Kevin Max has proven to possess an incredible vocal versatility over the years, beginning with the hip hop outfit dc Talk in the late 80s. As that trio morphed into a pop/rock wonder, Max was given even more chances to stretch his vocals with different musical styles, an opportunity that has only increased with his solo career. With two pop/rock albums and a Christmas album under his belt, the vocalist reaches back to his roots with The Blood, a unique Gospel project that proves that Max's incredible pipes can conquer just about any style.
And though these Gospel tracks have been covered time and time again, Max gives them a fresh feel, and respectfully expresses their rich history in the process. "The Blood is not a classic hymns cover project, or a white/homogenized version of black gospel or soul music," Max says. "It's a sensitive and stylized adaptation of the music that was at the root of rock and roll, blues, and popular culture."
The "adaptation" gets started with a rendition of "The Old Rugged Cross," which receives the royal Johnny Cash treatment, with a single guitar being the only accompaniment to Max's deep, bass-filled voice. The song is warped to sound like it is being played on an old AM radio, adding to the Cash effect. At just over a minute-and-a-half, it is The Blood's shortest track, but it is an appropriate opener.
The AM radio effect almost poignantly fades away, and crisp, clear guitars appear as a dc Talk reunion ensues on their version of "The Cross." Not only does it work as proof of the legitimacy of rock 'n roll's roots in Gospel, but it is also a really solid dc Talk track. The nuances and subtle ironies are more than likely going to be overlooked however, because, well, this is the first new dc Talk song in years.
It is not the only track with a guest appearance. Indeed, an impressive group of talent joins Max on a number of tracks on The Blood. American Idol finalist Chris Sligh appears on the Blind Boys of Alabama reminiscent "Run on for a Long Time." Amy Grant and Vince Gill appear on a Gospel rendition of "Up above My Head I Hear Music in the Air." Ashley Cleveland sings background on a blues take on "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." Erica Campbell of Mary Mary appears on the eclectic, beautiful "People Get Ready." And Joanne Cash herself appears on the Max-penned album closer, "One Way, One Blood." These guests represent a wide range of musical diversity, and all play their parts perfectly.
Calling this a cover album would be a spit in the face, not only to Max himself, but to the people responsible for the songs found here. It follows that Max's ability to make these old classics relevant today, to a completely different audience, is a compliment to both parties as well. The rich history and diversity found on The Blood is quite a work of intellect and artistry, and is played to near perfection.- PReviewed: 10/24/07, Review date: 12/22/07, written by Josh Taylor
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