Friday, June 30, 2017

MOST WANTED: THE COLLECTOR'S SIGNATURE EDITION



Hilary Erhard Duff was born on September 28, 1987 in Houston, Texas.  Her first major acting role was in the 1998 movie ‘Casper Meets Wendy’.  She went on to star in the Disney Channel show ‘Lizzie McGuire’ from 2001-2004.  Her debut album was 2002’s SANTA CLAUS LANE.  In 2003 and 2004 she put out pop albums.  Here, I will be reviewing  MOST WANTED: THE COLLECTOR’S SIGNATURE EDITION (2005, Hollywood Records), which comes with some cool pics in a special box.  In the liner notes Hilary shares: “I want to dedicate this ultimate collection to you, my fans all around the world!  I feel so blessed and supported by you.  No matter where I am, it always feels like home”.

Starting things off is ‘Wake Up’ an upbeat pop song written by Dead Executives and Hilary.  It offers these words of commentary on what it’s like to be a celebrity: “People all around you everywhere that you go/People all around you/They don’t really know you/Everybody’s watching you like you’re some kind of show/Everybody’s watching/They don’t really know you now”.  ‘The Getaway’ is a song about a guy causing a gal confusion: “You tell me that you love me first/Then throw your heart into reverse/I gotta get away/I can’t keep comin’ back to you every time you’re in the mood to whisper something sweet in my ear/It’s so hard to move on cuz every time I think you’re gone/You show up in my rear view mirror”.  ‘Beat of my Heart’ is a catchy pop/dance song with no deep meaning, but that’s okay.

Next up is ‘Come Clean (Chris Cox Remix)’.  This Kara DioGuardi/John Shanks song is given the techno-dance treatment here.  It finds a young lady coming into her own: “I’m shedding, shedding every color/Trying to find a pigment of truth beneath my skin/Cause different doesn’t feel so different/And going out is better than always staying in/Feel the wind/Let the rain fall down and wake my dreams”.  ‘Who’s that Girl (Acoustic Version)’ finds Hilary reflecting on a past version of herself: “I’m the one who made you laugh/Who made you feel and made you sad/I’m not sorry for what we did, who we were/I’m not sorry/I’m not her/Who’s that girl livin’ my life?”

The next track, ‘Mr. James Dean’ was penned by Hilary, her sister Haylie, and Kevin De Clue.  This rocker has Hilary being honest with a guy: “All the king’s horses wouldn’t make me believe/Even when the walls come crashing down/You still could never be/A rebel without a cause/A rebel to the first degree/Why don’t you stop trying so hard?/Cause there’s no men man enough to be/Another James Dean/You’re nothing like him/So don’t call me friend”.  ‘So Yesterday’ is about moving on when a relationship ends: “If it’s over, let it go and come tomorrow it will seem/So yesterday (2X)/I’m just a bird that’s already flown away/Laugh it off/Let it go and when you wake up it will seem/So yesterday (2X)/Haven’t you heard that I’m gonna be okay?”

 ‘Metamorphosis’ was written by Hilary, Charlie Midnight, Chico Bennett, and Andre Recke.  This pop/rock song is about growing as a person: “Watching the butterfly go towards the sun/I wonder what I will become/Metamorphosis/Whatever this is/Whatever I’m going through/Come on and give me a kiss/Come on, I insist/I’ll be something new/A metamorphosis”.  It was the title track to Hilary’s 2003 album.  ‘Rock this World (Remix 2005)’ is an energetic rocker about having fun: “I don’t want to save the day/I just want to get my way/And rock this world/Read my lips and watch ‘em curl/Rock this world/It don’t take much to please this girl/I don’t need the glitter, don’t believe the hype/You might say I’m the simple type/Like any other girl/Who wants to rock this, rock this world”.

‘Break my Heart’ isn’t exactly a happy song: “Now I try to get my heart up off the ground/My confidence is gone/Happiness cannot be found/So look what you did to me/You got the best of me/And now I’m stuck with all the rest/It will never be the same”.  Charlie Midnight and Chico Bennett wrote ‘Jericho’.  This here, is a Remix 2005 version.  Here are some of the lyrics: “Nothing is ever what it seems/When you live inside your dreams/The walls will tumble (2X)/But I’m not gonna cry/My heart won’t crumble (2X)/If we ever say goodbye”.

Kara DioGuardio and John Shanks wrote ‘Fly’, the inspirational lead single from Hilary’s self-titled 2004 album: “All your worries, leave them somewhere else/Find a dream you can follow/Reach for something when there’s nothing left/And the world’s feeling hollow/Can you hear it calling?/Can you feel it in your soul?/Can you trust this longing and take control?/Fly/Open up the part of you that wants to hide away/You can shine”.  2005’s pop/rocker ‘Supergirl’ oozes with self-confidence: “Haven’t you heard?/I’m Supergirl/You don’t wanna mess with me/I got your back/I know your every move/And I got everything you’ll ever need”.

‘Party Up (Remix 2005)’ is next.  On it, Hilary calls out a guy for his bad behavior: “You roll me, you use me/You love me and then/You wrap me up and reel me in and use me again/You love me, you hate me/You say it’s the end/I know you’re gonna do it again and again...”  ‘Girl Can Rock’ includes these fun lyrics: “Hey boys, are you ready for the shock?/I’m living proof, the girl can rock/Spread the news around every single block/Hey boys, the girl can rock/The girl can rock/Don’t say ‘maybe’ or call me ‘baby’/I ain’t crazy at all”.

Jane M. Wiedlin and Terence E. Hall wrote ‘Our Lips are Sealed’.  It was originally recorded by The Go-Go’s on their 1981 album BEAUTY AND THE BEAT.  Here, the happy pop song is a duet with Hilary’s sister Haylie.  It appeared on the soundtrack for 2004’s ‘A Cinderalla Story’, in which Hilary starred.  Here are some words of wisdom from the song: “It doesn’t matter what they say/In the jealous games people play/Our lips are sealed/Pay no mind to what they say/It doesn’t matter anyway/Our lips are sealed.../Hush, my darling/Don’t you cry/Quiet, angel/Forget their lies”.  Closing things out is ‘Why Not (Remix 2005)’.  It encourages us to step out of our comfort zones: “There may never be a sign/No flashing neon light/Telling you to make your move/When the time is right/Why not take a crazy chance?/Why not do a crazy dance?.../Why not take a star from the sky?/Why not spread your wings and fly?”

MOST WANTED: THE COLLECTOR’S SIGNATURE EDITION will appeal to fans of Carly Rae Jepsen and the earlier works of Miley Cyrus.  One has to keep in mind that Hilary Duff was not quite 18 years of age when this collection came out!  The CD runs almost an hour long.  There are several songs about just having fun, loving and enjoying life and music.  There are songs about guys falling short of her expectations, and breakups.  There are also songs about starting anew, growing up, and reaching one’s full potential.  Hilary comes across as strong and independent.  I’m rating this project 84%.  For more info visit: www.hilaryduff.com.

Monday, June 26, 2017

WIDE EYED


Nichole Ellyse Nordeman was born on January 3, 1972 in Dallas, Texas.  She was raised in Colorado Springs.  In 1998 she won a songwriting competition put on by the Gospel Music Association.  In an interview with Dan MacIntosh for Crosswalk Music she said: “I respect songwriters tremendously, just because I can relate to the craft.  People like James Taylor, Carole King, and Billy Joel all have my respect.  But I can also listen to bubble-gum pop, and be just as happy”.  Nichole released her debut album WIDE EYED on Star Song Records in 1998.  It was produced and arranged by Mark Hammond, while John Mays served as executive producer.  In the liner notes, Nordeman writes: “To the Creator of all life and Giver of all gifts.  May this work be, in some small way, a tribute to Your greatness.  And may You choose to further reveal Yourself through it”.  The album peaked at #16 on the US Billboard Christian Albums chart.

Starting things off is ‘To Know You’, one of five songs written by the duo of Nichole and Mark Hammond.  It was the album’s first single and went on to become one of four songs from the album to be a Top 40 hit on Christian Adult Contemporary radio.  This song is one of honesty: “Thomas needed proof that You had really risen/Undefeated when He placed His fingers/Where the nails once broke Your skin/Did his faith finally begin?/I’ve lied if I denied the common ground I’ve shared with him”.  The title track, ‘Wide Eyed’, is one of five songs solely written by Nichole.  It was the album’s last single.  Gordon Kennedy plays guitars and Mark Hammond plays bass on this adult contemporary song that will make you think: “Not so long ago/A man from Galilee fed thousands with His bread and His theology/And the truth He spoke quickly became the joke of educated, self-inflated Pharisees like me/And they were wide eyed in disbelief and disillusion/They were tongue tied, drawn by their conclusions/Would I have turned and walked away and laughed at what He had to say/And casually dismissed Him as a fraud/Unaware that I was staring at the image of my God?”

‘Who You Are’ is a great song that uses The Nashville String Machine.  It reflects on how we view God: “It is easy to insist on what is packaged and precise/And dismiss the clear suspicion/That You’re bigger than we’d like/It is tempting to regard You as familiar in so many ways/I know I can’t explain You/I would not even try to/And still it’s clear that You are here beside me/I marvel and I wonder/So near and somehow still so far/What makes You who You are?”  Caitlin Hammond is a backing vocalist on ‘Anyway’.  It’s an easy listening song about our worth: “A gallery of paintings new and paintings old/I guess it’s no surprise that I’m no Michelangelo/Every layer of mine hides a lovely design/It might take a little patience/It might take a little time/But You called me beautiful/When You saw my shame/And You placed me on the wall/Anyway”.

Craig Young plays bass on the pop song ‘I Wish the Same for You’.  It finds Nichole desiring others to find a relationship with God: “We are not so different/Sons and daughters, you and I/Facing walls of questions/Fearing answers on the other side of eternity/And what the day will bring/But I finally found the safe and sound/And I wish the same for you/There’s something to hold on to/Yeah, I wish the same for you/A chance for love”.  George Cocchini plays guitars and Gary Lunn plays bass on ‘Is it Any Wonder’.  It speaks of the pressures the world puts on women and men: “Is it any wonder that she would feel less than real/When she reveals what is clearer in her mirror?/Take a look around her/Magazines, glamour queens.../Take a look around him/His wallet size and what he drives/Will symbolize how he’s made it/How they’ll grade it”.

Nichole plays piano on ‘Burnin’’, a terrific ballad about spiritual refinement: “Used to be that I could say/My faith was one arm’s length away/From any flame that ever felt too warm/Asked for matches but I received a gallon full of gasoline/Now my cozy campfire days are gone/And I’m burnin’, I’m burnin’/And I know I’m gonna blister in these flames/But I’ll stay here til this smoke clears/And I’ll find You in the ashes that remain”.  ‘Gone are the Days’ is a cool pop song about how God accepts us: “No more self-rejection, no longer paralyzed/This holy perfection/Is me in Your eyes/Gone are the days of all that I was afraid of/I’ve left behind the traces of who I’ve been/I’m no longer able to wrestle with this angel/And the closer You get, I can let You love me/You love me”.

Of the next song, ‘To Say Thanks’, Nichole writes: “For anyone who believes that every storm in life comes from the guy with a pitchfork and a red cape”.  These lyrics are thought provoking: “Even fields of flowers dressing in their best because of You/Knowing they are blessed to be in bloom/But what about November/When the air is cold and wet winds blow/Do they understand why they can’t grow?/Why? (4X)/Why does it keep getting harder to say thanks?/And I could not pretend to know the difference between the storms You send and those I find”.  Nature lovers will appreciate the closing easy listening ballad, ‘River God’.  It’s about spiritual growth: “Rolling river God/Little stones are smooth/Only once the water passes through/So I am a stone/Rough and grainy still/Trying to reconcile this river’s chill/But when I close my eyes and feel You rushing by/I know that time brings change and change takes time/And when the sunset comes/My prayer would be this one/That You might pick me up/And notice that I am/Just a little smoother in Your hand”.

WIDE EYED has got to be right up there with the finest of debut albums in Contemporary Christian Music!  Fans of Sara Groves and Sarah McLachlan will appreciate the adult contemporary, light pop, and easy listening sounds on this record, along with Nichole’s endearing vocals.  Spiritual growth is a reoccurring theme here.  It takes time and sometimes it hurts.  Another topic explored is that we can’t know everything about God on this earth.  It’s okay to have questions and doubts.  These songs convey a desire to know God and also convey our worth to Him.  I’m rating WIDE EYED a perfect 100% with bonus points for Nichole’s nifty hairdo on the front cover.  For more info visit: www.nicholenordeman.com.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OPEN HANDS



Laura Mixon Story was born on September 5, 1978 in Augusta, Georgia.  From 1997 to 2000 the band she was in, Silers Bald, put out four independent records.  In 2002 she released her first solo independent album, INDESCRIBABLE.  A couple years later Chris Tomlin had a #2 hit with its title track.  Story released her fourth album, BLESSINGS, in 2011 (INO).  It hit #1 on the Top Christian Albums and the Folk Albums chart.  It won the Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’.  The title track also won a couple of Dove’s.  Fast forward to 2017 and Story has a new studio album out, OPEN HANDS (Fair Trade).  She states: “What the Lord asks us is to surrender.  It’s about learning to live with open hands, learning to live life in this constant state of saying, ‘Lord, my life is Yours.  My time is Yours.  My resources are Yours.  All of this is Yours.  Do what You will”.  She adds: “My greatest goal is always for my story to encourage listeners to believe that they, too, can live out their faith in the midst of hard circumstances”.

A modern worship song, ‘Death Was Arrested’, starts things off.  It’s a song of testimony that uses six background vocalists: “Released from my chains, I’m a prisoner no more/My shame was a ransom He faithfully bore/He cancelled my debt/And He called me His friend/When death was arrested and my life began/Oh, Your grace so free washes over me/You have made me new/Now life begins with You”.  Laura Story and Seth Mosley wrote the title track, ‘Open Hands’, which is already a chart-topper.  Luke Brown sings backing vocals, while Third Day’s Mac Powell provides duet vocals.  It’s a worship song about letting go: “Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan/Take it all, every weight/All the shame and brokenness/Jesus, I surrender all/Every victory and loss/Take it all, take it all/’Til all I have is open hands”.  ‘You Came Running’ is an adult contemporary song that praises God: “Heartbreak on this winding road/And the pieces I had gathered/Couldn’t heal up on their own/But the God of all comfort and the Prince of all Peace/Came running/You came running/You saw what was shattered/The depth of my need/And came running/You came running to me”.

‘Give You Faith’ is a pretty co-write with Hank Bentley.  It’s lovingly addressed to Laura’s children: “I wanna give you faith/I wanna leave you hope/That you would know a love that never lets you go/More than wisdom or wealth/More than happiness and health/May you say I gave you faith.../The very God who formed you/Gives grace enough for us/And though I won’t be perfect/I’ll teach you to trust”.  ‘For the Love of My King’ includes background vocals by Tina LaRue and Jeremy Redmon.  It’s a well done mash-up of ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’ and new lyrics including these: “As long as I have breath, until the end of days/I will sing for the love of my King/Whether in life or death/My heart will ever praise/I will sing for the love of my King”.

Laura writes: “I’m pretty sure that the theology that I learned as a kid was from old hymns.  It’s amazing, even now as an adult, how those hymns come back and really provide that sturdy foundation for life”.  ‘Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)’ presents these words in a modern worship style: “O’ for a thousand tongues to sing/My great Redeemer’s praise/The glories of my God and King/The triumphs of His grace/A thousand songs are not enough/To say how great You are/The glories of Your majesty/The triumphs of Your love/Awake my soul to sing the glories of my God and King/Arise and praise the One/Worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues”.  Laura, Hank Bentley, and Mia Fieldes wrote ‘Whisper’.  Gabe Scott plays the hammer dulcimer, Cara Fox the cello, and lap steel and bouzouki are also used on this beautiful ballad about patience: “I will wait for You (2X)/And my heart will be the listener/I will wait for You (2X)/And I will find You in the whisper/I believe that You speak in the quietness/Even in the chaos I will rest”.

‘Every Word You Breathe’ declares the power of God’s Word: “It’s water for the thirsty, power for the weak/Shelter for the weary/Help for those in need/It’s revival for the broken/It answers those who seek/With every word You’ve spoken/You’re bringing life to me/You are bringing life to me”.  ‘Majesty’ is one of two cuts on the album solely written by Laura.  It’s a modern worship ballad: “Your Majesty, Your Grace Divine/The fullness my soul thirsts to find/May all I am be lost in the depths of who You are/That I may know life true/O Majesty”.

Next up is ‘Extraordinary’, a contemporary song beginning with these words of gratitude: “No eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard/The fullness of Your love/And kindness undeserved/This mystery of grace/I cannot comprehend/That You would call me child, that You would call me friend/You are extraordinary/In the way You love/In the way You love me/You find me when I’m weary and You lift me up”.  Laura’s bio says she wrote the closing song ‘Grace Abounds’ “after weeks of turning on the television only to continue to watch stories of terror attacks, extreme injustice, and racial tension make headlines day after day”.  Laura plays piano and Chris Bevins and Craig Swift are responsible for the string arrangement on this easy listening number.  I like these words: “When life has left me disillusioned/When hostility and hatred seem to win/Each headline that I read brings me to my knees again/When it feels like hope cannot be found/Grace abounds”.

If Chris Tomlin were female, he would be Laura Story.  The two artists are very similar in their approach to crafting modern worship songs for the church.  At least that’s what I conclude after listening to OPEN HANDS.  Laura has a voice that is easy to listen to and the instrumentation is skillful here.  These songs express gratitude to God for redeeming us via the cross and the resurrection.  God is praised for His grace, love, comfort, healing, and majesty!  We are called to willingly surrender our lives to Him.  We are also called to wait on and listen for God.  There are two updates on traditional songs of the church, presented with additional and new lyrics, which is a Chris Tomlin mega-trait.  ‘Give You Faith’ is the best song appropriate for infant baptisms or baby dedications that I’ve heard in a while.  I’m rating OPEN HANDS a perfect 100% for its strong lyrics and how the songs flow together so effortlessly.  For more info visit: www.laurastorymusic.com and www.fairtradeservices.com.


Friday, June 16, 2017

BREAKAWAY



Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24th, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas.  She won the first season of ‘American Idol’ back in 2002.  Her debut album, THANKFUL, came out in April 2003.  It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and its lead single, ‘Miss Independent’ was a hit that was nominated for a Grammy.  Clarkson put out her second album, BREAKAWAY (RCA-19-S) in 2004.  In 2005 it was the world’s seventh best selling album.  BREAKAWAY won a Grammy for ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’.  In the liner notes, Kelly writes: “God, You are so gracious and giving.  There are no words to describe my love and passion for You.  These past couple of years have been a bit hard and so crazy and I thank You for being with me and teaching me to just let things go and give them up to You because no matter how strong I think I am, I CANNOT do anything without You”.

The title track, ‘Breakaway’, was the album’s fifth and final single.  One of the co-writers is Avril Lavigne.  It’s a highly inspirational adult contemporary ballad: “I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly/I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky/And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change/And break away/Out of the darkness and into the sun/But I won’t forget all the ones that I love/I’ll take a risk, take a chance, make a change/And break away”.  ‘Since U Been Gone’ was written by Martin Sandberg and Dr. Luke.  It was the album’s lead single and won a Grammy for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’, although I consider it an energetic rock song.  These lyrics rejoice at having one’s freedom: “Since you been gone/I can breathe for the first time/I’m so movin’ on/Yeah, yeah/Thanks to you, now I get what I want/Since you been gone/You had your chance, you blew it/Out of sight, out of mind/Shut your mouth/I just can’t take it/Again, and again, and again, and again!!!”

‘Behind these Hazel Eyes’ peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was in that chart’s Top 10 for fifteen weeks!  It’s a strong rock track of heartache: “Now I can’t breathe, no I can’t sleep/I’m barely hanging on/Here I am once again/I’m torn into pieces/Can’t deny it, can’t pretend/Just thought you were the one/Broken up deep inside/But you won’t get to see the tears I cry/Behind these hazel eyes”.  The album’s third single, ‘Because of You’, is next.  It’s a sad, powerful ballad: “Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk/Because of you I learned to stay on the safe side so I don’t get hurt/Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything/Because of you I don’t know how to let anyone else in/Because of you/I’m ashamed of my life because it’s empty/Because of you I am afraid/Because of you”.

Kara DioGuardi and John Shanks wrote ‘Gone’, a song about a romantic relationship being over: “You know you did it/I’m gone to find someone to live for in this world/There’s no light at the end of the tunnel tonight/Just a bridge that I gotta burn/You are wrong if you think you can walk right through my door/That is just so you/Coming back when I’ve finally moved on”.  ‘Addicted’ uses piano and strings and includes these raw words: “I’m hooked on you/I need a fix, I can’t take it/Just one more hit/I promise I can deal with it/I’ll handle it, quit it/Just one more time, then that’s it/Just a little bit more to get me through this”.

‘Where is Your Heart’ is an adult contemporary ballad that questions one’s partner: “Where is your heart?/Cause I don’t really feel you/Where is your heart?/What I really want is to believe you/Is it so hard to give me what I need?/I want your heart to bleed and that’s all I’m asking for/Where is your heart?”  Next up is ‘Walk Away’.  It peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a Top 40 hit internationally.  2 of the co-writers are Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.  On this catchy pop/rock song Kelly doesn’t mince any words: “I want a love, I want a fire, to feel the burn, my desires/I want a man by my side not a boy who runs and hides/Are you gonna fight for me, die for me/Live and breathe for me?/Do you care for me?/Cause if you don’t, then just leave”.

‘You Found Me’ sings the praises of a guy: “You found me/When no one else was looking/How did you know just where I would be?/Yeah, you broke through all of my confusion/The ups and the downs and you still didn’t leave/I guess that you saw what nobody could see/You found me”.  ‘I Hate Myself for Losing You’ is an honest song: “I woke up today/Woke up wide awake/In an empty bed/Staring at an empty room/I have myself to blame for the state I’m in today/And now dying doesn’t seem so cruel/And oh, I don’t know what to say/And I don’t know anyway, anymore/I hate myself for losing you”.

A rock song, ‘Hear Me’, follows.  It shows vulnerability: “I used to be scared of letting someone in/But it gets lonely being on my own/No one to talk to and no one to hold me/I’m not always strong/Oh, I need you here/Are you listening?”  Last up is a live version of ‘Beautiful Disaster’, a song from Kelly’s first album.  The writers are Matthew Wilder and Rebekah Jordan.  Jason Halbert plays piano.  The song reflects on a guy: “I’m longing for love and the logical/But he’s only happy hysterical/I’m searching for some kind of miracle/Waiting so long.../He’s soft to the touch/But frayed at the ends he breaks/He’s never enough and still he’s more than I can take”.

BREAKAWAY is mainly a rock music album with touches of adult contemporary music.  The album begins with a song about chasing one’s dreams and reaching one’s full potential, but by far the main lyrical theme is heartache and heartbreak.  Kelly wants more than just a ho-hum relationship.  Benefits of getting out of a bad relationship include gaining one’s freedom and independence, and starting over with a clean slate.  A happy love song is thrown in for good measure.  Kelly is a powerful vocalist and for the most part the songs here are well-written.  I’m rating BREAKAWAY 93.5%.  For more info visit: www.kellyclarkson.com.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

RED SEA ROAD



Elizabeth Asher Bannister, who Christian music fans know as Ellie Holcomb, was born on September 12th, 1982 in Nashville, TN.  Her music career beginnings were with Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.  She is married to Drew and they have 2 kids-Emmylou and Huck.  After releasing two EP’s, Ellie released her debut full length studio album AS SURE AS THE SUN in 2014.  The album was nominated for a Dove for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Album’ and Ellie took home the Dove for ‘New Artist of the Year’.  On January 27th, 2017 she released her follow-up album, RED SEA ROAD (Full Heart Music), produced by her famous father Brown Bannister who won his fight with cancer, and Ben Shive.  Ellie shares: “This whole record has been God reminding me that He’s faithful even when you’re sick.  Even when things don’t turn out like you thought they would.  He will bring healing and hope.  He will be who He says He is”.

Ellie, Rusty Varenkamp, and Benji Cowart wrote ‘Find You Here’, the album opener.  This adult contemporary song reminds us God does not forsake us: “Here in the middle of the lonely night/Here in the middle of the losing fight/You’re here in the middle of the deep regret/Here when the healing hasn’t happened yet/He is in the middle of the desert place/Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face/Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms/You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart”.  Ellie began writing ‘He Will’ when she got sick in the middle of a radio tour.  She was meditating on Isaiah 61.  The song places full confidence in God: “Whether I’m in want or plenty/Whether I’m in health or ill/Our God promises His children/He will, He will/He’ll bind up the brokenhearted/Oh He will (2X)/He’ll set captives free from darkness/Oh He will (2X)/He’ll breathe hope into the hopeless/And help a restless soul be still”.  The beautiful title track, ‘Red Sea Road’, is one of two songs written by Ellie, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt.  It was written “for several close friends who suffered tragic losses in their families, yet clung to hope in Christ in the midst of it”.  This adult contemporary ballad includes these beautiful words: “God knows we ache when He asks us to go on/How do we go on?/We will sing to our souls/We won’t bury our hope/Where He leads us to go/There’s a red sea road/When we can’t see the way/He will part the waves/And we’ll never walk alone/Down a red sea road”.

‘You are Loved’ is a light pop song of encouragement: “You are loved, oh, not because of what you’ve done, no/Even when your heart has run the other way/Nothing’s gonna change His love/And you are wanted, not because you are perfect/I know that you don’t think you’re worth that kind of grace/But look into His face/You’ll know that Jesus, He chose you/He sees you/He knows you, ohhhh/You’re covered, forever/Beloved Daughter”.  ‘Fighting Words’ is one of three songs solely written by Ellie.  This one is a catchy modern folk number of determination: “I will fight the lies with the truth, ohh/Keep my eyes fixed on You/I will sing the truth into the dark/I will use my fighting words/My debt is paid, I’ve been set free/And You gave Your life up to rescue me”.

‘I Will Never Be the Same’ is one of two songs credited to The Nashville Nine.  Ben Shive plays B3 and keys and a choir is used to good effect.  This song speaks of Christ’s transforming power: “When You rolled the stone away/When You walked out of the grave/You were standing in the light of day/And everything changed/You said ‘Do not be afraid’/You were scarred to heal the pain/You defeated death and shame/And everything’s changed, everything’s changed/And when I mess it up/You say Your love’s enough/You say You’ll never leave or forsake me”.  Jillian Edwards sings backing vocals on ‘Wonderfully Made’, a ballad about self-esteem: “I’m wonderfully made/Help me believe it/Help me to see me/Just like You see me/Just like You made me/I’m wonderfully made”.

Next up is ‘We’ve Got This Hope’, a tender song of positivity on which Nathan Dugger plays pedal steel and bass: “We’ve got this hope/We’ve got a future/We’ve got the power of the resurrection living within/We’ve got this hope/We’ve got a promise/That we are held up and protected in the palm of His hand/And even when our hearts are breaking/Even when our souls are shaken/Ohhh, we’ve got this hope”.  ‘You Love Me Best’ reflects on how God’s love for her exceeds that of her mother, father, and spouse: “And there may come a day/When all other loves have gone away, oooh/When darkness hems me in/You’ll be right where You have always been/Closer than the heart within my chest/Because You love me best”.

‘God of All Comfort’ doesn’t even hit the two minute mark.  Here are the complete lyrics: “No one’s too far/No one’s too broken/God says His heart is full of compassion/Everlasting arms hold us together/When we’re falling apart/He is the God of all comfort/God of all comfort”.  ‘Rescue’ is a modern worship song offering these words of testimony: “It’s like I fell into a hole/Too deep to climb out/And I looked up to the sky/And saw You reaching down/Reaching down/You are the rescue/You are the reckoning/From all the things I’ve done and have been done to me/You are revival/You’re my recovery/I know that You’re the answer for what’s missing/Because You love me”.

‘Living Water’ is one of 2 songs on the project penned by Ellie and Ben Bannister.  Nicole Witt sings backing vocals and the chorus serves as a prayer: “Spirit fill us with Living Water/We know Your well will not run dry/So come revive us, come wash over/In Your presence we’ll find our life”.  The album closes with ‘Man of Sorrows’, a co-write with Ellie’s husband Drew Holcomb.  The song drags but has a meaningful chorus: “Man of sorrows/What a name/Bore our suffering/Bore all of our pain/Man of sorrows/Broken sinners to reclaim/Overcame the darkness/And walked out of the grave”.  Isaiah 53 is, of course, a reference point for the song.

RED SEA ROAD is mostly an adult contemporary record but blends in elements of light pop, modern worship, and folk.  The slower songs outweigh the faster ones by far.  Ellie has a wonderful voice!  The main message of this record is that God is with us even in the hard times.  He shows us love and compassion.  This record makes it clear just how strong God’s love for us is.  Our worth comes from us being God’s creation and not from our performance in life.  On the record Ellie admits our need to be rescued and to experience revival.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us life, hope, and power.  Mellow and contemplative for the most part, RED SEA ROAD will resonate with fans of Cheri Keaggy and Kari Jobe.  I’m rating it 95%.  For more info visit: www.ellieholcomb.com.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

HUMAN TOUCH



Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey.  In 1973 he released his debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J.  Over the years he became known for such songs as ‘Born to Run’, ‘Hungry Heart’, ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, and ‘Tunnel of Love’.  In 1992 he released two albums on March 31st, HUMAN TOUCH and LUCKY TOWN, both on Columbia Records.  Here, I am reviewing the former, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200.  It was produced by Bruce, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, and Roy Bittan.

The title track, ‘Human Touch’, is up first.  It is over six minutes long and hit #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart and #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  Patty Scialfa sings harmony vocals on this great song that finds Bruce addressing a gal: “So you been broken and you been hurt/Show me somebody who ain’t/Yeah, I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain/But hell, a little touchup and a little paint.../You might need somethin’ to hold on to/When all the answers they don’t amount to much/Somebody that you can just talk to/And a little of that human touch”.  David Sancious plays the Hammond organ on ‘Soul Driver’.  I like these opening words: “Rode through forty nights of the gospels’ rain/Black sky pourin’/Snakes, frogs, and love in vain/You were down where the river grows wider/Baby, let me be your soul driver”.

’57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)’ was the album’s second single.  Musically and vocally it sounds like something Cash would’ve recorded.  It’s a bare bones story song: “I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills/With a trunkload of hundred thousand dollar bills/Man came by to hook up my cable TV/We settled in for the night, my baby and me/We switched ‘round and ‘round ‘til half past dawn/There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on.../So I bought a .44 magnum/It was solid steel cast/And in the blessed name of Elvis, well, I just let it blast/’Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet”.  ‘Cross My Heart’ was written by Bruce and Sonny Boy Williamson.  It’s a rock ballad with words of wisdom: “Well, you may think the world’s black and white/And you’re dirty or you’re clean/You better watch out you don’t slip/Through them spaces in between/Where the night gets sticky and the sky gets black”.

‘Gloria’s Eyes’ is an electric guitar driven rock song that opens with these words of confession: “I was your big man, I was your prince charming/Kind on a white horse, hey now look how far I’ve fallen/I tried to trick you/Yeah, but baby you got wise/You cut me, cut me right down to size/Now I’m just a fool in Gloria’s eyes”.  Mark Isham plays muted trumpet on ‘With Every Wish’, a quiet song that offers this advice: “Before you choose your wish son/You better think first/With every wish there comes a curse”.

‘Roll of the Dice’ is one of two songs penned by Bruce and Roy Bittan.  This one’s a happy rock love song: “Well, it’s never too late so come on girl/The tables are waiting/You and me and lady luck/Well tonight we’ll be celebrating/Drinkin’ champagne on ice/In just another roll of the dice”.  Sam Moore contributes vocals to ‘Real World’.  On it, Bruce shares his desires: “I wanna find some answers/I wanna ask for some help/I’m tired of runnin’ scared/Baby, let’s get our bags packed/We’ll take it here to hell and heaven and back/And if love is hopeless, hopeless at best/Come on put on your party dress, it’s ours tonight/And we’re goin’ with the tumblin’ dice”.

‘All or Nothin’ At All’ is a dance/rock song that finds Bruce being straight forward: “Said you’d take me for a little dance/If you had a little time on your hands/Well, all I do is push and shove/Just to get a little piece of your love/I want it all or nothin’ at all (2X)/Well, now I don’t wanna be greedy/But when it comes to love there ain’t no doubt/You just ain’t gonna get what you want/With one foot in bed and one foot out”.  ‘Man’s Job’ aims to sway a gal away from another guy: “Well, now his kisses may thrill/Those other girls that he likes/But when it comes to treatin’ a real woman right/Well, all of his tricks/No, they won’t be enough/Cause lovin’ you baby/Lovin’ you woman/Lovin’ you darlin’ is a man’s man’s job”.

Bobby Hatfield sings harmony vocals on ‘I Wish I Were Blind’, a pretty, but sad, ballad: “And though this world is filled with the grace and beauty of God’s hand/Oh, I wish I were blind/When I see you with your man”.  ‘The Long Goodbye’ includes this admission: “Well, I went to leave twenty years ago/Since then I guess I been packin’ kinda slow/Sure did like that admirin’ touch/Guess I liked it a little too much”.

Ian McLagen plays piano on ‘Real Man’, while David Sancious plays organ on the upbeat rock song: “Took my baby to a picture show/Found a seat in the back row/Sound came up, lights went down/Rambo, he was blowin’ ‘em down/I don’t need no gun in my fist baby/All I need is your sweet kiss/To get me feelin’ like a real man/Feelin’ like a real man”.  Last up is ‘Pony Boy’, which dates back to the early 1900’s.  Harmonica is used on this folk song: “O’er the hills and through the trees/We’ll go ridin’ you and me.../Down into the valley deep/’Neath the eaves we will sleep/Sky of dreams up above/My pony boy”.

HUMAN TOUCH is an album of perfection!  Passionate vocals, skilled instrumentation, and thoughtful lyrics propel this disc to greatness!  Bruce sings about male-female romantic relationships in a way anyone can relate to.  The songs are full of emotion and feeling and Bruce paints simple stories in everyday man’s language.  By no means is this one of Bruce’s flashier efforts, but it is earthy.  Adults who enjoy the rock songs of Tom Petty, Tom Cochrane, and Kenny Marks, should pick up HUMAN TOUCH, which I’m rating 100%.  For more info visit: www.brucespringsteen.net.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

BOUNDLESS



Kerrie Roberts was born on January 1, 1985.  She released her self-titled debut album in 2010.  It included the Top Ten hit ‘No Matter What’, as well as ‘Outcast’.  In 2013 she released TIME FOR THE SHOW, which included ‘What Are You Afraid Of’.  These first two albums were on Reunion Records.  Fast forward to March 2017 and she put out BOUNDLESS on Vital Records.  It was produced by Chris Cron and executive produced by Dottie Leonard Miller.  Kerrie shares: “I want listeners to have those moments of complete focus, peace and love and joy whenever you are experiencing the presence of God.  We know that lives are changed, hearts are changed, and our bodies are changed by His presence.  That would be the definition of success for me for this album; if people experience His presence and have their lives changed with a bit of a taste of Heaven”.

Starting things off is ‘Life in the Name’, a pop song of encouragement: “Even in our struggle, we don’t have to tremble/We know where to find our hope/There’s home, there’s heart/We remember who we are/There’s life in the Name, life in the Name/We’re free to fly/No fear of earth or sky/There’s life in the Name, life in the Name/Of Jesus, Jesus”.  Chris Cron, Aaron Rice, and Kerrie wrote ‘Hold On To You’.  I like the dance beat of the song, but the chorus sounds like a children’s song: “I can hold on, I can hold on/I can hold on to You/Cause You hold on, cause You hold on/Hold on to me, hold on to me”.

The title track, ‘Boundless’, is one of three songs on the album written by Chris Cron, Krissy Nordhoff, and Kerrie.  It is adult contemporary in nature and declares God’s goodness: “There’s no shore to the ocean of Your love/No ceiling or floor to the power of Your blood/You are boundless, You’re boundless/There’s no wall that Your mercy cannot break/There’s no heart that Your hands can’t shape/You are boundless, You’re boundless”.  ‘Echo of the Ages’ was penned by Chuck Butler, Kerrie, and Tony Wood.  It’s a pretty modern worship ballad: “The echo of the ages resounds before Your throne/Glory, all glory be to You and You alone/Our song of worship rises with the saints who’ve gone before/The echo of the ages/Holy is the Lord!”

Justin Morgan is a co-writer on ‘Rooted’, a lovely song of personal testimony: “No, I won’t be moved when the world tries to bend me/I’m firmly grounded in truth that has saved me/Jesus, You saved me/And I will ever be rooted in You, God/Ever be rooted in You, Lord/Ever be rooted in You”.  ‘By Your Grace’ is a worship song with a poetic chorus: “Your voice is never silent/Your love is never still/And only You reach far enough to save/Your Word is never empty/Your mercy’s new as spring/Your promise is forever and always/It’s only by Your grace/You break every chain/You meet us face to face/Only by Your grace”.

A David Thulin Radio Edit of the album’s next song ‘True North’ was released as a single.  The album version is a great pop/dance number singing God’s praises: “I look around at all the mystery/All the world reveals Your glory/Resounding with a shout of praise/Igniting, Your love lights the way/All my longings point to You (2X)/My true north/You give my life direction/You’re my true north/Your heart is my obsession/And wherever You lead me/I am following/My true north”.  A laid back version of the church classic ‘Nothing But the Blood’ follows.  It includes these iconic lyrics: “Nothing can for sin atone/Nothing but the blood of Jesus/Naught of good that I have done/Nothing but the blood of Jesus/Oh, precious is the flow/That makes me white as snow/No other fount I know/Nothing but the blood of Jesus”.

Matt Armstrong, Benji and Jenna Cowart, and Kerrie wrote ‘Where My Heart Belongs’.  It has a folk music feel to it and declares loyalty to Christ: “I will not build on sinking sand/I will not chase each passing wind/My hope is Jesus, nothing less/I know Your love will never rest.../I’m standing where my heart belongs/The Solid Rock, this is my home/My soul will sing and through it all/You are where my heart belongs (2X)”.  Last up is ‘The Answer’, a forgettable song: “You are the answer/My freedom, my homeland, my proof/The ground that I dance on/Inspiring unshakeable truth/The whisper, the thunder that I can’t refuse/You are the answer/The answer is always You”.

There are several strengths this album, BOUNDLESS, has.  First and foremost, one cannot help but acknowledge that Kerrie Roberts is a strong, talented vocalist.  She’s likely one of the best current female vocalists in the CCM market.  The background and gang vocals are also a strength on the album.  Secondly, Kerrie’s Christian faith comes through loud and clear.  She desires to be completely surrendered to Christ and to praise God both in the good and the bad times.  Thirdly, the music is contemporary in sound, whether we are talking pop or worship. Young adults will enjoy the musical sounds presented here.  Unfortunately there is a big downside to the album.  The lyrics lack depth and creativity as far as artistry goes.  Kerrie doesn’t say anything on this album that a mass of other worship artists haven’t already been saying and singing about for several years now.  In other words, there is nothing that sets this album apart message-wise.  In my opinion, the two best tracks are #7 and #8 (True North and Nothing But the Blood).  Next time around, I’d like to see Kerrie put out an album that lyrically deals with things like male-female relationships, addictions, self-esteem struggles, suicide, peer pressure, the challenges of being a Christian in today’s society, etc.  I’m rating BOUNDLESS 80%.  For more info visit: www.kerrieroberts.com.


Sunday, June 04, 2017

THANKFUL



Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas.  In high school she was part of several musicals including ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and ‘Brigadoon’.  In 2002 she won the debut season of ‘American Idol’.  The next year she released her debut album THANKFUL (RCA/19/S).  It debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was executive produced by Clive Davis.  In the liner notes Kelly writes: “First and foremost, I want to thank God.  This past year has been such a blessing and I haven’t taken one thing for granted.  I am thankful every day, not just for the past year, but also for my family, friends, and life”.

‘The Trouble With Love Is’ is a soulful R & B ballad about heartbreak: “Every time I turn around/I think I’ve got it all figured out/My heart keeps callin’/And I keep on fallin’/Over and over again/This sad story always ends the same/Me standin’ in the pourin’ rain/It seems no matter what I do/It tears my heart in two”.  Strings are used.  Rhett Lawrence, Christina Aguilera, Matt Morris, and Kelly wrote the album’s first single, ‘Miss Independent’.  It hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Mainstream Top 40 and was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’.  The chorus packs a musical punch and is about falling in love: “What is this feeling taking over?/Thinking no one could open the door/Surprise, it’s time to feel what’s real/What happened to Miss independent?/No longer need to be defensive/Goodbye old you/When love is true”.

‘Low’ peaked at #2 on the Canadian Hot 100.  Danielle Brisebois, who played Stephanie on ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Archie Bunker’s Place’, sings backing vocals on this rock song about betrayal: “Have you ever been low?/Have you ever had a friend that let you down so?/When the truth came out/Were you the last to know?/Were you left out in the cold?/Cause what you did was low/No, I don’t need your number/There’s nothing left to say”.  Diane Warren wrote ‘Some Kind of Miracle’.  It’s an R & B ballad of gratitude on which former White Heart member Tommy Sims plays bass: “Prayed for an angel to come in the night/And shine some sweet light on me/Found only strangers/Then you came to me/Just when I’d given up, you gave me love/My world was tumbling down/You turned it around baby/You, you’re some kind of miracle/You are, you’re a miracle to me”.

‘What’s Up Lonely’ is a light pop song about being alone: “What’s up lonely?/Seems you’re my only/Friend who wants to share my pain/Tell me heartache/What’s it going to take for you to leave me alone today?/Just when I think that you’re gone/You’re in the mirror lookin’ back at me/So, what’s up lonely?”  Danielle Brisebois and Scott Cutler wrote ‘Just Missed the Train’, a rock ballad about a relationship not working out: “So go on and sleep darling/Why don’t you pretend we were just a dream?/It’s cool baby/It doesn’t matter anyway/I’m so sorry/We got to the station a little too late/It’s such a shame/We just missed the train”.

Matthew Wilder and Rebekah Jordan wrote ‘Beautiful Disaster’, which finds Kelly thinking out loud about a mysterious guy: “And if I tried to save him/My whole world could cave in/It just ain’t right (2X)/Oh and I don’t know/I don’t know what he’s after/But he’s so beautiful/Such a beautiful disaster/And if I could hold on/Through the tears and the laughter/Would it be beautiful or just a beautiful disaster?”  ‘You Thought Wrong’ features Tamyra Gray, who finished fourth on Kelly’s season of ‘American Idol’.  The song is feisty and calls out a two-timer: “You thought that we didn’t know/You thought we were in the dark/But boy you’ve done us wrong/Cuz we both know now/You thought you had us both/At your beck ‘n call/But now who’s the joke?/And look who’s laughin’ now!”

Harvey Mason, Damon Thomas, Kenneth Edmonds, and Kelly wrote the album’s title cut ‘Thankful’, a R & B song of gratitude: “You know my thoughts before I open up my mouth and try to speak/You know my dreams/Must be listenin’ when I’m talkin’ in my sleep/I hope you know I love havin’ you around me/Don’t you know that I’m thankful for the blessings and the lessons that I’ve learned with you by my side?/That I’m thankful for the love that you keep bringing in my life, in my life”.  ‘Anytime’ is a strong adult contemporary anthem of assurance: “So baby, take all of your fears and cast them all on me/Cause all I ever wanted was just to make you see/That I can be the one to give you all that you’ve been searching for/Just hold on to my love and baby let me give you more/You know, anytime/Anytime you need love, baby, I’m on your side/I’m on your side”.

Two bonus tracks complete the album.  Both were songs Kelly sang on ‘American Idol’ and became #1 hits.  Both are new mixes here.  Jorgen Elofsson and John Reid wrote ‘A Moment Like This’, an inspirational song: “A moment like this/Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this/Some people search forever for that one special kiss/Oh, I can’t believe it’s happening to me/Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this”.  ‘Before Your Love’ finds Randy Jackson on bass and also makes use of the French horn.  It finds Kelly in love: “I don’t know how I survived without your kiss/Cause you’ve given me a reason to exist/I never lived before your love/I never felt before your touch”.

THANKFUL is a solid debut album from Kelly Clarkson.  R & B, pop, rock, and adult contemporary music are all represented with the ballads outnumbering the upbeat songs by a couple.  There are several songs about falling or being in love, and some about heartache and heartbreak.  Kelly’s vocals are strong and soar above those of many of her contemporaries.  All in all, this is a clean, uplifting album.  I’m rating THANKFUL 90%.  For more info visit: www.kellyclarkson.com or check her out on Facebook.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

ALL ABOUT LOVE



Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky.  His debut album was 1987’s FIRST HAND.  Fast forward to 2003 and he released his eleventh studio album entitled ALL ABOUT LOVE (Sparrow).  It was produced by Brown Bannister and Steven, and executive produced by Steven’s wife Mary Beth Chapman.  Steven and Mary Beth wrote the album’s extensive liner notes.  Steven writes: “I believe that it’s in and through our relationships with each other that we come to a deeper understanding of our relationship with our God”.  Of his marriage: “I never imagined being in love and staying there would be nearly as hard or as wonderful as it has been.  Only an infinitely wise God could’ve created something that could fulfill such deep longings in our hearts while exposing even deeper ones...In a way, marriage is like holding up a mirror to your heart”.  Mary Beth shares: “Whether you are young, old, engaged, broken-hearted, single, married, divorced, or widowed, this record is an honest approach of one of the most difficult tasks in life, relationships!”

First up is the peppy pop title track, ‘All About Love’, on which Joey Canaday plays bass and Scott Sheriff plays B-3.  These words of wisdom begin the song: “We’ve got CD’s, tapes, and videos, and radio and TV shows/Conferences, retreats, and seminars/We’ve got books and magazines to read on everything from A to Z/And a web to surf from anywhere we are/But I hope with all this information buzzing through our brains/That we will not let our hearts forget/The most important thing is/Love (5X)/It’s all about/Love (5X)”.  ‘Your Side of the World’ is a pop song that seeks to see things from the perspective of another: “So tell me the color of your sky above/Paint me a picture of the things that make you smile/Show me your fears and what you’re dreaming of/Take me to where my heart can see across the miles/And please, please tell me what you can cause I want to understand.../How does it look from your side, from your side of the world?”

Steven writes: “If I was asked what the one secret has been for keeping our marriage together and growing strong, I would answer without hesitation, ‘prayer’.  Prayer has been at the center of our relationship since our first date...”  ‘How Do I Love Her’ is a splendid adult contemporary number featuring the London Session Orchestra.  It finds Steven asking God for romantic advice: “Out of all the gifts You’ve given besides the very gift of life/There is none as precious to me as the treasure of my wife/And still all the love in my heart is like a raindrop to the sea/When compared to Your love for her and that’s why I’m asking please/Will You teach me what she needs?/I’m an earnest man when it comes to learning how to love this woman”.  Mary Beth writes: “I am thankful that I was the one chosen to become Steven’s wife...I know that no matter what the struggles and what the cost, we were made, created in the womb of our mothers, to join together as one flesh.  We are now and will forever be one person, together”.  ’11-6-64’ is a sentimental song about the day of Mary Beth’s birth: “Well, I was only 2 so I didn’t have a clue of all that was transpiring/But I, I bet the sky was blue and all the world looked new/Cause everything was changing/11-6-64 you breathed your first breath/And suddenly living life meant so much more/On the day that you were born”.

Matt Rollins plays piano on ‘You’ve Got Me’.  The bouncy pop chorus is comprised of uncreative lyrics: “On a Monday, on a Tuesday, on a Wednesday/All the way around till Sunday/You’ve always got me on the good days/And the bad days and the mad days/The happy and the sad days/You’ve got me every day of my life”.  Mary Beth requested that Steven record a cover of the next song.  It is ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, written by Charlie and Craig Reid.  It was the lead single from The Proclaimers’ 1988 album SUNSHINE ON LEITH and was a #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand and hit #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.  Steven’s cover is energetic Celtic pop with John Guilotin on the Wurlitzer.  It’s a song about commitment: “When I come home, yeah I know I’m gonna be/I’m gonna be the man who comes back home to you/And if I grow old well I know I’m gonna be/I’m gonna be the man who’s growing old with you.../But I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more/Just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your door”.

Mary Beth writes: “Why not celebrate the fact that as Christians we too can experience romantic love at the deepest levels?...It is time that godly relationships are modeled in front of our children”.  ‘Echoes of Eden’ is an easy listening track that uses strings and is moving: “What is it about a kiss that makes me feel like this?/Oh, oh/What is it that makes my heart beat fast when I’m in your arms?/Oh, oh/What is it about your touch that amazes me so much?.../These are the echoes of Eden/Reflections of what we were created for/Hints of the passion and freedom/That waits on the other side of heaven’s door/These are the echoes of Eden”.  On ‘Holding a Mystery’, Steven is a grateful man: “The beating of your heart is calling out to me/Only a God of endless wisdom, love, and mercy/Could have created such a wonder as you”.

Steven writes of ‘We Will Dance’: “I wrote this song just before our 16th wedding anniversary as a gift to Mary Beth to say how thankful I am that she is my partner for life in this strange and wonderful dance called marriage”.  The song is easy listening and a heart-tugger: “In winter’s chill or summer’s breeze one thing will not be changing/We will dance when the sun is shining in the pouring rain/We’ll spin and we’ll sway/And we will dance when the gentle breeze becomes a hurricane/The music will play and I’ll take your hand and hold you close to me/And we will dance”.  Tim Pierce plays electric guitar on the happy pop song ‘We Belong Together (Tarzan and Jane)’.  It speaks of how opposites attract: “I am Tarzan, you are Jane/I am night and you are the day/We’re like sunshine and rain/We’re so different from each other/You are woman, I am man/You are the sea and I am the land/And I would not be who I am if I didn’t have you/I know that some days we both wonder how/We ever got together”.

Mary Beth writes: “Steven never goes to sleep without giving me a good-night kiss, even when I’m already asleep, and he always kisses me before he leaves the house”.  ‘With Every Little Kiss’ finds Steven smitten: “With every little kiss I’m reminded/How wonderful it is to be in love with you/With every little look/With every little touch/With every little kiss/Like a moth being drawn to a candle/This is something I can’t resist/I guess you could say I’m addicted”.  Steven, Scott Sheriff, and Michael Mellett sing background vocals on ‘Miracle of You’.  On it, Steven declares his noble intentions: “Like a masterpiece that’s waiting to be discovered/Like a treasure that is waiting to be found/There is so much unseen beauty in the heart of you/And I want to be the one to bring it out/Cause in the whole wide world there’s no one else who will ever want to love you any better”.

Archie Jordan and Glenn Sutton wrote ‘I’ll Take Care of You’.  Ronnie Milsap originally recorded it in 1984, the year Steven and Mary Beth were married.  Steven’s version is light jazz in nature.  Here are the opening words: “I’ll take care of you/Don’t be sad, don’t be blue/I’ll never break your heart in two/I’ll take care of you/I’ll kiss your tears away/I’ll end your lonely days/All that I’m really tryin’ to say is/I’ll take care of you”.  Next up is an updated version of Steven’s classic ‘I Will Be Here’ which first appeared on 1989’s MORE TO THIS LIFE.  Matt Rollins plays piano on this terrific new version and the London Session Orchestra is used.  It’s a ballad of commitment: “Tomorrow morning if you wake up/And the sun does not appear/I, I will be here/If in the dark we lose sight of love/Hold my hand and have no fear/Cause I, I will be here”.

‘Moment Made for Worshipping’ uses a choir and the chorus has typical CCM lyrics: “This is a moment made for worshipping/Cause this is a moment I’m alive/This is a moment I was made to sing/A song of living sacrifice/For every moment that I live and breathe/This is a moment made for worshipping”.  Last up is ‘When Love Takes You In’, about adoption, from 2001’s DECLARATION.  It’s a beautiful ballad: “When love takes you in everything changes/A miracle starts with the beat of a heart/And this love will never let you go/There is nothing that could ever cause this love to lose its hold”.

There is sometimes a double standard in music.  When a mainstream market artist who happens to be a Christian, such as Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, or B.J. Thomas, sings mainly secular fare and some gospel songs, it is usually acceptable to their fan base.  However, when a Contemporary Christian Music artist sings mainly about God, but then does some songs or albums that are just about life, but doesn’t mention God or Jesus, they are sometimes criticized.  Just ask Amy Grant for one!  I think this is wrong!  With ALL ABOUT LOVE Steven Curtis Chapman put out a smart pop album of love songs that is easily accessible.  But some non-believers won’t give it a listen because it’s by a Christian market artist.  The main message of this magnificent and lengthy album is one of being totally committed and dedicated to one’s spouse-both during the warm and tingly times and the harder times.  I’m rating this one 98%.  For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.