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Gentle Revolution

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jan
Gentle Revolution
Sounds like … piano-based pop/rock in the same style as Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Mark Schultz, with modern flashes of Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, and Ben Folds.At a glance … Gentle Revolution is an impressive leap forward for Krippayne, offering a strong pop/rock effort with meaningful lyrics and a modern sound that doesn't rely on hackneyed production.Track ListingGentle RevolutionTake Me to the PlaceI Am JesusReneeSomething DifferentLyin'In the Name of GodAlive AgainShadow on the SunLast Will and Testament

As a music critic, my favorite reviews are those for albums that surpass expectations. Just when you think you have some artists pegged, they come up with something that puts a big grin of surprise on your face.

Scott Krippayne has done just that with Gentle Revolution, his sixth studio recording since debuting with Wild Imagination in 1995. In the last decade, Krippayne has often penned for those who don't typically write, like Point of Grace and Avalon. It's established him as a gifted utility songwriter with a knack for melody and an occasionally clever turn of phrase. The guy has also made good use of his singing voice and piano skills on his solo efforts, and once seemed capable of matching Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith if he were only teamed with the right producer and broke from the usual Nashville adult contemporary sound. But after peaking with his consistently enjoyable More album in 1997, Krippayne has gradually succumbed to Christian pop conventions, more so than ever with It Goes Like This… in 2003.

Gentle Revolution is the antithesis of Krippayne's previous effort, outdoing Smith's Healing Rain and rivaling Chapman's All Things New from last year. This album is nothing radical enough to attract those too easily bored with pop music, nor is it all that radical a shift in style for Krippayne, remaining grounded in the piano-based pop/rock of Smith, Billy Joel, and Paul Carrack. But it is a radical departure from the formulaic approach that most AC Christian artists find themselves locked in. Working again with producer Kent Hooper, Krippayne has adapted his songwriting to a more modern, guitar-laden sound—he sounds more energized than ever as a result.

The change is evident from the start with the title track, a buoyant and thumping mix of pop and rock that evokes Ben Folds, Gavin DeGraw, and Tears for Fears. There's great interplay between the piano, guitars, and rhythm section, creating dynamic changes between the verses, chorus, and bridge. Listen to how "Take Me to the Place" begins as more of the usual Christian pop, only to evolve into an infectious funk rock groove reminiscent of Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe." Touches like that keep the song interesting and fun. "I Am Jesus" has the same heavy electric guitar punch of Chapman's recent albums, and here again we can't help but wonder how routine this song might have sounded otherwise. Mixing dance, rock, and funk, the appropriately named "Something Different" is a bit like Sting's "Desert Rose," offering progressive production that saves it from becoming a predictable pop arrangement from Avalon.

With this superior breadth of pop/rock, Krippayne again proves that he could teach a Songwriting 101 class. He's not necessarily one of the greatest songwriters of his time, but he possesses a good understanding of what makes a successful pop song and how to make a lyric his own. He describes this as his most honest album yet, and that's certainly clear in a few tracks. The piano ballad "In the Name of God" is a challenging look at how so many have misused their beliefs to justify frivolity (sports, awards shows) and evil (terrorism, war). The charming "Renée" is written for actress Renée Zellweger, whom Krippayne once caught sight of in a Starbucks. Though written directly to her, exploring the life of a celebrity and whether or not she searches for something deeper in life, it also allows us to consider what's most important to us, and is a superior song on that subject as a result.

Elsewhere, Krippayne tackles the familiar subject of showing love to "the least of these" with stronger conviction than usual in "I Am Jesus." The title track is a reference to the transforming power of Christ's love. "Alive Again" is a simply worded expression of spiritual renewal, co-written with similar pop-piano tunesmith Mark Schultz. And the closing "Last Will and Testament" is deceptively somber in tone, when in actuality it's a gentle inspiration about dying to one's self to live for God.

Admittedly, Gentle Revolution puts its best impressions up front and becomes a little more predictable in the latter half. Nevertheless, this really is an excellent pop/rock effort, and it's clear that Krippayne put effort into it. It's enough to confirm that too many Christian pop artists operate on autopilot, not thinking about what sounds better, but focusing instead on what's worked before. Gentle Revolution has re-energized Scott Krippayne's career; let's hope it similarly sparks change for other artists and lives.

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