Roaring Lambs

Various Artists

Squint Entertainment, 2000

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


If ever a various artists project (and there are loads of them these days) screamed "significant" and "momentous" with every sinew of its marketing tendons, Roaring Lambs is that project.

Let's look at the projects' pedigree:

* It's based on a book that is a touchstone to the contemporary Christian, Bob Briner's Roaring Lambs.

* Briner died of cancer in 1999, at a too early age (61).

* It was nursemaided by Steve Taylor's Squint Entertainment, home of arguably 1998's biggest roaring lamb album, Sixpence None the Richer's self-titled disc that contained the monster secular hit "Kiss Me."

* It boasts the return to recording of both Taylor and PFR.

* It assembled 16 of the biggest (and coolest) CCM recording artists to contribute specially written songs based on the Roaring Lambs concept.

Success is positively guaranteed. There can be no bad reviews of this project - and you won't find one here either. For most part, this truly is a project to get excited about. Oh sure, like any various artist compiling, there are stronger and weaker songs, but no one embarrasses themselves - and some turn in downright stunning pieces of work.

What is a roaring lamb?

In brief, a roaring lamb is a Christian who is working/living within the secular culture to expose that culture to Jesus Christ in ways it can accept. Or, as PFR sings in their contribution, "Kingdom Come":

If actions speak louder than words Then let me live loud enough to be heard Louder than a scream

Jars of Clay open the disc with the song "Headstrong." Sounding like a song they forgot to include on their latest disc, If I Left the Zoo, "Headstrong" includes a solid vocal performance from Dan Haseltine as he tells the Christian (or is it the non-Christian?) that everything they believe is wrong:

I don't know what you've been told But it's wrong And I can't hold you when you fall So headstrong. Headstrong, headstrong

One of the cool things about this release is that many of the songs work on so many different levels - encouraging Christians, planting a seed for unbelievers, entertaining everyone.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another aural highlight is the pairing of rock queen Ashley Cleveland with dc Talk's Michael Tait on the song "Salt And Light." While there's no mistaking the intent of this song (Christians -- if you don't go into the world with the truth of God, who will? So get up off your butts and go! But speak the truth in love.) it's easy to get caught up in the experience of the song alone.

Tait and Cleveland play off of each other perfectly-- and throw in Kenny Greenberg's guitar playing and you're in song heaven. The song declares the problem, issues the challenge, and includes a caution -- while still allowing for a positive response from the listener:

Here I am, I will go Feet and hands, body and soul You make an ordinary girl shine bright In a world that needs salt and light

This disc is the best of what CCM can be -- when it reaches out to the world at large. It doesn't bludgeon the listener with the name of Jesus Christ or God, but the intent is crystal clear. In this industry, that is a brave step to take, indeed. Other highlights are contributed by Brent Bourgeois and Ginny Owens ("One Thing"), Sixpence None The Richer ("The Ground You Shook"), Over The Rhine ("Goodbye"), and Deliriou5? ("Touch").

But the return to recording of Taylor and PFR has to be the highlights of this disc. Taylor's contribution ("Shortstop") is the most musically interesting song here and his legendary tongue-in-cheek humor shines through. Who else could include a line about an athletic supporter in a song on a Christian album?

Musically, Taylor includes a fantastic mid-song break of drums and horns - and with the extensive baseball imagery (the credits include John Butler and Jay Swartzendruber as Baseball Coaches) this will be the perfect blare-it-from-the-radio summer song.

Here's hoping the return of PFR is not just a one-off. The group disbanded because they thought they had taken their sound as far as it could go, but I for one am not tired of hearing their unique amalgam of vocal harmonies and orchestral backing. And Joel Hanson and Patrick Andrew prove they can still write a solid song.

Strong points on this disc are many. There are, however, a few instances where someone didn't put their best foot forward. While not a complete mis-step, the high-powered superstar duet between Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith ("Out There") disappoints. Even though it's produced by Taylor, it sounds too much like what you'd expect from these two - it's too reserved. It would have been nice to hear them go all out a little more.

And, I was disappointed in the song from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Charlie Peacock. Peacock is listed on the song and I naturally assumed he would be singing - but he's not, he's playing piano. Now, it's good piano, but if you see Peacock's name in this kind of context, then the expectation is he's going to sing. All instrumentalists on the project were not given the same prominence.

But, those are minor quibbles in a project this strong. There are also excellent contributions from Burlap to Cashmere ("Daisies And Roses") and Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes Of Love, who contribute a stomping remake of Bruce Cockburn's "Wondering Where The Lions Are."

Roaring Lambs is a great disc -- and a great tribute to Briner. Time will tell if Christians take its' message to heart. And if you haven't read the book yet - for Christ's sake, pick it up.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2000 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Squint Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.