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A 'NEAT' DISC FOR OSTEEN FANS
If you’re an Osteen fan you already own this album, if you have no idea what an Osteen fan is you still may have a case to own this album. No, Joel and Victoria don’t sing on this one, this seems to be more like a companion disc to the rest of church's output.
Writers like Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton (This Is His Church), Peter Furler, Steve Taylor and even Bill and Gloria get a gig on this one (that’s Gaither for the uninitiated).
It’s slick, well-produced modern church tunes led by voices that are very familiar these days in Cindy Ratcliff and Israel Houghton. Don’t let the ‘slick’ thing worry you though - it’s just the kind of thing the US does well, very accessible, poppy and yes, even honest!
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys Lakewood Church's Hope For Today Worship... |
PASSION HITS THE RIGHT NOTE - AGAIN
Another year, another instalment from the musical collective that is Passion. This year there’s a couple of newbies added to the roster. Australia’s Hillsong United get a guernsey as does relative newbies Fee (Rise And Sing) and Kristian Stanfill (Say, Say).
Like German soccer, the album gives the impression that it’ll be a slow starter with it’s slow opening groove and low-fi sound. But in true Tomlin style we’re swept up into the perfect epic melody of Awakening that builds into a perfect en masse statement of faith. “Like the rising sun that shines, awake my soul”.
Stand outs include, as always, the obligatory David Crowder Band epic tune. This time it’s How He Loves. It’s big, it’s affirming and it’s all good. There’s the soul stirring vocal of Christy Nockels on Healing Is In Your Hands, the new school Tomlin vibe of Fee including the 'woh-oh' call and crowd response thang with the hooky chorus on Rise And Sing.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Passion's latest album up to muster - and enjoys the Aussie twist... |
NEWWORLDSON CAPTURE "SENSE OF FUN AND VIBE" OF LIVE SHOWS
They’re crazy-good live, they’re soulful, funky, poppy, dancy, and altogether a lot like a walk along the boulevard on dusk with your favourite gal or guy as the case may be. I’ve decided this is the best driving album you could buy right now.
From the opening riff from You Set The Rhythm, you’ll be hooked. This self-titled sophomore release stands out as one that, even though it’s a studio record, really captures the sense of fun and vibe these guys have become famous for with their live shows.
There’s the soulful funk of Listen To The Lord with it’s rasta-infused verses, the Gospel-surfey vibe In Your Arms (yep, I just called something Gospel-surfey), the Wham-inspired clap along Do You Believe In Love and more. It’s just got everything you want in your tunes. Great message, great vibe, soulful lead vox and genuinely incredible musicianship.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds a new album to drive by... |
LEELAND'S "MATURE POP WITH A CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE"
Leeland. A bloke, some brothers, a band. They’re a church band really. They’re a pop band as well. They’re both. They’re possibly the result of Michael W Smith morphing pop music into church music and Delirious? doing the opposite back in the day.
They’re kinda the last 20 years of contemporary Christian music in a new form. It’s not youthy and it’s not for the oldies. It’s mature pop with a Christian conscience, a worship edge, a melodic hook and the players just happen to be young.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to US band Leeland's latest... |
A "CLASSIC" DOUBLESHOT FROM DELIRIOUS? AND TIM HUGHES
Somewhere back in the early Nineties when people were wearing tees featuring a guy named Cobain and/or shorts past their knees like the Fresh Prince, there was a new rock and there was a new pop and somehow from the shadows leapt a new worship expression.
The band's name alone was confronting enough for some parishoners, but before they could write to the church board about it, Delirious? were a household name and every church was harmonising to I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever. Cutting Edge 1 & 2 brought us that classic as well as King Of Love and the ever ear-catching The Happy Song.
Soul Survivor have put this disc together with the similarly acclaimed Tim Hughes' break-through disc, Here I Am To Worship
JUSTIN MICHAEL adds to his collection of classic Christian albums with new Delirious? and Tim Hughes double... |
CASTING CROWNS WEAR THEIR MESSAGE "ON THEIR SLEEVE" WITH UNTIL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS
It’s a strange thing in the Christian music world that the sum of the parts is often greater than one can explain. The music in and of itself can be good, sonically sound, well crafted, lyrically insightful and yet these are not the KPI’s by which it is measured.
Rather, it is the strange, often confronting, sometimes confusing, element of a band that preaches using the medium of music. This is the quintessential reason contemporary Christian music was birthed and today you only have to look to the charts dominated by worship leaders to see it is still the music that speaks the loudest in the sector.
Lyrically, this is a record you could base a Bible study, a lecture series or a conference around. Sonically, it’ll fit nicely beside your Third Day collection on a less rock 'n roll kinda day.
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys Casting Crowns' up-front message... |
BETHANY DILLON'S STOP & LISTEN STRONG IN SENTIMENT AND MESSAGE BUT LACKS "CREATIVE RISK"
"Too many days I feel like I run on empty / does anyone else out there feel like me / I'd be a fool to forfeit / the chance to take a moment."
- Stop & Listen.
Bethany Dillon's voice is as warm and inviting as ever. Kind of a country-pop thing with adult-contemporary sensibilities that carries her sound across so many other markets.
Dillon has amassed seven years in professional music recording and touring at only 21 and suggests this is “probably the most confessional album I've ever made”. It is a stand-out effort and when you consider she's also managed to finish four albums and get married during the same period, well, you get the picture that she's in music for more than a moment.
JUSTIN MICHAEL has a mixed response to Bethany Dillon's latest... |
KARI JOBE HITS A SWEET NOTE
Kari Jobe will be known to many as one of the worship pastors at Gateway Church in the US. She has featured on many of their projects and now steps out a solo artist with this debut offering. Produced by Ed Cash (Third Day, Passion, Chris Tomlin) and featuring the amazing Revelation Song you're in for a bit of treat.
Kari brings one of those honest vocals that sounds young, sweet and a offers a timbre that gives the lyric a strong conviction.
It's worth mentioning that amongst the songs you'll find a cover of Mike Guglilemucci's song Healer which took on a whole new meaning for Australian listeners in '08. Here you'll find another version full of conviction that reminds us it's still a great song with a message worth hearing.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to Kari Jobe's self-titled album... |
THE SHARP SOUNDS OF 3:16
Crisp. Sharp. Beautifully crafted. And that's just the album cover.
3:16 is back - revamped, renewed and better than ever. It's praise at its best, with a mix of musical genres that quickly quells the familiar feeling of being lumped with a lack of diversity.
It's like that great recipe where everything just works; Alabaster Box, Melissa Otto, Beth Robertson, Rapture Rukus - rap never sounded so clean - and let me not forget Michael Battersby's very cool jazz rendition of Closer Walk With Thee.
CHOE BRERETON listens to 3:16 Downunder 2009... |
KING ABOVE US ALL A DEBUT TO BUILD UPON
The first up five track effort from Northshore Christian Centre is lead by creative arts pastor Tanya Riches.
Riches is best known for her time at Hillsong church where she wrote the 1995 hit Jesus What A Beautiful Name (a song my son could sing when he was two, proving it's an amazingly catchy melody!). This set of tunes includes a new recording of that very song.
It's a studio based recording which, for mine, misses the mark for what these songs might do live at the Northshore church. One of the challenges of recording church tunes is to try and capture the energy of a congregation who love them. Still, there are some strong melodies and lyrics here that are worth a listen.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to Northshore Christian Centre's first album... |
IT'S RAINING "MUSICAL EXCELLENCE" FOR SONS OF KORAH
Somewhere between your world music collection and your small group Bible study, you'll find Sons Of Korah, an absolutely unique band that has no peer. 'Sons' are like a band that created a concept album and then decided to keep the concept running for the next dozen years! One gets the feeling that it's all a lot more deliberate than that though.
There are 12 new tracks on rain that use psalms of exultation, prayer and lamentation. Matt Jacoby, Rod Gear, Rod Wilson, Mike McCarthy and Mike Avery once again bring together their collective brilliant musicianship to create soundscapes and melodies that bring these ancient writings to life.
Again, there is a fantastic amount of light and shade in Rain. Stand out tracks include Psalm 42 (Streams of Water) a simple, dark, contemplative prayer of the soul. Psalm 103 has one of the most intriguing folky melodies that is coloured by Gear's double bass and dissipates just as you think it's going to take off.
JUSTIN MICHAEL tackles the "light and shade" of Sons of Korah's Rain... |
HEIDI POPP'S SAY I AM STRONG A SOLID INTRODUCTION
Heidi Popp is new to the Australasian side of the world - even though she's been singing in churches since she was a pup.
Heidi is a pastor's kid who from the age seven knew she was destined to sing. Mostly known for her European tours, Heidi is now based in Australia with her hubby Johannes - who also doubles as producer and music team! - and rug rats and has produced Say I Am Strong as an introduction for new audiences here.
A collection of favourites, it reads like a Christian contemporary music classic hits playlist. There's some praise & worship influence with songs from Marth Munizzi (Because Of Who You Are) and Israel Houghton (Anyway).
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to Heidi Popp's introduction to Australia... |
NEWSBOYS HIT A HIGH NOTE WITH IN THE HANDS OF GOD
The revolving door at newsboys HQ has spun again - Paul Colman is officially off the paper route and Jody Davis is back on the bike. This album is sung by a guy named Peter Furler but if you see a live show any time soon you'll see a Decent Christian Talker by the name of Michael Tait.
So, there's the update on the band, now to the music...it's just classic fun, rock-pop with a message. The brilliance of this band is that they've never swayed from their initial intent - to preach the Gospel and wrap it in amazing shows and pure-pop craft. Even when didn't like the music, you loved the album and t'other way round. You'll hear the message whether you like it or not!
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds newsboys' latest their best to date... |
SOUL SURVIVOR "OVERWHELM"
I'm exhausted before I open the case - Redman, Hughes, Hillsong United, Smith, Houston, Prosch, Hall, Tomlin, Beeching, Reeves, Cash...and the list of renowned writers goes on.
The music? Well, what can you say? If you're into praise and worship tunes then you will know these tunes. To listen to the whole lot means you’re a glutton for praise and worship music, have too much time or your hands and are possibly unemployed right now (though you're the kind that goes straight past the corner deli to the smorgasbord with the view singin' Happy Day while your mate is thinkin' Lord of the Dance, Let My Words Be Few and at the end of the meal you all gather to sing All Who Are Weary...and the list goes on).
No new recordings here, but there's plenty of great moments. I Can Only Imagine (CD 3), Shout Unto God (CD 1) or The Heart Of Worship (CD 2).
JUSTIN MICHAEL needs to take a rest after listening to the latest Soul Survivor compilation... |
MERCYME'S "IPOD WORTHY" 10
Ten years since I Can Only Imagine rocketed these six guys to worldwide number one status, this collection proves it wasn't a fluke. You can't listen to a mercyme disc without getting a melody or two stuck in your head and you can't listen without hearing a Gospel-driven message.
Their country rock stylings are comparable to that of Rascal Flats and the like and whilst it would seem easy to pigeon-hole the band, their 2007 effort All That Is Within Me certainly proved they were willing to take some musical risks.
Word Of God Speak, You Reign, Spoken For, So Long Self and one of my favourites, Finally Home, make this disc a worthy iPod walking partner. There's also bonus new tracks including the Fifties twist of Ten Simple Rules (nb: not their brightest musical moment!) and the big blues, harp-driven tunes of Only Temporary in which it's stated that our troubles "in light of all eternity are only temporary". And, of course, there's the re-recording of I Can Only Imagine with the London Session Orchestra at Abbey Road.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to MercyMe's 10 ... |
AUSTRALIA'S REVIVE HIT THE BIG TIME WITH CHORUS OF THE SAINTS
OK, so a group of blokes in Sydney start a band, play some high schools, some youth groups and a few festivals...and then they do a tour of the country opening for Third Day.
Next thing, Mac Powell says, "Let's get together and do some song-writing". "OK" say the boys from Sydney. Then Mac asks "How about opening for the band on the US tour?". The band says "OK" and there you have it, the next Aussie band to head Stateside to play rock 'n roll.
Chorus Of The Saints, the opening cut, is a definite sing-along stadium tune. There are Eighties studio rock sounds that reference Whiteheart and riff-driven Nineties rock that sing comfortably through 2009 stereos. When your debut international album is co-produced by your band sitting alongside Mac Powell and Don McCollister, you've got yourself a great start.
JUSTIN MICHAEL charts an Aussie band's success... |
THIRD DAY PROVE HARD NOT TO LOVE WITH LIVE REVELATIONS
In the last couple of years I've reviewed four projects by this band, two double disc chronologies, the studio album Revelation and now the CD/DVD combo Live Revelations. So, why so much product?
Simple answer; everybody loves em! I'm yet to meet someone who actually dislikes this band! People may give a luke-warm response, but you can't dislike these guys. They're honest with their tunes, their lives and their ministry output.
Highlights on this disc have to be the crowd-singing Cry Out To Jesus, the big rock of Otherside and the quite exceptional surprise of the U2 cover, When Love Comes To Town.
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys Third Day's live CD and DVD... |
WE CRY OUT "ENGAGES THE HEART"
Go to a big student-driven conference - United (Hillsong), Passion (Louie Giglio) or, in this case Jesus Culture (Bethel Church) - and you'll see that one of the defining marks of any of these are the original tunes that come out of them.
In this case, however, we hear songs that are harvested from all over the globe and brought together by the sound of this particular movement. Phil Wickam's I Adore You, Delirious?' Rain Down, Hillsong United's Fire Fall Down and All I Need and, my personal favourite moment on the disc, John Mark McMillan's How He Loves.
Driven by three worship leaders from Bethel church in Redding, California, Walker, Quilala and Wise bring a unique lead vocal to each tune. The DVD shows a bit of a lack when it comes to engaging an audience (somehow you never feel like you're part of the event) but every vocal is as honest as the day is long. Walker in particular seems to pour her soul into each song.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on the album that made him a fan of Jesus Culture's music... |
BETHANY DILLON AND MATT HAMMITT'S IN CHRIST ALONE AN 'UNEXPECTED' DELIGHT
One of my favourite female vocalists in Christian music and the lead vocalist of Sanctus Real have taken some of the best crafted modern hymns and 'treated them'. From sparse orchestrations to curious genre bending mixes and a Brit-pops orchestra that, at times, wear kilts and at others wear top hats.
There's the innocence of Dillon's vocal and the Rod Stewart rock of Hammitt. It's like Gershwin meets Wesley and the two have a chat about Bono.
It's just unexpected, and I think I like that.
From the Christmas pop-rock of Joy Has Dawned to the back beat soul treatment of In Christ Alone that somehow combines a brass band with a soulful claps and a marching snare, it's surprising. There are new takes on How Deep The Father's Love For Us , Clinging To The Cross and a personal favourite, O Church Arise.
JUSTIN MICHAEL gets a pleasant surprise when listening to In Christ Alone... |
JARS PROVE THEMSELVES MASTERS YET AGAIN WITH THE LONG FALL BACK TO EARTH
Dan, Matt, Stephen and Charlie...we've been listening to their folk-rock with pop sensibilities for many years now and nowhere along that journey have we ever doubted their collective ability to write the poignant, the thoughtful, the religious or the simple with artistic integrity and brilliance of craft.
From the instrumental intro to the alterna-synth of Heart, here are 14 tracks that will wrap you up and woo you to listen again. The Coldplay and/or Radiohead references seem obvious, but that's just it, they're only references. There's no need for comparisons really. Jars are just Jars. Don't know anyone that sounds like them and that's what I like about them.
Heed the honesty of Two Hands - "I am a house that is divided in my heart & in my mind...if I had two hands doing the same thing: lifted high, lifted high". Unravel the lyrics of Closer - "I don't understand why we can't get close enough; I want your kite strings tangled in my trees, all wrapped up". Wrestle with Safe To Land - "Is it safe? Is it safe to land? 'Cause the long fall back to earth is the hardest part".
JUSTIN MICHAEL says the Jars' latest continues their unique contribution to the world of music... |
PLANETSHAKERS GO DEEPER
Church tunes for the contemporary set. It's big, it's dynamic (some might even suggest loud!), it's hooky and it's full of shout outs that can make thousands of people sing in tune at the same time...or at least that's the idea!
The live sounds of driving pop-rock are always assured when pressing play on a Shakers disc. The Victory gets the feet, the fists and the 'whoa-oh' vocals going, and so begins a journey of 11 new tracks.
You Are Good grunts into life with a guitar riff that Soundgarden would be proud of, then twists somehow into a hooky disco chorus that proclaims "You are good all the time and Your love endures forever".
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys some more "church tunes" from Planetshakers... |
PAUL COLMAN'S "SIMPLY GOOD" HISTORY
From the days in the restaurants with one voice and one guitar to the days in front of thousands around the country with a trio to those other days around the world being a newsboy, 'our' Paul Colman has done just about all there is to do in Christian music (sans releasing related products like a book - although I'm sure he's got one in 'im).
This collection seems inevitably to be an announcement of much more to come. From the raw and invigorating tunes of the Trio's ground breaking album, Serious Fun, to the testimonial honesty of his '05 solo effort, Let It Go, Paul has always let us in to his world via his lyrics and given us reason to sing with his impeccable songcraft.
Here there's something for the fans that sardined into the restaurants and those that met the trio in the USA with New Map Of The World, including two new offerings, both covers of great songs, Delirious' History Maker and the Cannon/Madeira-penned If I Was Jesus, already a radio hit around Australia.
JUSTIN MICHAEL catches up with Paul Colman's latest... |
GOOD FOR ME IS...GOOD FOR YOU!
Take a bunch of well known tunes from the last few decades or so, add a sunny afternoon church picnic and a smooth-the-way-through latte. Now, nab yourself a world renown jazz buddy, a world renown worship leader, a church with a passion for the arts and you may just end up with this little gem.
It's curious to say so, but apparently, this IS a church album. It's traditional tunes with a smattering of newbies put to some mostly laid back smooth jazz. There's the Fifties string stylings of O Lord You're Beautiful, complete with jazz flute. Try on the Zschech penned and sung re-working of I Will Run To You featuring James Morrison on muted trumpet. How about the stride piano of Therefore The Redeemed Of The Lord? Ooh, ooh, then there's the arrangement of As The Deer that Sinatra's people would be proud of.
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys some old favorites brought back to life... |
SEABIRD'S "SOUND OF NOW"
From the opening grove of Black & Blue with its Beatle-esque, off-beat groove, Blur-tweaked guitars and random musical riffs, Seabird stamp their sense of musical intrigue on the staff.
Could be that these guys will fit nicely with your Relient K collection and yes, you'd be right in hearing some Needtobreathe sonic references, those guys produced the radio hit Rescue.
This is the sound of now - sometimes blessing, sometimes curse - depending on your seasonal sense of cool. Aaron Morgan's lead vocal is distinctive with strains from power rock to sensitve falsetto to lazy Brit rock.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to the alternative sound of Seabird... |
U2'S NO LINE ON THE HORIZON "ONE OF THEIR BEST"
The latest U2 album - No Line On The Horizon - could well go down as one of their best. As they did with their classic Achtung Baby in 1991, this album is a result of a slight re-invention of this fabulous band's music. I say 'slight' because the change from the previous album is not as great as the change that Achtung Baby was from Rattle and Hum.
This album is sort of like a cross between The Unforgettable Fire and Achtung Baby. It has a distinct European sound, and if you're a long-time U2 fan, you will recognise the influence of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.
Containing only 11 songs, No Line On The Horizon has more hard rock songs than ballads and, as usual, the band excels at both. U2 fans have hung out for a while for this one and I suspect they won't be disappointed.
NILS VON KALM is impressed with U2's latest... |
STRONG LYRICS BOOST MATT MAHER'S EMPTY & BEAUTIFUL
I'm not sure if I've ever heard a lyric from a praise and worship artist that made me take notice as much as "all God's creature's got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher; some just hang out like a bird on a wire, waiting to fly home". Nope, I'm not exactly sure which church would sing that part of the song, but it'd be fun to see people sing the lyrics just to watch for the wry smiles. Of course, the chorus is easy and gives place to the verse - "That's why grace is so amazin, that's why love is so absurd, that's why I sing for a God unchanging, that's why I don't care if I look like a fool".
Matt Maher is a modern writer with a familiar sound. He has teamed up with Chris Tomlin to great effect for the opening cut Your Grace Is Enough. There is also a collaboration with Brenton Brown on Lay It Down, a gentle acoustic guitar-driven prayer.
JUSTIN MICHAEL is impressed by Matt Maher's lyrics... |
GO POP WITH KRYSTAL MEYERS
Grab the positive side of Kylie, the pop-grit of Superchick and the pure vocal's of a Nicole Nordeman or Plumb and you've got a bit of the sound.
Get some laser lights, a bunch of dancers and a Rogue-traders' synthesiser and you've got the vibe to play this disc.
Meyers goes from messages about the power of positive thinking youth in the opening cut Make Some Noise - "but when it all goes wrong, we're not afraid to scream 'cause the future's ours to make, oh, oh, shout it out!" - to the rock-anthem God-music of S.O.S. - "Holy Father, make us whole 'cause you alone can save our souls" - and the pure pop love tracks of Shine and Feels So Right.
JUSTIN MICHAEL spices up his collection with some pop sounds... |
COMPASSIONART'S MUSIC FOR A CAUSE
The first we heard of CompassionArt was on last year's WOW worship album. There appeared a track titled So Great that was a co-write between Michael W. Smith, Israel Houghton, Christy Nockels and a few others.
Here's the basic set up. Get the world's leading praise and worship leaders together in Scotland for a pow-wow. Write a bunch of songs and sign-off on the idea that any proceeds generated from the sale of these songs would go completely to charity. The last few years have seen an incredible awakening in Christ following communities throughout the western world marrying the two themes of worship and justice.
You can go and learn more about the movement at www.compassionart.tv and in the mean time I'll let you know a bit about the tunes.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to an ethical melody... |
MICHAEL W SMITH "STILL FLYING" WITH A NEW HALLELUJAH
First things first. I just had one of those 'that guy's a mate of mine' moments when I opened the CD jacket. Yep, there's Aussies on the album. Matt Smallbone (Alabaster Box) is playing the bass and Adam Lester (Stephen Curtis Chapman, Paul Colman Trio) is on the guitar. It's brilliant to see our local Christian scenes in Australia and NZ feeding into the international scene so successfully.
That, of course, makes this album worth buying straight away.
That said, there are many sonic reasons to have this one ripped into your iTunes. Notably, the blend of old and new tunes such as I Surrender All, Mighty To Save and A New Hallelujah. Then there's appearances from the African Children's Choir, Lakewood Choir, Israel Houghton, Coala Zamorano, and the typically brilliant orchestrations synonymous with Smitty.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds a lot to like about Michael W. Smith's new album... |
SUPERCHICK LEAD THE PACK WITH ROCK WHAT YOU GOT
Bring out the electonica garb, the station wagon sub-woofer, the laser light and recognise that you too could be found in a living room somewhere feeling empowered and playing your tennis racquet if you listen to this disc.
It's girl-power without the spice or the photo-ops. This is just straight-up shout-loud punk-pop-rock...with lots of guitar...and bass...fist pumping...um...yeah...that! (check the booklet for the broken guitar string shot with Dave).
There's sonic references to *cough* Marilyn Manson and Pink Floyd with the riff from Hey Hey, then there's the Lady Gaga-type sparkle of Rock What You Got or the Rogue Traders' vibe of So Beautiful. None of this is to say Superchick are copy-cats. Far from it - this band have been leading the genre for a few years now since their huge hit album Beauty From Pain.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes out the air-guitar for a strum... |
NEWSBOYS RELIVE EASTER '08 WITH HOUSTON WE ARE GO
The live sound of the Newsboys is incredibly tight and always entertaining. The energy really does jump off the disc with Houston We Are GO.
For those who caught the gigs at Easter 2008 you'll spin this one and feel like you're there...that's because it's the show we saw. Yep, the stories, the gags and the riffs; they're all there. It's what has made these 'boys' such an amazing pop-outfit for so many years. They know how to build a great show, entertain the masses around the world and bring the message, all in 90 minutes.
There's the new pop-anthem of the Steve Taylor-penned Wherever We Go, the spine tingle of Entertaining Angels, the educated silliness of Breakfast and the now obligatory drum duet. Add to this the medley of Newsboys hits accompanied by Geoff Frankenstein's keyboard vo-coder that includes Not Ashamed (title track of Not Ashamed), Reality (from Take Me To Your Leader), Love Liberty Disco (title track from Love Liberty Disco) and Amazing Love (from Adoration) and you've got a very singable collection.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes the Newsboys' live follow-up to Go for a spin... |
THE KINGDOM MAKE A STRONG DEBUT WITH LIGHT HAS COME
The Kingdom is new on the Aussie music scene and has recently started to venture beyond the confines of their Melbourne suburb with their first set at Black Stump arts festival in Sydney. Though I didn't see them live there (yep, our band was on at the same time on another stage!) I have been consistently impressed with these guys for their tunes as well as their incredibly work ethic. The already have three albums under the church moniker, Real Life Christian Church, prior to forming The Kingdom as a touring band.
Mickey D, one of the bands key drivers was spotted earlier this year at the inaugural GMA/ANZ conference on the Gold Coast and impressed the collective with just a backing track, live guitar and a very honest song delivery.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to The Kingdom's debut... |
THIRD DAY'S NEW REVELATION
Bring the southern rock! Think that's all we need to say when Mac Powell dons the flannelette shirt and sings through a beard that would be at home as much behind the flared handle bars of a Harley as it is behind the mike of Christian music's biggest band.
Coming off the back of the two Chronology double albums, Third Day deliver again with Revelation. There's something brilliantly uncomplicated about the tunes these guys have been churning out since the days of Consuming Fire back in the nineties.
Revelation kicks into high gear with the opening cut This Is Who I Am. "I'm the son of a good man / I'm the child of an angel / I'm the brother of a wild one / and I'm looking for direction'. It's a two minute rock autobiography that says 'this is who I am / so take me and make me someone / better than before."
JUSTIN MICHAEL says Third Day latest lives up to their name for quality... |
THERE'S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE WITH THE DAVID CROWDER BAND'S REMEDY
From the mad scientist of uni student-driven congregational God music comes Remedy. This is the limited edition DVD totin' version. There's also the club tour DVD version coming and I suppose if you're a collector, you'll want the original disc as well.
Apart from the curiosity created by the pointy beard, gaunt face and square glasses, there's an effervescence to Mr Crowder and his band that brings you somehow to the place of singing prayerful, humbling words - "and after all our hands have wrought / He forgives / ah, the glory of it all / is He came here / for the rescue of us all / That we may live' (The Glory Of It All)".
The radio hit Everything Glorious which also features on the live bonus DVD is an AC hit with an alternative musicality. That's the thing about David Crowder band. If you were to see them live, you'd more than likely be a 20-something, but the sonic appeal is such that the music becomes something for everyone.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to the David Crowder Band's Remedy... |
SHARE IN THE FUN WITH THE MELBOURNE GOSPEL CHOIR
Take a group of Gospel and worship leaders from churches around Melbourne, put them in a studio together with some modern pop, soul and Gospel tracks and you've got an album for pretty much all occasions.
For The Children combines the Melbourne Gospel Choir (MGC) with well known pop artists and songs to raise money for childrens' charities. The songs combine strong gospel messages (Amazing Grace, I Am) with familiar sounds (The Prayer, I'll Be There) and a messages of hope.
Featuring the likes of Shannon Noll, Guy Sebastian, Human Nature and Marcia Hines, it's easy to hear why the MGC enjoyed making this record. There are lots of well known hits such as Shine, Taller Stronger Better, The Living Years and You Raise Me Up as well as four new tracks from the MGC.
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys the fun of For The Children (but admits he did play a part in making it!)... |
CHRIS TOMLIN'S LATEST CATCHES THE MOOD OF THE TIMES
If you haven't been following lately there is, in modern 'God music' or 'congregational worship music', a major line of thought drawing it all together. The message is being preached from pulpits by folks like Mike Pilivachi, Darlene Zschech and Louie Giglio. It is being sung about by United, Delerious?, and Chris Tomlin. It is that, as Tomlin puts it, "wedding worship and justice, this generation of Believers wants to love God by loving those in need".
It should not slide without notice then that Hello Love, the latest in Tomlin's speedily thickening opus is full of messages of redemption, hope and justice.
The opening cut, Sing Sing Sing, is a joyous charge that will have you, well, singing! Tomlin has a gift for great chorus melodies that congregations can catch easily. (Our lot at my home church had this one down before the first chorus was done!)
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds little to fault with Chris Tomlin's Hello Love... |
LAUREN THOMSON'S "UNCOMPLICATED AND ROOTSY" SOUND
This is a late night around the campfire that’s good for the soul. It’s got a touch of Tiddas a splash of Kasey Chambers, and a maybe even some Jars of Clay (the cruisey stuff).
The sounds are uncomplicated and rootsy. Right from the gritty Hammond organ to the melodica, these are sounds that carry a certain passion that embodies a traditional approach to making music with an attention to detail in the recording.
The opening cut Oh Daddy It’s Alright introduces us to the melancholic and longing strains of a vocalist who lives her songs. There is raw honesty to the vocal as there is to the musicianship. Immediately engaging with a familiar rootsy shuffle the lyric exudes hope saying "well there ain’t no need to cry cause the Lord is good and He’s on our side, oh Daddy it’s alright cause we will fly".
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoy's the raw honesty of Lauren Thomson's EP Our Love Is Due... |
MERCYME'S BEST EVER
So, just in time for the release of Bart Millard’s second solo effort, titled Hymned Again, comes my review of his bands most recent project...yes, it’s a tad delayed, but I’m gonna suggest it’s worth the wait!
Consider this first sentence the embodiment of the entire review; I like this album. It’s poppy, it’s rock, it’s got claps, disco, woo-hoo shout-outs, and moves comfortably between epic emotive orchestral strains and country-stroll kind of melodies. It is very, very good. There...done.
And in other news, I’m gonna stick my neck out and say that artistically, this is the band’s most successful foray into the land of the Christian song. To my ear it seems the band has pulled out their record collection of the last 50 years, taken the best bits and given it all a 2008 musical tweak. Add to this their well documented ability with punchy, meaningful lyrics and you’ve got yourself a great listen.
JUSTIN MICHAEL puts his neck on the line for MercyMe's latest.... |
LEELAND'S OPPOSITE WAY SHOWCASES THEIR "UNCANNY" ABILITY
I think the way this sort of music comes about is that your mum and dad start a church and get you, your brother and your cousins to be the music team, the youth leaders, worship pastors and songwriters all in one hit and then from the age of 14 you’re in there doing it and somehow you realise you’ve got a talent for this stuff, then your brother marries Michael W. Smith’s daughter, then you write a breakthrough album called Sound Of Melodies then the music industry realises that you are new, amazingly talented and have no ego but actually want to be in Christian music for the sake of the kingdom...then everyone says something collectively praiseworthy such as, "Wow!’".
Personally I can’t get past Leelands’ uncanny ability to sound like Phil Keaggy (that’s a compliment), then I can’t get past the band's ability to speak to subjects like honesty in worship (Count Me In), self-esteem (Let It Out Now), a deep understanding of the process of worship (Enter This Temple) and the way God’s ways confound our understanding but still work (Opposite Way) and that’s just the first four tracks.
JUSTIN MICHAEL enjoys Leeland's youthful zeal.... |
HILLSONG, YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN!
So here’s the basic idea; take several of Australia’s most widely travelled and influential songwriters, add a very active church, an amazing live production crew (both sonically and visually) and one very vibey annual conference and you’ll start to get the picture...or the sound...or both.
There’s lot’s of opinions about Hillsong and, as I’ve always said, it’s easy to have an opinion about something everybody ‘knows’ about. And that’s just the point. We’ve all heard of them, and for this reviewer, I believe it’s because they just keep producing quality sounds that step up each time they lay down tracks.
The absolute stand out this year is Desert Song from Brooke Fraser. Thematically a simile of Blessed be Your Name and sonically not far removed from the gentle lilt of a classic Icehouse or early Crowded House sound.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to Hillsong's latest. And yes, he's a fan... |
JOHN MELLENCAMP TACKLES LIFE'S STRUGGLES
This is the latest offering from that doyen of a man who is the cool all-American rock star but who also has a deep social conscience. I first became a fan of John Mellencamp in the late 1980s when he produced such classic albums as Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. On the inside cover of the latter album, there is a verse from the first chapter of Ecclesiastes which says,
“Generations come and go, but it makes no difference. The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. The rivers run into the sea but the sea is never full, and the water returns again to the rivers, and flows again to the sea…everything is unutterably weary and tiresome. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content. So I saw that there is nothing better for men than that they should be happy in their work, for that is what they are here for, and no one can bring them back to life to enjoy what will be in the future, so let them enjoy it now.”
NILS VON KALM takes a look at John Mellencamp's take on Life, Death, Love And Freedom... |
TOBYMAC'S FIRST LIVE DVD SHOWCASES HIS BEST
dcTalk helped me become a Christian. I saw their Welcome to the Freak Show live concert on VHS and couldn’t believe they were a Christian band. Surely Christian music had guys in braces playing harps and singing, “Hallelujah,” all the time. Right? Wrong-thankfully. I loved that album and listened to the tape so many times I destroyed it. Then when Jars of Clay, Newsboys and delirious came along all my misconceptions about Christianity were swept away. Contemporary Christian music has been an integral part of my life since.
dcTalk’s last album of new material, 1998’s Supernatural, was certainly a fitting swansong from the groundbreaking boys, and the demand for an immediate re-union was high. I don’t think many people expected TobyMac to be the most successful solo artist after the split. With the soaring voices of Michael Tait and Kevin Max “that guy that does all the rapping” had to work hard to get noticed. But he did, and it paid off.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at TobyMac's first live DVD... |
THE BEST THE JARS HAVE TO OFFER (AND THAT'S SAYING SOMETHING!)
Bring together titles like Flood, Show You Love, Crazy Times, Worlds Apart, Frail and Love Song For A Saviour and you have a set that represents millions of album sales worldwide, a whole bunch of movie soundtracks, and, no doubt, the soundtrack to a few people's lives.
Jars burst onto the scene [pun possibly intended] in 1995 with their platinum selling self-titled album, fuelled by the massive success of the single Flood. Relentless writing and touring ensued. The beautiful thing about their story is three-fold: 1, they sound like nobody else I can think of; 2, the lyric is always uncompromising in its artistic depth and its spiritual reality, and; 3, they sound like nobody else. It’s true and it’s worth noting twice.
Recently the boys have become independent artists again and, as such, we get to see this collection come to light.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds much to impress on the Jar's best of... |
ALL THE BIG NAMES COME TOGETHER FOR THE PERFECT BBQ STARTER
Although I’m still sure that most compilations get listened to a few times and then popped on the shelf for posterity or an upcoming family BBQ, this one has quite a few gems that you may want to rip into your player for future jogging expeditions.
There are the regulars here including Newsboys' In Wonder, Stephen Curtis Chapman with Miracle Of The Moment, Chris Tomlin’s always popular version of Amazing Grace and tunes from Barlowgirl, Third Day and Jeremy Camp. All of the tracks have been hits in the US and at least half should be well known to Aussie 'n Kiwi Christian music radio audiences.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds the perfect album to have a snag with... |
SINGING WITH A PASSION
OK, hands up if you love the Passion movement? Haven’t heard of 'em? Bet you have. Try this; hands up if you’ve seen any messages on DVD lately from a guy named Louie Giglio? Hands up if you’ve sung How Great Is Our God with the hymn of How Great Thou Art attached? Now hands up if you’re au fait with names like Tomlin, Crowder, Redman and Hall. Chances are, you’ve heard of from the Passion movement and just don’t know it yet.
Well, each year, this university-based outreach movement in the US pulls together a conference, makes a pretty amazing recording and let’s us listen in once it’s all put together. God Of This City is this year's effort (Oh, and PS, it’s going on tour and will arrive in Sydney live later this year). These songs were recorded at events in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago and significantly, the title track was a collaborative effort credited to ‘Bluetree’.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on the Passion movement's God Of This City... |
AUSSIE INDIE SPECIAL
OK, just in case you’re wondering, 'indie' is simply short for independent artists. You may see a record label listed, but generally it’s the artist’s own record label or one that is not referred to as ‘major’ just yet (one of those things that yours truly has always stamped on the back of recorded products). Anyhoo, here’s three that have floated across my desk lately that you will find most likely via the wonders of the world wide web...
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to recent albums from Andrew Ironside, Levi McGrath and Andy Pobjoy... |
THE BIG HITS KEEP ROLLING WITH THIRD DAY'S SECOND CHRONOLOGY
Take a moment and contemplate, if you will, titles such as Cry Out To Jesus, Nothing Compares, Creed, Show Me Your Glory or Come On Back To Me. Would you be shocked to find they were all taken from one artist and all in the space of five years?
With album titles including Come Together, Offerings 2, Wire and Wherever You Are, Third Day have certainly staked a claim as the most influential Christian rock band of the past decade. Show Me Your Glory is just one of those songs that has reached people through radio and other media as well as church life. This chronology CD/DVD pack includes the brilliant, and some would say signature tune (taken from the band's hero Rich Mullins) Creed. It also brings to life the southern rock of Come Together and Come On Back To Me as well as the worship anthem God Of Wonders.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Chronology, Volume Two has hit after hit after...Well, you get the picture... |
PAUL BALOCHE'S OUR GOD SAVES WILL GET YOU SINGING
OK, so you may only know the name Baloche for the song Open The Eyes Of My Heart, or Above All, but if you’ve never gone any further into the catalogue, you really are missing out. Mr B has an amazing gift for marrying simple song structures and universal worship themes in melodies that are so singable you won’t even realise you’ve never heard the song before.
There will be comparisons here with Tomlin and crew, and lyrically, it is hard to articulate exactly how Baloche is different. Judge for yourself, but it seems to me that each of the worship writers we hold in esteem share a commonality of studying the ‘art’ of the congregational song as well as carrying an uncompromising desire for music to be part of their personal worship as well.
JUSTIN MICHAEL shares his enthusiasm for Paul Baloche's latest... |
TANYA GORDON'S VOICE SPARKLES IN BRAVER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
If you’ve been hangin' out in 'Brisvegas' over the last few years, you would know the name Tanya Gordon from the Christian contemporary music scene as well as the Christian radio environs. Yes, there were the radio singles, but she also makes a good day time DJ I’m told. Sadly though for Brisbanites, she has stepped back from her radio seat.
Either way, it’s the music we’re talking about, so let’s go with that. The title is all you need to get what’s going on lyrically here. Braver Than You Think You Are is a collection of six tunes that are aimed at encouragement and growth. It’s not so much ‘grow up and get on with it’ as it is a sympathetic hug and some warm chicken soup on a winter's day.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on Tanya Gordon's Braver Than You Think You Are... |
EDWIN DERRICUTT'S ALBUM FOR "GENTLE SUMMER EVENINGS"
New Kiwi on the scene, Edwin Derricutt, hits the wider listening audience with his album Symmetry.
The immediate thing most Aussies and Kiwis alike will hear is a sonic reminder of a fella named Colman. From the guitar style to the notes on each song as to which part of the world they were written in. There’s something so familiar about this record; something that might be called acoustic-folk-pop. It’s a welcoming sound that makes this such an easy one to spin.
The arrangements are sparse, the lyrics full of colour and metaphor and Derricutt’s voice could be a mix of Paul Colman, Jack Johnson and Pete Murray.
JUSTIN MICHAEL is impressed by Edwin Derricutt's debut album, Symmetry... |
THE ROBBIE SEAY BAND'S "UNPREDICTABLE BLEND OF LYRICAL MUSINGS ON GOD"
There’s something about the voice that’s just, well, hard to put your finger on. It’s welcoming somehow. There’s a joy in the music that just makes you want to listen for the layers underneath.
When I spun the CD, I was expecting congregational songs, but instead, somewhat like stablemate David Crowder, the Robbie Seay Band serves up an altogether unpredictable blend of lyrical musings on God, the universe and everything all wrapped in pop music that has nothing of the copycat sound that pervades Christian music all too often.
There’s a hope about these songs. New Day muses "and if you’re like me, you need hope, coffee and melody; so sit back down, let the world keep spinning round..it’s a new day; oh baby, it’s a new day".
JUSTIN MICHAEL trys to put his finger on what it is about the Robbie Seay Band's new album that appeals... |
TODD AGNEW ASKS SOME CURLY QUESTIONS
I think if you take one part Tom Waits, one part Nick Cave and one part Ben Harper you might get somewhere near the vibe of Todd Agnew. I’m sure there’s a better way of describing it, but somehow this slightly theatrical yet country/blues-driven album leaves it hard to pin down and intriguing to the point of must-listen.
There is a personal search going on in this record from song to song that puts Better Questions firmly in concept album territory. It’s no Star Turtle or Ziggy Stardust discovery, but it is dealing with concepts that are obtuse and seemingly unattainable to many a Christian. Things like, ‘can the church be united?’, ‘what if Jesus meant everything He said?’, ‘do we chose or are we chosen?’ and ‘do we need to defend the faith or share it?’.
It seems that Agnew is not asking the audience as much as he is asking himself some of the curly questions and we get to hear his journal.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on Todd Agnew's latest album, Better Questions... |
STEVE GRACE LOOKS FORWARD TO BETTER DAYS AHEAD
In an age where the church is trying to find new language to give the same beautiful message, there are some voices that have become clearer simply because they refuse to be quieted by time. Steve Grace is one of them. Twenty years on, a gold record under his belt (Children Of The Western World) along with hundreds of miles, nations and gigs, and now on tour with his sons in the band, Steve is still preaching with a few simple chords, a gravel-tossed voice and a sense that he has to keep singing.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, this is the first album for Steve in a few years after taking an extended sabbatical from touring. Now based part of the year in America, part in Australia, the Grace family is on the road again with a bunch of new folks and the sense that there are indeed Better Days Ahead.
JUSTIN MICHAEL catches up with an old friend... |
JAMES MORRISON'S GROOVIN' CHRISTMAS
This is Mr Morrison at his smooth 'n grooviest. Difference? It’s been seasoned.
For those who have had the privilege of seeing JM live, you will know that there is rarely a bad night and when there is, there’s a joke to go with it. Here, you won’t get any wrong notes, but you will hear the cheekiness and fun that JM and the band bring with them when they jam.
The titles are familiar: Away In A Manger, Silent Night, Joy To The World, and so on. The difference is now you can swing, samba and shuffle your way to the presents on Christmas day.
I think my favourite is the latin take on Mary’s Boy Child. The virtuosic playing we’ve come to expect from Morrison is laid on and there’s a drum solo the Buena Vista Social Club would be proud of. It’s two-and-a-half minutes of fun that’ll have you shaking your presents to find a percussive sound rather than figuring out what they are!
JUSTIN MICHAEL looks forward to a Christmas with James - and his trumpet... | more... |
TAKING WORSHIP TO "A DEEPER LEVEL"
An emotive experience; a worship journey; a political statement; and, a musical gem.
Israel Houghton is a name I often find the congregation is unaware of until I mention titles like Friend Of God, Rejoice In The Lord or Lord, You Are Good. It’s at that point that most people smile. Israel is renowned for these songs of affirmation that contain great melodies, shout outs and challenges for all muso’s that try to replicate what New Breed present.
Live: A Deeper Level has all of that and more. It includes the live hit, Say So, the rasta stylings of With Long Life, featuring T-bone as well as the encouragement of I Know Who I Am featuring Chris Tomlin.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to a "remarkable" new album... |
RSJ'S LIVE ALBUM BRINGS A NEW DIMENSION TO HER MUSIC
With a unique voice, a unique story and a unique take on 'God-rock', you’re sure to find something to like about RSJ. She’s the girl that has been waiting and praying for her darling while achieving huge things in the Christian music scene around the world and flying the Aussie flag all the way.
In 2006, RSJ released what was a watershed album for her, If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something. It was a refreshing take, both musically and lyrically, on some familiar themes. Plenty of zeal, commitment to telling the Gospel story and artistic integrity.
The live show gives new dimension and a certain new reality to the lyrics. RSJ is a passionate performer and delivers her message with a poise that shows the years of experience she has under her belt.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes a look at the latest album from one of the "hardest-working ladies in Christian music"... |
PARACHUTE BAND'S NEW LINE-UP MAKE A YOUTHFUL DEBUT
It was at the end of '06 that there was some wholesale change at Parachute band HQ. Long time leaders Wayne and Libby Huirua along with juliagrace finished up and handed over the reigns to the five fellas you see on the cover of this new disc.
Mark De Jong is the name behind everything Parachute and you’ll see the next generation coming through here. Sam De Jong is on the kit and adding some guitars to the mix as well. There’s also Chris De Jong doing the jacket design and photography, and Jane De Jong throws in some BV’s.
Add to this the new sound of Omega Levine’s vocal, the mod rock sounds of the band and you’ve got an altogether new sound for Parachute.
JUSTIN MICHAEL says Parachute Band's new album is a 'breathe of fresh air'... |
PHIL JOEL'S BOOM-CHAKA-LAKA ROCKIN' GOOD TIME!
Hot on the heals of the reinvention of ex-newsboy Phil Joel as a leader in the deliberate people movement comes the part of Phil you probably suspected was there but never thought you’d see. Yes, it’s Phil Joel the kids entertainer!
This ain’t no Wiggles record and it bears no resemblance to anything Bob the Builder has re-mixed recently. This is indie-pop-rock for kids. This is shout outs, hooky little claps, horn lines and random bells and whistles surrounded by the effervescent pop-melodies Phil is renowned for.
Still, me, I’m a big kid, so I tried this one out on my 18-month-old lad to see if he could catch on to the deliberate kids vibe. Now, Noah can’t say more than "Mummy" and "broom" (in reference to every vehicle on wheels he sees) but his body language was the deadset giveaway that Joel may just deliver on his promise of a "boom-chaka-laka rockin’ good time"!
JUSTIN MICHAEL says that all Phil Joel needs is a skivvy color of his own... |
TAKING THE TIME TO SAVOUR MATT REDMAN'S BEAUTIFUL NEWS
Soul Survivor has introduced the church to some of it’s most honoured song writers over the last decade or so. Matt Redman is a name synonomous with church life today thanks largely to a little ditty he wrote a while back titled The Heart Of Worship.
He is one of those rare writers who has been able to tap into the global conscience of the church through music. The artist's job is to express the things the rest of us have always wanted to articulate. The worship songwriter's task is made all the more challenging when you realise they write so that we can sing something of the divine and of the super-natural; something of the relationship of God to man. With Beautiful News Redman has once again given us an album driven by a writer inspired by the search.
The titles of the songs are clear indicators of the themes: Beautiful News, You Never Let Go, Yes And Amen, Fearfully And Wonderfully Made, Blessing, and Thank You For Healing Me.
JUSTIN MICHAEL hears Matt Redman's heart in Beautiful News... |
CASTING CROWNS UNASHAMED ABOUT THEIR MUSIC WITH A MESSAGE
If you’ve never heard Casting Crowns before, you may not know that they are a group of passionate musos birthed out of leading youth groups. You may not know they have always been willing to put mini-sermons in their music. If you didn’t know before, all you need do is spin the first track of The Altar And The Door.
What This World Needs is a challenge to how we show Christ to our world. It is not backward and it does not pull punches. It is a rock track that includes young people speaking about how we could share our faith - “we can be passionate about what we believe, but we can’t strap ourselves to the Gospel cause we’re slowing it down. Jesus is going to save the world but maybe the best thing that we can do is get out of the way”.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Casting Crowns latest a "gutsy" effort... |
TIM HUGHES HOLDS NOTHING BACK WITH A STRAIGHT-UP ROCK ALBUM
Tim Hughes, yep, the bloke that penned a little ditty called Here I Am To Worship, just got a new kick in his step. Happy Day is the track that boots this record to life. It’s a happy-rock tune that just makes you want to pop your iPod in your ears and go for a run around the block in time with the drum beat. Of course, you may also like to grab your guitar or piano and thump the tune out yourself. After all, the chords are in the liner notes!
In an era when congregational songs are becoming more hymn-like in their word count, Hughes seems to cut back and continually offers simple statements such as in Be My Everything where these words are the entire chorus and the refrain is simply, “Christ in me, the hope of Glory”. Or Holding Nothing Back, a co-write with Delirious’ Martin Smith, where the pre-chorus states “Nothing's gonna hold me back” four times.
Tim Hughes' latest inspires JUSTIN MICHAEL to take his iPod for a run... |
HILLSONG CAPITALISE ON THEIR STRENGTHS WHILE BROOKE FRASER INTRIGUES
OK, so here’s two albums. One of which you most probably already own and the other one you may have missed and deserves a listen.
Hillsong's new one, Saviour King, is once again a collection of songs distinctly Hillsong and beautifully singable. The stable of writers has expanded again to the point that one Darlene Zschech contributes to only one song. This is one of Hillsong's great strengths and is certainly a major reason this church is able to
release albums that capture the wider church each and every year.
The only reason to review this album is to suggest to the few who haven’t heard it that there are songs like the anthemic Saviour King and To Know Your Name to be discovered. There is the folk-like Brooke Fraser-penned gem, Lord of Lords, the soul stirring In Your Freedom and the hook-laden Break Free.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on a couple of albums he thinks deserve a listen... |
CHOIR OF HARD KNOCKS MAKE MUSIC FOR THE BROKEN
The Choir of Hard Knocks has become known through a documentary on ABC TV, and more recently a 60 Minutes story which showed the journey that this group of disadvantaged and homeless people have been on over the last year or so.
This is music of the broken, for the broken. As such, it inspires, moves and transcends the coldness of much of everyday life. The people in this choir are talented and determined, but I'm sure the last thing they would want from the rest of us is to feel sorry for them.
What makes this music so powerful is that the songs on it are sung with heart and they tell the stories of the actual people in the choir. They are real. They are positive songs, they are songs of faith, and they are songs of doubt and confusion.
NILS VON KALM says the Choir of Hard Knocks have an authentic sound... |
FALLING FORWARD A MICROCOSM OF SANDI PATTY 'S MUSICAL JOURNEY
OK, somebody needs to slap me a high-five! I have listened to an entire Sandi Patty album without my mum making me and I think I may have even enjoyed it. Jury is still out on that, but I can tell you that if you’re a long term fan, you won’t be disappointed here.
The album kicks off by giving the impression that it is a modern praise 'n worship disc with a sound reminiscent of the classic Hosanna recordings - big choir, big string section, guitars way back in the mix - it’s an energetic set with the Hillsong (Miriam Webster penned) tune, Made Me Glad, the Sweeter Medley that includes Sweeter, Blessed Be Your Name and Lord, You Are Good.
Track five, Step Into The Joy, gives Sandi a chance to get in touch with her soul side, but don’t worry - for those of you waiting for the signiature big voice ballad, they’re just around the corner.
JUSTIN MICHAEL tips his hat to Sandi Patty... | more... |
LET THE COVER ART PUT YOU OFF - ROBIN MARK'S EAST OF THE
RIVER A WONDERFULLY ECLECTIC MIX
some Irish jigs, some American folk and some modern adult-contemporary
praise 'n worship and you’ll get somewhere close to
this new offering from Robin Mark.
Please don’t look at the cover art
of this album. It sounds a whole lot better than it looks,
There is always something innate that's
triggered when one hears the Irish whistles and Uillean pipe.
For some reason, your toes just start to tap and your heart
stirs. This is one tool that Mark uses incredibly well.
There are three ‘jig interludes’
throughout the disc that somehow make it flow (irony intended,
I’m sure). Lyrically Mark hits some wonderful heights
with songs such as Lost and Found - "I am but
a lost and found, but can there be sweeter sound, than singing
with the lost and found?", it asks.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds plenty
of depth and color in Robin Mark's latest album... |
BEST OF ALBUM SHOWS WHY HER MUSIC STANDS OUT FROM THE PACK
was my girlfriend (now wife) that introduced me to the music
of Nichole Nordeman via the old cassette player of her student-budget
car. She was very proud of that car, and similarly proud of
her new tape that she determined I should hear.
That album was the 1998 debut offering
from Nichole Nordeman, Wide Eyed. It was what it
said; a bigger view of things. Songs like To Know You,
Who You Are and Is It Any Wonder, all featured
on this record. They pointed to a searching song writer who
wasn’t afraid to draw solace in the mystery of God and
still be OK with asking the questions that bore no apparent
answers - “I really want to know you, be patient with
my doubt, I’m just trying to figure out Your will, and
I really want to know You still," she sings in one song.
2000 brought the sophomore release, This Mystery that spawned songs such as Every Season,
a personal favourite and still a spine tingler, as well as Why and the title track, This Mystery.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds "ample
evidence" of Nichole Nordeman's talent in her best of
CELEBRATE 12 YEARS OF HITS
was the middle of the Nineties. Rock was deep into its grunge
phase and DC talk had just released its breakthrough epic, Jesus Freak. In 1995, Third Day independently released
their self-titled album to critical, and, more importantly,
fan acclaim. It was in 1996 that they signed with Reunion
records, home of Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins and Wes King
and found themselves at the beginning of something very big.
This double album CD/DVD combo covers the
years from 1996 to 2000. Four albums - Third Day, Conspiracy no. 5, Time and Offerings.
Tracks include the live version of Agnus
Dei, new recordings of Thief and My Hope
Is You, live versions of Blackbird and Alien as well as a couple of rare rootsy tunes in Long Time
Comin’ and She Sings In Riddles that all
make the disc a gift to fans. This is not just a collection
of previous recordings that you could set up on your iPod,
it’s a detailed effort to create a reflection of not
only where the band has been, but to give it the sound they
JUSTIN MICHAEL looks back
at 12 years of Third Day hits... |
BEGINNING WORTH A CLOSER LOOK
want their music to challenge the mind as well as impact the
heart. It's music not just meant to be sung in church, but
heard on the radio.”
Lifetone have set their sights high as they looked
to create an original and fresh sound for the praise and worship
scene; a scene which they feel is a little too “similar
Musically, Who Hopes For What They Always Had? doesn’t achieve anything new or out-of-the-box, but
lyrically, there is a definite attempt to push the limit of
what a congregation might sing. The album ebbs between easy-to-sing
congregational lines such as "Now you call me beautiful"
from the song, Beautiful, to the more complex such
as "When darkness reigned that hour and evil men conspired,
light of the world though crushed in mire, could never cease
to shine" from The Night Is Nearly Over.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on Lifetone's
debut Who Hopes For What They Already Had?... |
REAL DELIVERS ON BEAUTY
Smith’s music sweeps in like a breath of fresh air with
his new CD Real. The singer’s rich vocals begin
with the opening song - the title track Real - with
Smith ably supported with backup vocals from Drew Cline, Lisa
Bevill, and two American Idol finalists Mandisa Hundley (2006)
and Melinda Doolittle (2007).
If you are easily moved to tears have a box of tissues
close at hand when the third track If Sierra Can Smile
begins to play. The song of a young child hospitalised serves
up a reminder of just how much we take for granted in our
own lives. The singer reminds us that, “If Sierra can
smile through her pain...then why can’t we?”
JOE MONTAGUE finds something
special in Sean Smith's debut album Real...
TUMES' UNIQUE SOUND CARRIES A "WONDERFUL EDGE OF ORIGINALITY"
an Aussie girl done good in the big US of A and she’s
remained true to both her musical style and lyrical intent
throughout her career. Here, we find Mrs Tumes, now on an
independent label, still producing the lush Celtic textures
and prayerful lyrics her worldwide fan base has come to know
Michelle writes “to the listener, may you find
God’s peace and overwhelming love for you amidst the
music and imagery". With songs like the radio hit Domine
(Lord God), Breakthrough, Lovely Day
and Yearning, it is obvious to me that anyone could
listen to this album, relate to the message in the music,
and certainly be carried by the gentle beauty of the music.
There are the trademark lush string sections, driving percussion
and choral treatments.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to
Australian Michelle Tumes' self-titled album...
UNITED'S ALL OF THE ABOVE IS ALL
THAT AND MORE
don’t know how they do it, but they do. An album every
year. A dozen new songs every year. A couple of worship conferences
every year. How do these guys stay fresh? How do they keep
driving the church music culture forward the way they do?
How do they manage to get such heart and soul into a studio
I don’t have the answers, but I do have the new
album, All Of The Above, on my player and, to put
it simply, they’ve done it again.
Musically, it’s an epic guitarist's dream. There
are hooks, riffs and solos all over the place. It’s
as synth-lush as ever. Lyrically the themes are clear with
songs such as Desperate People, Point of Difference
JUSTIN MICHAEL reviews Hillsong
United's latest album All Of The Above...
AMANDA SMITH BAND HAVE A "GOOD OLE TIME" TELLING
ABOUT THE ONE WAY TO HEAVEN
the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band have dubbed themselves as
a performing bluegrass band but to me they sound like a good
mixture of bluegrass and the way country music was sung in
the Fifties and early Sixties. For those less familiar with
bluegrass, the roots of the genre are intertwined with the
roots of modern day country music. The band’s recent
CD Tell Someone features some outstanding vocal performances,
even better musicians and good ole Gospel lyrics.
You may be old enough to remember the Carter
Family or the duo of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Perhaps
you remember the early part of the movie of the Johnny Cash
story - Walk The Line - or have browsed through
the vinyl archives. If you are familiar with that period in
the history of music, then the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band
will welcome back a flood of good memories.
JOE MONTAGUE is impressed by the
Kenny & Amanda Smith Band's mix of bluegrass and country...
PLAYS DANCE CARD BUT SHOWS POP PROMISE
seems as though every decade has its teen music idols and
our time is no different. Cali, a favorite of the Radio Disney
Network in the US, has jumped into the spotlight to join contemporaries
such as Katelyn Tarver and Miley Cyrus. Whether these young
women eventually become as well known as predecessors such
as, Rachael Lampa, Rebecca St James and Stacie Orrico remains
to be seen.
Tarver’s music pulls more at the
heartstrings with love songs whereas Cali’s tunes are
more firmly planted in dance/pop. For the most part Cali’s
songs appeal to the mostly pre-teenage set. Her music taps
into the five year old through fourteen-year-old girl audience.
Think of Cali as ZoeGirl divided by three.
JOE MONTAGUE takes
a look at Cali's self-titled album...
THE SWIFT MAKE A GOOD DEBUT.
NOW FOR THE NEXT ACT
Don Donahue, president of Rocketown Records, stepped up to
the plate in 2006 to sign The Swift to Michael W. Smith’s
label, he proved once again that he has a good eye for talent.
In October, the American band that has toured with the likes
of Mercy Me, Kutless and Audio Adrenaline released their debut
album for Rocketown Records.
Singing Back To You is a pop/light rock worship album
featuring a blend of original compositions and covers of previous
hit songs. The quartet of Mike Simons (bass/vocals), Britt
Edwards (piano/vocals), Matt Wilder (guitar) and Guy Lemon
(drums) provide a more than capable rendition of the Delirious?
tune Rain Down. Covering a song by a phenomenal group
such as Delirious? is no easy task and The Swift get thumbs
JOE MONTAGUE listens to The Swifts'
debut ... |
JEREMY CAMP TAKES A MELLOWER
was a time when Jeremy Camp was considered to be on the leading
edge of Christian artists who performed rock music. It seems
that either many other artists have caught up to him or he
has mellowed a bit. Whatever the answer is to that question
there is no denying that he continues to be one of the better
songwriters on the music scene. His grainy vocals have always
seemed to be half proclamation and half petition. With Camp’s
most recent CD Beyond Measure the winning combination
is still intact.
One of the more moving songs on this album
is Feels Like. Camp sings with conviction: “And
it feels like all these tears are coming through, when I think
of everything You do,” and later, “You cared enough
to take my place, and have given me unending grace, I know
that you know my every need that’s my security.”
JOE MONTAGUE finds Jeremy Camp's
latest album a departure from his usual style...
TAMMY TRENT'S RETURN HITS
A HIGH NOTE
you think that Tammy Trent is a wannabe, know this: this lady
was singing dance music in 1994 before anyone else in Christian
music. If her name is new to you, it may be due to the fact
she stepped away from the music scene for a few years to heal
from the accidental death of her husband. The 2006 release
of I See Beautiful marks the return of one of the
most gifted and truly beautiful people in the music industry.
Her opening track Real Life -
co-written with David Garcia and Tim Miner - is a statement
of Tammy Trent’s journey: “More than just a ray
of hope; you kept your promise; you told me that I could so
I did; I started over.”
The heavily programmed beats of I See
Beautiful and the hip hop/rap Pray are for the
dance crowd. Trent says: “I am a drummer so when you
listen to any of my records there is this groove.” Until
now, fans have only seen her with a microphone in her hand,
but watch for the lady and her drum kit on tour in 2007.
JOE MONTAGUE applauds Tammy Trent's
return to the music scene...
DELIVER THE HITS LIVE AT WILLOW CREEK
all due respect, to some wonderful bands such as Skillet,
Petra and Switchfoot, there never has been a band that has
so completely combined worship with the element of rock music
as Delirious? Led by vocalist Martin Smith, the British band
proves once again proves why they are the best with their
performance on the album Now Is The Time: Live At Willow
Creek, Chicago, U.S.A.
The CD is comprised of some of the greatest
hits ever recorded by the band and some of the greatest worship
anthems ever written.
It is the character of the men behind the
music that makes their music so powerful. The members of Delirious?
are authentic and live the message they proclaim. Earlier
this year, I wrote about them being "untainted by the
hype that sometimes surrounds their concerts". That attitude
informs their music.
JOE MONTAGUE is very impressed,
make that very impressed, by Delirious?' live album...
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - BRING SOME JOY TO YOUR WORLD
collection of the best Christmas songs from a selection of
artists would be difficult to criticise and Joy To The
World: The Ultimate Christmas Collection is no exception.
Bart Millard’s (MercyMe) splendid vocals introduce
us to God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, the opening track.
Messiah has ghostly instrumentals featuring rich
guitar work but I found Phil Wickham’s vocals lacked
the punch I would hope for on a song with the clout the lyrics
The understated Welcome
to Our World by Philips, Craig and Dean is a song I hadn’t
heard before and enjoyed thoroughly. The simple melodies and
good harmonies befit a king born in a simple manger in a little
JOE MONTAGUE tosses out the tinsel
to make room for this one...
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - PAUL BRANDT'S A GIFT UP THERE
WITH THE BEST OF THEM - AND WE'RE NOT JUST TALKING CHRISTMAS
Paul Brandt’s Christmas CD A Gift certainly
didn’t start out the way I was expecting. From the opening
note, Canada’s reigning king of country music is backed
by a swinging big band. To be honest with you (and I hate
to admit this about a Christmas song) but the opening track
Let It Snow has been sung and played the same way
by numerous artists over the years. I had lost interest in
it until this album. The horn section consisting of trumpeters
Michael Herriott and Henry Christian combine with trombonists
Ian McDougall and Neil Nicholson to blow some of the sweetest
melodies you will hear.
The truly best present to unwrap from
this album however is the title track which appropriately
is named A Gift. The song is an original tune from
Brandt’s pen. Brandt’s emotive vocals and sensitivity
as an artist will cause you to pause and whisper a prayer
JOE MONTAGUE applauds Paul Brandt's
A Gift... |
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - ANNIE MOSES BAND BREATHE NEW LIFE
INTO CAROLLING TRADITIONS
there is one thing that can be said consistently about the
Annie Moses Band it is that they create beautiful music. Bethlehem,
House of Bread is no exception with string arrangements
which are among the best you will hear in any genre.
If you want to capture the true spirit of what Christmas
is all about this year, sit quietly and mediate upon the words
of traditional carols set to new arrangements by Annie and
Bill Wolaver (the father). In particular, the stirring rendition
of the spiritual Mary Had A Baby will make you tingle
in awe. Annie Wolaver’s vocals are backed by the chorale
ensemble One Voice comprised of sopranos Kelly Lunsford, Barklee
Bowers, Christin Kubasko and Mary Hannah Corzine. Alto vocals
come by way of Alex Bowers and Anna Stancil. Melissa McLamb
directs One Voice.
The mother of the talented Wolaver family is Robin,
long regarded as a gifted lyricist. Robin has blessed us with
the sacramental Bethlehem, House of Bread, the gentle
lullaby-like Little Baby, and the bluegrass Christmas
on Cripple Creek.
JOE MONTAGUE enjoys traditional
carols in a new form...
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - TODD AGNEW'S NEW TAKE ON THE CHRISTMAS
Agnew didn’t set out to create a CD full of great Christmas
songs when he wrote and produced Do You See What I See,
he wanted to tell a story. For several months Agnew immersed
himself in the nativity story, everything leading up to it
and related to the birth of Christ. What has emerged on this
disc is a musical with wonderful tunes that are sensitive,
thought provoking and are told through rich vocals and instrumentals.
Listeners will wonder about Agnew’s
choice of titles for the CD. It all sounds vaguely familiar.
Agnew told me in a recent interview that he mistook the original
title of the song Do You Hear What I Hear as being
Do You See What I See. After he had written pieces
that tell the birth of Christ as seen through the eyes of
various people the original title didn’t fit.
JOE MONTAGUE finds Todd Agnew's
Do You See What I See an experience to cherish...
A RETURN TO FORM FOR NEWSBOYS
Michael Sweet of Stryper if he can endorse this record and
he will say “If it’s not metal, I can’t
endorse it”. Ask Paul Colman what this music is in relation
to the ‘metal’ of Stryper he’ll say, “It’s
Go, if it is “light aluminium”
pop, stacks up well in the 20 year career of the newsboys.
After a few spins, Go has me convinced
that the ‘boys have returned to form. An injection of
songwriting from the legendary Steve Taylor and new band member
Paul Colman has definitely added to the lyrical palette but
the more convincing thing about this album is the conviction
of sonic structure and spiritual purpose that permeates its
40 fat-trimmed minutes and 11 tracks.
While the worship albums, Adoration
and Devotion, both received high praise, there was
the underlying curiosity over whether the boys could pull
out another great pop album. Thrive, the last pop
album - made four years ago - was largely an adventure in
Eighties metal/rock and seemed to be forgotten quickly. Go
should stand beside Take Me To Your Leader and Step
Up To The Microphone - it’s simply packed with
festival-crowd melodies and a sound that separates the boys
from the pop-pack.
JUSTIN MICHAEL says the newsboys'
album, Go, is "just good pop music"...
OVER ME "A SOOTHING GIFT"
albums seem all too often to confuse me. It is rare for me
to find one that I geniunely believe is a gift to the listener
rather than a marketing vehicle for average songs or artists.
Sing Over Me is the gift it was intended to be.
This is a theme album that traverses the
most divine of topics - the worship of God and the gift of
new life. A very deliberate collection of lyrically excellent
and musically sparkling songs that reflect the greatness of
God, the beautiful in life and the reward of being a parent.
We have a nine-month-old son that, like
every baby, sometimes needs a little extra ‘atmosphere’
to help him sleep. I was hoping he’d always want rock
tunes in his player, but my wife assures me I am wrong! This
album is quite deliberately arranged sans volume leaps and
epic moments of rock. And, I must say, I like it that way.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on a compilation
album he says is a cut above the rest...
REUBEN MORGAN'S NEW CALL TO WORSHIP
Morgan’s blog begins: "Jesus tells a story
in Luke 14 about a man who invites a great number of people
to dinner at his house but they all give excuses about why
they can’t come. He becomes angry and sends his servants
out into the streets to invite whoever they can find. It ends
up that many people came but the master wasn't completely
happy...there was still room for more. This story just makes
me think about the way God encourages everyone to come to
Him so that His House will be full. It's a picture of the
Church and the Kingdom of God."
One of Australia’s leading contemporary
congregational song writers, it takes only a moment to recognise
a lyric or a melody Morgan has written over the years - think
of familiar titles such as For All You’ve Done,
Still, Eagle's Wings (with which the Katinas
reached #1 in the US last year on the Inspo charts) and Mighty
JUSTIN MICHAEL believes Reuben
Morgan's latest album will be the catalyst that makes him
a household name across the world...
TOMLIN INSPIRED TO INSPIRE OTHERS
writer of congregational music is a unique person for reasons
that become obvious if one is a regular at a church with a
band. He or she must write lyrics that capture grand reflections
of the divine as well as deep theological teachings and give
encouragement to the saints. The lyric must be bedded in palatable
music that most people can attempt with some confidence of
getting it right, even with only three chords up their amateur
This is not an easy task simply because
it is too easy to end up with a copycat effort that isn’t
as good as the favourites people are used to hearing - a result
which means the songs are never adopted by the wider church.
Tomlin, I believe it is safe to say, is loved like Redman,
Hughes, Zschech and Morgan by the wider church. His songs
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to
Chris Tomlin's latest album, See the Morning...
WATERMAN GOES LIVE
live album always has a curious ‘life of its own’
element to it. If you have never heard an artist, you’d
be doing a good thing by starting with a ‘best of’
disc, but if you’re a fan, then you simply have to own
any live offerings. Roma Waterman Live is, in the
true tradition of live discs, an album for the fans.
Recorded over a number of shows in
2005, this album also marks the beginnings of the miracle
of Waterman’s first child, Angelina. The liner notes
state “that I was 13 weeks pregnant when a majority
of these songs were captured after being told there was a
possibility I may never have children...it was an overwhelming
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Roma
Waterman's live album packed with her best music...
is the music language everyone seems to be speaking today.
Why check a band's pre-fab, PR-filtered bio when you can jump
onto MySpace and see if they’re for real? Head to myspace.com/superchick
and, going simply from numbers - over a quarter of a million
hits, the four songs available on the player being spun more
times than the proverbial acrobatic plate. Add to that a string
of gigs that would make you tired just thinking about the
transit times, and you can see that here is a band intent
on saying something.
It’s the ‘something’
that makes this crew special. This is not a pop band with
a bag full of musical hooks and crunchy guitars for the sake
of making the kids jump. The new edition of Beauty From
Pain, simply titled 1.1, has reinvigorated the
commercial interest in the band but the message has remained
JUSTIN MICHAEL says Superchic[k]'s
message is what sets them apart... |
KEARNEY HAS SOMETHING TO SAY
Kearney, according to most of my American sources, is the
music to have in your iPod. After a friend of mine handed
me an album called Bullet (Kearney’s debut) last year
and said to me with a stern voice “This is the best
album of the year”, I smiled politely and promptly put
it in the glove box of the car.
Months later I decided to give it a go.
I have not taken Kearney off my high rotation
Nothing Left to Lose just solidifies the critical
acclaim Kearney has received. With a voice not too far left
of Chris Martin (Coldplay) a hip-hop sensibility of Michael
Franti (Spearhead) and the sweetness of melody that Jack Johnson
has brought to so many dinner tables, you’ll be hard
pressed to be disappointed with Kearney.
JUSTIN MICHAEL says Mat Kearney's
second album shows he's no one album wonder...
TRY SOMETHING NEW
band that brought us I Can Only Imagine and then
two years later brought us...I Can Only Imagine has
since taken the music world by storm. These guys found a way
of connecting their faith to their music and, in turn, to
what has become one of Christian music’s largest audiences.
With a swag of number ones under their
artistic belt it seems the lads at MercyMe have decided to
try a few new tricks with Coming Up To Breathe.
It was lead singer Bart Millards’
solo effort of 2005 titled Hymned that pointed to
the heavy country-Gospel influence the boys have stashed in
their iPods (and produced the hit Mawmaw’s Song
(In The Sweet By And By). On Coming Up, tracks
like One Trick Pony evoke the Mississippi delta.
A bit of Robert Johnson, a bit of Ben Harper and a decent
handclap add to the fun.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes MercyMe's
new album for a spin...or 10... |
BACKSTREET TO GOSPEL
then there was one. Brian Littrell is a Backstreet Boy. Part
of a force larger than any of us. The force known as world-conquering,
all-consuming, boy-band pop. Welcome Home is what some would
call a side project. Littrell has completed his first Christian
disc as a debut solo artist.
Many have tried to cross from group to
solo. Some have had remarkable results such as Robbie Williams,
but more often the result is a set of questions that begin
with “Sorry, who were you?” In this case, it seems
that an audience already familiar with him will find new reasons
to enjoy his music rather than relegate it to the deleted
stock bin. Littrell has decided to go back to what he knew
his whole life before hangin' around back streets; that being
singing inspirational Christian Gospel and pop in his church.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens
to a solo offering from Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell...
ADRENALINE'S LAST HURRAH
With 15 years of music behind them, ranging from
the initial efforts of white boy hip-hop (think ‘we
need some P...D...A!’), and rap core (‘My God
died on the cross...BUT HE LIVES’) to the straight-up
rock 'n roll that they’re so good at, it’s been
a great journey. But it's about to come to end. In January
'06, lead singer Mark Stuart has had to call it quits after
medical advice meant he could no longer sing at the same ‘rock
'n roll’ level he had been for years.
Stuart said: "Fifteen years of rock
'n roll takes a toll on the vocal chords, but I wouldn't trade
a day of it for anything. Touring and making records with
Will, Ben and Tyler has truly been a gift from God, as well
as worshipping night after night with the greatest fans on
MICHAEL says Audio Adrenaline's Until My Heart Caves In
is almost as good as Worldwide...
SERVES UP A DIVERSE OFFERING
Welcome to Diverse City was the follow up
to the highly successful (450,000 sold) Momentum
album of 2001. It was 2003 before we heard the remix album
of Momentum, and by then, it seemed a lot of interest
had been lost. This time round, however, the remix album -
Renovating: Diverse City - comes less than 12 months
after the ‘parent’ album dropped.
This disc carries the now familiar message
of breaking down cultural walls (Diverse City), bringing
unity, true faith and belief (Catchafire), running
from temptaion (Getaway Car) and keeping the fire
of the Spirit burning (Burn for You): themes that
have been consistent in the music of the last 15 years of
tobyMac’s career with dc talk and as a solo artist.
MICHAEL finds tobyMac's latest album "consistent, full
of hooks and perfectly infectious"...
HER 'ANGSTY' BEST WITH CHAOTIC RESOLVE
1997 the debut self-titled album, Plumb, announced
the arrival of an artist who demanded to be heard. The respect
from within the industry for Plumb was instant and it has
only grown since then. She was, in some ways, an answer to
the then front-runners of angsty pop/rock such as Alanis Morissette.
Many today would compare her to the metal-pop of Evanescence.
The difference is, Plumb was and still is singing about the
tough stuff of life but with a sense of hope, a sense of God
in all of her songs.
Plumb is Tiffany Arbuckle Lee.
Chaotic Resolve is her fourth album (not a large output in
nine years by today’s standards) and each album, while
varying slightly, has managed to build on the respect she
gained in 1997.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Plumb's
latest album, "fresh, honest and full of integrity"...
OFFER A CHANCE TO 'CATCH UP'
hard to fathom how a band that only began producing music
in 2000 can already have a ‘best of’ disc. The
cynic in me would suggest that this was simply a way to fulfil
a recording contract. The fan in me would say this is a great
way to access the catalogue of music from ZOEgirl, a band
that by any measurement have been prolific in their output
In the five years since 2000’s self
titled ZOEgirl was released, there have been three
full studio albums, 2001’s Life, 2002’s
remix album, Mix of Life, 2003’s Different
Kind of Free, and the 2005 release Room To Breathe.
With All Of My Heart will more than likely be the
best way for new fans to catch up on a band that doesn’t
seem to have taken any time off for five years!
JUSTIN MICHAEL says ZOEgirl's
'best of' album - With All Of My Heart: Greatest Hits
- offers fans and those who don't know their music a
chance to 'catch up' with what the band have been doing for
the past six years... |
ALBUM REBECCA ST JAMES 'HAD TO MAKE'
As a cog in the wheel of international Christian
music, I think Rebecca St James must be often underestimated.
Her importance as an artist is marked by her absolute conviction
of the greatness of God and the creative need to put spiritual
truths into song. Her sound has varied slightly over the past
10 years, but basically she found her own sound in records
like God and Pray and has stuck to it. Over
the span of her career she has shown time and again her strength
of character, musicianship and the value of both working together.
If I Had One Chance To Tell You Something
is the result of a month-long spiritual retreat in the Swiss
Alps at a study centre called L’Abri. L’Abri is
a French word simply meaning ‘shelter’. The centre
was founded by theologian Dr. Francis Shaeffer in 1955 (there
are now centres all over the world including Australia).
JUSTIN MICHAEL reviews RSJ's
CROWDER'S 'BEAUTIFUL COLLISION'
Before I’d heard David Crowder’s voice
an American friend had asked me if I knew what he looked like.
When I responded in the negative he proceeded to tell me that
he was America’s strangest looking worship leader. Upon
closer inspection, he’s certainly an interesting looking
dude, with a long goatee, tall and well-rounded white-boy
afro and the type of glasses only an artsy muso would wear.
I immediately liked the guy. Then I heard his music and started
A Collision is an instant refresher course in how
to make music that makes people think and listen closer. An
obviously talented and thoughtful musician, Crowder has referenced
Gospel music history by opening with a bit of backshed bluegrass
of Everybody wants to go to heaven then kicks straight
into the beautiful sounds of the grand piano on Come and
JUSTIN MICHAEL says David
Crowder delivers the goods with the album A Collision...
TOMLIN GOES LIVE
When I first heard the name Chris Tomlin a couple
of years ago I did not realize how much I would come to respect
his music and influence as I uncovered his wide and respected
contributions to the congregational music of today.
Chris is the name behind the Michael W.
Smith hit Forever, one of the key worship leaders
on the Passion worship series that has come out of
US universities for the last five years, writer of the modern
hymn that should become a classic in How Great is Our
God and the singer of Indescribable (nb: no,
Chris didn’t write it, Laura Story did!).
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to
Chris Tomlin's live album...
MAKES A 'MATURE' DEBUT
The girl loves the Eighties, loves getting dressed
up, admits to performing in a ra-ra skirt she brought in Brisbane,
performs and writes with passion and just happens to be a
part of New Zealand's biggest praise and worship export, the
Parachute Band. She is juliagrace and she has a brand new,
self-titled, debut, solo album.
juliagrace, formerly lead singer of electronic
outfit Elevator, has now stepped out by herself as a solo
artist as well as taken the opportunity to play guitar and
sing with the Parachute Band.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes a look
at juliagrace's first solo album...
DO IT THEIR WAY
Planetshakers is a name synonymous with screaming
youth who wear their Christianity as a badge of honour. The
music is infectious and encouraging and has been at the forefront
of a now international movement of conferences that has seen
the Planetshakers brand stamped on T-shirts, arm bands, caps
and indeed churches in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Arise is the new batch of tunes for 2006 taking it’s
name and call from Isaiah 60. It is also the studio version
of the live album to be released later this year. So it seems
every screaming youth needs to check their bank balance to
decide which album to buy; the good oil from those who were
there says wait for the live edition.
JUSTIN MICHAEL reviews the
Planetshakers latest album, Arise...
was a time in Christian music when the music of the church
and the music of the concert stage were separated by sound,
style, lyrics and, of course, a rather sizeable PA difference.
Since the earliest days of hearing phrases like ‘power-praise’,
‘rock 'n roll worship’ or ‘modern hymn’,
the lines have been blurred. Today we see the top 10 in Christian
contemporary music (CCM) comprising the likes of Third Day,
Chris Tomlin and Darlene Zschech and, of course, Newsboys
regularly. Rock music is worship music is church music is
Since a song called Beautiful Sound
snuck up on us on the 1999 release of LoveLibertyDisco,
the newsboys have developed their music into fully-fledged
modern congregational anthems.
JUSTIN MICHAEL takes a look
at the newsboys' rock-worship music fusion - He Reigns:
The Worship Collection... |
chatting to Martin Smith, lead singer and song writer of UK
worship/rock band Delirious?, he did manage to point out that
“there are some crackin’ songs on the record”
and folks, he wasn’t kidding.
The Mission Bell is an intelligent
and insightful record that builds on the return to form that
was 2004’s World Service that gave us Rain
Down and Majesty.
The lyrical content of The Mission
Bell points to a progression in the intent and devotion
of the band: "Ring, ring, ring, ring the mission bell;
sing, sing, sing, we got a story to tell". The final
refrain from the first UK single Paint The Town Red
with it’s two minutes of anthemic brit-punk and angsty
vocals that gives rise to the feeling that these guys mean
what they sing.
It's still Delirious?, says
JUSTIN MICHAEL, but it goes deeper...
an ‘inspired by’ set of songs is often a timid
process, especially when the subject matter is so studied
worldwide and every imagination that has been to Narnia already
has an idea of what sights and sounds would best reflect the
Feel free to take this review as permission
to approach with excitement. The imaginations of these artists
have certainly been to Narnia, seen the children, the fauns,
the witch and the lion in their mind's eye and written from
that place. In short, there is nothing pretentious about these
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds
Music Inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia well, inspiring...
approaching a musician from Sydney who loves his coffee, has
great taste in guitars and just happens to write inteligent
pop music carrying more Biblical teaching than most tracts
you’ve seen lately, be warned. You will get hooked on
The first I heard of Tasker’s music
was the double album A Look Inside released in '04.
A little scratching of the surface of the artist's history
revealed no less than six previous albums, a large fan base
crossing oceans and a penchant for strong, studied lyrics
carrying Biblical truths.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on Sydneysider
Nathan Tasker's latest album Must Be More...
a dash of pop, a dribble of dance a large dollop of RnB, and
add a little bit 'o groove to your CD collection.
Like a lot of artists in the Australian
Christian contemporary music scene of late, Tania has shaken
the tag of ‘newby’ with her latest project Lay
It All Down and presented a collection that will stand boldly
beside any of your favourite grooves. With a tinge of Mariah,
the joi de vis of a Nicole C Mullen, the effervescence of
Michelle Williams, and that certain X factor that a true spiritual
passion lends any faith-based musical expression, this project
has found a place on the top shelf at my place.
JUSTIN MICHAEL on an album
that mixes faith with groove...
title Fragments of a Wandering Mind seems misleading
to me. On the contrary, since hearing Katie Vanderzaag’s
first effort, an EP titled What It’s Like in
2002, a solid first shot, it seems her mind has done the opposite
This album is a very definite statement
of intention from an artist determined to draw a lyrical and
musical line in the sand and say, 'Here I am, this is who
I am right now'. This is not adult contemporary pop because
this is not an adult contemporary person. This is not the
acoustic pop of the debut EP. A journey has been undertaken
in the last three years that has given this album that wonderful
sound of ‘risk’.
JUSTIN MICHAEL hears an album
that takes Katie Vanderzaag to the next level...
you know names like Sons Of Korah, James Morrison, Wilbur
Wilde and the Moscow Circus on Ice, then you know great music.
But do you know the people behind the names? Rod Gear is an
artist who has contributed to all of the above and more. This
is his first solo instrumental recording on the newcomer label
Small House Records out of Melbourne.
For most people 'instrumental'
conjures up an image of an an appetite-killing, post office-bought,
whale music type image, or, at the very least, the overkill
of Kenny G soprano sax. Feel free to throw that impression
out with the late Nineties collection of ‘relaxation
CDs’ you bought and replace it with Gear's A Time
JUSTIN MICHAEL on Rod Gear's A Time
to Gather... |
said it before, and I guess I’ll have to say it again
- Hillsong are the only people in the world that are allowed
to sound like Hillsong! Sounds ridiculous, I know, but in
a market that is flooded with new and used praise and worship
albums, Hillsong has not only become a yardstick for the rest
of them, but has also been the subject of much criticism for
allegedly "sounding the same as last year".
Like any artist that is prolific in their
output, with Hillsong you often have to listen a little closer
to hear the line of development. God He Reigns is
a certainly a significant step forward from last year's ARIA
chart-topper For All You’ve Done and if you
like to backtrack, try putting this album beside the likes
of Blessed (2002) or God is in the House
(1996). The growth in the maturity of the writing and production
is quite marked and speedy to say the least...
MICHAEL finds Hillsong's God He Reigns zings with
let me state for the record that I cannot bring an objective
opinion to this album. I must in fact state that I have been
an admirer of Roma Waterman’s ability as a song writer
and a hard working Australian artist for a long time. I have
performed many times on the same bill and often in the same
band as Roma. Many of the songs on this album I have seen
buffed up in live performances over the last two years. I
have seen audiences learn them, love them and sing them over
and over. Now, with Phil Gaudion at the helm, they have been
polished to a high gloss on this record.
To put it bluntly, No Ordinary Life
is not the Roma Waterman you’ve heard ‘developing’
over the last ten years. This is Roma Waterman. No Ordinary
Life is thoroughly convincing in its intent and delivery.
It’s the album I’ve been waiting for.
JUSTIN MICHAEL finds Roma Waterman's No
Ordinary Life to be anything but ordinary...
is a funny word. It generally means this is the first. In
this case, the first album by Reuben Morgan. Of course, you
only have to check the song words on the screen each Sunday
in charismatic churches to realise that Reuben Morgan is a
name synonymous with the best in modern congregational music.
Morgan is a masterful lyricist,
understanding how to compress deep and beautiful thoughts
of God and His majesty into concise lines without ever understating
the intention or tripping over clichés. He has been
doing it for years with the Hillsong team, and now he has
brought this same intention and craftsmanship to a record
that will happily spin during dinner, stay with you on a dark
day and inspire you when the stars are out at night.
JUSTIN MICHAEL listens to Reuben Morgan's
solo debut, World Through Your Eyes...
since I discovered my parents' record collection could be
used to change the atmosphere of a family dinner I’ve
been fascinated by the way music messes with our day-to-day.
It can flick a switch in us that changes what we’re
thinking, changes our body language and possibly provides
entertainment for the person sitting beside you at the lights.
When I first heard John Mayer, possibly
on a late night music video show, that switch was tweaked
to full. The sincere delivery; the undeniable intellect and
poetry of his lyrics; the song construction that was nothing
short of ‘pop-perfect’. It was, as they say, disarming.
It was his first international release at age 22 titled Room
for Squares and the single No Such Thing that
made me make one of those rash, “I shouldn’t be
spending money today but I must have that CD” decisions."
JUSTIN MICHAEL on John Mayer and
was a year that I fell in love with ‘the album’
again. Sure, there are always great songs, but often you buy
the album only to find it just dissipates into a misguided
melange of production slush. Somehow the songs disappear in
the guitar solos or the self-indulgent lyric. All too often
track two is the only song worth listening to and the album
just becomes a liability in your six stacker. Last year
though, I found at least three albums that made me avoid the
skip function, or indeed, the artist’s worst fear, the
Sight's new music columnist JUSTIN
MICHAEL on three albums that lived up to expectation...
AND BEHIND THE SCENES:
BEHIND THE SCENES: A CHAT WITH JUSTIN MICHAEL
Michael is the kind of guy that greets you as though you are
his best friend. He cheerfully chats to you, not in a rush
at all despite his packed schedule - and what a schedule it
Michael is best known in Geelong and Melbourne for
hosting the breakfast show on the Geelong-based Christian
radio station Rhema FM for the past three years. His fun,
conversational style and friendly persona shows through on
the show and as well as when he fronts his band, Compliments
Michael successfully began
a solo musical career with the release of his debut album
Songs For Ever in June. On top of his radio and performing
schedule he has part time work at Kardinia Christian Church
in Geelong which he describes as giving back to the community.
There he is in charge of running the worship team, comprised
of about 60 people.
JONO PECH talks with singer, musician and Sight music reviewer,
Justin Michael... |
U2'S BLEND OF ROCK AND POLITICS PACKS A PUNCH
U2 are the masters
of the micro and macro. Bono’s serendipitous voice and
Edge’s 'punk gnarl' guitar work; songs dedicated to
fathers and brothers in a stadium of over 50,000 people. It
feels like it has to be a joke - four (old) Irishmen who have
been rocking the world for almost 30 years. Surely it was
never meant to be this big?
ADAM KELSALL takes in a U2 gig...