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FEATURED MUSIC REVIEWS

  • 1999 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
FEATURED MUSIC REVIEWS
May 1999

Here's the scoop on some of the coolest CDs to cross our desks in recent weeks... Click on the names to get more info on the artists, and click on the album cover if you'd like to buy a copy for your own collection!

All reviews by Dan MacIntosh, Derek Walker and Mark Smeby for the Music Channel at crosswalk.com



click on title or album cover to see review:

CODE OF ETHICS - BLAZE

SWITCHFOOT - NEW WAY TO BE HUMAN

ANOINTED - ANOINTED

CHRIS RODRIGUEZ - BEGGAR'S PARADISE

PLUMB - CANDYCOATEDWATERDROPS



CODE OF ETHICS - BLAZE

{{Code of Ethics}} was one of the very first bands to adopt the electronica, synth-pop sound in Christian music. After a detour into more guitar-based rock on ==Soulbait==, Code returns to true form with its brand new release, Blaze. Lead by songwriter - vocalist - programmer Barry Blaze, Code manages to, er...blaze new ground with this project. It's praise and worship to the max. This is "turn it up real loud" music that comes with distortion and throbbing drum programming. And it's done extremely well. Blaze is so much more than an album - it's a concept. It's euro-pop, it's high energy, and it's the familiar Code of Ethics sound that we've come to know and love, the sound that changes with the advent of every new COE album, but still manages to sound familiar. Maybe it's frontman Barry Blaze's voice, maybe it's his clever songwriting, but it's most likely the passion, the fire that Blaze pours into his songs. Now that he's writing praise-and-worship tunes, the results are even more advanced. Blaze specializes in electronic pop hooks and distorted synths and guitars. Wiggly lines of sound and crisp, danceable drumbeats come together to forge a sound that's fresh and breathes new life into the praise genre. Imagine the {{Nitro Praise}} series filtered through laser-guided mayhem, or the {{Echoing Green}} leading worship at a late-night rave. Highlights include "Exalted" (complete with memorable chorus and rapped bridge) and the acoustic guitar sway of "Psalm 19." But the strength of the project lies in the spirit-focused lyrics that permeate the songs. Past project have been evangelical in nature, Blaze aims straight for the church, allowing listeners an opportunity to declare their praise, and their desire for submission and humility, together with a passion to know God more deeply in a modern, culturally relevant manner. As Blaze sings in "Hallelujah 2000," "Though we like it loud, we'll always be a Jesus crowd." Definitely a smashing album.GO TO TOP



SWITCHFOOT - NEW WAY TO BE HUMAN

{{Switchfoot}} may very well be one of the most well-read bands out there - anyone who can reference Soren Keirkegard and St. Augustine is a band whose lyrics you might want to pay rapt attention to. The fact that they elect to wrap said lyrics in some of the most infectious pop music this critic has ever heard is an added bonus. Taking the rough-hewn sounds of their 1997 debut, the critically acclaimed ==The Legend Of Chin== and filtering it through a mesh screen of drum loops, bizarre guitar effects, and weird-o samples doesn't make New Way To Be Human as much of an eclectic listen as one might think. It's a solid rock album, replete with sensational hooks and smooth songwriting. Frontman Jonathan Foreman can croon with the best of them - his voice is earnest and clean, and it shines the most on "Let That Be Enough," the album's simplest song, and it's emotional centerpiece. Bouncy pop tunes like "Incomplete" and the shell-shocked, whiz-bang single "Company Car" bring to mind such post-punk/pop bands as Weezer and Eve 6 - that's a good thing. New Way To Be Human is rock at it's best...undoubtedly one of the best of 1999.GO TO TOP



ANOINTED - ANOINTED

{{Anointed}} clearly sets out to bridge the gap between the church and the world, not to mention the gap between different races. While this may appear to be their most urban/R&B sounding project to date (==Spiritual Love Affair== notwithstanding), they also manage to create the most broadly appealing mix of songs that address faith and relationships in a culturally relevant manner. From the moment Anointed opens this self-titled album with a song called "Revive Us," one notices immediately how this bumping funky tune also carries with it physically reviving ingredients, in addition to its solid spiritual implications. But such is always the case with this trio. Even if all of the tracks don't continue its blatancy, this tune allows all the other songs to be taken in the context of being sung by a believer. This Christian perspective, addressing the joy and pain of relationships ("Love By Grace," "It's All Good," and "Ooh, Baby"), is an extremely strong evangelistic tool, and will surely win them crossover attention. Nee-C's vocals on "Something Was Missing" are extraordinary, bringing in another theme of feeling disappointed with life, and how God can fill that need ("Godspot"). Helped along by hot pop producer/artist Tony Rich in many places, this album blows through the speakers with pure vocal power and inspired musical force. The album brings out all the best qualities in this vocal trio's soulful singing: Sweet three-part harmonies alternate with churchy gospel leads. But as sometimes happens with so much obviously fine singing, one can oftentimes miss a recording's spot-on instrumentation. For example, "Head Above Water" applies such a perfect minimal guitar, bass and drum groove, one suspects it might still stand out beautifully, even if had been left as just an instrumental. I'll bet it could have also worked as a killer reggae dub tune. Anointed stocks this album with positive words. Whether that be with the perfectly named "It's All Good," or with the reassuring closer "Anything is Possible," the listener is almost overwhelmed with more than enough encouragement to keep the faith. You'll be sure to feel up after getting down to this.GO TO TOP



CHRIS RODRIGUEZ - BEGGAR'S PARADISE

==Beggar's Paradise== by {{Chris Rodriguez}} is a tuneful paradise for pop music fans. Vocals are lushly layered, guitars ring like bells and Rodriguez's voice floats through this musical wonderland like a kid in a candy store. For example, "Walk You To The Sun" incorporates light psychedelic strains with shimmering George Harrison-styled guitar lines and Beach Boys inspired vocal harmonies, as it mixes and matches some of pop music's greatest elements. With "Your Love," Rodriguez lets loose with an extended guitar solo. But it's a sweet and non-abrasive run of notes, instead of a hard rock feedback drenched noise interlude, which can sometimes spoil a perfectly good song. The album closes with the quiet and peaceful "Waiting" which, with its gentle acoustic guitar work and unobtrusive orchestration, could very easily pass for an outtake from a {{Phil Keaggy}} album. Rodriguez's voice even echoes some of Keaggy's vocal phrasings. Rodriguez's high and sweet voice lends a sense of hope and expectation throughout. In the album's title cut, Rodriguez speaks of "the simple truth" that will set you free. This simple truth weaves its way consistently in and out of the songs on this album. Instead of trying to delve deeply into theological issues, Rodriguez concentrates instead upon the beauty and warmth of the gospel truth. Call it soft rock, with a solid message.GO TO TOP



PLUMB - CANDYCOATED WATERDROPS

candycoatedwaterdrops, the long-awaited sophomore outing from {{Plumb}}, is a surprise, plain and simple. Virtually foregoing the modern rock/industrial flavor of the debut album, Tiffany Arbuckle and Co. treat us instead to eleven tracks of perfect pop music. Gone, for the most part, are the exaggerated drum loops and aggro guitars of the first album (although songs like "Late Great Planet Earth" and "Solace" hint at it). In their place are clean, crisp acoustic guitars, crackling live drums, and keyboards that complement, as opposed to smother, the arrangements. Tiffany Arbuckle has evolved into a great songwriter, touching on both the personal ("Damaged," "Lie Low") and the world's issues ("Late Great Planet Earth"). Her appraisal of past relationships on such songs as "Stranded" and "Worlds Collide" is stunning. By the time the title track (a rich, lazy song that captures the glaze-eyed folk of Sarah McLachlan) closes out the album, you'll surely want to press "play" again. The eleven songs here are female singer-songwriter oriented, yet projecting a live band feel that rocks and makes you think at the same time. Airtight melodies and upbeat arrangements make this album a winner.GO TO TOP