In the genre of worship music, it's not often that one stumbles upon something fresh and exciting. Too often, artists are wrongly criticized for being excellent musicians because it "distracts" from the lyrics, and because of this, worship music is sadly and much too frequently boring. That is why, upon hearing the energetic and fun start to Aaron Keyes' Not Guilty Anymore, this reviewer held hope that his first studio album would be a great listen. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The album opens with "You Never Cease To Amaze Me," complete with crunchy guitar, synthesizers, a great melody and a decent message to boot. Although the lyrics seem somewhat simplistic and generic at first, ("You never cease to amaze me/ You work in wonderful mystery/ You cover me with Your mercy/ You never stop amazing me"), it proves to be a good beginning, and also happens to be the only album highlight musically.
Once track one is over, the record takes a turn and goes into what can be called "the worship album lull" or WAL; the inevitable point in any worship album (probably to mimic a worship service) where the songs are taken down a few notches in order to allow more room for the Holy Spirit to speak to the listener. It's become essential to many a worship record, so there's no surprise that Mr. Keyes has included it in his release, however, placing it two tracks in is rather awkward, and it continues for the next three songs (occasionally these songs do build, making them tolerable to listen to). Of course, nothing is wrong with soft songs, but when lumped together at the beginning of a disc, it makes the otherwise beautiful tracks sound the same and unoriginal, while simultaneously causing "You Never Cease To Amaze Me" to seem extremely out of place. This definitely changes the tone of the album, taking it from being a unique release to a bland collection, both lyrically and musically.
Thankfully, things do get picked back up at "I Am Yours," but once again, although the lyrics are earnest, they can get somewhat simplistic at times. "Like Jesus" brings us full circle to the album's beginning, complete with synthesizer. The title track, however, proved to be the most powerful, bringing tears to this reviewer's eyes. Aaron managed to hit every checkmark on the list of things that make a worship album truly great in one song: a powerful message that was delivered by well-written lyrics (check and check), decent musicianship (this one is a generous check, as there isn't anything incredible about the music, but it does compliment the words well and later on in the song breaks out of the typical mold) and last but certainly not least, he has made the song personal to the listener (check).
Tragically, the last four songs of the record remain a blur. At that point, all of Not Guilty Anymore seems like one big WAL. Perhaps if the songs were spread out among two or three future releases it would have made for a more memorable album. However, Aaron Keyes has proved on occasion that he has the writing chops and musical skill to potentially churn out great songs. There is no doubt in my mind that he can, and most likely will, eventually become a staple in the worship world.- Review date: 8/22/10, written by Laura Cree of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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