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The Answer to the Question

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Mar
The Answer to the Question
Sounds like … worshipful, Brit-influenced arena rock with clear nods to Delirious, U2, The Police, Coldplay, and The OutfieldAt a glance … after a relatively disappointing sophomore effort, Tree63 makes a strong return to form with a solid sound and meaningful lyrics of praiseTrack ListingKingBlessed Be Your NameYou OnlyThe Answer to the QuestionI Stand for YouOver & OverSo GladNow My Eyes Are OpenLet Your Day BeginOverdue

2003 was not the easiest year for Tree63. Besides leaving their homeland of South Africa to pursue their music ministry, the three members have all been busy balancing their music careers with newly started families. Unfortunately, their sophomore project, 2002's The Life and Times of Absolute Truth, sold poorly compared to their Dove Award-winning international debut, which generated the #1 hits "Treasure" and "Look What You've Done." On top of that, longtime drummer Darryl Swart left the band in summer of 2003, leaving lead singer/guitarist John Ellis as the only remaining original member. He's now joined by bassist Daniel Omellas and drummer Thenuis Odendaal. Most Christian bands might have called it quits by this point, but Ellis and the band are passionate about their calling.

There are some interesting parallels between Tree63 and UK worship band Delirious. They're similar stylistically, both clearly influenced by U2. They also both failed to impress audiences with their 2002 projects (Touch in the case of Delirious). So like Delirious did earlier this year with World Service, Tree63 successfully returns to the soaring rock energy of their live show (and their self-titled debut) with The Answer to the Question. Lyrically, the focus has shifted back to a more honest and accessible modern worship approach. This is all capped off by Ellis' one-man U2 show, combining his amazing Bono-meets-Sting vocals with guitars that evoke U2's The Edge and Delirious' Stu G. Fortunately, Tree63 borrows from their musical influences without completely copying them.

By now, radio listeners are already acquainted with the first single and only cover, "Blessed Be Your Name," penned by longtime friend Matt Redman and featuring musical help from half of the Newsboys. Similar in sound to U2's "With or Without You," this rendition of the increasingly popular worship song is an improvement on Redman's original, though not quite as thrilling as Rebecca St. James' live remake. "King" is the kind of straightforward praise rocker that Tree63 excels at, and the simpler "Over and Over Again" is a declaration of surrender and devotion similar to Delirious.

Better still is "You Only," with catchy '80s styled rock (co-written with Rick Altizer) that recognizes Jesus Christ as the only one worthy of praise: "We have heard you in the fire/And we have followed you across the ocean floor/That's how it goes-the story grows/Two thousand years and still you're speaking." The bouncy "So Glad" is about internal struggles of faith—"I want to jump, I'm so scared/I want to swim, don't want to get wet"—accomplishing all things through the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The album's strongest U2 influence is heard in "But Now My Eyes Are Open," featuring a terrific guitar solo in the midst of recognition that Jesus is the only true example to follow: "How could flesh and blood begin to lift me up out of my sin?/Yet you became the very thing I looked for in earthly kings."

As good as the upbeat songs are, the ballads stand out the most here, displaying a strong Coldplay influence. "I Stand for You" is a poignant and firm declaration of faith, while "Let Your Day Begin" finds beauty out of despair while longing for Christ's return to restore a broken world. Then there's the album's most poetic track, "Overdue," driven by a simple-yet-infectious piano riff while hoping for God to complete the good work started in us: "Out of frustration comes a patient man/I'm on the verge of something/The end of what you began/But is it ever going to come?/What am I supposed to do when everything I could become is overdue?"

There's not a lot of innovation here, relying on the familiar sound of the first album for most of these songs. The lyrics aren't driven by cliché, but they are pretty simple expressions of Ellis' personal spiritual walk. Plus, the album runs a scant 33 minutes. These are trivial observations when a band sounds this good at creating worship. If you were wondering if this band still had it in them, The Answer to the Question offers a clear affirmative, indicating that 2004 will likely be a rebound year for Tree63.