CCM has undergone many changes, yet hasn't in many ways, as well. While many pop artists continue to make formulaic radio-friendly chart-toppers, some dare to test the waters by adding a slight edge. An example of this risk-taking endeavor is with Steven Curtis Chapman's Signs of Life (1996) and then after a positive response, edging it up a tad more for last year's Speechless.
Now I'm no authority on Clay Crosse, in fact, I have only heard his radio hits, but from hearing his new project, A Different Man in completion, it sounds like Clay is following Chapman's formula. With the first listen to the opening track, "No Fear," the listener gets sucked in by Crosse's soulful vocals followed by a just-as soulful beat. The chorus changes tone a bit and Clay is supported by gospel background vocalists to complete the mood. However, I would like to hear what it sounds like with Crosse by himself. Yet, the song is not hindered by the BGVs.
"98" is an intriguing song that represents 1998, which Clay describes himself as "quite honestly the most difficult year of my life." Crosse drops any masks and reveals himself in all honesty. Knowing the meaning of "98" makes it a stronger piece and much more powerful. The song tells of what Clay had learned and of how God made him realize that he had not been living for Him, but merely for himself. Crosse really pours out his hear in such all-out honesty that you have to give him a lot of credit for, "Come on and gather round/ And listen to my story/ About a fall from grace/ A change of heart/ A rise to glory/ A lesson learned/ A doorway I went through// Now all I know is I was born to lead/ And not to follow/ But the places that I led/ Turned out to be so hollow/ And in the end/ I just turned out to be a fool/..."
Two ever-so-pleasant surprises on A Different Man are "Be the Word" and "Memphis." The prior being a pop-ified rock song driven by electric guitars, a groove-laced baseline and beat and multi-layered vocals in the chorus, with the latter being a slow, twang/groove southern-ized soul tune that is reminiscent of something you'd hear in a comedy film or romance flick.
If you're looking for a good new pop album with catchy, honest, worshipful tunes, you'll find satisfaction in A Different Man. And maybe you'll have a newfound respect for Crosse as I do.- Review date: 2/6/00, written by John DiBiase
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