Artist: Big Tent Revival  
Label: Ardent/ForeFront 
For several months the guys of Big Tent Revival have been saying that their new project, Amplifier, would really "RAWK!"  And they do not disappoint!  Since the success of their song "What Would Jesus Do" (from the compilation of the same name) and four previous hit songs from the album Open All Nite, the band seems more confident and willing to stretch.  Amplifier is a more mature and well-rounded outing by the boys from Memphis.  Steve Wiggens's vocals are aptly suited for these songs -- soft and gentle in places, rising to a scream in others.  Randy Williams's guitar work is excellent--predominantly electric, with occasional moments of acoustic quiet thrown in.  A new and welcome addition to the band since their last project is David Allen on keyboards.  Rounding out the band is Rick Heil on bass and Spence Smith on drums.  Together these guys take the music through several different styles, from pop to rock to blues, with a few surprises thrown in.  
All of the songs except the opener were written by Steve Wiggens, and  his intent is obvious throughout - to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In "God Made Heaven," he reminds a friend that although it might take a lifetime or a minute, he is going to tell him about the Lord, because "God made heaven, and He wants you in it!" "Star in the Book of Life" looks at things from the point of view of the angels.  They must look down at us often and wonder why we live like we do:  

          There's a star by your name in the Book of Life 
          Angels are watching you over time 
          They can't understand why a child of the King 
          Would be happy to live with the swine
In the Beatlesque "Lovely Mausoleum," Steve goes straight to the heart of a soul that seems to be alive on the outside but is dead on the inside without Christ:   
        Ain't it a shame 
        All of the world's a game 
        You can see everything 
        Circling down the drain  
        Ain't it a shame  
        All you've been fashionin' 
        Suddenly crashin' in 
        Surely you know? 
        You've built a lovely mausoleum for your soul.
The hit track "What Would Jesus Do" is included here, along with a  nice praise and worship song based on Psalm 72.  "Someday (Time & Space)" is a beautiful love song that gives David Allen a chance to shine on keyboards.  The band has a little fun with the funky tune "Jimmy," about a guy who rides a bicycle with a steering wheel instead of handle bars. 
The band's "thank-you's" are included here on track 11. They're fun to listen to the first few times, these guys being pretty amusing, but I'm not sure how many times you'd want to hear  "I'd like to thank my mom and dad...."  Steve Wiggens does a pretty good Bill Clinton imitation, though!  
But the CD doesn't end there; in fact, it has four more unlisted tracks.  It's here that the band really turns it up a notch.  With Randy Williams's hard-driving guitars and Wiggens's vocals, these songs are some of the best rock sounds I've heard in awhile.  "Rivalry" is an  indictment against the negative competition that exists within the CCM industry:   
          I live in a two-faced town 
          It's someone's job to put me down 
          Call me crazy, call it pride 
          I like to think we're all on the same side 
          We're all God's children 
          We're all God's kids 
          Love each other like Jesus said 
          There's one thing I can't see 
          Tell me why there's got to be rivalry
My personal favorite on this CD is "West Memphis Lawyers."  Having heard this previously in concert, I couldn't wait to get a recording of it. Opening with some great blues guitar, it moves into a rock tune with a blues interlude in the middle that has the keyboard and guitar playing off each other.  We're reminded:  
          When you stand before the Lord for what you owe 
          All the lawyers in West Memphis 
          Sure can't save your soul
Amplifier is Big Tent Revival's strongest project to date and should help to establish them as a major force in Christian rock music.  Fans will enjoy the growth displayed here, while new listeners will be treated to some fine classic rock.  And through it all the gospel will be proclaimed.  
By Janet Friesen 

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