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Vagabonds by The Classic Crime Vagabonds by The Classic Crime
The title to The Classic Crime's latest long player implies a certain need to travel; and while the alternative rock act is no stranger to touring, the inspiration actually comes from a more missions-minded...
Eternity Invades by Vicky Eternity Invades by Vicky
Before UK born and bred singer/songwriter, Vicky Beeching, began her pursuit of professional music she enrolled as a theology student at Britain's renowned Oxford University to ensure her spirit-led songs...
Miracle by Robbie Seay Band Miracle by Robbie Seay Band
Quick disclaimer: What I don't mean to say is "if you've heard one Robbie Seay Band album, you've heard them all." At the same time, RSB's latest batch of worshipful pop/rock tunes, entitled Miracle, features...

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CCM POPSTER RETURNS TO WORSHIP ROOTS | Posted April-06-2010
Before UK born and bred singer/songwriter, Vicky Beeching, began her pursuit of professional music she enrolled as a theology student at Britain's renowned Oxford University to ensure her spirit-led songs indoctrinated sound Christian creed rather than simply combining corporate feel-good phrases. And with a post-graduation education in the field of her choice, having mentored with the likes of Matt Redman and Tim Hughes, Beeching's place in the modern worship scene seemed like a no-brainer.

But fast forward a few years and Beeching was a major stateside label artist and being touted as Christian music's "next big thing," gradually losing focus of what originally compelled her to create music - helping usher people into the presence of God through music. Thankfully Eternity Invades, Beeching's debut Integrity release, brings the musician back to her roots, recording songs designed for corporate praise.

"Salvation Day" starts the CD from scratch with an electric performance of an arena-worthy praise chorus and "Deliverer" crescendos a chorus of redemption over an ambient, Coldplay-influenced soundtrack, chant singing, "Your blood is enough to break every chain." Beeching enhances an acoustic demonstration of Fee's hit song, "Glory to God Forever," a tune she co-wrote with the band's frontman, with a string quartet and an outro of impromptu worship while Irish worship leader Robin Mark contributes his stellar penmanship to the perfectly corporate "One Day."
But it is the beautiful lyrical imagery of "Blessing and Honor" ("The air is filled with angels/Who speak and shout your name/The atmosphere is changing/As eternity invades) that truly captures Beeching's intent and reminds listeners that worship is an invitation for interaction with a living God. And though the record musically clones the worship music's infatuation with Brit-rock, it is rare the genre is able to marry depth of verse with current musical elements. And for that, Beeching deserves a bit of praise all her own. -Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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ARTISTICALLY FUELED ALT-ROCK ON OVERDRIVE | Posted April-06-2010
The title to The Classic Crime's latest long player implies a certain need to travel; and while the alternative rock act is no stranger to touring, the inspiration actually comes from a more missions-minded journey. Last November, the group visited Haiti to lend a helping hand with the non-profit JesusInHaitiMinistries; which, in wake of the region's devastating earthquake, brought an increased sense of reflection for the musical fellas.

The results are found amply in the lyrics on Vagabonds, though there's certainly plenty of musical evolution from an already extraordinary underground band that logged tons of face time on the Vans Warped Tour. Given the relatively brisk recording sessions (three weeks total), the album's vibe mirrors the band's live show, which is just as urgent as it is energetic. "A Perfect Voice" is an all-out guitar-charged assault where frontman Matt MacDonald may not be on exact pitch, but his passion more than makes up for the self-admitted blunder. "Four Chords" is a growling garage rocker told in a Weezer tradition (but enhanced by thicker riffs), while "The Count" entices with towering alt-rock explosions.

As for the outreach aspect of this album, some songs point listeners toward service, whether it be an overseas endeavor or in their own backyard. Of course, there are also plenty of creatively woven relationship songs that have consistently become the most relatable sing-a-longs at The Classic Crime's concerts over the years. Regardless of the direction on this disc, the Seattle-based band continues to develop on all planes, taking recent personal experiences and channeling them into its most important disc to date. -Andy Argyrakis

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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HEAVEN NEVER SOUNDED SO GOOD | Posted March-23-2010
If Phil Wickham's Heaven & Earth is indicative of the music of heaven, then I can't wait to die. Wanting to wake Christians up with the soul-shaking reality of the gospel story, the epic singer/songwriter's third album takes the listener on a journey that starts with "Eden," a song that gives a "before and after" perspective of sin via earth's first couple, and culminates with the healing cry of "Heaven Song."

Partially recorded at England's historic Abbey Road Studios and produced by Pete Kipley (MercyMe, The Afters), Wickham'sperceptive pop/rock receives the kind of top-notch treatment it deserves following 2007's critically acclaimed Canons, and considering the singer's conviction in redelivering eternal hope to a potentially complacent Church.

Musically, Heaven & Earth is extremely accessible, maintaining the worship leader's Brit rock tilt and toying with '80s retro-synths made current by popular outfits like The Killers. But its distinction lies in Wickham'svoice. Possessing an instrument that tenderly commands every verse, it's easy to hang on every word he sings. Backed by the flawless London Session Orchestra, the vocalist laces every line with heart and soul: the exact thing he hopes to revive in believers everywhere.

Wickham's musings of the "now and not yet" should spark a special chord in today's Christian music scene. It's not that what he has to say has never been said before; it has just rarely been delivered as beautifully. —Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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THE MAC IS BACK | Posted March-23-2010
Very few performers have the ability to co-front a seminal group and then be equally influential in solo territory, but TobyMac is indeed an anomaly. Outside of a genre-bending role in dc talk, his solo career's ascended with every album released thanks to his ageless ability to keep a finger on the pulse of pop culture and craft some of the most catchy beats and rhymes of the past two decades.

On this follow-up to the triumphant Portable Sounds, Mac skillfully combines that veteran experience with youthful enthusiasm, channeled once again through his remarkably consistent rap/hip-hop/alternative rock aura, but with some extra juice and more attitude than ever before. Anyone who caught an early glimpse of the single "City On Our Knees" can attest to its immediate infectiousness, though tracks like "Get Back Up" and "ShowStopper" are easily rivalable singles.

Besides the bounce-heavy solo cuts sung over a rhythmically robust band, the record is peppered with several prominent collaborations, starting with what's arguably this year's most anticipated duet. Mac teams with tour mate John Cooper of Skillet fame for "Tonight," a monstrous rap/rocker that will seriously blow the roof off of any stadium they visit this spring.

Other joyful tag teams include the piano pop-tinged "Wonderin' (with Relient K's Matt Thiessen), the playful stomper "Loud n Clear" (the first full TruDog song) and the neo-soul glow of "Changed Forever" (accompanied by Nirva Ready). All the while, Mac's message remains boldly evangelistic with a street savvy undercurrent, encouraging both believers and seekers alike to make the most of this life, while never forsaking those in need. -Andy Argyrakis

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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POISED AND POLISHED WORSHIP EFFORT | Posted March-23-2010
The family pedigree is strong in the Evans family tree, but Anthony rises to the occasion on his latest album, Undisguised. After a few fine-enough releases like Let Go, Evans now provides the modern church with several stirring and impassioned vertical songs, moving from urban gospel to upbeat rock for a sonic palette more diverse than expected.

Three tracks will sound familiar to those already wading in popular worship music's waters. "Healer" is the popular track calling for God's physical help and healing, and Evans chooses an impressive acoustic/strings arrangement to buoy the lyrics of "Jesus, you're all I need." Recent Hillsong standards of "Mighty to Save" and "The Stand" are also present but do little to separate themselves from other versions you've undoubtedly heard.

Evans penned the rest of the 12 tracks on Undisguised (along with new friends such as Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram), and several highlights emerge from the pack. In fact, the strong melodies on songs like "Amazing God" and "Could It Be" have you believing you've actually heard them before. A soulful groove appears on "Everything," providing a welcome change from the straightforward pop dynamic. Album closer "Love Is" cranks the bass and stomps its way out of the sonic gathering, a thunderous end to a surprisingly terrific disc. -Matt Conner

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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SUNNY POWER POP STARS RETURN | Posted March-23-2010
Street dates for All Star United's latest CD started swirling on the internet last year, and the project's since trickled out overseas and been available directly from the band. Though core fans certainly swarmed upon those outlets to swoop up a copy, the general public at large was probably unaware of the album, which makes this first proper American retail release a chance for this fun and fresh batch of tunes to get a much-deserved second chance.

Front man Ian Eskelin is once again vibrant, quirky and colorful in his pun-riddled rhymes across The Good Album, which hearkens back to All Star United's now classic self-titled debut and the even stronger follow-up, International Anthems for the Human Race. Textbook Brit-pop tunes flow in abundance, from the flowery "Surface of the Sun" to the sing-a-long acoustic ballad "Once Again with Feeling" and the glam rocker "Crashing Cars." Though the group is never shy about its spirituality, a sardonic sense of humor is the prevailing theme with tracks such as "Dude…That's Freaking Awesome!" and "Good Luck with the Girls" fueling that light-hearted feel.

Despite all the delight the disc brings, faithful fans can't help but feel like they've heard these basic premises before, presented in sharper contexts during the band's heyday. That's not to say All Star United is washed up by any means but more like a slightly dulled version of its previous self, which, given its insanely high-octane approach on the whole, is thankfully still able to provide an enjoyable jolt of energy, attitude and encouragement. -Andy Argyrakis

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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ROOTS ROCK COLLECTIONS SECOND SET A BIG SCORE | Posted March-23-2010
After the release of their debut, Salvation Station, in 2008, roots-rock band Newworldson sustained a media blitz any new artist would envy, including a handful of Juno nominations, GMA Covenant Award wins and a slot on a slew of critics' picks lists. But what impacted the Canadian combo the most? Its growth as an international artist.

Having spent the past two years touring not only North America, but all over the world, Newworldson combines their newfound international eyes and famed grooves to record a bigger, and more diverse, sounding collection than before.

For instance, "Total Eclipse" gets the official Reggae treatment thanks to frontman Joel Parisian's back and forth with Christafari's Mark Mohr and the "Jamaican Praise Medley" is self-explanatory, with a native Caribbean choir wailing, "I wish somebody's soul would catch on fire with the Holy Ghost."

But there's more than world flair here. While "Listen to the Lord" is carried by a Calypso two beat, gutsy guitar grit and a slashy organ interlude distinguish it from a straightforward island tune. "There is a Way" features Parisian's vintage blue-eyed soul revival, akin to Gavin Degraw's vocal prowess, and thick Gospel voices to huskily evangelize Jesus as the "truth and the life the way." And "That's Exactly (How I Like It)" brings in ‘da funk a la Harry Connick, Jr.'s She era, jam-packed with full band hits and brawly background vocals.

But the stand out track is the understated "Rocky Road," perfectly balancing singer Parisian's oh-so-soulful lead with a classic retro track, accompanied by the warmest retro Wurlitzer this side of Motown and brimming with a message of grace to fellow sinners along the road.

Sensational musicianship, keen lyrical themes and a bossy vibe that is just plain cool, Newworldson's "it" factor is off the charts. -Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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ANTHEMIC PRAISE VS. VULNERABLE PROSE | Posted March-23-2010
Having worked to marry the lyrical focus of worship tunes and the musical dynamic of trendy pop/rock with its 2008 record, I Will Go, born and bred Canadian rock quartet Starfield continues the association with its fourth national release, Saving One. Divvying its track list between praise and prose, the band acknowledges the Christian walk's split reality between faith and doubt.

Affirming the latter, "Rediscover You" vulnerably admits, "My faith is paper thin/I'm feeling so burned out on religion," in a pulsing prayer reminiscent of The Fray's "You Found Me." "Something to Say" beautifully begs, "Help me not forget in darkness/The things I believed in light," with a piano resonating in perfect unison with lead singer Tim Nuefeld's haunted falsetto.

Affirming our hope in faith, the title track boasts a lift-your-hands, straightforward chorus of worship ("His love has made a way/The grave is overcome"), perfect for today's radio landscape. In another corporate track, "Absolutely" journals the genuine gratitude of a sinner saved by grace ("You have me completely/Every breath that I breathe/I am absolutely in love"), and "No Other Saviour" continues the exhortation ("Jesus, Lamb of God/How great you are . . . Every knee bows down at your renown") with a crescendoing bridge of Passion-like proportions.

Though the band's praise is certainly pure, Starfield's worship cuts offer little more than recycled jingles from choruses already penned. However, if they used more sonic space to explore believers' raw emotions, as a few of Saving One's tracks confess, the band would likely relate to a much wider base of spiritual pilgrims quite convincingly. -Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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TERRIFIC POP ALBUM MARKED BY STYLE AND SUBSTANCE | Posted March-23-2010
Bryce Avary's whipsmart lyrical turns and enticing pop structures have increasingly served him well album after album. From complete anonymity on his early self-titled EP and first full-length entitled Calendar Days to signing to a major label and breaking through the Billboard charts at #44 with his last LP, Do You Feel, the growth curve is easy to chart for Avary's popularity.

The man behind the Rocket Summer has been referred to as a prodigy in past articles and interviews, but the mainstream's now used to Avary's fantastic piano-powered pop/rock blend. The melodies on Of Men and Angels, as with every other Rocket Summer release, merit front row seats on radio waves coast to coast, yet each song inhabits a depth rarely found in such territory. Each tune is both smart and sexy, a rare achievement for any songwriter in any genre.

The handclaps and ideal piano progression on "Hills and Valleys" reminds of a summery Jon McLaughlin. Lead single "Walls" conjures comparisons to Augustana at their finest. "Nothing Matters" changes instruments (to acoustic guitar) but reserves the album's pop power. "Tara, I'm Terrible" provides a tender look into his relationship with longtime love and wife Tara.

Avary always provides fans with quantity as well as quality and the 15 tracks on Of Men and Angels continue the trend. The beauty of The Rocket Summer is that there's rarely a misstep along the way and this latest release is another fine release in such a promising catalog. -Matt Conner

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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WORSHIP POWERHOUSE'S SECOND BATCH MUCH OF THE SAME | Posted March-23-2010
Over the past couple of years, worship leader/singer/songwriter Meredith Andrews' contagious brand of pop worship has safely positioned her as one of the brightest new artists in Christian music. And with her sophomore record, As Long as It Takes, she continues the trend with a set of songs produced to appeal to both her praise and worship constituency and radio playlists.

From the chorus downbeat, "Can Anybody Hear Me" issues an infectious rock/pop performance akin to Britt Nicole and "Live Through Me" incorporates pulsing keyboard intervals in an electrifying, BarlowGirl-worthy halftime refrain.

"My Soul Sings" authorizes Andrews as a Hillsong United contemporary, dispensing a driving, hands-lifted-high anthem similar to her down under modern worship associates and "How Great is the Love," easily the record's brightest track, showcases her sturdy songwriting chops, having co-penned the lovely chorus with Texas worship extraordinaire Paul Baloche, who also contributes a duet vocal for this recording.

Conjuring up comparisons to Natalie Grant in its dynamic and Kari Jobe in its sweetness, Andrews' powerful vocal carries this project from top to bottom. And though As Long as it Takes boasts clean production from producer pros, Jason Ingram/Rusty Varenkamp (Bebo Norman, Tenth Avenue North), it doesn't cut the creative edge to differentiate Andrews from her peers, creating a wash of sound all too often associated with worship music of recent years.

Andrews is definitely talented and certainly here to stay. I just hope her catalog continues to diversify over time. -Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!

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