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Revisiting This Planet by Kevin Revisiting This Planet by Kevin
What You Need to Know
Vol 1 EP by Manic Drive Vol 1 EP by Manic Drive
What You Need to Know
In the...
Wake Up Sleeper EP by Austin Wake Up Sleeper EP by Austin
What You Need to Know
I think...

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Revisiting This Planet | Posted December-16-2020
What You Need to Know

In 1972, Larry Norman released his sophomore album Only Visiting This Planet that included the song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." If that song sounds familiar, you might remember it from one of the times that dcTalk had covered the song. Norman was a major influence for the members of dcTalk, including Kevin Max, or KMAX, who called him "The Godfather of Contemporary Christian Music" on his Generosity Rocks page to help fund this album. Norman's '72 album inspired KMAX as he was hearing the music he loved, yet the lyrics were bold in their faith. KMAX spent many months fundraising and recording his new album, Revisiting This Planet, as a tribute to one of his mentors.



What It Sounds Like

Without mincing any words, KMAX's new album sounds like the '70s, which is no surprise as it is covering songs from that period. While the songs remain authentic to the originals, KMAX adds his modern rock signature to this album as well. "I Am The Six O'Clock News" adds modern events to the intro and ending while staying true to the original spirit of the song. Modern recording techniques bring new life to the songs and the modern guitar parts add a fresh new element. If you thought you were getting through a KMAX review without talking about his signature vocals, you're gravely mistaken. KMAX's signature vocals add a power rock dynamic while staying true to the heart of Norman's original songs. 

 

Spiritual Highlights

The album's lyrics have a very street ministry type of feel, which is where Norman's passion was. There is very little imagery of how the lyrics address their issues: it is very direct. Norman related very well with those on the fringes of society, the misfits if you will, and these lyrics reflect that. It's a stark contrast to a lot of Christian contemporary music. The lyrics talk about turning to Jesus instead of what the world offers. They talk about relying on God, not the government. They talk about listening to God, not the media. These are all topics that were big in the '70s, but they also relate very well today.

 

Best Song on the Record

"The Outlaw" is one of my favorite songs because of the laid back '70s vibe and how the song describes Jesus. The other favorite might get some weird looks, but I loved "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music." The song is fun and rocking, but also makes the point that Christian music can be great and sound like anything mainstream. Excellence and creativity in Christian music is something that I've talked about on the NRT Now Podcast. And, I believe that Christian music should be leading the way creatively.



For Fans Of 

dc Talk, Larry Norman



Final Word 

One of the things that I believe is true of most mentors is that they wish for their mentees to learn from them and go further. Years after Larry Norman pushed the envelope in Christian music, Kevin Max and dc Talk continued that tradition and helped set the path towards what Christian contemporary music is today. While he added his signature touches, Kevin Max preserved the heart of these songs. He set out to honor his mentor with this album and I truly believe he has.

 




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The joyful and inspirational 'Vol. 1 EP' | Posted November-20-2020
What You Need to Know

In the last three years, since their last album, Manic Drive has spent a lot of time performing at tours, such as Winter Jam and the self-produced One Night Music Circus Tour. This unforeseen pandemic season has taken brothers Shawn and Michael Cavallo off the road and allowed them to dedicate time to new music. This year has brought joyous and tragic life events, some of which the brothers share in Episode 54 of the NRT Now Podcast. All of this is poured into the songwriting and production of their incredible new EP, Vol.1.



What It Sounds Like

While we didn't get the Irish folk fusion that we talked about in the podcast episode, this EP blends sounds from different decades and styles into sounds that are uniquely Manic Drive. This EP splits between the foundation of their signature high-energy pop and melodic ballads. On top of those foundations, they pull in elements from electronic dance music (EDM), the '80s, and the '90s. Each song on this EP shows an attention to detail that highlights the best of each musical influence.

 

Spiritual Highlights

The storytelling in the EP's lyrics paints pictures of spiritual truths. "Pinky Swear" talks about God's love that nothing can stop and makes everything else pale in comparison. "Champion" talks about fighting strong in a fight that's already been won. "Thank God I'm Alive" talks about an appreciation for the life God has given us and peace for those who have gone before us. 

 

Best Song on the Record

This is a toss-up for me. I love the high energy and the dance vibes of "Sugarcoated," but "Thank God I'm Alive" made me pause and start the song over. The Cavallo brothers wrote "Thank God I'm Alive" for their mother who passed away earlier this year. I could hear the emotion in this song. Listening to it was like watching friends walk through a moment of healing. 



For Fans Of 

Family Force 5



Final Word 

One thing I love about Manic Drive is that they have an energy and excitement that shines in their music. In a year that's brought tremendous joy, tremendous sorrow, and unforeseen curveballs to the Cavallo brothers, their joy for life and faith in God shines through this incredible EP. 

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Wake Up Sleeper | Posted September-17-2020
What You Need to Know

I think it's safe to say that Austin French entered the CCM arena in style. His debut single, "Freedom Hymn," peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Top Ten. By the time his freshman album Wide Open was released, he already caught the attention of other CCM Artists like Mandisa, who had asked Austin to perform "Bleed The Same" beside her. In episode 47 of the NRT Now Podcast, Mandisa says: "That man Austin can sing his face off! He is also just the sweetest, kindest, and he is so anointed and so gifted." Austin builds on the success of his freshman project with the release of Wake Up Sleeper EP.



What It Sounds Like

If I had to describe this EP in one word, I would choose anthemic. What do I mean by that? Think of an album you love and then think of that song that pulls you in by the atmosphere and the heart behind it, it's usually about halfway through the album. It's that one that you sing along to with all your heart and takes a minute to snap yourself back to normal afterward. Austin took five songs that do just that and made an outstanding EP. "Perfect Love" adds an upbeat tempo and "Jesus Can" incorporates spoken word without losing any anthemic quality. Hit play and prepare to get lost.

 

Spiritual Highlights

Part of Austin's signature is his passion for sharing Jesus through music. I feel like each song could have it's own devotional. "Wake Up Sleeper" makes a parallel between us waking up from being dead in sin to Jesus waking Lazarus from the tomb. "Rest For Your Soul" emphasizes Matthew 11:28 where Jesus tells all those who are weary and burdened to come to him for rest. "Perfect Love" talks about how we are loved by a perfect love that fills in the gaps where we are not perfect. "Jesus Can" says that no matter our circumstance, Jesus can show up and work in us. "Ooh Child" tells us to not focus on the troubles right in front of us but to look at the hope of the future.

 

Best Song on the Record

"Jesus Can" is my pick best song on this album. This song caught me off guard at the first listen. The spoken word kind of verse is a twist that isn't used very often. It reminded me of a song I haven't thought of in a long time: "Lullaby" by Shawn Mullins, which was big when I was in middle school/high school. Not only did this song trigger a touch of nostalgia, but this song is also a strong reminder that only Jesus can change any story, any circumstance, any situation from one of defeat to one of power.



For Fans Of 

Matthew West, CarroltonRhett Walker



Final Word 

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Austin French, ever since my first interview with him in 2018 before his debut album released. I asked Austin to be my first guest on the NRT Now Podcast, I've taught my daughter to ID his songs by sound, and we try to make it to any shows that are close enough to get to. While I'm constantly amazed by what he does musically, it's the transparency in his songs that resonates with me. With Wake Up Sleeper EP, Austin continues to channel his passion to use his story to tell people about Jesus into a powerful collection of songs. If this EP is any indication of what Austin French's full second album is going to be like, the sophomore slump is not a reality for him. 

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Running Wild | Posted October-26-2019
What You Need To Know

When you listen to Love Running Wild, you hear power, confidence, and joy. When you look at Tasha Layton's story, there are periods where that couldn't be further from the truth. Through a journey that included struggling with self-worth, questions about faith, and dreams that seemed out of reach, the truth of Jesus prevailed. Following God's plans, Tasha stepped away from some of the world's biggest stages and onto a path that has produced Love Running Wild.



What It Sounds Like

This EP is described as pop-synth driven, but I think that doesn't do justice to Tasha's powerful vocals. Tasha was invited to join a team in support of a Rihanna/Ke$ha world tour but ultimately chose to join Katy Perry's team for 4 years. The female pop power vocal influence is apparent in this album and I would put this alongside artists like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato on the mainstream side. I was pleasantly surprised by the sax in "I Belong to You," it was a great '90s throwback while staying fresh.



Spiritual Highlights

If I had to pick a theme from this album, I would say the theme is how we are free and complete when we walk in God's love and grace. Each song takes a piece of this theme, whether it's talking about feeling safe, complete, or feeling like you belong.  



Best Song on the Album 

My pick would have to be "I Belong to You." I think any of these tracks could easily take this, but the sax solo sold it for me.  Well, that's not completely accurate. I love the lyrics that say, "Even at my worst, you gave me your best." This song talks about a God who pursues us despite ourselves.



For Fans Of

Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato



Final Word

Despite periods where it seemed like life was too much and she had doubts about her faith, God's faithfulness showed true for Tasha Layton. Love Running Wild does a great job of speaking truths about God's faithfulness and pursuit of us, even through those periods. I'm excited to see what's in Tasha's future as she continues to walk in God's calling for her.

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Back Again | Posted August-02-2019
What You Need To Know

In 2018, Mac Powell introduced us to the Family Reunion on the Third Day Farewell Reunion Tour and threw Christmas parties around the country celebrating the release of December. When we caught up with Mac in December of 2018, he told us that while the album was available online (and at his shows as well), it would be released through a record company in the summer of 2019. I picked up my copy at the show, and have been eagerly anticipating it's release ever since.



What It Sounds Like

This is a Country Music album through and through. Banjos, steel guitars, spoons–they're all present. Well, maybe not spoons, but it's definitely not Pop-Country. I'm not normally a country kind of guy, but the musicianship of this album is top-notch and makes for a great listen. If I were to compare it to a Country era, I would compare it with the late '90s-early '00s, to me one of the best periods for the genre. On top of that, Mac's voice is still as distinctive and smooth as ever.



Spiritual Highlights 

While this album isn't what we're used to from Third Day albums in terms of straight worship and spiritual lyrics, this album is still full of spiritual content. The album talks a lot about the joy of relationships and family. "Flood Waters" talks about placing faith in God when times get tough. "Red on a Rose" says that God will never let you go, like red on a rose. "Heaven" was co-written with Josh Wilson, and talks about keeping our eyes on Heaven along with singing that we'll be seeing our loved ones again when we get there.



Best Song On The Album

This is a toss-up for me. I love the energy of "Whoo!" and the party that the song is. It's the kind of song that makes you roll your windows down and try to blow out your car speakers when it comes on. On the other hand, I also love "I Can Get Used to This." It's a love song, something that is rare in Christian music - but, I think we could use more songs celebrating romance. It also reminds me of slow dancing in high school (usually an awkward experience for me), but the nostalgia is still awesome.



For Fans Of 

Mallory Hope, Third Day, Mark Lee



Final World

This album takes you straight to the front porch of a Georgia house and puts a sweet tea in your hand. This could easily be the soundtrack to "the good ol' days."





Find Back Again on Spotify or Apple Music


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Nothing Else Matters | Posted February-02-2019
What You Need to Know:

Reach City Worship is a movement based out of Tampa, Florida. The name "Reach City" reflects their desire to reach out to the world and share the love and message of Jesus, reaching beyond generational and denominational barriers. In following their calling to share the hope found in our savior, they have led worship at churches and conferences across the nation, leading alongside artists like Plantetshakers, Colton Dixon, Anthem Lights, and Sidewalk Prophets. Nothing Else Matters was recorded live at the Reach Conference in Tampa, FL.



What It Sounds Like:

This album takes you from wherever you are and puts you in the middle of the conference, right to the best seat in the house. They captured the atmosphere of worship and it speaks just as loud as the lyrics. The instrumentation behind the vocals creates a powerful vehicle for the message of the songs to be delivered. The vocals are clear and polished, while still portraying the passion behind the worship.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The song "Nothing Else Matters" is based on the story of the woman who washed Jesus's feet, found in Luke 7. The story tells of a sinful/immoral woman who found out Jesus was eating at a Pharisee's house. She brought a jar of expensive perfume and knelt behind Jesus, weeping. She washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and rubbed perfume into them. At that moment, nothing else mattered but the presence and forgiveness of Jesus. This is manifested in the lyrics of the chorus: So I will sit at your feet and rest in your peace. Here's where I find you're all that I need and I'll be still and know that you're in control, God. I pour out my love until nothing else matters



Best Song on the Record:

"Never Leave Me" is it for me on this record. This song had me moving and singing every time the chorus came around: "Where you are is where I want to be. I come alive in your freedom. I am yours, you are my victory. With every breath, I'm singing."



For Fans Of:

Planetshakers, Hillsong Young & Free, Jesus Culture



Final Word:

This album transports you to the middle of a worship conference from the moment you hit play. You have no other choice but to raise your hand in worship and worship with the band.

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Planetshakers Christmas | Posted December-22-2018
What You Need to Know:

Planetshakers released Christmas, Vol. 2 just in time for the holidays. This is the fourth EP Planetshakers released this year, and an addition to Vol. 1 released last year.  



What It Sounds Like:

Three of our favorite Christmas carols get the "Planetshakers" treatment with upbeat melodies and vast soundscapes. "O Holy Night" is the closest to the original carol, but they have created an atmosphere where you can get lost in the song. We are also introduced to a Christmas worship song "Light of the World," which has the same upbeat and EDM elements you expect from Planetshakers. If you need a Christmas party and a dance party all wrapped into one box, this EP has you covered.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

In addition to the traditional Christmas carols declaring the birth and the holiness of Jesus, "Light of the World" combines the names used in the declaration of Jesus at his birth (Wonderful, Prince of Peace, Mighty God) with his glory as he returns on that unknown day. The song says that from the start, Jesus is the light that is shining bright, and he always will be. Jesus is the light of the world.



Best Song on the Record:

"O Come All Ye Faithful" is my favorite on this EP.  The bass line is super funky and the whole song sounds like a jam session where the whole band is having fun. 



For Fans Of:

Hillsong Young & FreeElevation Youth, Passion



Final Word:

Christmas, Vol. 2 is a great album to help celebrate the season.  The fresh take on the classic carols will keep this EP a part of Christmas collections in the years to come.

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Wild | Posted November-08-2018
What You Need to Know:

The release of Wild marks the 5th full album released by Bethel this year. It was recorded live at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, where Sean Feucht relocated after officially joining the Bethel Music artist collective in 2016. While Sean has recorded, produced, and released 20 albums to date, Wild is his first album published under Bethel Music. 



What It Sounds Like:

Wild is an album that is devoted wholly to worship. Upbeat songs like "Till the Whole Earth Looks Like Heaven" and "Wild One" have a drive that get you engaged in the song without overpowering the message, while songs like "Still Will I Love," "There Is A Name," and "Spirit and Truth" have the hallmark Bethel sound that brings you straight to a heart of worship. No matter the music behind him, Sean's passionate worship is what makes this album stand out.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Considering this an album that's packed with worship, it's difficult to pick out highlights. I was amazed by how few words Sean used in his lyrics, yet the songs are still impactful. The chorus for "Still Will I Love" is simply, "Still will I love, Still will I love, Still will I love you more." The song "Forever We Worship" is only 13 lines, yet you get lost in a time of worship. 



Best Song on the Record:

"Wild One" wins it for me on this album. The groove of the song grabs you from the start, and the melodies give the song a drive that keeps you excited till the end. Also, it's a reminder that while our God is a god of mercy and peace, there is a wildness in Him that will never be tamed.



For Fans Of:

Bethel Music, Steffany Gretzinger, Cory Asbury 



Final Word:

Sean's passion for worship is very evident in this album, and it's contageousWild is an album that will get you lost in worship by the second track.  





Buy Wild on Apple Music or stream in on Spotify.


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Heaven on Earth EP Trilogy Complete | Posted November-02-2018


What You Need to Know:

Planetshakers recorded Heaven on Earth at the Planetshakers Kingdom Conference this past April, as well as at regional conferences in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Planetshakers released the third part in the Heaven on Earth EP trilogy in parallel with the full album, and Heaven on Earth, Pt. 3 introduces the last 5 songs included in the digital album version.



What It Sounds Like:

Planetshakers continues to do what they do best: high-energy worship with an EDM element. In addition to the title track, this EP includes a remix of "Through It All," as well as an EDM remix of their classic "Nothing is Impossible." In addition to high-energy worship, Planetshakers devote two songs on this EP to reverent worship.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

In the press release for the full album, Planetshakers Senior Worship Leader Sam Evans says: “Whenever someone thinks of heaven, they are filled with visions of the most perfect world. Not only is heaven a destination that all Christians are looking forward to, but Jesus encouraged us to pray for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. It is our passion and desire that your faith, prayers and expectation be stirred to join with ours as we sing this song together – ‘Heaven On Earth!’ Let our hearts be stirred once again to believe God and that this world would see the true manifestation of God's kingdom through His people and His church everywhere.”



Best Song on the Record:

"Overcome It All" wins it for me on this album. The message of the song is powerful, and the melody stays on your mind long after the song is over. I'm also loving the EDM remix of "Nothing Is Impossible." 



For Fans Of:

Hillsong Young & FreeElevation Youth, Passion



Final Word:

"Heaven On Earth, Pt. 3" completes the trilogy of EPs leading up to the release of the full album, and it closes on a strong note with an album worth waiting for.





Buy Heaven On Earth Pt. 3 on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.


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The Elements of a Great Album | Posted October-26-2018

What You Need to Know:

On the Jesus Freak Cruise in 2017, TobyMac opened up about the season he went through after dcTalk announced their intermission. He wasn't sure if he was going to continue his career as a recording artist until he was approached to write the song "Extreme Days" for the movie with the same title. That song started the journey to the 2001 Momentum album.  



Fast forward to 2018, and the Momentum album title has become prophetic. In the years since the album's release, TobyMac has been one of the biggest names in Christian Music. He has won numerous awards, and six of his studio albums have been RIAA gold certified. In October, TobyMac released his much-anticipated eigth studio album, The Elements

 

What it Sounds Like:

While TobyMac has his own signature style, every TobyMac album has a fresh sound, and The Elements is no exception. In addition to the high-energy anthems you would expect, TobyMac has infused a blend of dance, soul, and hip-hop into this record.



The title track leads off the album with a strong rock/hip-hop hybrid anthem. The songs "I just need U.," "Everything," and "Edge of My Seat" are exactly what you would expect from a TobyMac album: high-energy dance grooves that get you on your feet and moving. Songs like "Scars," "Starts With Me," and "It's You" change it up with bit of soul over hip-hop beats.  

 

Spiritual Highlights:

I picked out two strong themes from this album - a deep reliance on God and overcoming the past for a strong future. Through several of the songs, TobyMac preaches that whether we're up or we're down, we need God. When we put our lives and our sitations in God's hands, everything falls in line; when we keep our eyes on God, we see Him in everything around us and life is brighter.



TobyMac also reminds us that no matter where we came from or what we've done, there's a better day on the horizon with Christ. You're not the only one who's been where you are. You are no more loved by God just because you have scars, because we all have scars. It's part of living.





Best Song on the Record:

I'm going off of the beaten path and choosing "Starts with Me" as the best song on the record. I'm loving the smooth groove and the collaboration with Aaron Cole, and the message of the song resonates with me. It doesn't matter how you were raised or what circumstances are around you, change starts from within you. Whether it's breaking a cycle of addiction or unhealthy family traditions, you hold the keys to setting yourself free.



For Fans Of:

Aaron Cole, Newsboys



Final Word:

This is another solid album from TobyMac. After eight studio albums, he is showing no signs of slowing down and is continuing to raise the bar for Christian music. His faith in God is on full display with this album and it's contagious.



Buy it on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.




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