Monday, November 09, 2009

In:Review- Kutless' It is Well

It's been four years since Kutless last produced a unique and chart-topping album. The year was 2005 and the album was Strong Tower, the band's first venture into praise and worship, a blend of popular praise tunes and a few originals. The album found wide-spread acceptance in the christian community and helped bridge the band into CCM success. Now, after two studio releases and a live CD/DVD, the band is looking to get back in touch with their audiences, and has placed it's hopes in their latest release: It is Well: a Worship Album by Kutless.

The new release follows the pattern of their first worship album: contemporary praise tunes, a revamped hymn and a few originals penned by the band. The style of music will probably bring the album success as it brings back hints of Sea of Faces and their debut Kutless, both of which placed the band on the map. The melodies make use of heavy guitars on tracks like "Remember me" and "Give us clean hands" while also pleasing CCM listeners with tracks like "I'm still yours" and "What faith can do."

Upon my first listen of the album, I wasn't totally impressed, definitely not wowed in the same way I was by Strong Tower. The problem for the band is that Strong Tower was so unexpected, so out of the blue and so unique for Kutless. The songs that the band used were unique, from their own compositions to the songs they borrowed from others. They pulled a couple of obscure praise songs and gave them a new spin, which resulted in several popular radio hits. According to the band's statement for the new album, written in the liner notes, the band asked themselves "Can we do something unique?" The difficulty with that, is they already did something unique, so this could only be best described as a sequel, sort of an Offerings II from Third Day. Don't get me wrong: a second worship album is not a bad thing or doomed failure. Third Day blew fans out of the water with their first worship project, and if anything, garnered more with their second take.

With Kutless, though, it seems that they tried to hard for the unique factor and in the proccess, failed to attain it. The title track is a Kutless-vamped version of Hortio Spafford's time-treasured hymn. The band wanted to re-create the song with their own flair, but unfortunately, didn't quite manage to put the hymn in new light. Re-vamping hymns has become a recent popular trend in CCM and while many haven't managed to grasp the concept, their have been successes: Jars of Clay and Bart Millard come to mind. Thankfully, this was the only hymn touched.

Following in the footsteps of it's earlier worship album, the band searched for praise songs that spoke to them and that they wanted to re-record. The result: a mixed bag. Popular tracks like "God of Wonders" and "Hungry" show nothing unique, nothing special. Also, these songs were probably poor choices, because, to put it bluntly, did we really need another version of "God of Wonders." However, where the band shined was on several tracks penned by Phil Wickham, including: "Amazed" and "You save me." The two original compositions on the album penned by the band, "Taken by love" and "Everything I need" are good songs, just not the same as "Strong Tower."

Highlights of the album include the sure-to-be-a-hit "What faith can do", which will probably soon be heard every other song on radio stations across the nation, "I'm still yours" and "Redeemer." The last song mentioned is actually a unique medly of Keith Green's "O Lord you're beautiful" and "There is a redeemer" that Kutless indeed mastered with their own touch while staying true to the original song's worshipful nature.

Overall, an average praise album from a band that has shown and proved can do better. I won't go so far as to say the album is a let-down, due to the context of the songs and the few redeeming tracks. However, for an amazingly talented group of musicians that started off with three of Christian rock's best albums, it may not all be well with the band's fans.


Anonymous Maddie said...

despite it falling short of "Strong Tower" I still enjoyed the cd. I really liked "Hungry" and "Redeeemer".

11/10/2009 9:07 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I really liked this review....and I agree with it. I have yet to listen to the whole thing fully, but "Redeemer" seems like a great song.

11/10/2009 2:37 PM  

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