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September 2001 Pick of the Month


Stereotype Be 
Artist: Kevin Max 
Label: Forefront Records 
Tracks: 15 including 1 hidden track/ 60:59 

The release of this project from Kevin Max is the second of a trio of  solo albums expected from the members of dc talk due out before the end of the year. I have been waiting for a solo project from this guy since he recorded the song "Lonely Moon" on the Mark Heard tribute album a number of years ago. dc talk is good at what they do, but I always wondered if these guys could cut it on their own The answer from Mr. Max is a resounding "YES!" Kevin wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album and there is not a dud amongst them. The album was produced by Kevin and Adrian Belew and is first rate all around. The players on the album include Matt Chamberlain, William Owsley, Tony Levin and the aforementioned Adrian Belew. Excellent top notch players all around and there is even some talk of some uncredited support by a certain guitar player who has helped out Iona occasionally (you'll have to figure it out on your own though).

Musically, the album reminds me of latter day Beatles with some King Crimson thrown in for good measure. Add a touch of The Monkees and what you have is one first class album. Because this is being released in the CBA marketplace, however, it will probably be overlooked by the Grammys. If this album doesn't win this kid Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2002 Dove Awards, however, then the GMA needs to fold up and go home. Each of the guys from dc talk is being given a slot to strut their stuff on the current dc talk tour. I would rather see this album played in a smaller venue, though, where you can really appreciate the intricacies of the music. There are two spoken pieces on the disc which make me wish that the EP which Kevin did a number of years ago with Jimmy A. would be released on CD. I have been assured, by the way, that the back masking on the second spoken piece is a joke of Kevin's and not record company censorship. If you are a fan of good thoughtful and intelligent music then run, don't walk to get Stereotype Be. It will be quite a while before this one comes out of my CD player. 

Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock 8/24/2001

Kevin Max is DC Talk’s weird and zany egomaniac who walks the very thin ledge between artistic eccentric and idiot, so his solo album was inevitably to be the most intriguing of the three. The danger may have been that the artistic freedom that he seemed to yearn for more than the other two would leave him looking stupid. Well not so. This is better than the sum of DC Talk’s parts in its originality, lyrical depth, and deftness as well as in its sense of just being a more solid piece of work all around. Maybe all three of the band have less pressure to deliver the big Christian hit album that has been weighing on their shoulders for so long. Unfortunately that is as much about good clean you-don’t-have-to think-too-much Christian clichés as it is in the simple pop songs that Supernatural was full of.

Max is adventuring out into the whole vastness of the world outside the bars that held him in the band. There is true poetry in “Union of the Soul” and "I Went Over the Edge of the World” and much more thought provoking lyrics throughout. Max’s voice is strong, versatile and assured and there is something about the playing, the arrangements, the underlying samples and strings that make this album need constant re-listening. There’s enough happening in word and sound to keep your attention for a long time to come and there are still pop choruses that catch your daily humming-­try sucking “Be” and “Her Game” without chewing!

The main theme seems to be summed up in “Be” when, in anthemic Martin Smith mode, Max sings as much to himself as the rest of us:

Be, be yourself
There's no one who does it quite like you
And be no one else
‘cause if you don't who is going to
When you are as individualistically unique as a Kevin Max that truth has even more significance but it is one that all of us with our quirks and foibles need to be singing and believing. There is no doubt that producer Adrian Belew has shaped this debut album in such a way that Kevin Max falls on the side of artist rather than pretentious fool. How he can fit this kind of freedom back into the form of DC Talk’s next outing will be an interesting question. Another is whether he can take it from here because here is crying “potential, potential, potential!!!!!!!”
 

Steve Stockman 8/28/2001
 

Steve Stockman is a Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He used to book the bEands for Greenbelt, edits Juice magazine, has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster and a web page - Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org. He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.

 

   
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