Sunday, July 14, 2019

BORN AGAIN


Pete Orta was born on August 26, 1971 in Port Lavaca, Texas. He was a guitarist for Petra from 1996-2000. During that time I saw the band in London, Ontario on the Petra Praise 2 tour. Pete's also played guitar for Jaci Velasquez. In 2001 Pete released his solo debut, BORN AGAIN (Word). It was produced by Chris Rodriquez and Peter Kipley and executive produced by Judith Volz. Orta shares this in the liner notes: "This album is a musical outpouring of what God has done in my life..."

Desmond Child and Robbie Seidman wrote the opening pop/rock track 'You Make Me Feel'. It testifies: "When every little thing I do seems like it's meaningless/And my soul becomes consumed with doubt and emptiness/You know just how to touch me/You raise me from the dead/Oh, the way that You love me, love me/I believe (2X)/You make me feel something beautiful/You make me feel something real". Chris Rodriguez and Melody Chambers sing backing vocals on 'I See Love'. This pop ballad serves as a prayer: "Baptize me in the sea of forever gone/Take my sins/Completely cleanse all my wrongs/I see grace in Your face/When You look at me/I see love/Your soft love".

'Tomorrow's Sun' is a pop/dance track making use of the Roy G. Biv String Vibe. It's about giving oneself completely to God: "I'm making the choice to give my life away/I'll follow Your voice/Into another day/I'm not looking back/I'm leaving the ground.../Your strength is moving me somehow/I can do all things through You now". 'Use Me' is one of 3 selections solely penned by Pete Orta. It's an R & B song of one wanting to be a vessel: "Use me, use me/I will give my all/And I'll shake the ground/With a holy sound/All the walls will fall".

'Born Again' was penned by Natalie Hemby and Jay Joyce and was nominated for a Dove for 'Rock Recorded Song of the Year'. It's a joyful pop song about life transformation: "I was a dirty, messed up, little crazy kid/A runaway child in a bottomless pit.../I'm born again/I'm a new creation/I'm born again/I'm a new sensation". It's catchy! Abel Orta provides backing vocals on 'Something New'. It's a pop ballad about God's faithfulness: "Sometimes I fall, sometimes I fly/But You have been there to catch me/Every time/Sometimes I start/Sometimes I stall/But You have been right beside me/Through it all".

On 'Beautiful' Tim Akers plays piano and Dan Needham plays drums. It's a tender song of praise and worship: "I see Your world and it's so pretty/I see beautiful in You/Beautiful in Your world/Beautiful in You/Beautiful/When You touched my blind eyes/You brought breath to my soul". 'Broken' includes these opening lines which I like: "It's my cross/Where Your heart has bled/As my pride/Crowned Your lovely head/So take my wrongs and set a sinner free/Let these tears be the Jordan for me".

Chris Eaton and Ralph Van Manen co-wrote 'Shine'. It's an adult contemporary song of encouragement: "Sometimes the day seems like the night/Don't let the shadows cover the light/You've got to shine/Always let the flame burn so high/Cause when you shine/You set the world on fire". Last up is 'Liberty', a pop song of testimony: "I don't need these chains/I was meant to fly.../God has given life inside of me/And when I'm down I still believe/That's how I know I'm free (2X)".

BORN AGAIN is a really good CCM album that includes pop, rock, dance, R & B, adult contemporary, and praise and worship sounds. The main topic covered is the fact that Christ offers us hope and new life via Calvary. We can throw off our old man so to speak. We can delight ourselves in the Lord. He is faithful to us, forgiving  us when we sin and confess, and He helps us be a witness to the world. Pete's got a great voice! I'd like to hear a second solo album from him. For more info visit www.peteorta.com and connect with him on social media. I give this album an 88%.








Friday, July 05, 2019

VICE VERSES


According to Wikipedia, Switchfoot lead vocalist Jon Foreman says the following of the band's name: "We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It's about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music". THE LEGEND OF CHIN (1997) was their debut studio album. They would go on to success in both the Christian and mainstream markets. Fast forward to 2011 and they put out their eighth studio album, VICE VERSES (lowercase people records/Atlantic). It was produced and mixed by Neal Avron and executive produced by Mike Ellzondo.

'Afterlife' is a rocker about living this life with passion: "Everyday/The world is made/A chance to change/But I feel the same/And I wonder/Why would I wait till I die to come alive?/I'm ready now/I'm not waiting for the afterlife". It was nominated for a Dove for 'Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year'. 'The Original' offers these words of encouragement: "So you say you're just a lost soul/I know you better than that/So you say you're just lost in the wash, oh/I know you better than that/So you say you're just a face in a city race/Wasted and sick of it all/Speak your mind up/Come on, baby free yourself".

'The War Inside' is a rock cut that serves as a rally cry: "Put your hands up, open up wide/Put your hands up, side by side/Age don't matter like/Race don't matter like/Place don't matter like what's inside/Yeah, every thought or deed/Yeah, every tree or seed/The big things come from the little dreams/Every world I made by make believe". Sara Watkins plays violin on 'Restless'. It anticipates heaven: "I can feel you reaching/Pushing through the ceiling/Till the final healing/I'm looking for you/Until the sea of glass we meet/At last completed and complete/Where tide and tear and pain subside/And laughter drinks them dry".

'Blinding Light' is a melodic rock ballad about finding true meaning in life: "I keep looking for the blinding light/I keep looking for the reason why/I keep looking for the sun to shine to take me higher and higher/All my life/I've been living in the darkest night/Still looking for the sun to rise/To take me higher and higher". 'Selling the News' is a funky rock track serving as a commentary on today's news media: "America listens, the story is told/With an eye on the truth as the story unfolds/But the ratings determine if story was sold/We're selling the news/Begging the question, mongering fears/Stroking the eyes and tickling ears/The truth is seldom just as it appears/We're selling the news".

Next up is 'Thrive'.  I like these brutally honest lyrics: "I've been awake for an hour or so/Checking for a pulse but I just don't know/Am I a man when I feel like a ghost?/The stranger in the mirror is wearing my clothes/No, I'm not alright/I know that I'm not right/A steering wheel don't mean you can drive/A warm body don't mean I'm alive/I want to thrive, not just survive". The album's first single was 'Dark Horses'. It's an energetic rocker about beating the odds: "We're singing, hey, you can't count us out/We've been running up against the crowd/Yeah, we are the dark horses/We're singing wait, it's not over now/We've been down but we've never been out/Yeah, we are the dark horses".

'Souvenirs' is a pretty ballad that speaks of innocence: "So I close my eyes and go back in time/I can see you smiling, so alive/I close my eyes and go back in time/You were just a child and so was I/We were so young/We had no idea that nothing lasts forever". 'Rise Above It' rocks and is another rally cry: "Hear our voices rise/Hear our battle cry/We've been under the curse/With our arms raised high/Hear us sing tonight/Like the last night on earth/We will rise/Like the tide/Like dead men coming back to life/We are rising, rising".

'Vice Verses' is a quiet tune that asks some great questions: "Where is God in the city life?/Where is God in the city light?/Where is God in the earthquake?/Where is God in the genocide?/Where are You in my broken heart?/Everything seems to fall apart/Everything feels rusted over/Tell me that You're there". Closing things out is the longest song on the album, 'Where I Belong'. It's almost seven minutes long. It anticipates our eternal home: "On the final day I die/I want to hold my head up high/I want to tell you that I tried to live it like a song/And when I reach the other side/I want to look you in the eye/And know that I've arrived in a world where I belong".

VICE VERSES is a great album of rock music comprised of an equal number of fast and slow songs. A main theme is being fully alive on this earth and being all that we were created to be. We should actively aim to discover the purpose for our lives and not just survive. There are also a couple of songs looking forward to heaven and one about how today's news media outlets have distinct spins on them. Jon Foreman's vocals are swell, as is the heavy electric guitar work. I'm rating this album 100%. The Deluxe Edition comes with a second disc. It's a live audio concert performance of Switchfoot's 2009 album HELLO HURRICANE at Center Stage in Atlanta, which collector's will appreciate. For more info visit www.switchfoot.com.









Wednesday, July 03, 2019

ALL THINGS POSSIBLE


Mark Mitchell Schultz was born in Kansas on September 16, 1970. In 2000 he put out his self-titled debut album. Fast forward to 2012 and he released his 7th studio album, ALL THINGS POSSIBLE (Fair Trade Services). Seth Mosley and Pete Kipley are the producers used.

First up is the title track, 'All Things Possible', written by Mark, Seth Mosley, and Tony Wood. It's a nice pop song of faith: "I know mountains can move/I've seen what You can do/In my weakness/So my heart will believe/If I wait I will see/My God doing what only He can do". Julia Ross is a backing vocalist. 'It is Well' puts full confidence in God: "When I'm on my knees and the storm won't cease/In Your shelter I am still/When my strength is gone/Oh, Your cross stands strong/And Your mercy never fails/It is well".

Mark co-wrote 'One Day' with Seth Mosley, Doug McKelvey, and Mia Fieldes. It anticipates a glorious tomorrow: "The lame will walk/The blind will see/The prisoners will be set free/And hope will rise as shadows disappear/And all that's lost/We'll find again/Death will die and tears will end/And we will come alive and truly live". 'I Gave Up' is a bouncy pop song with this catchy chorus: "I don't need a house on top of the world/I like the car I'm driving/Everything I got ain't what I'm worth/That's not the reason I'm living/I don't need to see my name in lights/Or leave any grand impression/I've got everything I need in life/If love's all we're taking to heaven".

Next we have 'Love Walked In', a beautiful ballad about the healing of relationships: "All alone in a cold white room/They've only given him a week or two/ And it's no surprise nobody calls/All he's got are regrets and tears/He hasn't spoken to his kids in years/But he just heard his daughter in the hall/Love walked in through the door/And face to face with brokenness/Said it's still worth fighting for". 'More to You than This' touches on premarital sex: "So maybe you thought/If you gave yourself away/He would stay/Maybe you felt it was worth the price you'd pay/And you tell yourself it doesn't really matter/But your heart will start to break".

Mark, Seth Mosley, and Phillip LaRue wrote 'Be Still'. It finds God speaking words of encouragement to us: "Even now there's a hand that's reaching out/Through the dark to a heart that's filled with doubt/I am here when the storm is raging/Let your soul be still/And know I'm God (2X)". 'What Do You Give A King' is a praise and worship ballad: "When He says that all your guilt and shame are washed away/And He has freed you from a debt that you could not repay/What do you give a King (2X)?"

Cindy Morgan, Mark, Tony Wood, and Don Poythress penned 'Haven't Met You Yet'. It's the song of a father to be: "I can just see it now/You're in your mama's arms and she's so proud/And when you smile it takes my breath away/Watching you laugh, you crawl/I don't remember life before you at all/And the funny thing is/I haven't even met you yet!" Last up is 'I Will Love You Still'. It's a quiet, tender ballad from God to us: "If ever you should fall/If ever you should break/If ever you should turn from me and slowly walk away/I will love you still". Gordon Mote plays piano and strings are used brilliantly.  

ALL THINGS POSSIBLE is a wonderful Christian adult pop album that also contains one praise and worship number. Mark's vocals are lovely. There are six slow songs and four fast. These songs make clear God's love and care for us and our worth to Him. We can be content by putting our full trust in God. Heaven awaits us! Mark also sings of restored relationships and parenthood. Fans of Michael W. Smith and Matthew West should give this one a listen. I'm rating it a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.markschultzmusic.com or find him on social media.







Tuesday, July 02, 2019

FACTS OF LOVE


According to her official bio, "Kim Boyce is a former Miss Florida and Top Ten Semi-Finalist in the Miss America Pageant". She was born on March 14, 1961 in Winter Haven, Florida. In 1986 she released her self-titled debut CCM album. What I will be reviewing here is her fifth studio album, FACTS OF LOVE (1992, Warner Bros.). In the liner notes, Kim shares: "Nothing can touch your heart and leave a lasting impression like love. This album, the result of many months of prayer, inspiration, laughter, and tears, has ten songs that in some way talk about love..."

First up is the Tom Snow/Jimmy Scott composition 'When Love Calls Your Name'. Cher had recorded it in 1991 and Kim Boyce took it to #1. It's a happy pop song: "When Love calls your name/There's no saying no/You follow your heart wherever it goes/To the ends of the earth/For the rest of your days/Whatever it takes, yeah, you'll find a way/Through fire and rain/When Love calls your name". Kim, hubby Gary Koreiba, Guy Penrod, and Chris Rodriguez sing backing vocals on 'Love Has Made the Difference'. It's a song celebrating one's relationship with God: "We've been through the laughter and tears/Still our love is growin'/When days turn to years/My heart will still be showin' that I'm thinkin' of You/The love that made the difference in me/Your love has made the difference in me".

'Everything' was penned by Kim, Scott MacLeod, and Trace Scarborough. It's a soulful pop ballad complete with a sax solo by Marty Paoletta. These words are ones of worship: "Lily of the valley/Bring and shining star/Baby in a manger/Lover of my heart/King of all creation/Knew my deepest need/In my darkest hour/He reached out for me". Phil Madeira plays the Hammond B-3 organ on 'Dancin' to the Beat of Your Heart'. It's an upbeat pop/dance song that rejoices: "Never been a moment of regret with You, Lord/Even when my life is filled with misery/Doesn't last for long because You're livin' in me/And I'm dancin', dancin' to the beat of Your heart/When my soul feels the Spirit/My feet have to start/Dancin' to the beat of Your heart".

Kim, Bryan Lenox, and Bo Cooper wrote 'Until Now'. It uses strings, oboe, and pipe organ by Bryan Lenox. Chris Rodriguez and Mark Pogue provide backing vocals. It's a beautiful ballad of praise: "Until now/I know Your love has saved me from the pain/Until now/Never knew someone like You/In Your arms,Your perfect love brings hope to me again/Never knew You could make a change somehow/Until now". The title track, 'Facts of Love', was a hit for Kim. Dann Huff and Gordon Kennedy play guitars on this peppy pop/rock number that testifies: "There's something different 'bout Your love/Feels like thunder's running through my veins/Like some kind of miracle's happenin'/Taking me up higher than I've ever been/There's a fire burnin' deep within/Think I must be learnin' the facts of love..."

'Hurting People' was penned by Kim and Julius Drummin. It's a funky pop song that encourages us to act: "If you love them/Won't you show them?/Then we'll help them/Help the hurting people/Will you reach out to their struggles?/Then we'll help them/Help the hurting people". 'I Just Wanna Live Right' finds Kim pouring out her heart: "I don't wanna be a hero/Just wanna share Him everywhere I go/Live my life and let people see/That there's really been a change in me".

What follows is 'Let's Stay Together', a Kim Boyce/Gary Koreiba/Phil Sillas effort. It's a light pop song that draws from history: "Elvis and Priscilla tried/He loved the girl until the day he died/But couldn't keep their love together, no/Let's stay together/Marilyn and DiMaggio/Gave it a try and then they let it go/Couldn't keep their love together, no/Let's stay together". Last up, 'Thank You For Being My Friend', is a quiet song for our Lord: "There was never a time when Your love was in doubt/Every tear that I've cried/You've known all about/There is no greater friend cause You laid down Your life/So with all my heart one more time/I'll try to say/Thank You for being my friend".

FACTS OF LOVE is a fun Christian pop record, with some adult contemporary and dance sounds mixed in. There are five fast songs and five slow ones. God's goodness, love, care, and salvation are proclaimed. God, in fact, calls out to us, His children. Following Christ and being spiritually devoted are encouraged. We should care for all of humanity and be witnesses for Jesus. The cover photo of Kim is absolutely beautiful! This is a good album to crank up as you are driving out and about. I'm rating it 90%. For more info visit www.kimboycemusic.com and/or connect with her on social media.





Sunday, June 30, 2019

MAGIC


Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. He released his debut studio album in 1973 entitled GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. My favorite album of his is 1984's BORN IN THE U.SA. Fast forward to 2007 and he released his 15th studio album, MAGIC (Columbia). It features his E Street Band, of which two members have since passed on-Clarence Clemons (sax, backing vocals), and Danny Federici (organ, keyboards). The album peaked at #1 on the US Billboard 200 and was produced by Brendan O'Brien.

Starting things off is the album's first single, 'Radio Nowhere'. It won Grammys for 'Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance' and 'Best Rock Song'. It's a song of disillusionment: "I was tryin' to find my way home/But all I heard was a drone/Bouncing off a satellite/Crushin' the last lone American night/This is radio nowhere/Is anybody alive out there?.../I want a thousand guitars/I want pounding drums/I want a million different voices speaking in tongues". 'You'll Be Comin' Down' is a rock ballad about reality: "Like a thief on a Sunday morning/It all falls apart with no warning/Your cinnamon sky's gone candy-apple green/The crushed metal of your little flying machine".

Soozie Tyrell plays violin on 'Livin' in the Future'. It includes these apocalyptic lyrics: "The earth it gave away/The sea rose toward the sun/I opened up my heart to you/It got all damaged and undone/My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon/The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run". 'Your Own Worst Enemy' isn't exactly uplifting: "The times they got too clear/So you removed all the mirrors/Once the family felt secure/ Now no one's very sure.../Your flag it flew so high/It drifted into the sky".

'Gypsy Biker' rocks and states things in a matter of fact way: "To the dead it don't matter much 'bout who's wrong or right/You asked me that question/I didn't get it right/You slipped into your darkness/Now all that remains/Is my love for you brother/Lying still and unchanged/To them that threw you away/You ain't nothin' but gone/Our Gypsy biker's comin' home". The album's second single was 'Girls in their Summer Clothes'. It's a ballad that uses violins, violas, and cellos. Doc Walker covered it on their 2009 album GO. These words remind me of the Beach Boys: "And the girls in their summer clothes/In the cool of the evening light/The girls in their summer clothes, pass me by".

Next up is 'I'll Work For Your Love', a sacreligious number: Pour me a drink Theresa/In one of those glasses you dust off/And I'll watch the bones in your back/Like the Stations of the Cross/'Round your hair the sun lifts a halo/At your lips a crown of thorns/Whatever other deals gone down/To this one I'm sworn/I'll work for your love, dear/I'll work for your love". Jeremy Chatzky plays upright bass on the short title track, 'Magic'. It's a quiet Americana tune. It includes these mysterious lyrics: "I got a shiny saw blade/All I need's a volunteer/I'll cut you in half/While you're smiling ear to ear/And the freedom that you sought's/Driftin' like a ghost amongst the trees/This is what will be (2X)".

'Last to Die' is a rock song. It tells a story: "We took the highway till the road went black/We'd marked Truth or Consequences on our map/A voice drifted up from the radio/And I thought of a voice from long ago/Who'll be the last to die for a mistake, the last to die for a mistake?" 'Long Walk Home' is an optimistic tune overall, complete with a sax solo: "Here everybody has a neighbor/Everybody has a friend/Everybody has a reason to begin again/My father said 'Son, we're lucky in this town/It's a beautiful place to be born/It just wraps its arms around you/Nobody crowds you, nobody goes it alone'".

Daniel Lauffer plays cello on 'Devil's Arcade', a pretty ballad. It includes these words: "You sleep and dream of your buddies/Charlie and Jim/And wake with the thick desert dust on your skin/A voice says 'Don't worry, I'm here'/Just whisper the word 'tomorrow' in my ear/A house on a quiet street, a home for the brave/The glorious kingdom of the sun on your face/Rising from a long night as dark as the grave". Some versions of MAGIC include a hidden track entitled 'Terry's Song'. It's dedicated to Bruce's long-time assistant Terry Magovern who died on July 30, 2007. It's a folk ballad that uses harmonica. I like these lyrics: "Sometimes something comes along and you know it's for sure the only one/The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe/And when they built you brother, they broke the mold".

There's no question that musically and vocally this is a great rock album! The lyrics however are oft problematic in that a lot of the time I don't have a clue as to what Bruce is singing about really. The lyrics are often cryptic. I'm sure they hold deep meaning for Bruce and those close to him, but as for me, a lot of the lyrics fly over my head and are way too open for interpretation. Bruce does sing about life and love and perhaps older listeners will gravitate towards this record. I'm rating MAGIC 80%. For more info visit www.brucespringsteen.net. The CD packaging and booklet are great!










Saturday, June 29, 2019

AMPLIFIER


Big Tent Revival formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1991. In 1995 they released their self-titled major label debut. Fast forward to 1998 and they released AMPLIFIER (Ardent). Producers on the album included John Hampton and Dana Key. It was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Rock Gospel Album'. Group members were: David Alan, Randy Williams, Steve Wiggins, Spence Smith, and Rick Heil.

The album opens with 'Still Breathing', a strong rock song with a joyful chorus: "I'm still breathing/I wanna live like this air was given to me/I'm still seeing/I want to live like these eyes were given to me/To see the Glory". 'Lovely Mausoleum' is a ballad of spiritual invitation: "Sunrise, open your eyes/When are you gonna see?/New day coming your way/What is it gonna be?/Your choice, your voice/You are in control/Jesus, Jesus/He will make you whole". 'God Made Heaven' is a great rock song calling out to unbelievers: "It might take a lifetime and it might take a minute/If God made Heaven, then He wants you in it/Ever been lonely?/What am I saying?/We've all been lonely/I'm here to tell you/My Lord Jesus/He's the One and only". There's sizzling electric guitar work here".

'Someday (Time and Space)' looks forward to our eternal home: "Someday we're gonna live forever/Someday we're gonna be together/Someday with our Lord in Heaven, I pray". 'Jimmy' is a fun song about a young guy who goes to a big tent revival and is saved: "From the time that he walked in that place/There was a burnin' in his soul/When he heard about Heaven and God's grace/That Jimmy was a holy rollin'". 'Star in the Book of Life' is a rock ballad addressed to a Christian living in sin: "There's a star by your name in the book of life/Angels are watching you all the time/They can't understand why a child of the King/Would be happier living with swine/There's a star in the book of life.../Rise up out of the mire/Know you are God's desire/Come home, baby, please come home".

Next up is the rocker 'Wouldn't it Be Cool'. It's about coming to God: "Your information-investigation/Brings you to your praying knees/The god you made, where is he now?/The Lord Jehovah stands alone/Tonight the prayer you prayed aloud/The Holy Spirit took directly to the throne". 'Psalm 72' is a quiet song that shares positive news: "My Lord will soon be coming down/Like the rain on new mown grass/Showers falling on the thirsty land/The righteous man will flourish in those days/And for as long as the moon runs 'round/Peace will abound". 'What Would Jesus Do?' really became a rally cry for a generation. It's a rock ballad. Here's the chorus: "What would Jesus do walkin' in my shoes/Workin' at my job and goin' to my school?/And I hear people say 'Jesus is the way'/I believe and that is why I'm asking you/What would Jesus do?"

'Ready, Steady, Go' encourages us to: "Give it all to Jesus/Ready, steady, go!" Track #11 is called 'Thanks'. It finds group members reading out album credits and thanking many people who've helped them along the way. Unfortunately, this runs over ten minutes long!/This is followed by four unlisted songs, the first of which is 'Real Thing'. It's a rocker: "I want the real thing (3X)/I want Jesus Christ/Without lies, disguise, and compromise".

'Rivalry' also rocks hard and speaks out against division in the body of Christ: "We're all God's children/We're all God's kids/Love each other like Jesus said". It references other bands including Jars of Clay and Stryper. 'West Memphis Lawyer' is a bluesy rocker that reminds us one day we will each personally face the Lord and give an account of how we lived. Last up is 'Come On People'. It encourages testimony: "Come on people, get out your seat/Listen to me/Tell me are your sins removed?/Does your spirit move?"

If you're a fan of Mark Stuart era Audio Adrenaline and/or of Third Day, you should add this terrific rock album with lots of stellar electric guitar work to your playlist. Several of the songs invite people to come to Jesus and live for Him alone. Other songs encourage Christian unity, celebrate life, and testify to God's goodness. God is a life-changer. I'm rating AMPLIFIER 100%. For more info connect with the group and its members on social media.









Wednesday, June 26, 2019

PROMISE MAN


Holy Soldier released their self-titled debut album in 1990. It won two Dove Awards including 'Hard Music Album of the Year'. In 1992 their second album, LAST TRAIN, came out. Their final studio album, PROMISE MAN (1995, Forefront) featured a new vocalist, Eric Wayne. The rest of the band was: Michael Cutting (electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, vocals), Andy Robbins (bass), and Scott Soderstrom (electric and acoustic guitars). It won a Dove for 'Hard Music Album of the Year'. The album was produced by David Zaffiro and executive produced by Dan R. Brock and Eddie DeGarmo.

Starting things off is 'Promise Man', the title track, which won a Dove for 'Hard Music Song of the Year'. It points people to Christ: "There's a promise of peace, a promise of truth/A promise to me, a promise to you/He knows us by name/Like each grain of sand/The Promise Man". There's a great electric guitar solo incorporated. 'Mumbo-Jumbo' is a good rock ballad about looking for meaning in life: "I found Mumbo-Jumbo and I've lost something here/I found Mumbo-Jumbo, make it all disappear/I found Mumbo-Jumbo, somehow Lord, it's not right/I found Mumbo-Jumbo, someone turn on the light".

'My World' speaks of the afterlife: "When heaven and earth collide/One day, hello, goodbye/Across the divide/We take a step, it opens wide". 'Rust' is about grief: "Sitting on a weathered bench in the middle of a park/The names can barely still be read/Where two lovers carved a heart/I wonder where they are today/Are they together still/Or does only one return to trace/The heart that never healed?"

Next up the group pays tribute to Larry Norman by covering his 1970's classic 'Why Don't You Look Into Jesus' in a bluesy manner. It doesn't mince any words: "HIV on Valentine's Day/And you're still looking for the perfect lay.../Shooting junk till you're half insane/A broken needle in your purple vein.../Why don't you look into Jesus, look into Jesus, look into Jesus?/You know He's got the answer". 'Break it Down' serves as a stern warning to us: "The idols we raise/We fall on our knees and praise/Spin us around with a slap in the face/Who's ready to dance/And who's flying 'round by the seat of their pants?"

'Cover Me' rocks. It touches on lust and cries out to God: "The color magazines/They violate my eyes, trying to sell me compromise/A perfect figure on the television screen/Even the dirt looks very clean.../Rain on me, shine on me/Lord, rain on me/Cover me, yeah". 'Grind' sizzles and is a call to action: "Let's do some soul searching, dare to look inside/It's time to lock it down tight/We can strike the match, others will ignite".

Chris Kent plays bass on 'Love Conquers All', an adult contemporary ballad that finds Jesus calling out to a prodigal: "'Come to me, child you're my own', said a voice from out of nowhere/'I'll give you rest, please come home', and suddenly He was there/Love conquers all, it conquers all/Surrender it in His hands/Love conquers all, it conquers all". Last up is 'Sand', a cry for revival: "He holds the mysteries in His hands/He knows our life is but a grain of sand/Oh yeah/Burn, burn inside of me/Bring me to my knees".  

PROMISE MAN is an absolutely terrific album with nine rock tracks and one adult contemporary one! There's an equal number of fast and slow songs. Eric Wayne's deep vocals are well suited to the grunge-rock material presented here. The main message here is that Jesus is the only One who can bring us true meaning in life. We should put our hope in Him. He is trustworthy and can deliver us from Satan and temptation if we only call on Him. We ought to be lights for Christ in a dark world. I'm rating this project 100%. For more info connect with the band and its members on social media.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

SPEAKING LOUDER THAN BEFORE


Jeremy Thomas Camp was born in Lafayette, Indiana on January 12, 1978. His first major label studio album was 2002's STAY. It included the hits 'Walk By Faith' and 'I Still Believe'. Fast forward to 2009 and he released SPEAKING LOUDER THAN BEFORE (BEC). It entered the Billboard 200 at #38 and was nominated for a Dove for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'.

Starting things off is 'Slow Down Time', a rock song on which Jeremy shares His desires: "I wish I could slow down time/I wish I could wait here at Your feet/Cause with You is the only place that I wanna be/I know I should take it all in stride/I know You are there with every reach/Cause with You is the only place that I wanna be". 'Capture Me' is a modern worship song of testimony: "You brought me joy that words can't speak/You gave a truth where lies will never reach/I won't fight no more/You gave me peace from this life of fear/Never alone, at every grasp You are near/Now there's life more abundantly".

'Speaking Louder than Before' rocks and encourages us to be witnesses: "Take every chance that you can/Move together taking a stand/Never losing heart, we'll speak as one/We need to be the image of Christ/Show love and serve at all times/We can make a difference in this land". 'There Will Be a Day' was a #1 hit for Jeremy. It anticipates heaven: There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears/There will be a day/When the burdens of this place will be no more/We'll see Jesus face to face/But until that day/We'll hold on to You always".

'I Know Who I Am' is modern worship: "I know who I am and I know I'm not able/To stand on my own/I can't live all alone/So I'm taking my hands and I'm reaching them out/And I fall down, for You I fall down". 'I'm Alive' is an energetic rock song of testimony: "My whole life changed/When You saved me and forgave me now/I'm alive, I'm alive like I've never been/Been revived from the lies that were deep within/It's the past now, it's the past/Cause Christ has given life/Where I'll never thirst again".

'You Will Be There' is next up. It's an adult contemporary ballad that uses strings to good effect. It praises God for His faithfulness: "I begin the day/With the faith You fashion my ways/And I cannot escape/For Your hand it leads/Your right hand holds me/When I wake, You will be there/When the sun goes down in the night/You will be there". 'Healing Hand of God' is a nice ballad of encouragement: "I have walked through the valleys, the mountains, and plains/I have held the hand of freedom that washes all my stains/If you feel weight of many trials and burdens from this world/There's freedom in the shelter of the Lord/And I have seen the healing hand of God/Reaching out and mending hearts".

'So In Love' is a song of worship that is quiet: "The only words that I can bring are these very words I sing/So, I sing to You now/'Cause I am so in love with You/There's nothing else I'd choose/You've stolen my heart/Yes, I'm all for You". Jacob Sooter helped write the music on 'My Fortress'. It's a worship ballad: "I'm running fast to seek Your face, oh yeah/Head first I dive into Your grace/You are my fortress/You are the refuge where I hide/You are the strength when I can't fight/You are the only One I rest my life in".

'Giving You All Control' is a great rock song about submitting to God: "I'd set myself up for the lies that this world satisfies/But You're all that I need/And I have peace inside/So keep tearing out all of my pride/Take all of these impurities/I'm giving You this wretched soul/I'm giving You these insecurities/Giving You all control". Last up is 'Surrender', on which Scott Dente plays acoustic guitar. It's a heartfelt song: "I surrender to Your throne/Oh, I surrender to Your throne/And I will make my heart Your home/Oh, I surrender to Your throne.../Soften up this hardened clay/To be a servant, this I pray".

SPEAKING LOUDER THAN BEFORE is a gem of an album. Musically, it incorporates modern worship, rock, and adult contemporary sounds. There are eight slow songs and four fast ones. Surrendering our lives to God is the main theme of this album. We should strive for intimacy with Him. God is to be praised for salvation, peace, healing, and His faithfulness. As believers we have a charge to share our faith in God with those who do not know Him yet. Eventually His people will enter heaven, a place beyond words. I'm rating this record a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.jeremycamp.com and connect with him on social media.



Thursday, June 20, 2019

HOLY SOLDIER


Holy Soldier formed in California. In 1990 they released their self-titled debut album via Myrrh and A & M Records. It was produced by David Zaffiro and won a Dove for 'Hard Music Album of the Year'. Group members were: Michael Cutting (guitars), Jamie Cramer (guitars), Steven Patrick (lead vocals), Andy Robbins (bass), and Terry 'The Animal' Russell (drums). What I am reviewing here is a remastered 2019 version of the album. It was released by Roxx Records and executive produced by Bill Bafford. It includes two bonus cuts.

The album opening 'Stranger' won a Dove for 'Hard Music Song of the Year'. It speaks of our Lord's earthly mission: "They didn't understand Him/Though His words were plain to see/Because of this they made a plan to kill Him brutally/He was different, He was heaven-sent/And for this they took His life/But in the end He rose again/His Name was Jesus Christ". 'See No Evil' is a pro-life ballad: "I float inside her womb/Oh mother, I am coming soon/Suddenly fear and dread/When mother says she wants me dead/Oh, how can you do this to me?.../God hears them cry/We hear the lie/And we simply look the other way".

'The Pain Inside of Me' runs over six minutes long. It's a sorrowful song addressed to God: "The days are long, the night's eternity/I think of how it is and how it used to be/When You were here with me/Where are You?/When my tears are falling down/Where are You?/You're not around". 'Cry Out For Love' is a hard rock song longing for God: "I looked around this Tinseltown/It was just make believe/But there's a world within our world/The naked eye can't see/The Spirit of the Ancient One/That was, is, and shall be/His love is ringing in my ears/Crying out to me/Cry out for love/I can't find what I'm looking for/Cry out for love/I got a little, but I need some more".

Next up is the fast paced rocker 'Tear Down the Walls'. It points to Christ as the ultimate Answer: "Run, but there's nowhere to hide/Run, from what you feel inside/Jesus is all we really need/He can release us and set the captives free/He wants to/Tear down the walls (2X)". 'When the Reign Comes Down' waxes apocalyptic: "Desire conceived/In the mind it breeds/Till it's giving birth to sin/Sin brings death/And the wicked won't rest/Will we ever see the end?/When the reign comes down/Death, the beast, the liar/When the reign comes down/They all will burn with fire".

'Lies' tells of a dangerous woman: "She's cold as ice/She burns like fire/Many faces/Oh, but one desire/She leads you in/As you admire, oh, her many graces/She's a silent liar.../The web she weaves is so receptive/But beauty fleeting/Oh, and charm's deceptive/She leads you into the fire/To fan the flames of her desire". 'Eyes of Innocence' is a ballad of reflection: "Remember how we used to laugh and play/All the things we used to say/How come hearts can grow so cold/Just because we grow old?/Things were simple then/Why does it have to end?/Can we be little children again?"

'Love Me' is a rock song serving as a prayer: "I've died inside/Open my eyes/God, are You still there?/I need to know if You still care/Love me, bring me back to You/Love me, hold me close/Show me love that's true/Love me, love me/Don't ever let me down/Love me/Until I come around to You". Last up on the original version of the album is 'We are Young, We are Strong'. It's about spiritual determination: "The winds of change/The likes of which no man can tame/Who will remain to carry on in Jesus' Name?/We are young, we are strong/We are strong/We were sent to carry on".

Two bonus tracks are included on the 2019 re-mastered version of the album. The first is a 60 second radio spot/commercial. The second is 'In the End' which is a good rock ballad of endurance: "We've been enticed by every vice/Blown around like chaff within the wind/But still we follow Jesus Christ/And I hope to see You in the end".

HOLY SOLDIER is a good debut Christian rock album with touches of heavy metal thrown in. I especially like the electric guitar solos throughout. Jesus is clearly shown as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We are to long for His presence, love, and the innocence He can bring us. There are a couple songs warning against wicked women. There's also an anti-abortion song and one song about the end times. The CD booklet contains numerous great photos of the band. I'm rating this one an 87% and recommending it to fans of Whitecross and King James. For more info connect with the band on social media and/or visit www.roxxproductions.com.



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

REVIVAL IN THE LAND


Carmen Domenic Licciardello was born on January 19, 1956 in Trenton, New Jersey. He was saved at an Andrae Crouch concert. His debut album was 1980's GOD'S NOT FINISHED WITH ME. What I am reviewing here is his landmark eighth album, REVIVAL IN THE LAND (1989, Benson). In the liner notes, Carman writes: "And most of all thanks to the Lord, Who gave me the songs, the ideas, the strength, and the wherewithal to carry it out. I'm ready for war!"

Starting things off is 'God's Got An Army', one of eight songs penned solely by Carman. Tom Hemby and Jerry McPherson play guitars on this great rock song that begins with these bold lyrics: "God's got an army/Not afraid to fight/Soldiers of the cross/And children of the light/Warriors of righteousness with healing in their hands/God's got an army marching through the land/Let me hear your war cry, 'Hey!'" 'I Got the Joy' has an upbeat black gospel feel to it and is a song of celebration: "Lift your praises to the sky/We're gonna get down with some church tonight/We gonna dance and we gonna shout/We gonna turn this whole place inside out/Come on gimme a shout of victory/Overcomers and conquerors are we". Appearing on this song are Carlton Pearson (Carman's pastor at the time) and The Higher Dimensions Sanctuary Choir.

'A Witch's Invitation' is one of two co-writes between Carman and Keith Thomas. It's a stellar story song over six minutes long about a Christian's encounter with a warlock. The Christian is victorious. He says: "My friend, one day they're coming for you/The soft associates in your incantations/The friendly demons you think you now control/The time will come when you'll be lying in bed wheezing like a dying animal when those spirits lay claim to the rights they own to your soul". He adds: "Next time think twice before you rumble with a man of God". Ashley Cleveland, Kim Fleming, and Vicki Hampton are on backing vocals on 'Get Your Business Straight With God'. Horns are used on this pop/rock number about purification: "He's pulling back the curtain/Revealing what's inside/Cleaning house from prejudice/Sinfulness and pride/There's a cloud of glory coming/And you better make some room/There's a glow on the horizon/Cause the Son is coming soon/And He's holy".

'This Blood' features the Christ Church Choir and also strings arranged by Don Wyrtzen. It's a moving adult contemporary ballad about the atonement: "And this blood can save the soul, heal the sick, mend the heart/This blood can give you access to the very throne of God/And it still can go the distance through the pain to where you are/This blood is for you, the blood of the Lamb". Susan Ashton, Mark Heimermann, and Chris Harris sing backing vocals on 'Saved, Delivered and Healed'. It's a ballad of encouragement: "Night and day He thinks of you/He hurts to see you cryin'/He wants for you and He hopes for You're always on his mind/So trust His heart and lean on Him/And let the Father lead the way".

Mark Douthit plays sax on 'Jesus is the Light', a cool pop song drawing from the Bible: "In John chapter one, the one 'bout God the Son/Tells us why the Lord He was sent/It says in Him is life, the life is the light/That shines on the darkness in men/There was one sent from God, whose name was John/Who came as a witness you see/He said 'I testify that Jesus is the light'/So everybody might believe". 'The Resurrection Rap' is a fun hip-hop song of testimony: "Now Satan was behind the attack/Cause he wanted to be at the top of the stack/But he'd soon learn the truth we've found/That you just can't keep this good Man down/Word up, it's fresh/Christ will rise from the dead!"

Next up is 'Shine Through Me', a ballad of spiritual compassion: "Let the light of Your Word light my pathway/Let the love of Jesus flow through me/It's the love of God that draws the wayward children back to Calvary/They're in my heart, they're all I see/They're like kidnapped royalty/But I can win them if Your love will shine through me". It's beautiful! Last is the title track, 'Revival in the Land', a creative story song that finds Satan delighting in abortion, tv violence, false religions, suicides, etc. He trembles at prayer, the Word, and revival! In the end Satan is defeated: "Lift your hands in victory/This is our finest hour/For this sleeping giant called the church is rising up in power!/Cry loud, spare not/This lion's got a roar!/We may have lost some battles but we will win this war!.../The Spirit of God is being poured out on all flesh and/There is revival in the land!" The Nashville String Machine is used.

REVIVAL IN THE LAND is quite a diverse project with story songs and various musical genres (pop/rock, gospel, adult contemporary, and rap). The cross and the blood shed at Calvary are central themes. So is the resurrection. God is love, life, and light. It is through Christ we have spiritual authority over the devil and his demons. We can stand up for God, do His will, and live in victory. Carman urges us to celebrate, and to be a witness to a dying, entrapped world. I'm rating this album a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.carman.org or connect with him on social media.







Saturday, June 15, 2019

PIECES OF A REAL HEART


Sanctus Real formed in Ohio in 1996. In 2002 they released their major label debut, SAY IT LOUD (Sparrow). Fast forward to 2010 and they released PIECES OF A REAL HEART (Sparrow). It was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Contemporary/Pop Gospel Album' and was also nominated for a Dove Award for 'Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year'. In the CD booklet the band thanks "All our families and friends who have supported us over the years and prayed for us as we've made this record and most of all our loving Savior Jesus Christ who is constantly keeping our hearts alive and making everything new".

Up first is 'Forgiven'. It was the album's first radio single and peaked at #6 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. This adult contemporary ballad is one of testimony: "When I don't fit in and I don't feel like I belong anywhere/When I don't measure up to much in this life/Oh, I'm a treasure in the arms of Christ/'Cause I'm forgiven". 'These Things Take Time' is a pop song with very relatable lyrics: "Hey, we all want to understand why evil lives and good men die/On the way to Heaven the truth unwinds/These things take time (2X)/Yeah, these things take time". 'The Way the World Turns' uses a kids choir and speaks of God as a refuge: "You're the hope of a new sunrise/Breaking over a desperate life/And I keep turning to you/I keep turning to You".

'Lead Me' hit #1 on Billboard's Christian Music chart. It was also nominated for Dove Awards for 'Song of the Year' and 'Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year'. It's a sentimental adult contemporary song that includes these words of a wife speaking to her husband: "Lead me with strong hands/Stand up when I can't/Don't leave me hungry for love/Chasing dreams, but what about us?/Show me you're willing to fight/That I'm still the love of your life/I know we call this our home/But I still feel alone". 'The Redeemer' puts trust in God: "I'm still a dreamer, a believer/Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things/But I still believe in You/Cause You are the answer, the Redeemer/Oh, I've given up on too many things/But I'm not giving up on You/Cause You can make anything new".

Next up is 'Take Over Me', a fast pop/rock song that cries out to God: "I want You to take over me/I want You to take over me/I don't wanna be part of the resistance/I wanna be part of the release/So I want You to take over me". 'I Want to Get Lost' again calls out to God: "I wanna get lost/I wanna get lost in Your arms/I wanna get lost/And lose my way into Your heart/Cause there's so many voices/Telling me how to get lost in this life/So right now I wanna get lost in You/Before I lose myself".

''Til I Get to Know You' is a melodic pop song about God's grace: "Yeah, I was always worried/I was gonna let You down/Oh, it felt like I was standing in between the lost and found/'Til I got to know You, You/I was out of place when You found a way/To break through, it's true/I was just a skeptic 'till I got to know You, You". 'Dear Heart' is a song of reflection: "Heart, you let me down/Chasing love where it can't be found/And heart, we've fallen out/All of your emotions have led me to doubt/Only Jesus can save us now".

'I'll Show You How to Live' tugs at the heart: "I heard the sound of your first breath/A brand new life on your mother's chest/A beating heart, expectant eyes/On the first day of your life/I saw you take your first step/And I watched you run with no regret/To chase your dreams and find true love/And the best is yet to come". Last up is 'Keep My Heart Alive'. It's a quiet ballad that serves as a prayer: "Jesus, keep my heart alive, keep my heart alive/Only You can save me/When my world is breaking right before my eyes/Jesus, keep my heart alive, keep my heart alive/Only You can save me when my hope is fading and I'm losing the fight/And when the world wears me down/You're my lifeline".

PIECES OF A REAL HEART contains seven pop/rock numbers and four adult contemporary selections. There are six fast songs and five slow. God is pointed to as the Answer to life's problems. He is our hope and shelter and is full of love and grace. If we surrender to and put our faith in Him, He forgives us and makes us new. The importance of being a loving husband and father is also expressed here. I'm rating this album 88% and recommending it to fans of Jeremy Camp and Audio Adrenaline. For more info visit www.sanctusreal.com and/or connect with the band on social media.






Monday, June 03, 2019

COME ALIVE


Mark Mitchell Schultz was born on September 16, 1970 in the state of Kansas. He was adopted when he was two weeks old. He released his self-titled debut album in 2000. Fast forward to 2009 and he put out his fifth studio album, COME ALIVE (Word/Curb/Warner Bros.) In the liner notes he shares: "Thank You God for giving me a gift and for filling me with joy when I use it! I love writing songs about You and I hope that it makes You proud". The album was nominated for a Dove for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'.

'All Has Been Forgiven' is a wonderful pop/rock song that finds God speaking awesome words to us: "All has been forgiven/Every sin is lifted/Let your chains fall away/All has been forgotten/Buried at the bottom of the sea/You are free/And all has been forgiven/And all your guilt, and all your shame/Let it go in Jesus' Name/Lay it all down at His feet". Luke Brown and Missi Hale provide backing vocals. 'Grace Amazing' was written by Mark and MercyMe's Barry Graul and Bart Millard. Shaun Shankel plays keyboards on this song about coming alive spiritually: "Open wide the gates tonight/Jesus, come and flood my life with grace amazing/Now I know in letting go/What it means to be set free by grace amazing/I've been forever changed/I heard You call my name".

Mark co-wrote 'He Is' with Brown Bannister. This adult contemporary number speaks of God's faithfulness: "He lives, He loves/He's always with me/Even when it feels like there is no one holding me/Be still my soul/Through every fear/And every doubt/And every tear I shed/Down every road/I'm not alone/No matter where I am". 'What it Means to Be Loved' is a great story song that uses strings. It includes these loving words: "I wanna give her the world/I wanna be her Dad/I wanna hold her close for as long as I can/And I wanna live every moment until that day comes/I wanna show her what it means to be loved".

Next, we have 'God of Glory'. It includes these prayerful words: "Open up the heavens, Lord, and show Your glory/God of glory, open up the heavens now/Open up the heavens, Lord, and rain down mercy/God of mercy, let Your love come raining down". Mark co-wrote 'Closer than I've Ever Been' with Bernie Herms. Dan Needham plays drums and Joeie Canaday plays bass on this pop/rock song that also is prayerful: "Don't let go until I am closer, closer than I've ever been/Until I find myself in all Your glory/Until I'm weak enough to seek Your strength/Until I know that I am held by mercy/Until I am closer, closer than I've ever been".

The title track, 'Come Alive', is one of two co-writes with Matthew West. It's a melodic pop song that finds God calling out to prodigals: "My love is stronger than your weakest moment/My grace is greater than your worst mistake/No matter where you've been/I'm waiting at the end of every road/So bring your broken heart to me/Lift it up and you will see/That love can make a heart that's barely beating/Come alive, come alive". 'Live Like You're Loved' is one of two songs solely penned by Mark. Paul Moak, Pete Stewart, and Luke Buishas play guitars on this adult contemporary ballad. It finds a parent speaking to their child: "Live like you're loved by the Lord up above/Spread out your wings and never give up/Cause you can do anything/Be who you're meant to be/Always remember to dream and keep your head up/And live like you're loved".

'Father's Eyes' was written by Mark, Ben Glover, and Joy Williams. Blair Masters plays piano and keyboards on it. It begins with these words very relevant today: "Tomorrow she'll be turning seventeen/But somehow now the mirror has become her enemy/Feelin' like she'll never measure up/Feelin' like she'll never be enough/In her Father's eyes/He is taken by her beauty/And captivated by her every time/In her Father's eyes/He is longing just to tell her/She's never been more lovely in her life/If only she could see herself one time/In her Father's eyes". Last up is 'Love Has Come'. It uses the B-3 organ and a choir. It anticipates things to come: "Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess/That God is love and love has come for us all/Every heart set free, every one will see/That God is love and love has come for us all/Oh, and on that day we will stand amazed/At our Savior, God, and King/Just to see the face of amazing grace".

COME ALIVE really is a great album! There is a mix of pop/rock and adult contemporary music presented, with a nice mix of fast and slow songs. A main message on this album is that every individual on earth has great value. Jesus went to the cross for us and God offers us His grace, love, and forgiveness. He pursues us, seeking us out. We should desire an intimate and personal relationship with Him. There are also a couple of good songs here about parental love. Good parents want what's best for their children and encourage them to reach their full potential. Mark Schultz is the cream of the crop when it comes to his generation of artists. I'm rating this project a perfect 100%. For more info visit: www.markschultzmusic.com and/or connect with him on social media.








Friday, May 31, 2019

TREE63


The band Tree released two albums. They were 1997's OVERFLOW and 1999's 63. They hailed from South Africa. When they discovered an American band was also called Tree, they changed their name to Tree63 (coming from Psalm 63). In 2000 they put out their self-titled TREE63 (Inpop Records). It won a Dove Award for 'Rock Album of the Year'. Group members were: John Ellis (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Darryl Swart (drums, percussion, backing vocals), and Martin Engel (bass, backing vocals).

First up is 'Treasure', a bouncy pop/rock song that greatly values God: "My heart is where my treasure lies/My great reward is in Your eyes/My every breath belongs to You/You are my treasure". 'Joy' is a pop/rock song that includes these words of reflection: "No superman/I'm no hero/I'm just a man in Your eyes/But through Your Son/I've overcome the father of all lies".

'Look What You've Done' is a song of spiritual devotion: "What can I do for You my Lord?/I want You to know my heart is Yours/It's not a question of what You can do for me/But what can I do for You, my Lord?" 'Sacrifice' is a pop/rock ballad of confession: "So as I come to worship You/I know that something has to die/And as I bring my sacrifice just let it die".

Next up is 'Earnestly', a peppy pop/rock song that speaks of faithfulness to God: "In the darkest night of the desert/In the deepest hole of the valley/My soul, my soul clings to You (2X)/Through the freezing chill of winter/In the furnace of Your fire/My soul, my soul clings to You". 'Anthem' is a quiet ballad of worship: "I love You, I love You Lord/There's nothing above You Lord/I am not my own/And I am not alone/I am waiting on You Lord/And this is my desire/To go deeper into You".

'A Million Lights' is a pretty adult contemporary ballad of devotion: "Could I walk out to sea way beyond these breakers?/We have no place among the movers and the shakers/Yours is the only throne I'll ever get down on my knees before/You have the whole of me/Lover come away/Come away my Lover". '1*0*1' includes these words of praise: "Before the foundation of the world/And way beyond the end to come/You're shining brighter than the sun/You'll always be the only One".

'Can I See Your Face?' is a pop/rock song of one wanting to connect with God: "Standing in the cold/Searching the stars trying to figure out just where You are/Get me on my knees/Shake me to the bone/Leave a message on my answer phone.../Can I see Your face?" Last up is 'Worldwide' which includes these unique thoughts: "Virtual reality/Just not real enough for me/Jesus Christ is still alive/I'm waiting for Him to arrive/An interactive courier/Above all multimedia.../You don't need to understand/You just need to take His hand".

Eight of the ten songs on TREE63 are pop/rock, while two are adult contemporary. There are just three slow songs presented. A main theme here is that of wanting to please, serve, and live for God. We should love Him completely, dying to self daily. We can have joy in the Lord! He saves us and gives us victory over Satan. He never fails us. I recommend this album, which I'm rating 86%, to fans of Delirious?, Kevin Max, and Newsboys. For more info visit www.tree63.com or connect with them on social media.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

TIMELESS:FAVORITES FROM THE HOMECOMING SERIES



According to her website "Lynda Tait Randle...was born in the inner city of Washington, D.C. She is the middle child of seven and feels blessed to have had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home". She and her husband have two daughters, Patience and Joy. Michael Tait, lead vocalist for Newsboys, is her brother. What I'm reviewing here is TIMELESS; FAVORITES FROM THE HOMECOMING SERIES (2002, Spring House Productions). It was produced by Bill Gaither and Woody Wright and executive produced by Bill Gaither.

First up is the upbeat Southern Gospel number 'Down at the Cross'. It is a song of spiritual invitation: "Come to this fountain so rich and sweet/Cast thy poor soul at the Savior's feet/Plunge in today and be made complete/Glory to His Name!" 'God on the Mountain' was penned by Tracy Dartt in the mid 1970's. It's a pleasant ballad about God's faithfulness: "Don't lose faith for you're never alone/For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley/When things go wrong/He'll make them right/And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times/The God of the day is still God in the night". 'Leave it There' is a ballad of concern for others: "If your body suffers pain and your health you can't regain/And your soul is almost sinking in despair/Jesus knows the pain you feel/He can save and sure enough can heal/Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there".

'If the Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side' doesn't even hit the two minute mark. This toe-tapping Southern Gospel cut offers testimony: "I was drifting/I was drifting on the sea of despair/And I was wand'ring/I was wand'ring in this old world of care/But Jesus found me/Jesus found me in my sinful plight/He heard me praying/Heard me praying on my knees at night/So now I'm singing/Now I'm singing a glad new song/Because I'm happy/'Cause I'm happy as I go along". Andrae Crouch's classic 'Through it All' is next up. This gospel ballad also testifies: "Through it all (2X)/I've learned to trust in Jesus/I've learned to trust in God/Through it all (2X)/I've learned to depend upon His Word". 

'Mine, All Mine' gives all praise to God: "He gave me grace at my very worst/He rescued me from bondage/He showed love I don't deserve/He paid my debt on Calvary's tree/Promised me a robe and crown/And you can't take that from me". 'I'm Free' was penned by Bill and Gloria Gaither in the 1960's. It's a Southern Gospel ballad of celebration: "I'm free from the fear of tomorrow/I'm free from the guilt of my past/For I've traded my shackles for a glorious song/I'm free, praise the Lord, free at last".

'Day Three' was written by Suzanne and Barry Jennings. It's a story song fit for Easter: "Surprised when my heart recognized/That no grave could hold this man down/I'm so amazed/What He did in 3 days/Turned this whole crazy world upside-down!" The song has a cool musical vibe to it. 'One Day' is a gospel song about Jesus coming back: "One day Jesus will call my name/As days go by I hope I don't stay the same/I want to get so close to Him that it's no big change/On the day that Jesus calls my name". Jessy Dixon sings on the track.

What follows is the classic hymn 'Farther Along'. It encourages us: "Farther along we'll know all about it/Farther along we'll understand why/Cheer up, my brother/Live in the sunshine/We'll understand it all by and by". 'To the Other Side' looks ahead to life on the other side: "Over Jordan, what do I see?/A band of angels waiting for me/All the saints who washed their robes in white/Some fine day I'm gonna take my place/Glory light shining all over my face/That's the day He's gonna take me to the other side". It's a great duet with Marshall Hall!

Squire Parsons wrote 'Sweet Beulah Land'. This Southern Gospel ballad pines for heaven: "I'm kind of homesick for a city/To which I've never been before/No sad goodbyes will there be spoken/For time won't matter anymore". Last up is 'Going Home', on the same theme as the previous song: "Going home, I'm going home/There's nothing to hold me here/Well, I've caught a glimpse of that heavenly land/Praise God, I'm going home!"

TIMELESS is a wonderful treasure of an album! Lynda's vocals are a strength here for sure. There are eight Southern Gospel and five gospel songs on the album. There's a decent mix of slow and fast songs. Lynda sings about Calvary (the cross, the blood, forgiveness, redemption, and Jesus' resurrection). She reminds us God is always with us and encourages us to press on in life no matter what. Jesus' return and heaven are eagerly anticipated. In heaven we'll find true peace and happiness. This project, which I'm rating 97%, will give you a spiritual boost when you need it. For more info visit www.lyndarandle.com and/or connect with her on social media.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

THE INVITATION


Meredith Frances Andrews was born on January 19, 1983 in North Carolina. Her debut album was 2005's MESMERIZED. She followed this up with 2008's THE INVITATION (Word/Curb/Warner Bros.). It was produced by Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp and executive produced by Conor Farley. To her audience, Meredith writes: "To you, the invited: May you know the nearness of God as you listen to these songs and come boldly into His presence. He welcomes you in just as you are". The album received a Dove Award nomination for 'Praise & Worship Album of the Year'.

Starting things off is 'You Invite Me In', one of four songs co-written by Meredith and Jason Ingram. It's a beautiful adult contemporary anthem: "You invite me in/Doesn't matter where I've been/Your arms are open wide/There's nothing left to hide/You invite me in/Doesn't matter who I've been/Your arms are open wide/Pulling me to Your side". 'Lift Up Your Head' is a song of spiritual encouragement: "Lift up your head and throw off every chain/Lift up your eyes/To the One who doesn't change/Lift up your hands/The broken He will mend/Lift up your head".

Next up is 'You're Not Alone', one of three songs penned solely by Meredith. This lovely ballad assures us of God's presence in our lives: "You're not alone for I am here/Let me wipe away your every fear/My love, I've never left your side/I have seen you through the darkest night/And I'm the One who's loved you all your life/All of your life". 'Treasure' lifts God up above all others: "My treasure is You/There is no other/My treasure is You/Worth more than gold/Heaven and earth/They have lost their luster/You alone are the treasure that I hold".

'Show Me What it Means' was penned by Meredith, Jason Ingram, and Matt Bronleewe. This upbeat pop song reflects on what God desires of us: "You don't want my perfection/All You ask of me is that I show up broken at Your feet/You don't want my religion/You are looking for devotion that is more than just routine/So show me what it means/To take up my cross and count it all as loss/All for the sake of knowing You". 'Deeper' is a pretty ballad about wanting to be closer to God: "Take me through the desert places/For the chance to see Your face/And take me past the breaking waves/Into the depth of Your embrace".

'The River' begins with these blunt words: "Everyone is broken and in need of a Savior/So He came and was broken for the mocker, for the shamed/Still our eyes are blinded by the culture, by the lies/We can't see that we're filthy, we're fallen, and so dry". 'New Song We Sing' is an upbeat pop number of gratitude: "We who were once so far away/Are brought near by Your blood/The barrier has been destroyed/By Your grace we freely come (2X)".

'Who is Like You' will relate to many of us: "The thought of You is baffling/My mind can't wrap around You/This human cup cannot contain/Heaven's glory flood/Who is like You, Lord?/Who was and is to come". Meredith co-wrote 'Draw Me Nearer' with Michael Farren. It's a worship ballad: "In Your nearness there is healing/What was broken now made whole/Restoration in its fullness/Lasting hope for all who come". Last up is a quiet acoustic version of 'You're Not Alone'.

THE INVITATION is a marvelous album that blends adult contemporary, worship, and pop sounds to good effect. God is depicted as the One who frees, saves, and heals us, if we let Him. His love for us is so very great! He is holy and akin to a precious jewel. Our God will never leave us or forsake us. These songs also invite us to pursue an intimate, personal relationship with God. We should desire to follow Jesus Christ and live for Him. Fans of Natalie Grant, Avalon, and Cheri Keaggy will like this album which I'm giving 100%. For more info visit www.meredithandrews.com and connect with her on social media.






Tuesday, May 21, 2019

BROKEN & BEAUTIFUL



Mark Mitchell Schultz was born on September 16, 1970. He was adopted when he was two weeks old. He released three CCM albums from 2000 to 2003. He became known for songs such as 'He's My Son', 'I Have Been There', and 'Letters From War'. In 2006 he put out BROKEN & BEAUTIFUL. It was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'.

'40 Days' is a fast paced adult contemporary song that speaks of being in a spiritual wilderness: "And it's like 40 days out in the desert/Feeling like I'm lost forever/And crying out for You/But in these 40 days I'm going to seek You/With my heart because I believe You have brought me to this place/These 40 days". Mark and Matthew West co-wrote the wonderful title track 'Broken & Beautiful'. It speaks of spiritual transformation: "We all fall short/We all have sinned/But when you let God's grace break in/It's beautiful, beautiful/Come as you are/Surrender your heart/Broken and beautiful". 'Walking Her Home' is one of six songs Mark wrote alone. It's a terrific adult contemporary story song: "A nursing home/At eighty-five/And the doctor said it could be her last night/And the nurse said oh, should we tell him now/Or should he wait until the morning to find out?/When they checked her room that night/He was laying by her side/Oh, he was walking her home and holding her hand/Oh, the way she smiled when he said this is not the end/And just for a while they were eighteen". Johnathan Yudkin plays violin, viola, cello, and bass.

'Until I See You Again' includes backing vocals by Perry Coleman and Lisa Cochran. It's a bouncy pop song that has God speaking to us: "Live with the wonder of a child/Pray with your arms thrown open wide/Love with a love that has no end/Until I see you again". '1,000 Miles' is a beautiful ballad of spiritual dedication: "If I write 10,000 songs/10,000 songs it's true/If I write 10,000 songs/I'll sing them all for You.../And if I live 100 years/Before my life is through/And if I live 100 years/I'll spend them loving You".

Mark co-wrote 'Lord You Are' with Shaun Shankel. It's a modern worship song: "And I sing to You/You are the song within me/And I long for You/Lord, You are/The Living One, the Holy Lamb/The Son of God, the Son of Man/Who always is, who always was/Who's always gonna be". Mark wrote 'Everything to Me' with Cindy Morgan. It's a lovely adult contemporary song about adoption: "You gave life to me/A brand new world to see/Like playing baseball in the yard with Dad at night/Mom reading 'Goodnight Moon'/And praying in my room/So if you worry if your choice was right/You gave me up but you gave everything to me".

Mark and Ian Eskelin wrote 'God of Life'. Joy Williams sings background vocals on this song that could be congregational: "God of life, oh, Lord of truth/Oh, let me live to worship You/So all may hear and all may know/That You are God, the God of hope/Yeah, let this life down here on earth/Echo in return". Matt Rollings plays piano on 'Now That You've Come Into My Life', an energetic pop song: "Now that You've come in/Now that You've come into my life/All that was broken is like the way it was meant to be/Like a feeling/I've been set free/In the end (2X)".

Next is 'She Was Watching'. It's a moving ballad about how we pass our faith on to our kids: "Faith can't be taught/It's just something that is caught along the way/No faith is never taught/It's just something that they catch from watching you along the way". Last up is the Ballad Version of 'Until I See You Again'. It makes use of mandolin, violin, viola, cello, arco bass, and piano.

If you're a fan of Michael W. Smith and/or Bob Carlisle, I recommend BROKEN & BEAUTIFUL to you. Adult contemporary, pop, and praise and worship are the three main musical genres here. God's greatness, faithfulness, and restoring power are celebrated. We are invited to give ourselves completely over to God, who is truly good. Mark does a great job as well presenting songs that have to do with human relationships. Romance that lasts, adoption, and good parenting are applauded here. People who are young adults and older should appreciate this album which I'm rating 87%. For more info visit www.markschultzmusic.com or connect with him on social media.







Sunday, May 19, 2019

SONGS FROM THE LOFT


1993's SONGS FROM THE LOFT (Reunion) contains eleven songs that were part of a four year ministry in the top of an old red barn on the back of Amy Grant and Gary Chapman's farm. These are songs meant for youth. This album is a multi-artist recording. It won a Dove Award for 'Praise & Worship Album of the Year'.

Michael W. Smith starts things off with the upbeat pop song 'What We've Come Here For'. It's a song of intent: "Truth is what we've come here for/The kind that won't be fading/The kind of truth that can set a man free/The kind I want my heart to see/Truth is why we've come/Truth has a name, Jesus (2X)/Truth has a name". Donna McElroy sings the groovy pop tune 'I Got the Want To'. It offers great spiritual advice: "Walk in the light as He is in the light (4X).../Love one another because He has loved you (4X)". 'Seek First' finds Susan Ashton singing lead. These lyrics are scriptural: "Seek first the Kingdom of heaven/And all shall be added".

Wes King sings 'Joy!', a pop/country song of testimony: "I got the joy, joy, joy/Down in my heart (2X)/Down in my heart to stay!" 'Where Do I Go' is an Ashley Cleveland/Gary Chapman duet about finding a safe spot in life: "Where do I go when I need a shelter?/Where do I go when I need a friend?/Where do I go when I need some helping?/Where do I go?/Back on my knees again". Jerry Dale McFadden plays piano.

Amy Delaine sings 'Salt and Light', a nice song about being a witness: "We can be a little salt, be a little light/In this darkened world/We can shine, oh oh, shine so bright/Shine, oh oh, just like the starlight". Kim Hill sings the short pop/country number 'How Do You Know'. It reminds us of the amazing things that God can do: "Lazarus was dead and cold/Three days in the grave/Jesus called him back to life/Daylight he found".

Michael James delivers 'We Come to Praise', a lovely praise and worship song. I like these opening words: "Lord, we come into this place tonight/None of us is worthy, none is right/Take a hold of our wandering hearts/There is no other place to start/What we need only You can bring/Meet us as we sing/We come to praise You (2X)/You are God/You are holy". Amy Grant and Wes King wrote 'We Believe in God'. Amy sings lead on this beautiful adult contemporary ballad of assurance: "If you believe in God/If you say you need Jesus/He'll be where you are/And He never will leave you".

Gary Chapman sings 'Hope Set High'. It includes this great statement: "When it all comes down/If there's anything good that happens in life it's from Jesus". Amy had previously recorded it as the last track on her very successful 1991 album HEART IN MOTION. Last up here is 'Hey Now'. Amy sings lead on this ballad about caring for each other spiritually: "Hey now, I will be praying for you/Hey now, you're gonna pray for me/Cause what we have been through together/Is changing us now, can change us forever". 

Pop, adult contemporary, country, and praise and worship sounds can all be found on SONGS FROM THE LOFT, which clocks in at 33 minutes and 54 seconds. It comes across as an intimate set of eleven Christian campfire songs. God is praised for His holiness and goodness. Jesus is seen as giving us love, hope, and refuge. We should desire to live for Him. It will bring us joy! As well, we should witness to, and love others, ultimately desiring them too to come into personal relationships with Jesus Christ. I'm rating this project 90%. For more info connect with the artists on social media.




Saturday, May 18, 2019

PREPARING THE WAY


Gold City Quartet started releasing Southern Gospel albums back in 1981. Fast forward to 1996 and they put out PREPARING THE WAY (RiverSong). At that time Gold City was: Jay Parrack, Jonathan Wilburn, Mark Trammell, Tim Riley, Adam Borden, Doug Riley, and Randy Matthews.

Starting things off is one of three songs penned by Sandy Knight. 'You're at the Well' is an upbeat Southern Gospel song of celebration: "You're at the well, draw the water/You're at the well, drink the wine/You're at the fountain springing life eternal/Cleansing everlasting water so fine". 'Pray' is one of two Kyla Rowland compositions. This Southern Gospel ballad is one of encouragement: "When you don't feel like praying, pray/And when you think you just can't get through, pray/Precious to the Father's ears are three words/'Lord, I'm here'/When you don't feel like praying, pray".

'Hello in Heaven' is a fun, carefree song: "Saying hello, hello/Hello, saying hello/I've been longing to say hello, hello in heaven/Walking and talking on streets of gold/Just wanna say hello in passing by the sparkling rivers of life/There's a lot of things I wanna know/First things first, hello". Niles Borop, Luke Garrett, Mike Harland, and Buddy Mullins wrote 'It's Still the Cross', a moving ballad that shares the Gospel: "It's still the cross/It's still the blood of Calvary/That cleanses sin and sets the captives free/It's still the name/The Name of Jesus/That has power to save the lost/It's still the cross". Daniel Riley is a guest vocalist.

'Higher than the Moon' is a toe-tapper anticipating heaven: "Soon I'll leave this planet for that golden shore/Where there waits a mansion and a whole lot more/Everything is ready and I'm A-O-K/I'm going higher than the moon some day". 'I'm Going Over' also looks ahead to the next life: "Don't worry about me/I'm going over/Don't take a second thought to where my soul is bound/Don't worry about me/I'm going over/He'll lift me over, set my feet on higher ground".

Next up is 'He's Still on the Throne', a great ballad of contentment amidst difficult times: "He's still on the throne/So what could be wrong?/It's well with my soul/Let the stormy winds blow/I'm reminded today/Thank God I am saved/Salvation's sweet song while ages roll on/He's still on the throne". Terry McMillan lends his harmonica prowess to the song.  'Every Moment' was arranged by Terry and Barbi Franklin. It's a quiet song that testifies: "There's not a season that life has to bring/That Jesus has ceased to provide everything/His grace alone is sufficient for me/But He's given much more than I could ever have dreamed".

'When the Lamb Becomes the Light' describes our heavenly home: "This place of perfect peace that's everlasting/Where death is gone forever and where no one will grow old/And the sun is overshadowed by the Lamb in all His glory/Oh, what a vision we too, will behold". The song builds in intensity. Last up is the Marlene and Shannon Childress composition 'God Unlimited'. This peppy song minces no words: "God, the same today, forever He will never change/And if you need a miracle even that He can arrange/If you think He doesn't do today what He did in days gone by/Then you need your faith rekindled by that pentecostal fire".

PREPARING THE WAY is a great Southern Gospel record. It contains six slow and four fast songs. The vocal harmonies are splendid. Heaven is a common theme here. There, Christians will live eternally in a place without pain or sorrow. We'll be re-united with loved ones, walk on streets of gold, and live in mansions. Most of all, we'll meet and worship Jesus. Christ made all of this possible by dying for our sins at Calvary and rising from the dead three days later. Gold City also reminds us our God is faithful, in control, and is our Helper on this earth. I'm rating this project 95%. For more info visit www.goldcityministries.com or connect with the group on social media.