Regie Hamm is probably not a familiar name, but more than likely you know his work. Hamm has written over 20 #1 hits (mainly in CCM), including the song "I Surrender All" performed by Clay Crosse. Hamm is also the writer of the American Idol smash-hit, "Time of My Life" recorded by David Cook. Regie has also reached number one on the charts for artists such as Point of Grace, Avalon, Mark Schultz, Bob Carlisle, and Jaci Velasquez. Hamm is also a four-time winner of the SESAC Songwriter of the Year award. Regie returns for his second solo album, Set it on Fire, seven years after his first release, American Dreams, which boasted the top 20 hit "Babies."
The album opens with a quick dose of ultra-catchy pop rock as the title track, "Set it on Fire" plays. The song is a prayer to God to burn up every meaningless thing around you leaving nothing but Christ. "Set it on fire, set it on fire; in an ocean of flames 'til nothing remains but you, but you. Set it on fire, set it on fire; burn it down to the ground 'til nothing is found but you, but you." The song was conceived during a photo shoot where Regie's piano was set on fire. Regie stated, "As the piano burned, I began singing a chorus. I didn't sing it as something that might someday be a hit song. I didn't try to sculpt it or shape it or make it into anything other than a prayer." "My piano ultimately burned to the ground ...so be it ..." The album also features two other predominately pop songs in "Full Circle" and "Pictures of People I Love."
Regie shifts more to his roots for the tracks "Not Today" and "The Water is Free." Regie's father was a traveling Pentecostal minister and he was raised singing and playing drums at tent revivals with his family. These two tracks, particularly the latter, have the feel of a good ole fashioned tent revival. "Not Today" has this feel mainly through the verse, and then shifts to a more pop feel during the chorus. "The Water is Free" maintains the tent revival feel throughout, complete with a choir backing the vocals. This is easily the most fun track on the album.
The remainder of the album is pure piano driven pop; the tempo may vary, but the piano always sounds great. Don't take that as a negative, this is the absolute best part of the album. Regie runs off a streak of impressive songs in the middle of the album highlighted by the Train-esque "Starlight," the beautiful "Don't Know Much About Love," and the eye opening "Welcome to Hollywood." "Welcome to Hollywood" talks about the harshness of the music industry and gives insight that warns that things aren't as great as one may have dreamed. The chorus of the song gives you a true picture of how things are with the lyrics, "You're the best thing since the last thing and you'll do until the next thing comes around; Welcome to Hollywood. And when you make it, make it fast, I've got to be somewhere on the other side of town; Welcome to Hollywood. Goodbye…" Regie may offend some listeners with his lyrics later in the song as he sings, "Yeah, we'll get your billboard and your star and your special place in Hell, we'll paint some targets on your clothes." Though the word is not used as a profanity, some may not care for the usage.
Regie closes the album with his version of "Time of My Life." Many listener reviews I have read state that they prefer David Cook's version to Hamm's. Regardless of your opinion on which is better, it is interesting to hear the song exactly as originally written. After listening to Regie sing it, you will understand why he won the contest to have his song as the American Idol finale. And after listening to the album, you will understand why Regie is such a successful songwriter.
Regie Hamm's voice may be an acquired taste to some listeners. He has a solid voice, but it's not necessarily what you expect from someone in the genre. Regie holds his own, though, as he fearlessly belts out his songs with solid range. Hamm is clearly a talented individual when it comes to music. Whether it is as a songwriter, singer, musician, or producer, Regie clearly knows what it takes. This album is definitely worth the listen. If the album isn't enough Regie for you, you can read his story in the book "Angels & Idols" which released with the album.- Review date: 10/1/10, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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