Album Review: Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Dear Mr Crowder;

Thank you for the delivery of the album ‘Neon Steeple’, an offering that you pointed to being that of  “… the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808.” – phew, that in its self is a huge undertaking. For that alone I tip my hat to you sir.

I have to say that I have been eagerly waiting the arrival of this album. I marveled at what magical collaborations you would be able to put together with such a broad theme… Porch Music meets electronica… wow… the possibilities are endless.

We already knew that you were a great songwriter – the vast catalogue of music that you collected as part of the group David Crowder*Band would attest to that fact. This wasn’t where my intrigue was focused. I was wondering “How are you going to make this work, Mr Crowder?”.
Thinking back to your past work I remember the award winning David Crowder*Band album  ‘A collision or (3+4=7)’. I remember similar combinations with great fondness.

And so it was with much anticipation that I played through the album ‘Neon Steeple’ for the first time.

I love how the album starts off with a brief acoustic song as an intro… it was great.
However when you used synthesized hand claps at the start of the song ‘My beloved’ I became a bit weary. I had heard this sound before, and then to my shock you took me to somewhere between 1994 and 1999. I didn’t know if I was about to shuffle to ‘Cotton eye Joe’ by the Rednex or ‘We like to party’ by the Venga Boys.
Fortunately the insanity is brought back to the ground with the single ‘I AM’ – this Mr Crowder is a great song. Do more if this!

My poor heart… More synthesized clap like rhythms start the song ‘Come Alive’ . Thank you so much for not rehashing the late 90’s for this. This actually feels like a ‘Church Music’ tune from your past band. ‘Church Music’ with a country tip…
(I’m sorry to bring up the past band however this is a good reference, I believe)

Bless your heart… More synthesized hand claps!
Mr Crowder you do understand that just because you have said that you want to make the album both digital and electronic that you can still have people actually clapping their hands?
I love the music. I love the lyrics. I love the depth of the song. Please Mr Crowder, sir, give us rest from claps that are manipulated by the robots that will someday take over this world.

Come as you Are is a wonderful song, a powerful song. It showcases songwriting in it’s purest form.
It’s simple. It’s both majestic and humbling.
“So lay down your burdens, Lay down your shame, All who are broken, Lift up your face”
Great work Mr Crowder.

(Mr Crowder, I’m not sure if you realise this but The Wiggles or some other kids band invaded your album.’Hands of Love’ – please Mr Crowder lets not do this again or better still lets save this type of song for your kids album. This may be a great plan B if you are starting to consider retirement.)

The Song ‘My Sweet Lord’  is so nice… Miss Emmylou Harris still has it doesn’t she?
What a wonderful thing it is to hear those sweet harmonies… She’s a keeper Mr Crowder!!!

Everything was going great until ‘You Are’. I hear the song building up and I find my self yelling “Don’t go ooonse ooonse”
But my cries fell on the def ears of the 90’s nightclub gods, who not only gave me the obvious ‘on the floor beat’ but slapped me in the face with syncopated synthesized hand claps.
Mr Crowder you are both a saint and villain in one small package.

Some songs on this album just work because of their simpleness… and because of this they become more powerful.

In conclusion Mr Crowder I’m not sure if this album is more  human like Luke Sky-walker or More Robot like Darth Vader.
Lyrically it magical, it’s whimsical, it’s poetic.
Musically it’s melodic, it’s southern, it’s full of toe tappers.
I’m not always convinced that the marriage of the 1’s and 0’s (as you put it Mr Crowder) always work with the soul and heart of the south.  However, in saying that, this may be like any good marriage and need time to develop.

Thank you Mr Crowder for taking the time to bless us with your music.
I look forward to hearing more in the future.

Peace and Grace
Goose

 

 

Album Review: Passion ‘Take it All’

Passion ‘Take it All’

There was a time when I used to look out for the latest Passion CD.
I mean, what wasn’t there to love?
It was a collection of some of the top Worship leaders and innovators in the Christian music scene. It was new, it was daring, it was radical. It was almost like it wasn’t church, yet you found yourself singing along. You were singing praises and you were worshiping.

However, sadly you will notice that it is all mentioned in past tense.

The Collection of leaders are great and we are fortunate to have so many on one album. However,  the song selection on this album makes all the churches’ songs sound the same.  I don’t know why these songs were chosen or who chose them but I think it was most likely a combination of a couple of things.

  • Conference moments: after all it was recorded at a conference and while the recordings may trigger a reminder to the people that were there of a God moment, for the rest of the world it almost feel like a joke that we missed the punchline for.
  • Commercial success: Songs that are going to be a highlight for the leaders (and bands) involved – after all they do need to make a living.
  • Record labels: People in suits and ties sitting around a table and talking about the album as a whole… what songs fit, which songs don’t… which songs are strong and will be picked up by the wider public and which songs won’t.

I understand that when putting an album like this together it could be technically difficult to find the right songs. You need to get the right balance and the right feel while deciding which artists get the prime spots on an album. (Interesting to note that Chris Tomlin features as the first track on at almost half of Passion albums).

So why has a recording that everyone once looked forward to so much suddenly became average? The reality is that the world has caught up. While these songs would have caught the minds and inspirations of thousands of young people who have attended these conferences they almost get lost in translation outside that setting. I mean, how awesome is it standing with thousands of people singing these songs, with once voice and one mission? There is a synergy that happens and it’s inspiring. However in your bedroom or in the car it’s almost out of context. To be honest it could have been a lot of other Christian worship compilations I have listened to.

Now I know I seem to be bagging this album but I’m not.There are truly some great tracks on here and my personal highlights would be Crowder’s ‘I Am’ and Matt Redman’s ‘Mercy’.

I’m not saying that God can’t use the other songs.
God can (and will) use these songs to touch hearts. My question  is, what is the purpose of this album these days?

Is it just a conference audio scrapbook so that you can relive those conference moments?
Is it to help sell albums for six steps records and sparrow? After all these songs are also going to be on each of the worship leaders albums too.

Is it to create new songs for a new generation?
If so the album and the songs presented are starting to feel a little bit “been there and done that” when once these were songs that caught imagination.
I remember hearing artists like Charlie Hall sing “Salvation Raise up from the ground” and I thought “wow I’ve never heard someone say that in a church song before”, or David Crowder Band when they sang “You made everything Glorious… so what does that  make me?”
These were pointed, different, artistic, creative and innovative.
The thing with innovation is that if everyone else is doing it, it’s not innovation anymore. It’s the norm. If what you are doing is the norm you aren’t innovating… you’re just like everyone else.
I don’t think the church was designed to be ‘just like everyone else’ and therefore it goes to say that neither should our music be. Sure our music should sound like the music we hear in the street and the radio but it’s different too… it has a life saving message for a start.
What is sparking the imagination of our younger generation if the church isn’t?

I understand that hearing this loved series of albums has become average may be hard for some to read… however we don’t want to get into the habit of giving good reviews just because the artists are our favourite leaders and bands.
Our job as reviewers is to critique and push artists to greater excellence, we praise when there is need to praise, and we point out when there is a need for artists to push forward to greater things..