Michael Sweet, the former front man for the mid-'80s Christian heavy metal band Stryper, returns with his sophomore solo effort, "Truth." Coming on the heels of the Dove Award-winning "Real," Sweet's new record nicely subverts the spandex-clad cliches of his past while mining an admirable melodic sense that still provides the necessary rawk & roll punch.
Featuring the sweetly devout, folk-kissed melodicism of Phillip and Natalie LaRue, "Transparent" takes a slightly more challenging road than the duo's self-titled debut. Building on their engaging, ethereal alt-pop sound, the new edge to their music has a more mature feel that further enhances the group's credentials as one of contemporary Christian music's most appealing new acts.
"Southern Gospel Treasury Series"
The Happy Goodmans
Sony Records' "Southern Gospel Treasury Series" features the music of the Happy Goodmans, a group whose uplifting gospel has brightened the vocal music landscape for four decades. The record gives a fascinating and informative overview of one of gospel's legendary groups.
OUR CUSTOMERS RECOMMEND
"Amazing Grace: 40 Treasured Hymns"
Tennessee Ernie Ford
A customer from Thomasville, Georgia, recommends "Amazing Grace: 40 Treasured Hymns" from Tennessee Ernie Ford: "Keep your Amy Grant, keep your Carmen, keep your Twila Paris--when I get to Heaven I want to hear Ernie Ford and this backup choir! These grand old hymns and spirituals make me feel the presence of God."
Steven Curtis Chapman's work is marked not only by its spiritual
intensity, but also by how it creatively and wholeheartedly challenges the
conventions of Christian rock. Amazon.com's music editors have kindly
compiled a list of his essential recordings for your listening pleasure.
Go to Christian essentials
FREE MUSIC DOWNLOADS
Delivering the Word
Catholic priest Stan Fortuna uses the music of rap and hip-hop to deliver a spiritual message of brotherly love and praise. And he does it with street credibility! Download "Kumbya," his dope antidrug anthem and proclamation against teen suicide, from his CD "Sacro Song."
Go to download
"Left Behind - The Movie"
Part sci-fi head trip, part religious-themed allegory, "Left Behind: The Movie" brings to the screen the first book in the immensely popular series of apocalyptic novels by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Starring Kirk Cameron and Brad Johnson, it's a well-paced thriller with a tale that's as much a warning as it is a message.
BEST ROCK GOSPEL ALBUM
Petra, who are legends in Christian rock, were one of the first bands to contemporize non-secular music for a younger population. While the record may not be the best from their long career, it was good enough to put them over the edge.
"Offerings: A Worship Album"
Taking a more devout turn from their Dove award-winning "Time," Third Day's "Offerings" retains and improves upon what made the earlier album so resonant--Mac Powell's soaring lead vocals and the band's electrified punch--while delivering a more overtly worshipful stance.
BEST POP/CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL ALBUM
"If I Left The Zoo"
Jars Of Clay
Jars of Clay's sophomore effort has kept them at the forefront of contemporary Christian music, and the improved songwriting on this record augurs great things in the future.
The golden boys of Jars of Clay. Unquestionably, this was a great pop record. Sporting a more organic, playful sound than their debut, "Much Afraid," the band continues to evolve.
BEST SOUTHERN, COUNTRY, OR BLUEGRASS GOSPEL ALBUM
"Soldier Of The Cross"
Outspoken fundamentalist Ricky Skaggs has been hovering toward making this record his entire career. Voters sought not only to acknowledge Skaggs's beliefs, but also the fact that he's been honing his bluegrass chops for over 20 years.
"Just Over In Heaven [HDCD]"
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Doyle Lawson's work with Quicksilver produced some amazing vocal harmonies on this record, but it just wasn't enough to get this bluegrass institution his first Grammy.
BEST TRADITIONAL SOUL GOSPEL ALBUM
"You Can Make It"
As the First Lady of Gospel, Shirley Caesar looms large over the land. Voters couldn't resist her or her work on this relatively eclectic record.
"Ole Rickety Bridge"
No less a legend in the field than Caesar, Dorothy Norwood's live effort was a hair more immediate and exciting, mostly owing to the live setting.
BEST CONTEMPORARY SOUL GOSPEL ALBUM
The sister-duo act of the moment, Mary Mary's listenable, joyful debut record may not have been the strongest release in this category, but voters couldn't resist rewarding their potential.
"Love & Freedom"
While he misses his sister and collaborator CeCe, BeBe Winans remains a formidable force on this record, and he should have walked away with this award.
BEST GOSPEL CHOIR OR CHORUS ALBUM
"God Is Working: Live [LIVE]"
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
One of America's best-known gospel choirs, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is always a favorite when nominated in this category. This record wasn't their best, but was still worthy of notice.
The good people from Brooklyn. While it's not a classic, this live recording definitely has earned the award.
You'll find more great music, articles, and interviews in Amazon.com's
Christian & Gospel section.
NEW AND NOTABLE CDS
Michael W. Smith
After a massively successful career as a pop singles artist, Michael W. Smith tests himself with his new record "Freedom." A diverse, mostly instrumental record imbued with strings, the plaintive, graceful music here marks a new direction for Smith. Ranging from quiet orchestral soundscapes to electronica influences and even through covers of classic praise songs like "Thy Word," it's a rewarding record for listeners willing to follow an artist who is willing to explore his creativity.
"Smell the Color 9"
Chris Rice isn't shy about asking those difficult, existential questions about God that many seem hesitant to ask; his new record keeps on asking. Still, there is a sublime and sincere penitence in his music that, coupled with his informed, talented songwriting skills, makes Rice a contemporary Christian artist worth watching. Featuring silky-smooth production and a perceptive grasp of the modern condition, "Smell the Color 9" is a musical and spiritual journey that won't disappoint.
"Intermission: The Greatest Hits"
As one of the first bands to incorporate hip-hop into contemporary Christian music, DC Talk represents an important part of the genre. Their latest record, "Intermission: The Greatest Hits," is not only an excellent collection of their best-known work, but it also does an effective job of displaying the strains of melody that make their music so compellingly accessible. And, as always, the pious heart that beats within their lyrics continually shines through.
"Winners Never Quit"
Pedro the Lion
"Winners Never Quit" is all about the dark night of the soul. The philosopher Cornel West has said that Americans tend to focus on the risen Christ of Easter Sunday, and not on Christ's last dark days that culminated with his crucifixion. David Bazan is one American Christian songwriter who isn't afraid to stare into the abyss, as he compassionately details his characters' struggles on Pedro the Lion's latest album. Ultimately, Bazan's unsparing vision is shot through with light; this intense, moving CD ends with a sense of hard-earned hopefulness.
OUR CUSTOMERS RECOMMEND
"City on a Hill"
A customer from Jeffersontown, KY, recommends "City on a Hill: Songs of Worship and Praise": "'City on a Hill' is an awesome CD produced by Steve Hindalong, percussionist and chief lyricist of The Choir. The recording features collaborative efforts by outstanding artists such as Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer, Third Day, FFH, and The Choir.... Whether you regularly invest in worship CDs or not, 'City on a Hill' is a recording you will find entertaining, moving, worshipful, and full of praise. This is not just a great worship recording; this is a great recording."
As apocalyptic Christian action-adventure books go, you just can't
beat the ever-popular Left Behind series. The suspense continues in
"The Mark: The Beast Rules the World," the eighth installment in this
ARTIST OF THE YEAR: REBECCA ST. JAMES
Rebecca St. James
"Transform," the sublimely catchy follow-up to the Grammy-nominated "Pray," finds Rebecca St. James casting her upbeat and honest persona upon songs that powerfully deliver sound and fun like a roller coaster delivering twists and speed. Combining the propelling forces of techno-driven pop and string-arranged epics, St. James issues paramount anthems with an inspiration that makes one wonder if she wrote them while singing upon a mountaintop. On the strength of this fantastic recording and the depth of her passion, Amazon.com has named St. James the Christian & Gospel Artist of the Year.
See more by Rebecca St. James:
THREE TO WATCH IN 2001
1. Stacie Orrico
Young Stacie Orrico is a pop diva in the making; this 14-year-old's tightly wrought urban pop music compares favorably with that of Christina Aguilera and Lauryn Hill. Like Hill, Orrico's music goes for a deeper meaning than traditional radio fare, mixing questions of faith, peer pressure, and service to the Lord into her pumped-up pop. Her debut disc, "Genuine," is everything its title implies, and more.
2. Pedro the Lion
We just can't rave enough about Northwest indie-pop act Pedro the Lion, a musically subtle and lyrically contemplative band destined to go places in 2001. Their music is the ultimate demonstration of Kierkegaard's "leap of faith." Shame, delusion, and resignation are everywhere on "Winners Never Quit," yet there is an underlying message of hope. Singer-songwriter David Bazan's grim songs come off like allegories without the comfort of clearly stated life lessons. The music is slow, melodic, heartfelt, and weirdly soothing.
3. Spiritual Pieces
The hip-hop and R&B sounds of Spiritual Pieces' sophomore release "Soul Food" find the band entering a new level of showmanship and production. On their second full-length, this group has successfully mastered today's popular urban sounds while maintaining an uncompromising spiritual fervor. The sultry beats deliver all the stimulus necessary to keep the dancing alive, while the laid-back vocals churn out rock-solid messages about faith and Christian living.
AMAZON.COM'S BEST OF 2000
Explore the year's best music from across all genres by visiting Amazon.com's Best of 2000 page. You'll find our customers' favorite CDs, our editors' favorite CDs, Artists of the Year, and more.
reviews excerpted are copyright © 2001 amazon.com & associate ncdn and CDnow, TowerRecords, Barnes & Nobel associates