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The Twenty-First Time

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Sep
The Twenty-First Time
Sounds like … AC-friendly acoustic pop along the lines of Bebo Norman, Bethany Dillon, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Chris Rice, and Mark Schultz.At a glance … an enjoyable acoustic pop album of love songs both romantic and spiritual, though it would have been nice to see artistic growth in the three years since their last album.Track Listing Beautiful You
The Twenty-First Time
Hallelujah, Jesus
Stars Would Fall (I'm Crazy)
What Soldiers Do
Yours Forever
More Than That
Wonderful Angel
Into Orbit
What Soldiers Do (The Remix)

We last heard from Monk & Neagle in 2004 with their self-titled debut through Flicker Records. Aside from a switch to Reunion Records—a better stylistic fit—little has changed in three years. With Ed Cash (Bethany Dillon, Bebo Norman) comfortably settled in the producer's chair again, Trent Monk & Michael Neagle continue their AC-friendly approach to acoustic pop, still writing sweet little love songs to their wives. An encore appearance of "Stars Would Fall (I'm Crazy)" only adds to the déjà vu on The Twenty-First Time, though more of the same from these guys is not a bad thing.

The duo shares enjoyable vocals against a rich acoustic pop backdrop, one that still evokes John Mayer and Jack Johnson without quite capturing the same level of musicianship or improvisation. Very accessible and well done, yet even with the same artists and producer, this album has lost some of the playful, jazzy luster that characterized the previous effort, favoring instead a more staid pop polish.

That's countered by some newfound songwriting growth. Building on a passion for serving others, the title track refers to "the least of these" whom we ignore and fail to love on a daily basis. Why "twenty-first?" Sounds good I suppose, but it somehow works in a colorful, folksy way. Elsewhere, radio single "What Soldiers Do" uses sentimental storytelling resembling Mark Schultz to portray a father saying goodbye to his young son before shipping out. There's also the excellent confessional "More Than That," poignantly declaring, "Though You take me as I am, You deserve more than that."

Aside from the simple worship of "Hallelujah, Jesus" (by Phil Wickham's brother Evan), the album's remainder relies on love songs both romantic and spiritual. Though they have less lyrical distinction and depth, songs like "Into Orbit," "Yours Forever," and "Fallin'" are irresistible acoustic pop fluff. One would hope for greater artistic progression from Monk & Neagle after three years, but taken on its own merits, this album is among the better you'll find in Christian adult contemporary.

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