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JFH Staff Review

!Hero: The Rock Opera
(Various Artists)

Album length: 2 Discs: 31 tracks, 115 minutes
Street Date: September 2, 2003

In 2001, young label set out to provide listeners with 10 worship songs with a soulful sound geared towards youth who need a fresh sound for their stereos. At first glance at the artist list, you'd think this was the case, until a double take would cause many an eyebrow to raise. Audio Adrenaline's Mark Stuart pairs up with former Chasing Furies vocalist Sarah MacIntosh. Awesome. Jars of Clay's guitarist Steve Mason gets a solo shot. Sweet. Natalie LaRue with T-Bone. Cool. Russ Taff? Johnny Cash?! Vestal Goodman??!! The goal of the album is all still the same, but the approach... the approach is irregular.

Soul Lift: Soundtrack for the Soul opens with Natalie LaRue and T-Bone's joint effort "King of My Life." The danceable head-moving sound introduced right off the bat stays relatively consistent through the project. Natalie's vocals are strong and mature, basically incredible given her still young age. T-Bone's rap flavor is a nice touch and compliments Natalie well. John Ellis, frontman of Tree63 follows with "Cry." An consistent element of the album is introduced here, with the use of a redundant samples of vocal clips (from between 1920 and 1935) which do nothing but cripple an otherwise excellent track. If these had been excluded, the tracks would be exceedingly more enjoyable. Russ Taff and DJ Maj are an unlikely team for the next track, an intriguing track blending Taff's southern, rough vocals with Maj's samples and electronic offerings. Lomax returns again for yet another track, this time opening LaRue's fast-paced "He Is Lord." The otherwise excellent song is hindered again here by whiney samples. Steve Mason's "Lift My Eyes" is another highlight, with his vocals slightly resembling bandmate Dan Haseltine's lead vocal style. Johnny Cash's "I Am a Pilgrim" feels out of place among his younger brethren with his unmistakably aged vocals that not even the electronic sounds can modernize. While Cash's singing and the song itself bear no problems, it just feels misplaced among most of the other artists on the record.

The Benjamin Gate's "I Am Yours" is a nice sample-free fit, a song that doesn't sound much different from the band's usual sound, which is not the case for most of the other artists featured. "Air" features Mark Stuart from Audio Adrenaline lead-vocalist fame teaming up with former Chasing Furies member Sarah MacIntosh in this light and soft soulful tune with Sarah's vocals floating through the track. Mike Roe of the 77's southern twang doesn't entirely flow with the rest of the record, and the same is true when the album closes with Vestal Goodman's oddly placed "Thank You." The song feels like it missed a compilation that may have been put together 50 years ago. Not a bad song, but definitely on the wrong collection, "Thank You" ends the album on a disappointing note. With so many highlights on the album, it would have been nice to hear the strength carried through to the end.

With that said, Soul Lift: Soundtrack for the Soul is a decent modern worship record with some really strong songs accompanied by songs that just feel like they got aboard the wrong album. But it's the strong points that still make Soul Lift well worth a listen.

- Review date: 1/19/02 written by John DiBiase

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Buy This CD Online

. Record Label: Flicker Records
. Album length: 10 tracks, 38 minutes and 52 seconds
. Street Date: 2001
. Buy It:

  1. King of My Life - Natalie LaRue & T-Bone
  2. Cry - John Ellis
  3. Solid Rock - Russ Taff & DjMaj
  4. He is Lord - LaRue
  5. Lift Up My Eyes - Steve Mason
  6. I Am a Pilgrim - Johnny Cash
  7. I Am Yours - The Benjamin Gate
  8. Air - Mark Stuart & Sara MacIntosh
  9. Mercy Seat - Mike Roe
  10. Thank You - Vestal Goodman
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