Long Arm of Love
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2005 1 Jul
Raised in a strongly musical and Christian home, 26-year-old Michael Olson developed his skills both in the church and studying music in college. Now he joins the prestigious roster at Rocketown—a label renowned for developing singer/songwriters—to release a remastered version of his independent debut,
But Olson also joins a scene already crowded with sound-alikes. Steven Curtis Chapman, Warren Barfield, Shane & Shane, Bebo Norman, Michael Cook—the guy-with-acoustic-guitar-doing-adult-contemporary approach has been done to death in Christian pop. Do we really need another, especially when overly simplistic songs like "New Every Morning" and the single "I Believe in Jesus" sound like 4Him or NewSong by way of Barfield or Chapman?
That style thankfully comprises only part of the album, as Olson displays more range than most in the AC genre. Psalm 121 is shaped into a rousing worship song for the rocking "Lift My Eyes," and he offers a beautiful adaptation of "Psalm 23" that's destined for church use. "Waiting for You" is a sweetly written ode to patience for perfect romance, and the piano/cello ballad "Man of Sorrows" makes a fine Lenten hymn. There's also some surprisingly effective acoustic funk ("When It Comes to You") and blues-rock ("So Glad"). And though it has a typical sounding acoustic pop base, the autobiographical title track (coupled with "Blessed Assurance") remains an epic and potent standout.
The album is also elevated by the consistently strong production of Nate Sabin (Sara Groves), who gives the songs a more stylish and musical polish than most. And it helps that Olsen has a strong vocal (reminiscent of a younger Wes King or Andy Chrisman), a talent for multiple instruments (guitar, piano, and drums), and a gift for writing good pop melodies.