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Rewriting Boundaries
Posted May 03, 2015
By CaitlinLassiter_NRT, Staff Reviewer


At first listen, you'll realize Vice & Virtue isn't your typical CCM album. But then again, Jimmy Needham isn't your typical CCM artist.
 
The masterful pen behind "Clear The Stage" has been pushing the boundaries in music for over a decade now, letting his soulful voice and pop-driven melodies mesh with hard-hitting lyrics to make him one of the most unique talents in the business today.
 
With an unmistakable style all its own that won't be easily imitated, Vice & Virtue stands out as Jimmy's most creative effort yet, producing new sounds and trying different techniques that set this album apart from all his previous releases.
 
The title track, which Jimmy calls the "most offensive" song he's ever written, presents the album's constant theme of relationship over religion with the honest lyrics "which is good and which is bad / crystal meth or a gospel tract / if it's done for me and not for You / there's vice in all my virtue."
 
Tracks such as "Thank You" and "Momma Didn't Raise No Fool" prove why Needham is such a talent, showing off his effortlessly smooth vocals and writing style. "All We Need Is Need" shines as one of the more mellow additions here alongside a jazzed-up remake of the Randy Travis classic "Forever And Ever Amen," where Jimmy adds his personal spin on an old country hit.
 
"Sirens" comes to life with beautifully haunting opening vocals, leading up to a few songs written for his wife: "Only You," which puts Jimmy's incredible falsetto on display, and "Better Man," which tells a story of how marriage has changed him for the better.
 
"Mr. Nice Guy" and "Jekyll & Hyde" tackle the tricky subject of taking off the masks we hide behind to be who we really are. Closing out a truly great album, "The Story (A Spoken Word)" packs one last punch with more quotable lyrics than I could possibly fit in this review, with one of the best lines being found towards the end: "are you shocked by the consequence of sin? Be more shocked at the mercy of Him."
 
Closing Thoughts:
Let's revisit my beginning statement: at first listen, you'll realize Vice & Virtue isn't your typical CCM album. Admittedly, I wasn't sold at first on the new direction this project headed towards. But as is true with most of my favorite albums, it quickly grew on me, and once I finally got into it I was hooked. Shortly into my second listen I realized how great of a talent this record represents, outstanding in the both the creativity behind the new sounds and the process of writing all new lyrics that provoke such necessary conversations about Christ and the mess of religion. 
 
Vice & Virtue isn't the norm for Christian music, but that proves to be a very good thing here. As long as Jimmy Needham keeps pushing boundaries and creating projects as genius as this, I'm sure we'll all keep listening.
 
Song To Download Now:
"Vice & Virtue" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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