep/I take her hand/I feel her ring/I have been faithful but I know my heart is not above deceit". 'One Thing Left to Do' includes a good electric guitar solo and calls out to non-believers: "God's still calling/You're still stalling/Dead from dry rot/Soul sleep, blood clot/Face it/You've got one thing left to do/Appointed in this life/A single choice for every man/It's time to choose".

Next up is 'Hand of the Father'. It's a slower song offering spiritual direction: "Take the hand of the Father/As He leads you to the land of no tomorrow/Take the hand of the Father/As He leads you to the land/Of no more sorrows". 'Psychedelic Runaway' has a cool groove to it and offers a commentary on seekers: "Reaching up too high, we fell away/Reaching for a sun ray/It happened in the sixties/It happens today/Psychedelic runaway".

'Even it Out' includes these mysterious lyrics: "Silver tongues in God's house/Green the plate/Clean up/Too late/Sugar kingdoms will melt away on judgment day". 'Lift Me Up' is a pop/rock song of one calling out to God: "Can You forgive me?/Just a touch of Your hand/And I'll know that Your love is true/I surrender all I've kept from You/Lord, I'll do anything to be with You".

'Shorty' is a fun pop/rock tune that tells a story: "Shorty likes to play guitar/Shorty likes to drive his car/But Shorty knows/You can't take it when you go.../Shorty knows about true love/Shorty's saved by Jesus' blood/Shorty ain't afraid to let you know". 'Lullaby' is a soothing, quiet number: "Hush/Baby don't you cry/And I will sing a lullaby". Last up is 'Them Nails', a rocker that speaks out against works righteousness: "Why do I keep payin'/On a debt that's already been paid?/Oh, I've got it made/I keep drivin' them nails/Drivin' them nails right into You".

BUZZ is a fun rock album, with some pop influences, to listen to. Jamie Rowe's vocals are well suited to this material. A key theme on the album is the struggle we all face when it comes to choosing whether to do God's will or to do our own. Satan will do anything he can to keep us from finding salvation in Jesus Christ and living a victorious life in Him. Other topics on BUZZ include depression, marital faithfulness, and heaven. I'm rating this one 87%. For more info connect with the band and its members on Facebook.






Monday, November 04, 2019

WHERE I STAND


Twila Paris was born on December 28, 1958 in Fort Worth, Texas. She put out her first full length album, KNOWIN' YOU'RE AROUND, in 1980. Over the years she became known for such songs as 'The Warrior is A Child', 'How Beautiful', and 'God is in Control'. In 1996 she released WHERE I STAND (Sparrow). It was produced by Brown Bannister and executive produced by Peter York.

Leading things off is 'Love's Been Following You'. Brian Hughes plays the oud and the bazooki on this song that speaks of God's faithfulness: "You think that no one cares/Still love is always there/He would go anywhere/Just to find you/Love's been following you". 'Hold On' is a gentle ballad offering words of wisdom: "We can hold on to sorrow/Hold on to pain/We can hold on to anger when there is nothing to be gained/We can hold to a thread at the end of a rope/But if we hold on to Jesus we are holding on to hope/Hold on (2X)". 'Band of Survivors' is a great adult contemporary song that asks some important questions: "Will you stand with the heart of a warrior/By the blood of the Lamb/In the Name of the King?/Will you stand with the band of survivors/Hand in hand 'til the end of the day/Taking the land with the band of survivors/Tried in the fire? (2X)". Two of the backing vocalists are Lisa Bevill and Chris Rodriguez.

'Faithful Friend' is a co-write and duet with Steven Curtis Chapman. The London Session Orchestra is used on this pretty ballad about true loyalty: "I will be an open door that you can count on/Anywhere you are, anywhere you've been/I will be an honest heart you can depend on/I will be a faithful friend/Should it ever come your time to mourn/I will weep with you/And every single time you win/I'm celebrating too/Oh, I will celebrate with you". 'Jesus in You' is a terrific pop song about children: "The eyes are young/I won't deny it/But, oh, the dream of tender youth.../I can see Jesus in you/I see His love on your face/Go in His Name and do all He commands you to do/I see Jesus in you". 

Gordon Kennedy plays electric guitar on 'Honor and Praise'. It exalts God: "Righteous and holy in all of Your ways/We come before You with honor and praise/Here to adore You for all of our days/We come before You with honor and praise/Lord of the heavens how faithful You are/Shine down upon us, oh Bright Morning Star". '(I Am) Not Afraid Anymore' is a pleasant pop song of celebration: "I am not afraid anymore/You have opened all the windows/Opened all the doors/I am not afraid anymore/I feel the wind of freedom/Like I never did before/The light is filling up the corners/Dancing on the floor/I am not afraid anymore".

Next is 'What Did He Die For?'. While this moving song deals with the crucifixion, it begins by reflecting on a soldier in WW2: "He was 21 in 1944/He was hope, and he was courage on a lonely shore/Sent there by a mother with love beyond her tears/Just a young American who chose to rise above his fears/And as I watch him struggle up that hill/Without a thought of turning back/I cannot help but wonder/What did he die for when he died for you and me?/Made the sacrifice so that we could all be free". Jerry McPherson plays electric guitar and Steve Brewster drums on 'House of Cards'. This light rock song gives good advice: "You know the house of cards will tumble/Temporary by design/And all the schemes of man will crumble/Are we wasting precious time?/When there is only one Kingdom/One place to hide/Only one Kingdom/Come and find a place inside".

'I Never Get Used to What You Do' is an easy listening song of wonder: "I never get used to what You do/I never get used to watching You/Take a life beyond redemption/Make it Your's and make it new/I never outgrow the miracle/A heart that was empty flowing full/I never get used to what You do". Last up is 'I Will Listen'. It makes use of piano, viola, and cellos. I love these words: "I cannot imagine what will come/But I've already made my choice/And this is where I stand until He moves me on/And I will listen to His voice/Could it be that He is only waiting there to see if I will learn to love the dreams/That He has dreamed for me?"

WHERE I STAND is quite the inspirational album, I must say! Twila's vocals warm the soul. This album will lead you into God's presence. You will be in awe of His love for you and in return you will want to declare your love, worship, and gratitude to God. What a perfect Heavenly Father He is! He only wants the best for us and that is why He wants to be central in our lives. He wants us to grow and thrive in His presence. He is our shelter in the storms of life. I give this album a 100%. For more info visit www.twilaparis.com or connect with her on Facebook.



Saturday, November 02, 2019

THE GREAT AWAKENING


The Christian band Leeland formed in 2004. They released their debut album SOUND OF MELODIES in 2006. It received a Grammy nomination and two Dove nominations. In 2011 they released their fourth studio album, THE GREAT AWAKENING (Essential Records) which I am reviewing here. It was produced by Paul Moak, executive produced by Jason McArthur, and got a Grammy nomination for 'Best Contemporary Christian Album'.

Leading things off is the pretty adult contemporary title track 'The Great Awakening'. It speaks of revival: "Many awake will cause such a fuss/It finally awakens all of us/One man awakes with dawn in his eyes/Surely then it multiplies (2X)". 'All Over the Earth' is the album's longest song at over eight and a half minutes. It's a great modern worship song: "Oh, we give You praises/For You alone are holy/Jesus, Your Name is greater/For You alone are holy/We want to see Your victory/All over the earth (2X)". I could hear Delirious? recording it. 'Chains Hit the Ground' begins with these words of testimony: "I'm holding on to You/It's all I know to do/When fear has had me bound/When enemies surround/There's freedom in this truth/My salvation is in You/And I remember the nails that You took for me".

'I Can See Your Love' is a pop song containing these lyrics I like: "I see Your kingdom in the middle of hunger and pain/I feel You in the hands of the poor/I hear You in the song of the weak/There is no place too far that You can't reach". 'I Wonder' quietly reflects on Calvary: "Jesus Christ/You bled Your love/Laid down Yourself/And gave me life/In naked shame You hung and You were lifted high/Here I lay in awe and wonder".

Next up is 'Pages', a pop song that includes these words asking God for spiritual transformation: "In Your presence I belong/And without You I am lost/Come and change me from the inside/In my weakness You are strong/By the power of the cross/Come and change me from the inside". 'Not Afraid Anymore' is a cool, energetic, experimental rock cut. It speaks of having spiritual confidence: "I'm not afraid anymore/Cause I am running with Your fire, Lord/I'm picking up my sword/You train my hands and my fingers for war/I'm not afraid anymore".

'I Cry' is an adult contemporary ballad with transparent lyrics: "Fear is far from love/And I feel scared enough to think You've given up on me/But I can't hide my shame/You know my deepest pain/You are well acquainted with my grief/Oh, great God of power/I have lost my strength/This is my desperate hour/I'm calling out Your Name". The rock song 'Holy Ghost' follows. I like these words of assurance: "I will never be forsaken/No, I will never be forsaken/No matter where I go/I'm lost in the flow/No matter where I go, Lord/I'm lost in Your flow/Holy Ghost".

'While We Sing' is a quiet song of reflection and conviction: "We are frozen, we are still/For the call to be a city on a hill/And as our melodies resound/We cannot hear the silent cry this world is screaming out/And we wonder why we feel so empty inside". Ironically, 'Unending Songs' closes out the album. It relates spiritual intimacy: "One true God/You met me in my nakedness and covered me with love/My brokenness I lay before Your righteousness/In glory I am renewed, loved by You/Holy Father".

Really, THE GREAT AWAKENING, is a flawless album! Essentially, it's a mix of modern worship, pop, rock, and adult contemporary music, so the listener will not easily become bored. Leeland's voice is easy to listen to and the backing vocals are a great strength on this project. These songs express wonder and gratitude over the fact that God loves us so much individually that He sent His Son to earth to die on a cross for our sins. The lyrics are very down to earth and don't include lots of big theological terms. It's clear that Leeland Mooring and the band love God and desire to honour Him with all they've got. These tunes will draw you into God's presence. I'm rating this album a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.leelandonline.com or connect with them on Facebook.







Friday, November 01, 2019

HIT ME IN THE HEART


Back in the day Midwest Christian rock band Fighter put out two albums. They were 1991's THE WAITING and 1992's BANG THE DRUM. Their co-lead singer Amy Wolter put out the solo album HIT ME IN THE HEART (WAL) in 1994. It was produced and mixed by Caesar.

Starting things off is the adult rock song 'There Won't Be A Next Time'. It testifies: "I gave so little, but Jesus, You gave me Your best/You took a scheming heart that didn't care/You broke it in two and started from there/I'm free from the past You've erased/Determined to stand in Your grace". Bill Heller plays lead guitar on the rock ballad 'Blue Skies'. It points to God as a sure shelter: "I've heard the thunder crash/A hundred times before/After all is said and done/I know that You're still the One I'm running to". Amy dedicates 'Oils on This Canvas' to her mother whose paintings have inspired her. These opening words speak of Amy being lovingly created: "Many years ago an Artist had a dream/He would paint a picture/That painting would be me/He gathered all the colors that He thought He would need/And He used a perfect canvas so the colors wouldn't bleed". 

Amy co-wrote 'Two Worlds' with Tom Wanca. Mark H. Chesshir plays rhythm guitars on this adult contemporary song. These words are those of one who is hesitant: "Will I go down if I pick the wrong door?/If I walk through will my feet lose their way?/I know I live by the keys that I use/And I'm too afraid right now to choose". Amy penned 'We All Need' alone. This soft ballad shares good news: "Forgiveness comes free to those who turn and ask/We all need His grace like a warm embrace/To make it through this life/And we all need the hope/The mercy to cope with what comes our way".

'Break My Fall' is a great rocker! Morris Hayes plays the B-3 on this song of humility: "But for the grace of God/It could've been bad/It could have been me but/Someone was there to break my fall (2X)". 'New Start' has a rock edge to it and serves as a prayer: "I need a new start/Hit me in the heart/Show me what you want me to see/I need a new start/Hit me where I need it/Fill me with the hope that comes from You".

'The Promise', to me, lacks grace and understanding. It calls out those who can't keep their marriages together: "No morals, no conscience/Leave it all behind/A few hard knocks and we give up/Go and see what else we'll find/The grass seems so much greener across the way". Next up is 'Don't Seem Right'. Mike Bland plays drums and Sonny Thompson bass on this pop song of gratitude to Christ: "And it don't seem right/The way things turned out/The way I'm lyin' here/While You're dyin' there/And it don't seem right/The price You paid/It don't seem right/I got love way too easy".

Bill Heller, Jim Wolter, and Amy Wolter wrote 'Be That Child'. It's a melodic song of spiritual reflection: "When I was a kid I knew that God looked after me and you/I never doubted all the fire and rain in the miracles He'd do/Things back then were yes or no/Black and white was easy to see/I knew when I did something wrong/And the thought of hell scared me". Last up is 'Where My Heart Is', a ballad offering good advice: "The desires of your heart are a gift from God, so hold on/And take the leap of faith".

HIT ME IN THE HEART is a pleasant light rock album with exceptional vocals and instrumentation. Lyrically it chronicles Amy's walk with God. Things aren't always rosy, but in the end things work out for good, for those who love and place their trust in God. He wants to bless and protect us. The songs presented here show Amy working out her salvation. I hope one day Amy does a full on rock album of faith with lots of killer electric guitar solos and pounding drums. I'm rating HIT ME IN THE HEART 88%. For more info connect with Amy on Facebook. To purchase a re-mastered version of this project visit www.roxxproductions.com. According to her current bio, Amy is "a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions". Artists she has worked with include Lecrae, the Band Perry, High Valley, and Francesca Battistelli. Very cool!







Monday, October 28, 2019

FOR THE WOUNDED HEART


Back in 1993 Fear Not released their excellent hard rock/metal self-titled debut album. Fast forward to 2019 and after all of these many years, they are back with a new five song ep entitled FOR THE WOUNDED HEART (Roxx Records). Group members are new vocalist Eddie Green, Larry Worley (guitars), Chris Sorensen (guitars), Rod Romero (bass), and Gary Hanson (drums). Kyle Simpson serves as producer while Bill Bafford executive produces.

First up is the lead single 'Don't Want None (Come Get Some)'. It's a strong rock song about changing one's thought patterns for the better: "The snake's deceived me and filled my head with lies/Made me believe that I had a life to despise/My feet hit the floor this morning/I'm breathing and alive/Everyday is a gift/Every day is a blessing/I'm changing my mind". 'Shadows Fade' includes a hot electric guitar solo and is all about perspective: "Mustard seed moves mountains/Doubt makes it grow/Life and death within the tongue.../Pain lets me know I'm alive/It can't defeat me!" Next we have 'Carry Me', a melodic rock ballad that is prayerful: "You said I'd never have more than I can bear/Carry me now (2X)/You know I can't do this without You/Carry me now (2X).../Please God, save my soul".

'Love is Alright' is a punchy rocker calling out to God for help: "My heart is opened wide/Why don't You come inside?/Love is alright, free me tonight/Love is alright, save me tonight". Last up is 'Shipwrecked Hypocrite' which paints a dismal picture of an individual: "Headed for the rocks/Can't escape the waves/Can't find the truth till the end of days/Alone on your island, solitary castaway/Shipwrecked hypocrite/Can't find your way".

 Scott Waters did a great job on the cover art layout and design for FOR THE WOUNDED HEART. There's great pics of every band member in the cd booklet. Eddie Green shines on lead vocals. He reminds me at times of Holy Soldier's Eric Wayne. This ep has contagious energy and drive. The band conveys their Christian faith in a simple, non-judgmental way. They believe only God can set a soul free. If you like the sound of Daughtry and Nickelback this ep is for you. I hope they put out an all new full length album in a year or two. I'm rating this ep 95%. For more info visit www.roxxproductions.com and connect with the band on facebook.