The Heart of Me
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Sep
2002 marks the twentieth anniversary of the first release from a young Italian girl from New York named Kathy Troccoli. With 12 albums and numerous awards to her credit, there's surprisingly little fanfare surrounding this anniversary. Some may suggest Kathy's impact on music isn't nearly as great today as it was ten years ago. That's not entirely true. While she may not be charting and selling as much, she remains extremely popular with women's ministries, a new phase to her career that's led to numerous speaking engagements, concerts, and four books written by Kathy (including
For Kathy's thirteenth album, The Heart of Me, Kathy re-teams with producers Chris Harris and Nathan DiGesare, who both have produced some of her past recordings. Nathan's presence is especially interesting since he helped produce and write hits such as "Psalm 23" and "Different Road" on her
There's more that's different this time around. For the first time in five years Kathy teamed with outside writers – it shows and it helps immensely. The songs certainly fall within your usual adult-contemporary fare, but the quality of writing is much improved from 2000's
The bulk of the album, not surprisingly, centers on pretty, inspirational ballads, some of which are very well done and some that are fairly routine sounding. Kathy expresses a powerful testimony of faith in "You're Still God," and she offers hope in the big power ballad "He Will Shelter You." The album's title is drawn from "You're the Heart of Me," an inspirational song about slowly conforming to the image of Christ. "A Love That Won't Walk Away," praises God for his unfailing presence; the simplicity of the arrangement and the message of the lyrics will make this a popular music offering for church services. Among the ballads, fans of easy listening will be most impressed with "Heaven Knows." Kathy says this one was inspired by the romantic melodies and sweeping arrangements of Andrea Bocelli, and it shows. With words that remind us that the answers not readily apparent in this life will someday be known to us in heaven, this lushly orchestrated pop song recalls the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber: "Heaven knows all of what I long to know / Promises of love are lived forever / Heaven goes far beyond where my heart goes / What we could do if only all the world knew what heaven knows." I also liked the gentle "All for the Life of Me," which smartly places a well-known phrase in a spiritual context to explain why Christ died for us: "For the life of me, I can't comprehend why I mean so much to you / But maybe someday in forever the answer will be clear to see / You did what you did for the life of me."
Sure, we've heard an endless string of pop projects like this before, especially in the '80s and '90s. Nevertheless, there's typically a fine line between inspiration and tedium in music such as this. It would be all too easy for Kathy to slip into the same adult-contemporary sound so many other Christian artists are still known for, or to even experiment with (heaven forbid!) funky R&B dance rhythms in an attempt to connect with the teen pop audience. Instead, Kathy has gone back and rediscovered her classic sound, doing it as well as she's ever done. Living in the past, returning to her successful formula, or trying something artistic and different than the norm? I suppose you'll need to decide for yourself which best describes what Kathy's doing on this album. Despite some routine moments,