Most of the time when a hyped-up musical project boasting a great artist roster and a grand theme are released, it's a haphazard collection of artists who don't fit together and the CD comes across more as an uncomfortable group of b-sides. 1995's Never Say Dinosaur: A Petra Tribute suffered this demise. While some memorable hits were formed like Jars of Clay's piece of gold, "Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows," other songs didn't fare so well. Other times, we have highly successful and pleasing collections with equally good songs throughout, keeping the focus alive. 1999's Listen:Louder succeeded in this. However, 2000's tribute to author Bob Briner's book by the same name, Roaring Lambs, falls somewhere in between.
The CD begins with pop extraodinaires, Jars of Clay with their newest tune, "Headstrong," a semi-whiney, average song that sounds more like a Much afraid b-side than a hit-bound single. It's a good song, but probably not the strongest to start the project out with. "Salt and Light" follows, a strong soulful, bluesy rock piece powered by Ashley Cleveland and dc Talk's Michael Tait. "Out There," a soft pop ballad where big wigs Steven Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith team up for the first time, marks a true historical moment in Christian music history. The soft rock ballad, "One Thing," appropriately follows which, performed by Ginny Owens and Brent Bourgeois, sounds a little reminiscent of Out of the Grey or Sixpence. The strong duet is followed by 2 true album treats. The first is a new fun tune from Christian music legend and genius, Steve Taylor with "Shortstop," which only presents the question "Why isn't he still making his own records?!" But until then, at least we have this recording after 7 years without new material.
An absolute answer to prayer is delivered with the reuniting of PfR, after disbanding in 1996, for the new song, "Kingdom Come." The sound is along the lines of their final record, Them, and is powerful enough to be a successful radio single. PfR is awkwardly followed up with the bizarre and misplaced "'Akehlulek' Ubaba" which sounds like a old African tribal chant. I can't help but think of Steve Taylor's hilarious and sarcastic song "Cash Cow," from his 1993 album Squint, which included similar chants that are heard at the beginning of the arrangement. Although not a total loss, this upbeat tribal dance tune, performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Charlie Peacock feels more randomly inserted when followed up by the delightful worshipful rock talents of those lovable British, Deliriou5?. The band performs "Touch" with such passion that they've become known for. Burlap to Cashmere do what they do best with "Daises and Roses" and present a passionate acoustic ballad sprinkled with their trademark Latin feel. Over the Rhine's ballad "Goodbye" continues the soft mood of the second half of the album with their soothing, yet emotional music. Boasting a style they describe as "Poetic-Apocalyptic, Georgia Red Clay Stomp-and-Ramble," Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love toss in their contribution of the upbeat southern-flavored "Wondering Where the Lions Are," another 'oddball' in the bunch that disrupts the soft flow of the latter half. This is reinforced when the silky smooth vocals of Sixpence None the Richer's Leigh Nash are heard next. "The Ground You Shook," which features background vocals of legendary singer Emmylou Harris, is appropriately the album closer as it is a personal letter to Roaring Lambs author Bob Briner.
A good, but not perfect collection of talented artists all displaying passionate tribute to a an inspirational literary work, Roaring Lambs is a treat that should not be missed.- Review date: 5/15/00, written by John DiBiase
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