You might know of Andrew Osenga as a member The Normals or Caedmon's Call, and even though he is no stranger to flying solo (Osenga has released two solo albums, 2002's Photographs and 2004's EP Souvenirs & Postcards), up until now he had failed to rid himself of that "indie" sound and make a record that could stand head to head with mainstream rock n' roll releases. With The Morning, things have changed. A dynamic rock n' roll opus from beginning to end, Andrew Osenga delivers one of the best produced, and intriguing releases in Christian-rock this year.
The album immediately starts differently, with a short track called "Gym Class in High School." Actually, this and three other tracks on The Morning ("Farmers Wife," "Just a Kid," and "All The Wrong Reasons") serve as what Osenga describes as "chapters," dividing the album up into four different sections. More developed than the typical intro or interlude, the chapters are more like mini-songs, consisting of nothing more than a few lines of words and they're done. Again different, but it really works.
"After the Garden" is the first full-length track on The Morning, and the quality of this track really leaves an impression. Rocking harder than any of his previous work, this track only deserves to be played as loud as your stereo can withstand. "White Dove" is perhaps the best example of the quality of the production on the album. There is an obvious U2-influence here, with a very Edge-like guitar track, backed by Osenga's honest vocals. There is nothing distracting the listener from this song's message with Osenga singing, "And I'm waiting/ waiting for a white dove/ And I'm waiting/ waiting for a real love/ though it feels like the dam is breaking/ Like the second coming of the flood/ With the promise of not only justice/ but mercy and love."
Another notable track in the middle of the album is "Santa Barbara," a five-and-a-half minute rock n' roll spectacle that will make you want to hop in your car and blare this track with the windows down. This is followed by three softer tracks, including a ballad entitled "Dance Away the City," and "Marilyn," which features one of the best sounding choruses on the album: "So now it's on with the show/ One more song for you before I go/ And I hope they never know/ That I loved you Marilyn." The feel of this song immediately draws comparisons to The Normals last release, which was not a mistake considering both Osenga and Cason Cooley was involved with the production of this release.
After the final "chapter," perhaps the finest two tracks of The Morning remain. "New Beginning," which best sums up the mood of this release, is a song about hope and forgiveness, and features a fresh-sounding, Caedmon's-influenced accompaniment. The song starts out, "He said I'm done with tryin' to reach the top/ the richest dead man still just dead/ let's call in sick and take a walk/ I wanna fall in love with you again/ I know we can't undo what's done/ let's open our hands to forgiveness/ Unlock the secret we've become/ and leave them all in search of/ A new beginning." It is the new sense of happiness that is this record's secret, and what really propels it past the plethora of sad-sounding Indie-releases. While there were some great songs up til this point, "Early in the Morning," the album's last song, is in a league all to its own. Written in under an hour, nothing can account for this song's greatness besides divine-inspiration. Osenga intertwines several stories that all come together in the end for a very Enigma-inspired climax at which time Osenga sings, "These days/ they are a river/ and we're all floating down/ every loved one/ every neighbor/ in Tennessee/ in my hometown/ so let us not take this for granted/ let us not waste the second hand/ let your love rage like a lion/ let your heart break like a lamb."
The beauty of The Morning is the listener does not have to be a fan of "indie" music to take a liking to Andrew Osenga, thanks to the added focus on production and the noticed maturity in the lyrics and musical sound. There is still a bit of room for improvement, but overall, The Morning left me impressed, and eager to see what Andrew Osenga would come up with next.- Review date: 5/23/06, written by Andrew Shaw
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