Thursday, May 18, 2006

InFocus: The Answer to the Question

“He is the answer to the question. He is the cure for the infection. He is all He says He is.” The title track of Tree63’s The Answer to the Question sort of defines what this album is all about, especially when lead singer John Ellis belts out “I’m so tired of a mouth shut tight, all I want to do is tell the whole world about the Man sitting at the right hand of the One in heaven.” This sums up Tree63’s mission, a mission to declare the truth of the one and only savior and glorify His name. This album, perhaps more than earlier releases, is a straight up rock & roll praise album. All but one of the ten tracks is an original work of the group, and all revolve around the central theme of praising God. The only love songs on the CD are the love these three South Africans have for their Lord.
The opening guitar rift on the first song, “King”, is perhaps one of the best little rifts Christian music has seen in awhile, reminiscent of Guns ‘n Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” but that is besides the point. The song “King” was a hit single, and for good reasons as it provides a great start to the album. The second song, “Blessed be your name” is a cover of Matt Redman’s song, but really was the first recording to put the song on the map, so to speak. The song went on to be number one on many charts and lead to many other spin offs, including an excellent rendition by the Newsboys.
The overall sound of the CD is rock, with a couple subdued numbers, including “Blessed be your name” and “Let your day begin.” But the group’s sound rings best on the track “But now my eyes are open.” The crunching guitar and great riffs are amazing, and bring taste to the often bland Christian music scene.
The last song on the record, “Overdue,” while clocking in at less than three minutes, contains a couple of musical bridges that prove Christian musicians can be creative when it comes to sound and not just lyrics. While most Christian musicians mainly focus on their lyrics, which is vital, they sometimes ignore putting creativity in their music. Music alone can be used to glorify God, and Tree63 makes use of their talents and give us a look at the other side of Christian music.
Overall, the CD is tremendous, with other standout tracks including “I stand for you” and “You only.” If you are looking for some praise music with a little kick and originality, look no further.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A missed opportunity (by some)

In my opinion, the role of Christian music is not just to reach out to Christians and convict and encourage them, but also to reach out to unsaved people as well. The problem is, most unbelievers won't listen to Christian radio and certainly don't wander into a Christian bookstore. So, short of crossing over to mainstream, how can Christian music reach a broader audience?
The answer could be in the form of Pure Volume is a website where artists can have their own page where they can put up tour dates, discography, band information, and most important of all, songs users can listen to in full. The site is visited by millions every year, and is a great opportunity for a band to get its name out, especially small and independant bands that aren't played on mainstream radio.
Unfortunately, not many Christian musicians take advantage of this amazing opportunity. The few Christian artists who have information up don't always have music to listen to. For instance, you can read a short biography of Jeremy Camp but won't find out where he will be performing next or listen to any of his music. As a result, his profile has only been viewed a little over 14,000 times. In contrast, Relient K which allows you to listen to six of its songs in full (including hits "Be my escape" and "Who I am hates who I've been" as well as new songs "Apathetic way to be" and "More than useless") has had almost 2 million views.
So here's a wakeup call to groups like Tree63 and others to get your music out in a creative and effective way on Pure Volume. Props to artists like Hawk Nelson, dcTalk, Mat Kearney and Jonah 33 for using Pure Volume to reach a wider audience.

Upcoming Releases:5-9

Rachael Lampa-- Blessed: The Best of Rachael Lampa

Nicole C. Mullen-- Redeemer: The Best of Nicole C. Mullen

Jaci Velasquez-- On My Knees: The Best of Jaci Velasquez

Hyperstatic Union-- Lifegiver

Thursday, May 04, 2006

InFocus: Tree(63) History

In late 1996, three men stepped onto a stage in Durban, South Africa with the intention to play five songs, and then disappear. They had no name, had only practiced together for a grand total of six hours, and had no intentions to pursue a career together. But God had other plans for frontman/guitarist John Ellis, drummer Darryl Swart and bass player Scoop: Tree63. After the concert that night, the group continued to jam together for a few months, before getting serious about their music. Ellis and Swart, both with backgrounds in other bands began putting songs together that were written by Ellis. They decided to put together a CD to remember their time together and then breakup. They went to Martin Engel’s Dog Ears Studios in South Africa and self-produced their first album: Overflow.
Only 1000 copies of Overflow, which contained the original versions of “Look what you’ve done for me” and “Joy,” were pressed. They also came up with a name: Tree. After the CD was released, the group called it quits and broke up. But in 1998 the group regrouped and went to Europe to play a few shows. Upon their return, they signed with Survivor Records and put out their second album, 63, which contained their smash hits “A Million Lights” and Treasure” which attracted international attention, especially in the United States. Their straight up rock n’ roll style and blatant Christian lyrics struck a chord with many.
The group, now known as Tree63, traveled to the U.S. in 2000, now including Martin Engel at bass, and released their debut self-title American CD. The album included a mix of songs from their previous two albums, and earned the group a Dove Award in 201 for Rock Album of the Year, as well as garnering the songs “Treasure” and “Look what you’re done” #1 spots on the US CHR charts.
In 2002 the band went on several tours, in Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. with the likes of Rebecca St. James and others. Then, Martin Engel pursued other interests, and Daniel Ornellas, another South African, joined as bass player. The three went into the studio and recorded their first material in three years: The Life and Times of Absolute Truth. The CD showcased the group’s amazing talent in songs like “All Because” and the rocker “The Glorious Ones.” The group continued to tour, and in 2004 released their third American album, The Answer to the Question, which included the hits “I Stand for you” “King” and their #1 cover of Matt Redman’s “Blessed be Your Name.”
Then, in 2006, the group released Worship Volume One: I Stand for You, a mix of some of their older songs and some new ones. Arguably their best album to date, the disc included live versions of previous songs “King” “I Stand for You” and “Look what you’ve done.” Some of the new songs included “Never be the same” and “Lift.” But the best songs of the album were “Nothing but the blood”, their take on the old hymn with their own verses and the live version of “Amazing Grace” concluding the album.
Tree63’s road has been anything but flat and easy going. The group has experienced label changes, group member changes, and yet God has had His hand on them from the start. The group’s amazing sound, powerful lyrics, and Ellis’ bald dome are what makes them this month’s InFocus group of the month.

Information taken from the group's website:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May InFoucs: Tree63