Music Reviews

It's About Time - The Chris McDonald Jazz Orchestra

It's About Time - The Chris McDonald Jazz Orchestra
It's About Time - The Chris McDonald Jazz Orchestra
McDonald’s compositions are wonderfully structured and infectiously melodic, giving the players some substantial musical territory to explore...  

Focus 12

Focus
Focus 12
Focus is back with two original members, new signature songs, and a fresh, energetic vibe….

CeCe Winans - More Than This

CeCe Winans
…like a Sunday morning worship service if your church worship team could really cook, and happened to have an amazing female singer up-front.

Katy Nichole

Self-Titled
Nichole, Katy - Self-titled EP
Not since Lauren Daigle’s debut have I been as excited by a first recording. The root word for excite means “to move, stir up, instigate” and that’s how I feel, especially after listening to two of the songs on this six song self-titled EP. Nichole’s testimonies of God’s power to set free move and stir me.

Land of the Living

Jason Gray
Gray, Jason - Land of the Living
On Land of the Living Jason Gray makes honest self-disclosures characterized by wit and whimsy. Gray’s vulnerable lyrics remind me of people like Rich Mullins, Andrew Peterson and Carolyn Arends. For those not familiar with him, this is a fine introduction to an artist who continues to refine his craft. Even so, I don’t think one can make mistake by choosing anything in his catalog. He stood out right from the start.

Steadfast Love

Grace Worship
Grace Worship - Steadfast Love
Five of six songs on Steadfast Love by Grace Worship feature a male lead and the style of the vocalists coupled with the sound of the band remind me a little of Josh Groban or Steve Green. It does get more adventuresome in places as I hear Celtic rock in the hook on “Hallelujah! Who Shall Part” and strong lead guitar work under-girding the opening title track.

Arise

Glass Hammer
Arise - Glass Hammer
Expect the unexpected from Glass Hammer’s latest project. Even though I think a review of much of their recent work could start out with that same sentence, the brand’s new musical journey, Arise, might actually be the album to finally shatter the mold. The word ‘brand’ was not a typo since Glass Hammer has now become more of a concept than what we might think of as a conventional rock or prog band, with the prolific Steve Babb now becoming the hub around which all things Glass Hammer swirl and function. Up until now it could be said that Babb and fellow musician Fred Schendel formed the creative nucleus of virtually all Glass Hammer projects, but on Arise Schendel is credited as a contributor rather than co-creator, and that only on one song (“Rift at WASP-12”). The result is a hard rocking prog epic with a science/fantasy theme and spiritual overtones – a technical quest for truth and purpose that in many ways creates a flip-side to Babb’s barbarous and mystical quest in his Skallagrim tale.

The Cycle Undone

The Twenty Committee
The Cycle Undone
Some ten years after their fine debut album (A Lifeblood Psalm), The Twenty Committee returns with The Cycle Undone, an impressive and totally immersive musical experience that comes as an unexpected Christmas present for progressive rock fans everywhere. The music manages to sound big and symphonic without sounding pretentious. The playing is impeccable and elegant but manages to keep one foot planted quite viscerally on the ground. The solo vocals are passionate and the back-up and harmonies are intricate and precise without losing the human touch. Lyrically, the songs evoke mystery but inspire at the same time, poetically weaving phrases that imply deeper meanings worth seeking out.