Sunday, January 31, 2016


Steve Green was born on August 1, 1956 in Portland, Oregon.  He spent a lot of his early life in Argentina as the son of Baptist missionaries.  Later on, he was a member of the music groups Truth, The New Gaither Vocal Band, and White Heart.  In 1984 he released his self-titled debut album.  He quickly became an inspirational favourite!  In 1992 he released HYMNS: A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST (Sparrow).  It was produced by Greg Nelson and executive produced by Peter York.  Of the album, Steve had this to say: “Heritage is usually not appreciated in our youth, but as we grow we begin to value more the wealth of our legacy.  So it is with the hymns.  They have been part of my life as long as I can remember...I see them as a rich inheritance passed down to us from those who have loved and worshipped our Lord”.

Three of the background vocalists on the first song, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ are: Bonnie Keen, Beverly Darnall, and Guy Penrod.  It is a nicely orchestrated, majestic song of praise that begins with these words: “Holy, holy, holy!/Lord God Almighty!/Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee!/Holy, holy, holy!/Merciful and mighty!/God in three Persons/Blessed Trinity”.  ‘Spirit Medley’ makes great use of a traditional choir.  Daniel Iverson’s submissive worship chorus ‘Spirit of the Living God’ is included: “Spirit of the living God/Fall fresh on me (2X)/Melt me, mold me/Fill me, use me/Spirit of the living God/Fall fresh on me”.

‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today’ is an upbeat favorite at Easter and includes these words of victory: “Love’s redeeming work is done/Alleluia/Fought the fight, the battle won/Alleluia/Death in vain forbids Him rise/Alleluia/Christ has opened Paradise/Alleluia”.  Blair Masters plays synthesizers and David Huntsinger plays piano on ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.  It includes both spoken word and singing and makes these now familiar requests of God: “Give us this day our daily bread/And forgive us our debts/As we forgive our debtors/And lead us not into temptation/But deliver us from evil”.

Steve delivers a powerful vocal on Charles Wesley and Thomas Campbell’s classic ‘And Can It Be’.  This song joyfully reflects on the atonement: “And can it be that I should gain/An interest in the Savior’s blood?/Died He for me who caused His pain?/For me, who Him to death pursued?/Amazing love!/How can it be/That Thou my God shouldst die for me?” ‘How Great Thou Art’ starts off sounding like a grand film score with horns and organ.  It looks forward to Christ’s return: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation/And take me home/What joy shall fill my heart/Then I shall bow in humble adoration/And there proclaim/’My God how great Thou art!’”

A somewhat subdued version of Thomas Chisholm and William M. Runyan’s ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ follows.  It is a testimonial: “Great is Thy faithfulness (2X)/Morning by morning new mercies I see/All I have needed Thy hand hath provided/Great is Thy faithfulness/Lord unto me/Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth/Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide/Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow/Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside”.  ‘Praise Medley’ includes these poetic lines from a jubilant hymn: “Crown Him with many crowns/The Lamb upon His throne/Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own/Awake my soul and sing of Him who died for Thee/And hail Him as Thy matchless King/Through all eternity”.

The next selection, ‘Savior Medley’, is easy listening in nature.  These lines praise God’s wonderful creation and His Son: “Fair are the meadows/Fairer still the woodlands/Robed in the blooming garb of spring/Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer/Who makes the woeful heart to sing”.  Last up is a version of ‘Amazing Grace’ that includes just two verses.  These words look forward with great joy to Heaven, our eternal home: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years/Bright shining as the sun/We’ve no less days/To sing God’s praise/Than when we first begun”.

HYMNS: A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST is an outstanding, inspirational album.  Choirs and The Nashville String Machine are nice touches.  These tried and true songs of the Christian faith declare who God is and what He has miraculously done to redeem humankind from sin and hell.  These songs also offer a proper response of praise and worship directed to God.  There is no doubt that Steve Green is one of the all time greatest male vocalists of our time!  He sings with passion, feeling, and accuracy.  I’m rating this record 98% and recommending it to fans of Sandi Patty and David Phelps.  For more info visit:


Saturday, January 23, 2016


Third Day originally formed in Marietta, Georgia in 1991.  The band released their self-titled major label debut in 1996 on Reunion Records.  A song from it, ‘Nothing at All’, peaked at #34 on the mainstream Billboard rock charts.  Their follow-up album was CONSPIRACY NO. 5 (Reunion Records, 1997).  It was produced by Sam Taylor who had worked with the likes of ZZ Top and King’s X.  The album did quite well.  It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album of the Year and won a Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year!  At the time, Third Day was: Mac Powell (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Brad Avery (lead guitar, vocals), Mark Lee (rhythm guitar, lap steel guitar, vocals, mandolin), Tai Anderson (bass guitar, vocals), and David Carr (drums, loop, vocals).  The CD booklet includes pictures of Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus Christ. Keep in mind the title of the album.

The album begins with ‘Peace’, a smooth rock song that begins with these words of testimony: “Peace like a river flows within me/Love like a waterfall pours on me/I’ll never be alone/Can’t you see?/Peace like a river flows/Like a river flows on and on, and on/Hope is a fire burning in my soul/Life is eternal with You Lord/Who could ever ask for more?/Peace like a river flows/Like a river flows on”.  ‘You Make Me Mad’ is a rocker with a catchy chorus that could be addressed to one’s friend or spouse: “You make me dance, you make me cry, you make me laugh/You make me shout, you make me smile, you make me mad/You make me sing, you make me think, you make me sad/You make me fall, you make me love, you make me mad”.  ‘How’s Your Head’ has a Beatles pop vibe to it.  It could be the song of a traveling musician to his spouse: “How’s your head?/I’m so sorry that I can’t do anything about it/Like I said, I’ll be praying/Here without you I feel helpless/Sorry I had to go away/Tomorrow’s just another day/Without you here, I’ll have to say/Hold on to love”.

‘Alien’ is awesome and won a Dove Award for Rock Song of the Year!  It serves as a sincere prayer: “I am just like the alien, the fatherless, and the widow (2X)/Keep Your watch over me/Sustain the life in me/Frustrate the ways of every wicked man/Let me inside Your home/Father defend my cause/Plead for my case and my innocence”.  ‘I Deserve?’ includes nice guest vocals by Riki Michele, and deals with guilt: “Well, I tasted the fruit that was forbidden/I murdered the trust that you had given/And now I’m living in a place that’s not my home.../Maybe I’m just being too hard on myself, I don’t know/Or is it that your mercy is much more than I deserve, I deserve?”

Max Dyer plays cello on the pulsating rock song ‘Have Mercy’.  It serves both as an admission of guilt and as a prayer: “If it’s true that the wages of sin is death/Then I’ve earned quite enough to quit/The reward I deserve  I’d surely get/Were it not for You to pay my debt/Have mercy, on me a sinning man/Lord have mercy, on me a sinning man”.  ‘My Hope is You’ is a beautiful song of worship: “To You, O Lord, I lift my soul/In You, O God, I place my trust/Do not let me be put to shame/Nor let my enemies triumph over me/My hope is You/Show me Your way/Guide me in truth/In all my days/My hope is You, oh Lord”.

‘More To This’ is a song of spiritual anticipation with a great electric guitar solo: “People get ready for something like you’ve never seen/Open up your eyes, open up your heart/Open up your arms/And let the Spirit of the Savior set ya free/Ooh, yeah, you ain’t seen nothing yet”.  ‘This Song Was Meant For You’ is a pretty ballad that includes these words of encouragement: “You never know what the future holds for you/But of all I have heard, this one thing’s true/Nothing can separate us from God’s love/And in our lives there is bound to come some pain/Surely as there are storms and falling rain/Just believe that the One who holds the storms/Will bring the sun”.

Producer Sam Taylor plays organ on ‘Who I Am’.  It is a song that finds one openly conversing with God: “And I know that You want to change me/Wanna rearrange the way I feel inside/And I’ve heard that You take/The broken hearts of lonely souls/And You make all things right/Do You know who I am?/And have You seen the things I’ve done?”  Next up is the Southern rock track ‘Give Me a Reason’.  It contains this thought-provoker: “The question still remains the same/On who can I place all the blame?/The demons, devils of the world/Or is it only myself?”

‘Gomer’s Theme’ was inspired by the events in Hosea, chapters one to three.  It is a great rock song that centers in on unconditional love and forgiveness: “In this place, saw her face/He was more than happier/Made for Him, it’s a sin/That she was not faithful/She couldn’t be foolishly/More unfaithful if she tried/He did not care, wanted her/Despite lies and wandering eyes/He deserves the very best/But He loves her none the less/She’s forgotten her first love/But He’s forgotten that/She ever went away and broke His heart”.  The last official song, ‘Your Love Endures’, offers these words of personal testimony: “No, I can’t explain or even understand/Why You gave Your life to save sinful man/But I know it’s true, I’ve seen it myself/Yes, Your love endures forever.../Though our pains and joys will come and go/Your love endures forever/Even in my fears, I will always know/That Your love endures...”  Track 13 on the CD also includes a bit of a hidden song snippet if you let it keep playing.

CONSPIRACY NO. 5 is an actual Christian ROCK record.  This is rock music at its finest, with strong emphasis on fine electric guitar work, heavy drum beats, and passionately delivered, meaty vocals!  This is an album that should please fans of acts like Petra, Mylon & Broken Heart, and DeGarmo and Key.  These songs thoughtfully explore the Christian life.  The lyrics are anything but shallow and are worthy of several listens to get the full meaning.  I’m giving this album a perfect 100% for its depth, originality, innovation, and its ability to evoke feelings.  I wish more Christian bands were making rock music like this today.  For more info visit:




Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California.  When he was two his family moved to Hawthorne.  He is best known as the genius songwriter for and performer with The Beach Boys.  Their first two albums were 1962’s SURFIN’ SAFARI and 1963’s SURFIN’ U.S.A.  The last Beach Boys studio album released was 2012’s THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO.  Brian released his first solo album (self-titled) in 1988.  NO PIER PRESSURE (2015, Brimel/Capitol Records) is his eleventh solo studio effort.  It peaked at #28 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was co-produced by Brian and Joe Thomas.

Starting things off is ‘This Beautiful Day’, one of ten songs here written by the duo of Brian and Joe Thomas.  It is a short easy listening track that includes only the following lyrics: “Life goes on and on/Like your favorite song/What we feel inside/On this wayward ride/If we could find a way/If you would only stay/If we could hold onto this feeling/And this beautiful day”.  ‘Runaway Dancer’ was written by Brian, Joe, and Sebu Simonian.  The latter was born in Syria and is one-half of the L.A. based indie pop duo Capital Cities.  This light dance number is about a gal and puts saxophone to good use: “She doesn’t give you an explanation/Standing out in the rain/There’s a lack of communication/You can’t explain/Yeah, it’s been the talk of the town/She’s walking ‘round everywhere/Looking for an answer/Someone caught her fooling around/Acting like she don’t care/Runaway dancer”.

‘Whatever Happened’ is one of two songs featuring Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks.  It’s nice to hear these three Beach Boys perform together again on this easy listening, inquisitive song: “Somewhere in between/These things I’ve seen/I have somehow lost my way/The starry nights, the harbor lights/The moon across the bay/Whatever happened to my favorite places?/Nothing’s where it used to be/Whatever happened?/What’s gonna happen to me?”  ‘On The Island’ features indie duo She & Him, who are Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.  Zooey is an actress whose credits include the holiday film ELF and the sitcom NEW GIRL.  This is a carefree adult pop tune: “We booked a seven day cruise on our summer vacation/Ended up lost in this island nation/Saturday morning/A walk in the sand/The rhythmic beat/Of this tropical band/On the island/We’ll be wasting our time/(Wasting our time)/On the island/I’ll be feeling just fine”.

‘Half Moon Bay’ features Mark Isham.  He has worked on the scores of nearly 100 films including ‘Fly Away Home’, ‘What Women Want’ and ‘Dolphin Tale’.  This peaceful instrumental makes good use of horns and is accompanied by some sweet vocal harmonizing.  ‘Our Special Love’ features Peter Hollens.  He’s known for his a cappella style and his videos on YOUTUBE.  This is an emotional love song: “A special love can’t be found anywhere in the world/Except for here, that’s where you are/What I’m thinking of can’t be found anywhere in the world/Except for here, that’s where you are/If you knew that you would fall when you first met her/Now she’s gone and you just can’t forget her/How’d your everything leave you wondering?/Fly away”.

‘The Right Time’ reflects on the status of a romantic relationship: “Whatever happened to me and you/And everything we’ve been going through?/So many pieces but never in a very straight line/Right, could it be the right, could it be the right time for getting together?/Right, could it be the right, could it be the right time?/I’m thinking forever”.  Kacey Musgraves is featured on and is a co-writer of ‘Guess You Had to Be There’.  In 2014 she won a Grammy for Best Country Album for SAME TRAILER DIFFERENT PARK.  Here, she collaborates on a terrific adult pop song: “Yeah, I guess you had to be there/It was a hell of a ride/Lines were blurried and hurried/But it felt like the stars had aligned/We were sharing a new day/Singing a new song/And everyone’s problems were suddenly gone/Everything I ever wanted is right before my face/And all the beautiful people/Were always at my place”.

‘Don’t Worry’ has an upbeat 70’s feel to it musically.  It offers these words of advice: “Don’t worry where you’re going or how far/Everyone has to find their own North Star/Someday you’ll find a place where you wanna be/That’s all that ever mattered to you and me/Don’t worry where you’re going or how far/You’ve got to follow the Sun/Think for yourself/Love everyone”.  ‘Somewhere Quiet’ is one of two songs composed by Brian and Scott Bennett.  It includes this conversational chorus: “I wanna take you somewhere quiet/So I can hear what’s in my heart/Are you as real as I imagine/Or just the one who plays the part?”

‘I’m Feeling Sad’ is a light pop song of regret: “Take a walk to the grocery store/Can’t remember what I came for/No place to go but I’m on my way/’Cause it’s sad/Sad when you’re not at home/Sad ‘cause I’m all alone/Sad as a guy can be.../And it’s all right in front of me/I was too blind but now I see/That it’s so hard to be alone/Waiting here at home”.  Al Jardine is featured on ‘Tell Me Why’.  This is a ballad that any guy who is longing for his lost love will sure relate to: “I think about the night we met/There’s just some things you don’t forget/I haven’t heard from you again/Since you went away/But now you’re gone and I’ve gotta get on with my life/How many times do I have to explain?/How many nights till I see you again?/How many times can I sit here alone?/Is there a chance that you’ll ever come home?”

‘Sail Away’ features Blondie Chaplin and Al Jardine.  It is an adult pop song of adventure: “So many years ago but I remember/A distant sunset on the open sea/Fascinated by the sailing ships/On a crimson shore that seemed to call out to me/I still can feel the hope that fills my heart/I still can taste the ocean breeze/Sail away/As I sail away to the farthest reaches/Follow the sun to the white sand beaches/I only know what the west wind teaches/Won’t you sail away with me?”  ‘One Kind of Love’ is a heartfelt love song: “Sometimes from out of the blue/An angel comes to you/But you’ve got to have an open heart/I nearly failed the test of time/But now that you are mine/Girl, I’m here to stay/Oh, it’s a revelation/I feel alive again/There are no limitations/With love/There’s only one kind of love/The kind that I’ve been dreaming of/Don’t you know it’s unconditional?”

Nate Ruess who is known as the vocalist for the indie pop band Fun, and for his solo work, delivers a great lead vocal on ‘Saturday Night’, a song he co-wrote.  It is a commercial sounding adult contemporary love song: “Answer the call, you can try if you want to/Go for it all and we’ll find a new way/Back in the corner is our favorite table/There’s no place that I’d rather stay/Saturday night on Hollywood Boulevard/Hanging around with nothing to do/Saturday night/I’m just where I wanna be/Spending my time here with you/On a Saturday night”.  ‘The Last Song’ is the longest, at four minutes and thirty-six seconds.  It is a lovely inspirational ballad that includes these words: “Hold on tight and everything will be alright/I never really felt this way before/Don’t let go/There’s still time for us so let’s take it slow/I wish that I could give you so much more.../There’s never enough time for the ones that you love”.

The Deluxe Edition of the album includes two bonus tracks.  ‘In the Back of my Mind’ is a Brian Wilson-Mike Love composition.  This oldie is the song of a guy who doesn’t want to lose his girl: “I know it’s so hard to find a girl who really understands your mind.../But in the back of my mind I’m afraid it’s gonna change”.  ‘Love and Mercy’ is a ballad that finds Brian longing for peace: “I was sittin’ in my room and the news comes on T.V./A lotta people out there hurtin’ and it really scares me/Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight/So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight”.  LOVE AND MERCY is also the name of a 2014 movie based on Brian Wilson’s life in the 60’s and 80’s.

NO PIER PRESSURE is an absolute delight to listen to!  It has a warm, inviting, and intimate feel to it.  These songs about romantic love will draw you in quickly, making you feel as if you are the main character.  This album freely embraces a biblical concept-that is, that we all need companionship.  No man is meant to be an island.  At this point, Brian Wilson could just rest on his laurels and fade into the sunset.  Instead, here, he fuses his talent and ideas with those of some of the young and exciting stars of today and, in so doing, gives his devoted fans a perfect gift.  I’m rating NO PIER PRESSURE 100%.  For more info visit: and


Friday, January 15, 2016


Natalie Diane Grant was born on December 21, 1971 in Seattle, Washington.  At one point she studied to be a school teacher.  In 1999 she released her self-titled solo debut album.  She was awarded ‘Female Vocalist of the Year’ at the Dove Awards in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012, and is a four time Grammy nominee!  People know her for such songs as: ‘Always Be Your Baby’, ‘Awaken’, ‘In Better Hands’, ‘Your Great Name’, and ‘Hurricane’.  Her bio says: “Regarded as real, authentic, and transparent, that connection with people puts Grant at the top of the industry with fan engagement across all social media platforms.  Beyond her music career, Natalie has been an outspoken advocate for victims of human trafficking since 2005”.  Natalie’s latest and ninth studio album is BE ONE (2015, Curb Records).  It peaked at #1 on the Billboard U.S. Christian Albums Chart and was produced and arranged by her husband Bernie Herms.  The executive producers are: Bryan Stewart, Mitchell Solarek, and Mike Curb.

First up is the title track, ‘Be One’.  It is a happy sounding adult pop song penned by Natalie, Becca Mizell, Samuel Mizell, and Emily Weisband.  It encourages us to be people who make a positive difference in the lives of others: “It’s time to get our hands dirty/Oh, oh, oh, oh/Be love-there’s a whole lot of hurting/Oh, oh, oh, oh/Calling all hearts, calling all hands/Calling all feet to take a stand/Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come/When we can be one?.../We can be the change-be the hope/We can be the arms that don’t let go/We can be a light in the dark/We are, we are where it starts”.  Felicia Barton sings backing vocals on the pop/dance number ‘Good Day’.  It emphatically celebrates God’s faithfulness to us: “Ohhh, when everything is changing/Ohhh, the truth is still the same/Ohhh and I know that no one can ever steal it away/I’m gonna dance to the beat of amazing grace/Gonna hold to the promise that You made/And I know whatever’s gonna come my way/You’re here with me and it’s going to be a good day”.  Fred Williams is responsible for the string arrangement on ‘King of the World’.  It speaks of how we struggle to give God total control of our lives: “Just a whisper of Your voice can tame the seas/So who am I to try to take the lead?/Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough/When You’re the One who made me from the dust”.

Robert Marvin co-produced the song ‘Love Has Won’ with Bernie Herms.  It is strongly influenced by 80’s pop music.  It celebrates the fact that Jesus Christ makes us victorious along with Himself: “Lift up your head/The King has come/We know that His love/His love has won/Keep marching on/To the risen Son/His love has won.../His love shines brighter than the darkest night/His love runs deep/His love runs wide/And after all is said and done/His love has won”.  ‘Clean’ is the sole song that Natalie alone wrote on BE ONE.  Bernie Herms plays piano and The Nashville String Machine is used on this joyful ballad of personal testimony: “There’s nothing too dirty/That You can’t make worthy/You wash me in mercy/I am clean/What was dead now lives again/My heart’s beating, beating inside my chest/Oh, I’m coming alive with joy and destiny/’Cause You’re restoring me piece by piece”.

Bernie Herms and Mia Fieldes wrote ‘Symphonies’, a song of spiritual determination: “I won’t let my fear resound/Chaos you won’t drown me out/Even the downpour is gonna hear my soul roar/Beyond what I can see ahead/Beyond what hasn’t happened yet/Even the raging storm is gonna know my voice/On and on and on and on/Nothing’s gonna steal my song/On and on and on and on/I will bring You/Symphonies/Symphonies/Over and over/With every breath I breathe”.  Felicia Barton and Bernie Herms sing backing vocals on ‘Enough’.  It is an adult contemporary, modern psalm of praise: “I am known, I am seen/I am carried by the One who won’t forsake me/I am held/I’m not alone/And I know You will never let me go/Your unfailing love, Your unfailing love/It’s all I have, it’s all I need/And it’s enough”.

Sarah Reeves, Sam Tinnesz, and Matt Bronleewe wrote ‘Never Miss A Beat’.  It is a pop song of gratitude to our Heavenly Father: “Every second of every minute/Every minute of every hour/There’s not a moment that You look away/You never sleep, You never slumber/I don’t even have to wonder/Whether You care, if You’re right there/You’ve been there all along/Oh, oh, oh/You never miss a beat, beat/You’re holding on to me, me/And there’s nothing out of Your reach/Nothing in my life that You don’t see/You never miss a beat, beat/You’re holding onto me, me”.  ‘Ever Be’ is the longest track at 5 minutes and 12 seconds.  It includes a harmony vocal by Ashley Guilbert, as well as sweet guest vocals by Natalie’s three daughters-twins Gracie and Bella (8), and Sadie (4).  This song builds into a spectacular adult contemporary anthem that declares just how wonderful our God is: “You father the orphan/And Your kindness makes us whole/And You shoulder our weakness/Your strength becomes our own/Now You’re making me like You/Clothing me in white, bringing beauty from ashes/For You will have Your bride/Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame/And known by her true name and it’s why I sing”.

Nirva Ready is one of the background vocalists on ‘More Than Anything’, a reverent song that asks God to give us a deeper, more mature faith: “I know if You wanted to You could wave Your hand/Spare me this heartache/And change Your plan/And I know in a second You could take my pain away/But even if You don’t I pray/Help me want the Healer more than the healing/Help me want the Savior more than the saving/Help me want the Giver more than the giving/Oh help me want You, Jesus/More than anything”.  Robert Lowry’s ‘Nothing But the Blood’ was published back in 1876!  Here, it is presented in a subdued, mellow arrangement, with new music by Natalie Grant.  It reflects on the atonement and it was a real treat for Natalie to have her brother Steve sing on it with her.

Although BE ONE is mainly comprised of pop and adult contemporary sounds, at its heart it is a modern worship album.  I recommend it to folks who enjoy the music of artists such as Chris Tomlin, Zoegirl, Taylor Swift (1989), and Kelly Clarkson.  This is a very contemporary sounding album!  These eleven songs praise, exalt, and glorify Jesus Christ and God the Father.  They acknowledge dependence on our Saviour and Maker, not only for our salvation, but our sustenance.  Natalie’s vocals are nice to listen to, but she doesn’t belt them out as much as on some of her previous projects.  Natalie looks simply stunning on the album cover!  I’m rating BE ONE 98%.  For more info visit:,, and

is love shines brighter than the

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California.  He was the eldest of three brothers, with the other two, Dennis and Carl, now deceased.  Brian released his self-titled debut solo album in 1988.  Fast forward to 2010 and he put out his ninth solo effort BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN (Walt Disney Records).  It reached #1 on and on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.  George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York of Russian and Lithuanian descent.  Some of his best known feats are ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, ‘An American in Paris’, and the opera ‘Porgy and Bess’.  He lived from 1898 to 1937, dying of a brain tumor.  His brother Ira (1896-1983) was a lyricist who wrote over a dozen Broadway shows with him.

In the liner notes David Wild writes: “Brian Wilson has said that hearing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is his first musical memory and one that helped inspire his lifelong-love for music”.  Gershwin wrote it back in 1924.  It is only fitting that Track One on this Wilson CD is ‘Rhapsody in Blue/Intro’.  The only lyrics to this short and pretty track are: “Ah, ah, ah, ah”.  Next up is ‘The Like in I Love You’.  It is one of two unfinished Gershwin tracks on this project, completed handily by Brian and Scott Bennett.  It comes across as a beautiful Beach Boys ballad on the subject of love: “You reached into my heart and found the music of my soul/The melodies unfold/For you/I’ve never danced before/Until you asked me/Then magic lights lit up the floor.../Don’t be afraid, love/We can take it from the happy ending/The great in grateful/The faith in faithful/The like in I love you”.

A four song medley follows.  ‘Summertime’ makes use of the theramin, glockenspiel, and vibraphone.  I remember Fantasia singing it on her Season 3 winning run on American Idol.  It is a relaxing, famous jazz standard: “Summertime/And the livin’ is easy/Fish are jumpin’/And the cotton is high/Oh, your daddy’s rich/And your mamma’s good lookin’/So hush, little baby/Don’t you cry/One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing/Then you’ll spread your wings/And you’ll take to the sky”.  Nick Walusko, Scott Bennett, Darian Sahanaja, Jeffrey Foskett, and Taylor Mills provide lovely backing vocals on ‘I Loves You, Porgy’.  This is an easy listening number that finds one lover talking openly to another: “I loves you, Porgy/Don’t let him take me/Don’t let him handle me and drive me mad/If you can keep me/I wanna stay here with you forever/I’ve got my man”.  ‘I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’’ is a fun, cheery instrumental that combines elements of rock and roll and jazz music.  Brian delivers a soulful vocal, and harmonica, saxophone, and organ are used on ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’.  It isn’t exactly theologically correct: “It ain’t necessarily so (2X)/The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible/It ain’t necessarily so.../To get into Heaven don’t snap for a sebben/Live clean, don’t have no fault/Oh, I take that gospel whenever it’s possible/But with a grain of salt/It ain’t necessarily so/Well, it ain’t necessarily so/They tell all your children the devil’s a villain/It ain’t necessarily so”.

‘’S Wonderful’ is one of six songs here composed by brothers George and Ira.  This one is a tropical sounding, happy pop song: ‘’S wonderful, ‘s marvelous that you should care for me/’S awful nice, ‘s paradise/What I love to see/You’ve made my life so glamorous/You can’t blame me for feeling amorous/’S wonderful, ‘s marvelous/That you should care for me”.  One of my favourites on this disc is ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’.  It was penned by George and Ira in 1937.  Fred Astair introduced it in the movie ‘Shall We Dance’.  Here, the song is a rollicking good time musically and vocally.  It is the song of one absolutely in love: “The way you wear your hat/The way you sip your tea/The memory of all that/No, no, they can’t take that away from me/The way your smile just beams/The way you sing off key/The way you haunt my dreams/No, no, they can’t take that away from me”.

‘Love is Here to Stay’ is a nicely orchestrated, pleasant jazz ballad: “The radio and the telephone/And the movies that we know/May just be passing fancies/And in time may go/But, oh my dear/Our love is here to stay/Together we’re going a long, long way/In time the Rockies may tumble/Gibraltar may crumble/They’re only made of clay/But our love is here to stay”.  Probyn Gregory plays slide guitar on ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You’.  It is a doo-wop song about infatuation: “I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie/All the day and night-time, hear me sigh/I never had the least notion/That I could fall with so much emotion/Could you coo?/Could you care/For a cunning cottage we could share?/The world will pardon my mush/’Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you”.

‘I Got Rhythm’ combines elements of rock and roll, jazz, surf, and swing music, and includes these optimistic lyrics: “I got rhythm, I got music/I got my girl, who could ask for anything more?/I got daisies in green pastures/I got my girl/Who could ask for anything more?/Old Man Trouble, I don’t mind him/You won’t find him ‘round my door/I got starlight/I got sweet dreams”.  ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ is a ballad that makes use of harpsichord, nylon string guitar, clarinet, and alto flute.  This song shares heartfelt desires: “There’s a somebody I’m longing to see/I hope that she turns out to be/Someone who’ll watch over me/I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood/I know I could always be good/To one who’ll watch over me”.

‘Nothing But Love’ is the second unfinished George Gershwin song that Brian Wilson and Scott Bennett completed on this record.  It is a nice adult pop song of love: ``Don`t always need her to say it back/The way that she holds me makes it a fact/She knows the answer, the answer’s ‘yeah’/I asked her what’s timeless/Just the stars above/She said ‘I’ll tell you what’s timeless/Nothing but love’``.  Last up, is the short, angelic clip `Rhapsody in Blue/Reprise’.

BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN is a meeting of the minds, if you will, of two of music’s all-time legendary artists.  This is an album that will mostly appeal to the forty and over crowd.  It mainly incorporates classical, jazz, pop, and rock and roll sounds.  It all comes together as a mighty fine tribute to George Gershwin and his brother Ira!  The album is at times celebratory and at other turns more meditative.  As ever Brian Wilson’s vocals are captivating.  He breathes new life into the standards presented here and delightfully puts the finishing touches on a couple of tunes Gershwin never quite finished.  I’m rating BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN 90%.   For more info visit:



Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Carrie Marie Underwood was born on March 10, 1983 in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  She was the winner of Season 4 of American Idol.  Her first album SOME HEARTS came out in 2005.  It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and at #2 on the Billboard 200.  It included the now famous song ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’.  Over the years she has had many more hits including ‘Something in the Water’.  Carrie married now Nashville Predators hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010.  Together they have one child, Isaiah Michael Fisher, born on February 27, 2015.  In 2013 Carrie starred as Maria von Trapp in NBC’s ‘The Sound of Music Live!’  STORYTELLER is the fifth studio album by this 7 time Grammy winner.  It was produced by Jay Joyce, Mark Bright, and Zach Crowell and came out in 2015 on Arista Nashville/19 Recordings Ltd.  Carrie shares: “I feel like one of the things that sets country music apart from other types of music is the storytelling aspect.  I want three-and-a-half minute movies on the radio.  I love that there’s a beginning, middle, and an end, and it all makes sense.  You can follow the characters, and you can see it all playing out in your head”.

The first song, ‘Renegade Runaway’, was written by Carrie, Chris DeStefano, and Hillary Lindsey.  This is one of six songs Carrie co-writes.  It is an energetic country/rock song that serves as a bold warning to guys about the type of girl to avoid: “Looks like an angel, so picturesque/Like she walked right out of the Wild, Wild West/She’s a devil in a satin dress/You don’t even know her hair trigger’s aiming right at your chest/By the time you figure out that she gave you the runaround/You won’t know where she’s at/She’s a tumble weed blowing in the wind come sundown/Call a girl like that/Renegade runaway”.  ‘Dirty Laundry’ is delivered with attitude and is addressed to a guy who cheats: “That lipstick on your collar/Well, it ain’t my shade of pink/And I can tell by the smell of that perfume/It’s like forty dollars too cheap.../All those midnights sneaking in/I’m late again, oh I’m so sorry/All the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry”.  Jimmy Nichols plays piano and former White Heart member Chris McHugh plays drums on ‘Church Bells’, which has a modern country groove to it.  It deals with domestic abuse and violence: “Jenny was hosting Junior League parties/And having dinner at the country club/Everyone thought they were Ken and Barbie/But Ken was always getting way too drunk/Saturday night after a few too many/He came home ready to fight/And all his money could never save Jenny/From the devil living in his eyes/It was all bruises covered in makeup, dark sunglasses”.

‘Heartbeat’ is a sentimental love song that makes use of banjo, cello, pedal steel, and dobro: “And tonight I wanna drive so far/We’ll only find static on the radio, oh/And we can’t see those city lights/And I love the way you look in a firefly glow/Saying everything without making a sound/A cricket choir in the background/Underneath the harvest moon/Standing on your shoes in my bare feet/Dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat”.  ‘Smoke Break’ is the album’s catchy, anthem-like lead single.  It acknowledges that we all need time to relax and take a breather sooner or later: “She’s a small town, hard working woman just trying to make a living/Working three jobs, feeding four little mouths in a run down kitchen/When you’re never taking nothing and doing nothing but giving/It’s hard to be a good wife and a good mom and a good Christian/She said ‘I don’t drink, but sometimes I need a stiff drink/Sipping from a highball glass, let the world fade away’/She said ‘I don’t smoke, but sometimes I need a long drag/Yeah, I know it might sound bad, but sometimes I need a smoke break’”.

Jason White wrote the groovy number known as ‘Choctaw County Affair’.  Travis Meadows plays harmonica on it, while The McCrary Sisters provide background vocals.  The lyrics tell a sordid story: “Well, life’s been kinda trippy down here in Mississippi/Since Cassie O’Grady disappeared/And me and Bobby Shaver been in all the newspapers every day for nigh on a year/They say we got tangled in a love triangle/A fatal game of truth or dare/But the truth remains a mystery and now it’s ancient history/It’s a Choctaw County affair”.  Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, and Liz Rose wrote ‘Like I’ll Never Love You Again’.  It is a passionate, but not dirty, ballad: “Let’s make this night last forever/Like honey dripping sweet and slow/Every kiss just tasting better/Every touch, every whisper, let go/I wanna love you like the world’s gonna stop/Till the very last second, last tick of that clock/I’m gonna slow it all down and then take you from zero to ten/Yeah, I wanna love you like I’ll never love you again”.

‘Chaser’ comes in at 4 minutes and 24 seconds.  It’s the only track here that is at least four minutes long!  This is the song of one who demands total allegiance and devotion from her guy: “Yeah, boy you’re nothing but a chaser/You’re looking at me and thinking of her and it cuts me like a razor/And you ain’t doing me any kind of favors/Sticking around this one horse town tonight/You can follow her tracks/You can try to win her back/Put the miles on your tires till you run out of gas/I’m done letting you be my heart breaker/So go ahead and chase her”.  Ben Caver, Sara Haze, and Brett James wrote ‘Relapse’.  Many who have trouble staying away from a former love interest even though they know they’re not right for them, will be able to relate to these words: “I know I said, I said it was over/But it’s hard when I miss you to stay sober/So if I show up here at your door again/Oh, it’s just me falling off of the wagon/What can it hurt?”

Ashley Cleveland’s husband Kenny Greenberg plays electric guitar on the country/pop track ‘Clock Don’t Stop’.  It serves as a reminder that each moment in our lives is important and precious: “And the minutes turn to hours/And they’re flying like a jet plane/And we’ll make it right tomorrow/But tomorrow’s not a sure thing/The clock don’t stop tickin’ away, yeah/The clock don’t stop tickin’ away, away/Always hanging on the wall/No, it don’t care at all/It won’t slow down, it won’t wait”.  Charlie Judge plays accordion, and Ilya Toshinskiy, the mandolin, on ‘The Girl You Think I Am’.  It is a heart-tugging song of gratitude to Carrie’s earthly father: “I thank God for a father’s love/’Cause you think I’m brave and you think I’m beautiful/You think that I can do the impossible/You always see the best in me when I can’t/I wanna be the girl you think I am/Oh, oh, the girl you think I am/All I want more than anything is to make you proud of me”.

‘Mexico’ was penned by Kathleen Higgins, Jamie Moore, and Derrick Adam Southerland.  It is a lively country song that tells a realistic tale about a couple of outlaws: “If they get the cuffs on us, it’s twenty-five to life/Run, run your own direction/It might lead ‘em down a different road/Take the gun, hide the car and the money/I’ll meet you in Mexico.../Suntan, seaside, feeling that breeze blow/We’ll be sipping that smooth Don Julio”.  On ‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted’ Carrie gives thanks for her son and her husband: “Never pictured myself singing lullabies/Sitting in a rocking chair in the middle of the night/In the quiet, in the dark/You’re stealing every bit of my heart with your daddy’s eyes/What a sweet surprise”.

As per usual, Carrie’s vocals on this, her latest project, are strong and powerful.  She is hands down one of the best vocalists in mainstream music today!  The songs on this record are sometimes drawn from her own life experiences, but more often than not, they are, as the album’s title implies, stories.  Not only that, they are stories with a moral or lesson to them.  Carrie is a born again Christian, a light in the darkness, if you will, in her chosen profession.  STORYTELLER is a well above average modern country album, with several songs that her fans will latch on to for years to come.  Carrie is very photogenic, as the CD booklet proves.  I’m rating this CD 93%.  For more info visit: and


Friday, January 08, 2016


Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California.  He co-founded the magnificent rock and roll group The Beach Boys in 1961.  Not only that, he wrote or co-wrote over two dozen Top 40 hits for the group!  In 1988 he released his self-titled solo debut.  Fast forward to 2008 and he released his 8th studio album THAT LUCKY OLD SUN (Brimel/Capitol Records).  It entered the UK Album Chart at #37 and the Billboard 200 at #21.  The album was produced and arranged by Brian, with additional production by Scott Bennett.  This is a concept album based around the 1949 song ‘That Lucky Old Sun’.  It was penned by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie.  Frankie Lane originally recorded it and took it to #1.  Others who’ve recorded it include Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Cash.  Brian Wilson sings lead vocals and plays keyboards on this album.

First up is the title track, which is one of seven tracks on the CD that are under a minute long.  This one is a pretty and nicely orchestrated song of reflection: “Lucky old sun, that lucky old sun/Up in the mornin’, out on the job/Work so hard for my pay/But that lucky old sun’s got nothin’ to do/But roll around heaven all day/Show me that river, take me across/Wash all my troubles away”.  ‘Morning Beat’ is one of eight Brian Wilson co-writes with Scott Bennett.  This one has a fun, old-time rock and roll feel to it with nice harmonies.  It is for sure a song of positivity: “The sun burns a hole through the 6 a.m. haze/Turns up the volume and it shows off its rays/Another Dodger blue sky is crowning L.A./The city of angels is blessed every day/That lucky old sun smiles on me/Wanna slide down the mountain into the dancing sea/I’m listening to the morning beat/It’s rising from star-studded concrete”.  ‘Room with a View ’is one of four narratives by Van Dyke Parks.  It includes these poetic lines: “One by one/A carpeted star spangled city sleeps/Like so many dancin’ diamonds with a beat/Each of them a home/With walls of stories they could tell/Meet the crack of dawn/A freeway starts to roll/An owl hoots its last goodbye to a coyote on patrol”.
Brian is the sole writer of ‘Good Kind of Love’.  It is a happy, light, breezy, pop song about puppy love: “He loves her when she’s sleeping and all the dreams she’s keeping/She keeps them in a jar, but not too far from her heart/They have the good kind of love, good kind of love, good kind of love/They have the right kinda thing, right kinda thing, right kinda thing/Makes me want to sing it to you/Just him and her, there so close together/Now they just met and scored a newfound treasure/Oh, oh, run to him, run to him, right to his arms, yeah/They have the good kind of love”.  ‘Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl’ is a cheery adult pop song of one in love: “First love is the moment/You can’t repeat but you’ll always own it/The gift she gave to me/Her timeless melody/Forever she’ll be my surfer girl (2X)/My little one, so sweet”.
‘Venice Beach Narrative’ paints a distinct and clear picture of a popular California locale: “Venice Beach is poppin’/Like live shrimp dropped on a hot wok/Hucksters, hustlers and hawkers/Set up their boardwalk shops/Home for all the homeless, hopeless/Well heeled and deranged/Still nothin’ here seems out of place or strange”.  ‘Live Let Live/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’ is an easy listening ballad that shows great respect for creation: “God help me for whale babies who cry/Live let live not die/My heart beats so fast/Our hearts meet at last/Feature creatures of God/Let them abound, where they are found/Let’s get the hell outta here”.

‘Mexican Girl’ is a warm, tropical pop song of infatuation with nice harmonies and good use of horns: “Hey, Mexican girl, with eyes of burning fire/Heal me with your passion/Inspire me to inspire/Loyal and strong, as tender as a song/Help me understand, make me a better man/Mexican, Mexican, Mexican girl/Danced her way into my world”.  ‘Cinco de Mayo Narrative’ includes these interesting thoughts: “Salsa rumbles rafters/In a chop shop filled with cars/Custom chopped and channeled/With a drag race in their stars/City of Angels/Be all you can be/Be movies/Be A-list/Be seen just to see/Your part/Repeat/The heart beats in L.A.”  Next up is ‘California Role/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’.  Brian offers some great advice to newcomers to California on this playful middle of the road song: “Every girl’s the next Marilyn/Every guy, Errol Flynn/Sometimes you’ve got to edit your dreams/And find the spotlight behind the scenes/Here in California, man I got to warn ya/Find your California role/You don’t have to climb the Capitol Tower or play the Hollywood Bowl/If there’s a roll in your heart, and a rock in your soul/If you miss your shot/It doesn’t mean you won’t reach your goal”.
‘Between Pictures Narrative’ ponders people’s plights: “Actors waitin’ tables/With a method they can’t share/Waitin’ for what’s next/Waitin’ for the big screen in disrepair/I mean despair/I mean/That actor standing there/Are we all not actors and the whole wide world our stage?/Naw/Some are worthy writers with the grit to hit the page/To be or not to be/Now/Just part of the heart beat in L.A.”  ‘Oxygen to the Brain’ has a cool pop vibe to it with a varying slow and fast tempo.  Anyone who knows Brian Wilson’s troubled history will see this is clearly an autobiographical song: “I cried a million tears/I wasted a lot of years/Life was so dead, life was so dead.../How could I have got so low?/I’m embarrassed to tell you so/I laid around this old place/I hardly ever washed my face.../So take a lesson from one who knows/Just where being lazy goes/There’s a time to live/A reason to live”.  ‘Can’t Wait too Long’ is an unfinished Beach Boys song dating back to 1967.  The only lyrics here are: “Oooh, oh, been too long (2X)”.

‘Midnight’s Another Day’ is a quiet number that begins by waxing spiritual: “Lost my way/The sun grew dim/Stepped over grace and stood in sin/Took the dive, but couldn’t swim/A flag without the wind/When there’s no morning without ‘u’/There’s only darkness the whole day through/Took the diamond from my soul/And turned it back into coal”.  ‘That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’ is a quite short affair.
Two of this CD’s best songs finish the album off.  Tommy Morgan plays harmonicas on the fun, soulful rocker ‘Going Home’.  This autobiographical song is about finding oneself: “I’m going home, I’m going home/Back to the place where I belong/Found peace of mind, yeah, yeah, one piece at a time.../At 25 I turned out the light/Cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes/But now I’m back, drawing shades of kind blue skies”.  ‘Southern California’ is a lovely ballad just shy of five minutes in length.  It finds Brian nostalgic: “I had this dream/Singing with my brothers/In harmony, supporting each other/Tail winds, wheels spin, down the Pacific Coast/Surfin’ on the A.M./Heard those voices again.../Surfer silhouettes/The sun went into the sea/As we headed home/We drove into a movie/Love songs, pretty girls/Didn’t want it to end”.
THAT LUCKY OLD SUN is an absolute masterpiece from one of music’s all-time geniuses!  This really is a delightful album to fall upon your ears if you let it!  What a wonderful, loving tribute Brian Wilson has given his native California here!  Brian’s warm vocals are a pleasure to listen to.  A wide variety of instruments add to the perfection here, including: ukulele, bells, flute, French horn, violin, and cello.  Several terrific background vocalists are used including: Darian Sahanaja, Probyn Gregory, and Taylor Mills.  What great harmonies!  The CD booklet, photos, and packaging are lovely.  I’m rating THAT LUCKY OLD SUN 100%.  For more info visit: and
e loves


Wednesday, January 06, 2016


In 1999 Audio Adrenaline released their fifth studio album, UNDERDOG (ForeFront Records).  It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album.  The band’s roster at the time was: Mark Stuart (lead vocals), Bob Herdman (keyboards, guitars, acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Will McGinniss (bass, backing vocals), Tyler Burkum (lead guitars, backing vocals), and Ben Cissell (drums).

Starting things off is ‘Mighty Good Leader’, a nifty, upbeat pop/rock song school spirit squads could put to good use.  It was actually inspired by lyrics from an old black spiritual.  It offers hope through Christ: “What you need is a friend/Someone who loves you/Who is above you/Take away all your sin/Help is on the way (2X)/A mighty good leader is on the way/He’s the only one gonna come to save the day/It’s all right, yeah, uh-huh, it’s OK/’Cause a mighty good leader is on the way”.  The title track, ‘Underdog’, is a lively pop/rock gem which is one of five singles from the album.  This song could have easily been written by the apostle Paul: “I’m in this race to win a prize/The odds against me/The world has plans for my demise/But what they don’t see is/That a winner is not judged by his small size/But by the Substitute he picks to run the race/And mine’s already won”.

‘Get Down’ won a Dove Award for Rock Recorded Song of the Year.  The band wrote it in a van on the way to a writing retreat camp at Hume Lake in California.  It speaks of God’s faithfulness to us: “In your weakness He is stronger/In your darkness He shines through/When you’re crying He’s your comfort/When you’re all alone, He’s carrying you.../This valley is so deep/I can barely see the sun/I cry out for mercy, Lord/And You lift me up again”.  ‘Good Life’ is a melodic ballad that begins with these words many of us can relate to: “I’ve watched my dreams all fade away/And blister in the sun/Everything I’ve ever had is unraveled and undone/I’ve set upon a worthless stack of my ambitious plans/The people that I’ve loved the most have turned their backs and ran”.

Pete Townshend wrote ‘Let My Love Open the Door’.  It originally appeared on his 1980 album EMPTY GLASS.  Great Big Sea and M. Ward are among those who have covered it.  Audio A’s version seems to find God lovingly speaking to a person: “I’ve got the only key to your heart/I can stop you from falling apart/Release yourself from the misery/Only one thing gonna set you free/It’s my love (4X)”.  Next up is ‘Hands and Feet’.  Charlie Peacock co-wrote it with four of the band members.  It was inspired by a mudslide that wiped out a village in Central America.  This now famous mission oriented anthem includes these words: “I want to be Your hands/I want to be Your feet/I’ll go where You send me (2X)/And I’ll try, yeah I’ll try/To touch the world like You touched my life/And I’ll find my way/To be Your hands”.

‘Jesus Movement’ is a light, breezy pop song on which Mark Stuart plays harp.  The song also finds a couple of The O.C. Supertones playing trumpet and trombone and Claudia Tapia providing a spoken Spanish vocal.  The song reminds us that Christ has followers all around the world and celebrates that fact: “Everywhere I go I can see/I’m not the only one moving, yeah/Moving to Jesus/I went down to Mexico/Mi amigo/I found Jesus living outside the U.S.A./Imagine my surprise.../Oh the joy that filled my heart/To know that I’m just a part/Of a bigger and better body/All the way”.  ‘DC-10’ is a curious swing version of a song from the band’s debut album.  It encourages us to think about where we will spend eternity: “If a DC-10 ever fell on your head/Laying in the ground all messy and dead/Or a Mack truck run over you/Or you suddenly die in your Sunday pew/Do you know where you’re gonna go? (4X)/Straight to Heaven or down the hole?”

A modernized, laid back version of ‘It is Well With My Soul’, featuring The Nashville String Machine, follows.  Guest vocals by Jennifer Knapp are a nice touch.  Essentially this hymn is a song of testimony: “My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought/My sin not in part but the whole/Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more/Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”  ‘This Day’ is a song of whole-hearted devotion to Christ: “It’s 6 a.m./I’m so tired/The alarm sounds/A new day begins/Before I go/And disturb this peaceful moment/I look to You/I want to say a prayer before my feet can hit the ground/Lord, I give this day to You”.

‘It’s Over’ is an intimate, yet rock number, that is addressed to the band’s concert audiences: “This room will be empty soon/When the music and laughter is gone/This night will be forgot/But the joy you’ve found can go on/Say goodnight to all the friends/Who rocked and rolled beside you/We hope you’ve enjoyed the show/It’s over, it’s over/It’s all over now/The lights come down/Don’t lose your glow/When it’s over, it’s over/It’s all over now/Is it over?/Or has it just begun?”  Bob Herdman takes over the microphone on ‘The Houseplant Song’.  It is a hilarious story song that pokes fun at the theory that if you expose houseplants to rock and roll they won’t thrive and therefore the rock and roll beat is evil, regardless of what lyrics you attach to it!

UNDERDOG showcases Audio Adrenaline as a pop/rock group who deliver fun, accessible, catchy songs with a Christian faith message.  The album celebrates Jesus Christ as ready, willing, and able to help us navigate through and conquer life’s problems.  This is a good album to counter discouragement and doubt.  This project does not quite have as much of the straight ahead rock sounds of say, 1996’s BLOOM, but it has terrific commercial appeal and youth should gravitate towards it.  I’m rating UNDERDOG 96%.  For more info visit:


Sunday, January 03, 2016


Audio Adrenaline released their self-titled debut in 1992.  BLOOM (1996, ForeFront Records) was their third album.  It was certified gold in 1999 and nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rock Gospel Album category.  On this record Audio Adrenaline is: Mark Stuart (vocals), Will McGinniss (bass, vocals), Bob Herdman (guitar, keyboards, vocals), and Barry Blair (guitar, vocals).

‘Secret’ starts the album off with an energetic rock song of testimony: “I once was lost in a foaming, roaming, rabid sea/Then blooms blossomed, changed my outlook/Now I’ve been set free/I once was sinking in a quarry of quicksand/Somebody noticed and they offered me a hand.../I’ve got a secret and I cannot keep it/I’ve got a secret and I cannot, cannot keep it/There is a God and He’s alive and He keeps me well/That is the secret Mrs. Mademoiselle”.  ‘Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus’ is one of seven singles from the album!  It was written in response to a now famous John Lennon quote.  Here are some of the lyrics to this pop/rock gem: “I could build a tower to heaven, get on top and touch the sky/I could write a million songs all designed to glorify/I could be about as good, good as any human could/But that won’t get me by/I could do anything I wanted to/I could do anything, but one thing’s true/Never gonna be as big as Jesus/Never gonna hold the world in my hands/Never gonna be as big as Jesus/Never gonna build a promised land/But that, that’s alright, okay with me”.  ‘Good People’ is a song that decidedly focuses on the positive elements of society: “I grew up impressed by the people I knew in the buckle of the Bible belt.../Met a soldier from Seattle and a lawyer from the East/A Texas oil baron and a Roman Catholic priest.../Good people/Good, good people/Everywhere, everywhere it’s God’s people”.

‘I’m Not the King’ is a refreshing guitar rock song of humility: “I’m not the King/I just sing, yeah/I’m just a fraction of a thing, yeah/I am not anything without the King of kings, oh yeah.../A King’s someone to trust and love/Like Jesus Christ whom I sing of”.  ‘Walk on Water’ is a light pop number that draws on a New Testament story for inspiration: “Simon Peter, won’t you put those nets down?/Follow me, I’ll lead you out of this town to a place where no boat has ever been/I will make you a fisher of men”/Jesus walked out on the water/Said “Take courage, it is Me”/Peter trusted and he wanted to go farther/So he stepped out on the sea, yeah he stepped out on to the sea/If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on water, oh yeah/If I keep my eyes on Him I can walk on water”.

‘See Through’ courageously admits that even Christian rock stars have shortcomings: “I’m unstable and extreme/Good to bad, I’ve been burnt in between/The smoke from the fire in my soul makes a transparent haze/There are things that I can’t hide that would make some people think I’ve lied/I try to do right but I fail/Don’t set your eyes on me”.  Daniel Hartman wrote ‘Free Ride’.  The Edgar Winter Group reached #14 with it in 1973.  It is an upbeat rock and roll party song: “The mountains are high, the valleys are low/You are confused by which way to go/I know there’s someone who’ll give you a hand/Lead you on to the promised land, yeah/Come on and take a free ride (free ride)/Come on and get by my side/Come on and take a free ride”.

‘Man of God’ is a ballad of great vulnerability that many of us can relate to: “Sometimes I’m a liar, sometimes I’m a fake/Sometimes I’m a hypocrite everybody hates/Sometimes I’m a poet, sometimes I’m a preacher/Sometimes I watch life go by sitting on the bleacher.../Sometimes I’m a man of God, sometimes I’m alright/Sometimes I lay down, close my eyes and pray to God”.  ‘Gloryland’ tells of Jesus’ wonderful offer of salvation in a creative way: “Met the man with the beard halfway through Kentucky/He walked with me and he talked with me/Some people say I’m lucky/For that day the man I met paid the full price/Now I ride the train for free/The train to Paradise/If you want to come with me there’s room, there are no legal limits/There’s always room for one more soul/So why not come and get it?”

Next up is ‘Jazz Odyssey’, a short, cheesy, playful track. It is followed by ‘Bag Lady’, a strong rock song that asks God to intervene in the lives of the homeless and teenage mothers: “Friend and Father repair their souls/Make them feel wanted, make them feel whole”.

‘I Hear Jesus Calling’ is a demo that includes these simple lyrics: “I hear words that were said over 2000 years ago/I hear the Spirit when it’s near/Reminds me who I belong to.../Softly and tenderly my Jesus is calling/Calling, calling for you and for me”.  ‘Memoir’ ends the album on a cheerful note: “I’m a season past springtime and my life has gone boom/Keep my eyes on the Father/Everything is in bloom/Everything will just get better/Through the seasons I’ll roam/And all of the music’s over/I will get to go home”.

BLOOM should be studied by any young band as a tutorial on how to make a relevant Christian rock album geared towards youth and young adults.  Mark Stuart’s vocals are unique and distinct on this 13 track album.  The four group members wrote 12 of the tracks.  Electric guitar and meaningful lyrics that encourage and detail a personal relationship with Jesus Christ really drive this record to greatness.  This album has certainly aged well!  If you haven’t given it a spin in quite some time, now is the time to do so!  It clocks in at 50 minutes and 27 seconds.  I’m rating BLOOM 97%.  For more info visit: