Archives For Music Reviews

New Music: I Am They

January 11, 2016 — 1 Comment

I Am TheyPutting together a compilation of songs for a homeschool field trip is always a good reason to look for new music. This also gives me time to introduce the kids to older tunes and tune into what they’ve taken an interest in.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that music appreciation finds no small place in the heart of our home schooling. 

For example, during our morning’s devotional time I introduced them to the theatrics of AC/DC. There is no better song to illustrate the late-modernist attitude towards God, grace, His Word and human life, than “Aka Daka’s” simple mockery of that attitude in ‘Highway to Hell.’ The discernment sharpened on this anvil is priceless. (For the record, the song was not included in our road trip playlist. We did, however, make note of an advertisement about their Australian tour at the time.)

Which brings me to: ‘I Am They‘. I came across this band in October of last year. Since then, their song ‘From The Day‘ has been played repeatedly.

The album is also strong. It follows a consistent format that keeps to a particular sound. Their brilliant use of harmony stands them out from The Rend Collective and Mumford and Sons. Although they fall into that zone, within the hipster/folk rock category (if hipster-folk is even a genre?), I Am They are their own. If the band can resist solely residing in the safe harbour of the CCM industry and steer clear of being boxed into a “worship music only” label, I Am They will go far.


 

Official site: I Am They

OzMikeThe latter part of 2015 is shaping up  to make it a big year for new music. October 16th, saw Stryper release their new album, ‘Fallen.’

Alongside Guardian, listening to any new content of theirs is like sitting down in earnest to hear new stories from old friends.

Both bands top the list of hard-rock musicians who aren’t concerned about the potential negative impacts that sharing their Christian faith and thought, through their music, might have on their popularity. While numbers are important to the business, these guys rock for the love of it, they also just happen to infuse their art with the Christian faith and thought that empowers it.

Stryper hold a special place in my twenty-year old, CD & Vinyl music collection. In the late 1990’s, just trying to get a Stryper CD, let alone an LP, was difficult because they were rare and expensive. Due perhaps to Stryper’s decade long hiatus.

The band has it’s flaws and they know it. These only serve to show that Stryper is no studio produced C.C.M,  American evangelical “boy-band.” They are in the wilderness, doing what they can with the grace afforded to them. What every new Stryper album in the past decade has proven time and time again is that Robert, Michael, Oz, and Tim  know how to communicate their talent with humility.

The guitars and vocals are edgier, but it would be a mistake to consider this Stryper v.2.0. Dropping some of the hyper-staged theatrics from the 80’s glam-rock era, as a brand Stryper has matured, not aged.  Though, the yellow and black “spandex” is gone, the yellow and black guitars are not.  Risky move, but the decision appears to have paid off. Their fan base is still loyal and long. Showing that the band has earnt the respect that serious musicians who don’t take themselves too seriously, deserve.

In this new album, Stryper lift the bar on most of their previous albums,  ‘To Hell With The Devil’ is even outshone by the lyrical depth and harmonies of ‘Yahweh’. Highlights include ‘Big Screen Lies’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘Let There Be Light’, and the brilliant riff that coincides with Sweet’s vocals on, ‘Pride‘.

Like their success and the flawed journey through it, Stryper still stand as examples of how Christians can be ‘in the world, but not of it.’ They walk the fine line between fitting in and standing out. As Christians they remain ambassadors for contextual mission to the younger generation; a balanced movement that reaches out in a real way, with the zeal of a sinner-saved-by-grace, over-against the self-righteous and self-important fanaticism of the Pharisee.

In the end, what ‘Fallen’ does as an album is prove that Stryper can still rock.


Source:

Image: featuring guitarists and lead vocalist Oz Fox & Michael Sweet

Official: Stryper.com

Stryper, 2015 ‘Yahweh’ from the album, ‘Fallen’

P.O.D released ‘Satellite’ in September of 2001. In my opinion, the album is their most definitive work and one the band hasn’t quite yet equalled or outdone.

Much the same as D.C Talk, excluding the style and label ‘Christian Band’, P.O.D, aren’t just innovative Christian musicians, they beat out a theme song to a grass-roots, organic, Christian revolution.

Fourteen years later, with standout albums and songs in between, such as the 2006, 2012 release, ‘Testify’ and ‘Murdered Love’, and songs like, ‘Sleeping Awake’ and ‘Will You,’ Daniels, Bernardo, Curiel and Sandoval, are set to release one more.

P.O.D

With the pre-release track, ‘This Goes Out To You’ sounding so promising, it seems that P.O.D are returning to the stronger lyrical content, passionate riffs, and tight melodic flow that made ‘Satellite’ what it is.

‘The Awakening’ is set for release in August this year.

Header African Childrens Chior

If you’ve never had the chance to see the African Children’s Choir perform, the next time that they’re in town, chase down the venue.

Not only will you be supporting the children, you’ll also be supporting a Christian charity. A charity that is seeing solid outcomes in the work it is doing among young children from Uganda up to South Sudan.

The African Children’s Choir began in 1984 and it’s been going ever since. By providing education, the ACC seeks to deliver as much opportunity as possible for those unable to provide for themselves.

As we heard from those men and women who have been empowered by it, ACC is a testimony to the warmth of God’s smile and the grasp of His loving and just, grace. Over against tragedy, loss and oppression.

They are a much-needed, humbling reminder to the West, about the power of prayer, God’s emancipating “Yes”, the importance of faith and the significance of gratitude.

The event was held in an upmarket theatre which included testimonies, worship, dance and song.

We weren’t completely sure what to expect, yet, we felt welcomed and left ultimately hopeful for Africa, and our own land. Which is a far cry from the way we’re left feeling when we hear narratives based on popular beliefs about Africa, or when we are sold politicised images that masks the hope behind its Peoples potential.

Overall,  the most striking thing about the African Children’s Choir and their chaperones, was their authenticity, and joy. Clearly expressed, even after sharing stories which illustrated so much sorrow.

As the children told us about their dreams to build on what little, if anything, was left to them, we were amazed by their joy. Warmed by their smiles, and strengthened by their courage.We walked away with a feeling of hope.

This was more than just entertainment. It was intimate and dignified; Holy ground. Where between the Holiness of God and the brokenness of humanity, we were led to an encounter with the totality of His joy in Jesus Christ, through smile, song and drum.

Because it was an event we had planned for home school, as part of a follow-up to it, I asked our home schoolers for a review.

They responded and together we concluded the following:

“Energetic…couldn’t get enough”
– T.

ACC_Drums 28th May 2015 Port Macquarie

“Visually stunning!”
– C.

ACC_25th May 2015 Port Macq 2

“An exciting performance”
– J

African Childrens Choir_May 27th 2015 Port Macq

“Happy time for all…!”
– D

ACC3 27th May 2015 Port Macq

 “Boogie fever…Ugandan style!”
– A

IMG_2895

 

ACC4 27th May 2015 Port Macq

 


* For the evening photographs were permitted, film wasn’t. 

The past week witnessed the debut of ‘Neon Steeple’. David Crowder’s first solo release.

In a post to his official Facebook page yesterday, Crowder explained the albums origins stating that:

‘Neon Steeple is a collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred. It is a search for home. It is a collection of choruses that believe this is not all there is. It is displacement and tension and the forward lean anticipating the resolution.’
(Source: CrowderMusicOfficial)

The melody, rhythm, Neon Steepletone, lyrical content and structure are all representative of Crowder’s signature vocals, theological insight and song writing abilities. All are present, even when placed outside the genius of his old band (now known as ‘The Digital Age’).

‘Neon Steeple’ delivers a pleasant, yet strange familiarity. This is not a country gospel album, yet songs like ‘Jesus is calling’, ‘This I know’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ along with the consistent coupling of banjo and beat indicate that this album has country roots.

Highlights include ‘My Beloved’, ‘Come Alive’ and the classy bluegrass driven ‘Lift your head weary sinner (chains)‘. With track 7, ‘Hands of Love’,  Crowder sneaks in a clever fusion between the much older American Spiritual ”He’s got the whole world in his hands” with an electronic riff. Making a clear departure and return, away from and back towards the musical styles that form the backbone of this album.

Musically, ‘Neon Steeple’ is where ambition meets ability. From a ministry perspective it thunders forth, marching to a beat Crowder hears and communicates well. This is an album of melodic proclamation. It looks forward with anticipation and recollection. Calling to memory God’s fulfilment of His promise. One we come to hear, see and own in the texts which testify about Old Testament Israel and Jesus Christ.

In Crowder’s words:

‘Neon Steeple is both a critique and a hope. A narrative of  innocence lost, of displacement, of misplaced affections and misplaced people. It is the search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life leaning toward resolution, the promised land of what it means to come to life. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. This is Promised Land. This is Redemption. This is Reorientation. This is Resolution.’
(Source: CrowderMusicOfficial)

As disappointing as it was to hear that the David Crowder*Band were closing a chapter on their collaboration, there are no audible creative strains that might suggest Crowder, or the Digital Age for that matter, are worse off for having parted ways.

Both have now proven without a doubt that they are the musical and liturgical heavy weights, most of their admirers know them to be.

 

{No payment of any kind was exchanged for this review}

I’ve heard a few quality covers of this classic protest song from Neil Young over the years (e.g.: Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam). Outside the original version, not a lot beats the energy Peter Furler and Third Day put into the tune by applying conviction {read: not just using it as a crowd pleasing filler} and their own distinct sound.

This quote from C.S Lewis is still bouncing around my heart and head. Probably because of the depth and relevance it has to us contemporary Christian folks.

‘There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment’

– ( 1949 The Weight of Glory and other Addresses, p.45)

Second is a video from Ed Kowalczyk (former ‘LIVE’ front-man). Some years back I purchased the album “Alive”, it’s well worth checking out if you’re looking for the gospel preached outside the C.C.M zone. This clip has the song ‘Zion’ from that album. It also includes a brief intro from him on dynamics, content and production.