Pizza Ranch, a midwestern/western restaurant chain with 190 stores, managed to rally 12 recognizable CCM artists to put together an ambitious album entitled Living Hope. Spanning a broad selection of artists from the seasoned Michael W. Smith to the up-and-coming Colton Dixon, Living Hope offers an eclectic mix of tunes threaded with a theme of hope. This project features nine brand new songs and three previously released songs: "Till I Met You," "Day One (Acoustic)," and "All in All" (a live version appeared on Wickham's Singalong 3). The songs here are enjoyable and encouraging, even if several songs are hindered by safe execution.
Some of the stronger tracks on this album include Colton Dixon's "Blind," with its slight rock edge, and Sidewalk Prophets' spiritual call to action "What Are You Waiting For." But the album highlight is Kevin Max's "Panic Button," which boasts a strong hook, a funky breakdown and Max's vocal prowess. The song is a further exploration of his retro sounding Broken Temples with an intriguing blend of new wave and rock & roll. Another standout track is Bart Millard's toe-tapping "A Little Hope," which is sure to put a smile on your face as it reminds us of the hope we have in God. Other songs don't work quite as well, particularly Laura Story's "Til I Met You" which can't decide between a reflective or anthemic tone, making its delivery less than powerful. Additionally, "Savior's Arms" and "Hope of Heaven" could have trimmed their five minute running times, but as-is they are fairly decent cuts.
Living Hope is certainly worth a purchase you are a fan of at least four or five of these artists and it also supports Porters Call, a foundation that exists to "be a service of counsel, support and encouragement to recording artists and their families." Pizza Ranch also did an excellent job putting together a well-organized website for this album that features a track-by-track breakdown with lyric videos, song explanations by the artist, lyrics, and artist bio's. For $5 you can grab a physical copy at a Pizza Ranch restaurant or a digital download on their website through August 31.- Review date: 6/13/15, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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