From the moment This Fragile Breath" was released as his first single, Todd Agnew was viewed as a major player in the adult contemporary and worship field. He was recognized as such even more when "Grace Like Rain" hit the airwaves. Then he came back on his second album and took over radio with "My Jesus." With his third album here, Better Questions, can Todd live up to the previous two?
In case you're wondering what "Better Questions" means exactly, just listen to the first line in the opener, "Prelude," "I have better questions than I have answers." Although the intro is a bit intriguing, things get off to a rough start with the first song, "Still Has A Hold." Agnew tries way too hard to sound southern gospel, with very cliche southern gospel lyrics about being lost in the valley. At this point, I'm wondering if I'm really all that excited about listening to the rest of the album. Then "Least of These" jumps right in with a rocky guitar intro, and almost makes up for it, but I'm not sure if the album has redeemed itself yet.
On "Peace on Earth," Todd changes it up a little by giving the song a reggae flavor. It's not something he should try very often, but proves to be a good choice of music for the message, considering that a lot of older reggae songs had messages of peace and love as well. There is a poor flow to the lyrics in "Don't Say A Word," bearing a noticable pattern but it remains somewhat difficult to grasp. And when you listen to Todd's voice in "Family," you find that his vocals are very strong with certain styles of music, but don't fit very well with others. Musically, the song resembles that of Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
The first half of Better Questions is disappointing, with the only exceptions being "Our Great God," a worship song that utilizes the vocal talents of Rebecca St. James, and "If You Wanted Me." The latter of the two is very similar to his song "My Jesus," but the lyrics are based around Todd's self-doubt, "I'll admit I'm glad I'm not King David, ruling over everything I see, 'cause I think I've fallen for more than Bathsheba, Your creation's a temptation for me. If You wanted me to love You only, why'd You make the moonlight sparkle in her eyes?" That question struck a chord in my own heart, as I'm sure it will with a lot of other guys that listen to it as well.
Most of the songs from the second half fair better, like "War Inside" for example, which has a guitar track reminiscent of Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning." However, "War Inside" is a song about the war of flesh vs spirit, "There's a war inside of me between who I want to be and who I am." "Martyr's Song" is sung from God's perspective, singing to His children that have finally made it back home (with a children's choir in the chorus for added effect). And Todd decided to add a bonus track called "One Day," which touches on the life and death of Jesus, as well as the fact that He is coming back for His people one day.
Todd's honesty about the struggles of the Christian faith, as well as his love for Jesus, are very apparent throughout the enirety of Better Questions. And as long as he is making music, this will always hold true. As far as living up to his previous two albums, well, I think that's up to you to decide for yourself. Do you think it does? I think that's a better question.- Review date: 7/14/07, written by Scott Fryberger
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