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Free from Ordinary

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jul
Free from Ordinary
Sounds like … the pop/rock of Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, and By the Tree with a voice resembling Todd Smith of Selah and flashes of Brit pop similar to Coldplay and Keane.At a glance … Caleb Rowden's debut benefits from some truly impressive production, but too many of the songs resort to formulaic and predictable Christian pop/rock songwriting.Track Listing Alone You Are Holy Every Time Free from Ordinary Send Me Made The Journey All I Need Wait Falling

According to Caleb Rowden's bio, he was "a serious drumming talent by the age of 3" when he reportedly played his first church gig. By 13 he joined Wisdom's Cry—a successful independent band started by his sisters—further developing his instrumental skills on drums, keyboards, guitar, and vocals, as well as his songwriting. After they disbanded nine years later, Rowden immediately signed with Slanted Records to release his solo debut Free from Ordinary.

Is the title apt or ironic? The album boasts sparkling production by Dan Needham (Steven Curtis Chapman) and Kevan Cyka (Hilary Duff), particularly with the aggressive electric guitars. "Every Time" in particularly grabs the ear with excellent programmed alt-pop praising God's unfailing presence, a considerable contrast to the gentle hymn-like simplicity of "Falling." The best song is "Wait," longing for heaven with beautiful Brit pop that echoes Keane or Coldplay in the piano, melody, and Rowden's falsetto.

As pleasant as most of the songs sound, they still aren't very creative or compelling. "Alone" briefly rips off Coldplay's "Politik" to start the album, and "Send Me" sticks closely to that band's template for simplistic piano-driven ballads. More often, the songs emulate recent work by Chapman, MercyMe, and By the Tree—"Made" blandly reminds us we were created to worship, and "The Journey" is a predictable song of thanks for God's guidance. Energetic as they are, there's nothing remotely original about the lyrics to "All I Need" or the worshipful single "You Are Holy" ("You are worthy to be praised, so I will give You everything/You are holy, holy are You Lord … I will lift my voice to sing to You/I will give my heart in praise to You"). Despite Rowden's musical talent and his debut's impressive sound, he seems unable to break free from the ordinary in the songwriting.

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