Monday, September 18, 2017

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH



Robert Mason ‘Bob’ Carlisle was born on September 29, 1956.  Early on he was part of the Jesus music groups Good News and Psalm 150.  I first knew him as the lead singer of Christian rock band Allies who put out six studio albums between 1985 and 1992.  He would go on to release a handful of solo albums beginning in 1993.  In 1997 he took the music world by storm with his crossover hit ‘Butterfly Kisses’, co-written with Randy Thomas.  It won a Dove for ‘Inspirational Song of the Year’ and was all over the airwaves.  With its father-daughter heart-tugging theme it became a wedding favorite.  Fast forward to 2000 and he put out the album NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (Diadem).

Randy Thomas and Rick Crawford wrote the soulful pop song ‘Forgiveness’ on which Kim Keyes is a backing vocalist.  It’s about not holding grudges: “Every time I throw that stone/The fate I’m sealing is my own/Do you know how much I need forgiveness, forgiveness?/I can’t live without forgiveness, forgiveness/That’s what love’s about.../Nobody wins when the bridges start burning/Can’t you hear my cry?”  Darwin Hobbs and Tabitha Fair are two of the backing vocalists on ‘Lay Your Hands on Me’, a gospel pop song about ultimate healing: “So, I’ve come before the Great Physician/Where I know the medicine is strong and free/Only You can cure this crossed up condition/Yeah, You know the very thing I need.../Lay Your hands on me/I want Your touch/Lay Your hands on me/You’ve got the power/Lord, You know I’ve got the need”.  Bob and Randy Thomas wrote ‘Heaven’, a sentimental ballad: “There are moments in this life when it’s hard to carry on/When I think about my father and all the loved ones that are gone/Friends and close relation/Somewhere on the other side/They’ve passed into forever but the love has never died.../I want to see heaven where the faithful carry on”.

‘First, Last & Always’ is a very slow song on which Kirk ‘Jellyroll’ Johnson plays harmonica.  It encourages us to focus on God: “So much that glitters and shines/In this world, wild and wonderful/So much that captures my mind/Still all my thoughts turn to You/You should know I think of You/First, last and always (2X)/You gave my life back to me/And forever you’ll be/First, last and always”.  ‘The Truth (La Verdad)’ is one of three songs on the album penned by Bob and Regie Hamm.  It’s a fun, tropical sounding, autobiographical track: “I never really listened much to rock-n-roll/Grew up on James Brown, Motown and Latin soul and that’s the truth/See all my homies were of serious Latino persuasion/They taught me how to find the groove despite my sole lack of pigmentation/They took a little white boy with shiny shoes/And they anointed me with salsa and rhythm and blues”.

‘River of Peace’ is an adult contemporary ballad featuring The Nashville String Machine.  It admits to having times of doubt: “You said we’re all Your precious children/But I must admit sometimes we feel so small/We wonder if You’re there or if You really care at all/Ours is not to question why/Ours is just to live and try/To settle for the answer/Whatever it might be”.  Next up is a cover of the Todd Rundgren co-write ‘Love is the Answer’.  Here, Bryan Duncan is Bob’s perfect duet partner.  The chorus of the upbeat song goes: “Light of the world shine on me/Love is the answer/Shine on us all, set us free/Love is the answer”.

Bob and Tom Hemby wrote ‘Watched by an Angel’.  It’s a bit of a sappy mid-tempo song: “I’ve had it harder than some/But I was never one for sympathy/Even when it seemed like my vision was gone/There was someone looking out for me/And when it’s all been said and done/It’s so clear that I was not alone/I’ve got something to say/And I know it might sound crazy/But I swear I’m being watched by an angel/Somebody’s there/There’s no other way to say it”.  Amy Grant had a massive hit with ‘Baby Baby’, a co-write with Keith Thomas.  It was on top of the Billboard 100 for two straight weeks in April of 1991 and is from her album HEART IN MOTION.  The song was inspired by her young daughter Millie.  Carlisle’s cover of the song here is slower, longer, and by far inferior.  At any rate, it’s still about devotion: “My love for you is true and it will never/Stop for a minute/Baby, you’re mine/And ever since that day you put my heart in motion/Baby I realize that there just ain’t no getting over you”.

‘I Still Believe in You’ is a mellow R & B declaration of faith: “I still believe in You/I still believe what You say is true, yes I do/I still believe in You/My God is alive/I still believe in You/No matter what they say or do/I still believe in You/Lord, I still believe in You”.  CCM vet Randy Stonehill co-wrote ‘After All’, an easy listening ballad about God’s love: “After all the heartache and the pain/All the bridges I have crossed/And the ones I’ve left in flames/After all the sorrow and regret/All the times I’ve turned away when You’d call/You still love me after all”.

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH was produced by Regie Hamm and executive produced by George King and Dean Diehl.  Bob Carlisle’s soulful vocals will appeal to fans of Michael English and Michael Bolton.  His voice is seasoned and mature.  Pop, adult contemporary, gospel, and R & B sounds can be heard on this record.  It is a very laid back offering and doesn’t really have a central theme so I found it to be disjointed.  Certainly Bob is singing about his Christian walk, but not in a cohesive manner.  The album is all over the place topically.  Sonically, I also found it somewhat boring.  I’m rating this one 73%.  For more info connect with Bob on Facebook.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE



In 1985 speed metal band Deliverance was formed in California, fronted by Jimmy P. Brown II.  In 1987 they contributed two songs to the compilation album CALIFORNIA METAL.  Other artists on that album included Guardian and Neon Cross.  In 1989 Deliverance released their self-titled debut album.  It included such songs as: ‘No Time’, ‘If You Will’, ‘The Call’, and ‘Jehovah Jireh’.  In 1990 the band released their most loved project ever to this day by many, WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE (Intense Records).  Members were: Jimmy P. Brown II (vocals, guitar), George Ochoa (lead and acoustic guitar), Brian Khairullah (bass), and Chris Hyde (drums).  Ochoa served as producer.

The opening track ‘Supplication’ doesn’t hit the two minute mark, but it’s a good one.  It includes these spoken words: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal/But mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.../And bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.  A nice acoustic, then electric guitar piece follows.  ‘This Present Darkness’ rocks hard and urges us to be spiritually alert: “Mighty are the weapons of God to combat this present darkness/Satan’s plan, complacency/Knowing not the fight for your soul/Don’t believe his lies, just unveil your eyes/Through prayer bring down the strongholds”.

Next up is the title track, ‘Weapons of Our Warfare’, which is one of my all time favorite Christian metal songs.  The video got airplay on MTV.  The song pulsates from beginning to end.  It begins with a warning: “Imaginations running wild/Innocent they seem/Polluting your mind/A formulated scheme/The battle it starts in your mind/A lesson to be learned/Provoking thoughts only cause the sin that provoking thoughts have earned”.  The song goes on to advise: “To take dominion over Satan’s own ground/Rise up with the sword of God and put your armor on”.  ‘Solitude’ is fast and heavy and Jimmy again screams in falsetto when appropriate.  The song stresses the importance of the Bible: “A man’s fear is crushed when thoughts recall words heard so long ago/Search for an answer/A holy book upon a shelf/Words cutting deep inside/Speaks to my heart and to my soul.../I don’t have to be alone/No more solitude”.

The next track, ‘Flesh and Blood’, is the longest at about seven and a half minutes.  It’s blistering metal with bold lyrics: “This war is not for wimps, the emaciated, or the weak/It’s for those who bear their cross and believe the power of Jesus’ Name/Christianity, a reality/It’s a fight to let you know about a Man who gave His flesh and blood/To save your hellbound soul”.  ‘Bought By Blood’ begins with a warning: “The seductress that flatters with her tongue/Don’t be led astray by her deceit/Many are the victims she’s cast down/All her slain are a mighty host/Her house is the way to hell”.  The song goes on to remind us of our value to God: “You’ve been paid for at a price/You’ve been bought by blood/The precious blood of Christ”.

‘23’ is a slower metal song based on David’s most famous Psalm: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I will fear no evil/You are with me/Your rod and staff/They comfort me/You are with me/Oh Lord”.  ‘Slay the Wicked’ sizzles in fine metal fashion and empowers us: “Release the power/Not ours, not angels’/But God’s above/This is the hour/Demons your fate is sealed/Slay the wicked.../Resist the devil and he will flee from you/Don’t give place to his lies/Not being ignorant of any devices/Submit to God/Be a vicar of Christ”.

‘Greetings of Death’ is a headbanger with awesome electric guitar work and a serious message: “It has been appointed once for a man to die/But after this the judgment/Once the appointment has been made/Nothing can be done to change it.../Are you afraid to die?”  Last up is the energetic ‘If We Faint Not’.  It encourages the weary: “Life just seems so much harder/All the battles day by day/That’s when we must stand up and be bold, be bold!/So let us not grow weary in doing what is right/God shall renew our strength to fight someway/Remember, we reap what we sow/Flesh sows corruption/Spirit everlasting life/It’s yours/We shall reap/If we faint not”.

In order for this album to make any sense, one has to believe that there is a Creator God who has a wonderful plan for our lives and who wants us to spend eternity in heaven with Him.  One also has to believe that there is an evil Devil who wants to draw us away from God, destroy our lives, and wants us to spend eternity in hell with him.  Furthermore, one has to believe in the events of Easter-the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God ultimately defeated Satan on our behalf.  In the meantime though, there is a battle going on for each individual human soul.  We must not be passive, but active participants in spiritual warfare.  Prayer, reading the Word, and putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) are vital weapons in our battle to draw nearer to God and away from the devil’s schemes.  We can live happy, victorious spiritual lives on planet earth as long as we answer the devil’s lies with God’s truths and accept the salvation Christ offers us.  On WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE these Christian messages are delivered via speed and thrash metal music, so granted, it won’t appeal to the masses.  That being said, those who enjoy bands like Vengeance Rising and Tourniquet will enjoy this album that is very lively.  I’m rating it 95%.  For more info connect with Deliverance or Jimmy P Brown II on Facebook.


Friday, September 15, 2017

REVIVAL



Formed in Georgia, Third Day has been a mainstay on the CCM stage since the release of their self-titled Reunion Records debut back in 1996.  Over the years they have performed adult contemporary, worship, and Southern rock music equally well.  Many Christian rock bands have came and went during this time with varying levels of success, but Third Day has remained a fan and radio favorite.  On their latest record REVIVAL (2017, Essential) Third Day is: Mac Powell (vocals), Mark Lee (guitars), and David Carr (drums).  Other instrumentalists used include: Scotty Willbanks, Tim Gibson, Trevor Morgan, and Ken Lewis.  Monroe Jones produced the album, while Terry Hemmings served as executive producer.  The band was blessed to record at the famed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Mac Powell says REVIVAL is an old school gospel record.  The band still wants to use music to share their faith after all this time.

First up is the title track and lead single ‘Revival’.  It’s one of nine songs written by the three group members.  Cheryl Rogers, Alfreda Gerald, and Brittany Shewbridge provide backing vocals on this rousing song that sounds like it’s ripped right off of Bob Dylan’s SAVED (1980) which isn’t a bad thing!  Get your gospel toe-tapping shoes on for this song with an old school, but much needed message: “Anybody here looking for revival in our own hearts and across the land?/Anybody looking for a real revival?/Lift up your voice and say ‘Amen’ (2X)/Ain’t gonna find it in a politician/Not from the government or any law/Can’t get it going by your own religion/Only by the Spirit and the Word of God (2X)”.   ‘Gonna Be There With Me’ is one of two songs on which Trevor Morgan, Scotty Willbanks, and Tim Gibson are co-writers.  It has a bar room feel to it musically, complete with piano, and offers these words of comfort: “From the deepest part of the ocean to the farthest galaxy/Anywhere that I would roam/Lord, it’s always good to know/That You’re gonna be there with me”.

‘Leave this World Behind’ is a terrific Christian rock song with a great electric guitar part.  These lyrics anticipate heaven: “When I leave this world behind/Don’t worry for me/When I leave this world behind/Cause I’ll be in glory/Don’t you shed a tear for me/I’ll be doing fine.../All my tears and all my pain/Will be gone in Jesus’ Name/I’ll be free and I will sing forever”.  Chris Rodriguez sings background vocals on ‘Let there Be Light’, a modern worship number sure to become a favorite: “Let there be light where there is darkness/Let there be hope when there is none/Let there be peace in the midst of sorrow/Let there be love to bring us back home.../There is one light/There is one Savior of the world/There is one hope/His Name is Jesus, Jesus”.

‘Faithful and True’ is a laid back ballad that uses violins, viola, and cello.  It places full confidence in God: “There’s never been a reason not to believe You/There’s never been a season when You didn’t come through/In every situation You’ve been my salvation/Your love is faithful and true (2X)”.  Scat Springs provides backing vocals on ‘Gather Round Now’, a meaty and mighty modern spiritual: “Oh, I will sing about my Jesus/Oh, I will sing about my Lord/The King of all creation, of every tribe and nation/One day He’ll return to take us home”.

Solomon Olds, Rebecca Olds, Seth Philpott, and Mac Powell wrote ‘In Your Hands’, an adult contemporary song of testimony: “When I’m all dried up and I’m all worn out/You runneth over my cup/When You pour love down/When I’m lost and alone/All by myself, barely breathing, yet I find You there/You have always been there”.  It’s quite a pretty track.  Next up is Paul Simon’s 1973 composition ‘Loves Me Like a Rock’.  Here it is given the country gospel treatment with group claps and The Oak Ridge Boys contributing vocals.  It’s a catchy story song: “When I was a little boy and the Devil would call my name/I said ‘Now who do you who do you think you’re fooling?/I’m a consecrated boy/Singer in a Sunday choir/Oh my mama loves me, she loves me/She get down on her knees and hugs me/Oh, she loves me like a rock/She loves me like the Rock of Ages’”.

Tanya Smith is a backing vocalist on ‘New Creation’, a spirited Americana style song about conversion: “Well, if you’re sad and lonely, don’t know what to do/You give your heart to Jesus, He will get you through/And if you’re feeling tired, with nothing left to lose/You give your life to God/He’s gonna make everything new, yeah”.  ‘Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus’ sings His praises with a pleasant sound: “Nobody in this whole wide world gonna give what I’m looking for/Listen right now, gonna say it more/Nobody loves me like/Nobody else gonna to live that life or gonna make that sacrifice/The only thing I can’t deny/Nobody loves, nobody loves me like Jesus”.

‘Anything is Possible’ is an inspiring gospel number that’s upbeat: “We all have our troubles, we all have our trials/But I know that we can make it with a faith that’s like a child/When you see you’re outnumbered/And you’re feeling overwhelmed/Let the Spirit lead and just believe/That anything is possible”.  ‘Great God Almighty’ offers this advice in a funky, folksy musical style: “So if you think that you can’t make it/And you feel like no one cares/You just turn your eyes to Heaven/And you whisper out this prayer/You say ‘Great God Almighty won’t You save Your children?/Lord in Heaven won’t you lend a hand?/Ain’t no way we gonna do this without You/By Your Spirit I know we can”.  Last up is ‘Devotion’, a ballad that uses strings and is prayerful: “Lord, I really want to know You just as You are/To give You all that You deserve/Lord, fill me up till Your love surrounds me/Lord, give me grace for all those around me/Lord, give me faith that’s simple and true/Lord, make my life a devotion to You”.

REVIVAL is a folksy, rootsy gospel rock album that is very down to earth.  These songs will take you to church.  They make you feel you are at an old time camp meeting or sitting around a campfire singing about God.  These are Holy Ghost inspired songs.  Besides gospel, Southern rock and old country sounds can be found here.  Various instruments used to flavor this unique Third Day record include: B3, clavinet, melodica, Wurlitzer, and resonator.  Mac Powell’s vocals are full of feeling.  Themes include: a desire for revival and God’s presence, songs that testify about Christ’s power, love, and the peace He gives, heaven, prayers, and encouragement.  This is a flawless, unique, uplifting album which I’m rating 100%.  Young and old alike should enjoy this one.

The Deluxe Edition of REVIVAL includes five bonus tracks.  The first two are new songs.  ‘You Redeemed Me’ is an adult rock song that testifies: “My debts have all been cancelled/My ransom has been paid/You turned my fears and failures to a story of Your grace/You gave me a brand new life/Now I am forever changed”.  ‘The Return’ is a sobering song of sorts: “In the blink of an eye/Like a thief in the night/The sky will be torn open.../Are you ready for, ready for, ready for the return?”  Last up are three tracks collector’s will appreciate: ‘Revival (Radio Mix)’, ‘Let there Be Light (Original Cut)’, and ‘Faithful and True (First Take)’.  For more info visit: www.thirdday.com.


Monday, August 28, 2017

TRIMMED & BURNIN'



In 1990 two Christian music legends, Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band/Rez) and Darrell Mansfield joined together to release TRIMMED & BURNIN’ (Ocean/GRRR Records).  Kaiser writes in the liner notes: “Blues speaks to hurts, struggles, and desires in a powerful, emotionally passionate way.  In a time when the world is so full of turmoil, I am of the opinion that true Christians must learn to do the same.  Jesus did and does and He is ultimately my reason for living and singing”.  Kaiser sings, plays guitar, dobro, dulcimer, and a bit of harmonica (harp).  Mansfield sings, claps, stomps, and plays harmonica.  Rob Glickman plays dobro and guitar. 

First up is one of three Rev. Gary Davis compositions (1896-1972), ‘Great Change Since I’ve Been Born’.  Glenn sings and plays guitar on this spirited song of testimony: “Lies that I used to would tell, I don’t tell no more (2X).../People that I used to would hate, Lord, I don’t hate no more.../Been a great change, Lord, since I been born.../A new song been sung since I’ve been born”.  ‘Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin’’ is one of five Blind Willie Johnson compositions (1897-1945).  It’s a song of encouragement: “Brother, don’t get weary/Sister don’t get weary/Ever don’t get weary/For the work is almost done”.  ‘Shaky Ground’ is one of six penned by Glenn Kaiser.  Curt Bley plays upright bass.  It speaks of how we can be deceived: “I thought I’d been livin’ in the light of day/I thought I’d been redeemed/I prayed my prayers but I went my way/Livin’ just like I’d been/Standin’, standin’ on shaky ground”.

Darrell takes the lead on ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, a song about taking responsibility: “Well, nobody’s fault but mine/Nobody’s fault but mine/If I don’t read my soul be lost/Nobody’s fault but mine/I have a Bible in my home (2X)/If I don’t read my soul be lost/Nobody’s fault but mine (2X)”.  The song has a definite twang!  ‘Go Tell Pharaoh’ is a fast paced number that draws from Exodus: “Go tell Pharaoh let my people go! (2X)/ I am the God of the Israelites, that I’ll surely show/Power in the water, power in the sky (2X)/Woe to those in Egypt/That’s the apple of my eye!”  ‘You Got to Move’ has simplistic lyrics: “You may be high, you may be low/You may be rich, child/You may be poor/But when the Lord gets ready/You gotta move”.

‘In the Light of the Morning Star’ anticipates heaven with joy: “The moon comes down/Shinin’ on the earth/It’s a wonderful thing to behold/But someday I know we have been foretold/We will walk on streets of gold”.  ‘Celestial Shore’ is a nice ballad on the same topic: “It won’t be long, but it’s for sure/Soon I’ll be walkin’ through that special door/There’ll be no more cryin’, fightin’, or war/When we gather together on that celestial shore/When we all come together (3X)/On that celestial shore”.  ‘Jesus is Comin’ Soon’ is upbeat musically and has bold lyrics: “God is warnin’ the nation/Warned us in every way/Turn away from the evil/Seek the Lord and pray/We been told/God has warned us/Jesus a comin’ soon”.

‘God Don’t Never Change’ speaks of His faithfulness: “God in creation/God when Adam fell/God way up in heaven/God way down in hell/He’s God/God don’t never change/Always will be God”.  ‘What You Did’ reminds us of the importance of our actions/deeds: “What you did for the least you did for Me/What you did for the least (3X)/You did for Me/You ask/When was this?/How could this be?/What you did for the least/Child, you did it to Me”.  Glenn and Darrell share vocal duties on ‘I Belong to the Band’, while Glenn plays guitar, and Darrell harp.  It is cheerful: “When I get to heaven gonna sit right down/Ask my Lord for my starry crown/I belong to the band, hallelu/Hallelu! Hallelujah!/I belong to the band/Hallelu (2X)”.

Rob Glickman plays the 12-String Slide Guitar on ‘You Got to Die’, which offers frank advice: “Sinner man, you just as well to get ready, you gotta die (2X)/Well, it may be today or tomorrow/Well, you can’t tell a minute or hour”.  ‘Cornerstone’ offers an acapella invitation: “He is the Cornerstone (3X)/Come under Him, the cornerstone/Come unto Him, the cornerstone/Come unto Him, the living stone/Rejected by men, the cornerstone/But chosen by God, Precious Stone”.  Last up is ‘We Shall See the King’ which offers hope: “There’s a blessed time/It’s comin’, comin’ soon/Maybe even  mornin’ night or noon/The wedding of the bride united with the groom/We shall see the King when He comes”.

TRIMMED & BURNIN’ is one of the finest CCM albums ever put out!  Both Kaiser and Mansfield are talented musicians and have raspy, seasoned voices.  This is a raw, stripped down, rootsy, passionate album of both fast and slow selections.  The most common topic is anticipating the joys and glory of Heaven and being with God-no more troubles in sight!  The second most common theme is how Christ changes our lives and the importance of having a personal relationship with Him and living for Him.  A third theme is the coming judgment.  I’m rating TRIMMED AND BURNIN’ (49 min, 50 sec) a perfect 100%.  For more info reach out to the artists on Facebook.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

CRAWL TO CHINA



Tourniquet is a Christian metal band formed in the late 1980’s in California.  The band’s theme verse is Psalm 147:3 which states: “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.  In 1990, STOP THE BLEEDING, their debut album was released.  Two of my favorite albums are PSYCHO SURGERY (1991) and VANISHING LESSONS (1994).  1997 saw them release CRAWL TO CHINA.  Here, I am reviewing the 2009 re-release of the album on Pathogenic Records.  At the time of the original release the band was: Ted Kirkpatrick (drums), Luke Easter (vocals), and Aaron Guerra (guitar and vocals).  The re-release was produced by Bill Metoyer and Tourniquet, with artwork by Rex Zachary.

‘White Knucklin’ the Rosary’ is a splendid rock track that comments on how many of us view prayer: “Don’t even try to tell me what prayer is for/My Genie in a bottle needs to give me some more/And when this mess is over I don’t need Him anymore/I’ll put my God back on temporary ignore.../White knucklin’ the rosary/I know my God by what He does for me/Open only in case of emergency/White knucklin’ the rosary”.  ‘Going, Going...Gone’ is pro-environment: “Is it greed or ignorance or is it both?/As the bulldozer trashes a thousand years growth/Clearcutting with a clear conscience/A burning desire to burn/If a tree falls and no one’s around/The wildlife still hear it crashing down”.

According to the liner notes: “Proprioception has to do with our sense of direction when we’re upside down-the sense a cat uses to land on its feet or a gymnast to perform a back flip”.  So, the next song is ‘Proprioception: The Line Knives Syndrome’.  Here are some of the lyrics to this metal track: “Like the feline that finds the floor on all fours/Is the house built on rock that the devil abhors/Build your house on sand to find/A cat with one life instead of nine/Proprioception/Balance correction/Innate sense gives direction”.  The title track, ‘Crawl to China’, was a #1 hit for the band.  It’s an awesome hard rock number about calling: “Is God asking you to crawl to China or just to cross the street?/To trudge through the desert through Arabian heat/Or to accomplish the impossible, an Herculean feat/Or maybe just trade in bad thoughts obsolete?”

‘If I Was There’ is a reverent easy listening ballad about Calvary: “As He marched up that hill I can picture Him still in my mind/All the blood and the sweat on His brow/As He passed me on by/I could see in His eyes/That His pain was a gift of His love/He was the sacrifice, the Lamb/And He is the great I AM/And He paid the price for me/The price for you and me, you and me”.  ‘Tire Kicking’ rocks hard and is about spiritual pride: “I know many verses and have studied many years/Can’t you see how holy my exterior appears?/Armor All on all 4 tires/You sure are looking good/But you will be bent out of joint if I lift up that hood”.

‘If Pigs Could Fly’ calls us to action: “But wait-on the horizon-land-land ho!/Will you sit there and pray or will you get up and row?/The next time you are quick to say/’I’m just waitin’ on the Lord’/Just make sure that you remember where we all have been before”.  ‘Stumblefoot’ reminds us we need God: “The consequence of diligence without Him will show all the dents/That’s why our eyes are always on the throne/What’s wrong with me?/What’s wrong with you?/How many times we’ve fallen through/The thin device of foolish thinking/All along our pride is sinking”.

‘Enveloped in Python’ is a strong metal track partly sung, partly spoken, and includes an Indian recorder solo.  It’s about sin’s grip: “The coiling is fast, this time it’s your last/Your soul asphyxiated/Final chance for escape terminated/Enveloped in python/Constriction complete”.  Next up is ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ based around Edgar Allan Poe’s short story first published in 1843.  The song reminds us our sins will find us out: “I thought I’d committed the perfect, fool-proof crime/I never knew how heavy this would weigh upon my mind/Things done in secret under cover of night/Have a funny way of being brought into the light”.

‘Bats’ is a fun sounding song musically and includes good theology: “The God Jehovah is not feathers, wood, or stone/The Word became flesh and ascended to the throne/He walked the earth like you and me/And dwelling in our hearts is where He wants to be (2X)”.  ‘Crank the Knife’ speaks of relationship tensions: “Distance makes my heart to fester in self-inflicted pain/If I can’t face the consequences of my actions/I’ll find somebody else to blame/I greet you with a brother’s kiss and crank the knife another...twist”.

Tim Gaines (of Stryper fame) plays bass on ‘Claustrospelunker’ which is a mix of metal and Tony Bennett like swing!  It asks good questions: “Are you afraid that where He takes you is a cold, dark, lonely place/Where it’s hard to find His face, hard to find His face/In a world that is not your own?”  ‘Imaginary Friend’ tells a story: “Sitting in a corner admiring the sunbeams/With an imaginary friend he frolics and plays/But he’s forgotten the only One who can take away the pain/Trading in what’s real for a figment/A cashed in life locked up in his brain/They don’t give diplomas from catatonic state”.

Two instrumentals close out the album.  Of ‘America’, the liner notes say: “We must remember that the Lord’s hand is powerful enough to bring peace to any land, if the people will only call on Him”.  The song makes use of banjo, guitars, and marching drums creatively.  Last up is ‘If I Was There’ which you could sing along to as a solo in church.

Fans of Deliverance and Skillet, as well as heavy metal and hard rock music, will enjoy this project!  It is executed with great precision and artistry musically.  The CD booklet of this re-issue includes Scripture verses, revealing liner notes, and pics of the band too.  Many themes are touched upon lyrically.  The importance of prayer and action in good and bad times, God’s calling on our lives and our trust in Him, environmental and wildlife concerns, Calvary, and sin’s dangerous and deadly nature are just some of the song topics.  I’m rating CRAWL TO CHINA an outstanding 97%.  For more info visit: www.tourniquet.net.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

PIECE BY PIECE



Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982.  Her debut album was 2003’s THANKFUL.  PIECE BY PIECE (2015, RCA/19) is her seventh studio album.  It was produced by Greg Kurstin, Jason Halbert, Jesse Chatkin, and Chris DeStefano.  In the liner notes of this Deluxe Edition I’m reviewing, Kelly writes: “Thank you to all of my fans reading this who have supported that 19 year-old girl who auditioned for ‘American Idol’ and have been with me ever since.  It’s been quite a ride and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Starting things off is ‘Heartbeat Song’, the album’s lead single, penned by Kara DioGuardi, Jason Evigan, Audra Mae, and Mitch Allan.  It hit #1 on the Billboard US Dance Club Songs chart.  This energetic song includes these earthy lyrics: “You, where the hell did you come from?/You’re a different, a different kind of fun/And I’m so used to feeling numb/Now I’ve got pins and needles on my tongue/Anticipating what’s to come/Like a finger on a loaded gun/I can feel it rising/Temperature inside me/Haven’t felt it for a lifetime”.  Oliver Kraus plays violin, viola, and cello on ‘Invincible’, the second single.  It hit #2 on the same chart as its predecessor.  It’s  a song of great confidence: “Now I am invincible/No I ain’t  a scared little girl no more/Yeah, I’ m invincible/What was I running for?/I was hiding from the world/I was so afraid, I felt so unsure/But now I am invincible/And I’m a perfect storm/Now I am a warrior/A shooting star”.

‘Someone’ follows.  It’s an adult contemporary ballad addressed to a former lover: “I hope you will find/Someone to cry for/Someone to try for/Someone to turn your crooked roads into her streets/Someone to fight for/Someone to die for/Someone whose arms will hold you tight enough to be the reason you breathe/The reason you breathe”.  ‘Take You High’ uses an orchestra arranged and conducted by Joseph Trapanese.  It includes these cheesy lyrics: “When your angels fall out of the sky/I’ll be the wings that make you fly/When you come down/I’ll take you high/If I’m dreaming don’t roll over yet”.

Kelly and Greg Kurstin wrote the album’s third single and title track, ‘Piece by Piece’.  It peaked at #6 on the US Billboard Adult Top 40 and #6 on the Billboard Canada AC Chart.  It’s a moving autobiographical song: “Piece by piece he filled the holes that you burned in me at six years old/And you know he never walks away/He never asks for money/He takes care of me/He loves me/Piece by piece he restored my faith/That a man can be kind and a father could/Stay”.  Jerry McPherson plays guitars on ‘Run Run Run’, a strong duet with John Legend.  It’s an emotional song: “Tell me how you closed the door knowin’ nobody could love you more/Tellin’ all your friends that this love was just made for bleedin’/Hung up underwater but still we keep on tryin’ to breathe in.../Our lust for fighting/Tied up in silence”.

Fred Martin and The Levite Camp sing backing vocals on ‘I Had a Dream’, a terrific adult pop song with a great message: “Remember that the footprints you’re leaving will tell us all who you really are/It’s too bad you can’t see what you’re worth/Spreading your legs ‘stead of using your words/Character is shown by the things that we do/The one thing you’re never gonna hide is the truth”.  Sia Furler and Greg Kurstin wrote ‘Let Your Tears Fall’, which offers comfort: “Watch a tear fall/Let them fall, fall and I’ll make the seas calm/Take you in my arms/You cry/Let your tears fall/It’s not a crime to fall apart sometimes/It’s not a crime/To ask why (2X)”.

‘Tightrope’ is a pretty ballad that finds Kelly being honest: “And maybe you and I will fall in time eventually/Maybe we’ll both die trying but I can’t bring myself to leave/Cause I’ve looked and I ain’t seen nothing like you/The way you light up every room tonight so easily/And I have moved mountains babe just to stumble into your good grace/And I, I still can’t compete/You’re on the tightrope”.  On ‘War Paint’ Jason Halbert and Eric Olson play keyboards and bass, while Aben Eubanks plays guitars.  This pop/rock song cries out for peace and intimacy: “Why in the hell do we fight on the front line/When we both know that we’re here on the same side?/We can be beautiful without the mistake of our war paint.../Hold me close and kiss my skin/Don’t be afraid, let me in/I’ll hold you close/And take your hand to my heart/Here I am”.

Dan Rockett wrote ‘Dance with Me’, while Nicole Hurst sings background vocals.  It’s all about having fun: “And when the music starts and the lights go down/We will all be found/No one’s fighting anyone/We’re all dancing on the ground/Come on and dance with me (2X)/Feel the music like a lover’s kiss/Feel the rhythm like a warm embrace/Come on and dance with me (2X)/I’m wide awake, yeah/It’s 4 AM and the room won’t stop/My heart is pounding, how your body rocks/My lips they quiver on your skin/Let’s take this dance and just breathe you in”.  ‘Nostalgic’ is a pop/dance number: “When I’m sleeping I still kiss your face/I can’t have it when I’m awake/Even though we lost it, I still get nostalgic/Even if we wanted/You can’t turn back the hands of time”.

The standard edition of the album ends with ‘Good Goes the Bye’ on which Tony Lucido plays bass.  It’s about a relationship ending: “Slam goes the door, hush goes the phone/Out goes the flame/And I’m standing here alone/Burn goes the drink/Down go the tears/Drip goes the sink/And I’m missing you like hell/Break goes the heart/Wrong goes the right/Good goes the bye”.  The Deluxe Edition of the album includes 3 Bonus Tracks.  ‘Bad Reputation’ is a funky R & B number that uses The Regiment Horns.  Many women will relate: “Well, I tell ‘em, tell ‘em yeah, you’re nothing to me/I tell ‘em that you’re just another/You’re just like any other/Well, I try to sell ‘em but they ain’t buying it/Baby, they see me start to stutter/When they ask if I’m your lover”.

‘In the Blue’ was written by Kelly, Jesse Shatkin, Anjulie Persaud, and Fransisca Hall.  It’s about longing: “I see your face in every stranger/Footsteps down the hall/Warm breath, back of my neck/Shadows on the wall/And your voice is loud as thunder, hey/I can hear it crashin’ in my head, yeah”.  One of the co-writers on ‘Second Wind’ is country’s Maren Morris.  Chris DeStefano plays pedal steel on this song that finds Kelly being direct: “You can hate me, underestimate me/Do what you do cause what you do don’t phase me/Just when you think I’m at the end/Any second I’m a-catch my second wind/Na, na, na, na/Na, na”.

The sixteen track Deluxe Edition of PIECE BY PIECE has eight ballads and eight faster paced songs, although I would have interspersed them more.  The most frequent theme for sure is relationships not working or not working out at all.  Second to this is the theme of personal strength and aspiring to greatness.  Unfortunately here, Kelly doesn’t tie those things to God.  There is one song about a happy relationship, one about partying, and the standout title track about the importance of being a good father and good husband.  The pics of Kelly in the booklet are modest and beautiful.  I’m rating this pop/dance album 88%.  It’s a good album, but not her best.  For more info connect with Kelly on Facebook.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

JACI VELASQUEZ


Jacquelyn ‘Jaci’ Davette Velasquez was born on October 15, 1979 in Houston, Texas.  She released two independent albums and then put out her major label debut HEAVENLY PLACE in 1996.  It birthed five hit songs.  She won a Dove Award for ‘New Artist of the Year’.  Jaci’s second album was released in 1998.  It was self-titled, with a gorgeous picture of her on the front cover.  In 1999 and 2000 she won Doves for ‘Female Vocalist of the Year’.  In the liner notes Jaci thanks “All of the songwriters for such incredible songs, and all of the players.  You guys were incredible”.

Starting things off is one of four #1 hits from the album, ‘God So Loved’, written by Chris Eaton.  It was nominated for a Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year’.  It shares the Gospel message: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son/That whosoever believes in Him/Will not perish but have everlasting life/I try so hard to find the words to say/To let you know how great is this God to whom I pray/Nothing can or ever will compare/To the peace that flows in your soul when He is living there”.  Jackie Street plays bass and Jaci and Michael Tait sing backing vocals on ‘Show You Love’, a soulful pop song about witnessing: “I won’t convince you with anything I say/But maybe you will see His love in how it is portrayed/An act of kindness, a loving sacrifice/Simple little things that have the power to change your life”.

‘Little Voice Inside’ is a ballad that finds Phil Madeira on the B-3 and uses the Nashville String Machine.  It’s about the Holy Spirit: “Little voice inside keeps calling/Little voice inside it cries/Little voice inside keeps calling/Little voice-oh won’t You be my guide?”  Michelle Tumes provides backing vocals on ‘You’.  She also wrote this ballad of testimony: “You make everything good/Everything wonderful/You grace my days and heaven fills my view/Let’s forever sing/You make everything pure/Everything beautiful/You make me see the only thing that’s true/It’s You who makes the waters of my sorrows part and leads the gladness into my heart”.

The third ballad in a row is ‘Look What Love Has Done’.  It finds Michelle Tumes on backing vocals and uses the Nashville String Machine.  This pretty song speaks of God’s transforming power: “Where once each breath was just a sigh of aching emptiness/Where once I hardly felt the beating in my chest/Now each breath feels like a precious kiss of life/Now inside me beat the wings of a thousand butterflies”.  Mark Heimermann sings backing vocals on ‘Child of Mine’, a pop song that finds God talking to a prodigal: “I know you so well and I can tell when you’ve been hiding something from Me/Just let it go/Let My love flow/Let it bring you release/I have come to breathe new life into the heart of a child of mine/I have come to give you peace/So lift your head and believe/You were made in a beautiful way/Born to be holy and sure of your faith/Something inside you has led you astray”.

Mark Heimermann and Toby McKeehan wrote ‘Speak for Me’, while Dan Needham plays drums on it.  It opens with words Moses could’ve uttered: “What have I to offer to a world in need?/Yet for some unknown reason You have chosen me/Lord, You’ve set my journey/You’ve prepared the way/Still I’m desperate for the words to say/All I am is willing/All I have is in Your hands”.  Next up is ‘Glory’, a pop song of positivity with Anointed on backing vocals: “I went for the horizon and I found the glory of Your love/I see the glory/There’s glory all around in the world/And glory has been found/It surrounds me/And opens my mind and heart”.

Dann Huff plays guitars on ‘Sweet Surrender’, a quiet love song to God: “And with a single leap of faith I’m fallin’ into Your loving arms/Showing no resistance/There’s a peace that flows over me/Sweet surrender/Love me tender/You have captured my desiring heart completely/Sweet surrender/Yours forever/I will gladly give my all to You/Receive me/Oh Lord, I am ever Yours”.  ‘Paper Tigers’ was penned by Heimermann, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and George Cocchini.  It’s a cool song that tackles fear: “They are only paper tigers following me/In the wild imagination of the make believe/And there’s a fighter, a survivor arising in me/I’m not afraid of paper tigers/Night brings creepy things and I hide away/False fears disappear in the light of day”.

Jaci and Melody Chambers sing backing vocals on ‘Made My World’, a happy pop/rock song about how God gives meaning to our lives: “I never thought of what I could be/Where I’d go/What I’d do/I never thought of what I should be/Until You/You came into my life/When I was all alone/You came down and saved my soul”.  Chris Eaton and David Velasquez wrote the closing track ‘Al Mundo Dios Amo’.  Chris Harris co-produced this splendid Spanish version of ‘God So Loved’ with Mark Heimermann.


JACI VELASQUEZ is a really good album of adult contemporary and light pop songs for the most part.  What a beautiful young lady she is and what a wonderful voice!  God’s love for us comes through clearly on this project.  There are praise and worship songs about God’s goodness and surrendering to Him.  Listening to the Holy Spirit and sharing God’s love with others are also stressed.  There’s a great song about overcoming fear.  Jaci would go on to star in the movie ‘Chasing Papi’ and to co-host a Christian radio show.  I’m rating JACI VELASQUEZ 91%.  For more info visit: www.jacivelasquez.com.