ForeFront Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


In theory, Raze, a new power-pop contemporary Christian music recording group, is just another producer's dreamchild a la New Kids on the Block, N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, B*Witched, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

The group is comprised of four people, two men, two women, two African Americans, two Caucasians - and they all go by the ludicrous pop convention of first names only. It makes a reviewer just itch to get out all the derogatory, sniping comments one unearths for such groups.

But, you know, I just can't. They do what they do with skill and polish and no small amount of talent -- and it's time for a power pop quartet with a little attitude. This is not your father's Avalon, 4Him, or Point of Grace!

Disc opener "All Around the World," written by member Ja'Marc, Zarc Porter, and Mark Pennells, is full of sounds and musical constructions mainstream CCM hasn't heard before. And each member's voice could fill a hall alone -- together the roof gets raised.

Lyrically, they shine also. Raze members Ja'Marc, Mizzie, JD, and Donnie all have a hand in these songs which offer positive solutions to the issues of today's youth culture. What issues? How about alienation and loneliness ("Place In My Heart"), sex and daring to be different ("UBU"), and the meaning of real friendship ("Always and Forever (BFF))."

Some examples?

From "All Around the World": "We enter by your grace/Into Your Holy place/Doesn't matter where we go/You show how real You are"

From "Place In My Heart": "Life is hard this world is cold/I need You more and more today/I build up walls to stop the pain/It still won't go, won't go away"my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

From "UBU": "Little girl with hopes and big dreams/Don't get swayed by those sex fiends/I understand that you want a man/But a real man will help you stand"

Raze members had a hand in writing all of those lyrics. This is a group that understands the current youth culture better than most other groups that try to "do something for the kids."

One of the members, Donnie, is a single Mom. She has a young son. Who better to take the message of "UBU" to the teens they target with their concerts in schools? Mizzie is the product of what is known as a "broken family." She thanks "her parents -- all of them -- Dad & Sherri and Mom & Ron" for supporting her. JD is into "surfing, swing dancing, volleyball, hanging out."

What do these little factoids about the singers have to do with their record? Think about it this way -- they are trying to reach kids with the message of the gospel. You can't do that without being "real" with them.

That's the main thing -- and as we all know you have to keep the main thing the main thing. It helps, certainly, that they actually can sing and write songs. But the main thing is that they are at least perceived as being real. They have problems and challenges and joys that mirror the audience they're trying to reach.

The song "My Everything" could easily work its way up the secular charts and is a great, clean, love song. Love between a man and a woman can still be pure -- and this song is part of the soundtrack for that expression.

Oh, it's not all a success certainly. There are a few missteps with the most notable one being a bizarre song "Shoulder Shake" that doesn't do much more than urge listeners to shake their shoulders but "no need to be nasty, you can shake groovaciously and move respectfully." The song is probably a big hit at their concerts -- i's that kind of thing -- but on disc it pales.

Forefront has been pushing this group strong for the better part of a year even releasing an sort of preview EP, That's The Way, last year, which garnered great success with the song "Always and Forever (BFF)." Along the way Forefront ran 20 weeks of Raze comics on their web site with the typical plot line of saving an orphanage -- which they, of course, were able to do. Web site visitors ate it up like candy.

Raze formed in Tulsa, Okla., played a couple music festivals, met up from British rhythmic producer Zarc Porter, landed a European record deal as a result, decided to bring it all back to America. Sounds simple, eh? Clearly the label has high hopes for the group -- and their debut seems to indicate those hopes won't be misplaced.

Raze can throw down a dance groove or two (or three or four) and then toss in a power ballad just to mix things up. Oh, stick around for the "hidden" song at the end - you won't hear anything like it on any other contemporary Christian music album.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 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 ForeFront Records, and is used for informational purposes only.