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Instrument of Praise

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Sep
Instrument of Praise
Sounds like … Carman's urban and inspirational pop style gone gospel, like Kirk Franklin and Myron Butler crossed with Elvis Presley and Andraé Crouch.At a glance … a few of the songs work, but Carman's first true foray into gospel music sounds rough due to cheap-sounding production, a dated sense of style, and the veteran's surprising preponderance of spoken word over singing.Track Listing The Overflow
Everlasting God
That's My King
We Lift You Up
If God Be for Me
Center of My Heart
Instrument of Praise
Celebration Day
I Can See Heaven Open
I Love You Forever
Bless the Name
This Blood/This Power
Jesus Now
S.A.V.E.D 100%

Amy Grant isn't the only Christian pop heavyweight celebrating a 30-year anniversary in 2007. Though Carman didn't release his first album until 1980, he apparently began preparing for his music ministry back in 1977 shortly after accepting Christ at an Andraé Crouch concert. The rest, as they say, is history, and even though the sometimes polarizing performer hasn't been nearly as high-profile since parting ways with Sparrow Records over five years ago, his music ministry has never stopped. After releasing House of Praise and Live and Reloaded! through other independent record labels, he now offers Instrument of Praise via Tyscot Records … a gospel label.

Whether or not Tyscot and Carman are a good fit is beside the point, as this is indeed his first concerted effort in gospel music. The deeper issue is whether or not Carman and gospel music are the right fit for each other. Considering the veteran's penchant for energetic praise and his love for urban music styles, it really shouldn't seem all that strange a match. Tracks like "I Love You Forever" and "If God Be for Me" (featuring Deitrick Haddon) demonstrate he can—at times—pull it off convincingly. And in turn, infusing some gospel feel into his ballads ("Center of My Heart"), Latin-pop (the title track), and '70s Jesus rock ("Celebration Day") isn't a bad idea.

Unfortunately, Carman seems more interested in cheerleading than singing on Instrument, as if trying to imitate Kirk Franklin. Those in search of the inspirational croon from yesteryear will be disappointed by the predominance of spoken word recitation—somehow rap and poetry don't exactly describe his technique—derailing an opportunity for Carman to truly duet with the aged rasp of his mentor Crouch ("This Blood/This Power").

Moreover, the album too often comes off overly dated, surprisingly so considering the credentials of producer Mooki Taylor (Stacie Orrico, tobyMac). Aside from the occasionally cheap-sounding production, some tracks ("Everlasting God," "Celebration Day") have terribly programmed drums that nearly overwhelm all other instruments and vocals in the mix. But then again, when an artist is still offering songs like "S.A.V.E.D 100%" after all these years, perhaps it's credit to the producer that more of the album doesn't sound more out of touch with modern Christian pop and gospel. It's commendable that Carman's passion for ministry hasn't changed in 30 years; unfortunately, his music hasn't either.

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