What would happen if twelve of Christian music's most influential songwriters plus seven other well known vocalists were placed in a room to produce an entire charity album together? Well, CompassionArt's founder and Delirious?'s lead singer Martin Smith did just that. This would not be just any compilation album, however. All proceeds of the album go to the CompassionArt organization, which benefits those around the world who suffer in poverty. While it sounds like a great concept in theory, in practice we get a different picture.
A main problem with this collection of songs is that it's too diverse. The idea was to compile many genres and backgrounds to create the ultimate record for a noble cause, but it's just that diversity which causes the entire disc to falter. When you combine the likes of Amy Grant, Kirk Franklin, tobyMac, Israel Houghton (better known as Israel & New Breed) and Steven Curtis Chapman, among others, it would be fair to expect greatness. But because of the variety of genres these artists encompass, this combination of styles doesn't fare well all mixed on one album. The reason artists normally decide on one genre for their recordings is to keep everything consistent. Here, the mixture just doesn't go well together, and overall turns out to be a jumble of music types.
Even though there is a great array of genres displayed here, there is one that seems somewhat constant, and that is an overall adult contemporary sound. It's pretty obvious after just one listen that this disc really wasn't produced for teens. Everything here is really pretty mellow and not many risks are taken musically. It also maintains that magical soothing feeling that seems to always follow the AC sound. So teens be warned: this album doesn't really offer us much that's too upbeat. For the few times that it is, it still manages to fall flat. Israel Houghton's track "Shout Praise" is very stale, and you might expect tobyMac's rap in the middle to improve the track, but still fails to save it from mediocrity due to its lack of substance ("Whatchu want, whatchu know, we're 'bout to let this kingdom roll"). TobyMac's own track with Kirk Franklin, "Let It Glow" is not only painfully short, but also never seems to develop into resonant musical bliss that we'd expect from the former dc Talker.
While most of this disc is rather second-rate, there are a couple tracks that make a good attempt at standing out. The very first track, "Come to the Water," which features Chris Tomlin, Martin Smith and Kirk Franklin, is not only upbeat, but really is just a great track through in through. Another gem on this disc is "Friend of the Poor," performed by Leeland Mooring. While at first listen it sounds like a possible "Tears of the Saints: Part 2," Mooring's tenor really brings the track to life and it makes the song a highlight.
It's difficult to have to come down on a project with such a bold and ambitious vision of uniting talent in the war against poverty, but I will leave this to the listener: if you decide to pick CompassionArt: Creating Freedom From Poverty up, know that your money won't be wasted. What you'll get in return for your donation, however, is not really anything to get excited about.- Review date: 1/25/09, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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