Friday, December 19, 2014

THE TAYLOR SWIFT HOLIDAY COLLECTION


Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album in 2006.  It included the hits ‘Tim McGraw’, ‘Teardrops on my Guitar’, and ‘Our Song’.  In 2008 she returned with FEARLESS and the hits ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong with Me’.  Taylor grew up on a Christmas tree farm so appropriately her next release was THE TAYLOR SWIFT HOLIDAY COLLECTION (2009, Big Machine Records).  It was produced by Nathan Chapman.  In the liner notes Taylor writes: “I want to thank God for all the blessings He’s given me this past year, and every year before that.  I want to thank my family for all the quirky Christmas memories we’ve collected over the years”.

‘Last Christmas’ was originally written and produced by Wham! member George Michael and released in 1984.  Taylor performs a light country-pop version of this song about heartbreak and longing: “Last Christmas I gave you my heart/But the very next day you gave it away/This year to save me from tears/I’ll give it to someone special.../Merry Christmas/I wrapped it up and sent it/With a note saying ‘I love you’/I meant it/Now I know what a fool I’ve been/But if you kissed me now I know you’d fool me again”.  ‘Christmases When You Were Mine’ is a pretty country ballad penned by Swift, Liz Rose, and Nathan Chapman.  It reminds us that the holidays can be difficult for many: “I’ve been doing fine without you, really/Up until the nights got cold/Everybody’s here except you, baby/Seems like everyone’s got someone to hold/But for me it’s just a lonely time/Cause there were Christmases when you were mine”.

‘Santa Baby’ was originally recorded by Eartha Kitt with Henri Rene and his orchestra in New York City in July 1953.  Swift’s version has an old country twang to it and finds Nathan Chapman and Heidi Beall on harmony vocals.  It includes these playful lyrics: “Come and trim my Christmas tree/With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s/I really do believe in you/Let’s see if you believe in me/Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring/And I don’t mean on the phone/Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight”.  On ‘Silent Night’ Taylor plays with the melody to good effect, breathing new life into a holiday classic.  It includes these reverent lyrics: “Silent night, holy night/Son of God/Love’s pure light/Radiant beams from Thy holy face/With the dawn of redeeming grace/Jesus Lord at Thy birth (2x)/Halleluia (3X)/Christ the Savior is born”. 

Swift is the lone writer of the next offering ‘Christmas Must Be Something More’.  This upbeat country number reminds us just why we celebrate Christmas: “We get so caught up in all of it/Business and relationships/100 mile an hour lives/And it’s this time of year/And everybody’s here/It seems the last thing on your mind/It’s that the day holds something special/Something holy, not superficial/So here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives/It’s something we all try to ignore/And put a wreath up on your door/But here’s something you should know that is for sure/Christmas must be something (2X)/Christmas must be something more”.  The first performance of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show ‘The Kraft Music Hall’ on Christmas Day in 1941.  Here the song is countrified and decidedly sentimental: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleighbells in the snow/I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write/May your days be merry and bright/And may all your Christmases be white”.

This six song holiday EP should, in my humble opinion, be in everyone’s music collection.  Taylor Swift is my favorite female vocalist of all time!  The arrangements of the songs presented here are lovely.  Instruments used include guitars, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, and bass.  Nick Buda, who also appears on the latest Newsboys album HALLELUJAH FOR THE CROSS, plays drums here.  The photos of Taylor included with this project are simply stunning and tasteful.  I’m rating THE TAYLOR SWIFT HOLIDAY COLLECTION 90%.  Visit Taylor’s official website at www.taylorswift.com.

 

 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

OH! GRAVITY


Switchfoot was founded in 1996 as Chin Up.  Their debut album as Switchfoot, which is a surfing term, was 1997’s THE LEGEND OF CHIN.  2003’s THE BEAUTIFUL LETDOWN achieved mainstream success with two singles, ‘Meant to Live’ and ‘Dare You to Move’.  OH! GRAVITY is the band’s sixth studio album.  It was released on Sparrow and Columbia Records in 2006.  It debuted on the Billboard 200 in 18th place and sold 63,000 copies the first week.  On the album Switchfoot is: Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Andrew Shirley.  Jon wrote eight of the songs alone, co-wrote three with brother Tim, and one with Todd Cooper.

The title track ‘Oh! Gravity’ starts things off with a pounding rock beat.  It is about society’s brokenness: “There’s a fracture in the color bar/In the backseat of a parked car/By the liquor store where the streetlight/Keep you company ‘til the next night.../Oh! Gravity!/Why can’t we seem to keep it together?/Sons of my enemies/Why can’t we seem to keep it together?”  ‘American Dream’ is electric guitar and drum driven.  It speaks out versus materialism: “When success is equated with excess/The ambition for excess wrecks us/As the top of the mind becomes the bottom line/When success is equated with excess.../Like a puppet on a monetary string/Maybe we’ve been caught singing/Red, white, blue, and green/But that ain’t my America/That ain’t my American dream”.  ‘Dirty Second Hands’ portrays time as an enemy: “In the land of the free/And the home of the remedy/The old clock is a thief/With dirty second hands (2X)/Here’s the face of everything/That breaks you down/Now you face the face of everything/That breaks you down/Are you really as tough as you think?”

‘Awakening’ is a commercial sounding pop/rock number about spiritual revitalization: “Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines/With my dead beat sky/But this town doesn’t look the same tonight/These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere/And all my life I don’t know/That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive.../Maybe it’s called ambition/But you’ve been talkin’ in your sleep about a dream/We’re awakening”.  ‘Circles’ is a more mellow song with Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek contributing guest vocals and mandolin.  It contains these lyrics: “I’ve lost all that I wanted to leave/I’ve lost all that I wanted to be/Don’t believe that there’s nothing this true/Don’t believe in this modern machine/The modern machine/In circles/Spinning, spinning, in circles, in circles”.  ‘Amateur Lovers’ incorporates cowbell and horns and includes these playful lyrics: “We don’t know what we’re doing/We do it again/We’re just amateur lovers/With amateur friends/I can tell you what you’re thinking now/Before you think it, you can settle down/We don’t know what we’re doing/Let’s do it again (2X)”.

‘Faust, Midas, and Myself’ encourages us to live life with a clear purpose and goals: “You’ve one life/You’ve one life left to leave/You’ve one life, you’ve one life, you’ve one life, you’ve one life left to lead/What direction?/Life begins at the intersection”.  ‘Head over Heels (In This Life)’ is a beautiful rock ballad.  It’s essentially a love song: “In this life, you’re the one place I call home/In this life, you’re the feeling I belong/In this life, you’re the flower and the thorn/You’re everything that’s fair in love and war/I’m coming down like a gunshot/In all these battles that I’ve fought/You’re the mark I’m aiming for/I was yours”.  Noah Lamberth plays the space pedal steel on ‘Yesterdays’, a quiet song about losing a loved one: “Flowers cut and brought inside/Black cars in a single line/Your family in suits and ties/And you’re free/The ache I feel inside/Is where the life has left your eyes/I’m alone for our last goodbye/But you’re free/I remember you like yesterday, yesterday/I still can’t believe you’re gone, oh”.

‘Burn out Bright’ is a peppy song expressing a desire to live life to the full: “If we’ve only got one try/If we’ve only got one life/If time was never on our side/Well before I die, I wanna burn out bright”.  ‘4:12’ uses violins, cello, and harmonica.  It touches on the spiritual: “I still can’t believe that all we are/And that all of our dreams are nothing more than material/Souls aren’t built of stone, sticks and bones”.  ‘Let your love be Strong’ is likely addressed to God: “Let your love be strong and I don’t care what goes down/Let your love be strong enough/To weather through the thunder cloud/Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your eyes/All of my world hanging on your love/Let the wars begin, let my strength wear thin/Let my fingers crack, let my world fall apart/Train the monkeys on my back to fight/Let it start tonight, when my world explodes/When my stars touch the ground/Falling down like broken satellites/Let your love be strong and I don’t care what goes down”.

With OH! GRAVITY Switchfoot has put out a clean, solid, passionate, in touch with reality, rock album.  Jon Foreman’s vocals and songwriting are strong.  The themes presented in the lyrics should appeal both to Christians and non-Christians.  Fans of Sam Roberts, Bryan Adams, and The Tea Party need to pick this one up!  I’m rating OH! GRAVITY 88%.  For more info visit: www.switchfoot.com.

 

Friday, December 05, 2014

CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF STORIES


Carolyn Arends has released ten albums and three books.  She has won 2 Dove Awards, garnered 3 Juno nominations, and has been named Songwriter of the Year by the West Coast Music Awards.  Billboard Magazine has called her “one of the most affecting communicators in any genre”.  Carolyn has been a regular columnist for Christianity Today and a college instructor at Pacific Life Bible College and Columbia Bible College.  Her debut album I CAN HEAR YOU was a good one!  That 1995 release included the songs ‘This is the Stuff’ and ‘Seize the Day’.  Her first holiday album was 2004’s CHRISTMAS: AN IRRATIONAL SEASON.  Her latest is CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF STORIES (2014, 2B Records).  It contains nine originals, three classics, and a Rich Mullins cover.  It was produced by Arends and Roy Salmond, and largely funded via a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.

A light pop song, ‘It Was a Holy Night’, may disturb some traditionalists: “O little town of Bethlehem/I think it is a lie/That you were still or dreamless/On that first Christmas night.../I think He cried the way that babies do/I think His mama might have cried a little too/I bet you Joseph didn’t have a clue what to do/He was new at fatherhood/So I don’t think it was a silent night/I kind of doubt that all was calm that night”.  ‘Vacancy’ contains these admissions many will be able to relate to: “Seems like my Christmas cheer is hard to find this year/I think it vanished in the Fall/Strange how a loss or two can eat away at you/Until there’s not much left at all”.  Another light pop song, ‘Everything Changes at Christmas’, reflects on the importance of the nativity: “Well, if the shepherds were not wrong/If there was an angel song/If God planned this all along/Everything changes at Christmas/Cause if that was the Savior’s birth/That means God thought we were worth/Whatever it took to bring love down to earth/So everything changes at Christmas”.

‘Christmas Magic’ is a great ballad that includes these heartfelt words: “Come all ye faithful, there’s room at the table/And there is a gift for everyone/Friends, the whole reason we need this season/Is to help us remember, joy can still come/To a world often troubled and tragic/So bring on the old Christmas magic”.  ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is presented in country and bluegrass fashion.  It opens with some good news: ”God rest ye merry gentlemen/Let nothing you dismay/Remember Christ our Savior/Was born on Christmas day/To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy/O tidings of comfort and joy”.  ‘The Sound’ encourages us to practise spiritual reflection: “Sometimes on a midnight clear/If we close our eyes we begin to hear/A still, small voice saying ‘Christ is near’/Hush now, listen, that’s the sound of the Kingdom coming.../The Kingdom coming to your town”.

‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ is tender and beautiful and includes these familiar words: “Peace on the earth, goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King!/The world in solemn stillness lay/To hear the angels sing”.  ‘You Gotta Get Up’ is a happy, playful cover of a Rich Mullins song.  It reminds me of my childhood: “I thought Christmas day would never come/It’s here at last, so mom and dad/The waiting’s finally done/And you gotta get up/You gotta get up (2X)/It’s Christmas morning”.  ‘Long Way to Go’ is a catchy original that talks about just how awesome God’s love for us is: “People say that love has limits/People just don’t know/How far the love that came at Christmas is prepared to go/From realms of glory to bales of hay/What a long way to go/From King of Heaven to tiny babe/What a long way to go/Goodness, gracious, glory be/God came down to you and me/From a throne to a manger, to Calvary”.

‘Story of Stories’ is a lovely ballad that tells of God’s perfect response to our sinfulness: “God has a love and the love overcomes/Cause it comes down to live in our skin/Yeah, He makes His home in the flesh and the bones.../He wants His family back/There’s just no stopping His love.../He is the story of stories/He is the mystery of old/He is the glory of glories/All that exists comes down to this newborn baby boy”.  ‘What Kind of King’ reminds us Christ did not come in the expected manner for royalty: “To have the ox and lamb/Attend His coronation/What kind of King is this?/To bid the shepherds come/With just their adoration/What kind of King is this?” ‘Dawn on Us’ zeros in on Jesus’ earthly dad: “What was he thinking in the starlight?/Did he have time to think at all?/A carpenter his whole life/Now he was a midwife/And then the shepherds came to call/When Joseph held the newborn baby.../Was it all a blur, all too much/Until at last, the sun came up?”  ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ invites us to worship Jesus with all we have: “O come, let us adore Him (3X)/Christ the Lord”.

Carolyn Arends lives in Surrey, British Columbia with her husband Mark and their two kids, Benjamin and Bethany.  In the liner notes Carolyn thanks “Pacific Theatre and Blue Mountain Baptist Church, who provoked, inspired and inaugurated so many of these songs”.  On this album, Carolyn provides vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, and ukulele.  Spencer Capier plays mandolin, mandola, guitar, violin, bouzouki, and sings.  Besides being a co-producer, Roy Salmond is responsible for organ, electric guitar, glockenspiel, strum stick, hurdy gurdy, percussion, cello arrangements and more.  Other talented folks on this album include: Julian MacDonough, Adam Thomas, Joel Strobbe, and Gayle Salmond.

Carolyn Arends sings with a childlike innocence and a sense of awe and wonder.  The multiple originals are well thought out and presented skillfully.  Carolyn here has penned many songs that will touch your heart and get you to look at Christmas with new eyes in a new way.  This is an instant classic you will not be able to resist!  I recommend it to fans of Cheri Keaggy, Sarah McLachlan, and Cindy Morgan.  I’m rating CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF STORIES 95%.  For more info visit: www.carolynarends.com.

 

 

Friday, November 21, 2014

O HOLY NIGHT



Sara Groves was born Sara Lee Colbaugh on September 10, 1972.  She is married to Troy Groves.  The couple have three children.  Sara received a Bachelor of Science degree in History and English from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri in 1994.  She was a high school teacher in Minnesota for four years.  Her debut album was 1998’s PAST THE WISHING.  Two of my favorite albums of hers are 2005’s ADD TO THE BEAUTY and 2011’s INVISIBLE EMPIRES.  In 2008 she released O HOLY NIGHT (INO Records/Sponge Records).  Musicians appearing include: Zach Miller, Ken Lewis, Troy Groves, Aaron Fabbrini, and Tyler Burkum.  Ben Shive serves as the producer.

This Christmas album begins with ‘Star of Wonder’, a short, gentle track that makes the following request: “Star of wonder/Star of Light/Star of royal beauty bright/Guide us/Oh, guide us/Won’t you guide us?”  ‘It’s True’ was penned by Sara and starts and ends with her son Toby reading in a cute voice from The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This pretty song reminds us just how good the Good News is: “In your heart you hope it’s true/Though you hold no expectation/In the deepest part of you/There’s an open hesitation/But it’s true/Kingdoms and crowns/The God who came down to find you/It’s true/Angels on high/Sing through the night ‘Alleluia’”.

‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ takes us back to when Christ was so wonderfully born: “’Peace on the earth, goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King’/The world in solemn stillness lay/To hear the angels, to hear them sing.../Sing, Sing, Sing/Still through broken skies they come/With peaceful wings unfurled/And still their heavenly music floats/O’er all the weary world/Above the sad and lowly plains/They bend on hovering wing/And ever over Babel sounds/The blessed angels, the angels sing”.  A soft, newly imagined version of ‘O Holy Night’ follows.  These words from it, speak of the transforming power of Christ: “Truly He taught us to love one another/His law is love and His gospel is peace/Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother/And in His Name all oppression will cease.../O Lord when You came to the earth/O my soul, my soul felt it’s worth/O my soul, my soul felt a thrill of hope”.

‘To Be With You’ is a soothing folk song written by Sara, Ben Shive, and Andy Gullahorn.  It reflects on the atmosphere of Christmas Eve: “We set out milk and cookies/The kids are quick to bed/They know St. Nick is coming/And nothing need be said/We gather by the fire/Reminiscing by it’s light/The kids will be up early/But it’s hard to say goodnight”.  A subdued version of ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is up next.  Jeff Taylor plays accordion and John Mark Painter plays trumpet.  It includes these lyrics: “Angels we have heard on high/Sweetly singing o’er the plains/And the mountains in reply/Echoing their joyous strains/’Gloria, Gloria, Gloria/In excelsis deo’”.

‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ includes these well wishes for one and all: “May your heart be full of gladness/And the peace that covers sadness/May your joy be overflowing/And your many blessings growing/May you have the time you’ve longed for/With the people that you love/May you have yourself a Merry Christmas now”.  ‘Toy Packaging’ was written by Sara Groves and Ben Shive.  This bouncy pop song is a humorous offering: “Nothing makes me lose my cool like/Toy packaging.../I guess it’s anger management/Toy packaging.../I’m drawing up a battle plan/To extricate this robot man/My self-esteem is in the can/Toy packaging.../I hope to have it by tonight/Nevermind this dynamite/Toy packaging”.

Sara, Ben Gowell, and Aaron Fabbrini wrote ‘Peace Peace’.  It takes a realistic approach message-wise: “Peace, Peace/It’s hard to find/Trouble comes like a wrecking ball/To your peace of mind/And all that worry, you can’t leave behind you/All your hopes and fears (3X)/Are met in Him tonight”.  The ballad ‘A Cradle in Bethlehem’ is decidedly about the nativity: “A mother tonight is rocking/A cradle in Bethlehem/While wise men follow through the dark/The star that beckons them/A mother tonight is rocking/A cradle in Bethlehem/’A little child will lead them’/The prophets said of old’”.

‘Silent Night’ is a timeless lullaby: “Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon Virgin Mother and Child/Holy Infant so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace”.  An acappella version of ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ closes things off.  It urges us to tell others about the glorious Incarnation: “Go tell it on the mountain/Over the hills and everywhere/Go tell it on the mountain/That Jesus Christ is born”.

In the liner notes one can find the following: “We would like to dedicate O HOLY NIGHT to our friends at International Justice Mission who have helped us to see that the slave is our brother, and that there is hope against oppression...”  Sara Groves is right at the top of the list in the CCM world when it comes to artistry and creativity.  O HOLY NIGHT is no exception.  Several holiday classics are here set to new tunes and melodies, all the while remaining reverent.  The original songs are well-composed.  Most of the album is easy listening in nature.  Sara’s voice is warm and inviting.  This album is by no means Christian rock.  Fans of Sarah McLachlan and Michelle Tumes should buy this record.  I’m rating O HOLY NIGHT 90%.  For more info visit: www.saragroves.com and www.ijm.org.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

1989



Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989.  She was raised in Wyomissing, PA and when she was fourteen moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.  The rest, as they say, is history.  She has won 7 Grammy’s, 12 Billboard Music Awards, 11 CMA Awards, and 7 Academy of Country Music Awards.  Some of her more popular songs are: ‘Tim McGraw’, ‘Love Story’, ‘Mean’, ‘Red’, and ‘22’.  Her latest album 1989 came out on October 27, 2014 and is her first all out pop album.  She was inspired by the likes of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Annie Lennox, Madonna, and Fine Young Cannibals.  It sold over a million copies in the first week and debuted at No 1 on the Billboard 200.  Here I will be reviewing the Deluxe Edition of 1989 which contains 15 tracks.  In the liner notes Taylor writes: “In the world we live in, much is said about when we are born and when we die.  Our birthday is celebrated every year to commemorate the very instant we came into the world.  And a funeral is held to mark the day we leave it.  But lately I’ve been wondering...What can be said of all the moments in between our birth and our death?  The moments when we are reborn?”

The album opener ‘Welcome to New York’ is a co-write with OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder.  It has a decidedly 80’s pop feel to it and is based on Taylor’s relocation to the Big Apple and opens with these words: “Walking through a crowd/The village is aglow/Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats/Everybody here wanted something more/Searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before/And it said/’Welcome to New York/It’s been waiting for you/Welcome to New York (3X)/It’s been waiting for you/Welcome to New York’”.  Taylor’s co-writers on ‘Blank Space’ are Max Martin and Shellback.  This song includes shouts and stomps and these intriguing lyrics: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/Cause you know I love the players and you love the game/Cause we’re young and we’re reckless/We’ll take this way too far/It’ll leave you breathless/Or with a nasty scar/Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/But I’ve got a blank space baby/And I’ll write your name”.  ‘Style’ is a smooth-flowing pop song that includes these frisky lyrics: “He can’t keep his wild eyes on the road/Takes me home/Lights are off, he’s taking off his coat/I say ‘I heard-oh/That you’ve been out and about with some other girl’/He says ‘What you heard is true, but I can’t stop thinking about you’/And I said ‘I’ve been there too a few times.../Take me home (3X)’”.

‘Out of the Woods’ is a co-write with Jack Antonoff, who also provides backing vocals.  This highly contagious pop ballad is likely about Taylor’s failed romance with Harry Styles of One Direction: “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon/20 stitches in a hospital room/When you started crying, baby I did too/But when the sun came up/I was looking at you/Remember when we couldn’t take the heat/I walked out/I said ‘I’m setting you free’/But the monsters turned out to be just trees/When the sun came up, you were looking at me”.  ‘All you had to do was Stay’ is addressed to an ex-partner: “Here you are now calling me up/But I don’t know what to say/I’ve been picking up the pieces of the mess you made/People like you always want back/The love they pushed aside/But people like me are gone forever/When you say ‘Goodbye’”.  ‘Shake it Off’, written with Max Martin and Shellback, is the album’s debut single that has a swell video to go with it.  This infectious pop/dance number makes use of trombone, saxophone, trumpet, claps, and shouts.  The lyrics are directly addressed to Taylor’s critics: “I stay out too late/Got nothing in my brain/That’s what people say...mmm (2X)/I go on too many dates, but I can’t make them stay/At least that’s what people say...mmm.../And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate/Baby, I’m just gonna/Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake/Shake it off/Shake it off”.

‘I Wish You Would’ is a song of regret: “I wish you would come back/Wish I never hung up the phone like I did, wish you knew that/I’ll never forget you as long as I live/And I wish you were right here/Right now it’s all good/Wish you would”.  ‘Bad Blood’ is a pulsating pop song that reminds us of the serious harm that we humans can inflict on each other: “Did you think we’d be fine?/Still got scars on my back from your knife so/Don’t think it’s in the past/These kinds of wounds/They last and they last now.../Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes”.  ‘Wildest Dreams’ is an airy, atmospheric ballad with strings arranged by Mattias Bylund and Taylor Swift credited with ‘heartbeat’.  The song finds Taylor frolicking with a guy: “I said ‘No one has to know what we do’/His hands are in my hair/His clothes are in my room/And his voice is a familiar sound/Nothing lasts forever/But this is getting good now/He’s so tall and handsome as hell/He’s so bad but he does it so well...”.

‘How you get the Girl’ is a catchy pop tune that offers advice: “Remind her how it used to be/With pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks/Tell her how you must have lost your mind/When you left her all alone/And never told her why”.  ‘This Love’ is the only song on the album written solely by Taylor.  Nathan Chapman plays electric guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.  This quiet ballad looks at relationships as marathons and not as sprints: “This love is good/This love is bad/This love is alive/Back from the dead/Oh, these hands had to let it go free/And this love came back to me.../When you’re young, you just run/But you come back to what you need”.  ‘I Know Places’ speaks of how hard it is to preserve romantic relationships that are always under the microscope of the public eye: “I can hear them whisper as we pass by/Bad sign/Something happens when everybody finds out/See the vultures circling, dark clouds/Love’s a fragile little flame/It could burn out (2X)/Cause they got the cages, they got the boxes and guns/They are the hunters/We are the foxes/And we run”.

‘Clean’ closes out the standard edition of 1989.  It is a co-write with Imogen Heap who plays several instruments on the song, including the vibraphone, and performs backing vocals.  This one is about letting go of another person: “Rain came pouring down when I was drowning/That’s when I could finally breathe and by morning/Gone was any trace of you/I think I am finally clean”.  Two bonus tracks are found on the deluxe edition.  ‘Wonderland’ has an R&B influence and recalls a modern tragedy: “I reached for you but you were gone/I knew I had to go back home/You searched the world for something else/To make you feel like what we had/And in the end in wonderland/We both went mad”.  ‘New Romantics’ has a happy pop sound and includes these optimistic lyrics: “We are too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet/Baby, we’re the new romantics/The best people in life are free”.

With 1989 Taylor Swift has done something few artists can do effectively with ease.  She has changed musical genres, in her case, from country to 80’s pop.  These new songs are pure magic musically and vocally.  They will draw old and new fans in alike.  Her songs still tell stories to good effect and that is what makes her music so relatable and endearing.  Taylor is easily my favorite female mainstream artist.  The pics of her (and there are many) included with this deluxe edition of 1989 are beautiful.  I’m rating 1989, the deluxe edition, 95%.  For more info visit: www.taylorswift.com and www.bigmachinelabelgroup.com.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

FOREVER AFTER


Vienna Rose Da Re, better known as V. Rose, was born on January 9, 1989 in Sacramento, California.  Her bio describes her in her early years as “a burgeoning talent who regularly joined the church choir onstage and played impromptu concerts in the family living room.  V. Rose asked God for the gift of songwriting”.  She released her self-titled debut in 2011 and in 2013 put out an Electro-Pop deluxe edition of it with six extra tracks.  Now she is back with FOREVER AFTER (2014, Clear Sight Music).  Of it she says: “My hope is that this record will cause people to see their lives in relation to eternity, to stop and think about the things they say and do, and ultimately realize the realness of Christ and His return.  The album is based on Revelation 21...We will all spend eternity somewhere and what we do in this life does count for something”.  She adds: “If I can be any kind of light or role model to combat the attractive-but damaging messages being shoved in people’s faces, then I will”.  The majority of the songs on FOREVER AFTER are pop/dance in nature.

‘No Better U (Glee Club Intro)’ warns against comparing oneself to others: “Sometimes we wish we were someone else but/You’ve got to take a look at yourself/And know that nobody else in the world can be a better you”.  ‘No Better U’ reveals struggles with self-esteem: “I feel like hiding out underneath my hoodie/Some days I just don’t feel pretty/Some days I admit that/I bet you didn’t know I get like that/I’m hiding from my Twitter/Sometimes everything’s not glitter/Sometimes they mess with my head/Have me wishin’ I was someone else instead”.

‘Nothing for Love’ finds AJ Larsen on guitars and Lamontt ‘SPEC’ Blackshire on the talkbox.  It reminds us of God’s unconditional love for us: “I used to think that one day I would become perfect/And maybe then I’d finally be good enough to be good/Like God was waiting for that day to come/(It made sense to me then)/But I know now He doesn’t care ‘bout that stuff/He cares about you/So grab somebody’s hand tonight/Tell them that it’s gonna be alright/You just gotta come thru as you are/He don’t care how bad you think you are/Hands up, saying oh (2X)/Cause it’s nothing for love”.  Flame appears on ‘Am I Trending?’  This song speaks of the foolishness of chasing after popularity: “Shouldn’t I do these things just to keep up with the fad?/Am I trending?/Should I do it because they taught me to?/Should I, should I jump off the bridge right after you?/Don’t care I hurt myself/As long as they think that I’m cool”.

Shonlock appears on ‘Forever Endeavor’.  This one takes an eternal perspective on things: “I could take my chances falling down/And I could not be so distant from the crowd/I could profit off it and just maybe win their crown/They only hate me cuz I love You/But I don’t care about now/Cause where I’m goin’/No more smeared mascara cuz we won’t cry/No broken pieces cuz no one will die/Everything brand new will feel so alive/And I wanna go, yeah/I wanna go/Forever endeavor”.  ‘When He Finds You’ points to God: “And I know that the radio keeps telling you/Throw your life away like you don’t got a clue/You think I’m confused for telling you the truth/But everything you see them do, you wanna do/I see so clearly now/You just want to be happy, searching for love/I hope you find Him, find Him find Him, the Truth/When He finds you”.

Da T.R.U.T.H. joins V. On ‘Worshipping Tonight’ which is a song of spiritual surrender: “Tonight I’ll do it, tonight I’m ready for You, I’ll prove it/Tonight I’m gonna Lord, give my life away/Tonight I love You/Tonight I let You in/Tonight I trust You/Take away my sin/I give my life away”.  ‘Forget About the World’ looks towards the next life for believers: “Forget about the world/Don’t hold it tight, no.../Cause all of your riches, all of your pearls/They’re gonna perish with the rest of the world.../C’mon look up to the sky/Who’s in heaven but Jesus?”

‘Crown Thief’ begins with sirens and a piano playing.  This ballad is a confidence booster: “Isn’t it somethin’/People say you’ll never be nothin’, you’ll never be somethin’/Well you know what I think/I think it’s crazy for you to believe everything you hear/So take your hands, cover up your ears/And understand only God knows who you could be, so  only He should be One to speak, right/So don’t let ‘em, let ‘em get you down/Cause you’re no good layin’ on the ground/My mom used to say ‘You just shut ‘em down/Don’t let ‘em steal your crown’”.  ‘. L ‘seems deeply personal: “You were everything a sister’s for and I never could have asked for more/And I know it wasn’t fair how one day I wasn’t there/But I needed you the same and sometimes I still get angry/And I know you still get angry/How they pulled us apart, crazy/What happened was crazy/But we can’t keep on blamin’/No, no/Cuz we gotta pray and we gotta face what we gotta face/And we gotta stay/No we can’t run away from all our problems/From the One who could solve ‘em/There’s only One who could solve ‘em/He’ll take all your sad days/And put an end to the sad face”.

AJ Larsen plays guitars on ‘Tortured Mind’, while ‘J-Drastic’ Gates provides additional programming (strings/piano/pads).  This song includes these very emotionally honest words: “I’ve got these pictures in my head/A thousand words to put to rest/Cause to say them is wrong/They get me so angry/Feels like I’m goin’ crazy/How do I move on?/I wish I could spread my wings and fly/I wish I didn’t always have to cry/Singing the same sad songs”.  ‘King Kong’s Skyline’ is a beautiful ballad about true love’s nature: “I’ll climb over King Kong’s skyline/Crashing through buildings and walls if it even at all shows you how much I care.../I don’t care how long it takes or how much I break/I’ll find you no matter how high”.  Last up is a bonus track.  ‘Turn up your Light’ featuring KJ-52 is a fun dance number.  Here are some of the words: “I want them to see You/So I’m climbin’ up to the top of the world/To show what I’m made of/Cause I’ve got a Light that’s out of this world, yeah/Look in my eyes and you can see the love inside of me/I’m like a rocket getting ready to launch/I need to tell somebody/I want everyone to know/Ready, set, here I go”.

NewReleaseTuesday.com has called V. Rose one of ‘The Ten Most Underrated Artists in 2014’.  V. Rose is a young lady who is excited about sharing her faith through upbeat, contagious dance music that many young people will easily relate to.  If you like Christian hip-hop music, four of these tracks featuring four different guest artists, particularly will appeal to you.  Vienna really does have a good singing voice which comes through especially on the ballads.  Fans of Kesha, Rihanna, and 1 Girl Nation should buy this album.  I’m rating FOREVER AFTER 88%.  For more info visit www.clearsightmusic.com or look up V. Rose on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A FRAGILE STONE


Michael Card was born on April 11, 1957 in Madison, Tennessee.  His first album was 1981’s FIRST LIGHT.  He co-wrote ‘El Shaddai’ with John Thompson.  It won Song of the Year at the 1983 GMA Dove Awards and he won Songwriter of the Year.  Other songs he is known for include: ‘Scandalon’, ‘Known by the Scars’, ‘So Many Books’, ‘Jubilee’, and ‘Love Crucified Arose’.  You may know him as a Bible teacher on Day of Discovery.  He has also authored over 25 books!  In 2002 he released the album A FRAGILE STONE (Covenant Artists).  He wrote the majority of the songs on it alone.

The title track ‘A Fragile Stone’ is a beautiful song co-written with Scott Roley who also provides additional vocals.  Pat Coil plays the B3.  The song reflects on how Jesus viewed Peter: “He called you the rock, the foundation/Of a temple formed from God’s love/His robe of forgiveness wrapping you up/Meant trusting in Him was enough/His love called you out on the water/And held you when you were alone/For you were the rock that was/Broken by love, forever the fragile stone”.  ‘Sea of Souls’ is a musically eclectic track that runs close to eight minutes long.  On it you will hear the banjo, hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, cittern, pennywhistle, and hammer dulcimer.  The lyrics find Peter reminiscing: “All through the night of toil and sweat/With empty souls and empty nets/So hopeless I will not forget/That night so dark and cold/Then with the dawn He rose in view/And filled our nets and my soul too/With the fisher king my rendezvous/Upon the sea of souls (2X)”.

‘Living Stones’ is a pretty ballad that reflects on who Christ is and the effects He has on folks: “See, in Zion He is known/A chosen, precious cornerstone/And the ones who come to trust in Him/Will never know the shame/That He bore on that Cross when it seemed that all was lost/He is the Stone that makes men stumble/The Rock that makes them fall”.  ‘I Left Everything to Follow You’ finds Kirk Whalum on saxophone and uses a choir.  Michael Card writes: “This song is dedicated to countless missionaries who’ve left everything to follow Jesus, who labor in dangerous and lonely places far from the spotlight and the sound of applause.  I hope this helps in some small way”.  Here are some of the words of the song: “But what is my petty offering/To Your sacrifice?/I gave up my home/But You left paradise/And what You called me to offer/Has really set me free/Cause You left everything to be with me”.

Michael plays the harp on ‘I am not supposed to be Here’.  It recounts Peter’s dealings with Cornelius: “My stumbling faith responded to what my mind said wasn’t right/So I left that place and followed in a dream/To find unfamiliar strangers who were hungry for the Light/Then I realized that no one is unclean”.  Michael is joined on vocals by Darwin Hobbs on ‘Not That Kind of King’.  Musically, the song incorporates elements of blues, jazz, and black Gospel music.  These lyrics focus on Jesus’ earthly mission: “He has come to suffer and He has come to die/Crucified in weakness and you may wonder why/Though He could call the angels/He will not say a thing/Because, you see, He’s not that kind of king”.

‘Stranger on the Shore’ is a quiet song with John Catchings playing cello.  It is based on John 21 and a sermon by Dr. William Lane.  The song contains these words of admonition: “You need to be confronted by the stranger on the shore/You need to have Him search your soul, you need to hear the call/You need to learn exactly what it means for you to follow/You need to realize that He’s asking for it all”.  Craig Duncan plays the hammer dulcimer and Pat Coil plays the B3 on ‘His Gaze’.  It is a compelling song that includes these powerful words: “Our eyes met once across a barren place/Where I denied I even knew His name/What broke my heart was not the look upon His face/But knowing that He loved me still the same/It is the very way He looks upon us all/This moment seeing all that we might be/No hint of condemnation can be seen within His eyes/For He has been condemned for you and me”.

‘Walking on the Water’ is a mighty fine, upbeat bluegrass track that uses dobro, banjo¸fiddle, and mandolin.  Buddy Greene and Christine Dente are on backing vocals.  Michael wrote the song with his friend Chuck Beckman in the late 70’s at Western Kentucky University.  Matthew 14:22-33 is the inspiration: “Stepped out on the raging sea and kept my eyes on Him/But every time I looked away I started sinking in, I started sinking in/Just as I was losing hope/Jesus took my hand/Tell me, Peter, where’s your faith?/You know I’ll help you stand/Only I can help you stand”.  ‘Mourning the Death of a Dream’ speaks of the downside of being a traveling musician and a traveling musician’s wife: “Cool morning shadows sadly shift across the floor/Each time we say goodbye it’s harder than before/Even after all the pain of parting still we find/That we must mourn the death of the dreams we leave behind.../The sacrifice that we both lay before His feet/A thousand moments that belonged to us/That now will never be”.  The album ends with an instrumental entitled ‘Sea of Solos (Reprise)’.

A FRAGILE STONE is an excellent album of mostly mellow, easy listening music that adults will appreciate much more than youth will.  The musicianship is highly skilled and Michael’s vocals are smooth, warm, and well-suited to telling Biblical stories.  One could use this project for personal devotions and reflection.  Fans of Tim Daniels, Scott Wesley Brown, and John Michael Talbot should acquire this album which I’m rating 93%.  For more info visit: www.michaelcard.com.

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BROOKE BARRETTSMITH


Brooke Barrettsmith was a contestant on American Idol in 2006 who reached the top 40.  She went on to tour with the likes of Pillar, Wavorly, and Building 429.  On her self-titled debut album (2008, Essential Records) she co-writes all ten songs.  Her co-writers are: Aaron Sprinkle, Jason Ingram, Doug McKelvey, Matt Bronleewe, Adam Smith, Rob Hawkins, and Justin York.  In the album’s credits she thanks “Jesus Christ-my Savior, my life.  May I always serve You with passion and devotion, on and off the stage.  I dedicate this album to you.  I love You, Father.

First up is ‘Right Now’, an all out rock song about being given a clean slate in life: “New day/Moving beyond what broke me down/Letting go/I’m giving it all up to be found/I never thought a second chance would ever let this day begin/I never thought I’d be the one to show the world You’ve overcome/I can start again.../I wanna stand my ground in every circumstance/I won’t let ‘em keep me down/You’ve given me a second chance/Given me a second chance”.  ‘More Real’ speaks of the Lord’s goodness to us: “I’m about to break/In this lonely place/I cry Your name/You are more real/Than the tears that are filling my eyes/Than the heartache I’m holding inside/You’re my hope in the darkest of times/Like the moon that illuminates the night/In light of all I feel/Jesus, You’re more real”.

‘Farewell’ urges us not to be caught up in our regrets: “Say farewell to all, all of your mistakes/Forgive yourself/It’s a brand new day.../The future is redemption/Your story of escape.../Salvation is waiting for you/Your heavy heart can be carried for you”.  ‘Quiet my Heart’ is appropriately a piano-based ballad.  It reminds us that we ought to spend quality time with the Lord on a regular basis: “I get stuck in between/Yesterday and all that tomorrow brings/When all that You want from me/Is that I come and sit at Your feet/And know that You are God.../Open my eyes to take in Your beauty/Keep me here in this place/Take me in Your embrace/There’s no place I’d rather be than right now”.

The next song is called ‘Breakthrough’.  Anyone who has ever experienced a spiritual valley will be able to relate to these pleading words: “Breaks the heart inside of me/Stuck in the dark and I can’t see Your light/Like it used to shine on me/Miss the way it used to be/Running free and feeling so alive/Take me there again/I know You hear me/I know You’ll help me”.  ‘Father’ is a mid-tempo, worshipful song of gratitude and commitment: “Thank You for saving my soul/Oh Father/I thank You for giving me hope/Oh Father/I promise my love to you/And I will follow You always/My Father”.

‘Anymore’ is a heavy rocker that includes these emotionally charged lyrics: “Your words can cut so deep/I can’t stop the bleeding/Do you find pleasure in/In watching me scream?/I feel the sting/(Are you happy now?)/Nothing is sacred/You’re not yourself.../Look at me when I am talking to you/You never listen, never follow through/Look at me, I’m talking to you/You never listen”.  ‘OK’ is a catchy electric guitar and drum driven song of encouragement: “It’s ok to be afraid/Just fix your eyes above/And it will be O, be O, be OK/It’s OK, cuz you are safe/Don’t lose your faith/And it will be O, be O, be OK.../You’ve got to trust, God hears your cries/Don’t, don’t, don’t you worry”.

‘Quiet Streets’ is all about sharing the good news of the Gospel with others: “When did we dress up in secrets?/Why are we ashamed to shout His name?/If you’re waiting for the perfect moment/If there ever was a time, it’s now/Go on now, take it to the quiet streets/The truth is screaming to be free/Go on now, take it to the quiet streets/The truth is screaming”.  ‘Paper Tigers’ finds Frederick Williams on piano and Chris Carmichael responsible for strings.  This closing song assures us all is not lost when we are afraid: “Oh, surrounding you a storm is raging/So look around, don’t you fear/Paper tigers are your enemy/I know they seem real/Stretch out your hands and feel/The wind against your fingertips/And know that help is here/Right here”.

It is pleasant to be reminded that there are female Christian artists who enjoy playing rock music.  The Christian market is flooded with female pop and adult contemporary artists.  Brooke’s voice is well suited to her chosen genre of rock on this album.  Her vocals are not drowned out by the instruments.  The photos of Brooke included with this project are stunning.  I’m recommending this self-titled debut to fans of Krystal Meyers, Kutless, and Flyleaf, and rating it 85%.  For more info look up Brooke Barrettsmith on Facebook.erHerH

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MORE TO THIS LIFE


MORE TO THIS LIFE (1989, Sparrow Records) is Steven Curtis Chapman’s third album.  It was produced by Phil Naish, and Steven, Mark Heimermann, Chris Rodriguez, Herb Chapman, and Chris Harris provide background vocals.

Up first is the title track ‘More to this Life’.  It is a mellow song that offers great hope for the entire human race: “If we turn our eyes to Jesus we’ll find/Life’s true beginning is there at the cross where He died/He died to bring us/More to this life than living and dying/More than just trying to make it through the day/More to this life/More than these eyes alone can see/And there’s more than this life alone can be”.  ‘Love You With My Life’ is one of six songs on this album solely written by Steven.  On this bouncy pop tune Steven makes a pledge to the Lord: “I’m gonna love You with my life/I wanna love You with my life/And as I listen and obey/I’m gonna live these words I say/I’m gonna love You with my life”.

‘Waiting For Lightning’ paints a powerful picture: “Standing on the edge of the truth/Looking out at the view/Of all you used to believe/From where you are you can see you’re far away from home/Echoes of the life you once knew/Call out to you from across the divide/And you know it’s time to step back over the line/But you’re waiting for lightning/A sign that it’s time for a change/And you’re listening for thunder/While He quietly whispers your name”.  Carl Gorodetzsky and The Nashville String Machine play on the track.  ‘Living for the Moment’ is a light 80’s pop song that reminds us that salvation is only a starting point: “He prayed the prayer one Sunday morning/He really meant the words he said/She prayed and gave her heart to Jesus/One night while kneeling by her bed/So many start on this journey/But they never make it out of the door/Their lives are caught in a moment in time/But there’s so much more/Than living for the moment when He’s given us a lifetime/Living for the moment letting hours pass right by/It’s gonna take forever to discover all that Jesus has in store/So live for every moment/And live every moment for the Lord”.

My Uncle Allan sang ‘I Will Be Here’ at our wedding reception.  It is a wonderful ballad concerning romantic love and commitment: “I will be here when you feel like being quiet/When you need to speak your mind/I will listen/And I will be here when the laughter turns to crying/Through the winning, losing, and trying, we’ll be together/Cause I will be here”.  ‘Who Makes The Rules’ was written by Steven, his father Herb, Phil Naish, and James Isaac Elliot.  It has a country twang to it and urges us to truly follow Christ and not the ways of the world: “When I see people just like you and me/Trying to live out the pictures they see on TV/Gotta have a new car, new clothes, new love when they get tired of trying/Well, I’ve been reading ‘bout a different way/Talking ‘bout dying to live and losing to gain/Seems like somebody’s telling us the truth and somebody’s lying/I wanna know who”.

‘Treasure Island’ is a song a sea captain would appreciate: “I raise the sail as I kneel to pray/Check my course all along the way/A million thoughts like the rushing wind/Are blowing this ship so I’ll pray again/Soon I have landed on the solid ground/I take my life’s concerns and lay them all down/When I go sailing out to Treasure Island/The Treasure Island that God’s Word can be/I’ll pray and make my way to Treasure Island/And in those quiet times I know that I will find/All the treasure I will ever need”.  ‘Way beyond the Blue´ is a song of great encouragement: “Look above and beyond what you see/To find a view of all that this life can be/Way beyond the blue where the Father is calling/Let Him take you to a life beyond compare/His love is wider than the sky above you/And He has plans for you that go way beyond the blue”.

‘In This Little Room’ is a co-write with Geoff Moore.  This sentimental song begins with these words: “In this little room I put my pen to the paper/To write what’s in my heart down on a page/ And with every line a silent prayer is being lifted/That the song will somehow find its way/From this little room to your heart”.  Mark O’Connor plays mandolin on ‘More than Words’ a song that reflects on the Bible: “As I open up this Book/And read of all the love it took/For a holy God to care for man/O Spirit, help me understand/It’s not that it’s unclear/It’s a letter to children/But Lord I know/It’s meant to be much more/More than words, not just letters on a page/More than words, for every line and every phrase/Was a breath of inspiration from a caring Father/Who gave the gift of His Son to prove He loved us more than words”.  The album ends with another Chapman and Moore co-write.  ‘Out in the Highways’ is highly evangelistic in nature: “There’s a banner on the church wall/They put up many years ago/Reminding them that Jesus said ‘Go into all the world’/They need the Spirit wind to blow again/And fan the flame of concern/Take the truth that they’ve learned and go/Out in the highways, out in the highways/Open windows, doors, and hearts, take the light into the dark/Out in the highways”.

MORE TO THIS LIFE is an album comprised of mainly soft inspirational and adult contemporary songs of faith.  Unfortunately there are so many slow songs the album becomes boring to listen to at times, even though the songs are well-crafted.  I’m recommending this one to fans of Steve Green and Scott Wesley Brown and rating it 83%.  For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.

 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS


Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky.  His songs have been recorded by the likes of Glen Campbell, Sandi Patty, and Roger Whittaker.  REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS (1988, Sparrow Records) was Steven’s second album and was produced by Phil Naish.

The album opens with ‘Faithful Too’, a country rock song co-written with Geoff Moore, who also provides guest vocals.  It is a spiritual check-up of sorts: “The true test of my love will be/Did I follow You consistently?/Through the good and bad/I want to be faithful too.../So if tragedy calls/Or if everything goes my way/I want to be found/Faithful to You everyday”.  On the country pop song ‘Tuesday’s Child’ Steven expresses his heart: “When Jesus gave His life away/It was once and for all/So with more of His grace filling me/I more than ever want to be/Growing up in purity/With the faith of a child”.

These words from ‘For Who He Really Is’ tell a vivid story: “He slips into church and he puts up his guard/They look so happy, but his life’s been so hard/He keeps his distance so they won’t see the scars/It’s just religion that’s all dressed up in white/And God is love as long as you’re living right/But does he know that Jesus also has scars/And His love can reach him no matter how far?”  ‘Consider it Done’ is a bouncy pop song that includes these lyrics that have the feel of a loving Father offering his son advice: “It’s by His grace we’re saved/Not by the things we do/So we’ve got to serve Him with a thankful attitude/And let Him know where He leads we’ll go/From this day on our hope’s in Jesus and His work’s complete/From this day on/He makes His experience our history”.

‘His Eyes’ is a co-write with James Isaac Elliot.  It was a No 1 hit for Steven and won him a Dove for Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year.  The song reflects on God’s nature: “Sometimes His voice comes calling like rolling thunder or like driving rain/And sometimes His voice is quiet/And we start to wonder if He knows our pain/But He who spoke peace to the water/Cares more for our hearts than the waves/And the voice that once said ‘You’re forgiven’/Still says ‘You’re forgiven’ today”.  ‘The Human Race’ draws on a biblical principle for its chorus: “We are running in a human race/Where nobody wants to settle for second place/But we’ve got to run it at a different pace/Cause the first will be last and the last will be first/At the end of the human race”.

‘Wait’ is a co-write with Margaret Becker.  This tender song features Carl Gorodetzsky and the Nashville String Machine.  It encourages us to be a patient folk: “Answers come slowly to your cries of desperation/But time is His tool, teaching the greatest lessons learned/So let Him do His work in you/And watch the miracles come true as you/Wait, oh wait, wait on the Lord/You will understand in time/Why you must wait/Wait, wait, wait on the Lord/Yes He hears you”.  ‘Truth or Consequences’ is a melodic song that reminds us of the importance of our actions and choices in life: “As sure as God made the sun to shine/He made the rules we must all live by/He loved us too much to leave us alone to our own devices/It’s either truth or consequences/There’s no other way/Push truth aside, the other takes its place”.

‘My Turn Now’ is quite a catchy tune and is one of my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman songs.  These lyrics make it clear that the Christian walk is one of sacrifice: “I close the book and I shake my head/Sometimes I can’t believe the things I’ve read/I don’t deserve what He did for me/He gave His love and His life away/And now He’s asking me to do the same/So I’m gonna give Him all I am/And all I ever hope to be/Cause it’s my turn now/Well, it’s my turn now/My turn to give my life away”.  A volunteer choir is featured on the lovely ballad ‘His Strength is Perfect’.  The chorus offers us these wonderful words of encouragement: “His strength is perfect when our strength is gone/He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on/Raised in His power, the weak become strong/His strength is perfect (2X)”. 

REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS is an album that will leave you not only believing that God is indeed alive, but will confirm to you emotionally that He indeed wants to be an active, living, driving force in your life if you will let Him.  Steven’s vocals are terrific on this album.  Fans of the earlier works of the adult contemporary and pop sounds of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith should buy this album.  I’m rating it 95%.  For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.