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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Jody Davis
Label: Pamplin Records
Length: 11 Tracks/42:55
The Newsboys desperately needed a break after a decade on the road, ending in their exhaustive dome tour from last summer. The group is not disbanding, just spending a bit of their down time engulfed in other projects. First was the modestly successful InPop Records release from Phil Joel. Now, guitarist Jody Davis had stepped out on his own with an 11 song self-titled project. The disc sports an average contemporary pop sound at best, and after several spins of the disc, nothing stands out as exceedingly catchy or memorable.
The only real highlight is the disc's closer "Light of the World/ Love is the Answer," which Davis borrowed from Todd Rungren. Although it's clear this Newsboy put effort into his own creative development, he didn't look very far past the group. He's joined by a couple of his band mates in the studio, which makes one wonder why he even bothered to venture out "on his own."
Andy Argyrakis 3/24/2001
We'll get the "Breakfast" jokes out of the way first, so we can deal with Jody Davis on his own terms. As lead guitarist of the multi-platinum youth group favorite Newsboys (for those who need help, he's not the bald one or the one with Rapunzel-esque locks, but has gone through some hairstyle identity crises of his own), Davis has been the band's mainstay since its inception, providing skillful riffs, but mostly blending neatly into the background. His self-titled solo project, therefore, reveals a surprising amount of musical sophistication and happily defies any comparison with his other employer.
Jody Davis isn't as hook-happy as one would expect from a Newsboy, but is also not an ambitious guitar-god record as might be expected from a lead ax-slinger. Though "Believe" opens with a crunchy riff and pounding drums, Davis resists the temptation to let it all hang out and underscores his talented guitar work with a snappy horn section and gritty vocal work. What results is a pleasant album with a real 80's blue-collar power rock feel, ala Huey Lewis and Chicago. It's as fun to listen to as it sounds like it was to make, a picture of a lifetime of influences coming to the surface without regard for what's hot or what will sell.
The backbone of the album, of course, is Davis' guitar work, which runs the gamut from the funky wah of "I Can't Get Enough," which is sure to evoke the great Firehouse records of the 80's with its perfectly placed power chords, to the driving beat of "Satellite" and Motown groove of "Close to You." Tempering the all-out guitar frenzy to a more contextual placement allows the album to clip along at a pleasant pace, never getting bogged down with either sentimentality or ambition. Davis' talents as a songwriter are also nicely displayed, as he frames his songs in personal terms, making for moments of sincere expression as on "Drive:" "Here in the silence, drive to the fields where the love is, reckless and crazed to escape the chasing past."
When the players in a band decide to go solo, it usually means either the end is near for the band, or their own ego has grown to a place where they can no longer stand being in the shadows. Jody Davis' debut effort is neither of these; instead, it is a collection of songs written out of a lifetime of music which is pleasantly more about the songs than the one singing them.
Glenn McCarty 3/27/2001
Beginning with ear-catching riffs and gritty vocals, Jody Davis catches the listener's attention immediately. Davis, guitarist for the Newsboys, has released his self-titled album and proven that he is just as successful as a solo artist as he is with The Newsboys.
The songs, which were composed over a span ten years, all flow well, and capture many sounds and feelings, something that is hard to achieve within one album. With the combination of his exceptional delivery on vocals and the energy of the instruments, this recording keeps the listener wanting more. The opener, "Believe," is best described by Davis himself: "I wanted to make a statement about standing for something. Sometimes people don't really know what they believe. It's kind of easy to get caught up in the daily routine and lose track of what's really important." Anyone can relate to Davis' sentiments, and the song captures this feeling perfectly.
The heavy guitars in the next song, "Crush of Love," are catchy as the vocals follow along with the same tune. Though it's interesting, unfortunately, it is a bit too much by the end of the song. The vocals fading in and out grab your attention but seem to be overcome by the music. While the lyrics are outstanding, it is hard to concentrate on them due to the guitar arrangement.
"Climbing to Your Throne" is slower than the two openers. It has a very powerful chorus that fits perfectly with the song, giving it a fine effect. It is definitely one of the best tracks on the album. As Davis describes it, "In a nutshell, this is a song about prayer and the struggle to understand suffering."
"Can't Get Enough" begins with a very simple drum beat. The instruments in the song are lacking, making it a bit more dull than others. But it doesn't really mean it's a bad song. The listener can at least concentrate on the lyrics and his voice. Jim Cooper and Davis wrote the song ten years ago when they had just moved to Nashville. The song flows fine with the pace of the album.
"Satellite" returns to the heavier style and raspy vocals. It is a song that "was almost a Newsboys' song," but instead made it to this album and is a welcome addition. "Bleed" is a story written from a girl's perspective. It is a fine story and is something to which the listener can relate. Davis describes it further, "She's at the end of her rope; she's seen a lot in her life, and she is being brought down to her weakest point in order to open up and listen to God."
"Velveteen," is, oddly enough, about the story The Velveteen Rabbit. It is about what it is to be real. Who would have thought someone could write such a deep song about a book that is usually looked upon so lightly? The last track on the album is a cover of Todd Rundgren's "Love is the Answer." It has fine instrumentation and is a perfect track to finish this recording.
Overall, the album is one that anyone can appreciate. The structure of the whole album is very effective and, as it was described before, "Jody Davis surveys some of the best pop and rock sounds of the past 25 years." I agree.
Jessica Heikoop 04/14/2001
First things first: as Andy Argyrakis noted in the April issue of The Phantom Tollbooth, The Newsboys are not disbanding. With the release of Shine...The Hits, it's the perfect time for bassist Phil Joel and guitarist Jody Davis to shine a bit on their own. With Jody Davis, we have a bit of a spit-polish instead of a true shine.
Second things second, don't expect a Newsboys' sound from Jody Davis. For the most part, this project is straight-ahead rock and roll, with a horn section that often sounds like the band Chicago. "Believe" (not the Newsboys' song) is an excellent kick-off with solid guitars, rock horns and rock-solid lyrics ("You've got to stand for something, or you just might fall for anything. Is there something you would die for? That's your God. That's your faith.")
Some of these songs stretch back as far as ten years, so Davis has a bank of excellent lyrics from which to work. They're dynamic, and most are so incredibly Christ-centered that I was immediately impressed. Davis could take these lyrics, which range from faith in God, praise and worship, and gripping human emotions, and read them as poetry, capturing an audience. But there's music to go along with these lyrics, and the arrangements often mar the lyrical delivery.
The sound and flow of Jody Davis seem disjointed. Davis' influence seems to be more that of Pete Stewart and/or Grammatrain, perhaps on the reckless side. The artist's own guitars almost -- and sometimes do -- override his vocals on "Believe," "Satellite," "Crush of Love" and "Bleed." Davis flirts with reggae with "Close to You" and "Can't Get Enough." The rock and horns style doesn't work with "Crush of Love," since the tempo changes too often; it's almost troublesome to enjoy. One of the more smooth performances is "Climbing to Your Throne," which mixes the horn section and guitars nicely, but Davis' vocals seem to be mixed down.
As of this writing, we at The Phantom Tollbooth agree that the standout track is Davis' excellent reading of Todd Rundgren's "Love is the Answer" (which Davis co-titles "Light of the World"). I contend this performance is nearly superior to Rundgren's original Utopia (from Oops! Wrong Planet) recording, but Davis' vocals could have been mixed up a bit to emphasize the lyrics and magic of this particular message.
The bottom line is that Jody Davis has presented a good solo debut, and to continue with the Newsboys theme, the production quality could have made it "shine." With many listenings, one can get used to the spit-polish style, and I hope Jody Davis records another project with the same intensity of lyrics on Jody Davis with tighter production values that will make the flow work more smoothly.
Olin Jenkins 4/18/2001
Yet another Newsboy puts the spotlight on a solo project outside the band. Jody Davis' self-titled debut exhibits his wide range of abilities, including songwriting, playing guitar, and singing. His choice of music is rather different than the typical Newsboys sound, displaying Davis' will to make his own sound heard. The modern rock/pop tracks are heavily laced with guitar, drums, and bass, with the addition of horns in some songs contributing to the unique sound.
The subject matter of his songs never strays from a firm hope in God, seeking His presence, and putting our faith in Him. His vocals are impressive, with a wide range not ever heard on any Newsboys album. A song that definitely stands out is the opening "Believe," with an edgy, rocking sound that sets the stage for the rest of the album. The following tracks are all enjoyable, and it's easy to listen to the entire album without skipping a song. He puts forth a substantial record, though his release may still be overpowered by his bandmate Phil Joel's release, even though it's a different sound. Davis goes beyond the constraints of the Newsboys traditional sound, creating his own sound that sets him apart from the band.
Chelsea Lewis 10/21/2001