Jeremy Camp became an instant favorite in CCM when he released his debut album, Stay, which included a slew of hits such as "I Still Believe," "Stay," "Understand," "Walk By Faith," etc. Since then, he has released several other projects through BEC Recordings (two other studio albums and a full-length worship album), all of which have seemed to continue in a steady decline in overall quality. Though this fall hasn't been tremendous, as Camp is still one of the better artists in the modern adult contemporary/rock genre, you can't help but notice it when you listen to his latest project, Speaking Louder Than Before.
"Slow Down Time" opens up the album, and it's almost like a more upbeat version of an already-upbeat Hillsong United song, only with slightly better lyrics. "Capture Me" fares a little better (musically and lyrically), but goes back to mediocrity with the title track - think Stellar Kart music with standard, anthemic adult contemporary lyrics (the first line says "Hear now this declaration from out across the nations" and the chorus is comprised of "We are we are in desperation, we need to reach this generation, we are speaking louder than before"). "There Will Be A Day" is a little stronger lyrically and features a traditional choir singing with a good portion of the latter half of the song, and "I'm Alive" starts off sounding like "Middle of the Night" by indie band Sherwood (and actually ends up being an album highlight).
The album slows down a bit for the next few songs. "You Will Be There" could end up being played all over AC radio stations, while "Healing Hand of God" just seems to lack something. The message is clear, that God is understanding and is always with us to heal us, but it feels a little empty musically. "My Fortress" is a ballad that is inspired by Proverbs 18:10, with a chorus that says "You are my fortress, You are the refuge where I hide, You are the strength when I can't fight." "My Fortress" also has potential to be another big radio hit. Camp then takes it back up a notch with "Giving You All Control," which has the sound of an Audio Adrenaline rock song - though a little cornier, but still works better than the earlier rock songs on the album. The last song, "Surrender," slows back down dramatically, ending on a personal and worshipful note (though his heart definitely appears to be in this song, it's still a little hard to get over lyrics like "Soften up this hardened clay, to be a servant this I pray, a reflection of You I long to be, so Your kingdom I will seek").
Overall, Camp's latest isn't bad, but I don't know if Speaking Louder Than Before can be considered better than anything he's done previously. It's certainly still worth listening to, and even worth a purchase for Camp fans, as it remains a good effort from the artist. Though, I would highly recommend Stay first to new listeners of Jeremy. The lyrics, though sometimes a little amateur in nature, are inspiring and encouraging, and there's even some good worship moments here as well. Fans of his older work most likely won't be disappointed in Speaking Louder Than Before.- Review date: 11/20/08, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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