1998 was probably my first real experience with witnessing the shuffling around of lead singers in a favorite band of mine. It was the time when, mysteriously, Newsboys front man John James had quietly stepped down as the lead vocalist for the Newsboys and drummer/vocalist/co-founder Peter Furler literally stepped up to the microphone. It was something that the band decided to highlight as well, even naming their first all-Peter-fronted album Step Up To The Microphone. It was a good album, too, but it was only a so-so successor to the far superior 1996 album Take Me To Your Leader.
While it was a major disappointment to be losing the eccentric presence of John James from the band's live shows, Furler was already a founding member and a frequent lead singer (You can see him singing "I Cannot Get You Out of My System" on their video from their 1992 album Not Ashamed). It wasn't as much of a shock to the proverbial system, as, say, replacing the road-weary Furler with DC Talk's Michael Tait in 2009, but fans still had to get used to percussionist Duncan Phillips moving over to drums and the absence of James' unmistakable stage presence.
While I can think of several vocalist changes in recent years, from Audio Adrenaline to Flyleaf, Further Seems Forever to Underoath, and beyond, the most recent vocalist retirement brings to mind the exact same situation that Newsboys fans faced in 1998:
Family Force 5.
On Monday of this week, the band made the shocking announcement that original vocalist, Solomon "Soul Glow Activatur" Olds, was not only stepping down, but he had already played what was his final show as lead vocalist just two days prior without a single formal announcement. During that show, the band primed their new vocalist and drummer, much to the surprise of fans who, like me, just thought it was something special for their live show (until they told us after the show that night).
Photo of Jacob "Crouton" Olds taking over the mic from Solomon's final live performance on Saturday at Uprise Fest. Jacob sang a new song called "Dance Like Nobody's Watching"
Photos by Jesusfreakhideout.com's John DiBiase
So, as with Newsboys, original drummer, co-founder, and occasional lead singer Jacob "Crouton" Olds has been announced as the band's new lead vocalist. Jacob has a much more unassuming presence than the wild persona of "Soul Glow Activatur," but from his performance of a brand new song on Saturday, there was evidence that it would be completely different, but nothing short of still being very much "Family Force 5."
Still, the whole change is a shock to fans. And I, admittedly, have been a fan of Family Force 5 since seeing them perform at GMA Week in Nashville in 2005 before their debut Business Up Front, Party In The Back would release almost a full year later. They have one of the most energetic and fun live shows around, but one can easily argue that with success, many changes have happened in their music and live shows that haven't always sat well with fans.
So where do they go from here?
A clean slate is obviously on the table, but it's also clear that the band doesn't want to alienate their fans. Just from the snippet of new song "Glow In The Dark" that can be heard on Solomon's exit video, or the catchy and very danceable "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" that fans will be able to hear live from now on, Family Force 5 is retaining the spirit of what it is about them that won over fans eight to nine years ago.
Fan response has already been mixed, but I don't think it'd be fair to count the guys out just yet. While I will miss Solomon's infectious and outrageous stage presence, I'm still looking forward to supporting these guys and seeing them live again very soon.
-- John DiBiase
Photo from Solomon's final live performance on Saturday at Uprise Fest.
Photo by Jesusfreakhideout.com's John DiBiase
Elena Frye with Family Force 5
Favorite Band/Artist: Family Force 5
Featured Fan: Elena Frye
Location: Waseca, MN
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: April 27th 1013 in Rochester, MN
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: I love FF5 because they encourage us to have fun, dance, and go crazy for Jesus! "God is fun. There is going to be a party in heaven. There are going to be people in heaven who are going to be suprised that Jesus Christ can break dance with the best of them down here" - Joshua "Fatty" Olds Favorite Album by This Artist: Business Up Front, Party In The Back
Favorite Song by This Artist: Oh my...I can't pick just one favorite!!
Favorite Live Show Experience: Working security for them 2 days in a row. And getting to dance on stage with them during their dance party at Sonshine Fest 2013.
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 12
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: Hmm probably my Keep The Party Alive shirt that I made into a tank. (I also have 2 other shirts, 5 buttons, 4 wristbands, 2 lanyards, 3 setlists, 8 cds, 3 posters, and I'm sure I forgot something! ha)
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Taking a trip back in time (going a little McFly here) to life in 2003. I was about to turn 10, CDs were still the standard for music buyers, Myspace was still number one in Social Media, and a little band known as Relient K was getting ready to release their third studio album. Relient K had been active in the scene for a few years prior to this release, with their eponymous debut released on Gotee Records. With The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, the Canton boys started to garner mainstream success, with headlining tours and exclusive interest from clothing brands. When Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right, But Three Do dropped on March 11, 2003, the album was welcomed with open arms by fans and critics alike, even earning them a Grammy nomination as well. The album showed growth musically, while still maintaining the witty yet poignant lyrics that they’re famous for. With quintessential teenage anthems like “Mood Rings” and “College Kids,” to earnest conversations with God, “Getting Into You” and “Am I Understood?” Relient K was proving their staying power while keeping things fresh. Of course, it wouldn’t be Relient K without some of the goofiness as well, and songs like “Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry,” “Gibberish” and the delightful hidden track, take care of that void (even if Matt Thiessen is the worst freestyle rapper ever). Two Lefts was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2003, and marked a new era for the quirky pop rockers.
Fast forward to 2013, and Relient K is still touring and making music, although not as much as they did in their earlier years. With considerable band member and musical style changes, Relient K finally bestows upon their fans a new record. It’s been over four years since they’ve released any original material (there was a covers album that was released in 2011), and the anticipation for some fresh music has been extremely high. The RK boys stated that they initially wanted to release the record in 2012, which then got pushed to January 2013, then pushed to April, and finally settled on July 2013 as their release date for Collapsible Lung, their seventh (including K Is For Karaoke) studio album.
Looking at Two Lefts and Collapsible Lung side-by-side, there are considerable differences and some similarities. With Two Lefts, you get that youthful, yet thoughtful punch and dorky charm that trademarked Relient K in their earlier years, and with Collapsible Lung, you get a more pensive yet laid back vibe while giving it a spin (or a click through your playlist). Both albums give a good look into where the band, especially wordsmith and frontman Matt Thiessen, is in life, while wrapping their stories up nice and tightly in clever hooks and catchy riffs. As far as which is better than the other, I’ll leave that to the reader to decide. Both serve as a part of Relient K’s journey and career, and both leave the listener with different things to think about after the last track plays.
Over the years, Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right, But Three Do has been hailed as Relient K’s “best” by some, although it sometimes gets overshadowed by their 2004 release, MMHMM, when discussing Relient K’s library. The record was definitely a step in the right direction for these pop punkers, with it taking a more straight up rock approach while still keeping some of the goofiness and all of the wit found on previous records. Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right, But Three Do is a classic Relient K album, and still remains as one of the best releases in their genre to this day. Happy belated birthday, Two Lefts, you still look and sound as good as you did ten years ago!
-- Cortney Warner
Soon after I had turned six, a tragedy occurred that I could not comprehend until I became older. It was a tragedy that robbed the world of one of the most incredible musicians that ever lived. On September 19th, 1997, a rolling Jeep ended the life of Rich Mullins. As an artist, he was incredible. As a human being, he was remarkable. As a man of faith, he was unshakable.
His was the first music I ever remember hearing, and thanks to my efforts to emulate my brother, he became my first favorite musician. His death passed my notice once it happened, but I remember being disheartened upon hearing the news (but not nearly as much as seeing Mufasa's death the first time; ah, the values of the post-toddler). Since then, Mullins and his music has been an integral part of my life, from his genre-bending "Awesome God" (the first worship song I ever learned) to his timeless words of "Sometimes By Step," from the delectably catchy "Screen Door" to the brazen beauty of "The Color Green." His is a brand of music that never gets dated, and never grows old. He's one of the best instrumentalists and songwriters of his time, and there is no doubt he would have stood even taller in our time. He made the hammered dulcimer and Irish tin whistle stand front stage in front of music fans who had their ears trained on synthesizers. He ingrained the words of the Nicene Creed in the minds of even the most historically ignorant. And, indeed, perhaps more than any artist since Larry Norman, he changed the landscape of Christian Music as we know it (maybe barring Amy Grant, whose performance of the Mullins-penned "Sing Your Praise To The Lord" gave him his big break, AND improved Grant's popularity).
But as a man, you could hardly imagine someone more fascinating. His humility was unbounded, to the point that he decided to finish his college education at the peak of his career, attending Friends University on a trombone scholarship. His charity was immense, to the point that he lived on $24,000 a year by the time of his death, giving everything else away. He lived the larger part of his last several years on an Indian Reservation in his effort to share God's love. He was a vagabond who ruffled the feathers of the Evangelical culture whenever he spoke, not caring what others thought about himself as long as he was serving God with everything he had. He was a scholar whose depth of biblical knowledge was profound, and a teacher who could mesmerize child and adult alike. And he was a wanderer who needed no more than a trailer home in New Mexico as a "permanent" residence.
Now more than ever, a man like Rich Mullins is sorely missed on the CCM scene. While the spirit of his music is captured by artists like Andrew Peterson, his creative expression and aura of magnificence that his music evoked, as well as his faultless expression of God's beauty, is significantly lacking. Even if he were still around, I don't know if he could deal with the way the music scene has changed (and mind you, not for the better). Ask yourself, what in the world would today's music industry do with a man who gave away almost everything and moved onto an Indian reservation? But I digress.
So those of you who don't know this man, take a moment. And those who do, recall his ingenuity... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhGOosxTLrY
- Mark Rice
We’ve all been there…
You turn on the radio one too many times. You hear one-too-many generic worship albums. One-too-many of your favorite artists degenerates into just another pop act. You heard one-too-many new artists that sound like Nickelback. Who knows what might set you off, but the time comes when you are just fed up. You cannot stand the direction that music is going and you decide that you need to remember what “real” music is.
So you turn off everything. You get your MP3 player or your stereo or your computer or your record player (etc.), and you put on some artist that never fails. And instantly, you forget all your frustrations with music. You remember how beautiful it can sound. You forget all that generic, sound-alike, unoriginal music that has been crammed into your ears, and are completely taken up with ethereal, emotional, pristine perfection which now graces them. Maybe they are simply your favorite artists. Maybe you have a more emotional or nostalgic connection to them. Maybe you like it for its lyrical substance, or it unfailingly points you toward Our Creator of All Things. Or maybe some artist really does create the most beautiful music you have ever heard. But whatever the case, you simply are indebted to those artists for making such incredible music.
Here are six artists (in no particular order) that I often turn to in those situations (although this list of by no means exhaustive)…
· -Steven Curtis Chapman: I fell in love with SCC’s music at the age of nine when I discovered that he mentioned my (at the time) favorite TV show in the first verse of his song “Live Out Loud” (don’t chuckle, I’m sure your first impression of artists were just as shallow when you were nine). Eventually, I developed a more solid foundation for my fandom, which has only solidified more as years went on. Honest, heartfelt, often emotional, well-written lyrics paired with music that is both irresistibly accessible and of a sound artistic integrity. And the nostalgic value of his music puts it over the top.
· -John Reuben: I was late to the John Reuben bandwagon, but I quickly made up for lost time when, after reading the JFH reviews on all six of his albums, I made an impulse order on Amazon of four of them despite the fact that I had never heard any song of his. At first, I didn’t know quite what to make of him with his stereotypical “white-man raps” and blend of the silly and serious, and I wondered if I had been too hasty in my purchase. But after latching onto a few of his more lyrically biting songs and slowly coming to the realization of how unique his craft was, my respect and admiration for him grew immensely. Thought-provoking, honest, innovative, and just plain fun, this is definitely one impulse purchase I don’t regret.
· -Propaganda: Before I listened to Propaganda’s album Excellent, I was not a hip hop fan. After I listened to the album, I was. Need I say more?
· -Adam Young: Before The Midsummer Station, there was a shy, wide-eyed, Minnesotan insomniac who played around on his computer and who, in comparision to most sugar-infested pop music out there, served up a veritable gourmet meal of delicious treats that it was hard to believe was actually healthy. Indeed, no matter which musical project Adam Young tacked (most notably his indietronica project Owl City, but also his more acoustically-based project Sky Sailing, and others), you could expect a creative explosion of dreamy charm and wit that would drive away frustrations like the plague. I just pray that Adam Young can steal his music back from being just another pop act in an ocean of pop acts.
· -Charmaine: Who makes the best pop music in the CCM industry? I believe that if her 2010 album Love Reality is any indication, it is, without a doubt, Charmaine. Aside from having one of the most captivating voices I’ve ever heard, her brand of orchestral symphonic pop is the most excellently executed and unhinderingly appealing sounds I have ever head. In a span of 10 songs and 40 minutes, I doubt you’ll find any more perfect pop music for the music lover.
· -Iona: For this one, I need to give a shout-out to my fellow staff reviewer “Tincan” Caldwell. Sometime last year, I was sifting through the reviews index looking for some promising music I can check out, and I saw a Mr. Caldwell’s review for Iona’s album Another Realm (rated 4.5 stars), whose genre was listed as “Irish Folk Rock.” I was intrigued and read the review to discover that it was a 95-minute double concept album, and that Iona had been making music for over twenty years. I was more intrigued. After finding a couple of their songs on Youtube, I was no longer intrigued; I was dumbfounded. Breathtaking vocals, mind-numbing guitars, wicked saxophones, ethereal flutes, swirling bagpipes, explosive drums, countless other impeccably played instruments, and beauty all around. I thought then, and still think to this day, that Iona makes the best music I have ever heard.
So who do you guys turn to when you are facing musical depression?