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True Vibe
Artist: True Vibe
Label: Essential Records
Length: 9 tracks/31:35 minutes

To the uninitiated ear, True Vibe could be mistaken for fellow boy band Plus One. Both bands sing and dance in the pop style of their mainstream counterparts 'NSYNC, 98 Degrees, and the Backstreet Boys. Both have strong appeal to the youth market, especially for teenage girls. But there are some differences. True Vibe has four members, one of which is Jonathan Lippman, who founded 98 Degrees (the other group has the same number plus one). Lippman is joined by Nathan Gaddis, Jordan Roe, and Jason Bartman. True Vibe is also distinguished by more solid lyrical content and backing by Christian powerhouse label Essential Records.

High points on the True Vibe CD are tight harmonies and slick production values, applied to overtly Christian lyrics that are neither too shallow nor too deep for the intended audience. "Now and Forever" opens the disc with a made-for-radio tune that sets the tone for the project with a big beat, a big hook and big harmonies. It is immediately followed by "Jump, Jump, Jump" and its staccato, almost jerky rhythms. Changing gears on the fourth track, "Sweet Jesus" is another high point on the album, which creates a worshipful atmosphere with lush harmony and lovely lyrics. This is a track worth programming your CD player to repeat. More tracks like this one would be welcome, as boy bands are not known for worship tunes.

There are very few mediocre tracks, and with only nine songs (total time just over 30 minutes) on the abbreviated album there isn't room for a misstep. True Vibe closes with a wonderful a cappella number called "I Live For You" that showcases the young men's vocal talent and leaves the listener on a high note.

Fans of boy bands will enjoy this new entry into the fray, although there is little added to the formula that has worked so well for the other groups in the genre.  Half of the package is the image, and True Vibe fits its role to a "T." Compared to Plus One, the music is similar (True Vibe's "You Found Me" sounds just like Plus One's "Soul Tattoo"); the feel is comparable, and the look is identical, but the Gospel message is more direct.

Strong production married to multi-part vocals makes for a powerful combination on True Vibe's debut disc. With its hoppin' stage show and photogenic troop, look for True Vibe to grab headlines in the CCM realm.

Zik Jackson
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