Saturday, June 8, 2013

Music Review: Joni's Song by Joni Eareckson Tada

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Songs with encouraging lyrics
Cons: A couple songs are sub-par
The Bottom Line
Joni sings these great
Songs of encouragement that
Still lift my spirit

Joni Sings Songs that Will Encourage Any Heart

Joni Eareckson Tada is well known in Christian circles for her inspiring testimony.  After she broke her neck in a diving accident at 18, she eventually learned to live an independent life and started a ministry to help Christians better deal with the disabled.

During the early 80's, Joni released two records.  Okay, so she probably got her contract because she was so well known.  As she is the first to point out, she's not a trained vocalist.  But the lyrics really speak to the heart.  I've long sought them on CD, so when I discovered that Joni and Friends, her ministry, had rereleased them, I wasted no time in buying them.  Joni's Song is the first, and it's just as good as I remembered.

A couple of the tracks on here are obviously written specifically for Joni.  "My Own Little Tune" is a chorus that allows Joni to sing of the faithfulness of God despite her status as a quadriplegic.  The first time she sings it, it's an intro to a longer song.  She closes the album with it again, and this time she includes some spoken words as well.

Another song written specifically for her was "Joni's Waltz."  (Yes, I agree the title is a dead giveaway.)  Here, she sings about how close she is to God as a result of her accident.  It's a nice song, but the tempo change between the verses and chorus don't quite work for me.  Actually, there is a similar pacing issue on her cover of the classic hymn "It is Well with My Soul."  Don't get me wrong, both are still good tracks.  It's just they could be better.

There are a couple of tracks I can't believe I went so long without hearing.  The lyrics are just amazing.  "Journey's End" talks about the struggles to live our faith in light of the trails on Earth.  I just love the chorus.  "I want to thank you for the gift of Your Son/And for the mystery of prayer/And for the faith to doubt/And yet believe that You're really there."

Another song I love is "The Part You Wrote for Me."  While the verses talk about how much we try to do on our own, the chorus comes back to this: "May I, in wisdom, learn/The only part that I need play/Is the part that You wrote for me."

And just in case you miss the praise in some of the other tracks, there's "Lord, You've Given Me So Much."  The song praises God for his faithful despite our sin as well as the material things He's provided.  It has a lilting melody that is beautiful to hear.  Even better, Joni sings harmony with herself, often echoing the lines.  It sounds amazing.

I also have to mention an early cover of David Meece's "We Are the Reason."  While I am now a huge David Meece fan, I didn't hear of him until years after I got this record.  Joni's version is the first one I ever heard, and I still like this song that personalizes Jesus being born to die on the cross.

Most of the songs on this disc are mid-tempo with just a couple being slower.  There isn't a whole lot of variety here, so the songs with average lyrics don't stand out at all.  As much as I love some of these songs, others, like "Father, Life Me up" are rather forgettable.

Remember I mentioned this was released in the early 80's?  Trust me, you'll never figure that out by listening to it.  Joni used a full orchestra for the background music, so it sounds as fresh as if she had recorded it today.

The booklet that comes with the CD includes all the lyrics as well as the thoughts Joni included when this was first released.  There's also a new introduction essay and new artwork from Joni herself on the disc.  The artwork just reminds be again how much talent that woman has, especially considering she does it all with her mouth.

The disc may be 30 years old, but the lyrics are still as great as ever.  If you want songs that will lift up your heart, you'll definitely want to get Joni's Song.  So head over to Joni and Friends website to buy them.

CD Length: 36:38
1. My Little Tune/Journey's End
2. The Part You Wrote for Me
3. I Am Willing Lord
4. Father, Lift Me Up
5. It is Well With My Soul
6. Lord, You've Given Me So Much
7. Joni's Waltz
8. I Am a Servant
9. We are the Reason
10. My Little Tune (Reprise)

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