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Sounds like … guitar-driven rock combined with modern worship, kind of what you'd expect if you added Phil Keaggy to Sonicflood or the David Crowder Band.At a Glance … catchy hooks and the incredible vocal and guitar skills of Lincoln Brewster rescue the sometimes clichéd modern-worship production and songwriting on Amazed.
Though he still seems like a relatively new talent in Christian music, Lincoln Brewster actually has been long involved in the music business with multiple tours and two previous albums. Originally from Homer, Alaska (the same community where recording artist Jewel grew up), Lincoln already was playing the guitar by the age of 7. After realizing he had limited performance opportunities in his home state, Lincoln's family relocated to Los Angeles, and the young guitarist earned the chance at a recording contract by age 19. But thanks to his high school girlfriend Laura (who's now his wife), Lincoln came to know Christ and chose to focus on being a worship leader for his local church's youth program. His guitar skills couldn't remain unnoticed forever, and he eventually attracted enough attention to tour as lead guitarist for Steve Perry (Journey) and Michael W. Smith. Lincoln eventually settled with Integrity Music's youth-oriented Vertical Music label, recording two projects since 1999 and gaining recognition as one of Christian music's most promising new worship artists. Thanks to worship hits such as "Take Me Higher," "You Alone," and a fine remake of "The Power of Your Love" with Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay, Lincoln Brewster is poised to reach a new level of artistic success, making Amazed his most potentially ambitious project to date.
Listeners immediately will notice the bigger production in the sound of this album, thanks to high-profile producers Monroe Jones (Third Day, Ginny Owens) and Scott Williamson (FFH, Point of Grace). Bigger isn't always better, however, and one of the primary drawbacks to Amazed is the similarity of the sound to other Christian music projects, particularly previous Monroe Jones productions. The lead single, "All I Want Is You," is a wonderful worship song that sounds too similar to Third Day's "I've Always Love You" (also produced by Monroe). Amazed also includes a remake of "Everybody Praise the Lord," which originally appeared on Lincoln's first album. This new version differs only slightly from the original in that Monroe changed the sound from classic Stevie Ray Vaughn-styled blues-rock to Mark Schultz and Third Day-like modern pop. Scott Williamson's straightforward approach is present on songs such as "More Like You" and "You Are the One," though his touches aren't nearly as obvious. As much as I respect Monroe and Scott's skills, there's truth to the notion that much of Christian music sounds the same because record labels and artists keep employing the same producers, who in turn employ more or less the same techniques from album to album.
While I think Lincoln's a gifted songwriter, the songs on Amazed seem less original than the material he's written and recorded in the last three years. Lincoln's self-titled debut features ten terrific, vertically focused songs that still sound unique when compared to most of today's praise and worship. The album's production may not have been as glossy as other albums in the genre, but the youthful energy and excitement blended well with the original songwriting. For his breakthrough second album, Live to Worship, Lincoln's songwriting shifted slightly to more standard modern worship, but he made it work well with the much improved production and strong melodic hooks. Though the album featured a few covers of popular worship songs, Lincoln took ownership of them and left his own artistic imprints upon the music. On Amazed, however, Lincoln opted for even more straightforward interpretations of the Psalms and other Scriptures in his songwriting. When combined with the standard modern-pop worship production, he now sounds more like Sonicflood, David Crowder Band, and Third Day than ever before. For example, "Let the Praises Ring" sounds like a fast version of Sonicflood's "My Refuge." And the modern-worship cover of Delirious' "What a Friend I've Found" trades the band's gentle arrangement for Sonicflood-styled bombast, killing the intimacy and passion associated with the original version.
Yet despite the modern-worship clichés on this album, Amazed likely will be one of my favorite worship albums of the year. You might say Lincoln Brewster is a one-man combination of all the best elements found in artists such as Sonicflood and David Crowder Band. His vocals are similar to David Crowder and Shaun Groves, but with more power and versatility. Lincoln also adds extra oomph to his voice by singing most all of the harmonies on the album, blending with himself as beautifully as Michael W. Smith ever has. On top of this, Lincoln can rock as much as Sonicflood and David Crowder while displaying more skill and proficiency with the guitar. It's obvious he relies on musical talent rather than production effects and programming loops. This is an artist who seems destined to carry the "best guitarist in Christian music" title after Phil Keaggy eventually leaves the industry. There are plenty of examples of his guitar giftedness on Amazed, such as the slick Santana-like solo during the reggae breakdown on Marty Sampson's "King of Majesty," and the incredibly fast fingerwork featured on the frenetic Sonicflood-like drive of "Let the Praises Ring." Then there's "Everybody Praise the Lord," which is still undoubtedly the coolest and most rocking worship song I've ever heard, even if I do prefer the version found on the original album (which had a rowdier, less-polished sound to it).
Though I can't recommend Amazed as highly as Lincoln's previous two albums, I still highly recommend it and have little doubt that a wide audience will embrace it. Aside from the lackluster cover of "What a Friend I've Found," the album is packed with catchy modern-worship songs. And while Amazed features production values that sound a little too much like other modern-worship artists already out there, it's nevertheless very well produced. More than anything on the album, Lincoln's musical gifts will truly amaze you. His passion for worship, his strong rock vocals, and his talent with the guitar all shine and are more than enough reason for everybody to praise the Lord