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Better Days Ahead
Artist: BDA
Label: Creative Trust Workshop (2004)
Length: 12 Tracks (46:37 minutes)

Outside of Nashville, Greenville College in Illinois may well boast one of the more impressive resume's in Christian Music.  The institution is home to the Agape Festival, one of the longest-running Christian music festivals in the country.  Its music department is one of only a handful of institutions offering a major in Contemporary Christian Music.  And the college's alumni roster includes a veritable host of Christian artists and industry types, including producer/songwriter Matt Bronleewe (Plumb, Amy Grant, Rebecca St. James) and the members of Jars of Clay.

Comparisons to the Jars collective seem inevitable for the five lads of BDA, who met as freshman dormmates at Greenville in September of 2001.  And, to be fair, acoustically-based tracks like "Endless" and "Into Our Midst" from the group's debut album, Better Days Ahead, could be filed under the same broad adult alternative pop/rock category that seems, as much as anything else, to fit the JoC crew.  But elsewhere, and more prevalently, the group diverges from the straight line joining the aforementioned tracks and Greenville's most famous musical sons.

The revitalizing "Answer Me" and "Truth Found You" mirror the straight-ahead guitar-driven modern rock of artists like the Goo Goo Dolls and the Foo Fighters.  The equally notable "Endless" walks a more teen-pop-friendly line.  "Love is Here" sounds like a slightly harder-edged Rembrandts, while "Let Love Come Down" is a splendid melding of rock's modern and classic strains ­ think Lenny Kravitz and PFR jamming together on Journey's "Stone in Love."  And the magnificently sparse acoustic and nylon-stringed guitar work on the best-of-album closing song, "All to Thee," calls to mind Wes King's most beautifully sublime early acoustic ballads.

To be fair, songs like "Don't Be Long" and "Into Our Midst" are a bit listless and nondescript.  And the _Better Days_ record, overall, features little that would distinguish it from an ever-widening sea of like-sounding pop and soft rock artists.  That said, even at its most imitative, the album is still nearly always ingratiatingly catchy.  And one can hear, underneath it all, the sound of a band struggling to carve out a distinctive sound.  And the BDA fivesome certainly has all of the ingredients to do so ­ sturdy vocals, imposing musical ability and a keen appreciation of those artists who have come before them.  As the work of a group of young musicians taking their opening bow into the Christian pop arena, the debut recording acquits the youthful quintet quite nicely.

Bert Gangl   12/18/2004



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