Wednesday, January 30, 2019
MercyMe released six independent albums before releasing their major label debut ALMOST THERE in 2001. It contained their now mega-hit 'I Can Only Imagine'. Over the years they became known for other great songs such as 'Word of God Speak' and 'In the Blink of an Eye'. In 2006 they released COMING UP TO BREATHE (INO Records), produced by the legendary Brown Bannister. It is what I will be reviewing here. It was nominated for 'Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album' at the Grammy Awards and for a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'. In the liner notes, lead singer Bart Millard shares: "Our prayer is that this project will somehow draw you closer to Christ, whether through an intimate time of worship, or through the joy of knowing it is OK to have fun".
First up is the title track, 'Coming Up to Breathe', a rock song about one resurfacing: "With just one glimpse of You I see/You're the air I need/I'm coming up to breathe/Oh, I'm coming up to breathe/I've held my breath for all my life/But I am breaking free tonight". 'So Long Self' was the album's lead single and a #1 hit. This bouncy pop song is about giving control of one's will to Christ: "So long self/Well, it's been fun, but I have found somebody else/So long self/There's just no room for two/So you are gonna have to move/So long self/Don't take this wrong but you are wrong for me, farewell/Oh well, goodbye, don't cry/So long self". 'Hold Fast' is an adult contemporary ballad of spiritual encouragement: "Please do not let go/I promise you there's hope/Hold fast/Help is on the way/Hold fast/He's come to save the day".
'Something About You' begins with these honest, relatable lyrics: "Where, where do I begin?/How do I say what's on my heart with paper and a pen?/How, how can I describe/The God of the universe and make it rhyme?/I just wonder if it's worth/Painting You with so few words, oh with so few words". The song includes a nice electric guitar solo. 'You're to Blame' is an adult contemporary song with these clever words: "There's something going on with me/And I think I like the view from where I'm standing/You are to blame for anything that is good in my heart/You are to blame for this change that has taken me by storm".
Next up is 'No More No Less'. It rocks and longs for heaven: "I hope you stare just long enough to see/The heart that's beating here inside of me/Beyond all of the things you may think you know/I'm just a kid trying to make it home, that's it/No more, no less/Lord, I want to go home/Nothing more and nothing less". 'Where I Belong' exalts God: "I raise my hands and shout Your Name/To praise You with my song/My dream's at hand/I've found my place/The place where I belong". Another great electric guitar solo appears here!
'Bring the Rain' was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Song of the Year'. It's an adult contemporary track of great faith: "Bring me joy, bring me peace/Bring the chance to be free/Bring me anything that brings You glory/And I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain/But if that's what it takes to praise You/Jesus bring the rain". An eight person choir that includes Michael Mellett, Mandisa, and Lisa Bevill, is used to good effect! 'Last One Standing' is a good pop/rock song that begins by speaking of the power of prayer: "Don't you count me/Out cause I've fallen/Out cause I've fallen down/I have landed/Down on my knees, oh/Down on my knees again/This is where I'll find the strength to carry on/This is where I'll find the strength to stand/I'm gonna be the last one standing/Fighting for something much bigger than me/I'm gonna be the last one standing here".
The cool, rootsy 'One Trick Pony' follows. It addresses critics boldly: "If I hear just one more time/That I should try and be more open-minded/I think I just might scream/The world says this is all there is/Yet, I believe the One who says there's life after this/Now tell me how much more open can my mind be?" '3:42 am (Writer's Block)' is a pop/rock song addressed to God: "Say, say what You wanna say and say it loudly/Say, say what You wanna say/Speak through me/If the idea's mine it's nothing but a waste of time/So won't You say, say what You wanna say?"
'Safe and Sound' offers these words of testimony: "There is nothing that can pull me/From the hand that holds me/I'm safe and sound". 'I Would Die For You' was written about B. J. Higgins who doctors believe contracted the Bubonic Plague while doing mission work in Peru. Sadly he died five days before his 16th birthday. This memorable inspirational song includes these words: "And I pray that You will use my life/In whatever way Your Name is glorified/Even if surrendering means leaving everything behind.../I would die for You". Last up is the hidden track, 'Have Fun in Life'. It's a corny, but fun track, that is short. It begins: "Have fun in life, make it all worthwhile/Have fun in life, maybe crack a smile/Stop and smell the roses while the roses are in bloom/But promise me you'll honestly/Have fun in what you do".
COMING UP TO BREATHE has almost an equal number of fast and slower songs. The main musical genres are adult contemporary and pop/rock. Bart Millard's vocals are easy on the ears. Pursuing and praising God are prominent themes, as is trusting God for daily strength. MercyMe desires to be used by God. They point those hurting and struggling to a God who rescues, saves, and holds us. Two of the most unique songs are 'One Trick Pony' (roots) and 'Have Fun in Life' (carnival sounding). The lyrics on this album are creative and surely a strength. I'm rating COMING UP TO BREATHE 100% as I don't see how it could be improved upon. Fans of Newsboys and Steven Curtis Chapman should acquire this one. For more info visit www.mercyme.org and/or connect with the band on social media.
Monday, January 28, 2019
Natalie Diane Grant was born on December 21, 1971 in Seattle, Washington. Early on in her music career she was a member of the group Truth. In 1999 she put out her self-titled debut album on Benson Records. It included such songs as 'I Am Not Alone' and 'There is A God'. She followed this up with 2001's STRONGER (Pamplin Records) which I'll be reviewing here. Producers used are Reed Vertelney, Tedd T, Phil Silas, Bernie Herms, and John and Dino Elefante. Mitchell Solarek serves as executive producer. In the liner notes Natalie writes: "Thanks to you, the listener. May this project bring you much joy, maybe a few tears, and most of all, closer to Jesus".
First up is the album's second single, 'What Other Man', written by Reed Vertelney and Linda Thompson. It's an adult pop song that speaks of God's faithfulness: "You always give me everything/And Your love has never left my side/You've been there in my darkest night/You're my strength when I want to hide". Natalie and Windy Wagner provide backing vocals on 'Keep On Shinin'', another pop song about God's faithfulness: "He will be there through the hurricane, through the pouring rain/And He will be there through the longest night/Everything's gonna be alright/The storm is gonna end/And the sun's gonna rise again". 'Whenever You Need Somebody', featuring Christian boy band Plus One, was the album's first single. It was written by Natalie, Bernie Herms, Jimmy Collins, and Kevin Stokes. This adult contemporary ballad reminds us we need each other: "Whenever you need somebody/Whenever you want a friend/To chase the clouds and help the sun shine again/I will be that friend/If I could have one wish this I would pray/A heavenly miracle, your pain to drift away".
'Anything' is a pop/dance track of positivity: "I may never walk the ocean blue/But I know that I can talk to You!/I believe that with my trust in You/I can do anything!" Natalie, Angela Cruz, and John Elefante sing backing vocals on 'If the World Lost All Its Love', an inspirational song of faith: "If the world lost all its love/He'd still have some to give You/ And if the stars should lose their light/We'd still have His to hold back the night/This hope is mine/If the world lost all its love/His still would shine".
'Such A Wonder' is a light pop song about God's care for us: "It's such a wonder/Such a crazy mystery/You chose to love someone like me/I will never understand this endless wonder/The hand that formed the sky and sea carries me eternally/And I'm so amazed/You're such a wonder". 'I Love to Praise' follows. It's a slow Latin influenced song beginning with this prayer: "Holy One/Father of the earth/Create in me a pure heart/So I can come in spirit and in truth/To worship You/That's what I long to do".
Next up is 'Only You', a lovely adult contemporary ballad of spiritual devotion: "You're the Light that I live by/You're the space where my soul flies/You're the breath that I breathe/You're the dream that sets me free/So much more than I imagined/Your love has made me see/Only You could be the miracle in me". 'Don't Wanna Make A Move' is a good pop/dance number wanting spiritual direction: "In the still and quiet/I bow my heart/Incline my ear/Anything You whisper/O Lord, I want to hear!/Lord, I need to hear You!"
Sam Mizell and John Mandeville wrote 'To Find My Strength'. These lyrics call out to God: "I look to You to find my strength/Carry me to the end of my days/A steady hand to lead me through/Arms of faith to bring me back to You". Cindy Morgan, Natalie, and Mark Hammond wrote the closing song, 'Finally Home'. Bernie Herms plays piano and the Nashville String Machine is featured on this over six minute long inspirational song on which Natalie expresses her heart's desire: "I want to be where I can walk, where I can run/Where my heart sings and I feel the sun/Where I can trust/And I'm strong enough/Free like the wind/I'll run into my Father's arms/I'm finally home!" It sounds like a song from a movie score!
STRONGER is a marvelous second album from Natalie Grant! She's a wonderful singer. Adult contemporary and pop, pop/dance are the main musical genres here. Six of the songs are slow, while five are faster. So, what is Natalie singing about? God's love for us is front and center. He became fully human and died on the cross for us. He gives us life, hope, and true freedom! He is faithful and dependable. Natalie, as we all should, desires intimacy with the Father. She seeks His guidance and wants to do His will. The duet 'Whenever You Need Somebody' with the now defunct Plus One is a memorable song about friendship. I'm recommending STRONGER to fans of Kelly Clarkson, Jaci Velasquez, and Mariah Carey. I give it a 95%. For more info visit www.nataliegrant.com and/or connect with her on social media.
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Kutless formed as 'Call Box', a campus worship band. In 2002 they released their self-titled debut album. Over the years they became known for such songs as 'Your Touch', 'Run', 'Sea of Faces', 'Strong Tower', and 'Shut Me Out'. In 2008 they released their fifth full-length studio album, TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE ALIVE (BEC Recordings). It was produced by Peter Kipley and was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Rock Album of the Year' and reached #1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart.
First up is the heavy rocker 'The Feeling'. These words are about having fun: "Turn it up, feel the beat/And scream the lyrics you know/Keep it coming/The time is right/Let's unite to the rock and roll/Everybody". These lyrics hint at something deeper: "There's a greater meaning/Behind the music that we're bringing". 'Sleeping City' is a short and peaceful instrumental. The title track is a rock song that includes screaming and reminds us life isn't always peachy: "Right now you're bruised and bleeding/I see the hurt within your eyes/I know your pain is for a reason/You need to feel just to know that you're alive".
'The Disease & The Cure' is a pounding rock song about wanting to be cleansed: "Is there a way to clean the sin off of me?/Is there anyone with a vaccine?/I'll take the shot even if I bleed/As long as it can heal me.../There only is one cure/That is why I pray/Jesus, please take it away". The worship song 'Complete' follows. It's one of surrender: "God, I've fallen to my knees/I'm bowing at Your feet/I give You all of me/In You I am complete/It's all because of love/I'm not who I was/I'm who I'm meant to be/In You I am complete".
'The Rescue' is a rock song of testimony: "My life is a mass destruction/You're pulling me from the mess I'm in/You take me away.../You are my salvation/The only One to rescue me from the torment that I'm in/Again". 'Promise You' is a rock ballad. It finds a victim speaking to his abuser: "Tears wash the blood off of my face/Why did it have to be this way?/I've taken the last beating from you/This I promise you.../I can't deny these thoughts of hate/The poison adding to my shame/Forgiveness can't take scars away/But I forgive you anyway".
'Guiding Me Home' is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad of gratitude to God: "You say that You love me always and forever/You say that You love me/I know I will never deserve all the love that You show/It's the light that is guiding me home". Next up is 'Overcoming Me', a techno-rock cut that includes these words of admission: "I can't stop You from overcoming me/It's brought me to my knees/I don't want You letting go of me".
'I Do Not Belong' anticipates things to come: "When the world is behind me on the day that I breathe my last/In the face of eternity there's hope cause I believe/When I look to the heavens/And the future that You hold/It makes it easier to see beyond today/Now I'm looking to the sky". 'Loud' rocks and is a song about determination: "My eyes are open wide and now I'm breathing/I've finally broken free, the fire burns in me/You can try to turn me down/But I was born to be this loud/How can I be quiet now/When I believe it and I want it?" It's a short song at just over two and a half minutes.
These words from 'Dying to Become' are addressed to God: "I never meant to disrespect You/But that's exactly what I've done/What am I trying to prove?/When will I stop and trust You?/I know that You're the only One/How am I blind to the truth?" Closing things out is 'You', a worship ballad: "The earth declares Your glory/There's nowhere it can hide/And still You let me in/You draw me to Your side/You are my hope and I know that it's true/When all I can think of and all I can dream of is You/You're the love I have always known/And it's You/I will never be alone".
TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE ALIVE is a wonderful Christian music album. Nine of the thirteen tracks are rock in nature, two are modern worship, and two are adult contemporary. There are seven fast songs and six songs on the slower side of things. I am impressed with the electric guitar playing on this project! God is shown to be our Redeemer and Rescuer. He loves and cares for us. He helps us resist temptation. He heals the broken. We should dedicate our lives to Him. 'Promise You' is a great song that will help those who have been abused. I'm rating this Christian rock album 95% and recommending it to fans of Nickelback and Thousand Foot Krutch. There are several photos of the band in the CD booklet. For more info visit www.kutless.com and/or connect with the band on social media.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky. He released his debut album, FIRST HAND, in 1987. Over the years he became a Christian music superstar, winning multiple Grammy and Dove Awards. On May 21, 2008 great tragedy struck his family when his son Will accidentally hit and killed one of their adopted daughters Maria Sue Chunxi Chapman, in a driveway accident at their home. In November 2009 Steven released the studio album BEAUTY WILL RISE (Sparrow). It was produced by Brent Milligan and Steven. It hit #1 on the US Billboard Top Christian Albums chart and #27 on the US Billboard 200. In the liner notes Steven shares: "Father, please hold our little girl close and please continue to hold and heal our hearts and please use this story You've entrusted to us for Your glory. In both the giving and taking we trust Your faithful and loving heart and we bless Your Name".
Steven plays acoustic guitar and piano on 'Heaven is the Face', a sentimental adult contemporary ballad about Maria: "Heaven is the face of a little girl with dark brown eyes/That disappear when she smiles/Heaven is the place where she calls my name/Says, 'Daddy please come play with me for awhile'/God, I know it's all of this and so much more/But God, You know that this is what I'm aching for". The title track, 'Beauty Will Rise', is faster paced adult contemporary with Brent Milligan on cello, Ben Shive on dulcimer and celeste, and David Davidson on violin. These words offer great hope: "Out of these ashes/Beauty will rise/And we will dance among the ruins/We will see it with our own eyes/Out of the ashes/Beauty will rise/For we know joy is coming in the morning/In the morning".
'SEE' is an easy listening ballad that anticipates heaven: "And I'm counting down the days until I see/It's everything He said that it would be/And even better than we would believe/And I'm counting down the days till He says, 'Come with Me'/And finally, we'll see/Wait and see/O taste and see that the Lord is good". Steven plays mandolin on 'Just Have to Wait' an adult contemporary number addressed to Maria: "Well, I can't wait to hear your mama laugh/The way that only you can make her laugh when you get silly/And I can't wait to see you in her arms/And know the wound so deep inside her heart is healed for good/But I, oh I, just have to wait/Cause I know that day is coming/So I, oh I, just have to wait".
Will Franklin Chapman plays drums and Steven and Scott Sheriff provide backing vocals on 'Faithful'. It includes these words of praise: "You are faithful, You are faithful/When You give and when You take away/Even then still Your Name is faithful/You are faithful/And with everything inside of me/I am choosing to believe/You are faithful". It's a terrific song! Joe Causey plays piano and electric guitar on 'Questions'. It includes these honest thoughts: "Who are You God?/Cause You are turning out to be so much different than I imagined/And where are You God?/Cause I am finding life to be so much harder than I had planned.../How could You be so good and strong/And make a world that can be so painful?"
'Our God is in Control' is the only song on which Steven has a co-writer. It is his wife Mary Beth! This easy listening ballad is one of great faith: "This is not how it should be/This is not how it could be/But this is how it is/And our God is in control/This is not how it will be/When we finally will see/We'll see with our own eyes/He was always in control". Steven plays piano and John Catchings cello on 'February 20th'. It recalls actual events: "As she prayed, 'Jesus, please come and live in my heart and someday can I come live with You?'/And we could never have imagined/She'd be going there so soon/So soon (2X)".
'God is it True (Trust Me)' was inspired by Brennan Manning's book 'Ruthless Trust'. It's a quiet, conversational number: "God is it true out of all things You're doing on this planet/Could it really be true/That You've counted the hairs on my head?/God is it true every day of my life You have planned it?/Well, if it's all true/Then that must be You I hear saying/'Trust Me (3X)/I'll never leave you/I'll never forsake you/Just trust Me'". The adult contemporary track 'I Will Trust You' follows. It reads like a journal entry: "God, I'm longing for the day You come/When this cloudy glass I'm looking through/Is shattered in a million pieces/And finally I can just see You/God, You know I believe it's true/I know I will see You/But until the day I do/I will trust You, trust You/Trust You God I will/Even when I don't understand".
'Jesus Will Meet You There' is a tender song of encouragement: "When you realize the dreams you've had/For your child won't come true/And when the phone rings/In the middle of the night with tragic news/Whatever valley you must walk through/Jesus will meet you there/He will meet you there/Jesus will meet you there". Last up is 'Spring is Coming', inspired by words Pastor Scotty Smith shard from 1 Corinthians at Maria's graveside. Strings and the Children of the World Choir are used to good effect here. This song is optimistic: "Spring is coming (2X)/All we've been hoping and longing for/Soon will appear/Spring is coming (2X)/And it won't be long now/It's just about here/Spring is coming/Out of these ashes beauty will rise".
BEAUTY WILL RISE is not one of Steven Curtis Chapman's feel good, bouncy pop/rock efforts. It is easy listening and adult contemporary genre wise and is comprised of slow, thought provoking songs. Chapman does a great job chronicling his and his family's experience with the grief of losing a child. This album will touch you emotionally. There is great sorrow and darkness presented here, but ultimately a strong faith in God prevails. This isn't ultimately a feel bad for oneself record. It is rather, a project that looks forward with great hope to heaven where everything is made right and blissful reunions take place. This album is a great tool to use if you or someone you know is walking through grief. I'm rating BEAUTY WILL RISE 99%. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com and/or connect with him on social media.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Sandra Faye 'Sandi' Patty was born on July 12/56 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to Wikipedia.org: "She first performed at the age of two when she sang 'Jesus Loves Me' for her church, Phoenix First Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). Her first album, FOR MY FRIENDS, came out in 1978 and was independent. The next year she released SANDI'S SONG. Fast forward to 1997 and she put out ARTIST OF MY SOUL (Word). It was produced by Robbie Buchanan and executive produced by Matt Baugher. In the liner notes Sandi shares: "I am thankful that my God is still the God of second chances and new beginnings".
Rick Vale wrote the inspirational title track, 'Artist of My Soul'. It's a prayer: "God of the Living Word, Poet of Time/Teach me Your words in Your cadence and rhyme/O Lord of beauty, Lord of art/Who gives a song for every heart/Carve out my life, reshape and mold/And be the artist of my soul". John Stoddart and Wintley Phipps wrote 'Always', an inspirational song of encouragement: "When You're feeling down/And it just seems your world is falling all around/No need to fear/I'll still be there to love you/When your friends are gone/And it just seems like you've been fighting all alone/I'll dry your tear/I'll still be there to love you". 'Breathe on Me' features great backing vocals by Warren Stanyer and Sandi, and desires intimacy with God: "Breathe on me breath of God/Cover my sin with your mercy/Speak to me word of God/Give me a light for my journey/Show me Your way/And draw me close to you/And breathe on me/Breathe on me/Breathe on me breath of God".
'You Love Me' is a beautifully orchestrated, easy listening track of gratitude: "Father God I stand amazed/For You know me so well/Yet I'm lavished with Your grace/You forgive all my sin/Even call me Your child/I'm forever Yours for I can't deny/You love me! You see me! You hear me! You know me!/You love me (3X)!" 'You Set Me Free' is the longest song here, clocking in at around six minutes. This inspirational anthem is one of testimony: "You set me free to run through fields of laughter/And to sing as though I have no yesterdays/You set me free from my befores and afters/From a debt I know I'll never pay/When You set me free/Father, You father me/Ever so patiently/You give me wings to fly/When You set me free".
Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell wrote 'Birds Still Dance', a lovely praise song beginning with these words: "Morning, praise the morning/Sunlight from heaven fills me/Mine is the new day that breaks/God's in His heaven/And everything's right in His world/Nature rejoices/Yes and the birds still dance". 'You Alone' is an upbeat gospel song nature lovers will appreciate: "In the California sunset/And the Carolina dawn/In the tall wheat fields of Kansas/The Mississippi rolling on and on/In the midnights of Montana/And the snows of Yellowstone/I have seen the glory, Lord, of You alone". Sandra Crouch plays tambourine and a choir from Faith Central Missionary Baptist Church is used to good effect.
Tony Wood, Marie Reynolds, and Kevin Stokes wrote 'Speechless', an easy listening song of amazement: "I'm speechless, overcome by joy/That reaches into my heart so deep/It's almost too good to be true/In this quiet I'm in wonder of Your kindness/I'm speechless, silenced by how good You are to me". The classic hymn 'I Will Sing the Wondrous Story' is presented in a tender manner. It speaks of God's goodness: "I was lost but Jesus found me/Found the sheep that went astray/Wrapped His loving arms around me/Drew me back into His way/I was bruised but Jesus healed me/Faint was I from many a fall/Sight was gone and fears possessed me/But He freed me from them all".
'Come to Me' finds Jesus calling out to all: "Come to me/You who are weary/I will give You rest (2X)/Come to me/I'll take your burden/Come to me/I will give you rest". Last up is 'Doxology', penned by Rick Vale and Sandi. It's easy listening and includes these majestic lyrics: "Now to the King/Eternal/Immortal and invisible/To the only God be honor and glory/Forever/Amen".
Ten of the eleven tracks on ARTIST OF MY SOUL are quiet, contemplative, meditative, and devotional. This isn't one of those albums where you will hear Sandi Patty belting it out vocally for the most part. The songs here are generally easy listening and/or inspirational in nature. God's love, care, and grace towards us is celebrated. He forgives us, brings us salvation via Calvary, and adopts us as His kids. He frees us to be what we were truly meant to be. Sandi desires to be molded and shaped by God and to do His will. Fans of Steve Green and Twila Paris will appreciate this album. I'm only giving it an 85% because with so many slow songs, it does get boring at times. For more info visit: www.sandipatty.com and/or connect with her on social media.
Monday, January 21, 2019
Margaret Becker was born on July 17/59 in Bay Shore, New York. Her debut album was 1987's NEVER FOR NOTHING (Sparrow). Fast forward to 1995 and she released GRACE (Sparrow). Producers on the album are Charlie Peacock and Tommy Sims, while Brown Bannister is executive producer. In the CD booklet, you'll find these words: "Grace...the Grace to laugh, the Grace to cry. Grace to drink each breath with the fullness of experience. Grace to do all these things in the assurance, the shelter of God's all encompassing Love".
First up is 'Deep Calling Deep', one of five co-writes by Margaret and Charlie Peacock. It's a pop song about spiritual thirst: "In this ocean of my soul/There's a voice that calls and calls/Calls to You night and day/Using words I can not say/They are words of waiting, words of want/Without You, I'm undone/Calling to deeper love, calling to deeper truth/Calling to anything that leads me/Deeper and farther on with You". Chris Rodriguez handles electric guitars on 'My Heaven', a pop song that paints a picture of utopia: "Love, love that will not end/Hope that will not dim/Words that don't condemn/I call this my Heaven/Mercy lights the sky/Hearts don't have to hide/Tears have all run dry/I call this my Heaven"
'True Devotion' is a catchy pop/dance number about spiritual commitment: "I know it's not about how fast or strong I step/Isn't it all about faithfulness?/Living true devotion, true to You/That's all that I will need/Giving true devotion, true to You/I want it more than anything". Lorraine Ferro, Stephanie Lewis, and Russ DeSalvo wrote 'Only Your Love'. It's a pop ballad of gratitude: "You're my champion, my comfort, and my strength/Jesus, I'll tell You again/Only Your love does this to me/Lifts me above what I thought I could be/I fly like a banner/Anchored yet free/And only Your love does this to me".
Next up is the title cut, 'Grace'. Nicol Smith and Tommy Sims sing backing vocals on this funky pop/dance song that denounces works righteousness: "Ain't no ladder, ain't no steps/Ain't no way to earn it/I'm talkin' 'bout grace, grace/Lay it all down my brother, my sister/Lay it all down at the feet of grace, grace, grace". 'I Trust in You' is a song of devotion: "I trust in You to lead me/Wanna be right by Your side/I trust in You to lead me/Every single day for the rest of my life/I trust in You to lead me/Every little step of the way/I trust in You to lead me/I will trust in You". I quite like this song!
Scott Dente (Out of the Grey) plays electric guitar on 'Close Enough to Change', while Rick Will plays tambourine and provides samples. This adult contemporary ballad begins with these relatable words: "Maybe I've never understood all the love You have for me/Every once in a great while/I think I almost see/And for one moment in time/My world turns differently/Oh, for the eyes that can see/All the love You have for me". 'Noonday Sun' is the only song Becker wrote alone. It's breezy pop sonically and is optimistic: "Brighter and brighter the light must become/Brighter and brighter the colors are gonna run/Till they rival/The noonday sun (4X)".
Becker and Tommy Sims wrote the last two cuts on this album. 'Moment of Choice' is an atmospheric pop song that begins with these comforting words: "It's alright to cry tonight/Sometimes tears have to fall/Sometimes a trembling heart is the strongest heart of all/It's alright to feel tonight/Let the Light wash your soul/Face the fears one by one/Touch them and let them go". Last up is 'We May Never', which finds Nicol Smith, Lisa Glasgow, Marabeth Jordan, and Tommy Sims on background vocals. This quiet song offers good advice: "We may never have this day again/So let us love/Like we could love/We may never pass this way again/So let us love, love, love/Like we could love".
GRACE is comprised of adult pop and adult contemporary songs. Most of the songs are mid-tempo or slower ones. Margaret makes it clear that she desires an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She longs to be devoted to Him. She's grateful for God's love, grace, and the peace that He gives her. She looks forward to being with Him in Heaven eventually. Tracks 8, 9, and 10 could be mainstream songs. I think 'Noonday Sun' would fit in nicely on secular radio. If you enjoy the pop songs of Jaci Velasquez, Amy Grant, and Michael English, give this album, which I'm rating 95%, a try. For more info visit: www.margaretbecker.com and/or connect with her on social media.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Mark Alan Lowry was born on June 24, 1958 in Houston, Texas. According to Wikipedia.org he was "a member of the Gaither Vocal Band from 1988 to 2001, and 2009 to 2013". He is also one of the best Christian comedians around. Here, I will be reviewing HOW WE LOVE (2015, Spring Hill). It was produced by Kevin Williams and executive produced by Lowry. In the liner notes Williams writes: "I just really love to hear the guy sing. He doesn't even know how good he is". Lowry writes: "I wish I could pay you what you're worth, but only God and Bill Gaither have that much money. I love you buddy".
Starting things off is 'Mary Was the First One to Carry the Gospel', a Mark Lowry/Bill Gaither composition. It's a splendid, upbeat Southern Gospel song centered around Christmas: "Hosanna to the highest and Christ His only Son!/God's story wrapped in swaddling clothes/The meek and lowly One!/This baby boy will change the hearts of all who can believe/Cause what the prophets told has come to pass/A virgin has conceived". Loretta Lynn wrote 'Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven'. It appeared on her 1965 record HYMNS. Here, Lowry wonderfully performs the classic with bluegrass group Dailey &Vincent. It has very relatable lyrics: "Everybody wants to go to heaven/But nobody wants to die/Lord, I wanna go to heaven/But I don't wanna die/So, I long for the day when I'll have new birth/But I love livin' here on earth". 'Worry' was penned by Cindy Morgan and Jeremy Bose. It's a cool, rootsy ballad. I love these words from the chorus: "Worry, why do I worry?/Why do I doubt Thee?/What do I do it for?/I'm going to trust You/This time I mean it/I'm going to leave it at Your door".
'I Thirst' was written by Mark's mom, Beverly. Here, it's an inspirational, beautiful ballad featuring Sisters. These words will make you think: "He said 'I thirst', yet He made the river/He said 'I thirst', yet He made the sea/'I thirst', said the King of the ages/In His great thirst He brought water to me". 'Live Loud' is an upbeat pop song of testimony: "I'm gonna live loud/Tell everybody how the grace that He gave me never ceases to amaze me/I wanna live out mercy I found/Cause now that love has turned my life around/I'm gonna live loud".
The title track is the lovely easy listening ballad 'How We Love', featuring The Martins. It was penned by Beth Nielsen Chapman and appeared on her 2010 album BACK TO LOVE. Here are some of the lyrics: "How we love, how we love/From the smallest act of kindness/In a word, a smile, or touch/In spite of our mistakes, chances come again/And if we lose or if we win/All that matters in the end is how we love". Jimmy and Sonya Isaacs Yeary wrote 'Old People', a sentimental country ballad: "Their babies are their babies, no matter how old they get/A stranger ain't a stranger, just a friend they ain't met yet/There's kindness, there's wisdom and the heart of a child behind those wrinkles/Man, I love old people".
What follows is Lowry's version of Pharrell Williams' super popular 'Happy' from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. It was Billboard's #1 single for 2014! Lowry's version is great pop/R&B and is carefree: "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof/Because I'm happy/Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth/Because I'm happy/Clap along if you know what happiness is to you/Because I'm happy/Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do". Ashley Cleveland Greenberg wrote 'Rock in A Weary Land'. Here, it's a gospel/swing number. Here are some of the words: "My Lord is a rock in a weary land/A weary land, a weary land/My Lord is a rock in a weary land/A shelter in the time of storm".
Next up is the classic hymn 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross', featuring The Martins. This version is a terrific acapella one, beginning with these familiar lyrics: "When I survey the wondrous cross/On which the Prince of glory died/My richest gain I count but loss/And pour contempt on all my pride". Closing things out is 'Come As You Are', a beautiful song of spiritual invitation: "We've all been the prodigal and made our bed in hell/Until we felt the arms of grace that saved us from ourselves/Forgiven much, now loving much/When we say 'Come as you are'/We mean it".
I love HOW WE LOVE! There are various musical genres here including Southern Gospel, country/roots, pop, and easy listening. Seven of the songs are slow, while four are faster paced. Mark's vocals are pleasant to listen to. There is quite a wide variety of topics covered here. Jesus' birth brought us good news. Mark testifies of God's love, grace, and mercy, and points to Him as a sure shelter. Jesus' death and resurrection brings us salvation and the hope of heaven. We are to invite the unsaved to come into relationship with Jesus, who brings true happiness. I'm rating HOW WE LOVE 98%. For more info visit www.marklowry.com and/or connect with him on social media.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Superchic(k) released their major label debut KARAOKE SUPERSTARS (Inpop) in 2001. Memorable songs from it include the title track, 'Barlow Girls', and 'One Girl Revolution'. Fast forward to 2008 and they released their fifth studio album, ROCK WHAT YOU GOT (Inpop). It was produced by Max Hsu, and executive produced by Dale Bray, Jim Scherer, and Max Hsu. Group members at the time were: Melissa (vocals, guitar), Tricia (vocals), Dave (guitar, piano), Brandon (drums), Max (beats, rude boy synths, robot voices, and bits of this and that), and Matt (bass, guitar, vocals). This album was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Rock/Rap Gospel Album'. According to Wikipedia.org it "debuted at No. 65 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling nearly 10,000 copies its first week".
First up is the title track, 'Rock What You Got', an energetic pop/rock number of empowerment: "You were made to rock, so stand up tall/Go rock the world and prove them wrong/Rock what you got (2X)/Don't ever let them make you stop/Rock what you got/Light up the lot/No one can rock the way you rock". 'Alive Prelude' is a short, forgettable, movie sounding snippet. 'Alive' is a good rocker about making one's move and not letting life just pass you by: "I need to live my dreams, not just in my sleep/I've been holed up here, but it's time to leave/I need to make my move while I've air to breathe.../We were born with wings/We were made to fly/We were meant to live while we're still alive".
'Hey Hey' is one of three radio singles released on May 16/08 from this album. This one's funkified pop valuing individuality: "Why try to be like someone else/When you can only be yourself?/No one can sing the song you do/Be true, be legendary you/So, I won't sell out, even if the whole world thinks I'm crazy". 'Hold' is a pop/rock ballad that cries out to God: "Tell me I can make it through this day/I don't even have the words to pray/You have been the only One who never left me/Help me find the way through all my fears/Help me see the light through all my tears/Help me see that I am not alone in this". 'Breathe' is a slow, quiet song of encouragement: "Please tell me you'll fight this fight/I can't see without your light/I need you to breathe into my life.../So keep breathing/Go on breathe in".
What follows is 'So Beautiful', a rally cry for self-esteem for young ladies: "We have dreams we were born to fulfill/We were meant to be more than just fairy tale girls/We are colors so bright, each a beautiful girl/We are stars in the night, and we're changing the world/When every girl can see her beauty/We will be an army". It's good to dance to. 'Cross the Line' is a rocker about adventure: "'Everybody dies but not everyone lives/I'm gonna ride like I've got the cops on my tail/I'm gonna live my life like I'm out on bail/I'm gonna be out front, gonna blaze a trail/I'm gonna cross that line". 'One More' is another rally cry: "If I can overcome step 1/I can face the 99/One more, go one more/Yeah, yeah".
Next up is 'Crawl (Carry Me Through)', a ballad that reads like a modern day Psalm: "O Lord, where are You?/Do not forget me here/I cry in silence/Can You not see my tears?/When all have left me/And hope has disappeared/You'll find me here". It's beautiful! 'Stand in the Rain' was a hit song on Superchick's debut mainstream album, BEAUTY FROM PAIN 1.1 (2006). Presented here is a Symphonic Mix of this adult contemporary song of great encouragement: "So stand in the rain/Stand your ground/Stand up when it's all crashing down/You stand through the pain/You won't drown/And one day what's lost can be found/You stand in the rain". Closing things out is 'Dave Ghazarian: Guitar Hero', a sizzling instrumental featuring the electric guitar.
You aren't going to find deep lyrics with big words on ROCK WHAT YOU GOT, but that's okay. This is mostly pop, rock, and dance music with a few slower ballads thrown in. You will find this album to be inspirational and life changing if you let it, in all its simplicity. Superchick encourages us to be ourselves and no one else. Following the crowd is lame and ultimately unsatisfying. A second theme here is that we can indeed overcome life's challenges and obstacles and negative voices and follow our dreams. We can't do it on our own though. Two of the songs call out to God for help. I'm rating this album 93%. For more info visit www.superchickonline.com and/or connect with the band and its members on social media.
Monday, January 14, 2019
Jars of Clay traces their origins to Greenville College in Illinois. In 1995 they released their stellar self-titled debut, which featured such songs as 'Flood' (which broke into the mainstream), and 'Love Song for a Savior'. Fast forward to 2010 and the band released their tenth full-length studio album, JARS OF CLAY PRESENTS THE SHELTER (Gray Matters/Essential). It was nominated for two Dove Awards: 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year' and 'Praise and Worship Album of the Year'. In the liner notes you will find these words: "This album is inspired by old Irish words, 'In the shelter of each other, the people live'. These songs are meant to celebrate and inspire small communities of people to care for one another and embody the love, peace, and hope promised by God and found in the life of Jesus". All of the eleven songs but one, feature guest vocalists.
Starting things off is 'Small Rebellions' (ft. Brandon Heath), a great adult contemporary number about caring for others: "God of the worn and tattered/All of Your people matter/Give us more than words to speak/Cause we are hearts and arms that reach/And love climbs up and down the human ladder". 'Call My Name' (ft. Thad Cockrell and Audrey Assad) is a melodic light adult pop song of spiritual surrender: "I'll go when You call me/I run when You tell me where to go/We are desert walkers under shady clouds/Your fire shows there's more of You to know/Let our idols fall, vanity subside/And we will see the beauty in our lives". Brother Henry plays strings on 'We Will Follow' which features Gungor. This Christian pop song includes these prayerful words: "So set us free/To love the mystery/Until our eyes are clear enough to see You/Where You lead us we will follow (2X)/Where You lead us we will follow You/Open up our hearts and reach inside".
'Eyes Wide Open' features Mac Powell, Derek Webb, and Burlap to Cashmere. It's a rootsy pop song asking for more faith: "So God bruise the heels we've dug in the ground/That we might move closer to love/Pull out the roots we've dug in so deep/Finish what You've started/Help us to believe". Brandon Heath is featured on 'Shelter', the title track, while Toby Mac and Audrey Assad provide background vocals. This adult contemporary ballad is one of encouragement: "Cast off the robes you're wearing/Set aside the names that you've been given/May this place of rest in the fold of your journey/Bind you to hope, you will never walk alone/In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live (2X)/Your arms are all around us".
The lead single from the album was 'Out of My Hands'. It features Mike Donehy and finds Leigh Nash on backing vocals. It's a soft adult contemporary song of gratitude to God: "And it's out of my hands, it was from the start/In light of what You've done for me (2X)/You lifted my head, set me apart/In light of what You've done for me/This is what You've done for me/It's out of my hands (2X)". 'No Greater Love' is the only track not to 'feature' a guest vocalist. It's a terrific pop/rock song about surrendering to Christ: "Is it still my turn?/I think I'm the last one left to learn/That the life I lose is the least of my concerns.../Show me the beauty of a life (3X)/Laid down".
'Run in the Night (Psalm 27)' features Thad Cockrell. It's an atmospheric number sonically and testifies: "All my failures won't condemn me/Or leave me paralyzed and bound/When I'm at my worst/Your Love, it finds me first". What follows is 'Lay it Down' featuring David Crowder and Dawn Michelle. It's a rocker that reminds us others are going through what we are: "Why carry on our own what's common to all men?/Why drag your bag of bones to hell and back again?.../Look around, lay it down".
Sara Groves and Matt Maher are featured on 'Love Will Find Us'. It includes these joyful lyrics: "These orphan hearts will find a home/Run to these arms, be not alone/Light is leading, love will find us all/Love will find us all". Last up is 'Benediction' featuring Amy Grant. It's a tender easy listening , commissioning song: "Go into the world showing how much He loves You/Walk in the world in merciful ways/He loves you (2X)/Emmanuel on earth/God with us on earth".
It's quite a treat to hear all the guest vocalists here sing alongside Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine. I'd love to hear Dan and Mac Powell (Third Day) do an entire record together. THE SHELTER is mostly adult contemporary and adult pop with some rock thrown in the mix. God's love for us and His desire to be involved in our personal lives are refreshing themes in a world where so many of us battle loneliness of varying degrees. Because God loves us, we should reach out to, love, and help our fellow man. We aren't meant to live life alone, but in community. I'm rating this one an 89.5%. For more info visit www.jarsofclay.com and/or connect with them on social media.
Saturday, January 12, 2019
The band Call Box formed in Portland, Oregon as a campus worship band. They changed their name to Kutless in 2001. In 2002 they put out their self-titled record. 'Run' and 'Your Touch' from it hit #1 on ChristianRock.net. Fast forward to 2006 and the band released HEARTS OF THE INNOCENT (BEC), their fourth full length album. Group members were: Jon Micah Sumrall (lead vocals), James Mead (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Shrout (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Dave Leutkenhoelter (bass guitar), and Jeff Gilbert (drums, percussion). This album was produced by Aaron Sprinkle. It peaked at #45 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, at #2 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart, and was nominated for two Dove Awards: 'Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year' and 'Recorded Music Packaging of the Year'.
First up is the title track, 'Hearts of the Innocent'. It's one of nine songs penned by Kutless and Aaron Sprinkle and one of four singles released from the album. This rocker reflects on the brokenness in the world and includes some great electric guitar work: "I'm looking down into the hopelessness/They're crying out to me/I see the pain/It's so much more than youth should know/It tears me apart/What can I do to change what I see?/This vicious cycle must come to an end". Kutless and Ethan Luck wrote 'Shut Me Out', a rock song of determination: "There's nothing you can say/That will take me away from this life/There's nothing you can do/To shut me up when I'm speaking the truth".
'Beyond the Surface' rocks and reflects on media: "I've been hiding, hiding for so long/Right behind my digital mask/I've been trying to be someone I'm not/All these perfectly fake people push us to insane ideals/They're nothing more than counterfeit images". 'Smile' is a sentimental ballad: "A spark is gleaming in my eye/Like diamond stars that fill the sky/I think a smile says it all/A smile says it all".
Next up is 'Promise of a Lifetime'. Jon Micah Sumrall plays piano, strings are arranged by Matt Slocum, and Aaron Sprinkle provides backing vocals. This lovely ballad speaks to God: "I know You're always there/To hear my every prayer inside/I'm clinging to the promise of a lifetime/I hear the words You say/To never walk away from me and leave behind/The promise of a lifetime". 'Winds of Change' describes how many feel today: "Can you feel the pains in life?/Wrapped around you like they're chains/Restricting all Your dreams?/Do you wonder if there is a way?/A way to set you free/Set you free?"
'Somewhere in the Sky' follows. It's an optimistic number: "I thank God for our freedom/There's nothing wrong with enjoying things in life/Spread the word that a smile's not beyond us/This is a call to act and seize your day". 'Mistakes' is a ballad that uses strings. It includes these sobering words: "I'm stuck with my affliction/An inner perfect storm/Why didn't someone warn me/To save me from myself?/The pain is self-inflicted/The decisions were my own/Now listen to history".
'Push Me Away' is a rock song that reminds us no man is an island: "Don't try to deceive me by pulling the wool over my eyes/There's nothing wrong with needing help sometimes/What are friendships for?/Now please/Don't push me away/Condemn your pride/Sometimes we all need a hand to get by". The ballad 'Changing World' is up next. I like these lyrics: "I'm embracing all of my fears/I am watching them turn to delight/The very fears which were gripping my mind/Are now the hands shaping and sculpting my dreams".
Things heat up again musically with 'Million Dollar Man', the only track written solely by Kutless. It speaks of the emptiness of materialism: "He's a million dollar man/He's got everything he wanted/But now what he wants is what he had/But he threw it all away/For a life filled with cars and rings/And everything that money can bring". Last up is 'Legacy', penned by Kutless, Aaron Sprinkle, and Ethan Luck. It's a heavy rocker of encouragement: "Nightmares of the past will fade away/The future of your name is what will stay/Never try to blame the past for everything you say/You have the power you need to change your legacy".
HEARTS OF THE INNOCENT is a great Christian rock album. It contains eight fast songs and four ballads. A main theme on the album is that there are many people all around us who are hurting and in various degrees and types of pain. A second theme provides the answer: We can find hope and contentment in a personal relationship with God. He hears and cares for us. We believers should take the time to help those who need it, even in our busy world. I'm rating this album 94% and recommending it to fans of Thousand Foot Krutch and Nickelback. For more info connect with the band at www.kutless.com or on Facebook. Collectors will want to pick up the Deluxe Edition of HEARTS OF THE INNOCENT. It includes four acoustic tracks of songs from the album, as well as seven great music videos of popular songs from the band's career.
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Philip Tyler 'Phil' Keaggy was born on March 23, 1951 in Youngstown, Ohio. According to Wikipedia.org: "He is missing half of the middle finger on his right hand due to a childhood accident at age four involving a water pump". In 1968 he and two others formed the band Glass Harp. In 1970 as a result of injuries from a car crash, his mother died. Phil became a Christian with the help of his sister. His solo Christian debut was 1973's WHAT A DAY. Fast forward to 1995 and he released TRUE BELIEVER (Sparrow). It was produced, arranged, and programmed by Alan Shacklock.
First up is one of three songs penned by Alan Shacklock. The title track, 'The True Believers', is adult contemporary. Phil Madeira plays the Hammond B-3 Organ and tambourine is also used. These lyrics are jubilant: "The true believers stand on every word You say/The true believers made alive in Christ today/This is how we survive and where we mean to stay/The true believers (2X)/So, if you need to call on a friend/He's there for you right until the very end/His love is alive forever and amen". African bells, shaker, and flute sounds are used on 'Wild Heart', an adult contemporary ballad that begins with these optimistic words: "Somewhere in that empty stare, there is a look of love/Behind that suit of angry armor, there is a gentle dove/Between the lies and alibis, there's an honesty that's warm and bold/Under that cold shoulder, there's a heart of gold".
Wade Jaynes plays bass on 'Only You (Can Wash My Sins Away)'. It's a melodic adult contemporary ballad of testimony: "Let the thunder crash and the lightning strike/And the sky cave in today/Only You can wash my sins away/Let the thunder crash and the lightning strike/I'm down on my knees to pray/Only You can wash my sins away". Cheryl Becker contributes vocals to the rock song 'Salvation Army Band'. It also testifies: "Mercy made free to me/Eternal life, a gift that has no end/Receiving, believing in the mercy You extend/Cover me, You cover me/Clothed in Your own righteousness I stand/Your mercy has made me a part of Your salvation army band".
Phil wrote 'Don't Let Go of My Heart' with Jimmie Lee Sloas, Kip Raines, and Montey Powel. It's an easy listening, prayerful song: "Don't let go of my heart/Don't ever leave me here too long in isolation/Don't let go of my heart/I do believe You're here to offer consolation". 'Son of Man' is one of two selections penned solely by Phil. It's an adult pop song that lifts up Christ: "Son of Man and the beggar's friend/You will take me in and heal my bleeding heart/From the start/Even now and to the end/Son of God and the light You are/You have shined upon this dark and weary soul/And I am whole again".
Next up is the Keaggy/Sferra composition 'And On That Day'. Susan Ashton contributes vocals. The song begins by reflecting on Mary: "In a little corner of the world lived a maiden/Pure in heart, good in deed/Full of grace, gentle rose/An angelic salutation, holy word, annunciation/She's to be the chosen mother of Jesus, our Lord". It's wonderfully orchestrated-just lovely! 'Be Thou My Vision' is a well known traditional Irish hymn. Here it's performed with great energy! If finds Phil speaking to God from his heart: "Riches I need not, nor man's empty praise/Thou mine inheritance all of my days/Thou and Thou only though first in my heart/High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art".
'Have Mercy Lord' is a terrific rocker with a happy chorus: "You don't know how good it feels/When my heart breaks down and screams/Have mercy Lord!" (4X). Last up is 'The Survivor', which is about seven and a half minutes long. It's a soft, tender number to start, that commits oneself to God: "But as for me, I trust in Thee/Oh, Lord, my times are in Your hands/You are my God, deliver me/From the solution that they have planned". The latter part of the song amps up and is louder.
Phil Keaggy is a Christian music legend! TRUE BELIEVER spans four genres musically: adult contemporary, adult pop, rock, and easy listening. So, there's a bit of something for everyone! There are mid-tempo, fast, and slow songs. The importance of having a strong faith in God is made clear here. Jesus is presented as Savior. He is gracious, merciful, loving, and the Great Physician. This album will also encourage you to have an optimistic outlook on life and enjoy God's presence in your life. I'm rating TRUE BELIEVER 90%. For more info visit: www.philkeaggy.com. There are four great photos of Phil with a guitar included with this project.
Tuesday, January 08, 2019
The campus worship band Call Box formed in Portland, Oregon circa 1999. They changed their name to Kutless in 2001. The next year they released their first full-length album, which was self-titled. 'Run', from it, was a long running hit for the band. In 2003 they opened for Audio Adrenaline and MercyMe. 2004 saw them release their second record, SEA OF FACES (BEC Recordings). All of the eleven songs were written by Jon Micah Sumrall, Kyle Mitchell, James Mead, Ryan Shrout, and Aaron Sprinkle. Sprinkle also produced the album, with Brandon Ebel serving as executive producer. It reached #97 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Rock Album of the Year'.
Starting things off is 'Not What You See', a hard rocker about humility: "How could I ever think to be more than the one who created me?/I watched Him do all that He said/His words were 'Be a servant to all'.../Only one deserves this exaltation/Only one deserves this elevation/But even He, He laid it down to serve on bended knee". 'All Alone' finds God speaking to His children: "If you would change your perspective/You'd see that it is true/Life is not always what you want/Sometimes it's hard to bear/I'd be with you and help you/In all that you go through/I love you/Let Me change your heart by coming in". 'Better For You' is a rock song offering these words of wisdom: "I know it seems too wrong to be right/This way is so much harder to fight/But in the end I know it is true/This way is better, it's better for you/Choose a little pain and gain a life with joy/Accepting pleasure now will earn a life of pain".
The beautiful adult contemporary title track, a ballad, 'Sea of Faces', follows. It's all about God's love for us: "I am not just a man vastly lost in this world/Lost in a sea of faces/Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine/Because You traded Your life for mine". 'Let You In' is a chug-a-long rock song of one realizing their need for Christ: "This need is real, in my soul I feel/The love You shared/That's why I can't say no again/My thoughts are confused, for my sins You're abused/My heart it screams to open up and let You in". This is a heavier song than most Kutless fans will be used to and features Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter, as well as a rap break by Benjamin.
'Passion' is a slow rock song appropriate for Easter: "Nail-pierced hands, they run with blood/A splitting brow forced by the thorns/His face is writhing with the pain/Yet it's comforting to me". 'Perspectives' is a ballad that will get you thinking: "Why can't you see that freedom/Is sometimes simply another perspective away?/Who could you be if your lens was changed for a moment?/Would you still be the same?"
'Treason' reached #1 on ChristianRock.net! It admits human shortcomings, but points to God's goodness: "With my two lips I will praise Your Name/Then I turn around and only curse and blame/I give in, strength is thin, adding to my shame.../Your blood it covered all my sin/You changed a traitor into kin". The next song, 'All the Words', was used in an episode of the TV show 'Scrubs'. It's a modern worship ballad: "In Your presence I forever choose to live/I will praise You for it's all I have to give.../By Your grace You let me come and talk to You/It's not that I'm worthy/I thank You Jesus for the love that You have shown".
'Troubled Heart' is a rock track of spiritual encouragement: "Amidst the pain, you're not alone/Though you can't see through the haze/His eyes of love are staring down/And He feels your troubled heart". Closing things out is 'It's Like Me', which includes these very relatable words: "Sometimes I still never see/When perfect opportunities come my way/Would my care increase if I truly believed that a life could be saved?"
SEA OF FACES is a really good album of mostly slow rock songs, with three fast ones mixed in, and three adult contemporary selections. Jon Micah Sumrall's vocals are great and if you enjoy the music and vocals of Creed and Jeremy Camp, you'll dig this album! The cross as an expression of God's perfect, redeeming love for us is central here. These songs not only call others to come to Jesus, but implore us to give our lives fully to Him, so He can help us live the life He wants for us. The terrific worship ballad 'All the Words' will be a highlight for some. This Cd comes with one great group photo on the cover, and five clear pictures in the CD booklet (one of each group member at the time). I'm rating SEA OF FACES 96%. For more info visit www.kutless.com.
Sunday, January 06, 2019
Jeremy Thomas Camp was born on January 12, 1978 in Lafayette, Indiana. He married his first wife Melissa in October 2000. Tragically she died of ovarian cancer the next year. Some of the songs on his major label debut, STAY (2002), such as 'I Still Believe' and 'Walk by Faith' were inspired by her. In December 2003, he married his second wife Adrienne Liesching, who fronted the band The Benjamin Gate. In 2004, Jeremy released CARRIED ME: THE WORSHIP PROJECT (BEC Recordings). In the liner notes, he writes: "Ever since I picked up the guitar when I was young, worship music was a big part of what I loved and was involved with. My father being a pastor and worship leader showed me at a young age, the blessing of leading people in worship and I was often given the opportunity to lead as well".
First up is 'Trust in You', an adult contemporary song about having faith: "When I can't see You, I know You're there/When I can't feel You, I will not fear/I will trust in You and I will not be afraid". It includes a nice electric guitar solo. Tim Hughes wrote 'Beautiful One', which includes these great lyrics: "Powerful, so powerful/Your glory fills the skies/Your mighty works displayed for all to see/The beauty of Your majesty/Awakes my heart to sing/How marvelous, how wonderful You are". Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio wrote 'Enough', here presented as a rock ballad. It exalts Christ: "And all of You is more than enough for all of me/For every thirst and every need/You satisfy me with Your love/And all I have in You is more than enough".
Jeremy's wife Adrienne sings beautifully with him on the new to me 'Wonderful Maker'. Here is the chorus: "What a wonderful Maker/What a wonderful Savior/How majestic Your whispers/How humble Your love/With a strength like no other/And the heart of a Father/How majestic Your whispers/What a wonderful God". 'Hear My Voice' is one of four songs here solely penned by Jeremy. It's an adult contemporary ballad that includes these words of testimony: "You are the only One that brings me truth/You are the only One that makes me new/The grace You've given, a gift for all to see/This is why I give You everything, yeah".
'I Wait for the Lord' follows. It's a Christian rock song of spiritual determination: "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits/I wait for the Lord/Cause in His Word I place my trust/Cause in His Word I rest/In His Word I place my trust/For I know I must, wait". There's some terrific electric guitar work! John Mark Comer and Gene Way wrote 'Empty Me'. It's a ballad that begins with these prayerful words: "Holy fire burn away/My desire for anything/That is not of You and is of me/I want more of You/And less of me, yeah".
'I Surrender to You' is a song of spiritual dedication: "All that I am is for You, My Savior/I live by Your Word and surrender to You/Here where I stand in this moment, Father/My spirit has been renewed/I surrender to You". 'Walk By Faith' is a hit song from Jeremy's debut, STAY. It's an inspirational song: "Well, I will walk by faith/Even when I cannot see/Well, because this broken road/Prepares Your will for me".
Next up is 'Revive Me', an easy listening number that cries out to Jesus: "Revive me, according to Your loving kindness/Revive me, that I may seek Your Word/Revive me, according to Your loving kindness/Revive me, oh Lord". David Ruis wrote 'You're Worthy of My Praise'. Jeremy rocks up this classic which dates back to 1991. Here's the second verse: "I will bow down and I'll hail You as King/Cause I will serve You/I'll give You everything/I will lift up my eyes to Your throne/Well, I will trust You/Well, I will trust You alone, yeah".
'Longing Heart' is a ballad that includes these words of wonder: "I don't understand it/How you love the way You do/Even when I've fallen/You always lift me up to You". Last up is the title track, 'Carried Me', penned by Jeremy, Adam Watts, and Andy Dodd. It's on the quiet side, but testifies: "Jesus, You have carried me/It's all been part of your plan/Jesus, You have carried me/It's Your footprints in the sand/Jesus, You have carried me/It was always in Your hands, oh yeah".
CARRIED ME: THE WORSHIP PROJECT contains nine adult contemporary and four rock songs. Eight of the selections are on the slower side of things while five are faster. Jeremy sings of his gratitude to God for His love and the cross. It is evident that Jeremy trusts God and believes He will supply his every need. Seeking after God and submitting to Him are crucial. The album, which runs 50 minutes and 50 seconds, comes with six photos of Camp. I'm rating CARRIED AWAY: THE WORSHIP PROJECT 88% and recommending it to fans of Kutless. For more info visit: www.jeremycamp.com.
Friday, January 04, 2019
Lisa Bevill was born on June 24, 1968 in North Carolina. Her debut album was MY FREEDOM (1992), which was followed by 1994's ALL BECAUSE OF YOU. Next came her third record, LOVE OF HEAVEN (1996, Sparrow). Producers used were Don Koch, David Pack, and Jimmie Lee Sloas. Peter York served as executive producer. In the liner notes Lisa shares: "My Savior: Thank You for the valleys that taught me how to lean. And for breaking my spirit so that I could be filled with Yours. Please remind me that I can fully let go when I turn into a control freak".
First up is the title track, 'Love of Heaven', written by Charlie Black, Cliff Downs, Tabitha Fair, and Lisa Bevill. It's a passionate, prayerful song: "Rain down, sweet love of heaven/And stay with me forever/Rain down, sweet love of heaven/It's hard when tears begin to fall/To think You're not to blame/But now I see You've rescued me/And I know I'll never be the same". Lisa, Robert White Johnson, and Winston Sela wrote 'Turn and Love', which became a #1 Adult Contemporary hit for Lisa. These lyrics are relevant for our divisive times today: "So turn and love/Oh, turn it around, turn the hurt into loving/So turn and love/Love can change the heart, time is right for the healing".
Lisa Bevill, Lisa Cochran, Bonnie Keen, and Angelo and Veronica Petrucci provide backing vocals on 'Happiness'. It's a soulful pop song of gratitude: "You bring me so much happiness/You fill my world with all I'll ever need/When I'm with You/I remember I've been truly blessed/Oh, oh, happiness". 'Safe Inside' is a pretty adult contemporary ballad about life on the road away from family as a performance artist: "When the journey is long and I'm out here alone/There are voices I hear that take me back home/Across the miles they call to me/When I know in my heart I'm where I should be/I can rest in the promises He's given to me/Cause He knows how much I trust Him/And knows my heart like His own/And He knows what it's like to be so far from home".
Lisa Cochran, Michael Mellett, and Chris Rodriguez sing backing vocals on 'Consider His Love', a song of encouragement: "Consider His love and let it fill you up inside/Remember His arms are there to hold you/When you need a place to hide/Through the tears in your eyes/You will see His heart is true/And always there when you consider His love". Mark Douthit plays a nice sax solo. Up next is 'Changed', on which Nicol Smith is a background vocalist. This pop/dance track uses horns and testifies: "And with every new day that dawns/I can feel Your Spirit move in me/With Your love, I can carry on/With Your love Lord/I am finally free, yeah/Changed/There's a change". It's a highlight on this album!
Julie Adams, Greta Garner-Hewitt, and Scott Krippayne wrote 'Tender Reed', a soft ballad addressed to the hurting: "I know that it seems/You're feeling more grief before the last heartache could mend/But one thing is sure/God knows You'll endure/He won't let you break, only bend". 'Shining Through' is an adult pop song that delights in the Lord: "Right before my eyes, I see Your promises come true/It's such a sweet surprise/When Your love comes shining through/Sometimes life gets tough/So I give everything to you/It's then I feel Your touch/And Your love comes shining through".
Don Koch and David Moffitt wrote 'Only A Savior' on which Pat Coil plays piano and Carl Marsh is responsible for Fairlight Strings. This easy listening ballad speaks of God's immense love for us: "When only a Savior could hold my broken heart together/He was reaching far enough to take me in His arms/When only a Savior/Who loved me more than life could ever/Give me hope I never thought I'd find/Everything I needed was everything He gave/Cause only a Savior could save". Last up is 'If We're His', penned by Pete Carlson and Ty Lacy. It makes use of classical guitar and cellos and was a #1 Inspirational Song of the Year on CCM year end charts of 1997 for Lisa. It encourages us to help those who so desperately need it: "Someone needs a friend today/Someone needs an ear to hear their heart.../If we're His, truly His/Then His love will flow right through us/To the heart of every need/If we're His, truly His/We'll give of ourselves unselfishly/If we're His".
LOVE OF HEAVEN runs 43 minutes and 31 seconds. The majority of the songs are adult contemporary, with some of them leaning towards easy listening. However, a couple tracks are pop, and a couple pop/dance. Lisa's lead vocals and the background vocalists are a definite strength on this project. God's unconditional love for us is the main theme presented. We are encouraged to reach out to the lost and the hurting with God's love, mercy, healing, and forgiveness. He transforms lives and gives joy as a gift. The pictures of Lisa included with this CD are beautiful. Fans of Kathy Troccoli, Cheri Keaggy, and Cindy Morgan should add this to their collection. I'm rating LOVE OF HEAVEN 93%. For more info visit www.lisabevill.com or connect with her on Facebook.
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
The CCM band MercyMe was founded in Edmond, Oklahoma. Between 1995 and 2000 they put out six independent albums. Following that, in 2001, they put out their first major label record, ALMOST THERE (IN0). It contained the now famous smash hit 'I Can Only Imagine', which has been turned into a movie. SPOKEN FOR (2002, IN0) was MercyMe's second studio album. Group members were: Bart Millard, Jim Bryson, Robby Shaffer, Mike Scheuchzer, and Nathan Cochran. In one of the photos with the CD, one member is wearing a Petra shirt, which is cool to see! Peter Kipley produced SPOKEN FOR. It was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'.
Starting things off is 'The Change Inside of Me', a great Christian pop song about life transformation: "Pardon me if I've been acting strange/I haven't been myself lately/What you see is a person rearranged/Someone affected me greatly/And I've got so much to say/Ever since Jesus looked my way/Gonna raise my voice like thunder/And leave the world in wonder of the change/The change inside of me". The band co-wrote 'All the Above' with Mark Stuart (Audio Adrenaline) and Peter Kipley. It's a pop song of spiritual encouragement: "Remember the day when God forgot your sin/Remember the way that joy came tumbling in/There will be times when you cannot find a reason to stand and sing/But let this remind you time after time/You're a child of the King". The title track, 'Spoken For', was a #1 adult contemporary hit! It's a ballad of gratitude: "By the power of the cross/You've taken what was lost/And made it fully Yours/And I have been redeemed/By You who spoke to me/Now I am spoken for".
'There's A Reason' is a praise and worship ballad: "All glory to the King of Kings, Lord of Lords/Oh, the value of Your worth/No worldly treasures can afford/And we praise You forevermore". 'Come One, Come All' is a Christian pop song of spiritual invitation: "Come one, come all/To the presence of our God/This is where all hope and peace and joy are found/Come taste and see/We've been summoned by the King/Enter in and place your feet on holy ground".
Bart Millard, Peter Kipley, Robby Hurd, and Chad Sipes wrote 'Crazy', an adult contemporary ballad that is Scripturally based: "I have not been called to the wisdom of this world/But to a God who's calling out to me/And even though the world may think/I'm losing touch with reality/It would be crazy to choose this world/Over eternity". Bart and Peter co-wrote 'Word of God Speak'. It was a #1 hit on multiple charts. It's an inspirational prayer: "Word of God speak/Would You pour down like rain/Washing my eyes to see Your majesty?/To be still and know that You're in this place/Please let me stay and rest/In Your holiness/Word of God speak".
'Your Glory Goes On' is an upbeat song that includes this uncreative chorus: "Your glory goes on and on and on and on/It's never gonna fade away/It keeps going on and on and on and on/Forever will Your glory reign". It is catchy I must confess. A fairly traditional cover of the classic hymn 'The Love of God' follows. It includes these great words: "O love of God, how rich and pure!/How measureless and strong!/It shall forevermore endure/The saints' and angels' song".
'Go' is a pop song about fulfilling the Great Commission: "For a dying world in need/For the hungry and the weak/For the sinner scared to speak/I will go/Go, I will go/To make You known/I will go". Last up is 'All Because of This' which only runs just over a minute and a half. It attempts to explain our faith in God: "How can we sing when there seems no reason to?/How do we smile when there's not much to smile about?.../It's all because of this (2X)/We've tasted love, tasted hope, tasted holiness".
SPOKEN FOR is a real joy to listen to! Bart Millard's lead vocals are easy on the ears. There are almost an equal number of fast paced pop songs and slower adult contemporary songs. This album will always be known for birthing 'Word of God Speak', a prayer to hear clearly from God. Several of the tracks celebrate the fact that we are Father God's children and that He loves us immensely. Some songs speak of how He changes our lives via salvation, mercy, and grace. It is also made clear that we should share God's love with non-believers and invite them to come into relationship with Him. I'm rating SPOKEN FOR 100%. For more info visit: www.mercyme.org or connect with the band on Facebook.