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Latest Music and Book Reviews
Bold Right Life by Kierra Bold Right Life by Kierra
Audiences have literally watched Kierra Sheard grow up in the spotlight, though now that the singer’s out of her teens and approaching womanhood, she’s making noticeable strides at more mature sounding...
Hail To The King by Hillsong London Hail To The King by Hillsong London
In just over 10 years Hillsong London has grown from 100 congregants to well over 6,000. And considering the mass market modern worship contributions its sister church, Australia’s Sydney-based mega congregation,...
Christmas Songs by Fernando Christmas Songs by Fernando
Before his major label debut in 1997, Fernando Ortega recorded a variety of albums independently, utilizing mainly acoustic instruments and understated arrangements to capture the simple beauty of hymns...

Showing 1-10 of 43 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews
SINGER/SONGWRITER CONTINUES LEGACY OF VERSE WITH ELOQUENT NEW CD | Posted November-24-2008
If you’re frantically flipping through your CD collection, creating an extensive Google search and calling your mom screaming hysterically, “I missed it!” fret not. It wasn’t until after Andrew Peterson completed his new record, Resurrection Letters—reflecting on the aftermath of renewal from Christ’s resurrection—that Peterson realized he still wanted to write and record an album about the actual events of Christ’s death and return to life.

So for the sake of chronology, Peterson first issues Resurrection Letters, Volume II. A little odd? Maybe. But after making a career of telling poetry-filled stories with his campy vocals and delicate acoustic guitar, Andrew Peterson has so far defied definition. And with his new CD, he continues the legend.

With lines that weave certain Scriptural truths into an everyday language of guilt, confession, belief and surrender, Andrew Peterson ignites the fire of God in 11 songs filled with transparent lyrics and evocative melodies.

Amid a flurry of acoustic sounds (and very symphonic string lines) “All Things New” introduces the disc with a simple reminder to “Hold on to the promise/The stories are true/Jesus makes all things new.”

Grappling with humanity’s sin nature in light of a Savior’s act of redemption, “Hosanna” uses the old Hebrew word meaning “Save us, now!” to cry out: “I am tangled up in contradiction /I am strangled by my own two hands/I am hunted by the hounds of addiction/Hosanna . . . See the long-awaited King come to set His people free.”

Playing with irony, “Love is a Good Thing” contends love is worth it even though “It’ll chase you down and swallow you whole/It’ll make your blood run hot and cold/Like a thief in the night it’ll steal your soul, and that’s a good thing.”

Since his national debut eight years ago, Peterson has remained one of the most under-recognized songwriters in Christian music. Should there be any ounce of justice in this industry, Resurrection Letters, Volume II will go down in the books as one of the more honest depictions of Christ’s redemption in recorded music history. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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A CHIPPER, CHEERFUL CHRISTMAS | Posted November-24-2008
As the tween pop market continues to explode faster than Nintendo Wii’s are snatched up this holiday season, pureNRG continues to ascend the ladder as one of the genre’s top acts. Outside of The Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus (both of whom have been outspoken about their personal Christianity), the teen pop trio may be the most popular of today’s faith-focused crop, which explains the flurry of recent projects including a concert DVD and this Christmas disc.

Just like the group’s moniker implies, there’s plenty of energy throughout the project, starting with “Joy to the World,” which fakes out listeners at first with its scratchy, old-time record opening before exploding into a peppy, horn-smacked party. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is more guitar-charged in nature and features the trio’s vibrant harmonies, which also extends into a dance-derived take on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” However, there are still plenty of carols packed within this CD, including the loop-enhanced “Away In a Manager,” the chilled-out ballad “Silent Night” and a spunky “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

Though “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is mildly fun, it falls somewhat flat compared to Mariah Carey’s signature version of the same song. Thankfully, it’s the only less than impressive track on the disc. However, there is another element of disappointment in the fact this disc is merely 10 songs long with no originals whatsoever. The somewhat skimpy track listing may work for shorter attention spans, but at least one personal reflection would’ve given fans additional insight into pureNRG’s personalities, which are otherwise just as lively as ever! –Andy Argyrakis

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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YET ANOTHER ACOUSTIC DELIGHT | Posted November-24-2008
Before his major label debut in 1997, Fernando Ortega recorded a variety of albums independently, utilizing mainly acoustic instruments and understated arrangements to capture the simple beauty of hymns and other traditional songs. And in many regards Ortega jumpstarted, and contributed immensely to, the hymnody renaissance with his authentic brand of folk recordings.

Now over a decade later, with several best-selling major label releases, a trio of Dove Awards and an established name in Contemporary Christian music, Ortega pays homage to those first recordings with Christmas Songs, a stripped down ode to the birth of Christ.

As is to be expected, Ortega sticks to songs with spiritual significance, mainly traditional hymns to render his impression of the Christmas season. And as is also expected, he does so quite eloquently.

From the record’s expectant opener, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” to the poignant (and previously popular original) closing track “Jesus, King of Angels” Fernando honors the Christmas story with familiar melodies and understandable arrangements. “Joy to the World” benefits from the swell of an accordion. “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella” gives off an Irish flair with its Celtic fiddle; and a melancholic cello deepens “What Child is This?”

My only complaint of an otherwise exquisite album is a compliment as well. Though Ortega has a magnificent touch on the ivories (proof of his classical training), his intimate vocals are so quietly alluring they are genuinely missed on the instrumental tracks interspersed throughout the CD.

With or without vocals, Christmas Songs collects some of the greatest Christmas hymns minus the typical holiday hype, and the result is quite stirring. In Ortega’s own non-pretentious way, he has created yet another masterpiece. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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WORSHIP COLLECTION FAILS TO FAVORABLY IMPRESS | Posted November-24-2008
In just over 10 years Hillsong London has grown from 100 congregants to well over 6,000. And considering the mass market modern worship contributions its sister church, Australia’s Sydney-based mega congregation, makes each year (think Darlene Zschech, Reuben Morgan), it is no surprise worship music aficionado Integrity Music has decided to distribute the church’s fourth studio recording, Hail to the King, throughout the United States. Featuring 13 original tunes, Hail to the King attempts to translate the church’s weekly worship experience to CD.

Rock-infused anthem, “Now” opens the record with its corporate cry: “Let your voice be heard/In all of the earth/Let this generation rise/Now.” “I Receive,” one of two tracks co-written with GRAMMY award-winning worship phenomena Israel Houghton, builds its way through five minutes of pulsing worship, segueing into “He is Greater,” a Passion-esque catechism that offers the most corporate lyrics and easy-to-sing melody on the record.

Advertisement Less inspiring, the title track leans toward punk-influenced rock with its driving snare and bright vocal, and a heavy Southern rock guitar solo pays a cheesy tribute to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” before pep-rally type background vocals add to the chaos.

Several other tracks suffer from similar production and less-than-effective content, causing the project to sound a bit canned. In fact, aside from the aforementioned highlights, it is hard to imagine these songs translating into any live setting where an audience is expected to sing along.

Nowadays a worship music collection is a dime a dozen. Hail to the King fails to up the ante. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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ALL GROWN UP AND INCREASINGLY EXCEPTIONAL | Posted November-24-2008
Audiences have literally watched Kierra Sheard grow up in the spotlight, though now that the singer’s out of her teens and approaching womanhood, she’s making noticeable strides at more mature sounding music. Of course, even as a burgeoning performer, there was no ignoring the singer’s bountiful range and fresh urban gospel arrangements, though these days she’s stepping up all of those characteristics another notch, even dropping her “Kiki” nickname to signify the progression.

On album opener “Won’t Hold Back,” the performer demonstrates her soulful prowess across a lyrical desire to embrace each of life’s curveballs and boldly apply them to God’s plan with praise. The piano-based power ballad “Invisible” again showcases her stunning range, but the thematic direction finds the up-and-coming star shifting the focus away from personal fame, instead asking the Lord to work through her with complete transparency. The mood is entirely vertical come “Praise Him Now,” an elegant string-enhanced selection that’s sure to find favor in Sunday morning services.

However, Sheard still keeps the purified party in her repertoire come the unavoidably vibrant “Wave Your Banner,” which falls somewhere in between Rihanna and Beyonce. But by the time the disc simmers with the easygoing gospel pop piece “Jesus,” it’s evident her focus is on the eternal (as opposed to being the next diva of the day), which can only impress her increasingly loyal audience. –Andy Argyrakis

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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SISTER ACT CONTINUES CELEBRITY CLIMB WITH EXPLOSIVE NEW ALBUM | Posted November-24-2008
It has been almost a decade since Mary Mary released its brand of soul to the masses, taking gospel music by storm and creating a remarkable impression on the greater music arena. Its bio is a comprehensive listing of GRAMMY, Dove, Stellar and American Music Awards as well as a completely Gold and Platinum discography. Now, three years since the dynamic duo’s self-titled third studio project, Erica and Tina Campbell release The Sound.

Continuing their hit-making résumé The Sound issues a musical force that erases any preconceived notions of Mary Mary’s capabilities. From the get-go the sisters lay down the law, respectably inserting elements of not only R&B and gospel, but electronic, dance, vintage soul and straight-up pop.

The title track opens the faith-based exposition with the singular most interesting Mary Mary song to date. Broadcasting a Motown throwback, the legit sister act breaks loose with a raw arrangement of dirty horns, loose snares and slammin’ vocals.

The first single, “Get Up,” lets the listener know the girls still have their slick R&B shine with polished programming and a feisty call to action: “What are you afraid of?/Don’t you know what you’re made of?/One of God’s greatest creations/Take this invitation now/Get up.”

“Boom” and “I’m Runnin’” continue the spirit-filled creativity with pronounced singular string lines highlighting the dry, retro vibe that infectiously caters to the duo’s uniquely individual voices. And “I Worship You” is another reverent witness ballad, a classic inclusion and one of the most anticipated moments on each Mary Mary recording.

Guest appearances abound on The Sound, a testament to the group’s popularity. Kiki Sheard contributes to “God in Me.” “It Will All be Worth It” features an inspirational Marvin Winans, and rap artist David Banner breaks down his personal testimony on “Superfriend.”

Mary Mary possesses mesmerizing talent, and The Sound is yet another rich gift from the superstar sisters. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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ANTHEMIC TRIO DISCOVERS FRESH VISION WITH NEW LABEL, NEW RECORDING | Posted November-24-2008
Since winning 2005’s Dove Award for “New Artist of the Year” Building 429 has committed its career to the road, tearing up stages across the country with the likes of tobymac, Casting Crowns, Family Force 5 and hard rock staple Pillar. But in a “season of finding what God has in store” and no longer conforming to “what everybody wants us to be or what we think we should be,” front man Jason Roy explains the band has something of its own to say.

Though the trio’s third disc, Iris to Iris, released just last year on Word Records, Building 429 has used the last 18 months to re-center, landing a deal at a new label home (INO), a renewed vision and a self-titled record that bends the band’s previous musical genres while still affording them an even more comfortable fit into the world of Christian rock music.

The first single, “End of Me,” echoes the band’s revived mission, issuing an abandon to God in every line: “Once upon a time the story goes/I laid it all down and let it go . . . And all I longed for I found finally at the end of me.”

“Not Gonna’ Let You Down” and “Coming Home” issue more of the driving anthemic rock the band is known for, while tracks like “Shoulder” and “Bring Me Back” are more pop than rock, exercising restraint to loudly communicate very clear messages.

And in the record’s most moving moment, “Always” utilizes the softer (though no less intense) arrangement to reassure faith despite life’s deepest doubts: “I believe always, always/Our savior never fails.”

Building 429 certainly breaks no new ground, but the three rockers benefit from worrying less about industry expectations and taking a fresh approach to recording. And if you are one of the few who have yet to familiarize yourself with Building 429, this CD is the perfect place to start. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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POP MUSIC NEVER SOUNDED SO GOOD | Posted September-24-2008
After a whirlwind year that included the release of its debut CD, well-received radio singles, more than 200 performances and a coveted Dove Award nomination for “New Artist of the Year,” the men of 33Miles have created an incredible second set.

Encouraging listeners to live “every mile to the fullest,” One Life prescribes this mantra not only to 33Miles’ fans but to the trio’s personal lives as well. The record’s first single, “One Life to Love,” solidifies this mission with a poignant reminder: “You only get just one time around . . . One chance to find out the one thing you don’t want to miss.”

With skin-tight harmonies and folksy tendencies (the dobro makes more than one guest appearance on One Life) 33Miles definitely shows signs of influence. “Gone” might as well have been recorded by supergroup Rascal Flatts with its combination of acoustic tinglings, slick production and so, so fine vocals. And with crisp harmonies and a pulsing acoustic “When It All Comes Down” pivots between Keith Urban and Avalon.

But before you judge these guys as just another pop-country wannabe, think about this: Jason is a seasoned studio and touring vocalist. Chris turned down a scholarship to the famed Berklee College of Music to pursue the band. And Collin is only a semester short of earning his commercial music diploma from Nashville’s esteemed Belmont University.

And considering its expanding fanbase and chumminess with radio, 33Miles is bound to find its own niche sooner rather than later.

All comparisons aside, 33Miles is seriously good. One Life emits massive crossover appeal and, considering the wealth of musical enthusiasm the band showcases, 33Miles has music for many lifetimes to come. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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PIONEERING WORSHIP BAND PRODUCES YET ANOTHER STELLAR OFFERING | Posted September-24-2008
One thing is for sure, Sonicflood has always created cutting-edge worship music. Though the band’s name doesn’t carry the weight it did even five years ago, and it’s been 10 years since the band released its Gold-selling debut, the quintet continues to instill a formative presence among the leaders in modern worship music.

A Heart Like Yours, Sonicflood’s first independent record, offers 11 tight tracks beginning with the pulsatingopener “Look to Love.” With wall-to-wall guitar sounds and enough driving rhythmic force to cause even rock radio to pay attention, the band encourages love as a life compass: “If we just take a chance to love . . . Then we could be the light that’s leading our way home/If we all live for something/Then we won’t die for nothing.”

“Aiden” plows ahead with the same energetic force, letting each instrument’s delay wash over an anthem of epic proportions. “In Your Presence” solidifies the pop side of the band’s pop/rock fare with crispacoustic guitars and Rick Heil’s pristine vocal administering a simple song of praise without forfeiting production.

Supplemented by a solo piano, the title track once again utilizes Heil’s competence at the mic to record a personal prayer: “Hold me close enough to you/That I am broken/Whatever breaks your heart/Let it break mine too.”

Worship records are a dime dozen these days, but there isenough taut production and masterful musicianship accompanying the singable melodies and lyrics on this CD to justify more than one listen. A Heart Like Yours proves Sonicflood is still the cream of the crop. –Andrew Greer

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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NEEDHAM’S SOUL-TINGED POP IS COMPLETELY INFECTIOUS | Posted September-24-2008
Jimmy Needham seems quite comfortable. This isn’t a spiritual accusation at all, but instead, an observation of just how completely at home the pop songster appears to be on his sophomore effort, Not Without Love.

Glimpses of solid songwriting were found throughout Speak, Needham’s two-year-old debut on InPop Records, yet they failed to come close to those found here. Utilizing his Gavin DeGraw-esque ability to vocally soar and plummet at will over soulful guitar tracks and ballads alike, each song conveys both a powerful message of love and layers of vocal emotion.

“Hurricane” simply states analogies of need and longing, yet Needham injects vitality into each, lending credibility and overcoming what could become a series of trite clichés. The playful piano on “Firefly” instantly seizes the ears and never lets go while frolicking for its two-plus minutes. “Unfailing Love (Kelly’s Song)”—titled for Needham’s wife—is bound to become “our song” for thousands of couples with its jazzy transitions and focus on earthly love.

Not Without Love signals that the best is yet to come from Jimmy Needham while providing a very solid pop offering for this year. InPop would do well to allow this artist to blossom and find his audience as he goes. –Matt Conner

This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!

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Showing 1-10 of 43 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews

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