Jacquelyn ‘Jaci’ Davette Velasquez was born on October 15, 1979 in Houston, Texas. She released two independent albums and then put out her major label debut HEAVENLY PLACE in 1996. It birthed five hit songs. She won a Dove Award for ‘New Artist of the Year’. Jaci’s second album was released in 1998. It was self-titled, with a gorgeous picture of her on the front cover. In 1999 and 2000 she won Doves for ‘Female Vocalist of the Year’. In the liner notes Jaci thanks “All of the songwriters for such incredible songs, and all of the players. You guys were incredible”.
Starting things off is one of four #1 hits from the album, ‘God So Loved’, written by Chris Eaton. It was nominated for a Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year’. It shares the Gospel message: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son/That whosoever believes in Him/Will not perish but have everlasting life/I try so hard to find the words to say/To let you know how great is this God to whom I pray/Nothing can or ever will compare/To the peace that flows in your soul when He is living there”. Jackie Street plays bass and Jaci and Michael Tait sing backing vocals on ‘Show You Love’, a soulful pop song about witnessing: “I won’t convince you with anything I say/But maybe you will see His love in how it is portrayed/An act of kindness, a loving sacrifice/Simple little things that have the power to change your life”.
‘Little Voice Inside’ is a ballad that finds Phil Madeira on the B-3 and uses the Nashville String Machine. It’s about the Holy Spirit: “Little voice inside keeps calling/Little voice inside it cries/Little voice inside keeps calling/Little voice-oh won’t You be my guide?” Michelle Tumes provides backing vocals on ‘You’. She also wrote this ballad of testimony: “You make everything good/Everything wonderful/You grace my days and heaven fills my view/Let’s forever sing/You make everything pure/Everything beautiful/You make me see the only thing that’s true/It’s You who makes the waters of my sorrows part and leads the gladness into my heart”.
The third ballad in a row is ‘Look What Love Has Done’. It finds Michelle Tumes on backing vocals and uses the Nashville String Machine. This pretty song speaks of God’s transforming power: “Where once each breath was just a sigh of aching emptiness/Where once I hardly felt the beating in my chest/Now each breath feels like a precious kiss of life/Now inside me beat the wings of a thousand butterflies”. Mark Heimermann sings backing vocals on ‘Child of Mine’, a pop song that finds God talking to a prodigal: “I know you so well and I can tell when you’ve been hiding something from Me/Just let it go/Let My love flow/Let it bring you release/I have come to breathe new life into the heart of a child of mine/I have come to give you peace/So lift your head and believe/You were made in a beautiful way/Born to be holy and sure of your faith/Something inside you has led you astray”.
Mark Heimermann and Toby McKeehan wrote ‘Speak for Me’, while Dan Needham plays drums on it. It opens with words Moses could’ve uttered: “What have I to offer to a world in need?/Yet for some unknown reason You have chosen me/Lord, You’ve set my journey/You’ve prepared the way/Still I’m desperate for the words to say/All I am is willing/All I have is in Your hands”. Next up is ‘Glory’, a pop song of positivity with Anointed on backing vocals: “I went for the horizon and I found the glory of Your love/I see the glory/There’s glory all around in the world/And glory has been found/It surrounds me/And opens my mind and heart”.
Dann Huff plays guitars on ‘Sweet Surrender’, a quiet love song to God: “And with a single leap of faith I’m fallin’ into Your loving arms/Showing no resistance/There’s a peace that flows over me/Sweet surrender/Love me tender/You have captured my desiring heart completely/Sweet surrender/Yours forever/I will gladly give my all to You/Receive me/Oh Lord, I am ever Yours”. ‘Paper Tigers’ was penned by Heimermann, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and George Cocchini. It’s a cool song that tackles fear: “They are only paper tigers following me/In the wild imagination of the make believe/And there’s a fighter, a survivor arising in me/I’m not afraid of paper tigers/Night brings creepy things and I hide away/False fears disappear in the light of day”.
Jaci and Melody Chambers sing backing vocals on ‘Made My World’, a happy pop/rock song about how God gives meaning to our lives: “I never thought of what I could be/Where I’d go/What I’d do/I never thought of what I should be/Until You/You came into my life/When I was all alone/You came down and saved my soul”. Chris Eaton and David Velasquez wrote the closing track ‘Al Mundo Dios Amo’. Chris Harris co-produced this splendid Spanish version of ‘God So Loved’ with Mark Heimermann.
JACI VELASQUEZ is a really good album of adult contemporary and light pop songs for the most part. What a beautiful young lady she is and what a wonderful voice! God’s love for us comes through clearly on this project. There are praise and worship songs about God’s goodness and surrendering to Him. Listening to the Holy Spirit and sharing God’s love with others are also stressed. There’s a great song about overcoming fear. Jaci would go on to star in the movie ‘Chasing Papi’ and to co-host a Christian radio show. I’m rating JACI VELASQUEZ 91%. For more info visit: www.jacivelasquez.com.