Australia's pop/rock new kids Paul Colman Trio may be Mac Powell's largest endorsement since thick-framed glasses and stylish gotees, but don't let the hype fool you. 2002's Best New Artist of the year declared by the Gospel Music Association's Annual Dove Awards ceremony (probably most fittingly "New Artist With the Most Successful Pop Chart Single of 2002") aren't exactly new to the game of music. Paul Colman has been releasing solo projects since 1997 before picking up Grant Norsworthy and Phil Gaudion sometime in 1999. So with eight independent projects under his belt, it's a surprise that last year's New Map of the World didn't leave more of an impression. While their sound serves as a sort of unlikely marriage between PFR and FFH to form yet another affectionately titled acronym artist PC3. While this isn't a bad thing off the bat, the part that hinders PC3's sound is that it may remind you of either of those artists (and others) and remind you how much better those original artists are. But while Paul & Co.'s debut release on Essential records wasn't a memorable release for the year, it still offered a few decent tunes including it's runaway hit "Turn."
With that, 2003 brings PC3's sophomore effort One. One opens without a surprise, offering the same sounds that made their first album the hit it was. "I'll Be With You" leads off with a cookie cutter pop song that does present some catchy melodies but is not much more than a composite of PFR and Steve songs of a few years back. Colman's vocals are rough and shaky from the start. While they work most of the time, Colman doesn't seem to project with the confidence or passion that would really propel such songs. Songs like "Pray" are adequate pop songs but come off too simple and rough around the edges to be expected from an established artist like Colman. "Solution" is an improvement overall but it's a shame to hear Colman's guitars so toned down and over-produced. Lyrically, Colman's songs are often as simple and straight-forward as you can get and sometimes tread into the realm of cheesiness like on "The Birthday Song" where a great message isn't exactly wrapped up in the best packaging, "I travel so far to be where you are / I'm leaving this sad and lonely place / You tell me receive but it's hard to believe / That everyday can be my birthday.../ Uh oh, it's my birthday / Cut the cake, blow out the candles / I'm staring down at my shoes / So tell me why when you sing / Happy birthday, receiving is so hard to do..."
"Big Blue Planet" picks up where New Map of the World left off and is one of the better pop songs on the record. The title track is a melodic acoustic offering that is a prayer for unity while an intriguing electronic opening to "Who Do You Say?" sykes out the listener as it gives way to a simple and moderately monotonous rhythm. Musically it has a lot of the elements to make it a stand-out track, but the band just never lets it get off the ground. The song begs on its knees to be a more musically intricate piece with more passionate guitars but it refrains. "Live It!" offers a few good moments in the chorus that remind me fondly of some of the better 80's pop tunes while "Save My Soul" is an FFH nod with Sunday School lyrics. The album closes with the tender and adequate "Into Your Arms," a simplistic worship song that ends things on a positive note.
I must admit I expected a lot more from Paul Colman Trio than what they've put together on One. The record comes off more like an amateur acoustic pop/rock record than a mainstream sophomore effort. A sensitive message of forgiveness and unity is present and will hit home with any Christian on a Spiritual level because of its easily digestible format. However, from a musical standpoint, I believe this group has better work under their sleeves, and I'm just afraid this One isn't it. Fans of New Map of the World probably won't be disappointed, but for anyone expecting a growth and maturity in the band's sound will most likely be left unfazed.- Review date: 8/27/03, written by J.D.
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