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Deeper
Artist; Various Artists
Label:Integrity Music (09-16-2008)
Length: 20  tracks / 129:58 minutes
 
Ask any mainstream music lover old enough to remember the ‘80s about the Columbia House and RCA record clubs and they’ll likely recount fondly-remembered tales of scouring through their favorite music magazine for the cherished, stamp-based advertisements offering savvy consumers a chance to pick up a veritable slew of LPs, cassettes or 8-track tapes for a mere penny. Their thirty- and forty-something counterparts in the contemporary Christian music camp, on the other hand, may well be surprised to know that Integrity Music, now one of the world’s leading producers of worship-based recordings and other media, made its own humble debut during the Reagan years as a direct-to-consumer music service.
 
While the 21 years that have passed since that time have inarguably seen the label undergo an astonishing amount of growth and expansion, they have also helped define that which, to many listeners, has become known as the characteristic Integrity sound. To be sure, even a single listen to the double-CD Deeper release should be enough to convince longtime devotees that the powers that be down in lower Alabama (affectionately referred to as L.A. by those who reside there), have remained remarkably faithful to those endearingly distinctive sonic quantities which helped vault them to the top few rungs of the proverbial worship ladder in the first place. 
 
While the aforementioned quantities are difficult at best to describe to the uninitiated, songs such as “Hear Us from Heaven” and the equally winning “Whisper His Name,” with their soft-rock-friendly textures and now-familiar arrangement of multiple singers, rather than a single vocalist, on both verses and chorus, are near textbook examples of that which comes to the mind of most long-timers when they think of the Integrity label. The similarly engaging “Welcome in This Place,” with its muted percussion and heartfelt vocal stylings – the latter of which manage the daunting task of remaining passionate and powerful without drawing undue attention to themselves – inks a likewise unwavering line back to the lion’s share of the standard-setting Integrity live projects from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
 
Of course, any label hip enough to sign R&B gospel giants Mary Mary and ex-Journey vocalist Steve Perry’s former touring guitarist (Lincoln Brewster, for the curious) must surely have a thing or two to offer those in the Generation X and Y crowds. Jason Upton’s decidedly current-sounding piano-driven pop piece, “In Your Presence,” offers proof positive that such is most certainly the case. Kathryn Scott’s shimmering, almost ethereal, “I Belong,” offers a similarly well-executed update to the classic Integrity sound. The superbly meditative “Be Still and Know” from Watermark’s Christy Nockels would arguably have little trouble making a place for itself in the contemporary pop Top 40. And Hillsong United’s best-of-album “Hosanna” finds the exuberant Australian youth-based troupe turning out yet another modern rock-inclined masterwork.
 
Those who prefer to have their worship music delivered in concise, three-and-a-half-minute pop-oriented bursts – a la most single-artist worship efforts or the local Christian hit radio station – may find the release a bit long in the tooth given that its average track runs nearly six minutes long. And even if such is not the case, a good part of the momentum established by the first CD is lost during the latter portion of disc two, thanks to a preponderance of listless, overly like-sounding cuts. The good news, though, is that, taken as a whole, the stronger material far outweighs the chaff. And any arguments about song length or flagging energy levels are rendered mostly moot in the light of the album’s stated intent, which is not to single out any of its individual compositions, but rather to serve as a backdrop conducive to sessions of intercessory prayer and worship – a task which it completes most splendidly.
 
Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth (11.04.08)
 


 

 
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