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January 2002 Pick of the Month 

Wonderfully Made
Artist: The Waiting
Tracks/ Time: 10 Tracks, 36:50
Label: Inpop records

Whenever I listen to music, it usually affects me in some way. Whether it's a lyric or a melody, I usually have something stuck in my head after listening to an album. Strangely enough, however, The Waiting's new album, Wonderfully Made, left me with nothing. I could not remember a single chorus or even a song title after listening to it for the first time.

Fusing rootsy rock with Newsboys-esque pop, The Waiting has created an album that should be fun and somewhat unique. Unfortunately, the band fails in both of these areas. Wonderfully Made does not boast particularly smooth musicianship or catchy tunes, nor does it stand out from the crowd in any way. The Waiting's sound, which relies heavily on synthesizers, sounds far too much like generic pop/rock throughout much of the record. Brad Olsen's vocals do sound passionate, at times, but sadly, his voice is not strong enough to carry the songs.

The sonic aspect of Wonderfully Made may be fairly bland, but the lyrics are not all bad. In fact, the title track and "Diamonds to Dust" are two of the most profound songs to come out of the Christian music industry all year. "Wonderfully Made" finds Brad Olsen forgetting about the standards of the world and declaring himself to be "fearfully, wonderfully made", while "Diamonds to Dust" focuses on materialism. Four of the ten songs on the album were co-written by Third Day's own Mac Powell. Interestingly enough, the album's weakest link, the silly, cliche-heavy "The Rest of the World", is one of the Powell collaborations. Other than that one song, however, the lyrics on the album are solid. It's a shame they were not delivered a little better.

Is Wonderfully Made a terrible album? Not at all. Just a little dull. While none of the songs are particularly memorable, fans of The Waiting or other Christian pop/rock bands will certainly begin to enjoy this album after a few listens.

Josh Hurst  11/23/2001

There is a little bit of something for everyone here.  While most of the songs are better produced with the likes of Bryan Lenox, the Waiting doesn't leave their traditional roots until the last songs on the project.

Die hard fans are going to hear reminiscent sounds from Unfazed, while newer listeners will hear a different side of the band.  Some of the traditional, overtly predictable songs are the cliché friendly "Wonderfully Made," which kicks off the albums with an upbeat memorable tune, "Diamonds to Dust," and "A Lot of Love."  These tunes give a new sound to the Waiting signature sound.  Another favorite is "Every Word" a vertical praise song that has potential written all over it. 

The songs remain fairly standard for "The Waiting" protocol until the latter part of the CD. The turning point for the record is "Sleepless" which is one of the better tunes with a U2 kind of vibe that should become a signature song for the band.

The last song on the album entitled "A Thousand Years (Is Not Enough)" couldn't be a better pick.  The song has an unusual meter and a great beat which leaves the listener wanting more. 

John Wehrle  11/23/2001

Brad Olsen’s thick vocal stylings (think Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies but an octave higher) continue to set The Waiting apart from other straight-ahead contemporary Christian rock fare.  But that’s the only reason I find this album interesting.  All the songs seem to run together, same beat, same style.

I haven’t heard anything particularly groundbreaking from The Waiting since “Hands in the Air,” one of the best worshipful songs ever, on their self-titled album.  Their lyrics quote liberally from scripture, a positive or negative depending on what you look for in music, and their sound is, well, pretty straight-ahead, again with the notable exception of Olsen’s vox.

I prefer music I can sit down and actively listen to.  This doesn’t do it.  But The Waiting continues to provide great background music for a brighter day.  You can pop it in, do the chores and far from being annoyed (as is the reaction I get from most CCM), you’ll get a good cheering up.  So if that’s what you’re looking for, The Waiting is a great band to check out.  But they’ve made albums more wonderful than this.

Dan Singleton 12/18/01

The Waiting's first nationally available album, Blue Belly Sky, produced by Gene Eugene was a rare gem of clever songwriting and catchy guitar-pop. Under the production talents of Steve Hindalong, their second album, The Waiting, was better again, with a more polished sound, and some great lyrics.  However, many fans were somewhat disappointed with Unfazed. While perhaps the most unified, sonically, of their albums, the production tended to turn The Waiting in a more polished pop direction, rather than the edgier rock sounds of their first two albums.

This might seem like an unnecessary introduction, except that I think the key to this album, the band's fourth major release (not counting the early, independent Tillburry Town or the Sparrow re-release of Blue Belly Sky) is knowing which of the two types of album this is.  This album is definitely another step in the pop direction, for the most part.

This is, in many respects, too bad, since The Waiting, live, are essentially a guitar-based rock band.  An intelligent rock band, but a rock band.  Some of the tracks simply seem too poplike and over-polished, as a result.  The production work is not bad, by any means; Bryan Lenox certainly knows what he's doing, and the result of his production will likely be much more Christian radio success for this band. Sonically, it's a mix of roots-rock with some Newsboys-styled programming and percussion.

That caveat aside, this album is a good one.  The songwriting, as one would expect from The Waiting, is strong.  The lyrics, this time around including such notables as Mac Powell (Third Day) as cowriters, are good, and the melodies are quite decently hummable.

The imagery of "Diamonds to Dust" is strong, a reminder of the changes that occur in life, but also that God is there in all the changes to guard and guide us.

Other strong tracks are "The Rest Of The World," "You Believe," and "A Thousand Years."  However, the one track which really made this album work, for me, is oddly enough the track which doesn't really fit the mold of the rest of the album.  "Sleepless," a song which laments the effects of sin in the world and in our own lives, alternately pleads and screams "Why?" 

Oh sin, Oh sin.
 It leaves me here without and hollowed out within
 Oh sin, Oh sin
 Like a fool to his folly I keep coming back again...
Brad Olsen's voice has never experienced such a wide range of expression on any previous album, let alone any previous song.  This song alone is worth the price of admission.

On the whole, this album is growing on me, but it just doesn't seem to have the timeless qualities of their self titled or Blue Belly Sky.  Was it worth the wait?  Certainly.  But I hope we don't have to wait as long for the next one.

Alex Klages  12/24/2001

Do people remember The Waiting? Their popular major-label debut back in 1997 spawned a pair of radio hits ("Never Dim," "Hands In The Air"), and earned them fans across the country. That album was quickly followed up by 1998's Unfazed, which was markedly more formulaic than its predecessor and suffered from lower sales.

Now, after a three-year wait, The Waiting finally returns with Wonderfully Made, an album that was held back for almost a full year. Lead singer Brad Olsen says that the band is using this album to speak of their joy in Christ, and for the most part, joy is the pervading theme, both lyrically and musically.

Nine out of the album's 10 tracks run through fairly standard Waiting territory, with a pleasant, upbeat mix of guitars, drums, and synths on just about every song. Bryan Lenox (Michael W. Smith) is at the production helm, and once again proves that he has talent for creating well-done pop music.

Brad Olsen's vocals are the highlight of every Waiting album, and Wonderfully Made is no exception. Smalltown Poets' vocalist Michael Johnston provides background vocals on "A Lot Of Love," which is a nice touch. Lyrically, some notable songs include "Diamonds To Dust," which takes materialism to task, and "What Else Can I Say," which is a vivid yet simple song of praise. In general, the songs tend to follow the vertical, to-God pattern found on their last album, Unfazed, although a song or two breaks the mold.

At first listen, this appears to be a standard Waiting album. All bets are off, though, upon reaching track nine, "Sleepless," which is quite simply the best song they've ever done. Written as a reaction to the 1999 Atlanta day-trading shooting tragedy, the song takes that incident and points to the root problem, sin. Olsen has never sounded better or more passionate. His weariness is palpable as he sings "turn off the news and try to sleep now / 'cause I'm losing track of shooting sprees," and a moment later, when the music is swirling around him at its dramatic high point, we can almost see him, head thrown back, tears running down his face, singing his heart out. "Sleepless" is the perfect companion to Michael W. Smith's "This Is Your Time," which was an emotionally compelling reaction to the Columbine shootings.

The album is a good buy on the strength of "Sleepless" alone. If you're a fan of guitar-based pop or a Waiting fan, you'll enjoy it even more. So do people remember The Waiting? Probably not. But if people hear "Sleepless," they won't forget them.

John Wilson 1/5/2002

The KISS principle is often used in military terminology ­ it stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid".  The idea here is that instead of overanalyzing a situation, and overplanning for every possible contingency, you take what you know and go with the most obvious solution, thus saving yourself the doubt and hesitancy that comes from delay.  On Wonderfully Made, The Waiting employs the KISS theme in living: trusting in God and doing what you know instead of looking for deep solutions in situations that we make complex.

"What Else Can I Say" is a good example of this, a song about finding different ways to praise God, and the writer realizing that it's all been said before:

  Try to put the words together
   I swear I don't know how
  My words are weak; they fall apart
  I only know one way to say this now

  I love You, I love You
  What else can I say…

"The Rest of the World" points us toward the same concept.  The subject is looking for solutions, some answer that eludes him as he deals with his frustrations ­ he has consulted friends, looked for advice, and found that it all comes back to the same thing:
  Love God with all your heart, your mind and soul
  Love others as you would love yourself
  And the peace that you find
  If you don't mind
  You can share with the rest of the world.
"Take Me As I Am" demonstrates God's love for his children, regardless of their appearance or shortcomings, and reminds us that that love is certain, even when people fail us.  "Diamonds to Dust" is a reminder that God's love is the only thing that will last forever, especially when compared to the things on Earth.  "Every Word" is a praise song, co-written by Brad Olsen and Third Day lead singer Mac Powell.  

"Sleepless" is this album's most gripping song musically ­ it reminds me of "Hands in the Air" from The Waiting in that regard.  It speaks of the cycle that all Christians go through, as illustrated in Romans 7 ­ the desire not to do the things we know are wrong, yet finding ourselves doing that very thing.

The Waiting has a new label, and new producer, but the sound is the same.  Brad Olsen's vocals, Todd Olsen's guitar, Clark Leake's bass, and the drums of Brandon Thompson cover no new territory when compared to their previous releases, but this is not a bad thing.  Wonderfully Made is just that ­ this is a great "power pop" or "alternative pop" album.

Brian A. Smith  1/5/2002


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