Thursday, March 22, 2018


Julie Marie Elias was born on January 3, 1985 in Santa Clara County, California.  She attended college in Colorado where she majored in history and musical theater. She has appeared on 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'CSI: NY' and in the films 'Due Date' and 'Larry Crowne'. She's released five studio albums, with her debut being A WILD ROSE (2012).  Julie's latest album is A GIRL LIKE ME (2017).  She cites 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 as theme verses for the album. They read as follows: "But He said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness`.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ`s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong".

1. Starting things off is 'Unchained'. It is one of eight songs solely penned by Julie on this project.  This one's a dandy, lengthy power pop song of testimony: "Not afraid and never alone/Unashamed to cling to Your hope/I know You hold me in Your hands/When I'm lost You call me by name/And when I fall You love me the same/In You there's freedom from my pain.../You are great in power, great in mercy, great in majesty!/You are holy, You are worthy/I will sing to You!"

2. 'Only for Awhile' is a bubblegum pop song of positivity: "Did you know that the girl is me and today I'm worry free?/It may not last but change is what I need/But I'm grateful, thankful I can handle it/I'm happy to admit I'm not alone through the unknown/Cause life will always change/We need to see sunshine in the rain/Whether upside down or inside out/I've got something to sing about for awhile/Only for awhile (3X)".

3. 'Awaken' is the album's first single and was inspired by Romans 13:12.  Julie's bio says the song is "about closing the chapter of darkness in your life and stepping out into the light, committing to God that you're ready to obey Him and do His work".  This song is a beautiful, sweeping, piano-based ballad and begins with these prayerful words: "Awaken my soul/Reveal in me Your holy fire/And bring me to life/A vibrant joy I can't contain/You build power from my weakness/Give me life with Your great love/Awaken my soul/Consume all my life/Salvation is now/Awaken my soul".

4. Next up, is the title track, 'A Girl Like Me', a tender ballad that is piano and string based.  It reminds us that it is God our Father who gives us our true worth: "I make the same mistakes/No matter what I say/Embarrassed by humanity/So afraid, afraid to let You see/But You still hold me/When I fall apart You see my heart/Every weakness and shame/Yet You still love me/You still believe a girl like me could be worthy of a King/A girl like me".

5. A cover of Kim Walker-Smith's 'Alive' follows. It runs over six minutes and is an energetic modern worship number with pretty generic lyrics: "We will make Him known/Jesus is alive, He's alive!/We will shout it out/Jesus is alive, He's alive!/To all the dry and weary souls/Take joy, take heart/Be filled with hope/I know that He's alive".

6. 'Forgive Me' is a mediocre pop tune about friendship: "You've seen me raw/Broken and scarred/We've been through it all/And we're both so tired/But can we put it aside?/I need you by my side/Let me be the first to say 'Forgive me'".

7. 'Lost' is a memorable rock number with a great electric guitar solo and lyrics that could come from one's diary: "I know You gave everything to me/And my selfishness/I don't put You first, it makes it worse/Each time I fall You still raise me up/And now I see nothing's happened since a game of chance/I keep You close/And You draw me near/Throughout every trial and every tear/And I know You won't ever let me go/And I surrender/I surrender".

8. 'Run Away' also has good rock sensibilities and down to earth lyrics: "If I fall down in the midst of war/You will fight for me, My warrior/You will rescue me/You will hold me near/I won't run away anymore/Today, evermore/I won't run away anymore/No, I won't be discouraged/Today, evermore/Be my strength, be my courage".

9. Joy Williams, Jason Ingram, and Benjamin Glover wrote 'Here With Us', a pretty, modern worship ballad about the Incarnation: "It's still a mystery to me/How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time/How His ears have heard an angel's symphony/But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep/'Hallelujah, hallelujah/Heaven's love reaching down to save the world/Hallelujah, hallelujah, Son of God, Servant King/Here with us, You're here with us'".

10. 'Wherever You Roam' is a ballad of encouragement: "Tomorrow is here/A new sun is rising/ Unknown and exciting/And you're ready to shine/Don't get caught up in the past or spend your life crying/And simply denying the joy that lies ahead/Beyond every dark abyss a Voice/A shout of faithful promise/And outstretching arms to carry you on/There's hope on the way/There's love on your side/There's strength for today/If you go astray/You're never alone".

11.The album ends with two bonus tracks. First up is a 2017 re-do of 'A Wild Rose', the title track from Elias' debut album.  I quite like this version here which is rockier and speaks of personal growth: "While you lie sleeping alone in the night/Beneath the wind driven snow/Hope springs eternal, the birth of new life/The bloom, a wild rose/Seasons bring changes, the day loses light/And darkness it comes and goes/Splendid and perfect, eternally bright/God planted each wild rose".

12. Last up is a swell cover of one of Julie's fave songs from her youth group days, 'In the Light'. It was originally written and recorded by Charlie Peacock and made famous by dc talk in the mid-90's.  I particularly like these lyrics: "The disease of self runs through my blood like a cancer fatal to my soul/Every attempt on my behalf has failed to bring this sickness under control/Tell me, what's going on inside of me?/I despise my own behavior/This only serves to confirm my suspicions that I'm still a girl in need of a Savior".

Julie produced A GIRL LIKE ME herself, so kudos to her for that!  This album contains songs about God's love and His redemptive, transforming power, and His faithfulness.  It is made clear that He brings freedom from our past and gives us strength and hope.  A desire to rely on God and for revival are evident.  There is also a great Christmas themed track.  Julie's vocals are solid and put me in mind of Twila Paris and Sandi Patty.  Musically, the genres presented are: modern worship, rock, pop, and inspirational.  While Julie does all of them well, it sort of leaves me wondering, to borrow a phrase from 'American Idol' judges, who she is as an artist.  What I would like to see on her next album is a full out Christian rock record complete with a photo of her in a leather jacket on the front cover. Why do I say this? The CCM market is already crowded with modern worship and pop artists. There is a strong need for more female rock artists in the industry. Julie is at her best on A GIRL LIKE ME when she is backed by strong electric guitar parts provided by Dave Cleveland.  I truly think Julie has the ability to add a bit of grit to her voice at times and produce a solid rock effort through and through. It would be beneficial to co-write a track or two with an already established rock musician. That being said, I am rating A GIRL LIKE ME 85%. If you are just looking to download a few tracks, I suggest 'Unchained', 'Lost', 'Here With Us', and 'A Wild Rose (2017 Version)'.  For more info visit: and

Friday, March 16, 2018


Glen Travis Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, Arkansas.  He was a member of The Wrecking Crew who in the 60's and 70's played on thousands of studio recordings, many of which were Top 40 hits.  He was also, of course, a country music superstar.  In 2004 he put out the two disc collection LOVE IS THE ANSWER: 24 SONGS OF FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE.  It is currently out of print.  Fast forward to 2018 and Gaither Music Group has released AMAZING GRACE: 14 HYMNS AND GOSPEL FAVORITES which takes 14 of the songs from the 2004 release and puts them onto one cd.

1. First up is an upbeat country version of 'Love Lifted Me', a song of testimony: "I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore/Very deeply stained within/Sinking to rise no more/But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry/From the waters lifted me/Now safe am I/Love lifted me! (2X)/When nothing else could help/Love lifted me".

2. 'O, How I Love Jesus' is an old Sunday School favorite of mine.  The version here is pleasant and makes good use of organ and again testifies: "O, how I love Jesus (3X)/Because He first loved me/There is a Name I love to hear/I love to sing its worth/O, it sounds like music in my ear/O, the sweetest Name on earth".

3. 'Rock of Ages' is a beloved, slow hymn that begins with these words of prayer: "Rock of Ages, cleft for me/Let me hide myself in Thee/Let the water and the blood/From Thy wounded side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Saved from wrath and make me pure".

4. 'What A Friend We Have in Jesus' is a ballad of spiritual comfort: "Can we find a friend so faithful/Who will all our sorrow share?/Jesus knows our every weakness/So take it to the Lord in prayer".

5. Next up is the title track, 'Amazing Grace'.  It makes great use of bagpipes and is a strong testimonial: "Amazing grace, Lord how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I once was lost, but now am found/Was blind but now I see/'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear/And grace my fears relieved/How precious did that grace appear/O, the hour I first believed".

6. Here, 'The Old Rugged Cross' is an old country ballad that reflects on both Calvary and heaven: "To the old rugged cross I will ever be true/Its shame and reproach gladly bear/Then He'll call me some day to my home far away/Where His glory forever I'll share".

7. 'Just A Closer Walk with Thee' has a cool, bouncy beat to it and nice backing vocals.  It includes these prayerful words: "Just a closer walk with Thee/O grant it, Jesus, is my plea/Daily walking close to Thee/O, let it be, dear Lord, let it be".

8. 'Mary, Did You Know?' is now an inspirational Christmas classic.  It includes these wonderful words: "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?/Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?/Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?/And this child that you'll deliver will soon deliver you?.../The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again/The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb".

9. ''Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus' is a pretty ballad that speaks of intimacy with Christ: "I'm so glad I learned to trust Him/Precious Jesus, Savior, and Friend/And I know that He is with me/Will be with me to the end".

10. An upbeat country version of 'He Leadeth Me' follows.  The last verse looks forward with hope, to death: "And when my task on earth is done/When by Thy grace the victory's won/Even death's cold wave I will not flee/Since God through Jordan leadeth me".

11. A cheerful country version of 'I Love to Tell the Story' is up next.  It speaks of witnessing: "I love to tell the story/'Tis pleasant to repeat/What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet/I love to tell the story/For some have never heard/The message of salvation from God's own holy Word".

12. 'Blessed Assurance' begins with these oh so familiar words: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine/O what a foretaste of glory divine/Heir of salvation, purchase of God/Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood".

13. 'I Need Thee Every Hour' speaks of total dependence on God: "I need Thee, oh I need Thee/Every hour I need Thee/Oh, bless me now my Savior/I come to Thee".

14. Last up is 'Lean on Me' penned by Bill Withers and released by him on April 21, 1972.  Glen's R&B version here is actually pretty good and has a good message: "Lean on me/When you're not strong/And I'll be your friend/I'll help you carry on/O, for, for it won't be long/'Til I'm gonna need/Somebody to lean on".

For those of us who grew up in the evangelical church these songs will no doubt bring back fond memories of our early church homes and experiences.  There are nine slower paced songs and five faster paced songs here, with the majority being performed old country gospel style.  Several songs declare our love for God and our trust in Him, while many others speak of God's love and care for us. The main way He demonstrated those attributes for us was at Calvary on the cross, sealing our redemption and salvation. Heaven is another common theme.  Also included are a modern Christmas classic about Jesus, and a pop hit about true friendship and brotherhood.  I'm rating AMAZING GRACE-14 HYMNS AND GOSPEL FAVORITES, which runs 48 minutes and 9 seconds, a 97%.  For more info visit: and

Thursday, March 08, 2018


The four guys in 4HIM (Marty Magehee, Andy Chrisman, Kirk Sullivan, and Mark Harris, met when they sang as part of the mixed CCM vocal group Truth.  Benson Records approached the 4 guys to form a new group and in 1990 4HIM released their self-titled debut.  In the group's first few years they became known for numerous hits including: 'Where there is Faith', 'A Man You Would Write About', 'The Basics of Life', 'A Strange Way to Save the World', and 'For Future Generations'.  Fast forward to 2003 and they released INVISIBLE (Word/Curb/Warner Bros).  It would be their last album of all original material.

1. First up is 'Fill the Earth'.  It is one of four songs on this project written by the duo of Mark Harris and Tony Wood.  Dan Needham plays drums on this upbeat adult contemporary song of praise: "All that I see before me/Screams out Your glory/You fill the earth with beauty /And leave us so amazed/
You fill the earth with power/That takes our breath away/Lord we are Your people/And for all our days/We long to fill the earth/Fill the earth with Your praise".

2. 'You Reign' finds Tim Akers playing the piano and uses the Nashville String Machine.  It is an adult contemporary ballad of worship: "You are ruler above all the nations/Sovereign through all generations/Lord You reign/One day/All kings will tremble before You/I will bow down to adore You/
Lord You reign"

3.Henry Seeley wrote 'It's All About Jesus'.  It really brings things into focus for us: "It’s all about Jesus/It’s all about the way He set us free/It’s all about Jesus/Wearing every sin at Calvary/It’s all about Jesus/It’s all about the gift of love He gave/It’s all about Jesus/Precious Lamb of God for us was slain".

4.Chris Omartian plays drums on 'The Final Word', while Mark Harris, Dave Clark, and Don Koch wrote it. It's a positive pop song: "Love knows my name, sees my need/Gives me hope, covers me/Even through the middle of the storm/Love has no fear, finds no blame/The truth will never change/After every voice is heard/Love has the final word".

5.'Candle in the Rain' is an inspirational song that speaks of faith: "I will trust that life is more/Than just what I see before me/And a bright new day is up ahead/Another chapter in the story".

6. 'Bigger than Life' makes use of saxophone, trumpet, and trombone, but includes these not so creative lyrics: "Our God is bigger than life/Bigger than anything that comes our way/Bigger than life/
Bigger than any problems we might face/Our God is so amazing beyond all we can see/So hearts of faith take courage come what may/He’s bigger than life". 

7. Next up is the title track 'Visible' on which Chris Rodriguez, Peter Kipley, and Jerry McPherson play guitars. Mark Harris wrote this inspirational ballad that clearly states a desire to share one's Christian faith with others: "Oh Lord let Your Spirit rise within me/Until the world cannot deny that You exist/This is my only passion, the very reason why I live/To make You known and to make You seen/To be Your hands and to be Your feet/Oh I want to be a revelation of love/Oh I, I want to make the invisible God – visible".

8. Mark Harris and Joel Lindsey wrote 'Let Your Kingdom Come'.  It's a sizzling country/pop number which finds Tim Akers playing the B3, and uses The Roy G. BIV String Vibe.  It includes these simple, but great lyrics: "Let it rain/Let it fall/Let Your kingdom come/Let it rain/Let it fall/Let Your kingdom come/Let Your kingdom come/I still believe You are the hope in a hopeless world/I still believe You are the light we’re looking for/I still believe in You".

9. Scott Faircloth wrote 'No Other Reason'.  It begins with these very relatable words: "Here in this heart, it's so hard to believe/You're still the One pursuing me/I feel I don't deserve/All that You've given me/Lord I am amazed/Tell me how can it be that after all this time You'd still love me?/So let me say to You/Thanks for the love You bring".

10. Last up, is 'The Promise' penned by Mark Harris and Dave Clark.  Michael Omartian plays piano and Eric Darken plays percussion on this inspirational ballad of comfort: "You may be waiting for the fire/When I’m calling through the rain/You may be listening for the thunder/While I’m whispering your name/You may be searching for a sign/To let you know that it’s okay/Hold on/Cause I’m on My way".

VISIBLE was produced by Peter Kipley, Michael Omartian, and Marty Magehee and executive produced by Michael Omartian.  It is mainly an inspirational music album with touches of adult contemporary and pop thrown into the mix.  There are four upbeat songs and six slower ones.  4HIM praises God for His power, His creation, and His sovereignty.  They celebrate God's love for us as well as the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The group sees hope for the future and desires to share Christ with the world.  Though not as strong as some of their earlier albums I'm still rating VISIBLE 84% and recommending it to fans of Selah, Avalon, and old-school Point of Grace. For more info connect with the four guys on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


Four For Harmony originally formed as an a cappella group.  They later changed their name to Far From Home, and then FFH.  In 1998 they put out their major label debut I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU.  It included the hit song 'One of These Days'.  In 2000 they released FOUND A PLACE.  It included the successful 'When I Praise'.  2001 saw the release of HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU (Essential).  It peaked at #119 on the Billboard 200.  The group was comprised of Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler, Brian Smith, and Michael Boggs.  In the liner notes you will find the following: "Ă€side from seeing people come to know Jesus, there is nothing more fulfilling than to have folks know and appreciate your music.  We thank the Lord every day that this is our `real job', and are constantly amazed at how faithful He has been".

1. Starting things off is the bouncy, energetic pop tune 'Watching Over Me'.  It's one of seven songs penned solely by Jeromy Deibler.  This one is about God's faithfulness: "How could I stray too far away/Where You won't leave the ninety-nine/To come and bring me back/And put me on Your shoulders and carry me around Your neck/Until it's safe to walk?/And I'll be alright/Safe inside/Stayin' alive/As long as You are watching over me".

2. Jerry McPherson plays electric guitar and dobro on 'Fly Away', a cheerful pop/rock song that anticipates Christ's return: "Curiosity has got a hold of me/Tell me how it's gonna be when/One day I'll see You coming back for me/And all together we'll fly away/One day I'll hear that trumpet loud and clear/And all together we'll fly away/O how I long for the day/When we fly away".

3. Jeromy Deibler, Todd Young, and Scott Williamson wrote the great praise and worship anthem 'We Sing Alleluia'. Here are some of the words to this song that makes good use of a choir: "Men have praised You through the ages/Followers who have gone before us/So we stand before You/And we lift our voices/All together we join the chorus/We sing alleluia/Praise Your Name and glorify/We sing alleluia/Lift our voices to the sky".

4. 'Jesus Speak to Me' is an adult contemporary prayer: "I've been walkin' in the desert/I need to hear from You/I need Your touch, I need Your love/O Jesus speak to me, yeah/I need to hold You oh so close/O Jesus speak to me, yeah/O Jesus speak to me".

5. Matt Kroeker and Brad O'Donnell wrote the fun, quirky pop song 'Astronaut'. On this song Byron Hagan plays B3 and Scott Williamson plays the tambourine. Here's the chorus: "And I don't know that much about astronauts/But I know that Jesus cares an awful lot/He made the stars, He made the moon/Just think of how much more/He loves you".

6. The Nashville String Machine is featured on the strong pop title track 'Have I Ever Told You'.  It's about divorce: "Have I ever told you that I'm sorry it didn't work out?/Have I ever told you that I'm, I'm sorry that I walked out?/Have I ever told you that I'm sorry that I didn't think about how it was gonna make you feel?.../Have I ever told you that I love the way you've turned out?/Have I ever told you that I've, I've been watching and I'm so proud?"

7. Jonathan Yudkin plays fiddle on 'I'm Amazed', a song that reflects on Calvary: "What do I think of when I think about the nails in Your hands?/What do I think of when I think about Your blood in the sand?/What do I think of when I think about it, I don't understand/I think about love/I think about grace/I think about You standing in my place/And I'm amazed".

8.Michael Boggs wrote 'Millionaire', a soothing song that reflects on fame and popularity: "I may never be the reason that people come from miles around/Just to hear that beautiful sound/I may never see the season where people love to hear me speak/And everybody wants to be me.../I may never drive a fancy car/Or be a movie star/But I'll be, I'll be, the light of the world".

9. Jeromy Deibler and Brian Smith wrote 'Open up the Sky', a catchy pop song that starts off like a modern day Psalm: "I've had my share of heartache/I've felt the sting of pain/From standing out in the desert/Praying for rain/I've seen my lonely teardrops/Fall down my lonely face/Oh, how I long to hear the thunder roll again/And I want to be swept away in Thee/Only You know what I need".

10. Michael Boggs, Jeromy Deibler, and David Hamilton wrote 'Before it was Said', an adult contemporary ballad about prayer: "So I get down on my knees/'Cause I'm stronger than these voices inside of my head/They try to deceive me and make me believe/That I would be better instead/To take my requests and put them to rest/But You're already one step ahead/You knew just what I would say/Before it was said".

11. 'You Write the Words' is an inspirational ballad that finds the band speechless: "I don't know what to say/That hasn't already been said/I don't know what to write/That hasn't already been read/I don't know what to play/That You haven't already heard/So here's my song/You write the words/Here's my heart/You write the words".

12. 'On My Cross' finds Craig Nelson on bass, Mark Baldwin on the gut string guitar, and uses the Nashville String Machine.  It spent two weeks at #1 on Inspirational Radio and is the album's longest song.  It's one of deep gratitude: "I don't know why You went where I was meant to go/I don't know why You love me so/Those were my nails, that was my crown/That pierced Your hands and Your brow/Those were my thorns, those were my scorns/Those were my tears that fell down/And just as You said it would be/You did it all for me/And after You counted the cost/You took my shame, my blame/On my cross".

HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU has an even split of fast paced songs and slower paced ones. This terrific Christian pop album was produced by Scott Williamson and David Hamilton and executive produced by Bob Wohler and Robert Beeson.  Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler (husband and wife) take turns on lead vocals.  Themes on the album include: a gratitude for Calvary, God's comfort, care, and love, and the Second Coming of Christ.  A couple of songs cry out for Jesus' touch and love, a couple songs are on the subject of prayer. The title track is a good song about divorce.  If you enjoy the music of PFR and Avalon, you'll want to check this album out! I'm rating HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU 90 %.  For more info visit: or connect with them on Facebook.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Seventh Day Slumber formed in Dallas, Texas in 1996.  For several years they were an independent band.  They signed with BEC Records in 2005 and released ONCE UPON A SHATTERED LIFE which included the songs `Caroline`and 'Oceans from the Rain'.  Fast forward to 2009 and they released TAKE EVERYTHING (BEC Recordings).  It peaked at #141 on the Billboard 200 and at #11 on the Top Christian Albums chart.  Group members at the time were Joseph Rojas (vocals, guitar), Josh Schwartz (bass), Jeremy Holderfield (guitar), and Elliot Lopes (drums).

1. First up is a rocked up version of 'How Great is Our God' which was penned by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, and Ed Cash.  It glorifies God: "How great is our God, sing with me/How great is our God and all will sing/How great, How great is our God/Age to age He stands/And time is in His hands/Beginning and the End/Beginning and the End/The Godhead, Three in One/Father, Spirit, Son/
The Lion and the Lamb/The Lion and the Lamb".

2. 'Surrender' is a rock ballad about turning one's life over to God: "I'm giving You my heart/
And all that is within/I lay it all down/For the sake of You my King/I'm giving You my dreams/I'm laying down my rights/I'm giving up my pride/For the promise of new life/And I surrender all to You/
All to You/And I surrender all to You/All to You".

3. Brooke Fraser wrote 'Lead Me to the Cross'.  It is a quiet prayer: "Lead me to the cross/Where Your love poured out/Bring me to my knees/Lord I lay me down/Rid me of myself/I belong to You
Oh lead me/Lead me to the cross".

4. 'Everlasting God' is a pleasant sounding adult contemporary song of testimony: "Our God, You reign forever/Our hope, our Strong Deliverer/You are the everlasting God/The everlasting God/You do not faint/You won't grow weary/You're the defender of the weak/You comfort those in need/You lift us up on wings like eagles".

5. A beefed up version of 'Mighty to Save' written by Benjamin Fielding and Joel Houston is up next.  It's a song of praise: "Savior/He can move the mountains/My God is Mighty to save/He's Mighty to save/Forever/Author of salvation/He rose and conquered the grave/Jesus conquered the grave".

6. 'From the Inside Out' is a quieter song that begins by speaking of God's faithfulness: "A thousand times I've failed/Still your mercy remains/Should I stumble again/I'm caught in Your grace/Everlasting, Your light will shine/When all else fades/Never ending, Your glory goes/Beyond all fame".

7. A well-done rockier version than what most of us are accustomed to of MercyMe's classic 'I Can Only Imagine' follows.  It contemplates heaven: "Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?/Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still?/Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?/Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?/I can only imagine".

8. The title track, 'Take Everything', is one of two songs in a row penned solely by lead singer Joseph Rojas.  This one is an adult rock ballad about dedication to Christ: "Praising You is not just the songs I sing/Jesus here I am/Take everything/Take the pain inside/Take the brokenness/Don’t stop til there’s nothing left/My arrogance/My pride/My loss of innocence/Jesus, take everything".

9. 'Carry Me' is an adult contemporary ballad that cries out to God for help: "And I am desperate/
And I can’t do this on my own/Won’t You carry me?/My arms are wide open/I’m giving everything/
Would You carry me?/Oh Lord I surrender/I’m letting go today".

10. 'Famous One' is a strong rock song of praise with great electric guitar work: "You are the Lord/
The Famous One, Famous One/Great is Your Name in all the earth/The heavens declare/You're glorious, glorious/Great is Your fame beyond the earth!"

11. 'Nothing but the Blood' is a melodic rock song that gratefully speaks of the atonement: "What can wash away our sins?/What can make us whole again?/Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood of Jesus/What can wash us pure as snow?/Welcomed as the friends of God?/Nothing but Your blood, nothing but Your blood/King Jesus".

12. Last up is 'Oceans from the Rain' featuring Pablo Olivares.  It was written by Joseph Rojas and Hunz Van Vliel.  It's a sentimental ballad: "And I’m amazed by You/Cause You’re never far away/
And all that I’ve been through/Your love has never changed/You make oceans from the rain/Breathing life into this place/And I will drown inside Your love/Until I see Your perfect face".

TAKE EVERYTHING was produced by Brent Milligan. It had the potential to be a dud seeing as it is comprised of mostly worship cover songs, however I was pleasantly surprised with this album which I picked up at Goodwill yesterday.  Themes here include: exalting God for who He is (His attributes- which include strength and faithfulness), committing oneself to God and following Him daily as an act of worship, gratitude for the cross and the blood of Jesus which gives us salvation, and also heaven.  If you like the rock and adult contemporary worship offerings of artists such as Kutless, Jeremy Camp, and Third Day, you'll want to pick this one up. I'm rating TAKE EVERYTHING 88 %. For more info visit:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Casting Crowns began in 1999 as a CCM band led by youth pastor Mark Hall in Daytona Beach, Florida.  They released their self-titled debut in 2003.  It was a huge success and included the song 'Voice of Truth' which spent fourteen back-to-back weeks at #1.  In 2005 their album LIFESONG came out. The title track was a #1 hit for nine weeks.  Their third album THE ALTAR AND THE DOOR (2007, Beach Street/Reunion) debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and at #1 on the Hot Christian Albums chart.  Band members were: Juan DeVevo (acoustic and electric guitar), Melodee DeVevo (violin, bgv's), Andy Williams (drums), Chris Huffman (bass), Hector Cervantes (electric guitar), Mark Hall (vocals), and Megan Garrett (piano, keyboards, bgv's).  In the liner notes the band writes: "This is where we all live as believers-somewhere between the altar and the door."  At the altar, everything makes sense. We know how to live and what direction to take.  Everything is black and white.  But somewhere between the altar and the door everything leaks out and we go nuts!  God is calling us to take what He gives us..."

1. Starting things off is 'What this World Needs', a strong rock track that offers answers for our troubled world: "What this world needs is not another one hit wonder with an axe to grind/Another two bit politician peddling lies/Another three ring circus society.../What this world needs is a Savior who will rescue/A Spirit who will lead/A Father who will love them in their time of need/A Savior who will rescue/A Spirit who will lead/A Father who will love/That's what this world needs".

2. Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, and Nichole Nordeman wrote the adult rock song 'Every Man'.  It's the album's second single and ultimately strikes a positive chord: "There is hope for every man/A solid place where we can stand/In this dry and weary land/There is hope for every man/There is Love that never dies/There is peace in troubled times/Will we help them understand?/Jesus is hope for every man".

3. Mark Hall wrote the album's third single, 'Slow Fade', an adult rock song that serves as a strong spiritual warning and is one of the group's best songs ever: "It's a slow fade when you give yourself away/It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray/Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid/When you give yourself away/People never crumble in a day/Daddies never crumble in a day/Families never crumble in a day/Oh be careful little eyes what you see (2X)/For the Father up above is looking down in love/Oh be careful little eyes what you see".

4. 'East to West' is the album's first single and spent sixteen consecutive weeks at #1.  It is an adult contemporary ballad that serves as a prayer: "Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west?/'Cause I can't bear to see the man I've become rising up in me again/In the arms of Your mercy I find rest/'Cause You know just how far the east is from the west/From one scarred hand to the other".

5. Hall co-wrote 'The Word is Alive' with Steven Curtis Chapman.  It begins by describing how God has taken the initiative to have a relationship with us: "Looking out from His throne, the Father of light and of men/Chose to make Himself known and show us the way back to Him/Speaking wisdom and truth into the hearts of peasants and kings/He began to unveil the Word that would change the course of all things/With eyes wide open, all would see/The Word is alive and it cuts like a sword through through the darkness/With a message of life to the hopeless and afraid/Breathing life into all who believe".

6. Next up is the title track, 'The Altar and the Door', penned by Mark Hall.  It is a pop song about the struggles of faithful discipleship: "Lord, this time I’ll make it right, here at the altar I lay my life/Your kingdom come but my will was done, my heart is broken as I.../Cry, like so many times before/But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor, oh Lord/I try but this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I will not lose my follow through/Between the altar and the door"?

7.'Somewhere in the Middle' is an adult contemporary ballad that includes these transparent lyrics: "Somewhere between my heart and my hands/Somewhere between my faith and my plans/Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves/Somewhere between a whisper and a roar/Somewhere between the altar and the door/Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more/Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me".

8. Jeff Chandler wrote 'I Know You're There'.  It is the song of one with great faith: "I, I know You're there/I know You see me/You're the air I breathe/You are the ground beneath me/I know You're there/I know You hear me/I can find You anywhere".

9. 'Prayer for a Friend' is a quiet, sincere song of intercession: "Lord, I lift my friend to You/My best friend in the world, I know he means much more to You/I want so much to help him, but this is something he has to do/And Lord, I lift my friend up to You/Cause there’s a way that seems so right to him/But You know where that leads/He’s becoming a puppet of the world, too blind to see the strings/Lord, I lift my friend up to You/My friend up to You".

10. Steve Fee wrote the now popular upbeat modern worship testimony 'All Because of Jesus':  "And I am alive because I’m alive in You/It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive/It’s all because the blood of Jesus Christ/That covers me and raised this dead man’s life/It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive

I’m alive, I’m alive".  A strange hidden track ends off the album.

THE ALTAR AND THE DOOR won a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'.  It was produced by Mark A. Miller and executive produced by Terry Hemmings.  Christ is presented as our Savior, our Hope, and our Peace here.  We are reminded that God's Word is as relevant as ever today, and that we are to remain spiritually alert and do our best to follow Jesus Christ.  The depth of God's forgiveness is pointed out.  There are also a couple of praise and worship songs on this record.  The album's first four cuts, three of which were radio singles, are splendid.  Unfortunately the rest of the album doesn't quite match that quality. The remaining songs are okay or average.  That being said, I am rating THE ALTAR AND THE DOOR 78 %.  For more info visit:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas.  On September 4, 2002 she won Season One of 'American Idol'.  Her debut album, THANKFUL, came out in 2003.  Over the years Kelly became known for hits such as 'Miss Independent', 'Since U Been Gone', 'Catch My Breath', and 'Piece by Piece'.  MEANING OF LIFE (2017, Atlantic) is her eighth studio album.  It debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 and peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Digital Albums chart, and at #4 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart.

1. Starting things off is 'A Minute (Intro)', a short song snippet about needing time alone: "Sometimes I need just a minute just for me/I need a minute just to be/I need a minute just to breathe/Sometimes I need a minute that's my own".

2. 'Love So Soft' and 'Move You' were the album's dual lead singles.  'Love So Soft' was written by Jesse Shatkin, Priscilla Renea, and Maureen 'Mozella' McDonald.  It's a soulful pop song featuring The Regiment Horns and the Earth, Wind and Fire Horn Section.  The song was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Pop Solo Performance' but in my opinion has a corny chorus: "Love so soft/You ain't had nothin' softer/Break it, then you buy it, and it's sure gonna cost ya/Love so soft/That you can't rub off/You gon' love it, if you try it, gotcha hooked, now you're caught up/Love so soft, so soft (2X)".'

3. 'Heat' is a pop/dance track with another corny chorus: "Oh, come turn this around/Oh, no no, don't let us down/I need more heat from you baby/Make me feel weak for you babe/Oh, wanna feel alive/Oh, like my heart's in the wild/I need more heat from you baby/Make me feel weak for you babe".

4. Next up is the album's title track, 'Meaning of Life', written by Jesse Shatkin, Ilsey Juber, and James Morrison Catchpole.  Strings were arranged and conducted by Larry Gold.  Kelly sings the praises of a guy: "You show me love, you lift me up/You take me higher and higher/The truth is I'm in love/Can you feel us?/We're flyin' higher/ Meaning of life/You show me the meaning of life".

5. 'Move You' is a soulful ballad: "Like a symphony at sundown in the middle of July/When a lyric really gets ya and it breaks you down inside/Like the home that you were raised in/Like faded photographs/Like the thrill of Christmas morning/Yeah, I wanna move you like that/Ooh, I wanna move you like that".

6. Kelly co-wrote 'Whole Lotta Woman' with five other folks.  It's a self-centered upbeat R&B cut: "I got what you want/I'm aimin' to please/I got what it takes/I sure got the means/I got what you want/Sugar, honey, iced tea/All eyes on me, oh, oh, baby...I'm a strong, bad ass chick with classic confidence, yeah".

7. 'Medicine' features very uncreative lyrics: "I ain't even thinkin' bout you (2X)/Don't talk about ya/Almost forgot about you/Said I ain't even thinkin' bout you/I ain't even thinkin' bout you/Don't talk about ya/Almost forgot about you".

8. Andre Davidson, Sean Davidson, Jessica Ashley Karpov, and Pat Linehan wrote 'Cruel'.  It finds Kelly thinking aloud about her relationship: "Am I being jealous?/Are you being selfish/Runnin' round  2, 3 o'clock in the mornin'?/No, no, no you better believe me/Lovin' you, it ain't easy/I'm halfway to losin' my mind/Don't be cruel/It's taken all of me to love someone like you".

9. Bridget Sarai and Nicole Hurst sing backing vocals on 'Didn't I', a soulful pop song about being done with a relationship: "I'm over this tug of war/I've told you so many times before/Now I'm finally lettin' go of the rope/Yeah, well this game is too ugly boy/And these hands are tired from keepin' you up/And my heart hurts from holdin' out hope".

10. Kelly and Greg Kurstin wrote 'Would You Call That Love'.  It calls a former lover to reflection: "When you look back on love do you think of us?/When it's all said and done, was it all enough?/When you weigh the loss to all you've gained, tell me, does it all add up?/When you look back on us/Would you call that love?"

11. Kelly pats herself on the back on 'I Don't Think About You', a decent adult contemporary ballad: "It used to bother me/Thought I could never leave/After all that I've been through, nothin' left to prove/No, no, no, I don't think about you/Weighing down on me/I lost my sanity/And now that we are through, nothin' left to lose/No, no, no, I don't think about you".

12. 'Slow Dance' finds Jason Halbert of Sonicflood fame on piano and B3 and includes a nice electric guitar solo by Jeff 'Gitty' Gitelman.  The song begins with Kelly sizing a guy up: "You're tall, dark, and handsome/You're charming and then some/Know how to romance 'em/But I see through it all/You do everything too fast/You move like a whiplash/You're missin' the romance/And I see through it all".

13. 'Don't You Pretend' includes these words: "Don't you run and hide/Let's find out tonight/I got a feelin' that you wanna fall/Tell me yes or no/I can't take no more/I want the real thing or nothin' at all".

14. Kelly, Jesse Shatkin, and Maureen 'Mozella' McDonald wrote 'Go High'. It's the album's closing track and is forgettable: "High as the note that I sing/High as the kite with no string/High is what I have to be/When you go low I go high just to breathe/High as the smoke that you blow/High as you think I can't go/High as this lonely road/When you go low I go high just to breathe".

MEANING OF LIFE is definitely a musical departure for Kelly Clarkson and it's a departure I could do without! I'm not digging this soulful R&B pop side of her. I prefer her inspirational anthems, straight up pop, and gritty rock offerings.  The lyrics here are quite weak as well.  They are most certainly not thought provoking. Any of a number of artists could have sung and/or written these songs.  Also, at times it sounds like Kelly is trying to be cool and a bit younger than she really is.  Lastly, this album doesn't showcase her terrific vocals as much as some of her other albums. I'm rating MEANING OF LIFE a 70 percent.  For more info visit: