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I Rose Falling
Label: Innocent Media/Galaxy 21 Music
Time: 10 tracks/54:42
After an 8 year break from recording, 10 years after the last studio recording with the current lineup (Ojo Taylor on keys/bass, Gym Nicholson on guitar, Sim Wilson on vocals, and Gary Dean Olson on drums/percussion), Undercover went into the studio in 2002 to document their latest musical leanings. Anyone who has followed Undercover through their various stylistic changes knows that this is a band which does not remain the same from album to album, but which has essentially grown up in public.
I Rose Falling is easily Undercover's most mature album yet. Gone entirely are the punk and edgy rock sounds, in favor of a more contemplative sound. By this I don't mean that Undercover doesn't rock, and rock hard. It is just that fans of God Rules, Branded_ or Devotion era Undercover will find this album a little hard to swallow at first. Those who find Forum more to their liking will find here an obvious progression.
Perhaps the most telling song on the disc on how Undercover has changed and grown is the first track, "Behold". It begins with a strange bell-like tone, dissonant guitar, and a groove-heavy bass. It strikes me that this song is basically a self-contained recap of where Undercover has been and where they are going, musically. The bass is reminiscent of "Work It Out" from Devotion, the synth sound in the bridge just screams late 70s and early 80s, and buried in the mix are new-wave guitar sounds from the mid 80s. Add in the dark, lush soundscapes akin to Balance of Power and you have a summary of where Undercover has been, musically, in a song... but with the new elements of the deliberately poetic lyrics (as on Forum--except here Ojo Taylor, formerly principal lyricist has now given song ideas to Valerie Savior, who wrote the actual lyrics to this track and several others) and the different song structure.
The second track, "Medicine," written by Gym Nicholson and Sim Wilson has a very catchy, if dark chorus of "Blinded by sorrow/Pray for tomorrow", and details the fact that life is fleeting, opening with the lyrics "Count your blessings, name them one by one/After all there is no guarantee." The third track, "Heaven Forbid" is a clever look at the phrase "heaven forbid," noting that Heaven does forbid that we should turn from who we are in Christ.
"Line Of Thinking," the second Taylor/Savior cut is a dark musing on the meaning of life and how God fits in. The production quality of this cut is absolutely top-notch, with layered guitars, keyboards, and vocals.
"Belle-Laide" has a laid back, almost funk-like groove to it, foreshadowing much of the second half of the album, and intriguing lyrics. "Svper Terram," the final of the four Taylor/Savior cuts is perhaps the best song on the disc, with its deeply introspective lyrics and powerful rock style.
The album finishes with four Gym Nicholson cuts (Sim Wilson co-writing "Hurricane"). "Fall" is a rock anthem which many Undercover fans have already heard from their live disc released earlier in 2002, "Hurricane" has a definite funk feel to it, "True" is a simple, straightforward declaration of faith, and "Remembered" is this album's equivalent to Devotion's "So Wonderful"-- a bright, yet poignant remembering of a life past, in this case Gene Eugene.
I suppose to the long-time Undercover fan this album cannot be anything but a 5-star release, simply because one of Christian rock's best and most influential bands has come back, strongly. However, there are some flaws with the production on the album which are occasionally annoying. The vocals are a little clipped and tinny in spots, sounding like some sort of artifact from the digital recording method (this album was completely recorded and mixed digitally in the new studio Undercover built). Similarly, the guitars could stand to be a little more prominent in the mix in spots. But for the first album of new material in eight years, it is easy to forgive some flaws. Thoroughly new in style, yet unmistakably Undercover, this album should earn Undercover their spot back in the Christian music world.
Alex Klages 1/20/2002
The classic lineup of this pioneering band returns for the first time since the band released Devotion back in 1992. Back in action are Ojo Taylor on keyboards, Gym Nicholson on guitars, Gary Dean Olsen on percussion and the vocal power of Sim Wilson. Listening to this new release it is hard to think that it is eleven years since we last heard these four guys together.I Rose Falling is probably not only the best record that this band has ever done, but it is by far the best thing that I have heard so far this year. The writing credits are pretty much split evenly between Ojo and Gym with two contributions by Gym and Sim. The lyrical credits on the tunes by Ojo go to Valerie Savior [based on Ojo's ideas, dreams and ruminations]. Starting off their recording career years ago as a new wave band with almost cheerleader like lyrics these guys have grown and matured beyond anything anyone could have ever guessed. It has been a long hard road since that first record came out back in 1983, a road that has brought them to this place and time.
Everything about this album cries out professionalism, from the cover art which by the way is absolutely outstanding, to the sounds which are emanating from my speakers as I listen to my favorite album in quite a long time. I would put this album in the same league as "Songs From The River House" by Robert Vaughn and the Shadows, it is just that good. This is not the kind of album that will garnish any Dove nominations, it is so far superior to that, it's not even funny. This is the kind of release that makes me proud to be associated with this industry. I should be listening to this thing with a fire extinguisher handy because this is red hot rock n roll and I can feel the heat coming out of my speakers. Guys it is so good to have you back again! Check out their web site at www.innocentmedia.com
Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock 3/15/2003