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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2000 1 Jan

Insiders were calling 2000 the "year of the new artist" for Christian music way back in January. They were so right, but they failed to mention this is also the year of praise & worship. There seems to be an unprecedented focus on praise & worship artists and albums this year. With new Inpop band Tree63 you get both, though they've been making music in their native South Africa since 1997. After achieving mainstream success there for the last few years, they caught the attention of British worship leader Matt Redman, legendary worship band Delirious, and eventually Inpop Records. Their name refers to both the recurring imagery of trees in the Bible, as well as Psalm 63.

I'm a little hesitant to compare one band to another, because it sometimes builds expectations too high. Nevertheless, despite comparisons of bands like The Normalsand Delirious to U2, Tree63 is easily the closest thing I've ever heard to early U2 (or else a host of other guitar-driven '80s bands like The Police and The Cure). Lead vocalist and guitarist John Ellis sounds a lot like a young Bono, and his guitar work is even reminiscent of The Edge. Bassist Martin Engel and drummer Darryl Swart also play and sing remarkably well, but it's John Ellis who makes the band sound so much like U2. Make no mistake — this is a power trio of talented musicians.

Tree63's music has a powerful guitar-driven foundation merged to praise & worship lyrics — and to think we get this disc just weeks after the marvelous Glocd from Delirious! The best song, "Treasure," is currently a radio single, but you may also be familiar with "Joy" from the worship cd "Live and Unreserved." Other highlights include the driving "1*0*1" (or "One and Only One"), the brooding "Earnestly," and the syncopated "Sacrifice." There's not a bad track on this album, and there are certainly other potential radio singles. The song that spoke the most to me was "Look What You've Done": "What can I do for You, my Lord? / I want You to know my heart is Yours / It's not a question of what You can do for me / but what I can do for You my Lord." Some worship bands would stop with that, but Tree63 actually has two verses to go with it, and I'm thankful they refrained from being overly repetitive in their songwriting.

The nice thing about "the year of the new artist" is that there have been ample opportunities to pop something new into the cd player and be completely surprised because there are no expectations. Tree63 is one such pleasant surprise: strong musicianship, good songwriting and smart production. Fans of modern praise & worship like Delirious and Sonicflood are sure to be pleased with Tree63's U.S. debut. Of course, Sonicflood's future is somewhat in question now that almost all the band has left and been replaced (somewhat ironic, considering Tree63 recently opened for Sonicflood v. 2.0). The introduction of Tree63 to America couldn't be any more timely or welcome.