The Phantom Tollbooth

Jaci Velasquez
Artist: Jaci Velasquez
Label: Epic/Myrrh Records
Time: 12 tracks -  50 minutes

Two years ago Jaci Velasquez burst onto the Christian music scene.  Her debut cd, A Heavenly Place, yielded five number-one songs on the Adult Contemporary charts  and earned her the 1997 Dove Award for Best New Artist
of the year.  It also made her the best-selling solo debut artist in the history of Christian music--all this at only sixteen years of age!

Velasquez is back with her second project, simply titled Jaci Velasquez, a collection of songs that share her belief that God truly loves us and can transform our lives.  With songs from such notable writers as Chris Eaton,Toby McKeehan, Mark Heimermann, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Michelle Tumes, her vocal talents are showcased.  If possible, her voice has matured in the past two years, creating a project of more depth and passion while still keeping her firmly in the ccm mainstream.

The cd starts out with the song "God So Loved," a wonderful anthem celebrating the timeless truth of John 3:16.  This seems to be a running theme throughout the project.  God loves us and in that love will transform
our lives if we only surrender to Him.  Songs such as "Sweet Surrender," "You," and "Made My World," all tell of this wonderful work of our Father. In the song "Look What Love Has Done" she sings:       "Look what love has done for me

      Look what love has done
      There's poetry in all I see
      Look what Love has done
      My heart is dancing through each day
      My soul is running free
      Look what love has done for me.

Most of the songs on this project are ballads, lovely melodies in the pop genre celebrating the love of Jesus.  But Velasquez takes a few risks with a couple of numbers which lean toward a more alternative sound.  The result
is a welcome contrast to the softer tunes.  She sings of a desire to show God's love to others and not force it upon them in "Show You Love" a song with a bit more of an "edge" than we have previously heard.  And in "Child
of Mine" she pleads with the voice of the Father for a wayward child to return  home:

      I have come to breathe new life
      Into the heart of a child of mine
      I have come to give you peace
      So lift your head and believe.

These two songs, with their strong guitar work and interesting drum and keyboard programming, prove that Velasquez is as comfortable with an electric guitar as she is with lush strings and orchestration. The project ends the way it begins--with "God So Loved," this time done in Spanish and titled "Al Mundo Dios Amo."  Translated by Velasquez's father, it is not a word-for-word translation, but rather a stylistic interpretation resulting in a beautiful song, perhaps more beautiful than the one in English.  It is a fitting end to a cd that highlights how much God loves us and what that does for our lives.

Janet Friesen (8/25/98)