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Album Review: NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Rivers in the Wasteland’

NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Waters in the Wasteland’

Sometimes for something to to come to life you have to let it die… and dying isn’t always easy.

For NEEDTOBREATHE (NTB) everything seemed to be going right… they were getting what everyone in the music world would gauge as success.
They were being asked to perform high profile gigs with the likes of Taylor Swift, they were on TV, they were on radio…
But what they also discovered is that with that comes the pressures of it all… and the band almost collapsed because of it… success almost killed NTB (as shown in the documentary style film ‘Prove the Poets Wrong’).
The result was the band redefining ‘success’… they realized they were already successful – as individuals, they didn’t need to prove that to anyone else… so they gave that dream of success driven glory away.
They already had a purpose they just needed to re-find it!

The problem with giving away a dream… is that often it comes true at that point…

Everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to be in a situation where they would need one.

Rivers in the Wasteland is the result of that miracle.

You can tell from the first strum that a burden has been lifted…
The album starts of with the track ‘Wasteland’ and NTB are almost defiant in the fact that “If God is on my side, who can be against me”… a slow song to build into a big chorus making way for the second track.
‘State I’m in’  starts off with slightly distorted southern tinged Beach Boy like vocals before rocking into the song in what can only be described as the best Chris Isaak impersonation, a kind of southern rock meets Elvis sound.
Beating drums and hand claps keep your foot tapping… in the blues infused southern rocker ‘Feet, don’t fail me now’… it’s infectious, it’s like a southern virus has entered your body and the side effects are a constant foot tapping. It’s a southern blues church experience. NTB have built you up to this point… they aren’t about to take the foot of the throat just yet and ‘Oh Carolina’ is the perfect remedy to keep the declaration of intention going, there is a stomp revival happening here.

This is becoming something of a southern release of tension… the best way to come out of tough times… is to let it go and celebrate.

NTB  at this point ironically ‘need to breathe’ and the album pulls back with great tracks like ‘The Difference Maker’ and ‘Rise again’. The highlight of this reprieve from the stomp revival is that it shines a beam of light on the fact that these are great songs, well crafted, great lyrics. These are great songs without big production and studio tricks… these are songs that stand on merit alone.

There is a reason ‘The Heart’ was a lead single… it shines in the middle of this album like a beckon, it is in fact the literal heart of this album.  It’s fun, it’s big, it’s personal and it’s a solid track. You really can’t argue with lyrics that say “Don’t waste time when it comes time to dance”

It was a nice touch adding the track ‘Brother’ as Bear and Bo Rinehart are the brothers responsible for the existence of NTB. It’s a touching tribute and although it may be referring to the obvious connection of these sibling lyrically it extends further than that.

Brother let me be your shelter
I’ll never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low

The great thing about this track is the bigness of it and it’s soul.
Half way through the song, a piano glides over the top of the track paving a way for a new focus of the groove, that makes it more soulful and heralding a soul choir to take the song to a whole other level and give it wings.

NEEDTOBREATHE have found their feet.
This is an album with soul… this is an album with heart… this is an album with history without burdening you with all the dirty details… this is an album of songs that have been crafted by experience, by pain, by laughter and by faith.

This is the most complete album that NTB have brought to the table.
There was a Reckoning (their last album) and from the ashes of that a phoenix has risen, that not only has lit a new fire and a renewed purpose for NTB but brought water into a wasteland.
NTB have had a weight lifted from their shoulders and it shows.

If you are looking for an album that encourages you to be lifted during the driest of places, then stop here for a drink.

Album Review: Sam Watson ‘Home’

I’ve had the privilege to have been able to review some great international bands from all over the world… and have had contact with some award winning bands, bands with large budgets, bands that are at the top of the charts, and at the top of their game. However there is something special about hearing what is coming out of the Indie music scene and even better than that is hearing what is coming out of the local scene…

sam watson

Sam Watson ‘HOME’ EP

You see, it’s often that the bands who are doing the hard yards in the Indie scene are the bands that are inspiring the top bands with new sounds. The indie scene is full of people trying new things because they have nothing to lose. The indie scene is filled with people trying to find new a new way to say the same old things… love, loss and life.
You can almost map that when a new sound hits the Indie scene it’s  only a year or two before that sound is main stream… and so the circle continues.

And that’s how I’ve stumbled across Christchurch songwriter Sam Watson.
It’s so great to hear great music coming out of someone who is trying to do the hard yards… there’s no trying to tailor to the masses… there is no swooning pop songs on YouTube… this is acoustic… this is real music.

So what does it sound like?

This is the kind of music that you would expect to hear live, as you have a couple of quiet drinks in a bar that is filled with the new moderns, the sophisticated but still gounded type that wear suits to the office but after hours it’s jeans and a t-shirt…
OR
If you are having dinner in a really cool cafe- you know the ones with candles and atmosphere, not the pretentious ones that are all about the food and nothing else.
This music is atmosphere.

The Home EP starts off with the title track, a tasty song that reminds me of something that would sit nicely between Jason Mraz  and Bruno Mars in style. It’s a great song to set up the rest of the album… it relaxes… it calms you… it fools you into thinking that the rest of the album is going to be pushed into the ‘Easy Listening’ genre… It’s not!

‘Trying to Find’ is the next track and it sounds like we’re about to go into more of the same laid back feel as ‘Home’, however 52 seconds into the song and the mood changes. This is a real LA style California cafe type song, like an acoustic Orson set. The song’s modern acoustic style, which tips its hat to past influences, is refreshing to hear among a barrage of folk and bluegrass influenced pop songs.

As the album progresses you slowly get pulled into songs that seem to be drawing from influences such as Ryan Adams, Radiohead and Jeff Buckley.
‘Let it burn’ starts in such an unassuming way with a quiet acoustic guitar and by the end of the song Sam is wailing in a Buckley-esque  style falsetto “She’s on fire….” . This is a great song to have in the middle of the EP a great balance between safety and pushing boundaries.

The last couple of songs follow the change of mood and style, a bit gentler than ‘Let it Burn’ but still filled with the same emotion…

This is a great first little EP…
It’s hard not to hear albums by untalented people, who only sound good in a studio with songs that 12 of the top songwriters in the world got to write for a top record label.
This is not a perfect EP by any stretch of the imagination… and that’s GREAT.
There is a more of a live vibe to this EP than lots of LIVE albums by big name artists… you can almost feel the emotion here… you can hear the voice crack every now and then as you hear the pain of a story being told.
If this is the start I’m glad to say I was a part of a select few who heard it before the crowds and the accolades.

To hear the EP click HERE
You can buy the album from here too!

14 year old leads the way in anti-bullying

Growing up in New Zealand is pretty special.
This little nation in the South Pacific was the first in the world to Split the atom, climb Mount Everest and give women the vote.
So it is really no surprise that a 15 year old from Christchurch (in the South Island of New Zealand) decided it was time for someone to stand up against bullying.

Nakita Turner had experienced bullying herself and seeing how it affected other young people, decided someone had to do something about it.
That person was going to be her…
So Nakita went about interviewing about 180 other children and hearing stories from them about how they felt after being bullied.

So what do you do after you have a whole lot of stories that are so powerful and connected to the people you have interviewed?
Well in Nakita’s case she touched base with local band Dukes (who are known for their singles Vampires & Self-control) who mentored her.

The result is this amazing song ‘One Voice’

Draw in local talent from Dukes, hip-hop group Restoration, Massad and a local children’s choir… add all this to Nakita’s own amazing voice and you have an instant hit.

Sound wise Nakita is like Australia’s Missy Higgins… and has the lyrical sensitivity of people like Brooke Fraser

If you like this song… spread the word
…and even better if you want to add a voice to the anti-bullying message then join in the conversation at onevoice.net.nz and make sure you go to Nakita Turner’s music FaceBook page and click LIKE.

What ever way you want to do it… make sure you spread the message.

Album Review: Rend Collective ‘The Art of Celebration’

Rend Collective ‘The Art of Celebration’

I’ve had a month off from doing reviews or adding to my blog as a bit of a cleansing thing.
You know, step back and focus on the things that matter.

But now we’re back… and what a great time to be back.

I was super excited when the new album from Irish group ‘Rend Collective’ landed. ‘The Art of Celebration’ is most likely one of the most uplifting albums you will hear this year, and the year has only just begun.
Not only are you thrown into the Irish infused toe tapping Mumford-esque beats and rhythms that fans would expect from this group, but you are bombarded by truths and promises and uplifting words that speak to your soul…

It’s laced with the beautiful harmonies and melodies that come naturally to the Irish nation, and you can’t help but smile, sing along and watch as your foot taps involuntarily to the rhythms as they invade the soundscape of your soul.

Some times in the hardest moments of your life you not only need to PRAY through a problem, but PRAISE through (like Paul and Silas did in prison). ‘The Art of Celebration’ gives you  the tools to do that!
One of the focuses of this album is “God didn’t give us a spirit of seriousness… but of JOY” and you can’t help but think that these guys have nailed that brief.

Most of the album sits in the space between bluegrass rhythms and Irish tinged folksy ditties  that help us sing about ‘Joy’ and ask God to help us “Burn like a star, Set a fire in our hearts”. Then in sneaks ‘Immeasurably More’, a pop driven song that is maybe more in line with the type of tracks you would find coming out of the Passion conferences. It’s no surprise to see it was co-written by Chris Tomlin.

I would have loved to see a bit more experimentation from a group who had made a name for itself playing all sorts of random instruments. While the feel of this album works for the theme of ‘Joy’, I wonder if they could have cast their experimental net further. That will be my only real negative critique of this album… it was the experiment, the unknown, the things I HADN’T heard from a worship group that made me take interest in their sound. However, lyrically they have still got a poetic way of saying things we are starting to take for granted. A great example is the sing-a-long friendly  ‘Finally Free’

“Your mercy rains from heaven, Like confetti at a wedding, And I am celebrating, In the downpour” 

You don’t hear lyrics like that, so hearing them in a familiar setting (such as a folk song) brings it into context.

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands… or if you’re sad, and struggling….  PRAISE, SING, CELEBRATE…

It’s great to hear such a positive album with no airs and graces, simply with good melody and good lyrics and joy at it’s very heart.
There is already too much doom and gloom and people wanting us to jump on their cause, when the joy of the Lord is our strength.
So why don’t we celebrate the fact that we have so much to celebrate?

Album Review: Skylight ‘Made For More’

Skylight ‘Made For More’

Lets face it music is international,  it breaks boundaries, it goes places where other means of communication fail.
It’s a powerful tool… HOWEVER when combined with the themes of love and peace it becomes almost an unstoppable force.

Now I have to be honest, when I was told ‘Made for More’ from South African group Skylight was filled with these powerful themes I thought I was going to be stuck listening to an album full of power ballads.
I cranked up the stereo and braced for the worst.

I really loved taking the journey through this album.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pure pop rock album… but in a pleasant way.

It’s really easy to make an album like this seem over polished,  filled with lyrics that ooze more cheese than a New York Pizza and sound like a remake of ‘My heart will go on’ by Celine Dion.
While this has it’s place and grabs imagination, there comes a point where we, the listening public, want more.

And that’s where Skylight have found the balance.

The album opens with ‘Born to Love’ – an acoustic groove and Greg Jorden crooning over the top…  before the band comes in. The track is the perfect start to this album and would sit nicely on the poppier end of a Ryan Adams album.
And while the album rests around this style and feel (a real acoustic pop rock based sound), the second song on the album ‘Give it up’ is more of a ‘power rock’ song with a style that is straight from Hollywood and California, made famous by bands like maybe Orson.

‘Made for More’ is a really clever collection of well crafted songs that would appeal to people who like bands like Lifehouse, Ryan Adams, Orson, Needtobreathe and Collective Soul.
Now I’m not saying that this band is a bland copy cat band… Skylight are far better than this…
What I am saying is that this band could easily compete in a pop/ rock world shoulder to shoulder with these better known artists.

The album is diverse and innovative. It takes the best of what we have heard and packages it in an album of songs that seem fresh and current, and real. These songs feel lived!

It’s great to hear an album that is filled with such a great feel and a great focus. Often we are bombarded with songs that are tainted with despair and gloom and it starts getting to a point where it becomes hard to see love for what it really is.
Love is more than lust, more than just a fleeting feeling, more than just a way of thinking… but something that when lived out can change the world.
And it seems fitting that that theme would be presented so well by Skylight, a  band from South Africa – a country that has had it’s own struggles and heartbreak… but through the dust a flame of love and hope and peace breaks through.

This is a great debut album.
This could be the beginning of something amazing.
And I guess that is what this album is about… it’s about telling you a story that it invites you to live.

 

 

Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Fading West’

Switch-foot – ‘Fading West’

Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said in the U2 rockumentary ‘Rattle and Hum’ that “It’s a musical journey” and maybe this is the best way to describe the latest offering from Californian band Switchfoot. In fact to say ‘Fading West’ is an album is almost incorrect, it’s more like the soundtrack of a journey.
‘Fading West’ is a musical photo album that shows us snapshots of Switchfoot’s tour around the world, taking in the new sounds they found, the sights, the struggles and the moments of insight.
An album of fresh breath, music and the magnetic pull of the sea…

This is the most personal Switchfoot album so far… it’s so fresh you can still taste the salt from the waves they’ve just surfed!

Before I heard ‘Fading West’ album I thought, “How can Switchfoot better their previous album ‘Vice Verses’? “
‘Vice Verses’ could be considered one of the best albums out in the past couple of years, an album that is musically gifted, emotionally challenging and yet still accessible…”

How can you beat that?

The Answer… You don’t!

Vice Verses, was Vice Verses… It was the past, lets leave it there and give it the credit it’s due!
Fading West is something new something exciting, and something daring.
It’s daring because ANY band can live on past glory by bringing out an album of 12 songs that mimic what has been done before.
However it’s a risk for a band that says “Let’s create something organic. Let’s push ourselves into the unknown. Let’s discover who we are…”

This album is maybe more mellow than most people are used to hearing from Switchfoot. The screaming guitars and grunt of something more heavy have been pushed back to an extent as the band venture into new sonic inspirations. This might make some Switchfoot fans a little uncomfortable… and that’s GREAT.
Music is there to make you feel good, but there is often nothing that challenges you more than music either and having a band take you off your usual stride is good for the soul, and challenges the band the strive for something that is just as meaningful in other ways.

This is the perfect soundtrack for those who enjoy surfing/skateboarding/snowboarding or anything that gets you away from the crushing monotony of our busy lives… it was an album made for space… of fun and adventure.

There is no doubt this is a surf pop/rock album that is meant to be the soundtrack to your adventures, just as it was for the band.

There is plenty here for everyone and while it’s not going to please those who wanted a whole album with screaming guitars and solos, there are tracks like “Let it out” and “Say it like you mean it” that will cater to that market.
Tracks such as “Love alone is worth the fight” and “Who we are” will reach out to maybe a new generation, as poppier songs that still give emotional depth seldom seen in a pop song these days.

Buy or download the Surf/Rockumentary ‘Fading West’ (the film) and you will have a greater understanding of where the songs come from… While being able to admire the AMAZING  surf skills of Rob Machado and Tom Curren.

I don’t think that this is a step in a new direction for the band…. I think it’s an album that shows the band at their most vulnerable.

SURFS UP… let this be the surf album for the adventure you were made for!

Christmas Music – something for everybody

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas – what is your Christmas soundtrack?

About October every year I start to search for new Christmas songs to add to my growing list of carols… I have enough for a whole days listening so far.
However wading through some of the new albums is like listening to the sound of a wrecking ball smash all your favourite Christmas songs into 1000 little tiny pieces.

So what is the best of this years Christmas offering?

For Those about to ROCK:

OK… so for the lovers of Christmas songs that rock a little harder than the usual…. here is this year’s picks:

John  Schilitt: The Christmas project
For those who remember the good old days of Christian rock, you would remember the legendary band Petra. John Schlitt was lead singer for the popular Christian rock band from 1984-2006. For those who like the whole 80′s hair rock, and the rock from the 90′s such as Def Leppard, Aerosmith etc, this would be a good fit… rocking up some old classics, and like any good rock band from that era the vocals are enough to break window panes… let me hear you Scccccccccreeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm!

Side note: If you are looking for a little rocking single, download ‘Little Drummer Boy’ by Whiteheart… a bit of a Christmas rock classic that you should have in your collection

For those looking for some soul:

Ok something heavy isn’t your thing what about some Gospel based stuff.

Marvin Sapp: A Christmas Card
Marvin, who made his name in the contemporary gospel group ‘Commissioned’ with his distinct Gospel sound, gives a rounded Christmas album with ‘A Christmas Card’ . This album gives a good mixture of new Christmas focused songs as well as a scattering of old classics with a modern Gospel twist.

Jonathan Butler: Merry Christmas to you
The first Christmas album by the two-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Butler is a little gem. Gospel, soul and jazz  tinged Christmas songs with a couple of new songs to make sure this album is one for the stocking. It has some great gentle jazz infused guitar colouring this album from the start to the end… just enough to keep you wanting more,  like that turkey you’ll go for seconds for!

A little poppy and something new:

I LOVE discovering people who are doing some of my favourite songs in new and exciting ways… and I love finding albums that bring new Christmas songs and that tell the Christmas message (which is thousands of years old) in a new and exciting way!

For King & Country: Into the silent night
This has to be the greatest find for me this Christmas.
With the Indie pop infused feel of the likes of FUN (Some Nights) this EP is just a cool little album, mixing great harmonies with beats that push the songs forward and the pop sensitivity of a marshmallow in a hot chocolate – sweet and gooey with depth and flavour.
The single ‘Baby Boy’ is my favourite new song this Christmas with a chorus that cries ‘Allelujah’… pushing towards the phrase “Endless hope and endless joy started with a Baby Boy” – isn’t that how Christmas started?

Citizens: Repeat the Sounding joy
For some funky Indie pop from Mark Driscolls ‘Mars Hill Church’, check out Citizens. Funky guitars and horn sections give a feel of SKA music without actually being a SKA band… it’s great to hear this sound re-imagined. This is a fun album and will almost guarantee to get your foot tapping at some of the arrangement. The great thing about albums that sit with more of an Indie feel is that they often aren’t as polished as some other albums… and believe me for albums like this it’s a great thing.

The Classic ‘Christmas’ album:

Some people are just looking for a Christmas album that does stray to much from the norm… it’s the sound of the malls and I understand that… so hear are some new albums with that middle of the road Christmas sound.

Brandon Heath: Christmas is Here
“Chestnuts roasting by an open fire…” accompanied by the sound of strings and a soft snare drum being played by sliding brushes. This sums up this album. For those who like Micheal Buble then this is the type of album you need to add to your list this Christmas.

Sidewalk Prophets: Merry Christmas to You
Like Brandons album the Sidewalk Prophets ‘Merry Christmas to You’ is filled with strings and fun as the band focus on bringing you faithful renditions of some of the classic arrangements that we know for Christmas… From the ‘doo wops’ from ‘White Christmas’ to the haunting melodies of  ‘What Child is this’…

and finally….

Just for Fun:

A Christmas is a time where we remember the gift we were given by God at Christmas, his son Jesus  Christ. It should be a celebration, and while there are times to be reflective it’s about coming together as a family and celebrating.
If only I could find an album that is fun, but Christ focused, family focused but not stiff around the neck…

The Robertson Family: Duck the Halls, a Robertson Family Christmas
The Robertson family have shot to fame with their fly on the wall reality TV show called ‘Duck Dynasty’, that show’s a  multi-millionaire Christian redneck family, that made it’s money from making Duck callers. The focus of the family is Christ, family and the love for the south, and these guys (and gals) will make you chuckle out loud as they just say things as they see it.
The albums is true to this also, with members of the Robertson family reading parts of the Christmas story and a mixture of a few classics like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Away in the Manger” with award winning bluegrass star Alison Krauss. Most the album is a fun country/bluegrass redneck Christmas with “Santa looks a lot like Daddy” “Camouflage and Christmas lights” and “Hairy Christmas” with Country stars like George Strait, Luke Bryan and Josh Turner also helping out along the way.
This album is worth the money for the closing prayer alone… remember what Christmas is about and thanking Jesus for dying on the cross and raising again so that we could too. If only every Christmas album could be as upfront about the gospel message as this one is.

Album Review: Luke Dowler ‘West’

west_coverWhat is the sign of a great songwriter?

I think it’s when the artist can release an album that when stripped back stands on it’s own merits, both lyrically and melodically… and still makes you feel like it’s relevant and forward focused.

This is why I love Luke’s approach to his music “I try write each song as if it’s my last” says Dowler.
Lets be honest, with all the hype of album releases and hit songs and the occasional craze hit single, isn’t the thing the music buying public is most interested in songs that connect to them?
These new songs from Lukes newest EP ‘West’ are the best he’s produced yet.

The EP starts of with the pulse of the bass drum , and some percussive clicks, before the familiar groove of the acoustic guitar pull the song ‘Revelation Firewater’ in.
I knew when I heard this track that Luke had grown. It was a strange mixture of Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen but still uniquely Dowler…

‘Good Enough’ has to be my favourite track on the album… this is the type of track that Luke fits best in. Sure, he can do other styles well (as this album will show) however this type of track is where Luke is G.O.L.D.
‘Good enough’ is a heart felt track that has a swag of a southern song, the gospel feel church and a whole heap of soul… it starts off beautifully with an acoustic guitar and Luke lamenting “You’re taking me for a ride, but I’m doing all the driving”. It’s a soul searching song that leaves Luke asking “Let me know when it’s good enough for you”… as the song grows so does the soul of the song.

‘Hold up the Sky’ a simple bluesy track that again showcases Dowler’s craft of songwriting.  This is the most stripped back track of the album and is what Luke is all about. This is heart and soul. This is about love. This is about adventure. This is about creating. This is about holding on to the things you treasure the most.
“Most people want the best things in life, but they don’t want to watch them grow”

The EP finishes with what I think is a bit of an odd choice. ‘Halfway’ is a track that is heavy on the drum machine beats and is a bit of a distraction from the path the other tracks have laid before it. While I can see the need to try and highlight the fact that Luke is multi-dimensional and can do a variety of styles… it just feels a bit out of place… It’s great that Luke tried to push new ground, however what Luke does best is the heart felt, soul tinged melodies that connect with you when you least expected.

And so ‘West’ seems to show a new ‘all grown up’ version of Luke Dowler.
Luke has discovered his groove, his soul and his heart and this is the most complete album from Luke yet.
If this is the new direction that Luke is going to be going in, I really look forward to see more of it.

 

Album Review: David Lyle Morris ‘Endlessly’

David Lyle Morris ‘Endlessly’

When did music lose it’s innocence?

Sure there have always been streams of the music industry that have been pushing the boundaries and that’s great but doesn’t it seem that everything has just been condensed down to love and hate?
It’s like we have taken the prized bull and boiled it up until all we have is an Oxo cube… do we really want beef stock rather than the bull itself?

To a point we can expect that from the secular music industry… cliche after cliche, remix after remix of a song that used to be famous when people still used to play music and sing music as if it was a craft that was about connecting people rather than just making a quick buck… with the sole focus to make people famous.
I can understand that from the secular music industry… but when did our church music become so obvious and bland?

I’ve listened to Kiwi singer/songwriter and worship leader David Lyle Morris for a couple of years now… and the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘innocence’.
David has this amazing ability to craft songs that would have stood along side the great artist such as Air Supply, James Taylor and Carole King.
His writing is honest, it’s heart felt, it’s thoughtful and with the fear of sounding condescending I am tempted to use the word ‘sweet’.
In fact the first time I saw him lead worship with just an acoustic guitar, I closed my eyes and I could almost imagine what it might have been like to worship with King David (if he played a guitar not a harp!)… there is a real authenticity that some people try to mimic but that you just can’t fake, and when you are around David Lyle Morris you just know that his heart is to help turn your eyes to God.

The album ‘Endlessly’ is a well crafted album and the album starts with ‘Start of something new’ a song for his boy Eino.
It’s a really honest song talking about the excitement and the forward looking nature of a Dad excited to share in the first moments with his son and the legacy that the Father wants the son to take up… Lines like “This is the start of a family tree, you’re the little branch under me” show the simplicity of Davids lyrics while at the same time casts great imagery.

In fact this album is full of so much imagery, and not in a daunting and heavy way but in a way that helps you relate with the song. In fact it really enhances the songs. Songs like ‘Caledonia Girl’ reminds me of James Taylor… the story telling, the melodic way that the music draws you into the story.

Endlessly is an honest album… Songs like ‘Open my eyes’ really start to show case the pureness of Davids vocals and the team around him just gently push, and nudge the song to enhance its colour.

Do you know what an album sounds like when you can tell that each instrument and layer and nuance of the song is there to make the other instruments sound better?.. it sounds like ‘Endlessly’.

It’s full of space… it’s full of meaning… it’s uncluttered and real.

Maybe David Lyle Morris is New Zealand’s own shepherd worship leader?
Maybe David is our new contemporary version of David the shepherd boy?

Album Review: Newsboys ‘Restart’

Newsboys ‘Restart’

Do you know what happens when you add water to your favourite Pop drink?
You get a half strength watered down version of your favourite drink, less ‘pop’ and less flavour.

Newboys is known as a band that crossed boundaries, that had a good blend of electronic and rock, lyrics that were clever and thought provoking. I mean who can forget the cleverness of lyrics like :

Isabelle is a belly dancer with a kleptomaniac’s restraint
Tried stealing Helena’s hand basket, made a fast getaway, but McQueen she ain’t
At the courtroom Joshua judges her ruthlessly on account of Ruth walking out on him
In the Big House Isabelle is a-telling all to the chaplain who’s become her friend

-Newsboys “take me to your leader”

This album ‘Restart’ is none of the above traits from the Newsboys… it’s not clever, the lyrics are predictable and the sound is like every other pop sound on the radio. Maybe the album should be called ‘Rehash’.

I have to say I almost telegraphed it when I saw the cover picture of the Newsboys ‘Restart’ I though “Isn’t this a version B cover of the ‘Born again’ cover?”
The world gave a collective sigh of relief when the Newsboys brought out the album ‘Born Again’ in 2010 with new lead singer Michael Tait (DC Talk and Tait) it was an album that many believed would be the footprint of where the band would be heading creatively, it seemed like the creative hit that the band needed.
So we have ‘Restart’ – this album is not all bad, it is simplistic and has great tunes. This would actually make a great kids album…. in fact when I played ‘Live with abandon’ to my wife she made the comment “Is this a kids album”
When I said to her “Ummmm, No I don’t think so”
She replied “Oh??? It really does sound like a kids album”

Maybe we’re just being to spoilt here in the Southern hemisphere, with groups like Planetshakers, Hillsong, Hillsong United and Parachute Band?
Now I understand the need for music diversity on the music landscape and if we all copied the aforementioned bands we would be bored, but I can’t understand why a band that can release great albums like ‘Going Public’ ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ and ‘Born Again’ could not see and album like this as anything but sub par???

I might sound cynical but I wonder if the success of Toby Mac’s electronic infused ‘Eye on It’ album tipped the hat in the direction of a more electronic infused Newsboys album…. and it’s understandable, it’s not uncommon to hear a swag of ‘same sounding’ bands after the release of a big band with a new sound… remember how many groups followed the electronic sound of The Black Eyed Peas ‘The E.N.D.’ album? It seemed like EVERYONE was jumping on the 8 bit band wagon.

The Newsboys are great ambassadors for hard working Christian bands, and it’s easy to rate their albums high based on what they have done before and the way their songs may have impacted you in the past…. however the music industry doesn’t get softer with age, and bands like the Newsboys need to be aware (as I’m sure they are) that they are that they are paving the way once again for a new range of young and upcoming bands that are in the middle of a world full of mediocre music and lyrics and we (as a collective group) be making sure that the music that come out of the walls of the church are the MOST creative and the MOST influential. However Newsboys have released a good album, that is safe and easy and nothing new and exciting an a world that is needing new and exciting…. and what makes it even more disappointing is they did it by giving up the sound that they fought so hard to develop.

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