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The Altar and the Door by Casting Crowns The Altar and the Door by Casting Crowns
The song, "East to the West" is just great Casting Crowns. Slow build up, powerful conclusion, great lyrics, and inspiring music. The rest, I'm afraid, is not as great. 'What This World Needs,'...
Five Score and Seven Years Ago by Relient K Five Score and Seven Years Ago by Relient K
Relient K's latest album 'Five Score and Seven Years Ago' is easily Relient K's best. Relient K has become a complete band; no longer are they confined to silly songs like 'Hoopes...
Lifesong by Casting Crowns Lifesong by Casting Crowns
Well, you will receive far less of my ramblings on this album than I gave on the last; I got my spiel out, so need to repeat. Let me start by saying this: 'Lifesong' is, of all...

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Casting Crowns Hits a Bump In the Road | Posted August-28-2007
The song, "East to the West" is just great Casting Crowns. Slow build up, powerful conclusion, great lyrics, and inspiring music. The rest, I'm afraid, is not as great.

'What This World Needs,' while being one of CC's rockier songs, is lacking in the thrust that the other rockers had. It feels watered down and forced, and gets tiring. 'Every Man' is not pleasing to the ear, and has a very basic concept that is unlike CC's past convicting songs. 'Slow Fade,' though, is one of the album's highlights, and possibly their next single; it warns of how people do not fall in a day, they slowly fade, and its certainly aimed to show what pornography can do...the whole thing about little feet following, little eyes seeing, and Mark Hall's daughter's sweet singing try to impress that when you go down, you take others (more specifically, the children) along with you.

'The Word Is Alive' is a nice song, but rather dull. 'The Altar and the Door' has a great chorus, with Mark Hall's vocals reaching their highest point yet. 'Somewhere in the Middle', possibly a single also, is the last good song. 'I Know You're There', and 'Prayer for a Friend' are both strangely dull and emotionless. 'All Because of Jesus', you would think, would either be a great, soft closer, or a rousing finale...it is neither. It just fades into the dull, unimaginative mix that is the rest of this CD.

This album, if you are a CC fan, is still worth the money, but if you are not, go buy 'Lifesong' instead. There are much better songs on that album. Casting Crowns just seems to have lost a lot their vigor, passion, and earnestness here. Nothing like 'Praise You In the Storm,' 'Set Me Free,' or 'Who Am I?' But I'm hoping this is simply a bump in the road, and that Casting Crowns will rebound with another powerful set of songs. Until then, you can enjoy the few good songs on this album.

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Relient K Has Done Something Right | Posted August-24-2007
Relient K's latest album 'Five Score and Seven Years Ago' is easily Relient K's best. Relient K has become a complete band; no longer are they confined to silly songs like 'Hoopes I Did It Again', 'Mood Rings', or 'Sadie Hawkins Dance.' Now, they can play those songs, but also get in some serious ones, with the same passion as they have for the sillier songs. Of course, they had some serious songs before, namely 'Getting Into You', but since it was caught between so much frantic and crazy punk, they were almost afterthoughts.

What's most startling is the lack of well, punk, on this album. Only two songs qualify for complete punk, those being 'Come Right Out and Say It' and 'I'm Taking You With Me,' possibly the two weakest songs on the record; which does not really mean they're that bad. The other songs are pop done to the absolute best, such as 'Must Have Done Something Right,' 'The Best Thing,' and the expansive, even somewhat epic 'Up and Up.' Relient K also shows it more aggressive side with the intense rocker 'I Need You' (arguably Relient K's hardest song) and the infectious 'Devastation and Reform.'

Relient K also has more middle ground songs for the Christian radio like the excellent 'Forgiven' and the beautiful 'Give Until There's Nothing Left.' Relient K shows they have balance, skill, and great talent. No longer is the thinking, touching songs afterthoughts, they are everywhere, mixed in with the fun, the hard, and the silly.

Speaking of silly, don't worry, Relient K hasn't completely grown up (thankfully). The opening song, 'Plead the Fifth' is as unique as it is laughably cool. And the song 'Crayons Can Melt On Us For All We Care' is only a little more silly then its random song title (but far, far, shorter).

But this brings us to the last song; the pinnacle in my opinion. Its' almost as if Relient K takes all that they've done and brought into one, perfect, masterpiece of a song. The eleven minute 'Deathbed' is unbelievable. Its epic, its hilarious, its tear jerking, its descriptive, its catchy, and most of all, powerful. The song, chronicling an old man's life, from birth to death, is Relient K's finest. The conclusion, which includes Jon Foreman (from a little band called 'Switchfoot') as the voice of Jesus just leaves you still and quiet. You're blown away. Relient K didn't take the easy route of making a 'mom song' and just making it all sentimental, or making it foolishly cool. They just make it perfect. Just perfect. Relient K is proving they are masterful artists...and they just keep giving, giving, giving...and if this album is any indication, it seems they have a lot of left to give.

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Simply Powerful | Posted August-22-2007
Well, you will receive far less of my ramblings on this album than I gave on the last; I got my spiel out, so need to repeat.

Let me start by saying this: 'Lifesong' is, of all things, powerful. Yes, you can argue that the music is little less than inventive, or that some of the themes are so often heard, your three year old could make one. But you can't deny that Mark Hall has a way of giving you goose pumps with his powerful voice. The first song, and probably my favorite is 'Lifesong,' and to me, when Mark Hall earnestly sings out the second line of the chorus, I'm blown away. He's crying passionately to God, and it gives you chills to hear the honesty. Despite the overused 'hallelujah' bridge, and the explicit U2 intro, that song gets me right here : ).

'Praise You in the Storm' is, if you haven't noticed by now, the most popular Christian radio song of the decade. It's a great song, and I love the end, where the piano and guitar sound so cool in the finale. 'Does Anybody Hear Her' displays some of Mark Hall's past goal; challenging the Church. The lyrics are exceptional: 'Judgment looms under every steeple/with lofty glances from lofty people/ can't see past her scarlet letter/ and they've never even met her.' 'Stained Glass Masquerade' is another Church-challenging song that has Nichole Nordemen in it (strange, since Casting Crowns apparently isn't lacking in good female singers). On this album, in contrast to the last, the girl singers appear far less, and when they do, its only as a background singer (save the song 'In Me' which is a little disappointing, since they add variety to the mix.

The heart tugging, tear jerking 'Love Them Like Jesus' is a favorite of mine on the album (yes, I admit it). Despite the fact that it's a 'Mom song' its still very powerful with a powerful message. But, far better is the following track. Casting Crowns proves what it can do with music with their dark rocker 'Set Me Free.' The hopelessness etched in Mark Hall's lyrics and vocals are surprising, considering the past quieter songs, and when he gets to the powerful chorus line ('Set Me Free!'), you get hyped up. A great narration of a demon possessed man in captivity who is freed by Jesus. 'And as the God-man passes by/ He looks straight through my eyes/ the darkness can not hide...Do you want to be free?' Just great. And, my third favorite, after 'Lifesong' and 'Set Me Free' is the unique 'While You Were Sleeping.' In it, Hall sings about how Bethlehem and Jerusalem were caught sleeping when the Savior did great things (was born/died and rose to life). Sounds nice and jolly, but when the next line comes in, I got chills:
'United States of America, looks like another silent night...' The way he sings it, so honestly, is almost disturbing. He then goes on to say 'as we're sung to sleep by philosophies/ that saves the trees and kill the children/ and as we're lying in the dark/there's a shout heard cross the eastern sky...'). Excellent lyrics.

As fellow reviewers have said, the second half of Casting Crowns albums leave something to be desired. Formulaic and 'only nice' songs fill the void between 'While You Were Sleeping' and the great closer 'And Now My Lifesong Sings.' While Casting Crowns doesn't make spectacular improvement from their last album, I can say for sure that despite their criticism for being unimaginative and repeat all their songs, I will definitely buy their next album. Actually, my family has already pre-ordered it : )

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A Review or My Ramblings on the Current State of Christian Music | Posted August-17-2007
Casting Crowns is an interesting band. They are probably the number one Christian band right now, and their music is killing the airwaves (come on, tell me the truth, you're getting tired, just slightly, of hearing 'Praise You In the Storm' aren't you?). With that said, the lead singer, Mark Hall, has said he doesn't really try to make great music, or art, but simply try to get a message across, and music is just a way he can get it out. I'll discuss this at the end of the review.

Putting all biases aside, I'll try to review this album. 'What If His People Prayed' was, what I had previously thought, what Casting Crowns really sounded like. A nice rocker with very convicting lyrics to the Church. When you hear the following song, 'If We Are the Body', you begin to think that maybe, just maybe, Casting Crowns has something they like singing about; the Church namely. The oft heard, 'Voice of Truth' and 'Who Am I' are great songs. Mark Hall's voice is extremely passionate, and where other artists would have made some of these songs, such as 'Who Am I' sound like a dainty, quaint, little humility ballad, Mark Hall's earnestness lifts them up to something really powerful. If not for his earnestness, Casting Crowns would have been forgotten by now, believe me.

Casting Crowns' heaviest rocker, 'American Dream' is very catchy and has a great message. After another convicting ballad, 'Here I Go Again', about how we waste our opportunities to share the love of Christ with the lost, the album closes out Casting Crown's stepping-on-your-toes part of the album. The rest is unabashed worship to God, starting with 'Praise You With the Dance' and ending with 'Your Love is Extravagant.' All of these are great worship songs, with 'Praise You With the Dance' and 'God of the Nations' coming out as my favorites.

Casting Crowns lyrics are some of, if not the best in modern Christian music. Not even Chris Tomlin's lyrics are as good, namely because they don't carry as much weight or earnestness as Mark Hall's. Musically though, Casting Crowns fits the bill as the average Christian adult-contemporary band. Is that bad? Not necessarily. They are definitely the best at it, with some great piano, excellent female backup vocalists, and occasionally, some nice rock guitar. But this brings up my opinion on Mark Hall's statements concerning his music.

While I do believe the message is vital, I think the great fault of the Christian music market is thinking that music is just a shiny gift wrap placed over a message. Looks nice, but in the end, is thrown away to get the message. I, personally, find this insulting to how God made music. God made it wonderful, beautiful, and awesome; something that was marvelous. To me, someone saying that I'll just use music as a way to get a message across is like saying I'll make a book, and it doesn't matter how good it's written, but it'll be a way to get the message across. Here's something to think over:
'And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.' - Colossians 3: 17 (NIV).

Now, if you're going to make music in Christ's name, wouldn't it be good to make it excellent, as best as you possibly can? Funny, but if you think that that verse doesn't connect with music, look at the verse right before it:
'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.'

My point is, music is something awesome that God has endowed us with. To say it is nothing more than something to get a message across is wasting it. If God made music, He will be glorified in someone seeking to create excellent music in His name. In summary, music is just as important as the lyrics; both will affect you in different ways, and both are just as powerful. God Himself loves music; eternally He listens to angels singing 'Holy is the Lord God Almighty' it says. I have a feeling the angels don't say 'these are good words, so now let's throw a nice piano riff, a few good chords, and a pretty sounding singer along with and we'll be set.' When you sing for Christ, you give Him your best.

Which is my point; should not Christians be the ones leading the world into new areas of musical excellence? I mean, we're not making music for man...but for God. Anyways, those are just my thoughts.
And by the way, Casting Crowns is a great band.

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Kutless Continues to Improve | Posted August-16-2007
Finally, an album that sounds like Kutless. Before, the only way to tell Kutless was singing a song was by the guy's voice. Each of their albums was totally different. I'm happy to say they've seemed to settle on style that suits them perfectly.

The intro riff marks a turning for Kutless. They are actually creating a riff that doesn't consist mainly of power chords! That's a pleasant touch. It also marks Kutless' first solo, which has a tacky 80's feel, but is still very welcome, as it shows Kutless does have more skill than just playing power chords.

Not that they aren't bad when it comes to power chords; the hard rockin', very catchy, 'Shut Me Out', which challenges us to declare our faith in Christ, though the enemy may try to 'shut us out', is very power-chordy, as is the notably darker 'Beyond the Surface,' which deals with self-image and cutting. 'Winds of Change' is a great, rocker, as is the fast paced, 'Somewhere in the Sky.' Even though this album has some of Kutless' hardest songs, it has the most ballads for any of their albums (save the Strong Tower album). The catchy, poppy, and unique 'Smile' is very un-Kutless, but, like the rest of this album, is a breath of fresh air; Kutless isn't afraid to mix things up, which is great. The brit-pop sound of 'Changing World' is fine, but the melancholy, though touching 'Mistakes' handles the softer sound excellently, as Jon tells his son, 'There's so much I could say/ There's so much that I've learned/ Don't make my mistakes/There's no time to delay/Take my hand and learn from my heartache.' But, most certainly, the best of the softer set is 'Promise of a Lifetime,' a powerful Kutless ballad that equals all its former rock ballads with its powerful lyrics and soaring, catchy choruses.

But Kutless hasn't gone soft in case you were wondering. 'Push Me Away', a song about drowning our pride, is a nice rocker that has some keyboard laced through the verses, but Kutless' best rockers come flying in hard at the end. The simple, yet delectably hard 'Million Dollar Man', with its sweet intro, catchy chorus, and intense scream (something I'd prefer Kutless go without) makes this song one of Kutless' best heavier feats. But this might even be outdone by the following song and the album closer, 'Legacy', with its insanely fast intro riff, hyper catchy chorus, and hard rockin' closing riff. Kutless ends with a bang on this album.

Although this is not my favorite Kutless album (Sea of Faces remains my personal favorite; mostly because of 'Treason'), it is clear that Kutless is taking promising new steps; they're not staying put, which is a relief. Their lyrics remain spot on, their skills are growing, and the future looks bright. Anticipating their next album greatly.

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Excellent Rocking Worship | Posted August-16-2007
Kutless' has a variety of styles to say the least. First, they were total grunge rock, next, they were total hard rock, now they are total normal rock. There's no signs of the grunginess or heaviness of their past albums on this. But, like their last album proved, it is still marvelously good.

The first song 'We Fall Down' opens with a bristling riff, leading to the powerful 'We Cry Holy' chorus. The more upbeat 'Finding Who We Are' is nice, fast paced worshiper. One of the best songs on the album is the third, the intriguing 'Take Me In' which features a great intro riff and great Old Testament descriptions.

'Ready For You', my favorite song on the album, is a heart felt cry to God to come near, as the man implores, 'I am ready for You; take my heart and make me new now.' This is followed by the catchy 'Draw Me Close' and its energetic guitars. The slower rockers, 'All Who Are Thirsty' and 'Better Is One Day' are both great songs. The albums' best rocker is, of course, 'Strong Tower', which has some driving electric guitars to back up Jon's powerful vocals.

The beautifully done 'Jesus, Lord of Heaven' moves from beautiful acoustics in the verse to roaring electrics in the chorus to make for an excellent song. 'I Lift My Eyes Up' is all of my friends' favorite song, but it seems a little too repetitive for me. The former MercyMe song 'Word of God Speak' is done even better than the original here, and the album closes with the strings soaked 'Arms of Love' which sounds a lot like 'Grace and Love' - that's a good thing.

Excellent worship. I recommend it to everyone.

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Great Debut | Posted August-16-2007
Nevertheless' debut album, 'Live Like We're Alive' is a great start from a new band, and demonstrates some happily welcomed creativity.

The single, 'The Real', which you've probably heard, is a very cool song to start the album off. The song 'Live Like We're Alive' has a very neat intro riff and 'Time' has a catchy chorus: 'Time/ Yeah, we've needed more time/But all we've ever had is time/ so now this is the last time/ but I'll be fine.'

Nevertheless goes beyond average rock tunes though with the song 'Lover' which is an epic song that describes us as the shameful adulterer in a relationship with Christ, but His awesome love that still holds onto us 'like a wedding band.' The song seems like it's your average ballad up to the bridge where a great solo kicks in, and the last chorus, where the electric guitar plays a cool riff throughout.

'Losing Innocence', about not compromising, is the catchiest song, with its infectious 'Whoa-oh!' chorus. The hard rocking 'Perfect Chemistry' is a great song about a man's worries about marrying a girl, because he's not sure he's her 'Perfect Chemistry.' He concludes though, that if he can just love her like Jesus does, it will all work out in the end. 'Let It Fall' and 'It's Me' are decent songs. 'Patience and Devotion' is, to me, a downer. The closer, 'O' Child' is one of the best songs on the album though - it's bridge has the coolest background vocals I've heard in a while.

Nevertheless' debut, while not the best album out there, will satisfy your desires for some new, great, rock songs. They have a bright future, and I hope they capitalize on their creativity and make something excellent next time around.

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A Beautiful and Odd Collision | Posted August-16-2007
David Crowder*Band's newest full album is aptly titled. Not only are the subjects in his album all about a collision between 'divinity' and 'depravity', but the styles of music are so varied, different, and unique, that this album appears to be a collision of styles; both beautiful and odd.

The album has four sections, each strange and unique. The first thing the album does is let you know David Crowder is back with his wacky imagination. The first song is a quick, fuzzy recording of the chorus of a song called 'Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But No One Wants to Die.' Odd for sure. And David breaks normal album etiquette by following this strange opener with a decidedly slow, worshipful, piano song - the type of song artists usually place at the end of albums. But after these two tracks, more normal Crowder fare comes in, including the three radio hits, 'Here Is Our King', 'Wholly Yours', and 'Foreverandever etc.'

Then the collision begins. Following these songs is the very quick violin track '(A Quiet Interlude)' which leads into the second part of the album which includes title track, 'A Beautiful Collision', which I thought was very well written and catchy. But then David Crowder goes a completely different route. 'Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of This World' is strange indeed; the beginning reminds me of something from 'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.' 'Be Lifted or Hope Rising' is strange also. 'I Saw the Light,' is completely and totally, boot stompin' bluegrass. David's voice proves its versatility as it sounds exactly like a bluegrass singer. The ending to the song is so strange and weird it had me replaying it over and over again, and got many laughs from my family. And, to add to the strangeness, 'O God Where Art Thou?' is very melancholy and Psalm-like, despite the 'dah dah dah dah' chorus.

After '(B Quiet Interlude)' the best part of the album comes along. It starts with the weirdest track on the CD, 'Do Not Move' which has an infectious techno opening and I thought the bridge was really cool with its piano. 'Come Awake', my favorite song, demonstrates some excellent lyrics: 'Come awake/ from sleep arise/you were dead/become alive/wake up, wake up/ open your eyes/ climb from your gave/into the light.' And then comes 'You Are My Joy' with its hard opening and ascending chorus that somehow seems to inspire joy just by hearing it. 'Our Happy Home' a 16th century hymn, is redone Crowder style and is very strange (what's new), with an Egyptian tinge.

The 10 second (Repeat/Return), which is just distorted feedback from an electric guitar signals the last part of the album. 'We Win!' is a dance/rock song that is nice, but the following track 'Rescue Is Coming (Be Walk Down Stairs)' is better, with its great songwriting and catchy, powerful, chorus. 'A Conversation' is as it says...a conversation between David and a reporter than leads into the final song, 'The Lark Ascending' (the song is half a conversation).

Somehow the album feels like something massive and epic, and you start getting goose bumps at the end when the phone conversation turns to the subject of the last song on the album, which in turn is slowly rising in volume as they speak. Even with all of this though, I still felt like I was missing something from it all...sort of like I needed David Crowder to explain to me the last song, like he was explaining to the reporter across the phone in 'A Conversation.' Nevertheless, this is a solid album; the vast number of varied songs guarantees you'll find something in here you'll like.

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The Best Worship CD Out There | Posted August-02-2007
'Leeland' is the best worship CD out there, hands down - even beating 'Strong Tower' which is saying a lot for me.

The thing that makes this album so great is the earnestness in Leeland Mooring's passioante voice. He's not singing for fame, money, or to sound cool...he means it when he sings to God. The other thing that makes this album great is unique sound (to the Christian market at least). Clean electric guitars mixed with bright piano to create a lush sound that suits Leeland's voice perfectly.

The album opener, 'Sound of Melodies' is a stirring song, with a very catchy, meaningful chorus, and excellent lyrics: 'We who are called to be your people/struggling sinners and thieves/we're lifted up from the ashes/and out came the song of the redeemed'. The song 'Reaching' perfectly describes his desire for more of God, and the radio hit, 'Yes You Have' is a superb worship song.

Leeland gets stronger yet with thier song 'Tears of the Saints', which laments the prodigal sons (or the majority of the American youth) in this nation. It ends with a stirring call to belivers to take a stand in God, and for the lost to repent and to 'reach out their hand' to be healed.

'Beautiful Lord' is a fitting beautiful song, and Leeland gets giddy in songs like 'Hey', 'Lift Your Eyes', and 'Can't Stop'. The album closer, 'Carried to the Table' is magnificent to say the least.

If you're tired of worship music that sounds like your baby sister made, look no further than Leeland's stunning debut.

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Generic Defined | Posted August-02-2007
The title of Building 429's new CD, 'Space in Between Us', is sort of what I would like to take place between me and the CD. Lots of space.

First, the good news. 'Glory Defined' and 'No One Else Knows' are good songs. Now the bad news. Every other song isn't. The thing is, there's no really bad song, and no specific downpoint. It's all decent music with decent lyrics. Add it up, and somehow you end up with a very generic album. It lokos they tried to copy every artist possible and ended up sounding like an uneasy mixture of them all.

'Glory Defined' might be a nice rocky song you'd like to buy on iTunes, but don't waste your money on the rest; they play 'No One Else Knows' on the radio a few times a month, so need to go spend 99 cents on it, right?

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