Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'll Pick Even...And Odd

Never Odd Or EvenNever Odd Or Even, the the palindromic titled fifth release by Hip Hop/Rap/R&B artist Shonlock (aka Deshon Bullock) is a CD which would be just as comfortable to be heard in the home, car or the Dance Floor.

While some will criticize the ever present use of auto-tune, which is common for those bands or artists in the Dance/Techno genre, the songs on the CD swing between rock, R&B, Pop, and Dance. Having this many genres share space on a single disc, especially one that is not a multiple artist compilation, can usually come of as lacking direction (for an example of such an album, I would point out Israel Houghton Love God. Love People. I know, it won a Grammy. It was still terribly uneven in my opinion). I always welcome comments to the contrary, or, maybe you agree.

After repeated listenings, I am starting to like the ultra-smooth R&B ballads You Act Like and Cheers as well as the Title Cut . Fans of Family Force Five will love Bet Ya House. He barely restrains the rock in Scarred. Shonlock expertly moves back and forth between the various styles, creating the feel of a unified theme. It is a mark of a mature artist.

My final rating on Never Odd Or Even? I give it 4.5 Emeralds. This should stand up in the Dance Category and probably in the Gospel/R&B category as well. This CD will be among your favorites this year as well, whether played forward or backward.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Tricia's

Not really, I just liked the way it sounded. I guess I'm a sucker for alliteration. There really is just one Tricia, Tricia Baumhardt (nee Brock), the lead singer for the pop/rock band Superchick. After ten years of singing to millions through a megaphone, she has released a solo project entitled The Road. Now anyone who isn't familiar with her work with Superchick will take right to this album, a top rate modern worship entry that can go toe to toe with the best out there. If you're familiar with Superchick, you're in for a shock.

Mind you it's a good shock, but a shock is a shock. There isn't a lot of chances to highlight your vocal range in modern CCM, or pop music of any kind these days. As a result most of the music is just various shades of a scream. That's not good or bad, it just is. Modern Worship is singer friendly in such a way that it allows the artist to showcase themselves. I know, it sounds strange in a field that is supposed to be "all about God." Trust me, it's good. It prevents the genre from becoming stale.

The CD kicks off with the rocking "Breath of God", a song which would be perfect for a Rebecca St. James worship release if RSJ hadn't gone soft. Sorry Rebecca, love you, but I will praise you was a little lacking in the volume department. You Hear highlights her abilities perfectly. To put it simply, this "Chick" can sing. And it has strings. It's my favorite. Broken for Love's sake, the closing cut, is a Acoustic Duet compete with Banjo. It's a beautiful song.

I'm going to give the album 4 Emeralds. We'll see how that holds up in modern worship. On a traditional star rating I would say maybe 3.5 to 4 stars. For an opposing view, Christianity Today gave a fairly dismissive review, calling it a "Hillsong Knockoff". I think at times that Hillsong should be so lucky to do an album like this. This is a "Road" you wont regret taking. Your comments are always welcome. As always, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 10 Greatest Christian Albums Ever?

All Good Things must come to an end, our journey through CCM Magazine's 100 Greatest Christian Albums in Christian Music finally comes to its conclusion, with the Top 10. These are the albums agreed to be THE GREATEST, the "definition" of Christian Music. Are they correct? or more appropriately, still correct? It has been a decade.

The Top 10 Christian Albums, 2001
Well, for the last time, here I go with my commentary. If I haven't done so already, and from the comments it appears that I haven't, I think that I shall dive into the hornest nest this time, or at least tip over some sacred cows.

If I were a cynic, I would say that one of the requirements for entry on this list is to have a premature death. Of course, even using flawed biblical interpretation one should consider any death short of 80 premature, but especially if illness or an accident is involved. A full 10 of 100 entries fit that Category. (Larry Norman, Gene Eugene(as Adam Again), DeGarmo & Key (Dana Key), Keith Green, Mark Heard, and Rich Mullins). Actually, BOTH Larry Norman and DeGarmo and Key don't fit the list perfectly, since they died after the list was published. Dana Key died unexpectedly Last June, and Norman in 2008. Of course on talent and influence alone there should have been more than one D&K entry on the list. As to Larry Norman, his influence in CCM is immense. I started playing around with a Six Degrees of Larry Norman a few days ago, and believe me he can be connected with virtually everyone in Christian Music today in 6 links or less. He belongs.

A cynic would also point out that a seeming requirement for entry to a list of Christian Albums is to not technically be a Christian Artist. Bruce Cockburn and U2 both contribute a pair of albums to the list. (Now in full disclosure, I think U2 belongs, but based on CCM Mags own description, I am not sure about Cockburn.) When those two items are combined with the usual Sandi Patty, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith Bias (another 9 off the list), that means the Top 100 is really the top 76. There could be a lot of room in that list for some really deserving albums, and that is our wiggle room.

Free At Last
Number Nine?
 Most of my complaints on the 10 Greatest deal mostly with position, we'll start with DC Talk. Straight upfront, I love the album. There's no doubt that it belongs on the list. Actually I think they should swap positions with Jesus Freak at Number 14 and I would be fine with that. Personally I never did get the mini skits (Greer, WDCT, Willpower, and the cringeworthy 2 Honks).  This may be one of those Chicken and Egg questions though. While Jesus Freak may be superior to Free at Last, would DC Talk have been able to make Jesus Freak if it had not first made Free at Last. For Your Consideration.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking ForOn to the one of the greatest crossover acts among CCM fans, U2. The Joshua Tree was an awesome album, at least to me. Personally, if it was up to me, they may be a number one or two. Sorry Amy. I have always detected a little too much of "Amy Bias" in CCM. All she has to do is put out any album to be guaranteed it proclaimed the "Best Album Ever". On the other Hand, U2 consistently put out deep spiritual music all under the radar of the Christian Music Industry. Now even late recognition is better than no recognition at all, but I'm just saying. Would be number one on this list if I made it. (Now, would it still be number one? That remains to be seen. Stay Tuned).

That concludes my look back at the 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music, as determined by CCM Magazine in 2001. Now the fun begins. A lot of music came out since 1999, the last release year for an album on the list. I think we could, at a minimum, sweep off about 20 of these. While that is not my intention, facts are facts. I hope you will help me in the undertaking. As always, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

P.S.- A personal Night Beat Shoutout to Alexandra from Sweden, Thanks for following. Don't know if you have heard of them, but I would encourage you to check out Blindside, a rock band from Sweden signed to CCM's Midas, Tooth and Nail Records, I think that With Shivering Hearts We Wait, which has a listening party at Jesus Freak Hideout, is a Solid 4.25 Emeralds, and should make next years Platinum Vinyl Awards. As to Alexandra herself, check out her blog.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Greatest Christian Albums Ever?, Part Nine

The Top 20 await. This is where things really get heated.

The 100 Greatest Christian Albums Ever, 2001
Only two question marks this time around. I played Romeo Unchained Plenty of times (especially Romeo and Jane) during my time at WENC, but I'm a little rusty on the album, and Russ Taff, I don't know if it was the Pop or Country Taff. The Legends are all here: Omartian, Stonehill, Taylor, Peacock, Keaggy, Sixpence, Dylan (Dylan? you exclaim. Yes even Bob Dylan made his mark in Christian Music at one time, putting out three Christian Albums, the others being Saved(1980) andShot of Love(1981).

"Meltdown at Madame Tussaud's, the Queen is losing face. Meltdown at Madame Tussaud's, a national disgrace."

It was a simple rhyme scheme and catchy beats, but it signalled a sea change for Christian Music's King of all Media and one time? Clown Prince. His debut EP I want to be a clone was a hastilly put together afair, and it showed, but rather than have a sophmore slump that would forever plunge him into obscurity Meltdown was a scathing social commentary on fame (Meltdown), The Media (Meat The Press), Infanticide (Baby Doe) and Racism (We Don't need no Colour Code). Though officially "retired" from Christian Music, Taylor is founder and President of Squint Entertainment, the label that signed co-listees Sixpence None The Richer. The man knows Talent."

Jesus FreakThe Album that launched a phenomenon. A simple chorus. "What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak. What will people do when they find that it's true. I don't really care if they label me a Jesus Freak. There ain't no disguising the truth."
Simple Lyrics sometime bring a profound truth. If Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. Then there should be no apologies for our beliefs, whether in the religious or political arenas. Rock on Guys.

The Top 10 Await. It has been quite a ride through history, and we are about to embark on our own adventure as we attempt to construct a new list for a new century and a new millennium. Until tomorrow, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Greatest Christian Albums Ever?, Part Eight

The Greatest Christian Albums Ever. That surely is a mouthful. Over the past seven posts we have looked at CCM Magazine's attempt back in 2001 to attempt to create a list that would accomplish that grand aim. On the whole I think they did a good job, but, ten years later, I think it is time that we tried again.

The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music, 2001
A good selection this time around, though I have a small gripe with Number 22, (more on that later). Amazon pulled a no-go on Ashley Cleveland and Love Song. Cleveland's link directs to Google Shopping.

Love Song
Love Song was one of the first Christian Rock bands out there, preceding Petra by just a couple of years. They grew out of Calvary Chapel's Jesus Music era of the Late 1960's and Early 70's, which grew into the CCM industry we now have. Founding Member Chuck Girard, who went on to a moderately successful solo career in the Late 70's and Early 80's, has a link to a bit more modern CCM in that he is the father of Alisa Childers, one of the members of the Christian Dance Outfit Zoegirl.

Jars Of ClayJars of Clay. Maybe they are not the most successful Christian Band out there, but they certainly are the most well known. When their debut came out on Essential Records back in 1995, it created quite the Buzz in Christian Circles, for all the right reasons. To put it quite simply, "these guys were good." It was a kind of Folk-Rock that had not been heard before, and presaged great things for the band. Though the Band got more polished as time went on and they hit a few road bumps along the way (personally, I feel that If I Left The Zoo is an album that should have been left unmade. Whenever a producer throws out all your songs and substitutes his own, you should fire the producer. But that's just me. They righted themselves with The Eleventh Hour and really hit their stride with The Long Fall Back to Earth. Their latest release Jars of Clay Presents: The Shelter (aka Shelter Project) is a Folk-Rock masterpiece that should remind listeners of everything that caused them to fall in love with Jars in the first place. This is where you belong.

Two posts remain, and then we begin the task of a new list for a new millennium. As always, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

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