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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Transform

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2000 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Transform

The new project from Rebecca St. James starts off with a short and gentle orchestral introduction, and is immediately followed by "For the Love of God," which features an electronic rock loop reminiscent of U2's "Discotechque." Such is an example of the interesting mesh of sounds found on Transform, Rebecca's fourth album with Forefront Records. The merging of beautiful pop with electronica is certainly not anything new for Rebecca, as anyone who has heard her previous album Pray knows. But it's never been done to such spectacular effect as on Transform. The album's title refers to the transforming power of God as described in 2 Corinthians 3:18, but it doesn't seem to be a running theme throughout the album. Still, at least Rebecca's lyrics are as passionate and heartfelt as ever.

The London Sessions Orchestra is a fantastic addition to Rebecca's ethereal rock sound on tracks like "For the Love of God" and "Merciful," as well as the strong and anthemic "Stand," which feels like something Rebecca could have sung at the Olympics. There's some wonderful acoustic guitar work layered over a dance beat on "Wait For Me," a love song written as a plea for purity to her future husband. I like the fact that Rebecca takes chances musically, going for different song styles throughout the album. She has a good vocal range, which she's always demonstrated by doing background vocals on her past albums, but this time she displays it more in her lead vocals with the occasional high note and aggressive growl. Of course a lot of credit needs to be given to primary producer Matt Bronleewe (Jars of Clay, Plumb) for helming such a big production and displaying Rebecca's vocal and songwriting skills so well.

If only all of the album were as interesting as the big rock production tracks. With all the attention that girl pop has been receiving in Christian music these days, I don't think anyone expected Rebecca St. James to be the Christian equivalent to Britney Spears. Some of the songs on Transform make too much use of the standard dance pop clichés of today, such as the big keyboard orchestra hits found in Britney's music, and especially the electronically altered vocal effect made popular by Cher's "Believe" a couple years ago. Of course, the difference is that Rebecca's music is self-written (or at least co-written), and has far more intelligence and significance to it. Nevertheless, "Reborn" comes across as a ZOEgirl song, and both "Universe" and "One" sound a little too much like Britney Spears (it doesn't help that those latter two songs are back to back on the album either).

It's hard to pinpoint how Transform compares and contrasts with Rebecca's previous two albums. One thing for certain — this is easily Rebecca's biggest, most dramatic, and most mature production to date. It's got the heart and passion of the God album matched to the electronic dance rock found more prominently on the Grammy award-winning Pray, and it's all the more impressive that this new album holds its own against those two projects. Regardless of which previous album you like better, Transform won't disappoint those looking for more of Rebecca's unshakable faith expressed through strong modern pop.


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