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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 May
Sounds like … if Gwen Stefani fronted Sugar Ray with a serious dose of hip-hop thrown in the mix, you'd have Chicago's modern rock worship band, Daniel's WindowAt a Glance … DW's full-length follow-up to 2000's It's a Mystery consists of six flavorful genre-meshing originals with five standard worship covers

For audiences outside the Midwest, the name Daniel's Window may sound like just another new group in an already cluttered scene, but to those within a 500-mile radius of the band's Joliet, Illinois, hometown, they're a long developing band on the rise. A lot has changed since the humble suburban partnership of singer Heather King, keyboardist Caleb King, guitarist Alby Odum, bassist Bill Coleman, and drummer Jesse Burkhead, since uniting five years ago. From playing small coffeehouses and churches, DW went on to capture the top spot at 1999's Seminar in the Rockies Christian artist competition, subsequently inking a deal with True Tunes Records for the release of 2000's It's a Mystery (which spawned the singles "Stay the Same" and "Round and Round"). Such attention helped develop the band's buzz, earning them spots on various "Acquire the Fire" tour dates, opening slots for Third Day, Rebecca St. James, and Skillet, along with a coveted spot on ChristianityToday.com's debut installment of "Ten Indie Artists You Should Know."

After It's a Mystery ran its course, the group caught the attention of famed Whiteheart member/producer Billy Smiley, who recognized the group's powerful performance abilities coupled with members' ministry minded attitudes, and signed the band to his Cul De Sac label at the end of 2002. That year also brought on the evolution of DW from what they previously called "modern rock meets electronica" to a more edgy, alternative rock base with hearty does of hip-hop courtesy of newly added member DJ Phunkee. The new formula has clearly worked in the band's favor on the road, resonating with audiences and making its brand new Illuminate a talked-about title at this spring's Gospel Music Week (even prompting Campus Life to chronicle the band in an American Idol-inspired daily diary from the annual industry event).

The group's sound is an enjoyable blend of alternative rock, hip-hop, and modern worship, topped off by Heather King's soaring vocals. Cuts like "I'm Gonna Dance" and "Lift Your Name Higher" lead the pack with a party driven mentality, combining several fast-paced instrumental elements and turntable scratches, blending King's harmonies with DJ Phunkee's tradeoff between raps and urban interludes. That soulful, funk tint further materializes in "Sing Hallelujah," thanks to a punchy gospel- flavored keyboard introduction, a catchy hook, and simple but easy-to-learn lyrics of praise: "Holy Spirit, heal and comfort, make me whole/You have made me, you can save me, rescue my soul."

Such vertical adoration returns on "I Will Live for You," a soft duet between King and Phunkee, along with the slowly building melodic drama of "Hosanna," one of DW's songwriting standouts. Penned by the group's rhythm section (Coleman, Odum, and Burkhead) the cut features such praise-soaked lines as "Holy are you Lord, worthy of all adoration/Savior of my soul, wash me and make me whole/I cry out for You alone can save me." The title cut brings the band up to its usual instrumental speed for the album's finale, giving a free flowing face-lift to a song originally found on It's a Mystery.

Based on the inviting nature of that slightly retooled selection and quality of the other five originals, the band didn't need to rely on standard worship covers to fill out the remainder of the disc. With worship music being all the rage in the Christian industry over the last few years, and since Daniel's Window is a ministry-focused band, their decision to tackle modern worship is somewhat understandable. That they failed to do so with originality (and now at the tail end of the modern worship fervor) is the only real disappointment here.

We've heard numerous covers of "Every Move I Make," "Trading My Sorrows," and "Your Everlasting Love" before. The most frequently recorded song on the record is the disc's lead single, "Open the Eyes of My Heart," which resembles Sonicflood's fast-paced arrangement, except that there's a full-blown rap segment midway through. That combination may not please all praise purists, but it does at least serve to make the song relevant to youth groupers, and it's even earned the stamp of approval from the song's author, Paul Baloche.

Those covers aren't innovative, but they are well performed, and Illuminate still stands as a relatively solid album that proves even more forceful in the live setting. A vision of teens going wild to the group's high-octane approach on both its own and other people's material is apparent from start to finish. And even though the music is primarily geared to younger audiences, older folks will be happy with DW's dedicated approach to ministry, manifested in the members' desires and efforts to form relationships with each and every fan after the shows. In the end, Illuminate shows promise for Daniel's Window's future, broadening their fan base beyond the Windy City.