Grammy Award-winning 23-year-old Rebecca St. James returns to the music scene with her fourth regular full-length studio recording, Transform. Rebecca's popularity has grown with each recording over the past few years since her early teens. With each record, Rebecca progresses with a stronger sound and maturity than the previous recording, garnering much critical acclaim, including a Grammy this year for her last album, the 1998 relese, Pray.
Transform marks yet another step and progression for Rebecca. Her vocals are more confident and mature with this record. Not only that, the musical style has gotten more complex as well. Stepping up the unique pop/rock of Pray, Rebecca sets the album on a more electronic bed seasoned with exquisite strings and soothing harmonies. Her passion and overt "Christian lyrics" are the same, maybe even better than usual. Rebecca co-writes almost each song, and soley pens "Wait for Me," a love song to her unknown future husband.
The album begins with a beautiful instrumental piece titled "Intro," performed by the London Sessions Orchestra. It slowly leads into the electronic-aided pop/rock tune "For the Love of God," which is easily bound to be her next big hit. Electronic beats act as the foundation and driving force for this pop/rock song that showcases blatanly matured, powerfully layered vocals by Rebecca over an electric guitar-driven rhythm. "Reborn" follows, a techno-beat powered, fast-paced song about the Christian's life beginning when someone is saved. "Don't Worry" is a more light-hearted track that opens with an acoustic guitar and electronic flavoring before Rebecca's nearly-talking vocals are introduced. The album's highlight, "Merciful" comes next, a highly intricate and complex song powered by forceful strings and pumping electronic beats. Rebecca's vocals haunt through the track and leads up to the emotional chorus, "We will lay down/ We humbly repent/ And we cry out for You God/ Have mercy on us" as almost-theatrical strings glide on through.
The oddest track on the album is "One," a Britney Spears-like track that not only doesn't fit on the album but makes the listener wonder what Rebecca and the song's producer Dann Huff were thinking when they recorded it. The synths and overall feel of the song, written by Reggie Hamm and former Mukula frontman Daniel Muckula, makes it feel as the 'ugly duckling' of the album and is rather detatched from the rest of the album that precedes it. Don't get me wrong, the song by itself is not a bad song, in fact it's done very well, but considering all the songs Rebecca has ever done as well as the other songs accompanying it on Transform, the song clearly doesn't fit and its sound is so close to that of Spears (especially her song "Oops I did it Again") that one can't help but automatically make the association with the two. The following track, "Universe" has a regretfully similar feel with opening electronic vocal effects reminiscent of Cher, with this all capped off by "Wait for Me." Although "Wait for Me" succeeds as a good pop love song, it teeter-totters on the edge of the genre.
Things start to get back on track with "In Me," which is more stripped down than the previous tracks but is still in the same suit. The pulses bounce in "Lean On," which, incidentally, Rebecca co-wrote with Earthsuit. A good dancy pop tune, "Lean On" is followed-up by "All Around Me," a fast-paced guitar-driven pop track. The anthem-like "Stand," is radio-bound with an upbeat rhythm and bold lyrics, "This is our time to be strong/ This is our time to rise up To stand and be counted/ This it our time to believe/ To know in our God we are free..."
The album ends with "My Hope," the only ballad on the album (which is unlike Rebecca), a well-orchestrated song with soft melodies and a percussion backdrop that compliments it beautifully. Transform is a bold step for Rebecca St. James' career, but easily includes some of her best work. With songs like "Merciful" and "For the Love of God," I can only continue to watch this young woman's career in high anticipation as I have over the past few years.- Review date: 10/18/00, written by John DiBiase
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