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Start Right Here:

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Start Right Here:
Sounds like … a host of different artists contributing their unique styles to the music of Keith Green, ranging from rock and pop to rap and punkAt a Glance … a suitable tribute to the musical legacy of Keith Green that introduces his music to today's youth and gives some new life to some old songs.

It would be absolutely foolish to disregard Keith Green's impact on Christian music, both as a songwriter and an example of Christian living. A great number of today's artists cite Keith Green as one of their primary influences, and it's evidenced by the numerous covers of his classic songs since his tragic death in a plane accident nearly 20 years ago. An inevitable tribute album called No Compromise was released ten years ago to memorialize the tenth anniversary of his death. Featuring artists directly influenced by Keith Green's music, such as Michael Card, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rich Mullins, and Russ Taff, it was an album well suited for people who bought Keith's albums. As time goes by, I am continually amazed by Keith Green's legacy and how it's still affecting young artists and listeners today—people who weren't even alive during Keith's lifetime! Start Right Here: Remembering the Life of Keith Green is a new tribute album, this time performed by several of today's alternative Christian rock artists. It gives new life to twelve classic songs, and serves as a testament to the ongoing music ministry of Keith Green.

Overall this is a vibrant and well-done tribute album. However, as with most tribute albums, some reinterpretations are better than others. The trick is to offer a new artistic interpretation of a song without straying too far from the song's original sound. You don't want it to be completely unrecognizable. Cadet's cover of "You Are the One" is a perfect match for the melodic power-pop group, since the song is simple and melodic enough to fit with their original material. Hangnail offers a straightforward 80's rock version of "Run to the End of the Highway" with a hint of punk that suits the buoyant feel of the song. Flight 180's "chick rock" version of "He'll Take Care of the Rest" is spirited and well done, though the production surprisingly lacks aggressive bite—the guitars and drums could have been stronger. Likewise, Bleach's straightforward rock interpretation of "Asleep In the Light" works, but it's a little bland and sleepy. It almost feels as though the band phoned in their performance. It needed a harder edge to it, considering how convicting the lyrics are. Compare the sound of that track to the rocking reinterpretation of "Your Love Broke Through" by Ace Troubleshooter. Performed as a beautiful ballad by Keith and numerous cover artists, this version gives the song new life—and it's still beautiful as a rock song. Other faithful renditions on the album include the sunny and positive-sounding "You!", performed by Element 101, and "Dear John Letter (To the Devil)" by the Dingees, who's "punkabilly" interpretation of the song is true to the fast piano pop of the original while also lending it a more modern feel.

Keith Green fans may have a harder time listening to the tracks that sound radically different from the originals. MxPx's cover of "You Put This Love In my Heart" is actually a fairly faithful performance, but I suspect many will find the fast punk sound of the band a little too goofy for the song. Fans of MxPx, on the other hand, will eat it up. Starflyer 59 soaks "Lord I'm Gonna Love You" in their usual dream-like, spacey sound, and it comes across as both prayerful and odd. The extremely melodic "Make my Life a Prayer to You" is covered by the equally melodic Joy Electric, but their lost-in-the-80's synthesizer pop sound (a la Yaz and Erasure) is a little too predictable for the band and may be too strange a marriage for Keith Green's music. Then there's the interesting hip-hop/reggae-like version of "My Eyes Are Dry" by MG!The Visionary and ILLHarmonics' hip-hop/rap cover of "40 Years." Both are actually clever takes on Keith Green's songs, but longtime fans of the music may understandably and unfortunately be less receptive of the genre swap.

At first glance, you'd think this album wouldn't work. It seems like the music would be less appealing to today's youth and that the music would be beyond the taste of the adults who originally bought Keith's music. After a couple of listens, I feel that Start Right Here could cause the opposite reaction. It not only familiarizes youth with Keith Green's musical legacy by accommodating their tastes, but it also introduces adults to the alternative rock artists their kids may be listening to, and does so through fresh reinterpretations of familiar songs. It's not an album everyone will embrace, but it's a good one nevertheless. Fans of the artists on this album, as well as fans of Keith's music, will equally appreciate Start Right Here.