Sunday, May 27, 2018
Steven Curtis Chapman was born in Paducah, Kentucky on November 21, 1962. He released his debut album, FIRST HAND (Sparrow) in 1987. The song 'Weak Days', a co-write with James Isaac Ellliot, became a #2 hit for Chapman. Fast forward to 1999 and Chapman released his ninth studio album SPEECHLESS (Sparrow). It won a Grammy for 'Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album' and a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'. It was produced by Brown Bannister and Chapman, and executive produced by Peter York and Dan Raines. In the liner notes, Chapman writes: "Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving us ears to hear the sweet sound of Your amazing grace. May our words seem more and more inadequate as our hearts become more and more aware of how astonishing the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is".
1. Starting things off is 'Dive'. It is one of eight songs solely penned by Steven Curtis Chapman. It won a Dove for 'Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year'. On it Chapman plays the dobro, while he and Scott Sheriff provide backing vocals. These are some of the adventurous lyrics: "I know there is no turning back/Once my feet have left the ledge/And in the rush I hear a voice/That's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith/So here I go/I'm diving in, I'm going deep in over my head/I want to be caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head, I want to go/The river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive/So sink or swim, I'm diving in".
2. The title track, 'Speechless' is one of two songs penned by Chapman and good friend Geoff Moore.
It is essentially a praise and worship song that makes great use of The London Session Orchestra and a choir. Here are some of the lyrics: "I say so many things trying to figure You out/But as mercy opens my eyes/My words are stolen away with this breathtaking view of Your grace/And I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed/I am silenced by Your wondrous grace/You have saved me/You have raised me from the grave/And I am speechless in Your presence now/I'm astounded as I consider how/You have shown us/A love that leaves us speechless".
3. 'The Change' is a dandy pop/rock number written by Chapman and James Isaac Elliott. It points out that having Jesus merchandise is not enough: "Well, I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe/I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID/I got the necklace and the key chain/And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah/I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door/And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor.../What about the change?/What about the difference?"
4. 'Great Expectations' is an adult contemporary song about faith: "We've been invited with the Son/And we've been invited to come and believe the unbelievable/Receive the inconceivable/And see beyond our wildest imagination.../Lord, we come with great expectations".
5. Chapman and Adam Anders wrote the peppy pop song 'Next 5 Minutes' on which Randy Pearce plays electric guitar. It's about treasuring the time we have: "Every moment God is giving is precious/Every heartbeat, every breath I take/We'll never have them back once they've left us/There will never be another right now/So right now/I'm living the next 5 minutes/Like these are my last 5 minutes/Cause I know the next 5 minutes/ May be all I have".
6. Steven wrote 'Fingerprints of God' for his daughter Emily. The song uses handclaps and Scott Sheriff plays the B-3. It's one of seven singles from this album that made it to #1 on Christian Contemporary radio. It's a real self-esteem booster: "Just look at you/You're a wonder in the making/Oh, and God's not through, no/In fact, He's just getting started and/I can see the fingerprints of God/When I look at you/I can see the fingerprints of God/And I know it's true/You're a masterpiece/That all creation quietly applauds/And you're covered with the fingerprints of God".
7. Chapman plays the mandolin on 'The Invitation', an inspirational ballad that could serve as an altar call: "The King and His only Son are inviting us inside/This is our invitation/Come sinner as you are/Come find what your soul has been longing for/Come find your peace/Come join the feast/Come in, this is your invitation/This is our invitation/This is the invitation".
8. Next up is the upbeat pop/rock song 'Whatever'. It speaks of how God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours: "So strike a match, set fire to the list/Of all my good intentions, all my preconceived ideas/I want to do Your will no matter what it is/Give me faith to follow where You lead me/Oh, Lord, give me the courage and the strength to do whatever, whatever You say".
9. Chapman and Chris Eaton sing backing vocals on 'I Do Believe'. I like this verse from this energetic track: "Now these can be confusing times/The skeptics posing as the wise/It's hard to see the light/Through all the shadows of the doubt/But You keep saying all the while/It takes the vision of a child/Looking through the eyes of faith to see reality/So once again I will say/I believe You're the life/You're the truth, You're the way".
10. 'What I Really Want to Say' is a romantic ballad written for Steven's wife Mary Beth: "I say I love you, I say I need you/I try so many ways to say how my heart beats for you/I say I'm always thinking about you/There's no way I'd want to face this life without you/And even though these words come from deep inside me/There's so much more I don't have the words to say".
11. 'With Hope' is a soft adult contemporary ballad about death and heaven: "We can cry with hope/We can say goodbye with hope/Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no/And we can grieve with hope/Cause we believe with hope/There's a place by God's grace/There's a place where we'll see your face again/We'll see your face again".
12. 'The Journey' is a lovely orchestral piece of music penned by Chapman and J.A.C. Redford.
13. Shane Keister plays piano on the worshipful closing number 'Be Still and Know'. It includes these words: "Be still and know that He is God/Be still and know that He is faithful/Consider all that He has done/Stand in awe and be amazed/And know that He will never change/Be still".
SPEECHLESS is quite a solid album indeed! Pop/rock and adult contemporary are the main musical genres presented, with there being almost an even number of faster paced and slower songs. This is a lengthy album at 55 minutes and 25 seconds but there's nothing that I would call 'filler' here. This album is about being fully alive in God and living with a sense of wonder. We should obey God and make the most of every minute we have on this earth. Christ should make a noticeable difference in believers' lives. There are a couple of praise and worship songs on the album and there's one about heaven being our ultimate hope. I'm rating this project a perfect 100 % and recommending it to fans of Michael W. Smith and PFR. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com or connect with him on Facebook.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Susan Rae Hill, better known as Susan Ashton, was born on July 17, 1967 in Irving, Texas. She released her debut album, WAKENED BY THE WIND, in 1991 and was nominated for 'New Artist of the Year' at the Dove Awards. In 1992 her second album, ANGELS OF MERCY, was released. It birthed four CCM #1 singles and was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Pop Gospel Album'. In 1994 Ashton opened for Garth Brooks on a European tour. Fast forward to 1996 and she put out the album A DISTANT CALL (Sparrow). It was produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick, Brown Bannister, and Michael Omartian. In the liner notes, Susan writes: "To quote the Heidelberg Catechism; This is my only comfort in life and in death: that I belong-body and soul-not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of His own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me".
1. First up is 'You Move Me' a pretty and light country ballad penned by Gordon Kennedy and Pierce Pettis, with background vocals by Dan Tyminski. It speaks of God's transforming power: "So I lie here on the couch/With my heart hanging out/Frozen solid with fear/Like a rock in the ground.../Oh, but You move me, yeah/Out of myself and into the fire/You move me, oh/Burning with love and with hope and desire/How You move me".
2. On 'Blind Side' Gordon Kennedy plays the sitar and Phil Madeira plays the Hammond B-3. This country/pop song speaks of how the devil works: "So I went walking through/The garden of temptation unaware/And I tasted what I wanted/Not looking for the subtle warnings/That might be hidden there/And I barreled through undaunted/Oh, I was seduced by a craving/That left me defenseless".
3. Jimmy Mattingly plays violin and mandolin on 'Body and Soul', a lovely ballad of testimony: "And as sin gives way to atoning blood/And a debt is paid with the riches of love/There's a hope that I see/There's a freedom in me/There's a comfort in death and in life/Knowing that I belong/To the Savior who's making me whole/Body and soul".
4. Sheryl Crow, Kevin Gilbert, and Eric Pressley wrote 'All Kinds of People'. This upbeat pop/rock track offers a commentary on society: "There's a time for love and a time for healing/Can't go back and undo what's been done/Word of mouth, time is revealing/Just how far we've let this kingdom come/Hand in hand we're finding our way/And today is just tomorrow's yesterday/Some would die for you, some will lie to you/There's all kinds of people in this world".
5. Jimmy Mattingly plays fiddle and Kenny Greenberg plays electric guitar and national guitar on 'Crooked Man'. It's a terrific country/rocker about an undesirable fella: "Goodness, like an arrow, lodges where it can/But it never pierces the heart of a crooked man/Justify-when justice wouldn't pay the toll/Subtle lies-when the truth was better half than whole/Driven by an insatiable lust/For power that was just out of reach/Living on an illusion of trust/With a steady dose of control and greed".
6. Wayne Kirkpatrick and Ashton co-wrote 'Spinning Like a Wheel', while Dan Dugmore plays pedal steel and Matt Rollings plays piano. This is an easy listening love song: "Falling like the sand/Deeper than I ever have before/When you take my hand/You take me to forever/A sweet touch, a heart rush/Now I can't catch my breath/Falling like sand/Through the hands of time".
7. 'Hundreds of Tears' includes these words: "In the longest days, in the darkest night/Down the longest road, there's a presence of light/But I hear a voice that calls me/It's love's name I'll call in the end". It's a light pop song.
8. Gayla Borders, Jeff Borders, and Amy Grant wrote 'Send a Message'. Brown Bannister is responsible for the mellotron, strings, and the Chamberlin Flute. This great pop song is one about being in a love relationship: "Just send a message if there's trouble here/I could be oceans away/Just send a message to me loud and clear/Baby, I'll be there for you/Hold me close, don't you ever let go/We got a love that was meant to be/The day we met, I'll never forget/Fate smiled at destiny".
9. Michael Omartian plays piano and Tim Akers plays organ on 'I Will Follow', a country love ballad: "And if fate had carved a canyon wide/And you were caught on the other side/I'd cry some tears deep as the ocean blue/And swim that great divide to get to you/Heaven knows I will go, I will follow (2X)/What is logic compared to love/From the depths of the sea to the stars above/I will follow".
10. Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith co-wrote 'Lonely River' which utilizes the Nashville String Machine. It's a pretty song that is a philosophical diary entry of sorts: "Lonely river/I think I am a lot like you/Winding on in hopes to find the sea/And flooded by uncertainties/The current can be strong/But drifting towards our destinies/The arm of God is long/And I believe that through this journey/'Til we're finally home/Lonely river, we will never, run alone".
11. Alison Krauss & Union Station are featured on the closing song 'Love Profound'. This country ballad reflects on the nature of romantic love: "Our love knows no limits and our love knows no bounds/Oh, it confounds the wisest of sages/Isn't love profound?/Oh, it sings when we're weary from so many tears/Rocking us gently it cradles our fears/In those times when we feel like we've come to our end/It gives us the strength to start over again".
A DISTANT CALL clocks in at 52 minutes and 52 seconds to be exact! Susan's vocals are very soothing and heartwarming. You can tell she really 'feels' these songs and the messages in them. Country and pop are the main musical genres presented on these eleven tracks. There is almost an even number of fast paced songs and ballads. Truth be told this is an album that could be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians. On some tracks, Ashton does sing about God's love and having an intimate relationship with Him, but she does so in a non-judgmental way. Several of the songs also speak of happy, romantic love, while one or two warn against 'bad apples' so to speak. There are four modest but beautiful pics of Susan included with this CD which I'm rating 96.5 %. For more info visit: www.susanashtonmusic.com and/or connect with her on Facebook.
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Michael Card was born on April 11, 1957 in Madison, Tennessee. As a post-secondary student he worked for six years at a planetarium. His debut album FIRST LIGHT dropped in 1981 and featured 'I Have Decided'. In the following years he became known for such songs as : 'Love Crucified Arose', 'Known by the Scars', and 'Celebrate the Child'. In 1983 he won a Dove for Songwriter of the Year for 'El Shaddai', a co-write with John Thompson. It was a #1 hit for Amy Grant who recorded it for her 1982 AGE TO AGE project. Fast forward to 1994 and Card released POIEMA (Sparrow). It was produced by Phil Naish except for one song 'Bearers of the Light' which was produced by Brown Bannister. In the liner notes Card writes: "The Bible tells us that we are God's masterpieces (Greek poiema); not only creatures, but His creations, His poems (Ephesians 2:10)...These songs are a result of listening to my life and the lives of others close to me, to try to hear the parables, poems, and songs; to determine what some of the moments mean".
1. First up is 'The Poem of Your Life', one of nine songs written solely by Card. It's a pleasant Celtic pop tune that encourages us to truly live: "So look in the mirror and pray for the grace/To tear off the mask, see the art of your face/Open your earlids to hear the sweet song/Of each moment that passes and pray to prolong/Your time in the ball of the dance of your days/Your canvas of colors of moments ablaze/With all that is holy, with the joy and the strife/With the rhythm and rhyme of the poem of your life (2X)".
2. Dan Dugmore plays dobro on the inspirational ballad 'The Basin and the Towel', which is about true servanthood: "In an upstairs room/A parable is just about to come alive/And while they bicker about who's best/With a painful glance He'll silently rise/Their Savior Servant must show them how/Through the will of the water and the tenderness of the towel/And the call is to community/The impoverished power that sets the soul free/In humility to take the vow/That day after day we must take up/The basin and the towel".
3. Card co-wrote 'Things We Leave Behind' with Scott Roley, and Phil Madeira. Dan Dugmore plays steel guitar on this song that speaks out against materialism: "Every heart needs to be set free/From possessions that hold it so tight/Cause freedom's not found in the things that we own/It's the power to do what is right/With Jesus our only possession/Then giving becomes our delight/And we can't imagine the freedom we find/From the things we leave behind".
4. Card co-wrote 'Earthly Perfect Harmony' with Randy Scruggs. It's an easy listening ballad with Sam Levine playing the alto flute. Marriage is the subject matter: "Lately it seems that all our dreams/Have slipped right through our hands/And I've become both doubt and also doubter/It's hard to ask if love has passed us by/Or if it's simply gone to sleep/To slumber till our hearts decide to wake it/Or could it be that we forgot The Source of our special love?/Turned our backs upon the One who made it burn and glow?"
5. 'Home' is a beautiful and sentimental ballad: "Home is a comfort and home is a light/A place to leave the darkness outside/Home is a peaceful and ever-full feeling/A place where a soul safely hides/And being at home should remind you that still/There's a place that's prepared just for you/And I think my home is just heaven's reflection/As long as my home's here with you".
6. 'Lowden's Prayer' "is dedicated to George and his wife, Flo, and to the many other believing craftsmen and women who labor in wood and steel to make instruments for God's praise". It's a pretty instrumental that finds Maire Breatnach playing fiddle, Liam O'Flynn on uillean pipes and whistle, and Carl Marsh on the hammered dulcimer.
7. Next up is 'The Poem of Your Life (Reprise)'. It's short and sweet.
8. 'The Edge' is one of two songs penned by Card and Phil Naish. It's an adult contemporary song that finds Michael making a serious pledge: "I promise I will always leave the darkness for the light/I swear by all that's holy/I will not give up the fight/I'll drink down death like water/Before I ever come again/To that dark place where I might make the choice for life to end". Dann Huff and Sonny Lallerstedt play electric guitars.
9. 'Hope' is a good pop song of encouragement: "Hope you in the Lord and renew your strength/Soar you up on eagle's wings/Tirelessly run the long race that's set before you/Your life's a song the Father sings/Though your life may seem to sound a dark and minor key/It will someday shift itself to major/And the lyric of your life will rhyme/With nothing less than joy/And you'll find that hope is from the One that you believe".
10. Carrie Hodge, Michael Mellett, and Angelo Petrucci provide backing vocals on 'Bearers of the Light'. Here are some of the words: "The great need of us all/A true mentor, a Paul/Who has traveled the road that's before us/He has made good the pledge to take the Light on ahead/We can follow his footsteps before us/The Light we must bear is the Light we must share/Is the Light that illumines the darkness/The promises kept give us strength to accept/This burden of bearing the Light".
11. Card wrote 'The Greening of Belfast' after visiting Northern Ireland. "Like our own country there is no solution to the problems there, political or otherwise, apart from prayer" writes Card. This tender song finds Card playing a Celtic harp and uses a choir. It's a prayer: "Pray for the greening of Belfast/That what is now barren might bloom and be fair/God loves the city of Belfast/For so many children who love Him live there/So many children who love Him live there/So pray for the greening of Belfast".
12. 'For F. F. B.' is an adult contemporary ballad that serves as a tribute to Card's grandfather who was a preacher. The song ends with these words from one of his sermons: "I have no hope, except that I believe that Christ died for my sins, according to Scriptures. I expect to swing out into eternity on that".
13. Phil Naish plays piano on the beautiful ballad 'Sunrise of Your Smile', inspired by Card's son. Here's the chorus: "For I would wander weary miles/Would welcome ridicule, my child/To simply see the sunrise of your smile/To see the light behind your eyes/The happy thought that makes you fly/Yes, I would wander weary miles/To simply see the sunrise of your smile".
The theme of POIEMA is life itself. There are a couple of songs about marriage, a song of love to Card's grandfather, and a loving song about Card's son. This album makes it clear that our lives are poems-works of art in progress if you will. Life can be hard, but Card encourages us to live life in community with others and press on and live in the light of Christ. We should leave all for Christ and serve others. Musically, the album is mostly easy listening and light adult pop/contemporary, but there are definitely Celtic influences. Card's vocals are soothing and the album does get you a bit sleepy, but that's okay, because there are many great songs on POIEMA. I'm rating this one 93%. For more info visit: www.michaelcard.com.
Monday, May 07, 2018
Christian metal band Deliverance released their self-titled debut album in 1989. It was followed by what many fans consider to be their best effort, WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE (1990). 3 of my favorite albums from the band are: WHAT A JOKE (1991), RIVER DISTURBANCE (1994), and CAMELOT IN SMITHEREENS (1995). In 2013 they put out HEAR WHAT I SAY!, which was said to be their swan song. Fast forward to 2018 and Deliverance has risen again, this time with THE SUBVERSIVE KIND (Roxx Productions). The group's roster this time around is: Jimmy P. Brown II (lead vocals and guitars), Jim Chaffin (drums), Glenn Rogers (guitars), and Victor Macias (bass). Chaffin was with The Crucified, Macias with Tourniquet, and Rogers was an original Deliverance member. The album was produced by Jimmy P. Brown and Jim Chaffin and executive produced by Bill Bafford. Jimmy P. Brown II has said that he wanted this album to sound like it was recorded in 1986 and and wanted it to kick the listener in the teeth! Dictionary.com defines 'subversive' as "tending or intending to subvert or overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system, especially a legally constituted government or set of beliefs".
1. Starting things off is the album's second single, 'Bring 'Em Down'. Brown calls this one "in your face". It offers a bleak commentary on society: "Superficial views of what my life's supposed to be/Abnorm is norm, we adopt a fractured reality/Shattered image, human frailty is wide awake/Polished gems, a golden hue of idols that we make.../Slavery prevails, the zombies walking tall, a game of give and take/Give and take!/Bring 'em down!" Greg Minier of The Crucified provides lead guitar solos.
2. Glenn Rogers provides great electric guitar solos on the epic thrash metal song 'Concept of the Other'. It speaks of how we label, fear, and hate people who are different from us in some way: "Prejudicial blinds, become the dark veil of truth/A guilty eye for an eye, a bloody tooth for tooth/Call attention to the differences in their belief/Selling God with different names, the educated thief/We've clearly drawn the line of who to justify to hate/Reasoning by law and love/The blindfolded one has sealed their fate".
3. The angry thrasher 'Center of it All' follows. It's directed at a very selfish person: "You really are the center of it all/The other names you can't recall/You really are the center of it all/The ditch is dug waiting for your fall.../I look at you and see myself, image of what I used to be/Don't get me wrong I'm not your judge/Just calling out what I see/If you heard half your BS, you might understand what I mean/The limpid, the crimped, the crawl to a slow insanity".
4. The album's first single, 'The Black Hand' is up next. It's a blistering thrash track with crazy good electric guitar work. It vividly describes a panic attack: "Gasping for air, heart rate rises/Impending doom awaits/No danger in sight, only feel fear/Neurosis waits for you to take the bait.../And when it comes in day or night/Your senses numbing rob you of sight/Fire and ice lost in a haze/The hand gripping you, mind in a maze".
5. Brown says 'Epilogue' is about being pigeon-holed in the Contemporary Christian Music industry. He admits he did it to himself when he signed with a Christian label, so he can't blame his fans. Here is how the song begins: "I've created my crucifixion, felt the affixiation, circled my own stage, incited the crowd's rage/Called out all my own crimes, defenses sublime/I struck the gavel down hard, followed the path of the bard". Notably, it is on this slower metal song that Brown plays his only lead guitar solo, and it's a good one.
6. 'Listen Closely' darn near gets evangelistic with these lyrics: "You've been suckered, you believed it all/A victim of the selling game!/There is hope, just believe The Truth/It's out there waiting, waiting for you/It's not impossible, it's not worse than that!/An answer lies in wait, just see!/It won't come easy, friend that much is fact/Seek and you will find, righteous path will be".
7. The thrash title track 'The Subversive Kind' is about agitating, causing a revolution, and bringing about change: "Insurrection, a call to the unrest/The revolt puts courage to the test/Retake, repossess powers that be/Harmless dove subdues so subtly". The melodic chorus states as follows: "But I'm not the subversive kind/I'll give you products of a disturbed mind/I'm not the subversive kind/Be careful of what is hidden behind".
8. Last up is the powerful anthem of encouragement 'The Fold' on which Minier and Rogers provide great guitar solos. It's about overcoming in life: "I won't let faith unravel, crushing down the gavel, awaiting arrival!/I won't give up, won't take the bait!/I'll see it through/Run the course, it's what's at stake!/Too easy to fold, easy to give in!/I'll not let them control me/Keep fighting for the win!/I won't fold!"
For those long-time Deliverance fans longing for a sequel to WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE, you get it here when it comes to the music and the vocals. This is a straight-up thrash record comprised of incredible musicianship. If you're into headbanging to songs of breakneck speeds crank this sucker up! Jimmy's vocals are partly sung, partly shouted, and partly spoken. The album has an intense, urgent, agitatated sound to it which means it won't be for everyone. As far as this being a sequel to WEAPONS lyrically-it simply isn't for the most part. On this newest project from the big 'D' you have to more read between the lines to hear any Christian themes. There are some good messages here, I just wouldn't call it a 'Christian metal' album. I am however rating it a perfect 100 % for what it is-thrash music that will make you think about what you're hearing Jimmy sing. Selfishly I do hope in the future Deliverance does a full out thrash album with blatant but not hateful Christian lyrics. At any rate, for more info visit www.roxxproductions.com, 3frogzstudio.com, and connect with the band and its members on facebook.
Thursday, May 03, 2018
Andy Chrisman, Mark Harris, Marty Magehee, and Kirk Sullivan met while they were in the CCM group Truth. As 4HIM they released their self-titled debut in 1990. Over the next few years they became known for such songs as: 'Where there is Faith', 'A Man You Would Write About', 'The Basics of Life', and 'A Strange Way to Save the World'. Their sixth studio album was THE MESSAGE (1996, Benson). In the liner notes you will find the following: "The mission of 4HIM is to edify the church, evangelize the lost and strive for excellence in music".
1. Mark Harris, Brent Bourgeois, and Chris Eaton wrote the album opener 'Lay it All on the Line'. Glenn Pearce plays electric guitars and Bruce Gaitsch plays acoustic guitars on this pop song about giving all to Christ: "So don't go wastin' your time/Holding on to your life/Just lay it all on the line/Gotta make up your mind/There can be no more compromise/Just lay it all on the line/It's a matter of surrendering every hidden fear/And by letting go of everything/Jesus will meet You there".
2. Mark Harris, Don Koch, and Stephanie Lewis wrote 'The Measure of a Man', while Phil Madeira plays B-3 on it. It's an adult contemporary song about what truly makes one a man: "Oh, I say the measure of a man is not how tall you stand/How wealthy or intelligent you are/'Cause I've found out the measure of a man/God knows and understands/For He looks inside to the bottom of your heart/And what's in the heart defines/The measure of a man".
3. 'Land of Mercy' is a great, energetic pop song about our redemption: "I've discovered there's nothing left to judge/Forgiveness is the final word/Cause everywhere I turn I see compassion but I'm learning/I'm just a fallen man/In the land of mercy/Love is free to grow where heaven's healing waters flow/Though I may not understand/I'm living in the land of mercy".
4. Mark Harris, Don Koch, and Michael Omartian wrote the title track, 'The Message'. Michael plays keyboards, Tommy Simms plays bass, Chris McHugh plays drums, and Bob Mason plays cello on this adult contemporary anthem about reaching the lost: "To live a love that never fails/To love my neighbor as myself/And to give 'til there is nothing left to give/To live a faith that never dies/To be crucified with Christ/Until all that lives through me is the message/If we all will work together/We can make this world a better place to live/We can make a difference if we try".
5. 'The King and I' speaks of intimacy with God: "The sun is rising and once again the morning finds me on my knees/On the day's horizon I have got an invitation to see the King/Far away from the worries that weigh me down/I am taken to holy ground/To the place where mercy and love abounds/There in the midst of His throne/I know in my heart this is where I belong".
6. 'The Center of the Mark' is an easy listening ballad that reminds us love is a verb, requiring action: "Draw back your bow, let love go/Shoot straight for the heart/With all of your might, set your sight/Take aim from the start/To love God and love people/That's the center of the mark".
7. Mark Harris, Dave Clark, and Don Koch wrote 'Window With a View' on which Jackie Street plays bass and Dann Huff, George Cocchini, and Jerry McPherson play guitars. This catchy pop song reminds us God is always with us: "Through Your window with a view/Straight into my soul/Nothing in creation is hidden from Your window with a view/How else could You know what we're going through?/There is no mystery to You/You've got a window/A window with a view".
8. 'All the Evidence I Need' includes these words of comfort: "I know Your love reaches out to me/In my weakest of days/For I've felt Your touch in my heart of hearts/Though I've never even seen Your face".
9. Marty Magehee wrote 'Sacred Hideaway'. It's an experimental sounding pop song about intimacy with God: "I have found a secret place/Where I can go to hide away/Safe inside this hallowed space/I am concealed by saving grace/Forever in this sacred hideaway".
10. Next up is 'A Lot Like You' which was written by Mark Harris, Keith Dudley, and Michael Omartian. It's a memorable pop song of reflection: "We're living in this world/But are we making a difference?/Maybe the salt in us is out of season/They look into our eyes/I wonder what are they seeing/Has Jesus been disguised by our religion?/We say He's already come/And that He's livin' in us/But can He really be found in our lives today?"
11. Last up is 'Greatest Story Ever Told'. Keyboards and arranging are by Bill Baumgart, while Craig Duncan plays the hammered dulcimer and mandolin. This one is an adult contemporary ballad that reflects on the Bible: "For thousands of years/This pearl of great wisdom/Has weathered through changes/And lasted through years/Many a doubter has risen and fallen/But the story has never once abandoned its course/For the Author still speaks to the listening ones/Through the voices of men and through the pages/The pages of love".
A common theme on THE MESSAGE is that of being in an intimate, personal relationship with God. He talks to us and we talk to Him. We truly hear each other. 4HIM stresses the importance of loving and being devoted to God. They also sing about God's love and mercy toward us. Without either, we would be lost and doomed. Listeners are reminded that God looks at our character. That is of utmost importance to Him. Also, He desires that we don't hide Him under a bushel, but that we spread His love around the world and share the Gospel message with those who need to hear it. The vocals on this album are great! If you love pop and adult contemporary music in the vein of Backstreet Boys and Point of Grace you'll love this album which I'm rating a perfect score of 100%. For more info connect with the group members on facebook.
Wednesday, May 02, 2018
Stryper released their debut album, THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK, in 1984. Other notable albums from this controversial band include 1986's TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL and NO MORE HELL TO PAY (2013). Fast forward to 2018 and they are back with GOD DAMN EVIL (Frontiers Records). It peaked at #2 on the US Billboard Christian Albums chart and at #6 on the US Billboard Top Rock Albums chart. Lead singer Michael Sweet produced the album and says: "We thought long and hard about this title. It was actually considered quite a few years ago and it just didn't feel like the right time...It's a very bold statement, yet a prayer, asking God to damn/condemn evil. Nothing more, nothing less". Stryper is Michael Sweet (lead vocals/lead guitars), Oz Fox (lead guitars, bgvs), Robert Sweet (drums, visual timekeeper), and former Firehouse member Perry Richardson on bass. Due to time restraints, Richardson did not play on the album-instead, John O'Boyle played bass, having worked with Sweet in the past. Paul McNamara plays keys/moog, Danny Bernini plays percussion, and Charles Foley provides backing vocals on this project.
1. The album's first single, 'Take it to the Cross' is up first. Some of the band's fans had wanted them to try something heavier for a while now, so what we have here is a heavy metal song with a thrash chorus complete with a death growl by Matt Bachand of Shadows Fall. I actually think it works. The lyrics are straight forward Christian ones: "We were created, yet that is debated/But Christ said it so perfectly/'I am the Way and the Truth and the Life and you get to The Father through Me'/Through Me!/Take it to the cross (6X)".
2. 'Sorry' is a catchy power rock song about relationships. The chorus is not that creative: "Sorry/It doesn't always make it starry/Maybe next time be more charming/So you don't have to say sorry/No, you don't have to say sorry". Michael can still scream though!
3. 'Lost' is a terrific metal song with sizzling electric guitar work. It speaks about the spiritual sickness in society: "Watch the news and read the stories/It's a nightmare/Run for cover/Search for glory/Is it really anywhere?/Are we lost? Are we lost?/At what cost?/Are we lost?".
4. 'God Damn Evil' is one heck of a melodic heavy metal title track, again with great electric guitar work. Michael's vocals are excellent on this one. It declares war on the devil and his works and ways: "We power up the empty screen and let the games begin/Far beyond its poisoning is a special kind of sin/We open locks and break the chains and let the devil in/We're losing all of what remains/In a war we'll never win (2X)/God damn evil/God damn it all/But God save the people/But God damn the walls". Tyler Murello, Robert Sweet, and Paul McNamara provide additional background vocals.
5. 'You Don't Even Know Me' is a manly rocker addressed to Michael's critics: "Everything you do and say/Shows the world exactly who you are/Tip your hat the proper way/While cutting with your knife and leaving scars/Who do you think you are?/You don't even know me/But you think you're a god/You continue to show me/That you're only a fraud".
6. 'The Valley' is a plodding heavy metal number of spiritual determination: "I've spent my life trying to be a solar light in the darkest sea/Wearing my shield/For the final fight/I won't back down/I won't bend a knee/Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I fear no evil, no evil". The electric guitar work is crazy good!
7. 'Sea of Thieves' speaks of spiritual endurance: "We're alive and we are breathing/And we're surviving through it all/And for as long as hearts are beating, oh yeah/Our faith protects us when we fall/Love is second to none/The brightest star up in the sky/The story's just begun/We're not here to live to die/Stand/Stronger than an ancient tree/Land is just beyond the open sea of thieves".
8. 'Beautiful' is a melodic rocker that is a real confidence booster: "Your spirit and your soul/Can make dull worlds glow/When the cold needs a fire/You're the spark/You're more than a million to one/So shine with the moon and the sun/Cause you are beautiful/You are wonderful/Your life is meaningful/You will always be to me beautiful".
9. 'Can't Live Without Your Love' is a pretty rock ballad in the vein of AGAINST THE LAW's 'Lady'. Here are some of the sentimental lyrics: "Girl I've gotta tell you something/That I don't ever say enough/You took my life from next to nothing/When I was down and things were rough.../Woman/I can't live without your love/Every moment/Is just what this dream's made of/I can't live without your love".
10. 'Own Up' seems aimed at an enemy: "You're gonna have to own up/Gonna have to take the heat/You can't just phone up and say that it wasn't me/You're gonna have to own up/Say what you want/Act nonchalant/Continue to taunt/But man it must really haunt you/I know it's haunting you".
11. The album ends as it began, with a thrash metal vibe (minus the growling though) on 'The Devil Doesn't Live Here'. Here's the bold chorus: "The devil doesn't live here/Only, Jesus/Sold out with no fear/Only to Jesus".
Regardless of what you think of the album title, GOD DAMN EVIL is a mighty fine album, right up there with some of Stryper's now classic and heralded earlier albums. GDE makes it clear that the world we live in is in spiritual trouble. The devil is roaming about trying to destroy our souls. However, we can have hope if we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and accept what he did at Calvary on the cross for us. This album encourages believers to have spiritual determination and an attitude of overcoming. Human relationships are also a theme on the album. There are songs about romantic relationships, one's enemies, and a marvelous song to boost your self-esteem. Stryper fans will be pleased with Michael's signature screams, the harmony vocals, and the outstanding electric guitar solos and work. Fans of hard rock and heavy metal need to pick up or download this album which I'm rating 97%. For more info visit: www.stryper.com and www.frontiers.it.