Monday, December 31, 2018
The Christian rock band Leeland formed in 2004 and its origins can be traced back to Baytown, Texas. Leeland's debut album was SOUND OF MELODIES (2006, Essential Records). Group members were: Leeland Mooring (lead vocals, guitar), Jack Mooring (vocals, keys), Jeremiah Wood (lead guitar), Jake Holtz (bass), and Mike Smith (drums). Producers used on this album were Matt Bronleewe, Steve Hindalong, and Mark Byrd. SOUND OF MELODIES was nominated for a Grammy Award for 'Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album' and Dove Awards for 'Praise and Worship Album of the Year' and 'Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year'. Leeland also got a Dove nom in 2007 for 'New Artist of the Year'.
Starting things off is the title track, 'Sound of Melodies', written by Leeland Dayton Mooring, Jack Anthony Mooring, and Steve Wilson. This modern worship song speaks of life transformation: "We who were called to be Your people/Struggling sinners and thieves/We're lifted up from the ashes/And out came the song of the redeemed/The song of the redeemed/Can You hear the sound of melodies/Oh, the sound of melodies/Rising up to You/Rising up to You, God?" 'Reaching' is a pop/rock song from the heart: "Here on this earth we lift our eyes to the stars/We seek all You are/We seek You/And it's for You/It's all for You/We're breaking off our chains to run to You/Would You fill our hearts, oh, fill our songs?" 'Yes You Have' was penned by Leeland and Jack Mooring and Matt Bronleewe. It was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Worship Song of the Year'. It offers these wonderful words of testimony: "With Your love You set me free/Three nails gave me liberty/So I'll sing Your praise/My God, I'll sing Your praise/Oh, with Your love You forgave my sin/Forgot my past/And brought me back again/So I'll sing Your praise/I'll sing Your praise, yeah".
Brothers Leeland and Jack Mooring wrote 'Tears of the Saints'. It runs over six minutes long and was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Song of the Year'. This adult contemporary song has a heart for prodigals: "There are tears from the saints for the lost and unsaved/We're crying for them come back home (2X)/And all Your children will stretch out their hands/And pick up the crippled man/Father, we will lead them home (2X)". 'Beautiful Lord' places full trust in God: "When the storm is raging all around me/You are the peace that calms my troubled sea/And when the cares of this world darken my day/You are the light that shines and shows me the way/Oh, the beauty of Your majesty/On the cross You showed Your love for me!"
Leeland Mooring and Steve Hindalong (The Choir, Lost Dogs) co-wrote 'Can't Stop', a great pop/rock track that celebrates God's love for us: "You've risen like the sun/Darkness fades with the dawn/I know You are the radiant one/And You give me light/Your love is in my heart tonight (2X)/I can't stop, I can't stop falling in love with You (2X)". 'Lift Your Eyes' is a bouncy pop song of spiritual invitation: "You can lift your eyes/Come to the cross/There is healing for all who come".
Next up is 'Hey', another bouncy pop number that uses hand claps and delights in the Lord: "And I said/'Hey, You're the one that I've been looking for/And I found You here'" (2X). Leeland Mooring, Steve Hindalong, Marc Byrd, and David Stukenberg wrote 'Too Much' which sonically sounds like Phil Keaggy. It has very relatable lyrics: "All these cliffs and all these heights/They've just been too high to climb/Too high, too high/All these waves and all these seas/Have all been crashing down on me/Too much, too much".
'How Wonderful' is a beautiful modern worship ballad: "How wonderful, how lovely is Your Name/You captivate our hearts/You save us by Your grace/And You are closer than a brother, Jesus.../Oh, the name of Jesus". Last up is 'Carried to the Table', on which Marc Byrd plays ambient guitar. All Christians should appreciate these words: "I was carried to the table/Seated where I don't belong/Carried to the table/Swept away by His love/And I don't see my brokenness anymore/When I'm seated at the table of the Lord/I'm carried to the table/The table of the Lord".
SOUND OF MELODIES is a flawless, excellent album! Hard to believe it was a debut album! It's a good mix of modern worship and pop/rock sounds. There is almost an even mix of fast and slower songs. The main theme is that God has redeemed us through the crosswork of Jesus Christ. God is merciful and loving towards us. He longs for prodigals and those who have never been in a personal relationship with Him to run into His loving, accepting arms. Our response to God's love and mercy, as demonstrated on this record, should be to praise and worship Him joyfully and gratefully. Fans of Sanctus Real, Downhere, and Kutless should add this album, which I'm rating 100%, to their collection. For more info visit www.leelandonline.com and/or connect with them on Facebook.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Lisa Bevill was born on June 24, 1968 in North Carolina. In 1992 she released her debut album MY FREEDOM (Vireo Records). It was produced by Mark Heimermann and Chris Harris. Brown Bannister served as executive producer. Songwriters on the album include Toby McKeehan, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Carolyn Arends. In the liner notes, Lisa writes: "Eternal Thanks to God for breaking my will and blessing me with everything I've always dreamed of. By giving everything to You, I've found my freedom".
Starting things off is 'Chaperone', an upbeat pop/dance track featuring the rap stylings of who we now know as TobyMac. These lyrics call on God during a time of temptation: "Friday night, the party is groovin'/The pressure's up and morality's down/Way down/He told me if I didn't do it/I'd never hang with the popular crowd/Oh, You always hear me/Oh, I need You near me, Lord". 'It's Gonna Be Worth It' is also pop/dance and encourages abstinence: "He's promising this if you'll give him that/But keep your innocence/Cause you can't get it back, oh, no/Don't hurry love, don't settle for less/Hold out for the love of the one who knows best/Cause your Father knows what's best". George Cocchini provides some great electric guitar work.
'Falling Off the Face of the Earth' has a slow groove to it and is the song of one friend to another: "Don't let go/There's a big black hole below/I don't want to see you disappear/You've got to hold on, there's nothing to fear/So climb up to the top/I will lift you up, put you back on your feet/Out of the abyss/I'll greet you with a kiss, wrap my arms around you". 'Love Oughta Be' is a pretty adult contemporary ballad on which Lisa shares her definition of love: "Love oughta be forever/Yes, love oughta be/Deep as the night and true/Love oughta be a river/That flows to the sea/Yes, love oughta be/Like love is with you/Willing to forgive and willing to sacrifice/No greater love than this/To be willing to give your life".
Next up is the title track, 'My Freedom'. It's a strong pop ballad of personal testimony: "I was a self-made girl/But I was a slave to my world/With my liberating view/But I never knew/My freedom, my freedom/Giving everything to You is where I find/My freedom, my freedom/Now I have a heart that has a peace of mind". 'Place in the Sun' is a peppy pop/dance track of spiritual invitation: "You don't have to exist in the night anymore/Love is shining so bright/Outside of your door/Open your door, yeah/Come as you are, never far/From your heart/Love's warm embrace awaits/And you have a place in the sun". It was a #1 hit for Lisa!
'Second Chance' is an R&B ballad that offers relationship advice: "What he wants is a little freedom/What she wants, ooh, is a little romance/What they need is to talk it over/And let their love have a second chance". It would've been a nice fit on mainstream radio. 'Alone in Love' finds Lisa placing her trust in God: "The morning sun reminds me every day is new/Sweet love I have in You/And though I cannot see the shape of things to come/You know each way the river runs/I will follow the Keeper of my dreams/Through each tomorrow, we'll be together".
What follows is the pop/dance number, 'I Took A Tumble'. It warns against pride: "On top of the world I created for myself/My ego loved the exposure/Well, when you're king of the hill/There's no room for someone else/That's when your party is over/Eating crow's no tasty treat/Humble pie is never sweet/Time for me to take my seat/Somebody pulled the rug out from under my feet/Well, I took a tumble, flat on my face/It made me humble, put me back in my place". Last up is 'Shirley (Keep it to Yourself)'. It's a quirky song that speaks out against gossip: "Don't you know that idle talk is cheap/There are things you never should repeat, repeat/If it's confidential/Don't abuse your freedom of speech/Keep it to yourself".
The main musical genres on MY FREEDOM are pop/dance (with touches of R&B) and adult contemporary. There are five fast songs and five slower songs. Lisa's vocals are great! What I like the most about this record is that it deals with everyday life topical issues (premarital sex, pride, gossip, friendship). We need more of that in today's worship flooded CCM market. Lisa also sings of finding one's true identity in God and about what loving one another should look like. I'm rating MY FREEDOM 98%. For more info visit www.lisabevill.com and/or connect with her on Facebook. Fans of Natalie Grant and early era Cindy Morgan should like this album.
Saturday, December 08, 2018
Cindy Lavonne Morgan was born on June 4, 1968. In 1992 she released her debut album, REAL LIFE. It garnered her six Dove Award nominations! Fast forward to 1998 and she released her fifth studio album, THE LOVING KIND (Word/Epic). It was produced by Brent Bourgeois and co-produced by Craig Hansen. This concept album is based on the last eight days of Jesus' life on earth. Cindy writes: "As I traced the footsteps of Jesus, I found a Man who reached out to the rejected, the needy, the harlot, and the murderer".
Starting things off is 'In the Garden', one of eight selections solely written by Cindy. This eclectic pop song uses clarinet, violin, and accordion. It's about Jesus: "From boy to a man/The carpenter's hands/Healed all the sick and diseased/Gave hope to the bleak, strength to the weak/And gave us a song to sing.../This is my body and this is my blood/Cover you like in the days of the flood/Come walk the road up to Gethsemane". Cindy and Brent Lenthall wrote 'The March'. It's one of two they co-wrote on this album. This lively pop song uses horns and invites us to join in Christ's suffering: "Oh, it was a march for the sweet and gruesome/To bring a light to their darkened place/It was a march for the thirst of freedom/And it was beauty battered and bleeding/And it was a march, yeah, yeah/When it all comes down to me and you, yeah/Will we walk away or march on with/The One who made the march, oh yeah?" The title track, 'The Loving Kind', follows. It's an easy listening song of gratitude that features The Nashville String Machine. Here's the chorus: "I don't know why You love me/Oh Lord, it's such a mystery/All I can say, all I can find/You're the loving kind, the loving kind/When I fall and when I stray/Your love it captures me always/All I can see, all I can find/You're the loving kind, the loving kind".
Wes King co-wrote 'The Last Supper' with Cindy. They sing the easy listening song together. It's appropriate for communion: "This is the body that was broken/Take and eat/This is the blood shed for many/Take and drink/Amen/And it will cover you/And make you new/Oh Jerusalem". Jerry McPherson and Matt Slocum play guitars on 'Devil Man'. It's a rock song about Jesus' betrayer, Judas: "Give me the money, give me the gold/Dirty little palms/And a heart that's cold, yeah.../Hanging from my neck/From a dirty piece of wood/I'm known as the betrayer/Buried in a field of blood, in a field of blood, hey".
Cindy plays piano on 'Can You Hear Me', a ballad that includes these powerful words: "The scars that You bear/Will one day make the whole world free/Satan is a liar down in the mire". Larry Tagg plays bass and Aaron Smith drums on 'The Only Way', a bouncy pop song which finds Christ speaking: "I am the Light, I am the Truth/I am the Voice/That will lead you/I am the Peace/I am the Love, I am the Way/I am the Way, I'm the only Way, oh".
Cindy co-wrote 'Hard Heart' with Brent Bourgeois. John Elefante is a backing vocalist. Cindy sings this one with passion! Included are these words of indictment: "Snake in the grass, crack in the glass/You beat down the head of the poor and hungry/Whatever you do to the least of these/You do it unto Me, unto Me". 'The Whipping' is a short number about the torture Jesus endured before being crucified: "Oh, they mocked Him and they beat Him/They pressed a crown of thorns upon His head/And He was bleeding/As He was pleading/For the lives of those who spit on Him".
Next up is 'Higher', an inspirational ballad that finds Jesus speaking to God the Father, on the cross: "Higher, higher than the pain that I feel/Take me higher, higher/Let Your holy love reveal/And plunge me deeper, deeper/Than these nails can drive me/Take me higher, higher Father". 'Take My Life' is a sincere prayer: "Take my life/Take away all the shattered dreams in me/Give me love that will last forever/Take my life/Give me the love that makes me free/Cause I believe that Your love can save even a wretch like me".
Cindy, Andrew Ramsey, and Michael W. Smith co-wrote 'Alive and Well'. Smith plays piano and two choirs are used to good effect on this Christian pop song. It includes these wonderful words about the resurrection: "I've touched the wounds in His side/And He dried the tears in my eyes/And He's alive". Last up is 'Praise the King', a lovely praise and worship song: "And praise Him for the blood that fell and bloomed a rose that day/And praise Him that He suffered through the guilt, the grief, the shame/Oh and praise Him that His tender love will still forgive today/Oh praise Him all ye people, praise the King!"
THE LOVING KIND is a good concept album focused on Jesus Christ. It runs 49 minutes and 18 seconds. Pop and adult contemporary really are the main musical genres here. There are almost an equal number of slow and fast songs. On this album you'll hear about the fall of man, the Last Supper, Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and the torture and agony Christ endured for us and our sins. God's love for us is made clear, as is Christ's victory over death, which gives us life everlasting if we make Christ our personal Lord and Saviour. Fans of Nichole Nordeman and Cheri Keaggy should enjoy this album which is full of emotion. I'm rating THE LOVING KIND 89%. For more info visit www.cindymorganmusic.com and connect with her on social media.
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
In 2010 Ontario, Canada's The Proverbs released their first holiday album CHRISTMAS: OUR FAVOURITE TIME OF THE YEAR. At the time, the group's roster was husband and wife Dave and Kathy Daw, and Dave's sister Karyl. Not so long ago, Karyl resigned from the group due to health concerns. Fast forward to 2018 and The Proverbs are back with HOME FOR CHRISTMAS with Dave and Kathy being joined on vocals by their daughter Natasha.
First up is the holiday classic 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' which Bing Crosby originally recorded back in 1943 with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra. The Proverbs' version here is easy listening smooth jazz in nature. It includes these sentimental lyrics: "I'll be home for Christmas/You can count on me/Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree/Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams/I'll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams". Dianne Wilkinson's 'That Little Baby' follows. It's a toe-tapping Southern Gospel number that shares Good News: "That little baby, He was born of virgin/He was sent down to save us and to bear every burden/He was God in the flesh so let the hallelujahs ring/That little baby is the King!" You may know the next cut, 'My Gift is Me', from The Collingsworth Family. Natasha Daw, who has Down Syndrome, sings lead on this lovely ballad of spiritual dedication: "What I have to give to You/Cannot be bought or sold/It can't be wrapped up in a box/Or tied with strings of gold/It isn't perfect and You'll see it isn't even new/But Jesus, it's the only treasure I can give to You/Me, my gift is me/All I am and all I'll ever be".
'Somethin' to Shout About' is a cheery, fast paced country song that is evangelical: "Somethin' good to shout about/Christ has come to save the lost, from sin take us out/I have good, good news to bring/Salvation through the newborn King". Next up is Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi's wonderful classic 'Christmas Time is Here', which was used in the 1965 tv special A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. This easy listening song is highly optimistic: "Snowflakes in the air, carols everywhere/Olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share/Sleigh bells in the air/Beauty everywhere/Yuletide by the fireside/And joyful memories there". Dave Barton's flugelhorn playing is great on this one!
'Merry Christmas' finds Mandy, Jovi, and Cydni Daw on background vocals. It's a bouncy pop duet between Dave and Kathy. These lyrics are pensive: "December would be dark without the Light/And there would be no Christmas without Christ/It's more than just an old cliche/It's the day that Jesus came/Merry Christmas! Merry, merry Christmas!/To all the boys and girls/Merry Christmas!" 'Shout It Out' has sort of a haunting country sound and tells a story: "There is a town called Bethlehem, an unsuspecting little place/That's where the miracle began/Another world, another day/The story talks about a star/Guided three kings from afar".
'Look Who Just Checked In' is a terrific, celebratory Southern Gospel song: "Look who just checked in/Into the barn, into the world, into the hearts of the boys and girls/Never been a baby quite like Him/Look who just checked in!" Raymond Davis penned 'From Bethlehem to Calvary', an adult contemporary ballad addressed to skeptics: "You always look for a rhyme or a reason/You don't know if you believe in the season/It's just another holiday/Who is this babe that we give adoration?/He is the Savior/The Lord of salvation and He's still the same today".
'I Love Those Jingle Bells' is a short, fun song that can help your kids with their spelling if needed: "I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells/Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells/Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E, double-L-S". Closing things out is Rachel McCutcheon's 'I Choose to Be a Christian', which I am familiar with from The Erwins, a US group. It's a strong, moving song of spiritual dedication: "As this world grows darker, my lamp will be burning/Kindled with love for the One who is worthy/He gave His all, so I will give mine/I'll put my life on the line/I choose to be a Christian/I will follow Christ/Carry the cross that leads to light/I will be true, stand for my convictions/Whatever others do, I choose to be a Christian". Natasha sings lead.
Without a doubt this is the livelier of the two Proverbs Christmas albums. Six of the eleven songs are fast paced, which is nice. Southern Gospel and easy listening are the main musical genres presented, but you will also hear pop and country sounds. This record celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and praises and worships Him for bringing us salvation and freeing us from sin. There are a couple of songs about dedicating oneself to God and living for Him. Also, a couple songs are simply about enjoying the sights and sounds of the season. The harmonies, instrumentation, and album artwork and photos are all done well. This is one Christmas album you'll want to play each year. I'm rating HOME FOR CHRISTMAS 90%. For more info visit www.theproverbs.com or connect with them on Facebook. If they do a third holiday album I hope to hear 'Santa Baby' on it :)