Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Last One Standing

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, the most recent release by 12 Stones, Wind-Up Records most prominent Christian band (Creed and Evanescence being the other two) is a too-short 5 song EP that bridges the gap between alternative and the fringe.  The last cut, enemy, reminds me very much of Skillet.  All in all 12 Stones now sounds like Pillar before Pillar decided to sound like Red. Lead Vocalist Paul McCoy comes through Loud and Clear on majestic rock anthems such as We are One, and even does a good thrash/metalcore growl.  A CD that clocks in at under 20 minutes is way to short for a 3 year absence. If you've never heard of 12 Stones before, this is a good first purchase.  If you came in like I did with the first album and the Creed like vocals, I think you will say that they have matured into a very good sound.  It has been said that a Rolling Stone gathers no moss, well these 12 stones will not just Disappear.  I Give the Only Easy Day Was Yesterday by 12 Stones 5 Emeralds.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Festival Scene

It's Summer, and in the music world that means it's Festival Season.  This is the time when your concert dollar gets the most bang for the buck.  Usually you shell out around $100 for a full pass and in return you get the opportunity to see 50-100+ bands of a fairly wide selection of styles. Sure, not all of these are headline quality, but usually about 20 of them could fit that title.  If you only counted those bands into the cost of the pass, that's still only $5 a concert, and where are you going to get that these days.  Plus it's summer, you may be in the mountains, and it is the great outdoors.  A lot camp for the week, though some, like me, try to get a hotel nearby.  That may up the cost, but it's worth it.

With that in mind hear is a small sampling of some upcoming festivals.

  • Jubilee Fest (July 29-August 1, Houston, DE) This is a first year fest trying to be the Christian Woodstock.  Some Good bands, like August Burns Red, Sanctus Real and Trinitee 5:7, but not many, only 35 total.  Check it Out if you're the adventurous type, as a first year festival may have a few glitches A Day Pass is $40/The Event is $90, no Charge for Kids under 10 and Cash Only at the gate.
  • Creation Northwest (July 21-24, Enumclaw, WA) An offshoot of Creation Festival in Virginia (over for this year), this festival is in its 13th Year.  Big Names Come Here like Skillet, TobyMac, David Crowder Band, and Thousand Foot Krutch.  Pricing Comes in many tiers but an event pass starts at $115 and a Day Pass is $48.  Free only for kids under 6.
  • Soulfest (August 4-7, Gunstock Mountain, Gilford, NH) Also in its 13th Year, it continues to grow each year and may be the largest in the Northeast by now, though still lagging in reputation to Kingdom Bound.  Superchick, Jars of Clay, Kutless, and Hawk Nelson are among the bands playing this year.  $119 for an event pass, Day Passes from $25

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Going Public with the Jesus Freak

It is a law of nature that if a being does not adapt to the conditions around it, death is inevitable. The same can be said in the music industry.  While constant tinkering with musical styles is not a prelude to success, most successful bands embrace elements of various musical fads as necessary to remain in the forefront, and discard them when they become obsolete.  A band to tightly tied to a passing fad usually dies with the fad.  In the CCM world, the most glaring example of successful adaptation is Petra, which in its original lifespan of 1972-2005 embraced everything from rockabilly, bluegrass, pop, electronica, and even hard rock, and now in 2010, after a five year hiatus, will return to its most beloved lineup of Bob Hartman, Greg X. Volz, Louie Weaver, and John Slick and Mark Kelly as Classic Petra.
Born Again, the Latest release by The Newsboys, is notice that they have no intention of passing away any time soon.  It is a 12 song transformation.
  1. Born Again
  2. One Shot
  3. Way Beyond Myself
  4. Impossible
  5. When The Boys Light Up
  6. Build Us Back
  7. Escape
  8. Miracles
  9. Running to You
  10. On Your Knees
  11. Mighty to Save
  12. Jesus Freak
The first studio release since the ascension of former DC Talk frontman Michael Tait to lead vocalist, most astute listeners will say that the Newsboys now sound like Tait or DC Talk. IMHO this is not a bad thing.  The DC Talk vibe most clearly exists on the title track and When the Boys Light Up.  Classic Newsboys songs are Miracles and the two worship cuts Build us Back and Running to You.  They even veer into the techno/dance arena with Way beyond Myself.  Far from a disjointed mess, the various styles are expertly blended into a new and improved Newsboys.
The album closes with two cover songs.  A rock version of Hillsong's Mighty to Save is sure to get your blood pumping and (don't tell me you're surprised), a new version of Jesus Freak, with KJ-52 stepping into the Toby Mac role.  I think it holds up well to the original. In the final rating, I give Born Again 4.5 Emeralds (Out of a possible 5)

CCM and The Christian Fringe

CCM is short for Christian Contemporary Music, an all encompassing label that usually includes the Pop, Rock, Alternative, Hip-Hop, Ska, Big Band/Swing, and Country Genres.  It does not refer to Southern Gospel or Modern Worship in most cases, nor does it usually include Urban or Regular Gospel and R&B.  The Night Beat Blog will review most of the accepted list, Country excepted (sorry, I can't stand it.)  You can also be assured that no Southern Gospel will pass by this reviewer, for the same reason.

In addition to accepted CCM, I will also attempt to give a fair amount of coverage to the Christian Music Fringe, usually consisting of Hard Music (Red, Demon Hunter); Metalcore (My Children My Bride), Industrial (Skillet), Techno/Electronica (Joy Electric, And then there were None) and others.  Urban Gospel and R&B may also be reviewed.

Due to the reviewers personal taste, I may, if the occasion arises, dip into Crossover material that is spiritual in nature but is no longer universally recognized as Christian Music, examples of which are U2, Creed, Evanescence, and more recently Jennifer Knapp.  I will deal with these in a later post.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is The Night Beat?

The Night Beat was the title of my radio show at WENC (hence my pen name WENCDJ).  The Night Beat Blog will be primarily a music blog, reviewing new CCM releases and commenting on news within that community.  However don't be surprised by general media commentary or political rants from time to time