manalive90While this is not an Annie Moses Band project, the unmistakable mark of quality that the band is known for is abundantly evident from beginning to end.

Assorted artists – Producer: Alex Wolaver

Label: ManAlive Records

Time: 14 tracks / 54 minutes

Question: take seven artists who have honed their craft for years in the Annie Moses Band's Fine Arts Summer Academy, add the clean, sure-handed production skills of Alex Wolaver and the musical support of several members of the aforementioned Annie Moses Band, and what do you get? Answer: an almost hour-long cornucopia of original songs ranging from the jazzy pop of "Between the Moonlight and the Morning," sung by Kaley Lunsford, to the light country sounds of "What A Man's Gotta' Do," featuring David Riley Donica, to the Les Miz/Prince of Egypt vocal delivery of Joshua Carswell on "Ancient Paths," to the clear, elegant pop phrasing of Berklee Bowers on the worshipful "You Love Me," to the outright CCM-pop of her sister Alex's "Sneakers."

Man Alive: Volume 1 is an eclectic mix,to be sure. But amazingly enough, the variant genres tie together under the finesse and style of the Wolaver 'house band,' who disprove the cynical old expression, 'those who can, do - those who can't teach,' because the musical prowess of this teaching family is on display throughout the album, lending support and musical soundness to each track. While this is not an Annie Moses Band project, the unmistakable mark of quality that the band is known for is abundantly evident from beginning to end.

Ellen Appelton, Steven Bowman, and Alex Bowers are the only artists on Man Alive Volume 1 that have solo writing credits for their songs. Appelton's airy and delicate voice is featured on "Song For Sleep," while her instrumental skills take center stage on the Celtic folk sounds of "Silo," while Bowman shows real singer/songwriter promise on the insightful ballad, "Don't Know Why," and Bowers tends more toward an accessible pop sound.

A variety of combinations of Wolavers coalesce in the writing of most of the rest of the music on the album, which means strong melodies, powerful harmony and sophisticated chord changes. Lyrically, this is an unashamedly Christian project, which has often (unfortunately) come to mean predictable, safe 'Christianese' words, but that's not the case here – not only are Annie and Benjamin good writers, but Robin Wolaver is one of the finest, strongest lyricists around today and Alex' writing tends to be poetic and delightfully speculative, often going into areas that most CCM songwriters never even thought about.

One note that should excite the more seasoned fans of Contemporary Christian Music out there: none other than Michael Omartian joins Annie, Alex and Robin Wolaver writing the music for "Say Who."

Instrumentally, the collection features the talents of The Annie Moses Band and AMB regulars, Mario Sangermano (bass), James DaSilva (guitar) and Javier Santiago (drums) providing the highest caliber of musicianship and some mighty tasty licks from the rhythm section.

For the musically open-minded, this is a collection that will give you everything except rock & roll, R&B and funk – and we probably should be thankful, since these 'students' and their teachers know what they do best, and it's right here on Man Alive: Volume 1.


- Bert Saraco