Monday, May 29, 2017


MercyMe put out their first major label studio album, ALMOST HOME in 2001.  It contained the mega-hit ‘I Can Only Imagine’.  In 2002 they followed it up with SPOKEN FOR which included ‘Word of God Speak’.  Next up was 2004’s UNDONE (INO), produced by Peter Kipley.  At the time, the group’s roster was: Bart Millard (vocals), Robby Shaffer (drums), Nathan Cochran (bass), Mike Scheuchzer (guitar), Jim Bryson (piano/B3/synth), and new member Barry Graul (guitar).  UNDONE debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart.  It also won the Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’.  Reflecting on the album’s title, in the liner notes Bart Millard writes: “While His plans came together, our plans came unraveled.  I believe that is exactly where God wants us...undone.  Incomplete.  Unsettled with what we think is best, and embracing Christ, who knows what’s best”.

An adult contemporary song, ‘Where You Lead Me’, is the first song on the album.  It is one of nine songs written by the band and Peter Kipley.  It’s about spiritual surrender: “I’m drawn to You/As long as my heart is beating/Where You lead me, I will follow/Where You lead me, I’ll give my life away/Where You lead me, I will follow/Forever and a day (2X)/I can’t deny Your very presence is my life/And why would I even turn away?”  ‘Everything Impossible’ is a pop song of testimony: “I took a leap of faith even though You’re difficult for me to explain/I know I’ll never be the same/You’re everything I cannot see/You’re everything I cannot say/I know it all seems so illogical/But that’s okay/You’re the love You give to me/You’re the love I give away/You are everything impossible and that’s okay”.  Dan Muckala and Brad Russell are two of the co-writers of ‘Here With Me’ which was the album’s first single and a #1 hit.  It’s modern worship: “You’re everywhere I go, I am not alone/You call me as Your own to know You and be known/You are holy, I fall down to my knees/I can feel Your presence here with me/Suddenly I’m lost within Your beauty/Caught up in the wonder of Your touch/Here in this moment I surrender to Your love”.

‘In the Blink of an Eye’ was the album’s third single.  It peaked at #1 on the Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts.  It’s a song of reflection: “Sometimes I feel disappointed/By the way I spend my time/How can I further Your kingdom/When I’m so wrapped up in mine?.../If I give the very best of me/That becomes my legacy/So tell me, what am I waiting for?/What am I waiting for?”  ‘Unaware’ is about being totally caught up in God’s love: “I am free at last/Unaware of my fears/Unaware of my shame/Nothing else matters here/But glorifying Your Name/Unaware of everything/Knowing You’re aware of me”.

‘Homesick’ was the album’s second single and the only song here penned solely by Bart Millard.  This adult contemporary song longs for heaven: “In Christ there are no goodbyes/In Christ there is no end/So I’ll hold on to Jesus with all that I have/To see you again (2X)/And I close my eyes and I see your face/If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place/Lord, won’t You give me strength to make it through somehow/I’ve never been more homesick than now”.  Strings are used to good effect.  Joel Hanson (PFR) is a co-writer on ‘When You Spoke My Name’.  It testifies: “Now when I speak Your Name/I sing it like a sweet refrain/I have found a peace I can’t explain/When I speak Your Name/Cause when You spoke my name/Oh, I swear the angels sang/Peace came and stole my shame/When You spoke my name”.

‘A Million Miles Away’ is a pop/rock number about God’s faithfulness: “I believe that You’re always here with me/You’re everywhere but still within my reach/Cause how could You save the day/If You’re a million miles away?/Who’s to say what you can’t see can’t be found?/There’s evidence of Your presence all around/Cause how could You save the day if You’re a million miles away?”  ‘Caught up in the Middle’ is another pop/rock song.  It’s a song of desire: “I believe Your Spirit is alive and on the move/And I want to be caught up in the middle of You/I wanna be a part of what I know You’re gonna do/Oh, I wanna be caught up in the middle of You”.

‘Never Alone’ speaks of God’s faithfulness: “Someone tell me how I stumble into doubting all the time/Some days I’m all together/And other days I stand here asking ‘Why?’/Then a Voice comes calling out to me/’You’re never alone cause I am with you and I will always be/I will hold you cause you belong to Me/You’re never alone cause I’ll be with you for all eternity’”.  The title track, ‘Undone’, is modern worship: “When I am overwhelmed/Holding pieces of my heart/When I feel my world start to fall apart/To the cross I run/Holding high my chains undone/Now I am finally free/Free to be what I’ve become/Undone”.

‘Shine On’ is an adult contemporary track that begins with these thought provoking words: “If we’re to be the light that shines for all of man/Then how can we light the way/If we don’t go to them?/I believe to know God’s heart/Is to meet them where they are”.  Last up is the quiet song of determination, ‘Keep Singing’, on which Matt Slocum plays cello: “Another rainy day/I can’t recall having sunshine on my face/And all I feel is pain/All I wanna do is walk out of this place.../I gotta keep singing/I gotta keep praising Your Name/That’s the only way that I’ll find healing”.

UNDONE is a combination of Christian pop and adult contemporary music with doses of modern worship interspersed.  The instrumentation and Bart`s vocals are great!  Fans of Steven Curtis Chapman and Casting Crowns should buy this CD.  God`s love and care for us come through clearly on this project, as does our responsibility to share God`s love with others.  A strong desire to be in God`s presence and ultimately heaven, is conveyed.  God alone is worthy to be worshiped.  I`m rating UNDONE 88%.  For more info visit:


Monday, May 22, 2017


Amy Lee Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia.  She’s the youngest of four sisters.  She put out her self-titled debut album on Myrrh Records in 1977.  It included ‘Beautiful Music’ and ‘Mountain Top’.  In 1982 she released the monumental album AGE TO AGE, which included ‘Sing Your Praise to the Lord’ and ‘El Shaddai’.  Fast forward to 1984 and Amy released her fifth studio album, STRAIGHT AHEAD (Myrrh/A&M).  It topped the Billboard Christian Album Chart for 61 weeks!  It was also the first Christian album to make it on to the Billboard Pop Album Chart.  Brown Bannister produced the album which also won a Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’.

‘Where Do You Hide Your Heart’ starts things off and is one of two songs written by Amy and Michael W. Smith.  This pop song includes a guitar solo by Dann Huff and points people to Christ: “Leave the hurt behind you/Love has found you now/And He’ll never let you go/Oh, you’ve got to know/That Jesus will not leave us now/So leave your cares behind.../When you’re feeling low/Let me let you know/That we’re all sad sometimes/Jesus carries you/He’s gonna see you through”.  ‘Jehovah’ is a reciprocal love song: “And Jehovah, I love You so/And Jesus, I want You to know/All You’ve done for me to set me free/I’ll never let You go.../Consider the creatures of the air/He takes after each and every need/If we ask Him for bread/Will He give us a stone?/Jehovah loves His own”.

Amy, Michael, Gary Chapman, and Brown Bannister wrote ‘Angels’.  It was a #1 Christian radio hit for thirteen weeks and won a Grammy for ‘Best Gospel Performance, Female’.  It’s a Contemporary Christian Music classic that testifies: “I know they’re all around me/All day and through the night/When the enemy is closing in/I know sometimes they fight/To keep my feet from falling/I’ll never turn away/If you’re asking what’s protecting me/Then you’re gonna hear me say/’Angels watching over me every move I make/Angels watching over me (2X)/Every step I take/Angels watching over me’”.  The title track, ‘Straight Ahead’, is an adult contemporary ballad of hope: “Straight ahead I can see Your light/Straight ahead through the dark/Straight ahead there’s no left or right/Straight ahead to Your heart.../Lying thoughts tell me I’m lost not found/But clearly I can see You’re waiting there for me”.

‘Thy Word’ is an inspirational classic about the importance of God’s Word and presence: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (2X).../Nothing will I fear as long as You are near/Please be near me to the end”.  Two of the background vocalists are Donna McElroy and Kim Fleming.  ‘It’s Not a Song’ speaks of the impact music can have on us: “It’s not a song ‘til it touches your heart/It’s not a song ‘til it tears you apart/After what’s left of what’s right and what’s wrong/’Til it gets through to you, it’s not a song”.

‘Open Arms’ is a light pop song about a divine romance: “I’ve had a taste of tenderness, simple and true/Drives away the doubting and draws me into/Your open arms/Your love has taken hold and I can’t fight it/I’m giving in to Your open arms/They pull me to You/They wrap Your love around me/I’ll rest in Your open arms”.  Rich Mullins wrote ‘Doubly Good to You’, a pretty song of gratitude: “You can thank the Father for the things that He has done/And thank Him for the things He’s yet to do/And if you find a love that’s tender/If you find someone who’s true/Thank the Lord/He’s been doubly good to you”.

‘Tomorrow’ is a pop song that offers advice: ``Open your eyes to tomorrow/Open your life to His care/Open your past to His mercy/Open your heart/He’ll be there/We got tomorrow/There’ll be changes made inside.../If this day went wrong/You gotta pick up/You gotta move on to tomorrow”.  Mike Brignardello plays bass.  Pam Mark Hall wrote ‘The Now and The Not Yet’, the album’s closing ballad.  It anticipates our final spiritual transformation: “When He appears, He’ll draw us near/And we’ll be changed by His glory/Wrapped up in His glory/We will be like Him/For we shall see Him as He is”.  Jon Goin plays guitars.

STRAIGHT AHEAD is comprised of a nice mix of adult contemporary and pop songs from the first part of the 1980’s.  Amy’s vocals are delivered with extra passion on this record.  The lyrics speak of God’s love for and protection of us.  He is a caring Refuge for us.  The songs also speak of Amy’s love for God and her gratitude for what He has done, and has yet to do in her life.  Even though life brings trials, Amy is optimistic about her earthly future and her home to be, in heaven.  I’m rating this record 87% and recommending it to fans of the early material of Sandi Patty and Evie.  The following year Amy would release one of my favorite albums of hers, UNGUARDED.  For more info visit:

Friday, May 19, 2017


MercyMe formed in 1994 and put out six independent albums before signing with INO Records.  Their debut album for that label was 2001’s ALMOST THERE.  It was produced by Peter Kipley.  Band members were: Bart Millard (lead vocals), Mike Scheuchzer (guitars and background vocals), Jim Bryson (keys), Nathan Cochran (bass and background vocals), and Robby Shaffer (drums).  In the liner notes the band writes: “To all of our ‘fans’.  Thank you for supporting us these last seven years.  Watching you worship makes all of the 3 a.m. driving shifts, hard work, and flat tires worth every minute”.

Peter Kipley and Reggie Hamm wrote the pop song ‘I Worship You’.  It reminds us that worship can be fun: “I’ve been walking with a big grin/Singing with my eyes closed/Lifting up my hands/I’ve been lost in the moment/Sending up praises/Now I think I understand/When I open up and let it flow/I feel Your touch and then I know/I can never live without it/And I’m never going to doubt it/Everyday it’s new, yeah”.  ‘Here Am I’ is a rock song about the lost: “On the other side of the world/She stands on the ocean shore/Gazing at the heavens she wonders/Is there something more?/Never been told the name of Jesus/She turns and walks away/What a shame/Just across the street in your hometown/Leaving from his nine to five/Gazing down the road he wonders/Is this all there is to life?/Never been told the name of Jesus/He continues on his way/What a shame”.  ‘On My Way to You’ is a prayer: “Teach me to think like You think/Show me the things that are true/Finish the work You have started in me/As I’m on my way to You (2X)/Create in me a pure heart and make me new/Less of me, Jesus more of You”.

‘How Great is Your Love’ is one of three songs penned solely by lead vocalist Bart Millard.  It’s a pleasant adult contemporary song that glorifies God: “Praise the Lord O my Soul/And glory to the King/Forever You are robed with majesty/We come to You O Lord/Lay our praise at Your feet/How great is Your love/So much higher than the heavens/With faithfulness that reaches the sky”.  ‘I Can Only Imagine’ was the album’s second single.  It won a Dove in 2002 for ‘Song of the Year’ and went on to top the Billboard 200 Sales Chart for seven weeks.  This now modern Christian music classic anticipates heaven: “Surrounded by Your glory/What will my heart feel?/Will I dance for You Jesus?/Or in awe of You be still?/Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?/Will I sing hallelujah?/Will I be able to speak at all?/I can only imagine”.

‘Bless Me Indeed’ was the album’s lead single.  It didn’t fare well, but I like this pop song that cries out to God: “My Jesus, I need You now/May Your grace look my way/To hear You sing over me/Make Your desires and mine the same/Bless me indeed/Open wide my horizons to share Your Name/Bless me indeed/Let Your hand keep me from harm and pain/Bless me (2X)”.  ‘Cannot Say Enough’ is a lovely ballad: “What can we say to describe just a glimpse of Your glory?/How can our words portray but a thread of Your majesty?/But still we praise our Savior/In Spirit and in truth/For we cannot say enough about You”.

‘House of God’ is a cool rock song of invitation: “Welcome to the house of God my friend/All are welcome, all may enter in/Come experience the peace and hope within/We come here for God and God alone/The house of God/All draw near, make yourself at home/The house of God”.  ‘Call to Worship’ testifies: “I will worship the One who calmed the raging sea/And I will worship the One who hushed the rage in me/And I will worship You and I will worship You/My hands I lift to You/My voice I lift to You//My heart I lift to You/Hallelujah!”

‘All Fall Down’ is one of five songs written by the five group members.  This one is about having a sure faith: “My soul finds rest and comfort from only You/My fortress and my rock/I won’t be moved/You are my cornerstone whose love endures.../And I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (2X)”.  Last up is the adult contemporary number ‘In You’ which looks towards heaven: “It’s the Creator calling the created/The Maker beckoning the made/The bride finding what she’s always waited for/When we find ourselves that day/In You, where the hungry feast at the table/The blind frozen by colors in view/The lame will dance, they’ll dance for they are able/And the weary find rest/O the weary find rest in You”.

ALMOST THERE is a very strong album of mostly adult contemporary and pop sounds, with a bit of rock mixed in.  Bart Millard’s lead vocals are just great!  This album is about praising and worshipping God wholeheartedly for His love, faithfulness, majesty, saving power, and creation.  The songs also express a desire for intimacy with God and to be more Christlike.  It is made clear that Christians are to share the Gospel with those who don’t believe it or haven’t properly heard it.  I’m rating this one a perfect 100% and recommending it to fans of Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith.  For more info visit:

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Celine Marie Claudette Dion was born on March 30, 1968 in Charlemagne, Quebec.  She’s the youngest of fourteen children.  In 1981 she released her debut solo album LA VOIX DU BON DIEU.  Fast forward to 1990 and she put out her first English language album, UNISON.  It included the hit ‘Where Does My Heart Beat Now’.  Over the years she became one of the most respected vocalists worldwide.  In 1997 she had a #1 hit with ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the movie Titanic.  Fast forward again to 2013 and she released her 11th English language studio album, LOVED ME BACK TO LIFE (Columbia).  Here, I will be reviewing the Deluxe Edition.

Starting things off is the title track and first single, ‘Loved Me Back to Life’.  It was written by Hasham Hussein, Denarius Motes, and Sia Furler.  This pop song is about resuscitation: “The voices inside were so real/But you stood by my side/Night after night (2X)/You loved me back to life/Life/From the coma/The wait is over/You loved me back to life/Life/From the coma/We’re lovers again tonight/You woke me up/One touch and I felt alive”.  ‘Somebody Loves Somebody’ finds Celine addressing her partner: “Wait/I’m hearing every word that you say/You wonder if we made a mistake/It’s written all over your face/You know it’s too late/We’ve already fallen in love/Tell me, is it askin’ too much/For you to stick it out when it’s tough?/Is it ever enough?”  ‘Incredible’ is a R&B ballad and duet with Ne-Yo.  It’s a love song: “Whole world is watching us now/It’s a little intimidating/But since there’s no way to come down/Let’s give ‘em something amazing/Let’s make them remember/Using one word/Incredible”.

Francis ‘Eg’ White and Daniel Merriweather wrote the album’s fourth single, ‘Water and a Flame’.  It’s a soulful ballad of longing: “I’m tired of this empty house/I need a drink to get me out/A couple more ‘til I forget your name/I saw a guy that looked like you/I did not know quite what to do/It took a power of will to break my stare/I realized what I wanted wasn’t there”.  ‘Breakaway’ is a song of reflection: “If I could breakaway/Cut the chord/For worse or better/If I could turn the page/At last and say/Goodbye forever/But on the other side/Of yesterday/Beyond the heartache/What if all I am/Without the pain/Is empty heartache?/I could breakaway”.  ‘Save Your Soul’ is a pop song addressed to a guy: “I’ll forget what you’ve done/But I can’t save your soul/I won’t preach, I won’t judge/Save your soul/You could get on your knees/But I can’t save your soul/Baby, just let me be”.

Next up is an easy listening number, ‘Didn’t Know Love’.   These lyrics are vulnerable: “I didn’t know love, not even close/This is more beautiful and frightening than I’ve ever known/It’s making me weak, making me strong/It’s making me afraid I’m going to wake up and find it gone/I didn’t know love/It’s a blessing, it’s a curse/You know you’ve found it when it hurts/It can drive you off a cliff/But it’s worth it”.  Shaffer Smith wrote ‘Thank You’, a beautiful song of gratitude: “Cause when no one else would care, you did/And when no one else was there, you were/Now I am so aware/You’re a blessing to me/What did I do to deserve/To deserve you?”  ‘Overjoyed’ is a duet with the legendary Stevie Wonder.  The song originally was on his 1985 album IN SQUARE CIRCLE.  This R&B ballad begins with these childlike lyrics: “Over time I’ve been building my castle of love/Just for two/Though you never knew you were my reason/I’ve gone much too far for you now to say/That I’ve got to throw my castle away/Over dreams/I have picked out a perfect come true/Though you never knew it was of you I’ve been dreaming/The sandman has come from too far away/For you to say come back some other day”.

‘Thankful’ is an adult contemporary ballad of gratitude: “I’m thankful to be here/Thankful to feel clear/Thankful my prayers have been answered/Thankful you listened/Thankful to heaven/Thankful for feelin’ alive again/Thankful that hearts always mend”.  A choir is used to good effect.  Janis Ian wrote ‘At Seventeen’.   It was on her 1975 album BETWEEN THE LINES.  Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds plays bass on Celine’s version of this classic: “I learned the truth at seventeen/That love was meant for beauty queens/And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles/Who married young and then retired/The Valentines I never knew/The Friday night charades of youth/Were spent on one more beautiful/At seventeen I learned the truth”.  ‘Always Be Your Girl’ is a ballad of commitment: “We’ll always be connected, baby/Like a button to a sleeve/And this lullaby will send you off to sleep/It’s hard to imagine my life before you/Cause you’re the light that leads the way.../I’ll be holdin’ the rope if you tumble and fall”.

Diane Warren wrote ‘Unfinished Songs’, a pop song of positivity on which Jeanette Olsonn sings background vocals: “We’re all unfinished songs/Waiting for the best part to come along, hey, hey/And we’re all pictures half drawn/We can be anything we want, hey, hey/Now is your time/It’s your life/No one’s living it but you”.  The Deluxe Edition of the album contains two additional cuts.  ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing’ makes use of The Nashville String Machine and asks some good questions: “How do you keep the music playing?/How do you make it last?/How do you keep the song from fading too fast?/How do you lose yourself to someone and never lose your ways?/How do you not run out of new things to say?”  Last up is ‘Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)’.  It was written by Billy Joel and was on his 1993 album RIVER OF DREAMS.  It’s a gentle song about being faithful: “I promised I would never leave you/And you should always know/Wherever you may go/No matter where you are/I never will be far away.../And like a boat out on the ocean/I’m rocking you to sleep/The water’s dark and deep/Inside this ancient heart/You’ll always be a part of me”.

LOVED ME BACK TO LIFE is a flawless album!  Genre-wise, it’s mainly an adult pop and adult contemporary work of art, with the slower songs outnumbering the faster-paced ones by a bit.  These are not songs about puppy love or about promiscuity.  The songs fall into two categories for the most part: happy love songs that involve commitment, and more serious songs about the problems and complexities folks encounter when it comes to relationships.  Gratitude is also a theme on the album.  Celine’s vocals are strong but not overpowering on this modern sounding project.  The Deluxe Edition clocks in at over an hour and there are several terrific pics of Celine included.  I’m rating LOVED ME BACK TO LIFE 100%.  For more info visit:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2002 she won the first season of ‘American Idol’.  Her debut album was THANKFUL (2003).  The debut single, ‘A Moment Like This’ hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Her second album was 2004’s BREAKAWAY.  In June 2007 Kelly put out her third album, MY DECEMBER (RCA/19).  Billboard’s readers named it the fifth best album of the year.

The opening song, ‘Never Again’, was written by Kelly and Jimmy Messer.  It was the first worldwide single.  This hard rocking song is addressed to a former lover: “Never again will I kiss you/Never again will I want to/Never again will I love you/Never/Does it hurt to know I’ll never be there?/Bet it sucks/See my face everywhere/It was you who chose to end it like you did/I was the last to know”.  ‘One Minute’ also rocks and reminds me of people who are bi-polar: “One minute you laugh/The next minute you’re sinking into something black/I get the feeling that lately nothing ever really lasts”.  ‘Hole’ describes the spiritual state of many today: “Tired of everything around me/I smile but I don’t feel a thing, no/I’m so far from where I need to be/I’ve given up on faith, on everything/All I want, all I need/Is some peace/There’s a hole inside of me/It’s so cold/Slowly killing me”.

Kelly, Aben Eubanks, Jimmy Messer, and Calamity McEntire wrote ‘Sober’, the second single.  It’s a ballad of struggle: “Three months and I’m still sober/Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers/But I know it’s never really over/And I don’t know/I could crash and burn but maybe/At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me/So I won’t worry about my timing, I want to get it right”.  ‘Don’t Waste Your Time’ is about a gal ready to move on from a relationship: “Don’t waste your time trying to fix/What I want to erase/What I need to forget/Don’t waste your time on me my friend/Friend, what does that even mean?/I don’t want your hand/You’ll only pull me down”.

‘Judas’ is a rock song, not surprisingly, about betrayal: “You turned around, betrayed your only brother/Forgetting me, you took things in your hands and left me out/After we’d been through so much/How could you let me down?.../Couldn’t believe (2X)/How you deceived, you deceived”.  ‘Haunted’ was penned by Kelly, Jason Halbert (formerly of Sonicflood), and Jimmy Messer.  It finds Kelly crying out and includes eerie sounds: “Where are you?/I need you/Don’t leave me here on my own/Speak to me/Be near me/I can’t survive unless I know you’re with me/Why did you go?/All these questions run through my mind/I wish I couldn’t feel at all/Let me be numb”.

‘Be Still’, is, appropriately a tender love song: “Far, away from it all/You and me with no one else around/A brand new start/Is all we need, it’s all we need to mend these hearts/Back to the beginning/Be still/Let it go/Before we lost hope/When we still touched and love wasn’t so hard”.  ‘Maybe’ is a confessional track: “I’m confusing as hell/I’m north and south/And I’ll probably never have it all figured out/But what I know is I wasn’t meant to walk this world without you/And I promise I’ll try/Yeah, I’m gonna try to give you every little part of me”.

‘How I Feel’ is one of four songs written by Kelly, Jimmy Messer, and Dwight Baker.  This pop/rock song is one many single gals will be able to relate to: “It seems every time I find a good man/He’s got a good little wife/I’m not jealous but I won’t lie/I don’t want to hear about your wonderful life/And babies everywhere I look/Trophy wives with their little black books/At this rate I’m gonna end up alone/It’s probably all my fault...”  ‘Yeah’ has a funkified sound and finds Kelly confident: “I want to know, taste, hold, love you anytime I want to/Let me show you/Let me give you everything I have saved just for you/I know you love me but I’m gonna need more than what you’re giving me”.

‘Can I Have A Kiss’ finds Kelly speaking to a guy: “I’ve been a mess since you’ve known me/I can’t promise forever/But I’m working on it/If I can’t hold you/Can I give you a kiss?”  ‘Irvine’ is a stripped down ballad with Aben Eubanks on the lap steel.  It’s about wanting companionship: “Will you stay?/Stay till the darkness leaves/Stay here with me”.  Last up is a hidden track, the acoustic ‘Chivas’.

MY DECEMBER reminds me quite a bit of Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album JAGGED LITTLE PILL.  It is first and foremost a dandy rock music album delivered by times with angst by a young, compelling female vocalist.  It is clear that Kelly truly wants to be in a happy, harmonious romantic relationship with a guy.  However, she has experienced a lot of hurt, heartbreak, and misunderstanding that has left her jaded and afraid of getting hurt again. She is willing to take the risk though.  Kelly is very transparent and honest on this album, not trying to fool anybody.  If you’re looking for an album of catchy, cheery pop love songs, you won’t find it here!  The photos of Kelly are great.  I’m rating MY DECEMBER 92%.  For more info visit:

Saturday, May 13, 2017


According to “A Ragamuffin Band is a musical group founded by Rich Mullins in 1993, when he gathered friends from other bands to back his A LITURGY, A LEGACY & A RAGUMUFFIN BAND album.  The band continued to record and tour with Mullins, and even carried on after his 1997 death”.  In his book ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ (1990), Brennan Manning defined ‘ragamuffins’ as “the burdened, the wobbly and weak-kneed, the inconsistent, unsteady disciples...the smart people who know they are stupid...the honest disciples who admit they are scalawags”.  In 1999 the album PRAYERS OF A RAGAMUFFIN (Myrrh) came out.  Band members at the time were: Rick Elias, Mark Robertson, Jimmy Abegg, and Aaron Smith.

‘Make Me an Instrument’ is a prayerful adult contemporary ballad: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace/Where there’s hatred let me show love/And where there is injury, pardon/And where there is doubt, then faith/And where there’s despair, then hope.../Let the blood of Your Son cover me/Touching my spirit/Seizing my soul”.  ‘Nothing You Don’t Know’ is one of two songs written by Mark Robertson.  This one is an adult rock song that declares total dependence on God: “I can’t live without the passion of the One who shaped it all/Created the heavens and the earth, yet saved my soul/But that’s nothing You don’t know”.

Next up is ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ a cheery pop song: “Little children are a wonder/Life pure witness to the Maker/There’s nothing finer than the innocence we’re born in/To the glory of the King/Brother sun, sister moon/Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”  ‘Faith, Hope, Love’ is a great confessional rock song: “Hear this ragamuffin’s prayer/Cuz I got nothing else/I don’t need nothing but faith to make me strong/I don’t need nothing but hope to keep moving on/But most of all love/I don’t need nothing this world ever claimed to give/Throw the old man away and let the new man live/And all that he’ll need to rise above/Is faith, hope, and love”.

‘Help Thou My Unbelief’ is one of three songs written by Rick Elias.  It’s a moving ballad that cries out to God for help: “Tempted by shadows and scourged by the night/I long for the warmth of the sun/Exposing my weaknesses/Revealing all lies/Finish the work You’ve begun/For I am undone/Help Thou my unbelief/Lest I fall away/And give my heart wings/With visions and dreams/The world cannot steal away”.  Rich Mullins co-wrote ‘My Heart Already Knows’.  It’s about grasping truth: “If I ever learn what my heart already knows/And not feel the hurt that I wear on my sleeve/But the laughter that burns inside my soul/Let the child come alive, and drive away these ghosts/You know my head ain’t even close to what my heart already knows/Lord, I’m asking for this sign/Light my heart up with my mind”.

‘Bouncing off the Ceiling’ is a catchy adult rock song about prayer: “Sometimes I get the feeling my prayers bounce right off the ceiling/And they spin around the room with me and they never get to You/And though my head is reeling I will still go on believing/They’ll fly like holy missiles and tear a hole right through the roof/My one wish is to break through, when I try to get to You/My one fear is a deaf ear/Please tell me it ain’t true”.  ‘God Grant me Tears’ includes these words desiring purification: “God grant me tears/Enough to wash these sins away/Away from my heart today/And forever/Let the wild wind blow/Let it drive them to a barren place/Scatter them without a trace/God grant me tears I pray”.

Aaron Smith wrote ‘Shout’, a bluesy rocker of determination: “I’m gonna shout, gonna shout, cause I feel alright/I’m gonna shout with the rocks crying out tonight/I’m gonna shout til my soul finds sweet relief/I’m gonna find a secret place and get down on my knees/I’m crying to the Lord, saying/’Please, please, please!’”  ‘We’ll Be Together Again’ is one of two songs penned by Jimmy Abegg.  It’s a pretty song of anticipation on which Jim Hoke plays the pennywhistle: “We’ve been the beggars who ride wishes horses/Living like dreamers, I won’t deny/All of our dreaming was only a moment/But we’ll be together again/You’re standing beside me, laughing out loud/I’m standing beside you, a laugh and a prayer/You’re standing beside me/Arms stretching wide/Singing your freedom/We’ll be together again”.

PRAYERS OF A RAGAMUFFIN is a very solid album.  Other talented personnel on the album are: the now late Tom Howard, Eric Darken, Phil Madeira, Neil Rosengarden, Linda Elias (background vocals), The Ragamuffin Choir, and the Nashville String Machine.  Piano, percussion, organ, and horns all add flavor here.  It is clear that the Ragamuffin Band wants to be pure and used by God for good things while on this earth.  There are also songs here about being in love with God and being grateful for who He is and what He has done.  In addition, there are a few songs about doubt, which is something we all struggle with at one time or another.  I’m rating this album 86% and recommending it to fans of Bruce Springsteen and Big Tent Revival.  For more info connect with the band members on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Edwards on August 28, 1965 in Windsor, Ontario.  She grew up in Timmins, Ontario and began singing in bars when she was eight to help her family pay their bills.  When she was thirteen she played on ‘The Tommy Hunter Show’.  In 1987 her mother and stepdad died in a car accident.  She became responsible for her younger siblings and played shows at the Deerhurst Resort in the Huntsville, Ontario area.  Shania’s self-titled debut album came out in 1993.  The songs ‘What Made You Say That’ and ‘Dance with the one who Brought You’ were minor hits in the U.S.  Twain married rock producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange on December 28, 1993.  He produced Shania’s follow-up album, THE WOMAN IN ME (1995, Mercury).  It won a Grammy for ‘Best Country Album’ and Twain was named ‘Best New Female Vocalist’ at the Academy of Country Music Awards, where she also won ‘Album of the Year’.

First up is ‘Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore)’.  It’s one of ten co-writes by Twain and Lange.  It’s a sad country ballad about heartache: “He knew how to reach me deep inside/And he found a part of me I could not hide/And we’d walk and talk and touch tenderly/Then he’d lay me down and make love to me/We built a love so strong it couldn’t break/There was not a road we were afraid to take.../But he don’t feel the same/Since our lives became years of bills, babies and chains”.  ‘Any Man of Mine’ was one of four #1 singles from the album.  Dann Huff provides electric solo, wa-wa guitar, lead lix, and claps, while Rob Hajacos plays fiddle on this upbeat country song from the perspective of a woman who definitely knows what she wants: “Any man of mine better walk the line/Better show me a teasin’, squeezin’, pleasin’ kinda time/I need a man who knows how the story goes/He’s gotta be a heartbeatin’, fine treatin’/Breathtakin’, earhquakin’ kind/Any man of mine”.

‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?’ was the album’s first single.  It hit #11 on the Billboard Country Chart.  It’s a highly danceable song addressed to an unfaithful guy: “I heard you’ve been sneakin’ around with Jill/And what about that weekend with Beverly Hill?/And I’ve seen you walkin’ with long legs Louise/And you weren’t just talkin’ last night with Denise.../So next time you’re lonely/Don’t call on me/Try the operator/Maybe she’ll be free”.  ‘(If You’re not in it for Love) I’m Outta Here!’ is a real toe-tapper that finds Terry McMillan on harmonica and cowbell.  These words make it clear Shania wants more than a fling: “He says come be a star in the back seat of my car/Oh, but baby slow down/You’re goin’ way too far/Let me make it clear to you my dear/If you’re not in it for love/If you’re not willin’ to give it all you got/If you’re not in it for life/If you’re not in it for love/Let me make it clear to you my dear/If you’re not in it for love/I’m outta here!”

The title track, ‘The Woman in Me (Needs the Man in You)’ follows.  It’s a lovely country ballad that makes use of the Nashville String Machine.  It is a confessional song: “I can’t always be the rock that you see/When the nights get too long and I just can’t go on/The woman in me/Needs you to be the man in my arms to hold tenderly/Cause I’m a woman in love/And it’s you I run to/Yeah, the woman in me needs the man in you”.  ‘Is There Life After Love?’ includes this chorus: “Is there life after love?/Some things aren’t certain/But some things I’m sure of/Like angels in heaven and God up above/But is there life after love?”

‘If it Don’t Take Two’ is a fun country shuffle on which Paul Franklin plays the pedal steel and Mutt sings vocal harmonies.  It’s all about partnership: “It takes two hearts with one beat/And it takes two to say I do/But the champagne won’t taste sweet/And the dream just won’t come true/If it don’t take two/Noah knew what he had to do, oh yeah/He sent us out in the world walkin’ two by two, me and you”.  Mutt Lange wrote ‘You Win My Love’, a song of celebration: “You win my love, you win my soul/You win my heart, yeah, you get it all/You win my love/You make my motor run/You win my love, yeah, you’re number one”.

‘Raining on our Love’ is a sorrowful country and western ballad: “With my head so far above the clouds I didn’t see that it was raining on our love.../I was taking all the love you had to give/But I was too lost in life to know/That without my love in return you could not live/Now she gives the love I did not show”.  Shania is the sole writer of ‘Leaving is the Only Way Out’, a song about a relationship coming to an end: “When late nights and long lies came knockin’/You just invited them in/And our voices got too loud for talkin’/Then my heart hit the floor/But your feet just kept walkin’”.

‘No One Needs to Know’ hit #1.  John Barlow Jarvis plays the Wurlitzer on this playful country number: “I met a tall, dark, and handsome man/And I’ve been busy makin’ big plans/But no one needs to know right now.../I’ll tell him someday, some way, somehow/But I’m gonna keep it a secret for now/I want bells to ring, a choir to sing/The white dress, the guests, the cake, the car, the whole darn thing/But no one needs to know right now”.  Last up is the short and spiritual acappella song ‘God Bless the Child’.  Witness these words: “Hallelujah (2X)/Let us all love one another/Hallelujah (2X)/Make all our hearts blind to color/Hallelujah (2X)/God bless the child who suffers”.

The Nashville establishment didn’t know what hit them when Shania Twain’s modern country sounds blasted onto the airwaves.  It wasn’t until 2006 when Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album that Nashville would be so stunned again.  THE WOMAN IN ME contains six fast songs and six ballads, making for a nice mix.  Several of the songs describe what Shania is looking for in a man.  She desires true love, faithfulness, a tender touch, and to be treated like a lady.  Many other songs deal with being cheated on, heartache, heartbreak, and loneliness.  The photos of Shania included with the CD are sexy and beautiful.  I’m rating THE WOMAN IN ME 97%.  For more info visit:

Monday, May 08, 2017


Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota.  He put out his self-titled debut album back in 1962.  Over the years this music legend has been known for such songs as: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘All Along the Watchtower’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’, and ‘Duquesne Whistle’.  Dylan is a folk and rock music icon.  In the late 1970’s he became a born again Christian.  His first album of faith was 1979’s SLOW TRAIN COMING.  The opening track from it, ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’, won him a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Vocal Performance By a Male’.  His second album of faith was SAVED, released in 1980.  The third album in his Christian trilogy was SHOT OF LOVE (1981, Columbia).  It is what I will be reviewing here.  The album reached #6 in the U.K. and #33 in the US.  In the CD booklet you will find Matthew 11:25: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”.

The rockin’ title track ‘Shot of Love’ is up first and finds Bob and Clydie King taking the vocal lead.  It includes these thought provoking lyrics: “Why would I want to take your life?/You’ve only murdered my father, raped his wife/Tattooed my babies with a poison pen/Mocked my God, humiliated my friends/I need a shot of love (2X).../Called home/Everybody seemed to have moved away/My conscience is beginning to bother me today/I need a shot of love (6X)/If you’re a doctor, I need a shot of love”.  ‘Heart of Mine’ reached #8 in Norway.  William ‘Smitty’ Smith plays organ and Ringo Starr and Ron Wood also contribute their talents on this pop/rock song on which Bob talks to himself: “Heart of mine be still/You can play with fire, but you’ll get the bill/Don’t let her know/Don’t let her know that you love her/Don’t be a fool/Don’t be blind, heart of mine/Heart of mine go back home/You got no reason to wander, no reason to roam/Don’t let her see/Don’t let her see that you need her/Don’t put yourself over the line/Heart of mine”.

Steve Ripley and Danny Kortchmar play guitars on ‘Property of Jesus’, a marvelous rock song that addresses critics of a new Christian in a sarcastic manner: “Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt/Because he has denied himself the things that you can’t live without/Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do/Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin’ through/He’s the property of Jesus/Resent him to the bone/You got something better/You’ve got a heart of stone”.  Bob plays piano on the ballad ‘Lenny Bruce’.  It reflects on the life of the Jewish comedian who died of a drug overdose in 1966: “Maybe he had some problems/Maybe some things that he couldn’t work out/But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth/And he knew what he was talking about/Never robbed any churches/Nor cut off any babies heads/He just took the folks in high places/And he shined a light in their beds/He’s on some other shore/He didn’t wanna live anymore”.

Clydie King, Regina McCrary, and Madelyn Quebec provide background vocals on ‘Watered-Down Love’, a happy sounding pop number that seeks to define true love: “Love that’s pure, it don’t make no claims/Intercedes for you instead of casting you blame/Will not deceive you/Or lead you into transgression/Won’t write it up and make you sign a false confession.../Love that’s pure won’t lead you astray/Won’t hold you back/Won’t get in your way/Won’t pervert you, corrupt you with foolish wishes/Will, no, not make you envious, won’t make you suspicious”.  ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar’ is one of my all time favourite Dylan recordings.  It’s a fiery blues rock track that includes these words: “Cities on fire, phones out of order/They’re killing nuns and soldiers/There’s fighting on the border/What can I say about Claudette?/Ain’t seen her since January/She could be respectably married or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires/West of the Jordan, east of the Rock of Gibraltar/I see the turnin’ of the page/Curtain rising on a new age/See the groom still waiting at the altar”.

On ‘Dead Man, Dead Man’ Tim Drummond plays bass, Steve Douglas plays alto sax, and Carolyn Dennis is one of the background vocalists.  She married Bob in 1986 and they divorced in 1992.  This song has pointed lyrics: “Satan got you by the heel/There’s a bird’s nest in your hair/Do you have any faith at all?/Do you have any love to share?/The way that you hold your head, cursin’ God with every move/Ooh, I can’t stand it, I can’t stand it/What are you tryin’ to prove?/Dead man, dead man/When will you rise?/Cobwebs in your mind/Dust upon your eyes”.  ‘In the Summertime’ is a pretty ballad on which Bob plays harmonica and Jim Keltner plays drums.  It is essentially a love song: “Strangers, they meddled in our affairs/Poverty and shame was theirs/But all that suffering was not to be compared with the glory that is to be/And I’m still carrying the gift you gave/It’s a part of me now/It’s been cherished and saved/It’ll be with me unto the grave and into eternity.../In the summertime, when you were with me”.

Benmont Tench plays keyboards on ‘Trouble’, a blues/rock song that is anything but optimistic: “Drought and starvation, packaging of the soul/Persecution, execution, governments out of control/You can see the writing on the wall inviting trouble/Trouble (4X)/Nothing but trouble.../Since the beginning of the universe man’s been cursed by trouble”.  Last up is one of Bob’s masterpieces, ‘Every Grain of Sand’, on which he plays harmonica.  This ballad that is over six minutes long waxes spiritual: “Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake/Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break/In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand/In every leaf that trembles/In every grain of sand.../Then onward in my journey I come to understand/That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand”.  In 2003 Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow performed this song at Johnny Cash’s funeral.

Let me start off by saying SHOT OF LOVE is not an evangelistic record like his previous two Christian records were.  On this album you will, however, find many Christian references.  These are still songs sung by a man of faith.  Romantic relationships and passion are also explored here.  Musically, rock, blues, pop, and elements of gospel are all included on these ten songs.  Dylan’s vocals are strong and delivered with attitude.  I would say at least five of the songs here are worthy of being on a greatest hits collection.  I’m rating SHOT OF LOVE 90%.  For more info visit:

Thursday, May 04, 2017


MercyMe released their first major-label studio album ALMOST THERE in 2001.  It included the smash hit ‘I Can Only Imagine’, about heaven.  In 2004 they were named ‘Artist of the Year’ and ‘Group of the Year’ at the Dove Awards.  Other songs they are known for include ‘Word of God Speak’, ‘God With Us’, and ‘You Reign’.  In 2011 they put out THE WORSHIP SESSIONS (Fair Trade/Columbia).  At the time, MercyMe was: Barry Graul, Bart Millard, Jim Bryson, Mike Scheuchzer, Nathan Cochran, and Robby Shaffer.  In the liner notes, the band writes: “All we really want is Christ and Him glorified.  We pray all of our offerings do just that”.

Starting things off is ‘Hungry’, a piano based ballad of spiritual surrender: “I’m falling on my knees/Offering all of me/Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for/Broken I run to You/For Your arms are open wide/I am weary but I know Your touch restores my life/So I wait for You/Oh, I wait for You”.  Brooke Fraser wrote ‘Hosanna’, an upbeat pop/rock number that paints a marvelous picture: “I see the King of glory/Coming on the clouds with fire/The whole earth shakes (2X)/I see His love and mercy washing over all our sin/The people sing (2X)/And Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! (2X)”  ‘My Glorious’ is a rootsy rock song that places total confidence in God: “Clouds are breaking, heaven’s come to earth/Hearts awakening/Let the church bells ring/And all You ever do is change the old for new/And people/We believe that God is bigger than the air I breathe and the world we’ll leave/God will save the day/And all will say ‘My Glorious! My Glorious!’”

‘Mighty to Save’ was written by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding.  It’s a modern worship anthem of testimony: “Saviour, He can move the mountains/My God is mighty to save/He is mighty to save/Forever, Author of Salvation/He rose and conquered the grave/Jesus conquered the grave”.  ‘Come Thou Fount’ includes these traditional, thought-provoking words: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be/Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee/Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love/Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above”.

Phil Wickham penned ‘You’re Beautiful’, a wonderful adult contemporary ballad that ends by anticipating heaven: “When we arrive at eternity’s shore/Where death is just a memory and tears are no more/We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring/Your bride will come together and we’ll sing ‘You’re beautiful’”.  ‘Hearts Sing Louder’ has an 80’s pop vibe to it.  The lyrics are ones of unashamed praise: “May our hearts sing louder than our voices Jesus (2X)/For the only one worthy is the one who freed us.../And we dance, and we praise/And we lift our hearts and say/’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord our God’”.

‘Just As I Am’ includes additional lyrics by lead singer Bart Millard: “O come you who are weary/O come you who have strayed/He has come for the lost/Lay your sins at the cross/And your doubts here at the grave”.  Bart and Kendall Combes wrote ‘Psalm 139 (You are There)’, an adult contemporary song that declares: “I will sing/Sing a new song/Because You love me/I will sing/Sing a new song/Because You’re there”.

‘In Christ Alone’ is now a modern worship standard.  The version here is pretty and includes these words about the incarnation and the atonement: “In Christ alone/Who took on flesh/Fullness of God in helpless babe/This gift of love and righteousness/Scorned by the ones He came to save/Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied/For every sin on Him was laid/Here in the death of Christ I live!”  Last up is ‘There is a Fountain’, a reverent and classic ballad: “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins/And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.../Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die”.

THE WORSHIP SESSIONS contains a nice mix of faster paced songs and ballads.  Stylewise, you will find adult contemporary, modern worship, and adult rock selections presented here.  God is praised for both who He is and what He has done for us.  He has rescued us, saving us from the power of sin and death.  Because of this, we can look forward with great expectation to our perfect heavenly home where we’ll spend eternity.  God is shown to be our loving source of comfort and strength on this album.  Bart Millard’s vocals are easy to listen to.  I’m rating THE WORSHIP SESSIONS 95%.  For more info visit:

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey.  He was raised Roman Catholic.  His early influences included Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beatles.  Bruce released his debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J., in January of 1973.  In 2002 he released THE RISING (Columbia), his twelfth studio album and his first with the E Street Band since 1984’s BORN IN THE U.S.A.  Brendan O’Brien, who would later produce Third Day’s MIRACLE, produced the album.  THE RISING debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart and sold over 520,000 copies in the first week!  It won a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Album’.

Starting things off is the album’s second single, ‘Lonesome Day’.  It hit #36 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 Chart.  Soozie Tyrell plays violin and contributes background vocals on this song that includes these powerful lyrics: “Better ask questions before you shoot/Deceit and betrayal’s bitter fruit/It’s hard to swallow come time to pay/That taste on your tongue don’t easily slip away/Let kingdom come/I’m gonna find my way/Through this lonesome day”.  ‘Into the Fire’ is a pleasant song that includes these prayerful words: “May your strength give us strength/May your faith give us faith/May your hope give us hope/May your love bring us love”.  ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’ was a #15 hit in Sweden.  On this breezy pop song, Bruce pours out his heart: “Without you, I’m workin’ with the rain fallin’ down/I’m half a party in a one dog town/I need you to chase these blues away/Without you I’m a drummer, girl that can’t keep a beat/An ice cream truck on a deserted street/I hope that you’re coming to stay/I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day/Gonna chase the clouds away/Waitin’ on a sunny day”.

‘Nothing Man’ sounds like a ballad told from the perspective of a soldier who has returned home: “I never thought I’d live to read about myself in my hometown paper/How my brave young life was forever changed/In a misty cloud of pink vapor/Darlin’ give me your kiss/Only understand I am the nothing man.../Around here, everybody acts like nothing’s changed...”  ‘Countin’ on A Miracle’ is a rock masterpiece about a romantic relationship: “I’m runnin’ through the forest with the wolf at my heels/My king is lost at midnight when the tower bells peal/We’ve got no fairytale ending/In God’s hands our fate is complete/Your heaven’s here in my heart/Our love’s this dust beneath my feet/Just this dust beneath my feet/If I’m gonna live I’ll lift my life/Darlin’ to you”.  The song makes use of the Nashville String Machine.  Brendan O’Brien plays the hurdy gurdy on ‘Empty Sky’, a rock ballad about being lonely: “I woke up this morning, I could barely breathe/Just an empty impression/In the bed where you used to be/I want a kiss from your lips/I want an eye for an eye/I woke up this morning to an empty sky”.

‘Worlds Apart’ is a rock gem featuring the talents of Asif Ali Khan and Group.  It runs over six minutes long and is a cry for unity: “We’ll let blood build a bridge over mountains draped in stars/I’ll meet you on the ridge, between these worlds apart/We’ve got this moment now to live, then it’s all just dust and dark/Let love give what it gives/Let’s let love give what it gives”.  ‘Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)’ is a happy pop song desiring intimacy: “I been watchin’ you a long time/Trying to figure out where and when/We been moving down that same line/The time is now/Maybe we could get skin to skin/Don’t know when this chance might come again/Good times got a way of comin’ to an end”.  ‘Further On (Up the Road)’ is a manly rocker that offers hope to travelers on life’s journey: “I got a song to sing, to keep me out of the cold/And I’ll meet you further on up the road/Further on up the road/Further on up the road/Where the way is dark and the night is cold/One sunny mornin’/We’ll rise I know/And I’ll meet you further on up the road”.

‘The Fuse’ is all about human desire: “A quiet afternoon, an empty house/On the edge of the bed you slip off your blouse/The room is burning with the noon sun/Your bittersweet taste on my tongue/The fuse is burning/Shut out the lights/The fuse is burning/Come on, let me do you right”.  ‘Mary’s Place’ is a carefree adult rock song that features the Alliance Singers and a horn section: “Meet me at Mary’s place, we’re gonna have a party (2X)/Tell me how do we get this thing started?/Meet me at Mary’s place/Familiar faces around me/Laughter fills the air/Your loving grace surrounds me/Everybody’s here/Furniture’s out on the front porch/Music’s up loud/I dream of you in my arms/I lose myself in the crowd”.  ‘You’re Missing’ is a quiet song about grief: “Morning is morning, the evening falls/I got too much room in my bed/Too many phone calls/How’s everything, everything?/Everything (2X)/You’re missing (2X)/God’s drifting in heaven/Devil’s in the mailbox/I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops”.

The album’s title track and lead single, ‘The Rising’, is up next.  It won a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Song’ and also for ‘Best Male Rock Vocal Performance’.  It’s a terrific answer to 9/11: “I left the house this morning/Bells ringing filled the air/I was wearin’ the cross of my calling/On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here/Come on up for the rising/Come on up, lay your hands in mine/Come on up for the rising/Come on up for the rising tonight.../There’s spirits above and behind me/Faces gone black, eyes burnin’ bright/May their precious blood bind me/Lord, as I stand before your fiery light.../A dream of life comes to me/Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line”.  ‘Paradise’ is a mellow song with cryptic lyrics: “I sink ‘neath the water cool and clear/Drifting down I disappear/I see you on the other side/I search for the peace in your eyes/But they’re as empty as paradise/They’re as empty as paradise”.  Last up is ‘My City of Ruins’, a gospel influenced number: “Now there’s tears on the pillow/Darlin’ where we slept/And you took my heart when you left/Without your sweet kiss/My soul is lost, my friend/Tell me how do I begin again?/My city’s in ruins (2X).../With these hands/I pray for the strength, Lord.../I pray for the faith, Lord.../I pray for your love, Lord/With these hands.../Come on, rise up!”  Jane Scarpantoni plays cello.

THE RISING is a marvelous adult rock album.  Bruce’s vocals are passionate which makes the songs believable and moving.  Hope is a major theme here.  Bruce believes that we can find hope in romantic relationships, joining together with our fellow citizens of the earth, and also in a Higher Power.  Despair does not win out on this record.  The lyrics have a depth to them that a younger artist could not bring.  The E Street Band is terrific backing up Bruce.  Three of the members are: Clarence Clemons (saxophone, background vocals), Danny Federici (B3 organ, vox continental, arfisa) and Patty Scialfa (vocals).  The CD booklet is lovely.  I’m rating THE RISING 98% and recommending it to fans of Tom Cochrane and Tom Petty.  For more info visit: