audioA90So here's Kevin Max fronting Audio Adrenaline and the question is, are we getting a watered-down Max or a Maxed-up Audio A? The good news is, fans of both are going to be happy

Kings and Queens
Audio Adrenaline
Fair Trade Services
10 tracks 36:57

Things aren't usually very unpredictable in the world of Contemporary Christian Music, but every now and then things happen that surprise even veteran (read: old) followers of the genre. Such was the case when former dc Talk member Michael Tait took over newsboys' lead vocal/front man spot. Four years later – and perhaps an even bigger surprise - Kevin Max (also a former dc Talker, and one of CCM's 'bad boys') steps up to the microphone as lead singer/front man of the newly re-formed Audio Adrenaline. Rumors about TobyMac becoming lead singer of the iconic gospel group, The Clark Sisters are apparently untrue (okay – I made that one up)....

So here's Kevin Max fronting Audio Adrenaline and the question is, are we getting a watered-down Max or a Maxed-up Audio Adrenaline? The good news is, fans of both Max and Audio A are going to be happy.

On Kings and Queens Audio Adrenaline sounds as if they've had a shot of, well - adrenaline - and are sounding more energetic and confident than ever. Kevin Max's vocals show all of the range and flexibility that he's known for, handling the pop-rock format as if he'd done it all before – and of course, he has. Fans of his solo work might miss Max's more esoteric side – his Beatles meets Bowie meets Kerouac sensibilities – but it's refreshing to hear him once again as the singer, in a band-mode, doing the front man thing.

The new Audio Adrenaline only retains original bass player Will McGinniss in the performing band (with former front-man Mark Stuart now as song-writer). Supporting McGinniss are Kevin Max, former Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian, Jared Buyers (Bleach, Reliant K) on drums, and Jason Walker on keyboards and back-up vocals. The songs are well-crafted, commercial pop-rock with plenty of hooks and a sonic awareness of various groups including MuteMath and The Verve. There are moments when the band sounds generic enough to slip into that newsboys mode (I can hear Furler singing "He Moves You Move"), but those are few and usually rescued by the uniqueness of Max's delivery.

For those looking for clear-cut, out-front Christian lyrics, Kings and Queens will not disappoint. Wearing their faith on their sleeves, but without becoming sappy or condescending, Audio Adrenaline declares a confident faith and a working Christianity that addresses not only personal salvation but the needs of a hurting world. "This is God" is explicit and compassionate, while "I Climb the Mountain" warns, "say what they want about the straight and narrow, but it's the bends and curves that kill." The title track is an anthem of compassion for children: "boys become kings / girls will be queens / wrapped in your majesty / when we love – when we love the least of these...."

Kings and Queens manages to be commercial without being trite. Those who might fear that Kevin Max would lose his edge doing this are proved wrong simply by listening. So here we have a double treat: we get a good, commercial pop rock project and Kevin Max vocals at no extra charge. Not a bold artistic statement - just what we used to call a good album.

-Bert Saraco

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