While Michael Olson's debut Long Arm of Love might not have blown listeners away with its originality, it was the first glance at an artist who has many things going for him. Olson's clean, crisp voice and solid songwriting stirred up comparisons to the better-known Michael of Christian music and a younger Steven Curtis Chapman. With his sophomore release Where Fear & Faith Collide, Olson proves himself worthy of such parallels. But he also shows he's not merely a younger version of the two singers, playing a variety of styles and establishing his own sound.
Olson does his best work when he's not worried about how a song will sound on the airwaves (like he is with "On The Third Day"). "If You Can Stop The World" is catchy, and should also find success if released for radio, but doesn't display Olson's full capabilities. They are revealed most in the heart of the album where, after a rough start, it really takes off.
Olson does a little bit of everything; "Unchanged" sounds like a mixture of MercyMe and Starfield, while "Our First Love" is reminiscent of Five for Fighting - heartfelt and beautifully sung, it's the standout track of the album. It truly showcases Olson's talents and his ability to branch out beyond sappy pop songs like "On The Third Day." "God Is With Us" picks up the tempo and delivers a catchy, bold song of praise. "Tell Me Again" follows, slowing things down with soft violins and spot-on harmony. "Fear and Faith" is next, and though its chorus sounds unmistakably like some of Chapman's work, it's done so well that it's closer to a remastery than a rip-off.
Olson does hit a few potholes near the end of Fear & Faith. "Helpless" and "Everywhere" don't fare quite as well as the previous several songs, presenting little that hasn't been heard before. "Drawing Near" is better, but not quite the stellar finale one might anticipate after hearing "Our First Love."
Where Fear & Faith Collide is at times exactly what listeners might expect to hear, but often may surprise them by how mature and diverse it can be. It's a step up from Olson's debut, and while still leaving room for growth in the future, is one of the year's best albums of its kind.- Review date: 2/11/07, written by Spencer Priest
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