Jacqueline ‘Jaci’ Davette Velasquez was born on October 15, 1979 in Houston, Texas. She has won 7 Dove awards, had 3 Grammy nominations, 5 Latin Billboard Award nominations, and an American Music Award nomination. Jaci was the first solo artist in Christian music history to reach gold status with a debut album (Source: Wikipedia.org). That album is HEAVENLY PLACE (1996, Myrrh).
‘If this World’ opens the album. It is a light pop song penned by Michelle Tumes, Tyler Hayes, Erik Sundin, and Mark Heimermann. It is also one of five #1 singles found here! These words are ones of encouragement: “If this world is a lonely place for you/Fall into the arms of love/If this world is a lonely place for you/There’s a God who you can trust/Who’ll comfort you and lift you up.../Put your faith in the One who will never let you down/He has proven His love/Open up to all He has for you now”. ‘Un Lugar Celestial (A Heavenly Place)’ is a tropical sounding, bilingual song about intimacy with God: “I know I need my time alone with Him/His healing waters flowing deep within/Don’t have to wish upon a distant star/Cause the light of love fills my heart/Un lugar celestial/Just a little bit of heaven sent from up above/Un lugar celestial/Where the presence of my Father holds me in His love/Un lugar celestial”.
Chris Eaton wrote the pretty ballad ‘Flower in the Rain’. It is about spiritual surrender: “So here I am again/Willing to be opened up and broken/Like a flower in the rain/Tell me what have I to do/To die and then be raised/To reach beyond the pain/Like a flower in the rain”. David Mullen, Nicole Coleman Mullen, and Michael Ochs wrote the beautiful, inspirational number ‘On My Knees’. Bobby Taylor plays oboe on, and The Nashville String Machine appears on this song of one who knows where to find true strength: “I’ve learned in laughter or in pain how to survive/I get on my knees (2X)/There I am before the love that changes me/See, I don’t know how but there’s power/When I’m on my knees”.
‘Shelter Me’ is a mid-tempo R&B number that is a duet with Chris Rodriguez. It speaks of God’s faithfulness: “You will never leave me stranded, fending for myself/When the enemy advances You are there to help/Standing in the gap for me/Whenever I grow weak/You are my deliverer/The refuge that I seek”. ‘Baptize Me’ has a catchy pop chorus: “Hear me as I pray/Wash my sins away/Drown me in Your grace/Baptize me/As my lips confess/Fill this emptiness with your holiness/Baptize me”.
George Cocchini plays guitars on the infectious pop song ‘We Can Make a Difference’. It spurs on believers to act now: “It’s time to come together, you and I/And share the love of Jesus Christ/We can make a difference/We can make a change/We can make the sun shine through the rain/Shine on through the rain”. ‘I Promise’ is a quiet ballad that serves as a vow: “So I promise to be true to You/To live my life in purity/As unto You/Waiting for the day/When I hear You say/’Here is the one I have created just for you’”.
‘We Will Overcome’ was penned by Mark Heimermann, Reggie Hamm, and Bob Farrell. It is a good song to slow dance to and is one of encouragement: “So don’t be afraid/He will give us all the strength that we need/We will overcome/Heartache and sorrow/We will overcome/All the pain in this world/We will rise above the cares of tomorrow/We will overcome”. Last up is ‘Thief of Always’. It offers this advice: “In the midst of an ever-changing world, this one thing I know/You’ve got to live very moment as though it was your last/Before the thief of always/Steals tomorrow from your grasp/Before the chance to know His love has somehow passed you by/Let your heart reach out/Right here, right now/For the Lord to touch your life”.
Jaci Velasquez was only in her mid teens when she released this debut album, HEAVENLY PLACE. The majority of the ten songs here point to God as a sure Refuge, Comfort, and Strength. Intimacy with the Father is encouraged. There are also a couple of songs about fighting temptation and about making a positive difference in the world in which we live. Jaci’s vocals are warm and inviting on this mostly light pop and adult contemporary album. I’m recommending it to fans of Rachael Lampa, whom I named my daughter after. I give HEAVENLY PLACE 90%. For more info visit: www.jacivelasquez.com.