Thursday, July 4, 2013

Music Review: Press On by Selah

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many of the tracks are wonderfully arranged
Cons: A few don't work for me
The Bottom Line
Many tracks are good
But some are disappointing
Still worth it for fans

Sophomore Slumps Are Hard to Avoid.  Just Ask Selah

This year, I have delved into the world of Selah.  Don't ask me why I didn't get into this Christian group sooner, but I am making up for lost time.  Recently, I've been listening to their sophomore release, Press On.  While it has some good moments, it's not as strong as the other I've heard.

At this point, the trio was still made up of brother and sister Todd and Nichol and their friend Allan.  Todd and Nichol usually take on the singing, leaving Allan to play piano.  That's not always the case, however.

For example, the disc opens with all three of them singing "Oh Draw Me, Lord."  It's a very simple chorus, but the arrangement is haunting with Allan's piano playing and strings in the background.

From there, they go into one of the many classic hymns on the disc.  Nichol and Todd are the only vocalists on "There is a Fountain."  Once again, Allan plays piano, and the strings are more pronounced here.  I love this hymn, and their arrangement is outstanding.  The same can really be said for the modern praise song "Wonderful Merciful Savior."

Allan takes the stage completely for "In My Life/If We Never Meet Again."  The only thing he doesn't do is the cello.  The piano and both main and background vocals are all his, showing just how talented he really is.  This medley focuses on the power of friends in our lives and the joy of knowing that we will see them again in Heaven even if we are separated here on earth.

I got a kick out of seeing "Hold On" here.  Turns out Nichol and Todd are also fans of the old Christian artist Evie, and this is a cover of her song.  They give it a slight gospel flavor that adds some fun to this song of encouragement.  The gospel arrangement is even more pronounced on their version of the classic hymn "Amazing Grace."  And you can't help but tapping your toes along with "Deep Way Down."

But not everything is good here.  One misstep in my eyes is the inclusion of the hymn "Were You There."  This is just a personal thing since I really don't like the hymn.  I guess I'm just too literal, so the answer to the question the hymns as ("Were you there when they crucified my Lord") is a resounding "NO!"  Having said that, if you like the hymn, you'll love this arrangement.  It's beautiful to listen to with a dramatic build toward the last verse.

Then there's "How Great Thou Art."  Occasionally, they like to sing in Kituba, the native language for the part of Africa where Todd and Nichol grew up as missionary kids.  In fact, they have a very fun praise chorus here in "Yesu Azali Awa," complete with heavy percussion that makes you feel like you are part of a village praise service.  But I digress.  For their arrangement of the classic hymn, they do the first verse of "How Great Thou Art," but then they do a second version in Kituba.  I wish they'd included more in English because I love this hymn so much.  The arrangement itself is good, so I can't really complain.  It just seems like a bit of a strange choice.

Likewise, I like "Timeless," an original song presented here, but they have done better original songs.  Still, I do like the idea that God will always be there for us no matter how life changes.

The disc closes out with the title track.  I was familiar with "Press On" thanks to my church choir doing the song numerous times over the years.  This is a quieter reflective version, but it does build toward the anthem I'm used to hearing.  Again, the use of strings is really beautiful.

So Press On isn't all bad, but some choices do weaken it.  If, like me, you are just now building a Selah library, I'd recommend starting with some of their other releases and filling in with this one last.

CD Length: 47:42
1. Oh Draw Me Lord
2. There is a Fountain
3. In My Life/If We Never Meet Again
4. Hold On
5. Wonderful, Merciful Savior
6. Were You There
7. Deep Way Down
8. Yesu Azali Awa
9. Timeless
10. How Great Thou Art
11. Amazing Grace
12. Press On
13. Oh Draw Me Lord (Reprise)

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