Tribute albums are dangerous territory. In the same way that the remake of a film can be difficult to do, gathering the right artists to cover popular songs properly can be a daunting task. With Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dc Talk's "Jesus Freak", dc Talk member Toby McKeehan's own label Gotee Records pays homage to one of the greatest and most important albums in the history of Christian music.
As you can assume by the name of this particular website, the original Jesus Freak album by dc Talk left an impression on me when it released in 1995. That is, so much so, that it lead me to start this site almost a year later, giving it such a name. To put it frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone playing these ten songs other than dc Talk themselves. The concept of a tribute album is immediately exciting, but the execution becomes somewhat surreal. And Freaked is struck with limitations before it even begins. Keeping the release label-specific, with its only contributors being Gotee-signed or Gotee-distributed, edges out a plethora of other artists that may want to contribute and, quite possibly, more effectively.
Each artist imprints their own signature sound on each song covered on Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dc Talk's "Jesus Freak". The record opens with metal powerhouse The Showdown ripping into a reserved yet delightfully fun rendition of "So Help Me God." While the band holds back appropriately, they still manage to flawlessly inject a heavy metal riff, in true Showdown fashion, before the song ends with an amusing little nod to the phone call from Kevin Max at the end of the original. "Colored People" plays out to mixed results. Teaming newcomer Ayiesha Wood's beautiful vocal talents with the always inviting hip hop leanings of John Reuben, this version gives Ayiesha front and center, leaving Reuben little to do besides the single rap breakdown. Arguably the most important song on the album is given two new treatments here, as 4th Avenue Jones takes a stab at it first, with hardcore/metal act Chasing Victory reprising with a bonus cut. Surprisingly, Tena Jones provides the core of the vocals for "Jesus Freak" with usual lead vocalist Ahmad hanging back until he needs to cover Toby's signature rapped verses. While I'm entirely not used to hearing "Jesus Freak" carried by female vocals, Tena's reimagining of the famous track is a worthy endeavor. However, in the end, the distinct absence of Ahmad's unmistakable presence leaves the track feeling less like 4th Avenue Jones, which slightly steals the fun of hearing them do the cover.
Sarah Kelly steps up to the challenge of the honest ballad "What If I Stumble." Kelly holds back from her usual approach for a more reserved vocal delivery. The song ends on a much grander scale than the dc Talk original as a chorus of voices joins Kelly for a somewhat over-the-top finish. House Of Heroes provides one of the first solid project highlights with "Day By Day," as the band lets loose on the dc Talk rendition, managing to capture a little bit of the magic the original possessed. On certain takes, it's easier to hear the artist's appreciation and love for the original song shining through. House Of Heroes' contribution is evident of this, as is StorySide:B's clear emulation in "In The Light," and Chasing Victory's rough and vicious take on the title track.
"Mrs. Morgan," from the 1995 release, is creatively replaced with a tribute to the Morgans, with "Mr. Tobin," a spoken interlude in the same fashion that features TobyMac's former manager talking about his experience with the Morgan family. Relient K gives "Between You And Me" a treatment all their own, managing to make the song sound like a perfect fit for the band. Fighting Instinct gives a fair southern-flavored hard rock take on "Like It, Love It, Need It," while John Reuben leads The Gotee Choir for a fantastic, goofy update of "Jesus Freak Reprise." Liquid gives "What Have We Become" a Latin flavor while crunk rockers Family Force 5 give "Mind's Eye" an upbeat, electronic face lift for another project highlight. Freaked! draws to a close with three bonus tracks. A brief instrumental interlude from The Gotee Brothers is followed by a second take of "Between You and Me," this time teaming Ayiesha with Paul Wright for a rendition that's more true to the original, before the album goes out with a bang from Chasing Victory.
'Bittersweet' may be the best word to describe such a project as Freaked. It's fun to hear new takes on old favorites, yet difficult to accept (let alone imagine) anyone else besides dc Talk playing these songs. And while the songs may seem to work best when the artist is either mimicking their predecessor, aiming to leave their own mark entirely, or aren't produced to an almost overwhelming degree, there's a lot that's enjoyable about Freaked. Anyone who is a fan of any of the artists on board or are interested in taking a glance back at something truly amazing in Christian music history will not want to miss Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dc Talk's "Jesus Freak".- Review date: 6/20/06, written by John DiBiase
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