Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ambassador - Stop The Funeral

Artist - Ambassador
Album - Stop The Funeral
Genre - Hip-Hop
Label - XIT music/220 entertainment
Lenght - 14 tracks, : 61 minutes, 44 seconds
Street Date - July 12, 2011
iPod Pick - Up and Down (Feat. Charmaine)

'Gimme Dat' from Ambassador's last album (The chop chop : from milk to meat) was a big hit even on mainstream radio, it carved him a niche in the rap industry and now he is back with 'Stop The Funeral'.

This is like nothing you've heard honestly. It's standard. I have personally savored this album for many months before giving this review, it's that good.

All the songs are party ready and awesome to listen to but there are some highlights that are sure not to be looked over. 'Favor' with hip-hop artist Canton Jones is perfect! A song about giving the glory to God in all circumstances. Before the track you would be doing a dance while counting your many blessing no matter where you are.

Up and Down featuring pop artist Charmaine (known for the song 'Revolutionary Thought') is a song that follows in the same theme with 'Favor' but centred more on Paul's saying about learning to 'abase' and 'abound' (Philippians 4:12). A track that would put you straight in a very reflective mode amidst it's very catchy beat is 'Your Love For Me' on which the amazing Michelle Bonilla and Eminem-esque rapper KJ-52 appears on. It's a deep and hip song, soon to become a favourite after first listen.

There so many things I love about Ambassador's latest project. I love the bounce back, I love the disclaimer emphasized by it's fineness that third projects don't have to be 'drabby' compared to debuts and sophomore, I love the choice of guest artists, I love the lyrical depth. . . Seriously, the list could be endless. You could see for yourself by getting 'stop the funeral'. The party begins and yes the funeral stops indeed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Audrey Assad - Heart

Artist: Audrey Assad
Album: Heart
Genre: Pop
Street Date: February 14, 2012
Label: Sparrow Records
Album Length: 13 tracks, 55 minutes 25 seconds
IPod Pick: Lament
I patiently waited for Audrey Assad's sophomore's project since her debut so I was excited to hear sometimes last year via twitter that it would be dropping on February 14 (Valentine's Day). 'Heart' is such a bold title to give to an album and if this project is bold? I would say yes and if it has lots to offer? Come along with me and let's see
'Blessed are the ones' (co-written with Derek Webb and his wife Sandra McCraken) starts off the album too weak, compared to her debut. This song has a monotonous sound that could tempt a new listener of Audrey to skip. 'Even The Winter' comes up next with the vintage upbeat Assad style, think the song 'The House You're building' from her debut. 'The Way You Move' slows things down again in a way that could have only worked well for a jazz/soul album on which you know what you are expecting. In fact Audrey throws in some very soulful and quite strong vocals on this one, think Adele/ Beyoncé singing up a ballad tune.

The album picks up on the movable 'Sparrow' on which Audrey throws in a lovely twist on the old hymn "His Eyes Is on the Sparrow'. It's beautifully done and would soon become a favorite even for first time listeners. Audrey breaks up new grounds on 'Breaking You' sounding like something a black gospel lady would render say Whitney Houston or Kim Burrell. It's a soulful bouncy vibe and Audrey adds the moodiness with her exceptional voice. 'O My Soul' is a contemplative ballad with beautiful piano. Audrey throws another surprise on 'Won Me Over' with the car-windows down, blue sky tune. Nice to hear Audrey sing something poppy enough to land on a Katy Perry album but still doesn't break any new ground musically.
'No Turning Back' evokes a lot of creativity musically weaving in the classic Hymn 'I Have Decided' somewhere in the middle of it.
'Lament', which was co- written by Songwriter Pete Kipley (MercyMe, Alli Rogers, the Katinas) is beautiful and classically Audrey Assad's style, showcasing her beautiful unstressed voice. Just as it started, I knew it would be my best song on the album. It's a song that would move your heart. It's like Audrey really starts off 'Heart' from its 9th track (which is 'Lament') as 'Wherever You Go' follows with a tune that would pierce any heart, think the ambient sounds of Florence and the Machines. 'Slow' is slowly beautiful as it builds up to a tune that would remind you of the melody and tunes of Adele. On 'Slow', you would hear one of the deepest lyrics on the album 'I heard that faith moves mountain, I know it moves my fear to follow you. Maybe I'm a mountain because it's moving me to follow you'. On 'New Song' we hear a bit of the choir styled BGVs. 'Other Side' a bonus track ends the album on a bouncy note.
Listening to Audrey Assad's 'Heart' from the first to last track reminds me of the invitation offered to every artist to be naked before their audience, to lay bare their emotions and where they are at the moment. It's a tough call and only few artistes are bold enough to take up the call. Audrey does this to her best as she doesn't try to cover up her heavy lyrics in need of contemplation with too many poppy melodies. 'Heart' is bold, creative and a new side of Audrey we didn't see on 'The House You're Building'. So much hard work and reflection before this album was made and you would know it. My advice: Get it and let it unveil itself. Like every heart, 'Heart' is deep.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jaci Velasquez - Diamond

Artist – Jaci Velasquez
Album – Diamond
Album Length – 11 Tracks: 41 Minutes
Label – Inpop Records
Street Date – February 7, 2012
IPod Pick – Guilt (If you understand Spanish 'Con El Viento A Mi')
When I heard via twitter that Jaci Velasquez (one of the few artists I grew up listening to who are still in the business) was releasing 'Diamond' some seven days back, I couldn't wait to get it. So after giving it a listen, this is what I sincerely think about the album.
The album starts off with 'Diamond' which I think should have been placed somewhere in the middle. 'Give Them Jesus' offers nothing new musically but would sure get you moving and it's sure worth listening. 'Sound of Your Voice' is something you would want to skip in a hurry to get to the next track. 'Stay' gets you wondering if Jaci hasn't turned on the radio in recent times to know how pop music has evolved since her last project.

The Spanish track (even though you might not understand what Jaci is singing) would simply steal your heart away; I have always thought Jaci was always a better Spanish singer because somehow she connects more on her Spanish songs. 'Con El Viento A Mi Favor' which translates "With the wind in My Favour" is a must listen, it would touch someplace deep in your heart, yes it's that good musically. The album jumps back to its heavy pop sounds on the story-telling form song writing 'Tell me Again". 'Girl' has a bouncy intro like the Cabaret songs, something recently close is Francesca Battistelli's Letting Go. From the intro of "Trust in Me" I just fell in love with it. It's musically creative and sounds like something a mainstream artist say 'Madonna' might come up with on an album but at the same time reminds me of the early days of Jaci especially the 'Crystal Clear' Project.
I heard so much about 'Guilt' before I got the album but I think it sounded more like something that missed the cut of Jaci's 2005 'amazing' brit pop rock project that didn't get the attention it deserved 'Beauty has Grace" but I would still say it's one of the strongest song on the album lyrically. Imagine Jaci as the lead vocalist of a rock band say Creed or Fireflight, you have 'Guilt'. 'Good Morning Sunshine' starts off with sweet piano keys and maintains the ballad feel throughout the song.
Apart of thinking 'Give them Jesus' would have been a stronger way to start of the album, I also think the over musical poppy feel of the album kind of diverts attention from the lyrical content of the album which has always been a very strong point in Jaci's music. One thing is for sure, this album would sure grow on you. It's not the type you give one listen to and just give your verdict. But still for first time listeners of Jaci's music, I would advise you to get the deluxe version of 'Diamond' which is to commemorate Jaci's 20 years in the music industry. It contains some great songs from her former project. And for the all-time fans you might just want to get this and add to your Jaci collection no matter what I have to say.

Rob Bell - Sex God

When I picked up Sex God by Rob Bell (former and co-founding pastor of the Mars Hill Church Grand Rapids), I came with the controversies I had heard, I was doubtful and a bit skeptic if this would amount to any good amidst the many stories I had heard about the author (due to his last book titled 'Love Wins' which I haven't read myself) but to analyze anything we come across with just a single story or a series of stories that sound the same is most times as dangerous as we hope they could be so I read on giving the benefit of a doubt.

Now after I have finished this I must say it's a book I recommend to everyone ( twenty something, married or unmarried), it's a must read for all. The insights are great and the stories are seamlessly amazing. The study and research done on this work is so apparent. And one of the many things I love is the worldview format it's written and it's practicality. For anything, do not miss and also do not jump to these three chapters 'Leather Whips and Fruit', 'Worth Dying For' and 'Under The Chuppah'. They are way worth more than the price of the book. Promise me you won't jump to them. And please go get the book, apart from popular myth that God doesn't say much on the subject of sex in the holy book being debunked, your 'sexuality' wouldn't remain the same. Surprised? You haven't read Sex God. Go get it!


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