By this point in his discography, fans of Matthew West know exactly what to expect when they buy his albums: a collection of polished radio-ready pop/worship offerings, with a couple of sweeping ballads thrown into the mix for good measure. Here and there, the singer will skirt the periphery of that which might be considered truly funky. But he never sinks far enough into that sort of groove to risk ruffling the feathers of the existing fan base who have come to love and appreciate - if not outright expect - the usual assortment of pop/worship compositions that have all but come to define West's prevailing musical bent.
To his credit, All In does find West deviating from his own template here and there. The spritely toe-tapper, "Amen," which sounds as if the listener accidentally walked in on a full-blown bluegrass hoedown already several hours in progress, is sure to shake the slumber from all but the sleepiest of souls. The effortlessly laid-back feel of "Jesus & You" render the infectious track a near-perfect example of the pop/country idiom. And the lilting "1 Song" is propelled along so nicely by its airtight melody and semi-electronic accouterments that one has to wonder why West doesn't write this kind of material more often.
Where many a deluxe edition (or, in this case, an unnamed, expanded re-release) is nothing more than a case of the base release plus a handful of lesser, tacked-on cuts that don't go nearly far enough toward justifying the purchase of the extended-version, West's latest outing actually benefits from the inclusion of the additional tracks. Indeed, minus the copious layers of studio gloss that weighed down the original project, the stripped-back acoustically-based numbers possess a lighter, less encumbered feel than their more heavily-produced original counterparts, allowing a clearer look at West's sturdy singing voice and a heightened appreciation of his often-impressive melodic savvy.
Of course, existing fans will inevitably find West's latest effort much to their liking by default. Naysayers, on the other hand, aren't likely to pick up either version of the record, given that neither of them sound appreciably different from the bulk of his former work. For everyone else, the best bet would be to download only the five new songs, given that the remainder of the cuts on the extended iteration are far too leaden and like-sounding to recommend them to anyone but those already enamored with West's previous projects.- Preview Review date: 8/30/18, written by Bert Gangl of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Sparrow Records
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