- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Newcomer Melissa Tawlks is a featured vocalist and worship leader with the Acquire The Fire (ATF) youth worship conferences. She easily could have released another ATF live recording "featuring Melissa Tawlks" or even left off her name. Instead she chose to step into the spotlight as a solo artist, and there's responsibility and a different perspective that accompany that decision. I could talk all day about Melissa's obvious heart for ministry and desire to reach youth through music. But because her name is on this album, I also need to talk of her artistic merits, as well as reasons youmay (or may not) want to shell out $15 for yet another worship album.
With all this in mind, I question why Melissa released a solo album this early in her career. Solo artists release worship albums for two main reasons: They have a collection of original songs that give glory to God, or they perform non-original worship songs in a unique manner. With Mystery Revealed, Melissa offers neither. Melissa co-wrote only two of the ten tracks. Though, to her credit, the other songs aren't well-known worship tunes. She's introducing music you probably haven't heard before rather than yielding yet another cover of "Shout to the Lord" and "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High."
Musically, it's clear Melissa has been influenced strongly by Rebecca St. James; she features the same ethereal sounds set to a programmed drum loop. Unfortunately, the music lacks Rebecca's edge. Both "Your Name Is Great" and "Closer" are attempts at modern rock, but they never quite achieve it. And though Melissa's voice is very pleasant, it hasn't the passion or oomph of Rebecca's or Jaci Velasquez's.
If Melissa had written ten original praise songs for this project, I could understand the need for the album. Though it's admirable to make worship music accessible to a younger generation, there's simply better stuff out there. Additionally, there are equally good versions of these songs already available. For example, Rita Springer's recent worship project is excellent and also features the Mystery Revealed song "You." I can't help but point to Darlene Zschech as an example of a worship leader who's successfully made the transition to solo artist. She spent several years leading worship on live albums until she became recognized for her superb voice and extraordinary gift for writing worship music. Darlene is only just now releasing a solo project. At this stage in Melissa's career, I think it would have been wiser for her to have released a live recording that demonstrates her abilities as a worship leader.
Melissa's press information indicates she's started writing songs. Because she shows promise, I look forward to a possible future album filled with her original worship music. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with Mystery Revealed, but there's little reason to pick it up unless you're looking for covers of worship songs performed in the style of Rebecca St. James or you're discovering the songs on this album for the first time.