- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 1 Sep
- I Want to Know What Love Is
- Nessun Dorma
- End of the Line
- Unchained Melody
- Angel Band
- Fly to You
- Your Love
David Phelps is an amazing vocalist, hands down, but there's much more to good music than singing prowess. Another key component is song selection and writing, and as someone recently told the former Gaither Vocal Band member, he's yet to find a song as good as his voice. Phelps took that as a personal challenge to raise his game by finding the best songs for his next project. Additionally, he felt convicted to reflect God's presence in all of life more broadly with songs about our Creator as well as God-honoring songs about interpersonal relationships.
These new directions propel The Voice by combining a mix of originals—by Phelps and others—with covers of secular classics ranging from Foreigner ("I Want to Know What Love Is") and Sarah McLachlan ("Angel") to Puccini ("Nessun Dorma," popularized by Andrea Bocelli) and Beethoven ("Moonlight Sonata" with original lyrics by Phelps). In this much, Phelps has succeeded by drawing on a broad array of influences and offering songs that can be interpreted by the listener as spiritual or relational.
What's still lacking, unfortunately, is the creative sense to know when to combine such varied influences and when to keep them separate. Like many of his previous efforts, Phelps again throws everything into a musical blender, with results that are often jarring. His original "Higher" is intended as a dance track about rising above adversity through faith, but in combining techno elements with an orchestra, it sounds like a bad Vegas rendition of "Turn the Beat Around." Adding electronic elements to an otherwise delicate rendition of "Unchained Melody" similarly makes it sound clunky, rather than the desired modern spin on a timeless pop standard. And really, why bother with the folksy, Appalachian-styled simplicity of "Fly to You" if you're going to bury the banjos in a string orchestra?
Obviously artists should have the latitude to interpret songs their own way, though not all interpretations are necessarily good. Phelps too often overloads his pop songs with busy string parts while also breaking the delicate mood of an orchestration with cheesy pop instrumentation. A pity since "Mine" and "Your Love" are both terrific pop selections worthy of his vocal skills, but they're needlessly complicated by ostentatious strings when restraint would serve him better. It's hard to believe this vocal talent has yet to record an album on par with Josh Groban or Russell Watson, perhaps with a David Foster or Brown Bannister in the producer's chair. As important as it is to have a great voice singing great songs, there's also something to be said for a focused sound that varies from song-to-song rather than mixing it all together within a single track.