- That’s How You Change The World
- Love Like You Mean It
- Live With Abandon
- Go Glow
- That Home
- Fishers of Men
- One Word
- We Believe
- Overflow (Deluxe)
- Man on Fire (feat. Kevin Max) (Deluxe)
- God is Movin’ (Deluxe)
- The Living Years (Deluxe)
- Stronger (Deluxe)
Since Peter Furler left the Newsboys citing reasons of possible burnout as the reason to walk away from the band, many die-hard Newsboys fans (and fans of Peter himself) thought that the band would be done. Nevertheless, Duncan, Jody and Jeff soldiered on, this time with ex-dc Talk lead singer Michael Tait at the helm of the Newsboys. A different musical flavour and a different direction, many listeners questioned how long Newsboys would continue under such a different lead singer to Peter, both in a musical sense as well as vocally. No longer could they call themselves the band from down under- with 3 out of 4 members now hailing from the U.S.A. and only Duncan Phillips being Australian, it seems a bit of a stretch to label them still as an Aussie band. Yet the band still continued, amidst all the chatter, criticism and cynicism they copped since 2009 onwards. Now four years, 3 albums and an EP later under Michael Tait’s leadership, the band are now back with their fourth album with Michael fronting the nearly 30 year old band. With hits like ‘Born Again’, ‘God’s Not Dead’, ‘Save Your Life’, ‘Way Beyond Myself’ and ‘Miracles’ running into the books of chart topping radio singles, the music keeps coming for a band that has had a remake and a rebirth of sorts. Releasing their first radio single ‘Live with Abandon’ from their September 10th album Restart, the Newsboys have delivered an album with similar style to Born Again. If Born Again was a rock album, and their 2011 God’s Not Dead record was pop-worship inspired, Restart would probably fit in the middle (more leaning towards their 2010 album than their 2011 one).
With much more dance inspired songs, electronics and powerful vocals flooding each melody, the band gives 110% to deliver an album that you know is going to be a standout in the lists of both fans and critics of the band alike, with the album possibly going to be the most talked about album to be released in September 2013 (alongside new albums from Phil Wickham and Dara Maclean). With Michael declaring that ‘…people will be excited about this album because we’ve pushed the music and taken it further than we’ve ever taken it before…’, I’m sure many listeners of the band will start to take notice when Michael further proclaims that ‘…I have not felt this way about anything I’ve been involved in musically since Jesus Freak…’ That’s a big bold statement from Michael, and after hearing this album for quite some time before writing this review, I can safely say that long-time fans of the Newsboys (in all its formats) will certainly treasure this album, as will I. From the radio single of ‘Live With Abandon’, to other hits like the title track, ‘Love Like You Mean It’, and the collaboration with Kevin Max on ‘Man on Fire’; Restart presents the theme of restarting in our lives, turning over a new leaf, and asking the Lord to come within us an charge a restart and rebirth within us in the way that’ll challenge us to continuously live out each day for Christ!
Releasing to radio at the end of June 2013, ‘Live with Abandon’ is certainly one of my favourite songs on Restart, and while the song is only around 3 minutes 20 seconds, we are still given a hard-hitting message of living without any restrictions upon us as we live for Christ. With Jeff Frankenstein providing great keyboard riffs to start off this 3 minute pop anthem, Michael declares with the full intention of letting his vocal presence and message be known. Starting off with the words of how ‘…chasing after this world makes me tired, praising my own name leaves me dry…’, we are able to realise that even though we want to believe that we are never tempted by this world in terms of material wealth, fame, success and status; we know that in fact we are. Needing God more than ever to help us live with abandon for Him is something we all should strive for, with Newsboys doing their bit to give us great confidence boosters and reminders, this song being one of them. As Michael unveils more on the story behind the song, and how ‘…when you think about living with abandon, letting go, dying to yourself, letting God take control, well that’s basically the gospel…’; ‘Live With Abandon’ invites us to dive in deeper with God, and to hopefully allow ourselves to truly see if we are really living life with abandon for Christ when we declare the lyrics alongside Michael that ‘…I wanna live with abandon, give You all that I am…’ Recently added on WOW Hits 2014, ‘Live is Abandon’ is arguably one of the most popular CCM songs currently on radio (and perhaps throughout 2013 so far!). Well done to Michael and the band for delivering once again a song that inspires yet also declares and proclaims that our God with worthy enough for us to lay down everything and live with abandon for Him!
With the album holistically carrying a dance-pop musical atmosphere, Newsboys are able to explore electronic beats and powerful lyrics as Michael vocally sounds at his best throughout each of the songs. ‘Love Like I Mean It’, recently played at numerous Newsboys concerts to promote Restart, speaks of us having and declaring a love that goes beyond just actions. Timed at 2 minutes 59 seconds, the musical backdrop for the song is just a great gem, as we witness one of the hardest hitting musically powerful songs on the album. Michael opens up a theme of loving others and ourselves like we mean it, and that ‘…I’m not gonna wait until it’s too late…I wanna show the world what I’ve been given…’, presenting to listeners with hopefully a call to action as we are lovingly encouraged to unveil more of ourselves to others, and respond because of love rather than duty, obligation or just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do that we can sometimes cling onto sometimes. ‘Go Glow’ follows on and presents a similar theme, and with Jody giving us light electric guitars as the musical backdrop on the song, Michael invites us to go glow and shine God’s love to others. The message of how ‘…He wakes up the stars, lights the moon, knows who you are, He put the light in you, go glow…’ should give us enough impetus and resolve for us to shine because of Him. Musically, the song ought to be enjoyed by CCM-pop enthusiasts everywhere (myself included), with ‘Go Glow’ possibly being one of my favourite upbeat tracks on the original version of Restart.
The Capital Kings-esque title track (in a musical sense) invites us to collectively declare that ‘…oh Lord I’m a different man, You gave me a second chance, I was lost, I was fallin’ apart but You came along, and You hit the restart…’ as Michael employs the techniques of a dance music inspired background and repetition to bring in more dance-pop loving listeners as the song packs in some powerful messages of encouragement, while ‘That’s How You Change the World’ starts off Restart with great energy and a message of how doing the small things. The ‘…prayer in an empty room, little things we do when nobody’s around, our hand reaching out to a heart in doubt, it’s the smallest that can light the dark…’ is something that’s ought to assure us that the little things our lives do in fact matter, to Christ and whoever we are in fellowship with. The piano and cello driven upbeat track of ‘Enemy’ wonders why we’re the ones who could be in the way of the revival that Christ is doing in our hearts and that sometimes we have to admit that ‘…I know I’ve pushed You away looking for someone to blame, no I can see I’ve been my own worst enemy…’; while the equally upbeat yet also reflective melody of ‘One Word’ invites us to stand in wonder at the same God who makes the universe, but also calms the storms in us, who ‘…can speak and light up my world with just one word…’ Add to this collection of upbeat tracks other energetic positively themed dance melodies like ‘Disaster’, a song that gives thanks to God and reminds us that God loves us even if our lives are a disaster at times, and ‘Fishers of Men’, a somewhat cheesy and fun-filled track that presents to us a somewhat palatable medium to promote and discuss evangelism in a non-intrusive way (and how there ‘…seven million people on a spinning ball and they all mean the world to You…’); Restart is perhaps one of the albums released in 2013 that has the most upbeat songs, with every one of them distinct and having their own flair, enjoyability and sense of encouraging listeners to make a change in the world we live in.
Along with the upbeat dance prominent tracks on Restart, Michael does his best with the reflective encouraging and uplifting material. With ‘That Home’ on Restart being the most subdued musically on the album, we are invited into a poignant, humble, emotional and motivating message about being in a home that provides unconditional love. Whether the song was drawing on personal experience or not, the song’s personal relateableness was certainly felt through Michael’s vocal delivery on the song, singing about how the persona’s mother was the one who made everyone who came into her house feel like it was home. The powerful words of how ‘…in that home, we knew we were safe, to be young enough to dream, found the faith to believe…love it had no end, it’s where we learned to forgive…’ is possibly one of the most powerful lyric lines from the whole album, and will hopefully provide listeners with conviction and hope to provide that kind of loving and safe home environment for their own children and whoever enters in it along the way. With ‘That Home’ hopefully encouraging listeners to possibly pursue adoption and therefore provide other children a chance at living in a stable home environment; Michael and the rest of the band continue with heartfelt messages and poignant choruses with track 11, ‘We Believe’. Also track 1 on My Hope: Songs Inspired by the Message and Mission of Billy Graham; the Newsboys pull out all their tricks of the trade and deliver to us a stunning and powerful worshipful ballad and hopefully a certain radio single in weeks and months to come. Reminding me thematically like ‘Creed’ by Rich Mullins, Michael powerfully lets us know that ‘…we believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in the Holy Spirit, and He’s giving us new life, we believe in the crucifixion, we believe that He conquered death, we believe in the resurrection and He’s coming back again…’, something us Christians can testify and proclaim to as we collectively worship the King who set us free. A moment of exaltation and proclamation, this is a great way to finish the normal edition of Restart– on a note of worship, praise and adoration!
With 5 extra tracks on the deluxe version, Restart continues to pack in the powerful poignant melodies one after the other to show us a variety of different melodies, from pop covers to worship covers to songs which feature Kevin Max as backing vocals, and others that feature some great guitar and drum work from Jody Davis and Duncan Phillips respectively. ‘Overflow’ starts off with an electric guitar intro that is almost certain to pull in casual listeners of the Newsboys as we are invited on a powerful trip that takes us through the knowledge of how ‘…there’s no limit to the love that You give me, I go swimming in the sea of forgiveness…’ With light electric guitar riffs that channel the musical backdrop of other electric guitar prominent songs like TobyMac’s ‘Me Without You’; Michael, Duncan, Jody and Jeff have provided us with a message of overflow and abundance, reminding myself of the chapter in John that lets us know that Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly. Featuring Kevin Max, ‘Man on Fire’ is one of my favourite deluxe-only tracks and a certain to be a radio single in the future (maybe next year???) With the song declaring that ‘…I’m a man on fire, burning for the Son, got a light, can’t hide it…’, both Kevin and Michael take turns to proclaim their intentions to burn the light of Jesus brighter. ‘God is Movin’ follows these two tracks, and places the thought out there that ‘…there’s something in the air…God is movin’…’; and while the lyrics on this melody are top notch; I reckon it’ll be the music that accompanies this song that will bring the song down. The music tries to be something that can be found in a Capital Kings or TobyMac song, but rather, it feels like a remix-y like track that seems to be overdone in remix beats, electronic keyboards and percussion…to the point where I felt like I needed to change track or turn the music down, no matter how much I enjoyed the lyrics and melody to the song. Regardless of this hiccup, the last two tracks are some of the best cover song renditions Newsboys have ever done.
Covering Hillsong’s ‘Stronger’, the Newsboys speed up the melody a bit to deliver a powerful rendition of a song that declares God to be stronger and more powerful than any other. With a soaring chorus, Michael declares that ‘…You are stronger, You are stronger, sin has broken, You have saved me…’; a fitting worship ballad to end the deluxe album of Restart with. Yet the most pleasant and welcomed surprise of them all is the band’s rendition of a 1980s mainstream song classic, ‘The Living Years’. Originally written by Mike and the Mechanics; the song laments on the missed chances and opportunities a son has with his father. With the persona of the song wishing he had said everything to his dad when he was alive, we are reminded about regrets and living our days with none as we are invited to also reflect on this mainstream song with wonder and awe as we hear the musical spin and transformation the Newsboys turned the song into. From a slow ballad into a pop-rock upbeat anthem; we are reminded that good music can still be found in the mainstream (other than the cheesy, pop songs about nothing promoted currently), and that renditions and re-imaginings can remind us how powerful and timeless these songs truly are. Like how Michael W. Smith’s ‘Friends’ was redone by Jump5, Steven Curtis Chapman’s ‘Dive’ was re-recorded by pureNRG, and Amy Grant’s ‘Lead Me On’ covered by Bethany Dillon; ‘The Living Years’ gives us lyrics and messages to ponder, as we ask the questions about if we’ve said everything to those we love before regret sets in. With Kevin Max also supposedly on backing vocals for this song (though I can’t seem to hear him); Newsboys show us once again why they’re still one of today’s most relevant and enjoyable Christian bands currently (alongside others like Building 429, Tenth Avenue North, MercyMe and Sanctus Real).
Overall: Newsboys’s recent incarnation with Michael Tait as lead singer is something that even I still have to get used to at times, with my rational mind wondering why the band has totally shunned the Peter Furler led melodies from their live sets (with the exception of ‘He Reigns’ and ‘Something Beautiful’). Nevertheless, Michael’s energy, shown through his vocal delivery in the songs and his presence on stage at the band’s live shows is something to behold, and the band going forward is in for a bright future with Michael Tait at the helm. With myself being ever so hopeful for the band to play a vintage-style concert in the future, with previous hits like ‘It is You’, ‘Love Liberty Disco’, ‘I’m Not Ashamed’, ‘In the Hands of God’, ‘Entertaining Angels’ and ‘Shine’ incorporated into the setlist for a time; Newsboys are still a great band, even though I am still mourning of the loss of Peter as lead singer. Still, if you were to count this band as ‘new’; their 4th studio album (with Michael Tait) is as good as ever, possibly even better than Born Again and God’s Not Dead put together. Full of powerful lyrics, infectious enthusiasm and pop-dance melodies that are new, fresh and invigorating, the band are able to deliver 16 songs full of intensity, hopefulness, encouragement and powerful truths directly from Scripture. From their first single ‘Live with Abandon’ to their other potential hits ‘Love Like I Mean It’, ‘Go Glow’, ‘We Believe’ and ‘Man on Fire’; Michael, Jeff, Jody and Duncan show off their musical craft and deliver one of my favourite albums of the year since Kerrie Roberts’s Time For the Show and Josh Wilson’s Carry Me! Well done guys for such a powerful and compelling album that’s certain to be one of the standout albums of September 2013.
RIYL: Audio Adrenaline, TobyMac, dc Talk, Peter Furler, Paul Colman Trio