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Solo: Special Edition
Artist: dc Talk
Label: Forefront/Virgin
7 tracks/26:46

The recent hiatus taken by Christian music super group dc Talk was peculiar. There would be a one-year "intermission," during which time each member would complete a full-length album and release it under his own name. The structure heightens with the release of Solo: Special Edition by the trio. The album is released under the dc Talk moniker, yet contains individual efforts, leading one to wonder whether the three really are running from the "group" status. Despite the confusion, Solo reveals three very distinct
individuals making their way as performers, songwriters, and artists, in the process making some stellar music that's both accessible and complex.

After the bonus cut, a live version of the U2 sing-a-long concert favorite "40," Michael Tait is the first up, having chosen to surround himself with a full band dubbed, appropriately enough, Tait. The first track, "Alibi," is straight ahead pop/rock, flavored with edgy moments courtesy of band member Pete Stewart (of Grammatrain fame), who is at the top of his game as experimental guitar guru, showing a real knack for the sort of controlled mayhem necessary for top-drawer rock production. The production is sonically rich, each instrument cranked to the max and Tait's vocals hanging on for dear life above it all, clearly in control. There's never been any doubt as to dc Talk's members prowess as vocalists, and Tait is up to the task of
frontman with flair and the necessary raw power. The lyrics are a little soft, however, tending towards generic subject matter, which only slightly spoils the overall exuberance. "All You Got" is a mid-tempo rocker, destined for countless radio spins. Tait's vocals have never sounded creamier, and the song showcases his exceptionally masculine meaty approach. There's always been elements of the great soul rockers in his voice, but he's given more freedom to move in these tunes, although one would hope for a little more creative experimentation on the full LP.

When it comes to creative experimentation, dc Talk exhibitionist Kevin Max has always had it in spades. It was never a question of whether he would create fresh sounds, but whether he would corral his creativity into song form. On his two tracks, Max proves his ability to do so, the songs experimental, yet accessible enough to cut the mustard. On the first song, "Return of the Singer," a really chunky stutter-stop vocal loop spins behind Max's trademark fluttering tenor. He's really got a great tripped out funk-disco vibe going on, which almost sounds like something Sting would have cooked up in his spare time. As usual, Max accomplishes really miraculous vocal work, making it spontaneous and attractive. "Be" is a more traditional dc Talk number, cut from an organic cloth. Part of its effectiveness stems from a collaboration with guitar guru Adrien Belew, whose steel guitar work on the verse makes this soft acoustic number. On both numbers, Max shows he is a strong writer, lyrical without being cute or reaching too hard.

Toby Mac brings the hip-hop funk on "Somebody's Watching," which settles into a nice groove courtesy of funky guitars and bass, elevated by the sweet soul backing vocals of Joanna Valencia. Toby's a decent lyricist by his own right, spinning rhymes like "Sometimes I feel God in the middle of the night/In the cool of the shade in the bright sunlight." The disc only falters slightly by the inclusion of "Extreme Days,"a Bizkit-esque rap-core romp. The form comes naturally to Toby Mac-- he's been doing this rap-over-rock for years with the group-- and Toby plays master of ceremonies nicely. The groove, while not terribly inventive, is certainly a tight one, but the whole song seems too much of a paint-by-number effort, disappointing
from the creative force behind Jesus Freak and Supernatural.

Solo is difficult to judge as a whole album, without cutting it into pieces or seeing it as a clever marketing ploy. Despite these obstacles, each member contributes solid, original material that certainly will make
for three quality albums from the guys who first brought Christian music to the mainstream.

Glenn McCarty  4/21/2001


 

 

   
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