Sounds like … the roots rock of Third Day with the occasional electronic programming of the NewsboysAt a Glance … The Waiting fared better on their previous albums, but Wonderfully Made is a happy rock album that will please most Christian radio fans, particularly those who enjoy Third Day.
The latest release from The Waiting is long overdue. After the release of their last album, Unfazed, the band parted ways with Sparrow Records and spent the last two-and-a-half years recording their latest release, Wonderfully Made. With several hit singles and award nominations to their credit, The Waiting has long been a favorite among fans and critics alike. I've personally enjoyed the way the band blends a catchy, melodic roots-rock sound (e.g. The Wallflowers, Gin Blossoms) with thoughtful and poetic lyrics (often featuring nature illustrations). Their songs are simple and accessible, yet profound enough to satisfy listeners looking for spiritual depth to their music. The Waiting's latest album, with their new label home, Inpop Records, has been much anticipated.
How good is Wonderfully Made? Well, the album lives up to its namesake in terms of production and sound. The production, by guitarist Todd Olsen and acclaimed producer Bryan Lenox (Michael W. Smith, dc Talk), is flawless and exciting. It's an improvement from Unfazed, which had too many midtempo songs in my opinion. Lead singer Brad Olsen calls Wonderfully Made the "happiest and most joyful record [they've] ever made." It shows, with the majority of the songs favoring a happy and uptempo sound. However, as Unfazed showed little variation from midtempo songs, Wonderfully Made has a few too many uptempo songs with the same feel. For example, the first two tracks seamlessly run into each other, a technique that could have been used for about half the album's songs.
Wonderfully Made features the roots-rock worship sound of Third Day and the electronic production values of a Newsboys album. Interestingly enough, with Inpop being the Newsboys' record label, their drummer, Duncan Phillips, served as the A&R director for Wonderfully Made. Also, Third Day's Mac Powell co-wrote with Brian Olsen, The Waiting's lead singer, four of the album's songs. The results of these contributions sound good, though serious rock fans may find the album too pop oriented. By the same token, long-time fans may not appreciate all the electronic effects used with the band's trademark southern-rock sound.
Lyrically, the influence of Mac Powell, who has a knack for writing worship songs based on Scripture, is obvious on Wonderfully Made. This is particularly evident on "Every Word" and "Rest of the World," based on Psalm 19:14 and Matthew 22:37 respectively. The two songs sound very much like what you'd expect of Third Day. Don't get me wrong, I love Third Day, but do we need another Third Day? Why does The Waiting have to shift their focus to simple Scripture-based songs when they've proven themselves time and again to be fabulously insightful lyricists?
Wonderfully Made has some wonderful moments. The title track is a fun reminder that God has "fearfully and wonderfully made" each of us by his own design. "A Lot of Love," a thrilling rocker, focuses on how much love it took Christ to die for us. I love the opening line, "Everyone excuse me as I investigate the art of feeling fine." If you think that song's poetic, wait until you hear "Sleepless," unquestionably the band's most powerful song to date (reminiscent of their past hit, "Hands in the Air"). The song is essentially a poem about the disease of sin, and simmers to a boil after an atmospheric beginning. Who knew Brad was capable of yowling with the same passion as Bono from his Unforgettable Fire days?
Personally, I prefer Blue Belly Sky and the band's self-titled recording because they were better rounded musically and featured more insightful lyrics. Still, Wonderfully Made is a welcome return for The Waiting, a band that seems to have rediscovered the joy of writing songs with an upbeat groove and the straightforward good news of the Gospel.