Multiple Album Review (Leeland, Phil Wickham, Gungor)

Without a doubt this last few weeks have been among the best when it comes to getting new music. There are 3 albums in particular that I want to review and I am excited to do so because they really are fantastic, each in their own way. I will review them in order of release so here goes:

Leeland- The Great Awakening

Before I put my earbuds in my ear and headed out for a run to get a good listen to this CD, I will admit that my expectations were medium. I had a very strong attachment to Leeland's first CD, Sound of Melodies, and didn't expect another CD of theirs to ever come close to that one. BUT, within the first few repeats of the eternal "chorus" of the first song and title track of the CD, I knew I was in for a surprise. I don't like predictability in music. I love being caught off guard and this CD did just that. Like I said, the first track is chorus after chorus after building chorus. Then on to track two, more chorus's and this time with no real lead vocal from Leeland himself but instead a large gang of people doing what??? Actually sounding like they are worshipping??? YES! I love it. The next great moment comes on the chorus of track 4 "I Can See Your Love." Perhaps this is where the genius of their producer Paul Moak came in, but the guitar/vocal melody is brilliant. The final huge moment that I want to make sure I touch on is track 10, "While We Sing." At the end of this quite beautiful song, once again a gang of vocalists sings the bridge chorus:

Church arise Arise and shine Shake yourself from the dust God is calling us to go!

Like I said earlier, I was running when I listened to this CD through for the first time and this bridge stopped me in my tracks. I was in the middle of running across the Lake Dillon Dam with lake and trees and mountains filling my eyes. I stopped, gasping for breath not from the exertion of my 4 mile run but from the overwhelming beauty of this moment on this song.

I want to know what led Leeland to have the freedom to record this CD the way they did. This CD is exuding "freedom" and I will have to someday ask the guys what they did to enable them to make such a fearless/worshipful CD. VERY well done guys.

Phil Wickham- The Response

I first heard a few of the tracks on this CD in my house, in my studio with my husband and Phil and his wife Mallory. We were sharing with each other the music we were working on just after we had dinner together. Mallory was pregnant with their first child (a now born beautiful baby girl named Penelope) and I knew she needed to go home to bed because it was late BUT if they left, then so did these new songs. Ugh! I had an inward battle of doing what was right and being selfish. I think I compromised somewhere in the middle.

Now with the CD released and my listening unrestricted I am still smiling at these songs. There is quite a bit of 80's to the production of these songs and I'm not complaining. Also there is a far more congregational intention to the songwriting. For example, Track 4, "At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)," was co-written with the great congregational worship songwriter, Tim Hughes and has already been released on Tim's latest CD "Love Shine Through." As far as the recording of this song, I definitely lean towards Phil's more aggressive version of this song and his going for it vocals.

The stand out tracks on this record for me are

#1 Sun and Moon (Track 8 ) #2 All I AM (Track 10) #3 The Victory (Track 11)

So apparently I think this CD is bottom heavy, with it's best songs, waiting like fine jewels at the end of the record. Also, I apparently like the mellower songs that feature Phil's vocals most. I think that above anything else, It always comes back to Phil's vocals. There is no one with a voice like his in all of music. It is his signature and his mark on music and I will always be drawn to the songs that put this talent on display, like:

Divine Romance (Phil Wickham CD) Mystery (Phil Wickham CD) Always Forever (Phil Wickham CD)

and my all time favorite Phil Song:

True Love (Cannons)

His voice is one that draws you in and makes you believe what he is singing about. And with the last song I find myself singing along

"Death has been beaten The grave has been conquered Jesus is risen Life ever after"

I once heard someone say that Phil's voice was TOO passionate. I don't think there could be a better compliment.

Gungor- Ghosts Upon The Earth

What the heck???

Yep that was my reaction to this CD the first time I heard it. An awesome, blown away, "What the heck?" I'll admit I expected weird from the Gungors, but I was pleasantly pleased with weirder and far more out of the box than I thought it would be.

I was never a super fan of the first CD (SHOCK!). I know, I know, everyone in the world thinks their last CD is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but, I was never on board that ship. I remained floating in the chilly lonely water nearby waiting for their next CD, hoping I would feel differently so that I could climb aboard and be accepted with the super cool Gungorite hipsters.

Well I listened to the new CD, Ghosts Upon The Earth, back to back to back to back and have firmly planted myself in the center of the Gungor fan club ship.

The record starts with the track "Let There Be" and the lilting vocals of Mrs. Gungor (Lisa), singing of the creation and our Creator's bringing about light.

"Where there is darkness Let there be light Where there is nothing Let there be light"

BOOM! Gang vocals, driving drums, pounding piano. Ugh! This song gets me everytime. It is one of those songs, and truly this could be said of the entire record, that the music and melody are saying exactly what the lyrics are saying. If we were to hear this record without being able to understand the lyrics, I think we would still understand the deep meaning planted among the melodies and instrumentation.

There are waaaay too many overly obvious influences and I will not list them but if there were a disappointment from me about this CD it would only be that there are spots where the production leaned too closely to other popular "cool" bands and I don't think that they needed to. Gungor seems fully capable of creating their own genius moments without taking from others and in fact they do on the rest of the record, but this is only a small blip on the overall awesome CD.

Everytime I listen to this CD I decide that a different song is my favorite. This is a hard task to accomplish. Usually bands have two or three tracks that people are most drawn to, but I think that people will constantly be changing their favorites among the 12 tracks of this CD depending on their mood or the occasion in which they might be listening.

Next week I will be catching the David Crowder final tour with John Mark McMillan and Gungor, and while I am a fan of all three of these artists, I am most eagerly anticipating Gungor's set. Can they pull it off? I sure hope so and from what I've heard, they do. Yes! Can't wait.

Sooooo the close to this album review blog....

Go buy all of these CD's. Run right now (run those fingertips right over to ITunes) and buy them. Then enjoy the great new music that is coming out of Christian music. Yay! It is out there! Now support it so they can continue :)

Posted on October 6, 2011 and filed under Anything and Everything.