Artist: Jake Hamilton
Title: Freedom Calling
Label: Jesus Culture Music

If by some strange twist of events Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut album Ten had been a worship record, it might have sounded kind of like Jake Hamilton’s Freedom Calling does today. There’s the basic rock instrumentation that draws on classic, metallic, punk, and jam band influences along with Jake’s Eddie Vedder-esque vocals that can go from sensitive to screaming in one beat. And sometimes from this rush of emotional intensity, powerful and beautiful moments emerge.

However, this relative newcomer out of California’s Jesus Culture movement (a seemingly edgier version of the Passion scene) has not yet harnessed his obvious talent and giant heart for student ministry into something entirely palatable. Freedom Calling arrives as a 73-minute live set whose first tracks are ten and thirteen minutes long. “War Drums” stampedes along well enough with lyrics about how “Someone in this generation is gonna make a noise that’s gonna shake a nation.” But it feels too early for the stretched out reading of Isaiah 6 and jarring finish where Hamilton screams a call to action on par with departed comedian Sam Kinison.

“New Song” also has its charms—unexpected mandolin and keys, a friendly chorus—yet it does too much too soon. The revival-minded tune gives way to a lengthy speech about “an army of young people free from materialism” (which would play nicely on its own) and then an oddly placed section where lisping children sing for awhile. Twenty-three minutes in and two selections down, the pacing isn’t making sense; the parts don’t easily fit.

Much better are more shapely cuts like “Looking for One,” a compelling look at faithfulness to God complemented by a Collective Soul acoustic rock vibe with Jake’s voice more comparable to Edwin McCain. The shimmering title piece is refreshingly jubilant, groove-based worship; Hamilton sounds happy, not angry as the accompanying guitar parts range in style from The Edge to Eric Clapton. When he stretches another song out past nine minutes deeper into the mix, the approach finally works: “It’s a Garden” is heartfelt and poetic, a big idea that deserves the extended spiritual talk about how “what began in a garden will end in a garden one day.”

And yet Freedom Calling closes on another out-of-step note, a rewritten mosh pit cover of Leonard Cohen’s overdone “Hallelujah.” Back to that Pearl Jam analogy, the whole thing suffers from a lack of even flow.