Sunday, March 31, 2019
Steve Green was born on August 1, 1956 in Portland, Oregon. He spent a lot of his early life in Argentina as his parents were Baptist missionaries. He spent two years as part of the group Truth (1976-1978). He and his wife Marijean sang backup for the Bill Gaither Trio. In 1980 he became a member of The New Gaither Vocal Band. He also sang lead on White Heart's debut album in 1982. Steve released his self-titled solo debut in 1984. Fast forward to 1996 and he released his eleventh solo effort, THE LETTER (Sparrow). All of the songs on it were produced by Greg Nelson, except 'Teach Me To Love' which was produced by Brown Bannister.
Jon Mohr and Randall Dennis wrote the album opening 'Love One Another'. This adult contemporary anthem features the Kid Connection Choir. It encourages us to be a caring people: "Love one another, take your brother by the hand/The world will watch in wonder/Love will make them understand/Love one another and your love will change the world/Love is always patient/Love is always kind and always gives itself away". Steve and Matt Huesmann co-wrote 'I Will Call on You', a light adult pop song on which Blair Masters plays the B-3 organ. This chorus points to God alone: "I'll call on You, call when I'm in trouble/I will call whenever I despair/I'll call on You, watching and waiting/You alone will answer every prayer/There is no one else I can turn to/I will call on You".
The Nashville String Machine is used on 'All is Well', a praise and worship number: "Peace is a place, a harbor safe/For riding out the storms/For each there's a grace, a strong embrace/The comfort of the Lord/He's ordained the paths we take/What Father would His child forsake?/Emmanuel, God is with us, all is well". 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 was the inspiration for the title track, 'The Letter'. This easy listening song was penned by Michael Card and Phil Naish. Bobby Taylor plays oboe on it and I really like these lyrics: "Day by day I write across the pages of your life/Some sentences of kindness and some paragraphs of light/May they be words of love and words of hope, not words of dark despair/For on your soul the world will read them there".
'Oh Men of God, Arise!' is an inspiring call to spiritual arms: "Lift up the cup of holiness/Drink long and take your fill/Oh men of God arise to carry out, to carry out God's will/Oh men of God arise/Take up your sword and shield/Your foe has no defense against the power they wield/Christ has gained the victory, the outcome is assured/Satan is defeated by the power of God's Word". Steve wrote ''Til the End of Time', while Chris Eaton sings backing vocals on it. It's a beautiful adult contemporary love song: "I will have you and I will hold you until the end of time/And through the changes, life rearranges/I will have you and I will hold you until the end of time".
Larnelle Harris, Steve, and Phil Naish wrote 'Teach Me To Love', an adult contemporary duet with Larnelle. It longs for unity: "Lord, teach me to love/Show me how to care for others/Cause my soul to burn within/For the fellowship of my brother/Only You can break the chains/That have held me for so long/Lord, You're my hope, my only hope/Teach me to love". Steve Fry wrote 'Oh, I Want to Know You More', which dates back to 1983. David Hamilton plays piano and synthesizer on this adult contemporary ballad. It begins with these words of testimony: "Just the time I feel that I've been caught in the mire of self/Just the time I feel my mind's been bought by worldly wealth/That's when the breeze begins to blow/I know the Spirit's call/And all my worldly wanderings just melt into His love".
Indian flute and dobro are used on 'Delighted' which includes these comforting words: "There in the stars or a smile of a child/We glimpse how His joy fills eternity/This is His pleasure to give us Himself, His glory, His heaven, His peace/And soon all confusion will fade from our sight/With wonder we'll dwell in His kingdom of light". Violin and oboe are used on 'No Surprise' which reminds us the Christian life isn't always going to be easy: "He felt the sting of insults and He bore the weight of sin/He humbly drank the suffering God set before Him/And it should arrive as no surprise that tears are gonna come/If you're called by His Name/You're sure to suffer some".
Phil McHugh and Phil Naish wrote 'I Am in God's Hands', an inspirational ballad on which Dan Huff plays guitar. It's the song of one who is spiritually secure: "Evil makes its plans, but my faith still stands/I am in God's hands/In His hands peace comforts my life/In His hands I see a path I can walk through the passage of time". Steve co-wrote 'All Over the World' with David Hamilton. Horns are used on this Latino inspired pop song that shares good news: "All over the world the gospel grows planted in human hearts/All over the world the Father shows the love that's in His heart/And His voice goes out to every part 'til everyone has heard/And the wind of the Spirit brings new life in Christ/All over the world".
THE LETTER clocks in at 50 minutes and 24 seconds, so it is generous. There are six adult contemporary, five inspirational/easy listening, and one pop song. Most of the songs are slow or mid-tempo. Steve's vocals are a pleasure to listen to. God is depicted as faithful and dependable. He is a refuge who calms and satisfies us, giving us peace and joy. We should desire to know Him and abide in Him. Our lives should point to Christ. Through Him we are spiritual victors over Satan and sin. I particularly like the inclusion of the wedding song ''Til the End of Time'. I'm rating THE LETTER 90% and recommending it to fans of Twila Paris and Wayne Watson. For more info visit www.stevegreenministries.org and/or find him on social media.
Friday, March 29, 2019
Andrae Edward Crouch and his twin sister Sandra were born on July 1, 1942 in San Francisco, California. Andrae Crouch &The Disciples put out their debut album TAKE THE MESSAGE EVERYWHERE in 1968. Their last recording was 1978`s LIVE IN LONDON. In 1973 Andrae released his solo debut, JUST ANDRAE. It was one of over ten solo albums he would release. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 72 after having had a heart attack. What I am reviewing here is TRIBUTE-THE SONGS OF ANDRAE CROUCH (1996, Warner Alliance). Andrae wrote all of the songs alone except for `Jesus is the Answer' which is a co-write with sister Sandra.
CeCe Winans sings 'Take Me Back'. This R&B ballad desires intimacy with Christ: "I feel that I'm so far from you Lord/But still I hear You calling me/Those simple things that I once knew/Their memories keep drawing me.../Renew my faith, restore my joy/And dry my weeping eyes". Michael W. Smith sings 'Jesus is the Answer'. It's a well known soulful ballad that points people directly to Christ: "In case you don't know/I'm here to tell you that the Word of God is true/And everything that He's promised/I tell you He would do it for you/Let me tell you that/Jesus is the answer for the world today/Above Him there's no other/Jesus is the Way". Twila Paris sings 'I Don't Know Why Jesus Loved Me'. It's an adult contemporary ballad of reflection: "Where would I be if Jesus didn't love me?/Where would I be if Jesus didn't care?/Where would I be if He hadn't sacrificed His life?/Oh, but I'm glad, so glad He did".
Next up, Bryan Duncan covers 'It's Gonna Rain'. Horns are used on this jazzy pop song that draws from the Old Testament: "They knocked on my window/And knocked on my door/They cried 'Noah, can you take on some more?'/Noah cried out 'You're full of sin/Well, God's got the key and ya can't get in'/The people cry/'Rain go away!'" Wayne Watson covers 'Through it All' in adult contemporary fashion. It's a great song of faith: "Through it all, through it all/I've learned to trust in Jesus,/I've learned to trust in God/Through it all, through it all/I've learned to depend upon His Word".
The Winans perform 'It Won't Be Long', a gospel ballad that builds in intensity. It anticipates heaven: "Count the years as months/Count the months as weeks/Count the weeks as days/Any day now/We'll be goin'/We'll be goin' home". Clay Crosse performs 'The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power' on which Phil Madeira plays the Hammond B-3. It's a wonderful gospel anthem of testimony: "The blood that Jesus shed for me/Way back on Calvary/Oh, the blood that gives me strength from day to day/It will never lose its power/For it reaches to the highest mountain/And it flows to the lowest valley/Oh the blood that gives me strength from day to day/It will never lose its power".
Take 6 is up next with their acapella spin on 'This is Another Day'. They testify: "This is another day that the Lord has kept me/Ooh, this is another day He's blessed me/He kept me from all evil/With my mind straight on Him". The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir with soloist Calvin Hunt and John Hammond on drums, deliver a splendid version of 'Soon and Very Soon'. It offers great hope: "Soon and very soon/We are going to see the King (3X)/Hallelujah, hallelujah!/We are going to see the King.../No more crying there.../No more dying there".
First Call deliver an adult pop version of 'Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus'. Mark Douthit plays sax on this testimonial: "Can't nobody do me like Jesus/Can't nobody do me like the Lord/Can't nobody do me like Jesus/He's my friend/He healed my body and He told me to run/He's my friend". Last up we have the classic 'My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)' performed by Andrae and an All Star Choir which includes Kim Boyce, Steve Camp, Fairfield Four, Guardian, Vestal Goodman, Dana Key, Larry Norman, Janet Paschal, and Kim Rutherford, among others. It's praise and worship black gospel style: "To God be the glory (3X)/For the things He has done/With His blood He has saved me/With His power He has raised me/To God be the glory for all the things He has done!"
TRIBUTE-THE SONGS OF ANDRAE CROUCH does not disappoint. It is essentially a praise and worship record peppered with black gospel, R&B, and adult pop sounds. Jesus is what fuels these eleven songs. He loves us so much that He died for us on Calvary, shedding His blood, and rising from the dead three days later, paving the way for us to receive everlasting life if we will only admit our sin and believe in Him. Songs on this album, which I'm rating 100%, are timeless, and remind us to stay close to God and trust Him. If you like multi-artist projects like MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST and CITY ON A HILL, consider picking up this compilation album. For more info visit Andrae's musician/band page on Facebook.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Two of my favourite Bride albums are 1992's SNAKES IN THE PLAYGROUND and 1994's SCARECROW MESSIAH. When I found out lead singer Dale Thompson was involved with a new band, I knew I had to review their album. N.O.G. (No Other God) dropped their album TAKE IT BY STORM (Roxx Records) this year, 2019. Thompson is joined by Nenel Lucena (guitars), Alexandre Aposan (drums), and Raphael Dafras (bass). Thompson wrote all the lyrics.
Starting things off is the hard rockin' title track 'Take it by Storm'. It includes these biblical lyrics: "The Stone that the builders rejected is where I will lay my head.../If you have seen Me/You have seen the Father/So let there be light/I must be leaving but I will send another to show you the way". 'Burn All The Way' begins with these words of indictment: "Give me shelter from the storm in the forest of the witch/Voodoo in the air, crying voiced in the air/With your guns and with your drugs/Saying right is wrong and wrong is right/This generation hasn't learned from the past".
'Turn' sizzles musically and features a chorus focused on the end times: "Turn, turn your head to the east/Turn, every eye will see/Turn, turn your head to the east/Turn, every heart will believe, will believe". There's a great electric guitar solo! 'Phobia' has a plodding rock feel to it and warns against disobeying God: "Sins of the flesh is an evil kind of death/It chases you till you are out of breath/The army of pornography, addiction, and apostasy/All of its profanities/Slow killing with fantasies/Sin should be your phobia"(4X).
'Death of the Millions' is sort of an eerie hard rocker warning against false teachers: "You wear deception ignorantly/Forcing a lost man to his knees/When the price has already been paid/By a man that rose from the grave". Those who like 2 Corinthians 5:7 will like the message of the chugging chorus of 'Walk By Faith'. It goes: "Walk by faith, not by sight/Walk by faith, fight with all your might".
'Life is Long' is a kickin' hard rock song of spiritual determination: "The days are getting shorter and I am getting older/I still have fight left in me/Jesus makes me wiser/I pray that I am nicer than I used to be/Life isn't long enough to quench/Thirst for eternity/Death isn't final enough my friend/To stop me from believing". This song has great electric guitar work. 'One More Day' is an emotional Bowie-influenced rock ballad: "I've lost the song in the rhyme/Poem trapped in my mind/Stumbling on the melody/It's the beat I need to find/The notes all sound the same/Movement doesn't change/As I turn the page/Someone takes the stage".
Up next is 'Pay the Price' which begins with these mysterious words: "Into the blackness, into the dark/The forbidden curse, the Judas heart/I lay prostrate upon our grave/Hoping in Jesus' Name you will be saved". 'Matter of Fact' is a headbanger that includes these words of encouragement: "There is nothing impossible/Dreams come true/Pray that the Spirit rises up in you/Devils and demons, they are all the same/They all bow down at Jesus' Name".
'The Great One Falls' runs over six minutes. These lyrics about the end times mince no words: "I smell the foul stench of the devil's remorse/Burning my nostrils and making me hoarse/I taste the bitter gall of unrepentant blood/Stinging my lips and swelling my tongue/Horsemen riding with death in their eyes/I am sure that the wicked are surprised". It's an epic song! Last up is 'Your Time Has Come', which begins with a depressing narrative. This is another epic song, this time running over eight minutes long. It offers these words of comfort: "The Spirit's there to teach us/The Son is there to guide us/The Father's there to love us/Forevermore, forevermore".
Wow! TAKE IT BY STORM is one heck of a wild hard rock and heavy metal ride! Dale's vocals are absolutely terrific and gripping. I also really appreciate the killer electric guitar solos. These songs pound and pulse with life. Lyrically, these tunes encourage us to live godly, righteous lives. We should desire to be 100% dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ even in these dark times in which we live. This album will also really get you thinking about the end times and things to come. This is the best album I've heard in this genre of music since Stryper's GOD DAMN EVIL. I'm rating this N.O.G. record a perfect 100% and recommending it to fans of X-Sinner, Bride, and Guns N' Roses. There are great photos of the four band members in the CD booklet. For more info visit: www.roxxproductions.com and/or connect with the band on social media.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Randy Bruce Traywick, who we know better as Randy Travis, was born on May 4, 1959 in Marshville, North Carolina. He's the second of six kids. He released his major label country debut album STORMS OF LIFE in 1986. Some of his best known hits are 'Diggin' Up Bones', 'Forever and Ever, Amen', and 'Forever Together'. In 2000 he released his first gospel album, INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY. In 2002, he put out his second, RISE AND SHINE (Word/Curb). It was produced by Kyle Lehning and executive produced by Barry Landis. It peaked at #1 on the USA Billboard Top Christian Albums chart.
Dan Dugmore plays steel guitar on the country ballad 'Raise Him Up'. It will make you think: "Y'all may have to look at Joseph a couple of thousand years ago/When he held a newborn baby he named Jesus/He said 'He may not be blood of my blood/Still, I'm gonna raise Him up/I'll provide for Him, walk beside of Him/I am strong enough/I will show Him too what a son can do/With a father's love and he will change the world'". Aubrey Haynie plays fiddle on the title cut 'Rise and Shine'. This upbeat country song shares great news: "It's been two thousand years, but the story's still the same/For those who will believe in Him and call upon His Name/The Son's gonna rise and shine/Heal the sick, raise the dead, the Savior of mankind/The day will soon be dawning/Will be the end of time/King of kings, Lord of lords/The Son's gonna rise and shine". Rory Lee and Paul Overstreet wrote 'When Mama Prayed', a song of precious remembrance: "When mama prayed, good things happen/When mama prayed, lives were changed/Not much more than five foot tall/But mountains big and small crumbled all away when mama prayed".
'I'm Ready' has an old country twang to it and finds John Barlow Jarvis on piano. It anticipates eternal life in heaven: "I'm ready to go that distance and God only knows when that might be/But oh, what joy waits up yonder/Once this old world sets me free". Doug Johnson and Kim Williams wrote the memorable story song 'Three Wooden Crosses', on which Steve Gibson plays electric guitar and mandolin. It tells the tale of a farmer, a teacher, a hooker, and a preacher. All of them but the hooker die in a collision between a midnight bus and an eighteen wheeler. The hooker gets saved and her son becomes a preacher.
'That's Jesus' was penned by Randy, Michael A. Curtis, and Pastor John Hagee. Wes Hightower sings backing vocals on this country ballad that testifies: "I was lost and all alone/My heart in need of help/I found eternal life/And lost my fear of death/Because I know the author of my every breath/Oh, that's Jesus, that's Jesus". 'Pray for the Fish' is a fun toe-tapping country song about the baptism of rebel Eddie Lee Vaughn: "Then the preacher said/'People take a moment or two/There's something we need to do/Pray for the fish/They won't know what's comin'/When the sin starts rolling off the likes of him/Lord, be with 'em, they ain't done nothin'/Please won't You leave them just a little bit of room to swim?/Pray for the fish'".
Next up is 'Jerusalem's Cry' written by Randy, Lance Dary, and Pastor Matthew Hagee. This ballad points to the end times: "Soon we'll see His wrath come down/And the Lord descending from the sky/When you hear the trumpets sound/God has answered Jerusalem's cry (2X)/Soon the dead in Christ will rise and join Him in the sky/Even unbelievers will see/God has answered Jerusalem's cry (2X)". 'Keep Your Lure in the Water' is a folksy tune encouraging us to be witnesses for Christ: "Keep your lure in the water/Don't just sit by the shore/There are souls to be caught everywhere in this old world/Go where hearts are plenty/Don't just drift with the tide/Keep your lure in the water, in the waters of life".
'If You Only Knew' is a Rob Mathes/Phil Naish composition. Strings arranged by Bergen White are used on this inspirational song about a father speaking these comforting words to his daughter while on his deathbed: "Fear not, this is my time/And into His presence I'll fly/If you only knew what lies awaiting/If you could only see what I can see/If you could only hear the music playing/The angels singing sweet victory/Oh, if you only knew, if you only knew/How much He loves you". 'Everywhere We Go' is upbeat country that is a rally cry: "We are soldiers of the cross/We've been found to reach the lost/In city streets, down country roads/We take You with us everyday and everywhere we go".
'The Gift' was penned by Phillip Moore and Ray Scott. It reflects on the incarnation: "They wrapped Him up with gentle hands/God hoped the world would understand/Eternal life we shall receive/And all that He asks in return/Is that we just believe". Last up is 'Valley of Pain' which includes these requests of God: "Bathe me in a river of my tears/Whisper hope and truth and courage in my ears/Remind me when I reach the other side/I'll be thankful for every tear that I've cried".
RISE AND SHINE is a wonderful country gospel album showcasing Randy Travis' great baritone vocals. There are seven fast songs and six slower ones. The birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are central to this album. Christ gives us hope, healing, forgiveness of sins, salvation, and life everlasting. Randy anticipates being in His heavenly home, heaven. He encourages us to be a people of prayer, for it changes lives. He also urges us to reach out to the lost and unsaved. I'm rating this album 100% and recommending it to fans of Alan Jackson and Johnny Cash. For more info visit www.randytravis.com and/or connect with him on social media.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Francesca Battistelli was born on May 18, 1985 in New York City. She released her independent debut album, JUST A BREATH, in 2004. Her major label debut was 2008's MY PAPER HEART. Her 2nd radio single, 'Free to Be Me', was nominated for a Grammy. In 2010 and 2011 she won the Dove Award for 'Female Vocalist of the Year'. Also, in 2011 she won 'Artist of the Year'. In 2016 she won a Grammy for 'Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song' for 'Holy Spirit'. Her latest record is OWN IT (Curb/Word). A variety of producers were used including Ian Eskelin and Tommee Profitt.
Starting things off is the album's lead single, 'The Breakup Song', penned by Francesca, David Garcia, and MercyMe's Bart Millard. It's a groovy adult contemporary, anti-worry ballad: "Oh, fear you don't own me/There ain't no room in this story/And I ain't got time for you/Telling me what I'm not, like you know me/Well, guess what?/I know who I am/I know I'm strong/And I am free/Got my own identity/So fear, you will never be welcome here!" 'The Very Best' is an upbeat pop rally cry: "We are the start of a movement/We do the things worth doing/We know this is our moment/So we own it/We are the next generation/We got the words worth saying/We have the spark to inspire/To start a fire".
'Love Somebody' is a good pop/dance number reminding us of one of our main purposes on earth: "When you love somebody and you give it no conditions/When you really show them Jesus/It can change everything". 'Royalty' is one of two compositions by Francesca, Seth Mosley, and Mia Fieldes. It's a slow pop song claiming our true identity: "No longer orphans, now sons and daughters/Worthy and wanted, we belong/We are, we are, we are, we are/Crowned in dignity/We are, we are, we are, we are/Heirs to majesty/We're made for victory/We're given authority to reign like kings and queens/We're royalty".
'This Could Change Everything' is the album's second single. Francesca, Jason Walker, and Tommee Profitt wrote this pop song of encouragement: "The night is long but the world keeps turning/You gotta know, it's not the end/Every new sunrise is one step closer/It's a sign in the sky that the fight's not over/So face the world/It's now or never/This is the moment/Let it begin". 'You Belong' is an adult contemporary ballad that's a self-esteem booster: "You belong/The whole world is waiting/No one else can sing your song/You belong/The lie that's been chasing you/Love's gonna prove it wrong/Open your eyes/Breathe in the light/You don't have to hide/You belong".
Next up is 'As Good As It Gets', which begins with sentimental remembrances: "Remember the joy that would come without warning/Open your eyes/Woke you up on a Saturday morning/I remember/Running outside to a world with no fear/Wide open spaces and summers that lasted for years/I remember it clear". Francesca co-wrote 'Let the Light In' with Seth Mosley and Ellie Holcomb. This light pop song is personal: "This is a song to remind me/We've all got some broken we're hiding/None of us are ok/We all fall, we all break/This is a song to remind me/To let the light in".
What follows is the over seven minute long 'Defender', featuring Steffany Gretzinger of Bethel Music fame. She co-wrote this, the album's third single, with Rita Springer and John-Paul Gentile. It's a modern worship anthem: "And all I did was praise/All I did was worship/All I did was bow down, oh/All I did was stay still/Hallelujah, You have saved me!/So much better Your way/Hallelujah, great Defender!/So much better Your way". Last up is 'Freedom', an upbeat AC song of celebration: "Here in this moment/The world is wide open/My chains have been broken/And now there's no going back to before/You made me for freedom/Freedom/No more living in the dark".
OWN IT clocks in at 38 minutes and 21 seconds. There are five pop songs, four adult contemporary, and one modern worship. Six of the ten songs are on the slower side of things. Francesca's vocals are terrific here! This album is really about our true identity. We can derive our self-esteem and self-confidence from the fact that we have been adopted by God. We are His sons and daughters and royal heirs. We can conquer fear and worry and rest in God and live in His freedom. As God's kids we have great potential to make a difference in our world. We should be kind to others, love them, and share Jesus with them. This album has a very modern pop vibe to it. Fans of Taylor Swift's last couple of albums should check out OWN IT, which I'm rating 95%. For more info visit www.francescamusic.com and/or connect with Francesca on social media.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Margaret Becker was born on July 17, 1959 in Bay Shore, New York. In 1987 she put out her debut album NEVER FOR NOTHING. In 2002 she won two Dove Awards. One was 'Rock Album of the Year' for SIMPLE HOUSE and the other was for 'Rock Recorded Song of the Year' for 'Simple House'. Fast forward to 2007 and she released AIR (modernm Records). Becker produced eight of the tracks, while Stephen Leiweke produced two of them. Margaret thanks "World Vision-for giving it all meaning" in the liner notes.
Starting off the album is 'Coming Up For Air', one of three co-writes by Margaret Becker and Kelly Minter. It's an upbeat pop song about refreshing oneself: "I'm coming up for air/I'm gonna do a really slow repair/Gonna take some time to taste the tide of what it means to be alive/I'm coming up for air/I'm moving out/I'm driving on 'till I can stare/At a winter sun setting on a beach/And wide open space in front of me". 'All I Need is Love' offers these words of confession: "I must be crazy, a pompous fool/Got nothing good enough for You/No shiny trinkets, no precious jewels/Nothing but the simple truth that/All I need is love, love, love, love/Love is all I really need".
'Fly' is one of six songs Margaret wrote on her own. It speaks of having faith: "It's amazing how much you can do with just a slingshot and a stone/When everything inside you says/It's not what you see, but what you know/And, oh, no wings no right/I shouldn't glide/Oh, but I believe/Therefore (3X)/I fly". 'Just Isaac' is a soft adult contemporary song that draws from the Old Testament: "Complications and Ishmael's/Why couldn't I believe that You'd be faithful?/You'll have Your way, either way/With all my extra's or just plain/Isaac/Nothing more/Just Your promise, not my forced crude hands/Helping out/Adding stuff till it crashes down".
'Surrender' is a pretty ballad about letting go: "Surrender, surrender/Let it all fall where it must and just/Trust, trust/Surrender, be ground, be crumbled/Nothing grows on rock and steel/So let's just yield to surrender". 'Said and Done' is a great song of encouragement: "You gotta stand up/And get yourself a piece of chalk/Go outside and trace the steps that you were meant to walk/By faith and truth/And the good sense God gave to you/Cause Hon/It's not all said and done/Who wrote that anyway?/Come on, get up, and run/You be alive today/It's not all said and done".
Next up is 'Dear John'. This adult pop song reads like an honest diary entry: "Dear John/Thought you would like to know that I'm doing really good/Since you've gone or since I let you go/Things have worked out like they should/The fear of losing you/Was much worse than the coming true/And alone is not so lonely/At least not most the time/And starting over has been kinda fun". Margaret co-wrote 'Beautiful' with David M. Edwards. It talks of God's work in us: "Trying to hold the image of You/Imperfectly perfect/You shine through/Smelling of Eden, heaven's perfume/It's beautiful/Now I am seeing through tinted hues/Your fingerprints leaving traces of You/Unfinished vessel with scars and wounds/And they're beautiful/Well, they're beautiful".
'You're Still God' ultimately places trust in God: "Feet of clay and a heart of glass/So many mysteries I just can't get past, but/You're still God (2X)/So forgive my fumbling, forgive my brain/Forgive all my questions, forgive my pain". Last up is 'To Be An Indian'. It's easy listening and I like these lyrics from the chorus: "Oh, to be an Indian/To hear the things that no one hears/Like healing in the break/Oh, to be someone who can look at the desert/And hear rain".
AIR clocks in at 38 minutes and 43 seconds. Seven of the ten songs are on the slower side of things. Six are adult pop, three adult contemporary, and one is easy listening. This album reminds us that God is working in and through us imperfect vessels. We can trust Him and step out in faith into the world to do His good work. When we fall or fail, we are encouraged to get up and try again. Our God is a God who heals. This album reveals a more mature, content Margaret Becker. The last song 'To Be An Indian' advises us not to rush through life being out of tune with the world we live in. I'm rating AIR a perfect 100%. For more info visit www.margaretbecker.com and/or connect with her on social media.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Sanctus Real formed in Toledo, Ohio in 1996. SAY IT LOUD was their major label debut in 2002. They followed this up with 2004's FIGHT THE TIDE (Sparrow). It was produced by Tedd T. and executive produced by Christopher York. It won a Dove Award for 'Modern Rock Album of the Year'. Group members on the album were: Matt Hammitt, Chris Rohman, Mark Graalman, and Steve Goodrum.
'Everything About You' was the album's lead single and stayed at #1 for six weeks. It's a rock song of praise: "Everything about You/It takes my breath away/Hallelujah/I tried this once without You and it was my great mistake/Hallelujah/Questions fade when You invade/You chase all of my fears away/With Your love in my atmosphere/All confusion disappears". 'The Fight Song' was the second single and also hit #1. This pop/rock song seeks reconciliation: "And hey, now what am I to say?/My foolish words got in the way of us being friends/Wake up, make up, can we get along again?/I don't really want to fight over something that's really nothing/It doesn't matter/I don't really want to scar your heart with words that hurt you/I won't hurt you".
'Alone' is an energetic rocker that's a great love song: "Two hearts entwined/Yes, you are mine/And I'll be your's forever/I've done the math, I'm less than half/We're better off together/And I want you here by my side/As much as you are on my mind/When I'm gone you should know/You are not alone". 'Things Like You' is about a new start: "God, I can't be living life for things I know are wrong/Now I think it's time to write a better chapter in my life/Leaving all those things that keep me wrapped so tight".
'Closer' is pop/rock desiring intimacy with the Father: "Like a bird flying south/I'm seeking You out/And there's no rope that can tie me down/I'm running home/I'm a slave set free/You're all I need". 'Change Me' is an adult contemporary ballad that includes these prayerful words: "Would You change me from who I've been lately?/Cause I know I'm nothing without You".
Next up is 'The Show', a pop song that reflects on Acts 2: "Oh, I'd do anything to feel the wind that day/There in the upper room, all in one place/And I'd give anything to hear the sound of the Spirit coming down/And the praises they sang.../And though I've never seen those holy tongues of fire/I feel You in my heart/You inspire me". 'Message' rocks and speaks of our need for each other: "To everyone who's stood alone for doing right/You are the heroes of these dark and desperate times/We can't go solo if we're gonna win this fight/We're only stronger when we're standing side by side".
'Deeds' offers spiritual wisdom: "If you don't have faith you have nothing at all/If you don't have deeds your faith will fall/They can'at be true without each other/You can't have one without the other". 'You Can't Hide' reminds us God is everywhere: "When you think you've escaped/He's right beside you/When you sleep, when you wake/In the midst of your heartbreaks/He is there and He knows".
What follows is 'Where Will They Go', a pleasant pop song about witnessing: "How many lives could be changed if I'd convey/All of the words that I was scared to say?/Show me the way from here/Love, show me the way/When I'm afraid to say the right thing/I'm a stone, frozen in place/I need Your grace to show me how". 'Say Goodbye' is an emotional pop ballad: "And though you're gone, I remember now/The time we shared/Your words still ring out/You're never too far, you're in my heart". After some five minutes of silence, the record closes with an alternate take of 'Everything About You'. It's lighter than the original and sounds more acoustic.
FIGHT THE TIDE is a terrific Christian pop/rock record with a few adult contemporary songs mixed in. Our need for God is a main theme. He can transform us and help us not to chase after the wrong things in life. Our human need for each other, whether it be in friendships or romantic relationships, is pointed out. Also, we are encouraged to witness for Christ and stand up for what's right. I'm recommending this album to fans of Bleach and latter era Audio Adrenaline. It's getting a 96% from me. For more info visit www.sanctusreal.com and/or connect with them on social media.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Jacquelyn 'Jaci' Davette Velasquez was born on October 15, 1979 in Houston, Texas. After releasing two independent projects, in 1996 she released her major label debut, HEAVENLY PLACE which birthed a handful of #1 hits including 'If This World'. Fast forward to 2000 and after putting out two more albums (one Spanish), she released CRYSTAL CLEAR (Word/Epic). It was produced by Mark Heimermann and Rudy Perez, and executive produced by Judith Volz. In the liner notes Jaci writes: "I have had the craziest year of my life personally, spiritually, and musically. God, through all of this, has shown His faithfulness and I thank Him from the bottom of my heart and soul".
Starting things off is 'Esuchame (Listen to Me)', one of two songs penned by Jaci and Mark Heimermann. Horns are used to good effect. George Cocchini plays guitars on this fun sounding Latin pop song of encouragement: "I've got a secret that'll carry you through/There is a God who loves to look after you/Hey little sister/Don't you worry no more/Just come with me, you see/I've been there before". Matt Stanfield and Tiffany Arbuckle (Plumb) wrote 'Crystal Clear', the title track. Lisa Bevill sings backing vocals on this adult contemporary ballad that's a divine love song: "I'm soft like clay/Your hands they mold me/For You, I would run away/Just to hear You calling out my name/Now it's crystal clear/I'm falling for You". 'Everytime I Fall' is a peppy pop/dance number about God's faithfulness: "Time and time again/When I think I've reached the end/It's Your voice I hear, that draws me near/I don't know what makes You stay/When I act this way/No matter what we've been through/I can turn to You".
'You're Not There' is an adult contemporary ballad with strings arranged by the late Tom Howard and performed by Carl Gorodetsky and The Nashville String Machine. This song reminds us God is not distant: "You're not there, way out there/Wandering in Your great unknown/You are here, ever near/In my heart You've found a home/You are living/You are breathing/I can feel Your presence in me". Chris Eaton and Brent Bourgeois wrote 'Adore', a modern worship ballad: "Adore (3X)/Jesus, I adore You/Yes I adore, adore, adore, adore/Jesus, I adore You/And I lay my life before You/Oh, Lord". It's one of Jaci's signature songs and is beautiful.
Next up is 'He's My Savior', which begins with these words of testimony: "He's the sunlight in my sky/He is the moon that shines at night/He's the rainbow over me, the river running to the sea/The music and the poetry, the beauty that my eyes can see/Still His love means so much more to me/He's my Savior and everything within me/Wants to tell the world it's true". Mark Heimermann, Nick Gonzales, Javier Solis, Brad Ford, and Shana Ford wrote 'You Don't Miss A Thing'. Horns are used on this upbeat pop song that reminds us we can't hide anything from God: "You know my motives/You know my heart/No matter what I'm doin'/You see my secrets/Right through the dark/Who do I think I'm foolin'?"
Strings are conducted by Randall Thornton and provided by The Utah Symphony on 'Imagine Me Without You', a tender ballad of testimony: "In my life You're all that matters/In my eyes the only truth I see/When my hopes and dreams have shattered/You're the One that's there for me". Rudy Perez, Judith Volz, and Loren Balman wrote 'Come As You Are'. Chris Rodriguez plays guitars on this adult pop ballad of spiritual invitation: "Come as you are/Don't change a thing/Open your heart/He'll walk right in/Come as you are/No alibis/His love for you will never die". It's a duet with Luis Fonsi.
'Center of Your Love' finds Jackie Street on bass and Michael Tait on backing vocals. On it, Jaci testifies: "There is nothing I can see that the world can offer me/What could possibly compare/To Your tender, loving care?" Seven backing vocalists including Lisa Cochran and Chris Harris are used on the closing track, 'Just A Prayer Away'. This ballad speaks of intimacy with Christ: "When I close my eyes/Lord, I call Your Name/And the dark subsides/Nothing can take the place/Of the peace I find/You came to save me/To show me that You're just a prayer away".
CRYSTAL CLEAR contains six adult contemporary and five pop songs, with almost an equal number of slow and fast songs. Jaci's vocals are strong and well suited to this material. A main theme is God's personal and loving care for each of us on this planet. Falling in love with and being in love with God are also prevalent topics. In His healing love we are truly free. Our response should be to praise God, live for Him, and to reach out to others with the hope, and salvation, and love that He offers. The pics of Jaci with this CD are beautiful! I'm rating CRYSTAL CLEAR 95%. For more info visit www.jacivelasquez.com and/or connect with her on social media. Fans of Gloria Estefan, Rachael Lampa, and Tammy Trent, should acquire this album.
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Margaret Becker was born on July 17, 1959 in Bay Shore, New York. She has a degree in communication from James Madison University. Her debut album was 1987's NEVER FOR NOTHING. Fast forward to 1999 and she released her ninth record, WHAT KIND OF LOVE (Sparrow). It was produced by Tedd Tjornhom and executive produced by Lynn Nichols. Margaret thanks "World Vision for allowing me the opportunity to work with them and visibly see lives changed".
Starting things off is 'Friend For Life', one of two co-writes with Chris Eaton. It's an adult pop song about sharing one's faith: "I want to be the one to tell you, to tell it like it is/To let you know the God of love will never leave your side/I want to be the one to lead you with everything I am/And see the day when you let Him in and make a Friend for life". 'Worlds Apart' is one of four co-writes with Robbie Nevill. This adult contemporary ballad anticipates a reunion with Father God: "When that day comes and You're standing inches away/I'll reach out my arms and fall into love's embrace/And when You call my name/I know my true life is gonna start/When we will finally be/No longer, no longer worlds apart".
'What Kind of Love' is the adult pop title track. It contains this chorus of wonder: "What kind of love is this?/That You would lay down Your life for someone such as me/I'll spend my lifetime wondering why/The beauty of heaven chose here in my heart/To pour out His perfect gift/What kind of love is this?" 'I Won't Be Persuaded' begins with these very relatable words: "Sometimes it hurts to be so close to the pain/When I know the One who loves me most/Could make it all change/Sometimes I'm lost in the land of questioning/And I rub together timeless truths/Like flint and stone in the rain/And I don't understand where You are in all this/Still I wait and hope and pray and wish".
Next up is 'Love By Your Side', an adult pop ballad of devotion: "If you wanna feel love by your side/If you're looking for someone that you never seem to find/Turn around and look into my eyes/Cause I've always been right here by your side". It would fit nicely on mainstream radio. 'Feel It All' asks a couple of great questions: "Oh, and what is life/If not to see Your Spirit passing by?/Oh, and what is love/If not to leave the imprint of Your touch?"
Phil Roy and Bob Thiele, Jr wrote 'Hope in a Hopeless World'. It's a great R&B song addressing society's ills: "On a corner stands a young girl/The home she left was from the better part of town/Her daddy did things she just can't talk about/Is there hope in a hopeless world?/You got a quarter for the homeless man/Can you spare more change for the soldiers who fought the war?/Put some money in those hats and those tins/Give them hope in a hopeless world". 'One More Reason' is a song of praise: "Just when I think You've given me all I need/You turn around and You come to me/With one more reason to be lost in Your love/One more reason to be the One that I want/You're more than I needed/More than enough/You keep giving me one more reason".
'All That's Left' includes these prayerful words: "With Your grace/Make me less/Fill me with Your brokenness/Till I raise these hands/To Your lovely face". Last up is 'Poor in Paradise'. Margaret co-wrote this one with Lowell Alexander. It's a beautiful inspirational number of gratitude: "And my eyes are filled to overflowing/As I'm watching all Your love unfold/Cause I can't contain the precious bounty/You've poured out on this tattered soul".
Margaret Becker's seasoned vocals are superb on WHAT KIND OF LOVE. There are five adult pop songs, two each of adult contemporary and R&B, and one inspirational song on this project which has about an equal number of fast and slow songs. God's love and the hope He offers us seem to be the main topics Margaret is concerned with here. She expresses her wish to trust God completely and be devoted to Him. There's also a good song about human companionship ('Love By Your Side'). I'm rating this album 93% and recommending it to fans of Jann Arden and Amanda Marshall. For more info visit www.margaretbecker.com and/or connect with her on Facebook.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Sanctus Real formed in 1996 in Toledo, Ohio. Between 1998 and 2001 they put out three independent albums. In December 2002 they released their major label debut, SAY IT LOUD (Sparrow). Group members were: Steve Goodrum (bass), Matt Hammitt (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Chris Rohman (lead guitar), and Mark Graalman (drums). The album was produced by Pete Stewart of Grammatrain fame, and executive produced by Christopher York. All of the songs but one were written by Hammitt and Rohman.
First up is the rock song 'Sink or Swim'. It speaks of someone with bad motives: "There is no place for you in what I am called to do.../You curse, you bend my words/You just praise Jesus to be heard/When will we ever learn?" 'Captain's Chair' rocks and is about enduring friendship: "We've seen best of times/And we've heard worst of lies/But here we stand, still we stand".
The title cut, 'Say it Loud', follows. It's a peppy pop/rock song that anticipates the future: "Say it loud, say it loud and clear/Forget about, forget about last year". 'Hey Wait' is a nice adult contemporary ballad about friendship: "I'll pick you up when there's no one around/I'll hold you up when your heart hits the ground". String samples are used to good effect here.
'Inspiration' reminds us to fulfill the Great Commission: "Inspiration is you and I/Changing nations, changing lives.../Seems we'll never do enough to tell the world about God's love/But every soul is worth the fight/Cause we can change the world by changing just one life". 'Audience of One' rocks and is addressed to Christ: "There's something new inside of me/I'm overwhelmed by what I found/Time to take this inside.../You and I will be alright/If there's nothing more to come/Cause Lord I know I sing tonight for an audience of One".
'The Way I Feel' offers hope to the struggling: "Take a look at yourself/Are you wondering how it's gonna work out?/And there's a way to escape what you think is your fate/But you say it's too late.../It's never too late". 'I Love You' is the only song penned solely by lead singer Matt Hammitt. It's an acoustic based ballad of reflection: "Can I look past the cliche in every moment?/Can I learn to be amazed by You?/Can I find a simple way to praise You/Even if it's already used?.../I love You, I love You/I love You/Nothin' new".
Next up is 'All I Want', a rock song expressing desire: "All I want is to bring it back to love/I've got, you've got/We've got to give it to the One who made me.../All You have is all I need/All You have has set, has set me free". 'Nothing to Lose' is a great pop/rock number that opens with these words: "Give love one to another/And give love one to each other/And we'll be fine/We'll be fine".
'Won't Walk Away' is a song of spiritual dedication: "I will follow You wherever You lead/I won't walk away/You always lead me on to where You know I need to be/Forever I will trust in where Your winds will carry me". It's a strong rock track. 'After Today' is a ballad of confession: "I've got a funny feeling that I'm gonna go away/I'm gonna face my future, gonna try to make the grade/I've got a ways to go from here and vision doesn't seem so clear/But praise God, He's got a plan!/Understanding isn't my place". It runs over six minutes long. After a few minutes of silence, there'a short, quirky tune called 'Jesus Metal (Slam the Devil)'.
SAY IT LOUD has aged well over the years. Nine of the songs are modern pop/rock, while three are adult contemporary. Nine are fast, while three are slow. This album encourages us to stay focused on God and to praise Him. Strong emphasis is also put on being a good friend to our fellow humans. We should love and help others. We are not to abandon them during hard times. We are also to look ahead to the future with hope that comes from God. I'm rating this project 85% and recommending it to fans of Audio Adrenaline and Hawk Nelson. For more info visit www.sanctusreal.com and/or connect with the band on Facebook.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Margaret Becker was born on July 17, 1959 in Bay Shore, New York. In 1985 she moved to Nashville. She toured with Rick Cua singing backup. She also appeared on Steve Camp`s 1986 record ONE ON ONE. Her debut album was 1987`s NEVER FOR NOTHING. Fast forward to 1998 and she released her eighth studio album, FALLING FORWARD (Sparrow). Producers used on it were Tedd T., Monroe Jones, and Robbie Nevil. Lynn A. Nichols served as executive producer.
Starting things off is 'I Don't Know How'. It is one of four songs penned by Margaret and Robbie Nevill. This adult contemporary ballad features string arrangement by Carl Marsh and cello by John Catchings. It speaks of the importance of faith: "And I don't know how/Anybody goes without something to believe in/I don't know why we do/And I don't know how/Anybody finds their way without something to believe in/I just know I need You". 'Cave It In' is a rock song on which Margaret expresses her desire to be faithful to her Lord: "The wall between us is so thin/Just a cry would break it in/And I, I think I heard You/Wish for a friend who is not sleeping/Somebody who would wait in the garden/Somebody, how I wish it could be me". Margaret and Tonya Leah wrote 'Clay and Water'. George Cocchini and Gary Burnette play electric guitar on this adult contemporary ballad about metamorphosis: "I am clay and I am water/Falling forward in this order/While the world spins 'round so fast/Slowly I'm becoming who I am".
Dave Lichens, formerly of Petra, is one of the co-writers on 'Horses', a pop song on which Margaret reflects on her own mortality: "I need to remember/The horses will come/I need to remember/How quickly they run/I want no regrets/When the horses come for me/I cannot forget/That the horses come for me". 'Deliver Me' is an adult contemporary song that includes this prayerful chorus: "Deliver me from me/And deliver me to You/Come and set me free/Come and find me tried and true/Come on now/Deliver me from me".
Lynn Nichols plays classical guitar on 'Any Kind of Light'. It speaks of God's majesty: "I held You up/My hope against the night/Closed my eyes/I was afraid to see the sight/Took a look/Fell down blind/What did I see? (2X)/Always stunning, always true/Even the stars bow to You". 'Irish Sea' is one of two songs written by Margaret and Tedd T. Margaret and Quinlan sing backing vocals on this adult pop song. It includes these joyful words: "Sweet revelation/Well, I drink it in/It heals my heart like medicine/So, I take this life and I shake it from this sleep/Cause I'm fire/With the heat/Of the newly freed".
Next up is 'Coins and Promises'. It talks of spiritual struggle: "I should know better/I should believe You/But leaves are falling and I am crumbling in brittle pieces/I should remember/How well You warmed me/But I'm standing in the browns and grays of a season's ending". 'Crawl' is an adult contemporary song of spiritual determination: "I'm alright/I know I'm not alone/If I can't walk to You/You know, I'll crawl.../I set my face like a flint to the north/I watch these storms gather and sort/And I sing/I still sing".
'Take Me In' is the only song Margaret wrote alone on this project. Dan Needham plays the djembe (drum) on this quiet ballad. These words are ones of prayer: "Take me by reason/Take me by surprise/Take me by my heart/Or take me by my eyes/Take me, take me, take me/To Your water's rim/Lift me up and take me in". Margaret and Chris Rodriguez sing backing vocals on the closing number, 'I Testify'. It's a rock song of gratitude: "Your blood like gold on the ground/A red river of pain/You took it without a sound/I know You took it in my name/I testify Your love is true/This I know cause I've been moved/I testify/Your love is real/This I know cause I've been healed".
FALLING FORWARD clocks in at 48 minutes and 36 seconds. The main theme is a desire to have an intimate, personal relationship with God. He is faithful to us, has our best interests at heart, and can be trusted. We should desire to have our lives molded by Him. He is majestic, glorious, and loving. The two main musical genres here are adult pop and adult contemporary, with a couple of rock songs thrown in the mix. There are seven slow songs and four fast ones. I'm rating this album 84%. For more info visit www.margaretbecker.com or connect with her on Facebook.