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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Faith

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Faith
Sounds like … piano-based acoustic worship, reminiscent of early Keith Green with a bit of Dave Matthews Band-style improvisation thrown inAt a Glance … there’s no denying the passionate heart for worship, strong musicianship, and original songwriting on this album, but Faith is a little too over-long, over-repetitive, and overwhelming.

Hailing from Minneapolis, Jason Upton started his musical career by singing in churches around the country when he was just 15. After completing the Masters of Divinity program at Regent University with his wife, the two began to take worship music even more seriously and turned their home into a regular place of worship. This committment to worship is further expressed in his continued worship conference performances all around the country.

Jason sounds a lot like the early works of the late Keith Green — in his passionate vocal delivery and piano playing. Like Keith, Jason’s voice is oozing with passion. He has an excellent tenor vocal range, able to bring his voice down to a gentle whisper in one song and cry out in joy or pain in the next song. These moments of exuberance are particularly evident in the extended improvisational passages. There are songs on Faith (the title track comes to mind) where I begin to wonder if Jason collapses from exhaustion at the end of it! Jason is also a talented piano player, and he’s additionally blessed with a superb backing band consisting of guitars, bass, drums, and violin. Because of the band’s sound and strong musicianship, I can’t help but think of the Dave Matthews Band at times. Overall the music is interesting with its acoustic alternative sound, extended improvisational passages, and inspirational worship balladry.

As a songwriter, Jason displays a certain degree of originality, and here again he recalls some of Keith Green’s music. The seemingly improvised title track asks the Lord to help us build our faith and reject the false messages this world gives. The song builds from Jason’s solo voice and gradually adds all the instruments into a joyous musical jam session. The exciting opening song "Give Me One Reason" asks others to come up with one good reason to not have faith in Jesus; musically, it’s part Keith Green and part Ben Folds Five. I also loved the beautiful and powerful melody of the ballad "Glory Come Down." Jason approaches worship as a songwriter rather than a worship writer, meaning the songs aren’t exactly easy to sing with when compared to the overly simplistic worship songs many are accustomed to hearing. I’m even a bit inclined to call this an inspirational recording rather than a worship project. Nevertheless, Jason uses these songs to lead worship regularly, and I applaud him for adding something different to the genre.

I wish I had nothing but praise for Jason Upton’s debut, but unfortunately there are some significant weaknesses to the album. It could be argued that Jason sounds a little too much like Keith Green. Several songs sound like Keith’s inspirational ballads, while "Freedom" recalls Keith’s "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt" in one verse and convicts the church like Keith’s "Asleep In the Light" with the next verse. There’s even an altar call inspired song with "Come Up Here," which Keith was also well-known for at his concerts. Also, as good as many of the songs sound, all the uptempo songs have the same 3/4 or 6/8 feel to them. The fact that all the ballads generally have the same feel only lends to the monotony and magnifies the similarity between the uptempo songs.

Then there’s the matter of length. Normally, I’m a proponent of more music for your money, but Faith is a little bit of overkill at 77+ minutes in length, and very few of the 13 songs are shorter than 5 minutes. None of this would matter too much, except that this is a live album in which the instrumentation never changes. I found myself growing weary of it all after 40 minutes, and I think the album would have benefited greatly if a little more thought was put into its production.

This is a tough recording to critique, and in the end I would recommend the artist over the album. Faith is going to be perceived as overlong, repetitive, and boring to the casual listener, but some will surely embrace it for the passionate take-no-prisoners approach to worship, as well as Jason’s remarkable vocal resemblance to Keith Green. I’m more interested in the man behind the music, who certainly has a gift for writing powerful songs of worship and delivering them with more passion than most people are used to hearing. If Jason Upton records his next album in the studio and varies his songwriting and production more, then I believe we’ll be blessed with a truly outstanding worship project.


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