- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Remember when the late '90s brought about a revival of swing music? Groups like the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies were ruling the mainstream airwaves, while acts like The W's, Andrew Carlton & the Swing Doctors, and Jason & the G Men provided wholesome Christian alternatives. On the tail end of that movement came the debut of Denver & The Mile High Orchestra, but rather than merely capitalizing on a rage, they revitalized several lost and almost forgotten genres. At the time, Belmont University student Denver Bierman's vision was to not only give the swing, big band, jazz, and rockabilly styles a facelift, but also to pay tribute to the greats, like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, and Glen Miller. Along with a dozen seasoned players (who collectively played with the Benny Goodman Tribute Orchestra, Tower of Power, and Christafari), Denver molded the band's sound to do just that on their debut
There are other far less magnetic moments, though, as Denver and the gang fall prey to modern-day pop production values, resulting in an ineffective combination of too many genres. For instance, a burst of Latin horns awkwardly meets a studio-generated urban shuffle on "All to You." "Unwind" blurs current-day ska-core (Buck Enterprises or The Insyderz) with a non-analogous electric guitar solo, while the similar ska-tinted "Passion for Your Embrace" collides the noncomplementary worlds of gritty guitars and soulful background singers. On "Saved and Free," the supporting vocalists return, uncomfortably lingering amidst Denver's stab at blue-eyed soul behind a wailing saxophone. As distracting as that hokey hodgepodge is, the title track is unquestionably the album's oddest incarnation. During this six-minute epic, Denver sings like a late-night Christian televangelist soliciting donations over a pretentious glob of orchestration and a Nashvillian-styled background choir. Please don't misinterpret my disinterest in the song as an attempt to slight its uplifting message of standing up in support of one's faith. But when thrown together in such a seemingly shallow way, thoughts of Carman instantly pop in my head.
By no means is this recording a failure, nor unworthy of checking out because of its less effective moments.