Saturday, October 13, 2007

John Michael Talbot returns to what he does best on his 50th

Living Water 50th
Artist: John Michael Talbot
Label: Troubadour for the Lord (http://www.johnmichaeltalbot.com/)
Time: 11 tracks/44:09 minutes

How does an artist commemorate his 50th recording? If you are John Michael Talbot, you record an album that encompasses the music of your entire career but sounds like something new.

On Living Water 50th, John Michael lays aside the electric guitars heard on his last two releases to return to his contemplative music. His unique folk/classical style arrangements coupled with orchestra and chamber music lends a dignity and elegance befitting such a milestone.
It sounds fresh even though it incorporates the elements heard on past releases—classical guitar, chants, rich harmonizing, orchestration and quiet, simple songs alternating with ones that are more intricate and triumphant.

The orchestration adds beauty to the quieter songs and majesty to the celebratory ones. Several contributors, including producer Billy Ray Hearn and orchestrator Phil Perkins, make it work even better than what has been heard on previous efforts. The brass heralds a king, the percussion booms like a cannon and the violin whispers some forgotten story.

You won’t find a "hit song" like you might on some of his earlier recordings. These songs have more of classical and liturgical feel, with most of the words coming straight from Scripture with only minor adaptation. The depth of the lyrics, arrangements and sounds give it more of a timeless feel that will hold up to repeated listens.

Being liturgically-challenged, I suspected a pattern to the overall work but wasn’t sure what it was until John Michael clued me in. In the liner notes he writes: "We begin with a song of praise, move to a ‘Kyrie’ as a time of repentance, followed directly by a "Gloria" celebrating the forgiveness God gives us in Christ." The pattern will be familiar to those acquainted with liturgical forms of worship. It shows once again how much thought John Michael puts into every aspect of his recordings. It makes them a pleasure to review.

When I think about his music, I realize that he is able to do something that few artists can do so well. His very manner of singing conveys gentleness—one of those fruits of the Spirit that seem too rare in our day. It gives one a sense of peace and comfort.

Congratulations John Michael on reaching such a momentous milestone. Thank you for bearing so much fruit in your ministry of music.
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