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Dismiss the Mystery

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Aug
Dismiss the Mystery
Sounds like … funk-infused Latin pop/rock resembling Los Lonely Boys, Santana, and the Gypsy Kings if played by Dave Matthews Band, early Chicago, The Ides of March, and Burlap to CashmereAt a glance … Salvador's impressive musicianship and irresistible sound only seem to get better with time, as evidenced with Dismiss the Mystery, which is likely the band's best album to dateTrack Listing Now That I Have You Find the Reason Shine Te Enaltezco Dios Waterfall None Greater Than You You Are So Wonderful Trying to Be the Sun Always a Whisper Neighbor Simple Things Child of the King

How strange that Salvador is seemingly beloved by most everyone into Christian music, yet they don't really have the success or accolades to show for it. That respect comes from concertgoers who can attest that this is one of the best live bands around. But with only three top five hits in seven years, they've had little radio success, and are best known for their cover of the Los Lonely Boys hit "Heaven." A shame, since 2004's So Natural was dynamite, revealing a band that finally hit its stride.

Not that Salvador really strays from their winning formula for their sixth studio effort. They simply do it better than before. Perhaps that's due to the production, handled for the first time by vocalist/guitarist Nic Gonzales and keyboardist Chris Bevins. Bassist Josh Gonzales (Nic's cousin) noted a newfound level of comfort and trust during the recording that hadn't been present since the first album, and it shows. So Natural refocused the band on the elements that make them so good—now they build upon it with Dismiss the Mystery.

Adding to the sound are three talented new members—drummer Ben Cordonero, percussionist Robert Vilera, and Edwin Santiago (joining Jared Solis) on horns. The arrangements accordingly reflect a stronger reliance on brass and percussion, offering more flourishes and improvisation that add to the authenticity of Salvador's Latin sound. And with the other three members only improving with experience, Salvador sounds as if they've found a new level of musical excellence.

They also seem a bit funkier this time, mixing classic horn-driven bands into their Latin pop/rock style. The funk fusion is immediately apparent with opening track "Now That I Have You," a joyous testimony of faith that ranks with Salvador's best songs. That opening groove on "Find the Reason" is part Dave Matthews Band, part Blood Sweat and Tears, with a pop melody that recalls some of Steven Curtis Chapman's work. Later on they embrace pure Latin praise-and-worship for "Te Enaltezco Dios," complete with smooth guitar reminiscent of Santana and a superb piano solo. Salvador also saves one of the best for last with "Child of the King," a bluesy track almost reminiscent of Eric Clapton with its aggressive riff and kicking shout-along chorus.

The band has grown with their pop sound too, making this their most radio-friendly album to date—in a good way. "Waterfall" is an effectively breezy ballad that should be shopped to AC formats, benefiting from a good melody, strong vocals by Nic, and pleasant production. Better still is "Trying to Be the Sun," featuring the sort of well-balanced pop instrumentation that you'd expect from an album by Chapman or MercyMe.

But the lyricism still needs some work. While it doesn't exactly cater to clichés, much of it presents the same sort of bland phrasing too commonly heard in CCM. As energetic and fun as "Now That I Have You" is, the words are generic: "You took my ups and downs and turned my life around." We've all heard songs like the pleasant pop single "Shine" before, expressing a desire to reflect God like the moon reflects the sun, and the worshipful "You Are So Wonderful" lacks personality—"You are so wonderful, you are so lovely/Your love is endless/How can I describe how I feel inside/You are so faithful, day after day/It's so incredible how Your love for me never fades away." Can't the love of Christ be shared more creatively?

In fact it can. Smart to team up Waterdeep's Don Chaffer as a writing partner for the jazzier "Always a Whisper," complimenting Salvador's classic pop/rock sensibilities while poetically expressing God's ever-present comfort: "It's always inside me/It's always a whisper in the end/Of all the things I want to see, it's obvious, in front of me/I hear the whisper of a friend." The same could be said of Cindy Morgan's assistance in shaping "Neighbor," which inspired the album title in its message of breaking down racial barriers, and resembles The Ides of March with some of the funky licks and the powerhouse horns.

Tracks like these prove that Salvador is capable of better when teamed with the right co-writers. If they were to improve in that and cut loose with some extended jams on a few tracks, we'd have a perfect album on our hands. Still, at least they've nailed it musically, strong enough to compensate for the lyrical shortcomings. With a clear understanding of who they are and what their sound is, there's no mystery about it—this is Salvador's most satisfying album yet.

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