Monday, April 30, 2018

TIRED OF BASIC


LoveCollide is sister duo Brooke DeLeary and Lauren DeLeary Budnick.  Their first ep I'M OUT was released under the name The DeLearys in 2011.  In 2014 they put out their first studio album (self-titled).  This was followed by the 2015 ep FA LA LA CHRISTMAS and their second studio album RESONATE: A RIPPLE TO A WAVE (2016).  Fast forward to April 2018 and they have released their third studio album, TIRED OF BASIC (ABS Entertainment/The Fuel Music).  The duo's website says: "We are aliens in this world and live by heaven's rules...Let's be the weirdos God called us to be and prove to the world that we are not extinct.  Ordinary people do extraordinary things because we serve an extraordinary God.  Let's stir things up and fight for revival.  This is the rebelution. Will you join us?" The duo's bio says this album is about "a revolution against boredom, mediocrity, and status quo living".

1. First up is 'Awake'.  It's a terrific, atmospheric pop/dance song of encouragement for the disheartened: "You may have moments in life when you doubt/The goodness of God and the strength of His power/He wants to use you wherever you are/Give Him your heart, you're never too far/Live like you're awake, wake, wake, wake (2X)/Live the life He gave, gave/Live like you're awake, wake, wake, wake, wake".

2. 'Undeniable' is a modern worship/dance track: "In Your presence the darkness fades/With a whisper the storms obey/Just one touch and the shadows leave/By the power of Christ our King/The nations quake, the mountains shake/Dead hearts come awake at the power of Your Name/All heaven bows, the earth cries out/Our God, He is un-undeniable".

3. The album's lead single is next.  'I Don't Want It' is one of three songs written by Lauren, Brooke, Riley Friesen, and Matt Dally.  This one is a pop/R&B track that is very current sounding. It finds the ladies pouring out their hearts to God: "Everything that I held on to/I am letting go/Every dream I make without You/You can take it all/I don't want it if it's without You/I don't want it/Nothing else will do/All in all You are everything/All that's left I won't ever need/So I don't want it/I just want You".

4. 'IBIL' includes these uncreative lyrics: "I believe in loud, loud, loud/My God's amazing/My reason to be loud, loud, loud/Turn it up to eleven/Loud as heaven/Loud, loud, loud.../It's not a little secret I can keep/No, I'm not gonna whisper/I will scream".

5. 'Take Me On' is a cool pop/rock number that finds the ladies desiring to be transformed by God: "Push through round two/You know my every move/Pin down, knock out anything not of You/Don't let me slip away/I don't want to play it safe/Round three bell rings.../So take me on/Give me a new name my God/I need a heart change/Make something of my life/When our worlds collide/So, take me on".

6. Lauren, Brooke, and Dee Briggs wrote 'So What', a pop song that comments on society today and tells us how we should respond to it: "Some want to blur the lines and paint them grey/Instead of black and white to shake your faith/They'll misuse words like hate and tolerate/But His cross was heavy/He can bear the weight/So what, you don't fit in/So what, you're different/So what, they'll come at you/So what would Jesus do?/Love, Love, Love, Love". Riley Friesen plays guitar and Matt Dally plays bass.

7. The ethereal, intimate ballad 'Maybe' follows.  It's addressed to God: "Pretending that I am fine/But You knew me all along/You know what I've done/You know that I was wrong/Is this love?/Is this real love?.../Never been satisfied/Left to my own device/All my ups and downs drove me crazy/I just can't believe You'd still want me".

8. 'Breaking My Heart' is another great ballad.  This one finds God speaking to a prodigal: "Watching you get into trouble/ You've been flirting with the devil/But if you'd call when you fall/I would love you right out of this/But you leave me out of it.../You killed me once but I'd die for you twice/Give me your heart and I give you my life".

 9. Lauren, Brooke, Riley Friesen, Matt Dally, Mark Heimermann, and Stephen Leiweke wrote 'Wildfire'.  It's a slow, techno-pop song that makes it clear these two ladies want to make a positive difference for God on earth: "These days intensifying/We don't have time to waste/The temperature is rising/We're gonna storm the gates/Waking up this generation/Be a part, be the spark right now/Holy Spirit, move through us/Let revival rage".

10. Last up is 'X-Ordinary'.  It is one of two songs written by Lauren, Brooke, and Andrew Bergthold.  It reminds Christians that we are to be set apart from the world: "Tired of basic/Tired of the same things/Chasing the small dreams/Living like everyone else/We were meant to be different/We don't fit in so don't give in/To living like everyone else/We're meant to be/Extraordinary, eh, eh, eh (4X)/Tired of basic, oh, oh, oh/Tired of basic/Tired, tired of basic".


TIRED OF BASIC was produced by Riley Friesen and Matt Dally, while Friesen is also responsible for the programming.  This is clearly an album with a Christian message.  It encourages youth and young adults to abide in Christ and to stand up for their faith boldly and unashamedly.  This is how we can be spiritually alive and active. We can be God's hands, feet and mouthpieces while we are here on earth.  Of utmost importance is being fully surrendered to God and transformed by Him.  Brooke and Lauren encourage us to rise above hedonism and materialism and live sold out for Jesus.  Musically, this is radio friendly Top 40 pop/dance material.  Fans of Selena Gomez, 1GN, Demi Lovato, and V. Rose will be drawn to these ten songs.  I'm rating TIRED OF BASIC 96%. My only criticism would be that some of the songs start to sound the same. To avoid this, on the next record I'd like to see them add a rap break in one or two of the songs and an electric guitar solo or two. That being said this is a standout album indeed! For more info visit: www.lovecollide.com or connect with them on Facebook.

Friday, April 27, 2018

BRIAN WILSON


Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California.  He is best known for his work with my favourite rock 'n' roll band of all time, The Beach Boys.  They released their debut studio album SURFIN' SAFARI in 1962 and their latest studio album THAT'S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO in 2012. These were both on Capitol Records.  In 1988 Brian released his first solo album. It was self titled.  He has said: "Love is the theme of my whole album".  In the liner notes to the deluxe edition of the album released in 2000 via Warner Archives and Rhino, David Leaf writes: "When BRIAN WILSON was initially shipped to stores in July 1988, it immediately became a career landmark, not just for its sheer quality but also for the mere fact that it was finished.  At the time, his only solo output had been a single released 22 years earlier (1966's 'Caroline, No').  The main musicians on BRIAN WILSON besides himself are: Andy Paley and Michael Bernard.

1. The standard edition of the album begins with one of six songs penned solely by Brian, entitled 'Love and Mercy'.  Brian says: "It's a personal message from me to people...We accomplished what we set out to do, which is to bring some spiritual love to people".  This adult pop song was the album's first single and offers hope: "I was standin' in a bar and watchin' all the people there/Oh, the loneliness in this world, well it's just not fair/Love and mercy, that's what you need tonight/So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight".

2. Brian co-wrote 'Walkin' the Line' with Nick Laird-Clowes. Terence Trent D'Arby and Russ Titelman provide backing vocals on this song with an old time rock 'n' roll feel to it. It's about a guy pursuing a gal: "I walk the line/I walk the line every day for you/I keep on workin'/I keep on workin' every day for you/If I don't get my way this time I'll die/And that's no lie.../I keep on pushin'/I keep on pushin' so hard for you/I keep on tryin'/I keep on tryin' my best for you".

3. The album's third single, 'Melt Away' follows. Brian says it's "about the identity crisis I have in my life-the way I see myself and the 'me' that everybody thinks I am".  It includes this romantic verse: "Sometimes I close up to the world/You know I close up to you girl/But when I hear you talking/I feel my heart unlocking/And my blues just melt away/Melt away".

4. Brian has said: "Long hair exemplifies beauty in a girl".  Next up is 'Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long'. I would best describe it musically as circus atmosphere pop music. These lyrics aren't very deep: "I wish you'd listen when I tell you now/Baby let your hair grow long/There's somethin' missin' with you darlin' now/Baby let your hair grow long/In my mind I can see, just the way you used to be/Don't want girls who don't care about nothin'/And throw their lives away".

5. 'Little Children' follows.  Brian says: "I admire the freedom from responsibility that kids have. I'm jealous of it". It's a peppy rock 'n' roll song that begins with these words of innocence: "On a Monday mornin' you see 'em all there/Little children they're marching along/On a sunny mountain without any cares/Little children they're marching along/Marching along, singin' a song/Makin' rhythm and rhyme/It used to be somethin' to see/They don't keep track of the time".

6. 'One for the Boys' is a tribute to The Beach Boys and is the second song in a row not to reach the two minute mark.  There are no words really, but it is a nice track of vocal harmonizing.

7. 'There's So Many' is an adult contemporary song of positivity: "I wonder/Why has it taken so long?/I wonder if you know where you belong?/Your face up in the sky/Where angels fly/In heaven's eye/Where planets are spinning around/There's so many songs to sing/I'm thankful for the love they bring/Don't let old scars keep us apart/We're gonna mend our broken hearts/Starting tonight".

8. Brian co-wrote the album's second single 'Night Time' with Andy Paley.  Christopher Cross is on backing vocals.  Brian says: "The process of twilight, dusk turning into total darkness, has always fascinated me.  All of my life, I've always been a night person, never did like the daytime, which signifies work time".  This pop/rock song is very catchy indeed. Here are some of the lyrics: "Night time is delight time/It's starlight time/And it's the right time for me/'Cause the sun shines a little too bright/My eyes can't take that light/Will you be waitin there /In the cool of the twilight air?"

9. Brian and Jeff Lynne co-wrote the also catchy pop song 'Let it Shine'.  This one is about heavenly bodies:"Let it shine, oh let it shine (4X)/Shadows fall, the ocean calls to me/The night is still, she's where I wanna be/The stars all send their silver light to me/Forever shine on me eternally/I couldn't think of anything that gives me more than what you bring/The color of an endless dream/Let it shine (2X)/Whoaah-ooh".

10. 'Meet Me in My Dreams Tonight' was penned by Brian, Andy Paley, and Andy Dean. It's got a rock 'n' roll vibe to it and is lovingly addressed to one's partner: "If we can't get together here's what we'll do/Hold on/Meet me in my dreams tonight/Baby, close your eyes and hold on tight/Sleep in my arms 'til the mornin' light/Meet me in my dreams tonight".

11. Closing out the standard edition of the album is 'Rio Grande' which Wikipedia calls a psychedelic western.  It was written by Brian and Andy Paley and runs over 8 minutes long.  It's ultimately a song of romantic longing: "The river's deep and the river's so wide/She's waitin' for me on the other side.../I want the river to take me home/Can't ride the river no more all alone.../I wanna tell you that she's so fine/I'm gonna love her 'til the end of time.../I wanna tell you that she's my girl/There's nothin' like her in the whole wide world". Because of the length, you may not want to listen to this song over and over.

BRIAN WILSON is a cheerful album of mostly pop and rock 'n' roll music that will put a smile on your face. We need more of these types of albums in the troubled age we are living in today.  Musically the album combines the sounds of the 60's with the sounds of the 80's resulting in a wonderful CD.  There are some really great harmonies on this record, which Beach Boys fans will appreciate.  Male-female relationships are the main subject matter.  Brian celebrates the concept of romantic love.  This is a hopeful album not just when it comes to love. There are tracks where Brian celebrates the innocence of childhood and also his time with the Beach Boys.  This is a very strong solo debut record which I'm rating 95%.

Now for the Deluxe Edition re-issue bonus cuts:

12. Here, Brian shares what the song 'Love and Mercy' is about. He says it's a spiritual song and he also reflects on being a musical artist.

13. 'He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move' is a co-write with Lindsey Buckingham. It's an upbeat rock 'n' roll number about the value of exercising: "If you're feelin' lost and lonely too/I'll bet sometimes you don't know what to do/Early in the mornin'/When the sun shines through/That's when you get your poor old body to move/Why sit hypnotized when you could feel alive?/Take my simple advice/You gotta get your poor old body to move".

14. 'Being With The One You Love' finds Brian speaking to his partner: "You have my promise/If you want to count on me/Let's have a talk about a life of possibilities/Whoa oh oh I sing this song to tell you/What you mean to me/Whoa oh oh I see our love/Stretching to infinity".

15. Gary Usher and Brian co-wrote 'Let's Go to Heaven in My Car'.  It was on the 'Police Academy 4' movie soundtrack. It's an energetic pop/rock track that gets steamy: "Let's go to heaven in my car/I want to drive you there tonight/Let's go to heaven in my car/We won't be stoppin' for red lights.../I only know it's time for body contact/I'll never be satisfied touching you with my eyes/There ain't no doubt/I can't go without your lovin'/So come on baby/Let me take you for a ride".

16. 'Too Much Sugar' is a fun, health conscious autobiographical pop song: "Getting in shape is what it's all about/Don't you just feel it's true/Moving all around just like Jane Fonda now/Then there will be a brand new you.../One, two, three, four/Kick 'em high/Join a gym or visit the 'Y'/Five, six, seven, eight/Feelin' fine/You can live 'til 99".

17 and 18. Demos of 'There's So Many' and 'Walkin' the Line'.

19. 'Melt Away' (Early Version-Alternate Vocal).

20. A freaky, fun instrumental version of 'Night Time'.

21. Demo of 'Little Children'.

22. Next up is the Brian Wilson written 'Night Bloomin' Jasmine' (demo).  The chorus of it was part of 'Rio Grande' on the album: "Night bloomin' jasmine/It comes a creepin' through my window/Night bloomin' jasmine/While I'm a sleepin' near my window".

23. 'Rio Grande' (Early Version-Compiled Rough Mixes).

24. Brian reflects on 'Rio Grande' calling it a Cowboy and Indian song, but not one about fighting. Brian also reflects on God.

25. Brian says the record was inspired by something higher than he and that it is an expression of love to his listeners.

I'm rating the Bonus Tracks (12-25) an 80 percent. Other than the few songs here that don't appear on BRIAN WILSON, most of the tracks will appeal only to serious collector's.  For more info visit www.brianwilson.com or look him up on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

BLESSED ASSURANCE


Guy Allen Penrod was born on July 2, 1963 in Taylor, Texas.  He became famous as part of the Gaither Vocal Band for several years.  In 2009 he released his solo country debut BREATHE DEEP.  In 2011 he was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  Other solo albums he's put out include 2012's HYMNS and 2017's CLASSICS.  Fast forward to 2018 and he's got a brand new album entitled BLESSED ASSURANCE (Servant Records).  His bio says: "Guy chose these hymns because of their power to touch and renew your soul".  The album was produced by Guy and Jonathan Crone and executive produced by Guy.

1. Starting things off is Fanny Crosby and Phoebe P. Knapp's classic hymn 'Blessed Assurance'.  Briana Tyson sings background vocals on this laid back, tender song of testimony: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine/Oh what a foretaste of glory divine/Heir of salvation, purchase of God/Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood/This is my story, this is my song/Praising my Savior, all the day long".

2. Wanda Vick Burchfield plays fiddle, dobro, and mandolin on the Celtic ballad 'Before the Throne of God Above'.  It speaks of a believer realizing his true identity: "When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within/Upward I look and see Him there/Who made an end of all my sin/Because the sinless Savior died/My sinful soul is counted free/For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me/To look on Him and pardon me".

3. Lewis E. Jones wrote the jubilant 'There is Power in the Blood'.  Gary Lunn plays bass and Jason Ahlbrandt is great on electric guitar on this upbeat country version that speaks of spiritual purity: "Would you be whiter much whiter than snow?/There's power in the blood, power in the blood/Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow/There's wonderful power in the blood/Oh, there is power, power, wonder working power/In the blood of the Lamb/There is power, power, wonder working power/In the precious blood of the Lamb (2X)".

4. 'The Love of God' is a sentimental and poetic country ballad: "The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell/It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell/The guilty pair bowed down with care/God gave His Son to win/His erring child He reconciled and pardoned from His sin/Oh love of God how rich and pure/How measureless and strong/It shall forevermore endure/The saints and angels song".

5. Sanford F. Bennett and Joseph P. Webster wrote 'In the Sweet By and By'.  It's a soothing country song about heaven: "We shall sing on that beautiful shore/The melodious songs of the blessed/And our spirits shall sorrow no more/Not a sigh for the blessing of rest/In the sweet by and by/We shall meet on that beautiful shore".

6. 'Standing in the Need of Prayer' is a catchy, upbeat African-American spiritual on which Lindell Cooley plays organ and Briana Tyson and Nickie Conley provide backing vocals.  It's a song of spiritual admission: "Not my brother or my sister but it's me O Lord standing in the need of prayer/I need You Jesus/I need You every hour/I just can't do it/I need Your Holy Ghost power/That's why I'm standing here/Standing in the need of prayer/Not my preacher or my teacher but it's me O Lord/Standing in the need of prayer".

7. Tyler Smith is responsible for String Programming and piano on the pretty ballad 'I Surrender All'.  It is one of spiritual submission and desire: "All to Jesus I surrender, make me Savior wholly Thine/Let me feel the Holy Spirit/Truly know that Thou art mine/I surrender all, I surrender all/All to Thee my blessed Savior/I surrender all/All to Jesus I surrender, Lord I give myself to Thee/Fill me with Thy love and power/Let Thy blessings fall on me".

8. William R. Featherston and Adoniram J. Gordon wrote 'My Jesus, I Love Thee', a song of spiritual dedication: "My Jesus I love Thee/I know Thou art mine/For Thee all the follies of sin I resign/My gracious redeemer/My Savior art Thou/If ever I loved Thee/My Jesus 'tis now.../I love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death/And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath/And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow/If ever I love Thee, my Jesus 'tis now".

9. 'In the Garden' is mellow and contains this familiar chorus of comfort: "And He walks with me and He talks with me/And He tells me I am His own/And the joy we share as we tarry there/None other has ever known".

10. 'Draw Me Nearer' is presented in light country mode here. On it, Guy longs for spiritual intimacy with His Lord: "Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord/To the cross where Thou hast died/Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord/To Thy precious bleeding side/Oh the pure delight of a single hour/That before Thy throne I spend/When I kneel in prayer and with Thee my God/I commune as friend with friend".

11. Karolina W. Sandell-Berg and Oskar Ahnfelt wrote 'Day by Day'.  Jonathan Crone plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keys, and provides backing vocals.  Here are some of the lyrics: "Every day the Lord Himself is near me/With a special mercy for each hour/All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me/He whose Name is counselor and power/The protection of His child and treasure/Is a charge that Himself He laid/As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure/This the pledge to me He made".

12. Closing things out is a toe-tapping country version of 'I Will Sing of My Redeemer' which finds Guy testifying: "I will sing of my Redeemer and His heavenly love for me/He from death to life has brought me/Son of God, with Him to be/Oh sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer/With His blood He purchased me/On the cross He sealed my pardon/Paid the debt and made me free".

BLESSED ASSURANCE contains six fast paced songs and six slower paced songs which makes for a nice mix.  Musically, eight of the songs fall into the country category and four fall into the easy listening basket.  Guy's vocals are great and if you are a fan of the vocal stylings of Clay Crosse and Russ Taff I think you`ll like this project.  The importance of having an intimate, personal relationship with God is the main theme on this record.  That relationship is made possible by Jesus shedding His  blood and dying for our sins on the cross at Calvary, and overcoming death.  These songs praise God and anticipate the believer`s heavenly home, which is heaven.  I`m rating BLESSED ASSURANCE 90 %.  I might have given it an even higher mark had Guy thrown in an original song or two.  At any rate, for more info visit: www.guypenrod.com or look him up on facebook.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

NEW HORIZONS


Passerby changed their name to Flyleaf due to legal reasons in June 2004.  They released their self-titled label debut in 2005 which included the singles 'I'm So Sick' and 'All Around Me'.  They toured with the likes of Disturbed and Skillet.  In 2009 they put out MEMENTO MORI which included the singles 'Again' and 'Beautiful Bride'.  Fast forward to 2012 and they released NEW HORIZONS (A&M/Octone Records).  It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and at #2 on the US Billboard Alternative Albums chart and the US Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart.  On this, their third full length album, Flyleaf is: James Culpepper (drums), Sameer Bhattacharya (guitars, vocals), Jared Hartmann (guitar), Lacey Sturm (lead vocals), and Pat Seals (bass, vocals).  This would be Lacey's last album with the band.

1. 'Fire Fire' starts things off.  It's a rock song that speaks of a troubled past: "That's enough, now dry your tears/It's been a long eleven years/Fire, fire, fire!/Fire from the tongues of liars/You're ashamed of where you're from/Crying 'cause your father's drunk/We can't die because we're young/At least that's what we heard in a song".

2. 'New Horizons', the album's first single and its title track, follows.  It rocks out and points to God: "Life floods in with a conquest/Life floods in with a new quest/He's a voice for the voiceless/And a song for the soulless/Life floods in/Wait/You said I'd only have to wait until I die/New horizon/There is no such thing as time/Inside this moment no sun rising/Wait until I fly/New horizon".

3. The album's second single is 'Call You Out'  It's a rocker pointedly aimed at the devil: "I hear your claims/And I know your name/Liar, liar/Your time's up now/That's enough now/Shut up, get out!/Truth called you out!"

4. 'Cage on the Ground' includes these curious words: "Welcome to the machine/It's a currency generator/And then it's a guillotine/A mirror held up to your own behavior/I'm gonna take my bow/And disappear into the sound/I'm leaving my cage on the ground/When I take my bow/I'm watching it burn to the ground/See my feet flying up through the clouds".

5. The rock praise number, 'Great Love', is next up: "Great love setting the world on fire/I am in awe of who You are/And it's Your love I'm living for/Great love, oh wake me up inside/You are the One I'm looking for/And I am Yours forevermore".

6. 'Bury Your Heart' is a slower rock song that offers a commentary on society: "You're so cold as you sit there alone/Selling your bright ideas/And paying someone to answer your phone/So this is life/Come home to kids and wife/And a day of twisting the knife 'til you get yours/There's blood on the tracks again/Do you buy, buy what you're selling them?"

7. 'Freedom' speaks of coming alive spiritually: "Bleeding dry the promise of worth/Knowing you were meant for this thirst/Drink it in slowly while life puts a heart in you/Weaving new blankets of words (2X)/Oh, freedom/This is for your freedom!"

8. 'Saving Grace' is a pretty rock ballad that serves as a prayer: "Wake me up with patience I don't know/Call me by a name that I love/Take my hand, we're almost home/We can see the fire glow/Save me grace/I'm sick of saving face/Will You hold me close?/You're all I want to know".

9. 'Stand' talks of making a positive difference in our world: "Find there's no need to hide/The time has come to stand and fight/Save the world and save that girl from enemies unseen/Our hands will bleed for children unborn.../How long did You bleed for us? (2X)"

10. The meaty rocker 'Green Heart' follows.  It points out the folly of materialism: "Small green heart/Engraved on a dollar bill/Tell me, could it build a whole universe?/Can it speak or answer your prayers like you hope it will?.../All you own is gonna burn!"

11. Last up on the physical cd is 'Broken Wings'.  It celebrates friendship with God: "Thank You for being such a friend to me/Oh, I pray a friend for life/And have I ever told You how much You mean to me?/Oh, You're everything to me/And I am so lost for words/And I am so overwhelmed/Please don't go just yet".

NEW HORIZONS is a decent Christian rock album, but its not the band's best work.  The ballads here outweigh the faster paced numbers.  Pain, dysfunction, and emptiness without God are explored here. The devil is rebuked.  Ultimately, the band puts their hope in God and desires the abundant life only He can give.  God is praised and the band dedicates their lives to Him.  Out of this flows a desire to be a light for Christ in the world and to help others.  What would have made this more than a decent rock album? First of all, straight forward lyrics, rather than too many abstract ones. Secondly, some great electric guitar solos would have been highly appreciated by this reviewer. Thirdly, a song or two where there was a break or two where we could just hear Lacey's vocals acappella.  All this being said, I'm still rating NEW HORIZONS 83%. For more info visit: www.flyleafmusic.com or connect with the band on facebook.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

SURROUNDED


Michael Whitaker Smith was born on October 7th, 1957 in Kenova, West Virginia.  His first four worship albums were: WORSHIP (2001), WORSHIP AGAIN (2002), A NEW HALLELUJAH (2008), AND SOVEREIGN (2014).  Fast forward to 2018 and he's back with his fifth, a live project entitled SURROUNDED (Rocketown Records).  It was produced by Kyle Lee, co-produced by Michael, and executive produced by Michael, Chaz Corzine, and Greg Ham.  The album peaked at #2 on the Top Christian Albums chart.  In the liner notes Michael writes: "I feel God moving through His church and He is calling us together.  To be one voice and one heart.  One bride, every nation, every tribe, and every tongue.  Every social class, every denomination.  Let's get together and rejoice in what He has done, what He is doing, and what He has yet to do".

1. This worship set starts off with the upbeat and celebratory 'Your House'. Here are some of the lyrics: "Oh we have this hope firm and secure/Now we enter in the life and the promise/He is good, His love endures/We come into Your house (3X)/With thanksgiving and praise".

2. Thad Cockrell, Kyle Lee, and Michael W. Smith wrote the ballad 'Light To You' which speaks of God as one's haven and runs over six minutes long: "My hope has found it's resting place/And I'll search no more/My hope has found it's resting place/And I'll search no more...My hope has found it's anchored safe/And You're all it holds/My hope has found it's anchored safe/And You're all it holds".

3. 'King of My Heart', a ballad that builds in intensity, begins with these beautiful words: "Let the King of my heart/Be the mountain where I run/The fountain I drink from/Oh, oh, He is my song/Let the King of my heart/Be the shadow where I hide/The ransom for my life/Oh, oh, He is my song/You are good, good, oh-ohh".

4. 'Reckless Love' comes from the Bethel Music camp and was penned by Caleb Culver, Cory Asbury, and Ran Jackson.  This ballad that again builds, runs almost nine minutes long and testifies: "When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me/You have been so, so kind to me/When I felt no worth/You paid it all for me/You have been so, so kind to me/Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God/Oh, it chases me down, fights til I`m found, leaves the ninety-nine/I couldn't earn it/I don't deserve it/Still You give Yourself away/Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God".

5. 'Here I Bow' glorifies Christ: "There is a King who bore the scars of healing/There is a Son who came into grace and truth/How great the love that carries us to kindness/Wonderful, You're wonderful/So here, I bow, to lift You high/Jesus, be glorified/In all things, for all my life/I am Yours, forever Yours".

6. Chris Quilala, Joshua Silverberg, Dustin Smith, and Stuart Garrard wrote 'Miracles'.  The chorus is certainly less than innovative: "I believe in You, I believe in You/You're the God of miracles/I believe in You, I believe in You/You're the God of miracles".  Mark Gutierrez contributes some Spanish lead vocals later on in the song.

7. Unfortunately, 'Do It Again' isn't a Beach Boys cover.  It's yet another ballad that builds, but better than some of the previous ones here. It's about having faith: "I know the night won't last/Your Word will come to pass/My heart will sing Your praise again/Jesus, You're still enough/Keep me within Your love/My heart will sing Your praise again/Your promise still stands/Great is Your faithfulness/Your faithfulness/I'm still in Your hands/This is my confidence/You've never failed me yet".

8. Elyssa Smith wrote the title track 'Surrounded (Fight My Battles)'.  To be truthful, it's a very simplistic song that is quite repetitive but I don't mind it as it has an uplifting message: "This is how I fight my battles (4X)/It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You (4X)". 

9. 'Build My Life' is a song of spiritual dedication: "I will build my life upon Your love/It is a firm foundation/I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken".

10. Michael Farren and Smitty wrote 'Washed Away'. It's a nice modern worship song that testifies: "Spotless, spotless, whiter than the snow/Your blood, oh Your blood covers me, I'm whole/And all my sin was washed away, washed away/You took them all/There's not a trace/I stand here free with every stain/Forever washed away". 

11. David Leonard, Jason Ingram, and Leslie Ingram wrote 'Great are You Lord', while Calvin Nowell contributes some lead vocals: "All the earth will shout Your praise/Our hearts will cry, these songs will sing/Great are You, Lord!/It's Your breath in our lungs/So we pour out our praise/We pour out our praise/It's your breath in our lungs/So we pour out our praise to You only".  To be honest I've heard a better, more lively version of this song at the church beside my place.

12. This worship set concludes with 'Light to You (Reprise)'. It declares: "From the deepest of depths to the stars up above/There is no way I could escape Your steadfast love".

Dang it, there are a lot of lengthy ballads on this album, with only a couple tracks qualifying as more fast-paced! Because the songs are so long, you may not want to listen to this album over and over again, several times in a row at least!  Truth be told the lyrics are not very deep or creative even though several songwriters were used.  This album that clocks in at 70 minutes and 34 seconds speaks boldly about God's goodness, mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, and faithfulness. He pursues us and is a kind God.  He is a God of miracles and has life-giving power! These songs here praise and worship God with an attitude of gratitude, and express dedication to Him.  Nineteen, count them, nineteen backing vocalists are used on the project, while Paul Mabury, Otto Price, and Jim Daneker are among the musicians used.  The bottom line is, if you are a modern worship fan, you're going to love this album for the most part. If you're not, you'll want to skip this one.  I find this project is best listened to loud. I am surprisingly rating SURROUNDED 87%, but I don't think it's Michael's best worship album.  For more info visit: www.michaelwsmith.com and check him out on facebook.

Monday, April 16, 2018

GRACE LIKE RAIN


Todd Wilson Agnew was born on March 15, 1971 in Dallas, Texas to a Native American mother.  He was adopted by a white couple.  He released THE BLUE CD independently in 1997.  In 1999 he helped Andy Savage with a Bible study for college students and singles at Germantown Baptist Church in Tennessee.  This is when he began introducing songs he was writing, to the group.  These songs would end up on his label debut GRACE LIKE RAIN (2003, Ardent).  The album was produced and engineered by Jason Latshaw with additional engineering by Matt Martone.  John Hampton mixed the album, assisted by Leo Goff.

1. Starting things off is the rock song, 'Reached Down' with Jack Holder on electric guitar.  It includes these words of testimony: "I could not see the top of the well in which I'd fallen/I was choking on the rising tide of filth and shame/You pulled me from the mouth of hell so You could hold me/You knew You'd save me long before I called Your Name/You reached down and saved me".

2. 'The Fragile Breath (The Thunder Song)' is one of several penned solely by Todd.  The chorus of this rock ballad worships God: "You speak with thunder and lightning/Your voice shakes the mountains/The foundations of the earth/All I can offer is this fragile breath/And with each one I'll praise You/With each one I'll praise You more".

3. Accordion and baritone guitar are two of the instruments used on 'Shepherd'.  Dena Parker provides lovely backing vocals on this ballad that cries out to God: "Shepherd, Your sheep are lost/We chased our wants that we thought were needs/Now we can't get home/Shepherd, Your sheep are longing/We ate and we ran, and we played and we danced, but we're empty".

4.Chris Collins and Todd wrote 'Grace Like Rain' based on 'Amazing Grace'.  Kevin Paige provides backing vocals on this great positive pop song: "Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me!/Hallelujah! And all my stains are washed away, they're washed away!"

5. 'Romans 12:1' is a groovy pop/rock song that begins with these words: "Brothers and sisters, I beg you/In light of all He's done for us/To offer yourselves in worship to our God/Brothers and sisters, I ask you/Present yourselves a living sacrifice/Holy and acceptable to our God".  Rick Steff plays B-3 and piano.

6. 'Still Here Waiting' is a beautiful ballad that speaks of God's faithfulness: "I fail to see why You'd still be waiting to forgive me/After all that I have done/But I cannot say/That one time I returned and You had turned away/Your love never fails/You say 'Come home' and You'll be there/And I can run into Your arms".

7. Robbie Seay is credited with music and arrangement on 'Come Ye Sinners'. It is a song of invitation: "Come ye sinners, poor and needy/Weak and wounded, sick and sore/Jesus ready stands to save you/Full of pity, love, and power.../Come ye weary, heavy-laden/Lost and ruined by the fall/And if you tarry until you're better/You will never come at all".

8. Jonathan Chu who spent several years playing for Skillet, plays violin on 'You Are'. This rootsy ballad includes these words we all could utter: "I need some wisdom to choose which way to walk/I need some strength to take this very step/I need some faith to help these blinded eyes to see/I need something more than everything inside of me". Steve Selvidge plays electric guitar, lap steel, and 12-string electric.

9. Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, and Louie Giglio wrote 'Kindness' on which Shara Worden contributes guest vocals.  This track dabbles with jazz and converses with Christ: "It's Your kindness Lord that leads us to repentance/Your favor, Lord, is our desire/It's Your beauty, Lord, that makes us stand in silence/Your love, Your love/Is better than life".

10. 'Lay it Down' includes guest vocals by Susan Marshall and a four person choir.  This great blues/rock/gospel number shares the Gospel: "Jesus died to give us life/A little joy in the midst of this pain/He paid your debt in full and you are not guilty/So, why do you still wear those chains, chains, chains, chains?"

11. Next up is 'Only One Thing' penned by Todd and Chris Collins. It speaks of God's goodness: "Your love reaches across the miles I raced/To separate me from You/Your love cradles me like a child when I finally reach for You/Your love's beyond my understanding".

12. 'Wait For Your Rain' is a come-to-Jesus song: "So I throw myself on Your mercy/And I throw myself at Your feet/And I throw my filth on the grace of One whose beauty is beyond me/And I wait/And I wait.../And I wait for Your rain to fall/The waves of Your grace to wash over me/And I wait for Your rain to fall/Strange how forgiveness comes so easily/When I call Your Name/And wait for Your rain".  After a couple seconds a slow Rock Version of 'Grace Like Rain' is presented. After a break of silence a Rock Version of Dorothy A. Thrupp and William B. Bradley's hymn  'Savior Like a Shepherd' concludes the album.  It is a prayer: "We are Yours, please befriend us/Be the Guardian of our way/Keep Your flock, from sin defend us/Seek us when we go astray.../You have promised to receive us/Poor and sinful though we be/You have mercy to relieve us/Grace to cleanse and power to free/Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus/You have loved us, love us still".

GRACE LIKE RAIN is a wonderful debut album from Todd Agnew.  It's a great rock record with several songs that could also be classified as modern worship.  Adult contemporary, funk, blues, and jazz influences are also heard on this record!  God's love, grace, mercy, kindness, and salvation are well documented on this album.  People are invited to give their lives and cares over to God.  There are also prayerful songs here.  Todd genuinely leads the listener into desiring what God wants for their lives and in their lives.  God is seen as powerful and the ultimate life-Giver.  If you are a fan of Third Day, Nickelback, Jeremy Camp, and/or Kutless you need this one in your collection.  I'm rating GRACE LIKE RAIN 90%.  For more info visit: www.toddagnew.com or connect with him on Facebook.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

CLASSICS


Guy Allen Penrod was born on July 2, 1963 in Taylor, Texas.  He grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico where his father was a pastor at Temple Baptist Church.  Guy is a graduate of Liberty University.  In the 1980's as a studio singer he sang backup for the likes of Carman, Amy Grant, and Garth Brooks.  In 1994 Guy joined the Gaither Vocal Band.  In 2009 he left and released his solo debut BREATHE DEEP, a country record.  Fast forward to 2017 and he released CLASSICS (Servant/Gaither Music Group).  In the liner notes he writes: "I'm glad to have had the chance to sing these songs with the GVB and am really excited to put them together now as a solo collection". 

1. First up is 'Singing with the Saints', an upbeat country number that looks forward with glee to heaven: "I'll be singin' with the saints at the morning light/Ringin' in the day 'cause there is no night/Sayin' goodbye to the heartache, trouble, and pain/I'll be sittin' at the throne with an angel band/Shoutin' 'Hallelujah!' to the great I Am/If you think it's a dream/Well, it ain't/I'll be singing' with the saints".

2. 'Loving God, Loving Each Other' is an easy listening ballad penned by William J. and Gloria Gaither that reminds us what is important in life: "It's not complicated/Don't need a lot of rules/This is all you'll need to know/Loving God, loving each other/Making music with my friends/Loving God, loving each other/And the story never ends".

3. 'Alpha and Omega' is a joyful praise and worship song that exalts Jesus Christ: "He is the Alpha and Omega/The Beginning and the End/The Son of God, The King of kings/Lord of lords, He's everything/Messiah, Jehovah/The Prince of Peace is He/The Son of man, seed of Abraham/Second person in the Trinity".

4. Suzanne Jennings and Michael Sykes wrote 'Knowing You'll Be There', a decidedly sentimental country ballad: "I see you most at Christmas/You were like a little kid/You always loved a good surprise and now I must admit/That I long more for Heaven than I ever did before/You give me one more reason/And each day I want it more.../Knowing I won't be alone/Knowing you'll be there makes it easy to go home".

5. 'The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference' is a powerful ballad that finds Guy testifying: "'Twas a life filled with aimless desperation/Without hope walked the shell of a man/But then a hand with a nail print stretched downward/Just one touch and a new life began/And the old rugged cross made the difference/In a life bound for heartache and defeat/I will praise Him forever and ever/For the cross made the difference for me!"

6. Bruce Hibbard, Hadley Hockensmith, and Michael Omartian wrote 'I'm Forgiven'.  It's a lively Christian pop song that again, testifies: "I'm forgiven/Now I have a reason for living/Jesus keeps giving and giving/Giving till my heart overflows/I'm forgiven/Now I have a reason for living/Jesus keeps giving and giving/Giving till my heart overflows/I know this love You've placed in my heart/Is a love that will never depart/Sin brought me here to the end of my rope/But now You've given me a brand new hope, yeah".

7. The adult contemporary ballad 'Count on Me', follows.  It includes these words of commitment: "I may not have the answers to the questions that you face/I may not be the one to drive away your fears/My list of imperfections is too long to erase/But you have my word, I will be here/Count on me/In this world of shifting sand/Count on me/When you need a steady hand/I will work and pray/Mean what I say/And live unselfishly/Right the wrong, standing strong/You can count on me".

8. 'Yes, I Know' is an easy listening ballad that begins with these words of spiritual invitation and testimony: "Come ye sinners, lost and lonely/Jesus' blood can make you free/For He saved the worst among you/When He saved a wretch like me/And I know, yes, I know/Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner clean/And I know, yes, I know/Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner clean".

9. 'Then Came the Morning' is a beautiful song on which Chris Christian is a co-writer.  The chorus speaks of Jesus' resurrection: "Then came the morning, night turned into day/The stone was rolled away/Hope rose with the dawn/Then came the morning/Shadows vanished before the Son/Death had lost and life had won/For morning had come".

10. Dallas Frazier and Sanger D. Shafer wrote the classic country story song 'The Baptism of Jesse Taylor'.  Here's the chorus: "They baptized Jesse Taylor in Cedar Creek last Sunday/Jesus gained a soul and Satan lost a good right arm/They all cried 'Hallelujah!' when Jesse's head went under/'Cause this time he went under for the Lord".

11. Paul Evans wrote 'Build an Ark' which here has a Caribbean feel to it and sounds like a children's song.  These words paint a picture of utopia: "My father and my mother, my sisters and my brothers/All of the friends I care about/And the woman that I've learned to love/I'll gather them together/And promise them forever/We'll be safe from the world around us/All we have to do is to love each other".

12. Last up is the Gaither classic 'Because He Lives'.  It is a song that offers great hope: "An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives/And because He lives I can face tomorrow/Because He lives all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living/Just because He lives".

CLASSICS was produced by Guy Penrod, engineered by Pete Greene, and mastered by Glenn Meadows. Background vocals are skillfully provided by Russell Terrell and Tania Hancheroff.  The two main musical genres here are easy listening and country, but there are others as I have documented above.  There are seven faster paced songs and five slower ones.  Guy makes it clear that he has been forgiven of his sins and been saved because of his belief in and acceptance of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  Guy looks forward to the day when he enters heaven to be in the presence of God and loved ones.  While still on this planet Guy aims to love God and love others as much as he possibly can.  The vocals on this album are superb!  I'm rating CLASSICS 95%.  For more info visit: www.guypenrod.com or connect with him on facebook.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

JESUS AND ME-THE COLLECTION (DELUXE EDITION)


Glen Campbell released his debut album BIG BLUEGRASS SPECIAL with the Green River Boys in 1962 on Capitol Records.  Over the years he became a country music superstar. He is known for such songs as: 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', 'Galveston', 'Rhinestone Cowboy', 'Wichita Lineman', and 'Southern Nights'.  In 1996 New Haven Records released JESUS AND ME: THE COLLECTION which drew from his albums NO MORE NIGHT (1985), SHOW ME YOUR WAY (1991), and THE BOY IN ME (1994).  Two new songs, 'Sure as the Sun' and 'Turn Up the Radio' were included.

1. Starting off the standard edition of the CD is 'Jesus and Me' from 1991's SHOW ME YOUR WAY.  This country-pop song was written by Phil Driscoll and Lari Goss.  It offers these words of testimony: "I thought I had done it all, then I met You/Now I'm singin' a new song/Makin' music for Jesus my King/He is my hero/He's become my everything/Now there's no other song, no higher melody/Under heaven, the greatest love story/Jesus and me".

2. 'Call it Even' was written by Kim Patton, Becky Thurman, and Geoff Thurman.  Tom Hemby is great on electric guitars.  This song speaks of God's goodness: "When He adds up my progress/It all comes to nothin'/But He leads me with mercy/In that place in my road/Then He reaches beyond/Bringin' me closer/And never counting the miles/That I missed the goal/And He calls it even/He calls it even".

3. 'Show Me Your Way' is an inspirational duet with Anne Murray that asks for divine guidance: "Show me Your way, oh Lord/And let me sing all praise to Thee/Take my heart and hear my prayer/I need Your love to show me".

4. 'Something to Die For' is an easy listening ballad of spiritual determination: "People say it's only human/If I choose to stop believing/But my heart won't be denied/For I know the faith that burns inside/Is something to die for/A cause beyond what human eyes can see/To embrace the cross of sacrifice/As Christ has done for me/There's a peace I only find/When I give myself away".

5. Wayne Berry wrote 'Sure as the Sun'.  Wendy Suit Johnson, Lisa Silver, and Bergen White provide backing vocals.  It is a lovely country ballad about the afterlife: "As sure as the sun comes up in the sky/I've got a home up in Heaven on high/As sure as the stars are out there tonight/God's upon His throne and everything is alright.../Jesus is my Savior, I hope He's yours too".

6. 'Amazing Grace' features the Nashville String Machine and Glen on bagpipes.  It includes these sentimental thoughts: "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved/How precious did that grace appear, oh the hour I first believed".

7. 'The Greatest Gift of All' features Russ Taff and the Christ Church Choir.  It is an adult contemporary song that offers spiritual advice: "Peace will come your way/If you only follow/What He came to say/Is of joy, not sorrow/He beseeches you to listen/As He fills your heart with wisdom/What He teaches you is that the greatest gift of all/From the heavens up above/Is the love that He gives to all".

8. Geoff Thurman wrote 'Turn Up the Radio' which is a country-pop number that uses the A Strings.  The song praises God: "When the road is headed down and out/And I desire love's forgiveness/His Spirit calls my name again and again/That's when I feel the music soothe the savage beast/I hear my Lord, I find His peace/Turn up the radio and sing a song of sympathy/Turn up the radio/I hear the healing go to the secret place only God can know".

9. Tom Hemby is great on electric guitars on 'The Boy in Me' written by Kevin Stokes and Geoff Thurman.  It's an adult contemporary ballad that longs for innocence: "Oh Jesus, bring back the boy in me/Put Your hand on my heart and let me run free/Whoa, oh, Jesus/My eyes need help to see/And I want to be the boy in me".

10. 'The Savior I Sing of Today' makes it clear that Glen wants to share Christ with all people: "Ìf I had just one song, one song to sing/To the world that we live in today/I'd sing of a love/A wonderful love that helps me to walk down life's way/I'd sing of the One Who loves me so/He knows every breath that I take/He's such a friend, on Him I depend/To guide every step that I make".

11. 'No More Night' was penned by Walt Harrah. T.J. Kuenster plays piano on it.  It's a soothing ballad that anticipates heaven: "No more night, no more pain/No more tears, never cryin' again/And praises to the great I Am/We will live in the light of the risen Lamb".

12. 'Come Harvest Time' is a soft ballad with this chorus: "Come harvest time what thanksgiving we will show/When the plowman brings freedom from the earth here below/Come harvest time, oh, what joy will be known/When He gathers the souls of the seeds He has sown".

13. In 2011 New Haven Records re-released this collection with 2 bonus tracks from Glen's 1992 album WINGS OF VICTORY.  The first is 'On the Wings of Victory' written by Bob Corbin.  Shane Keister plays keyboards and synthesizer on this country song of positivity: "Like an eagle soarin' toward the sun/Like a ship put out to sea/By and by my soul will fly/On the wings of His victory.../Now I've found me a Rock that I can lean on".

14. 'I Will Arise' features The Boys Choir of Harlem.  It's a gospel oldie of spiritual invitation: "Come ye weary, heavy laden/Lost and wounded by the fall/If you tarry till you're better/You will never come at all/Come ye sinners, poor and needy/Weak and wounded, sick and sore/In the arms of my dear Savior/We will rest forevermore".

JESUS AND ME: THE COLLECTION (Deluxe Edition) features several songs that speak of the joys of being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and growing in Him.  He extends His mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness to us and we should desire to follow Him as a result.  There are also songs here that invite non-believers to come to Jesus Christ and give their lives to Him, and songs about the eternal home for believers-Heaven.  Genre wise the most represented ones musically are adult contemporary, easy listening, and country.  Glen's vocals are easy to listen to.  Fans of Steven Curtis Chapman should check out this album which I'm rating 89 %.  For more info visit: www.glencampbell.com. Pick up your copy via Amazon.

Friday, April 13, 2018

BACK TO THE ROCK II


Classic Petra released BACK TO THE ROCK in 2010. It was comprised of ten re-makes of Greg X. Volz era Petra classics, plus a new song 'Too Big To Fail', and the title track which was actually a re-working of 'The Rock' from a 2009 Volz solo album entitled GOD ONLY KNOWS.  Fast forward to 2017 and we have CPR releasing BACK TO THE ROCK II (Lamon Records).  At the time of its release CPR was: John Lawry (keys and bgvs), Greg X. Volz (lead vocals and bgvs), Ronny Cates (bass and bgvs), Louie Weaver (drums) and Kirk Henderson (guitars and bgvs). Henderson is the only guy who was never a part of Petra, although he has played with Volz before.  It should also be noted that Ronny Cates has already resigned from the band to allow them more flexibility in booking dates. He has other commitments.  Other Petra members who appear on this album are: Greg Bailey (cellos and violas) and Cristian Borneo (percussion).  The album was produced by John Lawry and CPR BAND.  Classic Petra Returns is set to play Creation Northeast this June!

1. 'Hollow Eyes' is one of seven songs on this project written by Petra co-founder Bob Hartman, and is one of nine songs that are updates of Petra songs.  This one is a classic rock ballad that focuses on poverty: "Another day in Nigeria, the children beg for bread/The crops failed, the well ran dry when they lost the watershed/A baby dies, its mother cries, the children gather 'round/They're wondering what the day will bring/Will they be the next one found?/Do you dare to gaze into their hollow eyes, hollow eyes?/Are they staring holes in you with their hollow eyes/Hollow eyes, hollow eyes, hollow?"

2. 'The Coloring Song' was originally recorded by Greg X. Volz's former band 'e'.  It was written by that band's drummer Dave Eden.  Petra recorded it on 1981's NEVER SAY DIE and it became their first big hit.  This easy listening ballad focuses on Jesus: "Red is the color of the blood that flowed/Down the face of someone who loved us so/He's the perfect man, the Lord's own Son/The Lamb of God, He's the only one/That can give us life, make us grow/That can make the love between us flow".

3. 'Not of this World' was the title track of Petra's 1983 album.  Here, this easy listening ballad speaks of our true identity and our task on earth: "We are strangers, we are aliens/We are not of this world/We are envoys, we must tarry/With this message we must carry/There's so much to do before we leave/With so many more who may believe/Our mission here can never fail/And the gates of hell will not prevail".

4. 'Dream On' was penned by Steven Tyler and was on Aerosmith's self-titled debut album in 1973.  Greg X. Volz recorded it on his 1988 solo album COME OUT FIGHTING.  Now CPR covers this classic rocker here: "Dream on, dream on, dream on/Dream until your dreams come true/Dream on, dream on, dream on/Dream until your dreams come true/Dream on.../Sing with me, sing for the year/Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear/Sing with me, just for today/Maybe tomorrow the good Lord could take you away!"

5. Kirk Henderson's electric guitar playing on the meaty rocker 'Judas Kiss' is exceptional.  The song is addressed to God and speaks of His people betraying Him: "I wonder how it makes You feel when no one seeks Your face/I wonder how it makes You feel when they give up in the race/I wonder what it's like for You when they willingly disobey/I wonder what it's like for You when they willingly walk away/It must be like another thorn stuck in Your brow/It must be like another close friend's broken vow/It must be like another nail right through Your wrist/It must be just like, just like Judas' kiss".

6. 'Beat the System' is an energetic rock number that was the title track of Petra's 1985 studio album.  It speaks of standing up for what one believes in, no matter what: "Caught in the undertow, swept downstream/Going against the flow seems like such a dream/Trying to hold your ground when you start to slide/Pressure to compromise comes from every side/Wise up, Rise Up (2X)/You can be more than a conqueror, you will never face defeat, no!/You can dare to win by losing all/You can face the heat, dare to beat the system/Face the heat, dare to beat the system!"

7. 'For Annie' is an easy listening track about suicide: "No one ever knew her desperation/People couldn't hear her cry out silently/Locked inside the bathroom she grabs a jar of pills/The medicine that cures becomes the poison that kills.../And it's too late for Annie, she's gone away for good/There's so much we could tell her and now we wish we could/We've gotta tell her Jesus loves her, tell her Jesus cares/Tell he He can free her and her burdens bear/But it's too late for Annie".

8. 'All Over Me' is a splendid bluesy rock song from 1982's MORE POWER TO YA.  The song is largely about Calvary: "All over me, all over me/I've got the blood of an innocent man/All over me.../They nailed His hands and His feet to the wood/At the foot of His cross all His enemies stood/He said 'Father, forgive them'/He gave them all He could give them/Then He gave up His life and they watched Him die".

9. The youthful praise rock song 'Praise Ye the Lord' written by Greg X. Volz is next up: "The Word of the Lord shall endure forever and ever/His merciful kindness is great toward us/With us to the end/Praise ye the Lord/Praise ye the Lord/Praise ye the Lord forever!"

10. Last up is 'It is Finished'. It's a lively rocker about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ: "They saw the bloody woven thorns with which His head was crowned/They watched the bloody cross of wood/Be dropped into the ground.../It is finished/And the sky grew black as the night/It is finished/And the people scattered in fright/The work had been done/Redemption had been won/The war was over without a fight/It is finished".

BACK TO THE ROCK II is a welcome CD release for me as the only Greg X. Volz fronted Petra cd I own is BACK TO THE ROCK.  If you already own all or most of the actual Petra albums Greg fronted back in the day you will have to ask yourself if you want to pay for updated, re-recorded versions of the nine Petra songs here. In my opinion the songs stick pretty true to the originals with some variations.  Lyrically, the most common theme is that of Christ purchasing our redemption and salvation at Calvary.  The social issues of suicide, poverty, and starvation are documented. Believers in Christ are presented as visitors on this earth who can make a difference for the good in this world by standing up for Jesus and doing His will here before going to heaven.  There are an equal number of slow and fast songs presented, with classic rock and easy listening being the musical genres presented.  The addition of 'Dream On' is a nice touch, In fact I'd like to see Greg X. Volz go back and re-record some of the material from his older solo albums.  I'm rating BACK TO THE ROCK II  95%.  Some may say this isn't Petra without Bob Hartman on guitar, but Kirk Henderson holds his own.  For more info visit: www.cprband.rocks.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN



Steve Green was born on August 1, 1956 in Portland, Oregon.  In the past he has sung with Truth, the Bill Gaither Trio (background), the Gaither Vocal Band, and White Heart. In 1984 he released his self-titled solo debut.  Over the years he became known for such songs as: 'Proclaim the Glory of the Lord', 'He Holds the Keys', 'Find Us Faithful', and 'The Mission'.  Fast forward to 2005 and Steve released SOMEWHERE BETWEEN (Sparrow).  It was produced by Greg Nelson and executive produced by Peter York.

1. First up is 'You're My God' penned by Bob Farrell, Steve, and Brian D. Siewert. Musically and vocally this song of testimony sounds like a powerful Broadway number: "My soul was in darkness from birth/Unable to find meaning on earth/Yet through all of my days You were there/Though nature told of Your fame/Finally You spoke and called me by name/Now You're my end and beginning/Father of mercy to me/You're my God/You will always be/Though you live in the light/You reach down through the dark of my night".

2. David Huntsinger plays piano and Mary Kathryn Vanosdale provides a violin solo on 'For Your Pleasure'.  This slow, inspirational music track will please those who stress the atonement: "Broken body, willing spirit/On a lonely cross You suffered/O, the wonder of Your love/And the mystery of the blood/Flowing from Your heart that now redeems us/For Your pleasure, Lord, I worship You".

3. Steve, Doug McKelvey, and Bernie Herms wrote 'In Brokenness You Shine', a strong inspirational number about God's faithfulness to us: "When I can't find the words to speak/You hear the pain in each heartbeat/Before I even call to You/In my deepest hour of need/That's when You come and pour Your mercy on me/Your beauty shines, Your love surrounds/Where cries of brokenness are found bring hope alive/Help me believe/And trust You one more time/In brokenness You shine (2X)".

4. Marcos Vidal, Greg Nelson, and Paul Marino wrote the Spanish song 'Tu Presencia'. Here are some of the words when translated into English: "In my need/My heart failed me/Till in my desert/The light of Your love found me/In Your presence, Jesus/I rest/In You my soul found its place/Your presence is my cloak, my home/My sustenance, my peace".

5. 'Open our Eyes' is an inspirational song that includes these prayerful words: "Open our eyes to the joy that's to come/Open our eyes to the home that we seek/Open our eyes to the promise of heaven/Open our eyes to eternity's dream".

6. David Cleveland is the guitarist on 'Sorrow Mixed with Light'. This song finds Steve talking to God: "My eyes look to You, You're the hope of my days/My eyes look to You as I cry out Your Name/And I wait for all things to be remade/Not every earthly tear/That falls is wiped away/For some are like refining fire/That turn my heart to You, my one desire".

7. 'When the Morning Comes' is an inspirational anthem of positivity: "When the winds of trouble blow/I run to hide in You/So thank You for the storms that keep faith alive/I will see You smile/When the morning comes/Though my tears may last a while/You raise me up/To wait for the hope of the dawn/And bathe in the warmth of the sun/When the morning comes".

8. Paul Marino and Greg Nelson wrote 'Forgive Me' which is an easy listening ballad appropriate for taking communion: "As I hold Your broken body/And drink Your bitter cup/Help me realize the depth/Of Your redeeming love/And for all the sin in me/Any sin at all/Forgive me (3X)".

9. Steve co-wrote 'In You Alone' with Bernie Herms.  It includes these words of testimony: "When I am lost, You rescue me from danger/And when I fall, You pick me up again/When I resist, You love past my defenses/And though I stray, You're patient to the end"

10. The last song, 'Be at Rest' is based on Psalm 116:7-8.  It is a soothing song: "Be at rest, be at rest once more/O my soul, for the Lord has been good.../For You, O Lord/Have delivered my soul from death/My eyes from tears/And You, O Lord/Have delivered my feet from stumbling".

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN is pretty much straight up an album of ten inspirational ballads, so if that is your thing, you will be ecstatic!  Thematically the album reminds us that we were created for God's pleasure and to worship Him.  We should worship Him for His patience, faithfulness, love, and beauty.  More specifically we should worship Him for sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us to provide us with total forgiveness from our sins.  It is only in Christ and His presence that we can find security, peace, hope, and healing from our brokenness.  Heaven is our ultimate forever home.  Steve's vocals are top-notch on this recording.  I really, really would have liked at least two faster paced songs thrown in for variety though. I'm rating SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 82%.  For more info visit: www.stevegreenministries.org or look him up on Facebook.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

WOVEN IN TIME


Steve Green was born on August 1, 1956 in Portland, Oregon.  His folks were Baptist missionaries so he spent a lot of his early life in Argentina.  He sang with Truth for a couple of years and then sang back-up for the Bill Gaither Trio.  In 1980 he became a part of the inaugural Gaither Vocal Band.  Following this, he sang lead on White Heart's self-titled debut album in 1982.  Deciding he didn't really want to perform rock music, he launched a solo career beginning with his self-titled debut album in 1984 on Sparrow Records.  Fast forward to 2002 and he released WOVEN IN TIME (Sparrow), which was produced by Phil Naish and executive produced by Grant Cunningham.  In the liner notes Steve writes: "During the long and tedious, yet thrilling process of recording, I was again reminded of how interconnected and dependent upon one another we are as believers in Christ Jesus.  This project is the result of many that gave their advice, encouragement, time, creativity, concern, and caring attention".

1. First up is 'Pleasures of the King', an easy listening number written by Fred MacKrell and Rob Mathes.  It uses the Nashville String Machine and glorifies Christ: "Existing pure and faultless/Embodiment of Truth/Guardian of righteousness/With Name beyond reproof/His words uphold the universe/In love unwavering/Jesus, You are the treasure of the King (2X)".

2. Wes King wrote and plays classical guitar on the beautiful inspirational song 'Thread of Scarlet'. It uses an eight person choir and speaks of Calvary: "The thread of scarlet, woven in time/For our redemption, the Son of David died/That we might live/Willingly the sinless One took our sin/Upon Himself and we hid our face/'Why have you forsaken Me?'/Was His cry before He died/Were you there?/Can you see?"

3. Next up is a smooth version of the now classic worship song 'God of Wonders'.  It has a bit of a groove to it and should please admirers of nature: "Lord of all creation/Of water, earth, and sky/The heavens are Your tabernacle/Glory to the Lord on high/God of wonders beyond our galaxy/You are holy, holy/The universe declares Your Majesty/You are holy, holy/Lord of heaven and earth (2X)".

4. 'If We Answer' finds Scott Dente on acoustic guitar, Jerry McPherson on electric guitar, and Christine Dente on backing vocals.  It's a great pop song all about God: "He's a comfort and a terror/A destroyer and repairer/He's more terrible and fairer/Than our mortal tongues can say/He is hidden and revealing/He's appalling and appealing/He's our wounding and our healing/And He will not turn away.../Holy Lamb of God/And He cannot love us more/Holy Lamb of God".

5. Steve co-wrote the inspirational song 'I Will Go' with Douglas McKelvey.  It's all about witnessing: "And I will go where there are no easy roads/Leave the comforts that I know/I will go and let this journey be my home/I will go, I will go/I will go Lord where Your glory is unknown/I will live for You alone/I will go because me life is not my own/I will go, I will go, I will go".

6. 'Sacrifice of Praise' has a Celtic feel to it with the use of bouzouki, uilleann pipes, and penny whistle.  On it Steve testifies: "Our fountain of praise begins with Thee/It flows from Your heart above/Mercy like rain comes cleansing and free/To shower Your children in love/The thirst of our souls left parched by sin/Is quenched by Your river of grace/As rains that ascend to the heavens again/We offer to Thee our praise".

7. 'Grace and Nothing More' was penned by Jon Mohr, Rob Mathes, and Phil Naish.  Jim Hammerly plays the B-3 on this slow but strong gospel song that speaks of how God leads us through this life: "Strength in my weakness/Joy through the pain/Hope when I'm helpless/Loss my greatest gain/By His own hand and faithfulness/He steers me toward a distant shore/And the wind that billows in the sail/Is grace and nothing more/Yes, it's grace and nothing more".

8. Wanda Vick plays the fiddle, the dobro, and the mandolin on the slow country tune 'O Pilgrim Come'.  It is one of invitation: "O pilgrim come, here is the cross/Cast all your pride away/And earthly treasures count as loss/In light of all you gain/O pilgrim come, here is the cross/Here is mercy/Come be crucified with Christ/Here is mercy/Come be raised with Him to life".

9. 'Holding Hands' was written by Steve, Grant Cunningham, and Matt Huesmann.  It's a tender adult contemporary love song with a viola solo by Jim Grosjean: "Years fly, they hurry by, the simple times are gone/Bills due, a kid or two, a week can feel eight days long/By fading light, let's kiss goodnight/And then we trace God's daily grace/Thankful we're still holding hands/There's a hope that won't let go/There's a truth we know/God is holding us in His arms".

10. 'Whatever It Takes' includes these words most of us can relate to: "At times I hear Your voice and try to hide/But patiently you draw me to Your side/I may not always see/That Your words are life to me/So many times I've missed You/Help me, Lord, to not resist You".

11. 'Thread of Scarlet (Reprise)' is a short, lovely piece: "Holy Lamb of God/The Son of David/Holy Lamb of God/He paid our ransom/Holy Lamb of God/The Lord our Righteousness/Holy Lamb of God/Jesus did die that we might live".

12. 'Non Nobis Domine' has a majestic sound to it and is based on Psalm 115:1.  It uses a men's choir and includes these reverent words: "Not unto us, O Lord (2X)/But to Your Name (2X)/May all the glory be".

WOVEN IN TIME is a real gem of an album!  Of course, Steve's vocals are mighty fine as usual.  But here, he experiments with easy listening, inspirational, pop, gospel, and country sounds and it all comes together brilliantly.  The album clocks in at 48 minutes and 28 seconds.  Steve praises God for His love which took His Son to the cross, His grace, and His guidance.  Steve desires to exalt Christ and have intimacy with the Father.  He also deeply desires to share the Good News with the lost and the hurting.  A love for nature also is touched on.  I'm rating WOVEN IN TIME a perfect 100 percent!  For more info visit: www.stevegreenministries.org.  This album is sure to draw you closer to God.



Tuesday, April 03, 2018

PRESENT REALITY


Michael Card was born in Madison, Tennessee on April 11, 1957.  His first two albums were FIRST LIGHT (1981) and LEGACY (1983).  These were followed by a trilogy of albums from 1984-1987 about the historical Jesus.  They were later compiled on two cds and released as THE LIFE in 1988.  That same year Card released a new album PRESENT REALITY (Sparrow) on which he wrote all the songs.  In the liner notes Michael writes: "This recording is based on the writings of Paul and focuses on the present reality of Jesus...For too many in the church today, Jesus is merely an historical echo, a voice that speaks only for the pages of the past.  We must come to see the present reality of Jesus all around and within us".

1. First up is 'Know You in the Now', a marvelous adult pop song on which Jim Horn plays the flute and Alan Moore arranges and conducts strings.  The song desires intimacy with Christ: "Lord, deliver me/Break my heart so I can see/All the ways You dwell in us/That You're alive in me/Lord, I long to see/Your presence in reality/But I don't know how/Let me know You in the now".

2. Next up is 'Maranatha' which is an Aramaic expression meaning 'Our Lord Come!'  Carl Marsh plays the Fairlight Series III synthesizer on this song that longs for Christ's return to earth: "Maranatha, how many more moments must this waiting last?/Maranatha, we long for the time when all time is past/A commotion, a call, then that will be all/Though it's not yet the hour, the minutes are ticking away.../For no eye has seen and no ear has yet heard/And no mind has ever conceived/The joy of the moment when He will appear/To the wonder of all who believe".

3. 'Could it Be' is a light adult pop song of spiritual reflection on which Michael plays piano and Cindy Reynolds plays the harp: "Could it be You make Your presence known so often by Your absence?/Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?/Could it be that You would really rather die than live without us?/Could it be the only answer that means anything is You?.../You'll never solve the mystery of this magnetic man/For you must believe to understand".

4. The shorter easy listening ballad 'That's What Faith Must Be' follows.  It lays out God's Master Plan: "When the universe fell from His fingertips/He decided He wanted some fellowship/But the man and the woman would not submit/So He made a better way/When the moment was right He sent His own Son/And He opened the way so that everyone/Could have hope and believe that when time was done/He'd be able to make us one".

5. Phil Naish plays keyboards on 'Distressing Disguise' a song that speaks of the importance of having compassion: "Every time a faithful servant serves a brother that's in need/What happens at that moment is a miracle indeed/As they look to one another in an instant that is clear/Only Jesus is visible for they've both disappeared/He is in the hand that reaches out to give/He is in the touch that causes men to live/So speak with your life now as well as your tongue/Shelter the homeless, take care of the young".

6. 'Live this Mystery' is an adult contemporary song on which Gary Lunn plays bass and Jon Goin plays classical guitar.  It is decidedly focused on Christ: "In Him we live, in Him we move/In Him all things are new/The mystery of life in Christ is Christ can live in you/I hear the silence, it's clamoring/There is only Christ, He is everything/In the language of the soul/It's burning like a coal/There's a Voice that is saying 'You can be whole'/A life where all is new/Of timeless moments waits for you/With the heart alone you see/You must live this mystery".

7. 'The Word' is a quiet, moving ballad that begins with words of testimony: "The Word is living/The Word is light/The Word delights my soul/Preserves my life/Holy and hidden/Forever new/The perfect sacrifice/Our Lord...Jesus Christ/The Word is wisdom/The Word is true/The Word takes all that's old and makes it new". John Catchings plays cello and Michael Card plays piano.

8. 'Meditation #2, The Eucharist' is a lovely instrumental that incorporates sounds of nature (birds and water).

9. John Catchings is responsible for the cello quartet on 'In Stillness and Simplicity'. The lyrics are poetic: "In stillness and simplicity/In the silence of the heart I see/The mystery of eternity/Who lives inside of me/In stillness and simplicity/I hear the Spirit's silent plea/That You, oh Lord, are close to me/In stillness and simplicity.../In stillness and simplicity/I lose myself in finding Thee/Oh Lord, You mean so much to me/In stillness and simplicity".

10. Last up is 'Flesh of His Flesh'. Michael Card plays banjo on this tender song about the sisterhood and brotherhood of believers: "We are the blessed receivers of His inexhaustible love/And so it is out of believers/The body of Christ is made of.../Forever we'll have one another/Because we belong to each other/And that is our greatest reward".

Norbert Putnam did a great job producing PRESENT REALITY.  The album is short, clocking in at 34 minutes and 43 seconds, but it is oh, so good!  This album is really all about Jesus.  He is pointed to as the Ultimate Answer to everything and as the One who will come and live in our hearts and have an intimate relationship with Him if we will only invite Him in.  He is worthy of putting our faith and trust in.  It is Christ who heals us, binds us together as brothers and sisters, and inspires us to reach out and help the poor and needy.  We now eagerly await His Second Coming.  Card`s voice is gentle and musically the album is comprised of folk, adult contemporary, and easy listening sounds. I'm rating PRESENT REALITY a perfect 100%.  For more info visit: www.michaelcard.com.