Act The Scat
Lion Of Zion Entertainment, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/20/2001
Anyone out there who has been reading this site for any time knows I am not the world's biggest fan of contemporary Christian music. It's not that I'm anti-religion; I pay my taxes, try to be good to my wife and child, am kind to animals (when they're not sending me to the hospital with another asthma attack) and harbor my own beliefs about God. If certain people want to become enraptured with the spirit, fine with me. Just don't keep hitting me over the head with messages about Jesus and the Bible, and how I'm going to Hell if I'm not born again. (To steal from Dennis Miller, pardon me if I got it right the first time.)
Denver And The Mile High Orchestra is somewhat different. Their debut album Act The Scat has all the usual Bible-thumping messages... but they dare to show some restraint at times, not letting the message get in the way of the music. In my book, that's the cardinal sin that many CCM bands commit. Lead vocalist/trumpeter Denver Bierman shows surprising maturity for someone who's barely in his mid-twenties, and he's assembled a pretty solid collection of musicians for this project.
The group bills themselves as a Christian swing band, though their repertoire goes past swing at times. "Confrontations" is hardly a scat song, and while it's a decent enough effort, I'd have put it somewhere in the middle of the disc to provide a break from the jazziness. A one-song oasis is fine, just don't provide it as the second track on the disc.
There is only one other pitfall I'm going to point out, then I'll lay off the criticism. Three words: "Jesus Loogie Boogie". Yeah, there's a way to attract people to God: warn them they're a step away from being spit out of Jesus's mouth. In over 15 years of critically listening to music, I think this is the first song I've ever heard whose theme was about saliva... and after spending a weekend coughing up stuff that would scare Linda Blair, the last thing I needed to hear was a song even referring to phlegm. Needless to say, any well-intended message is, uh, expectorated. (I can see some people running for the dictionary.)
In all fairness, Act The Scat isn't a bad album otherwise. Bierman and his group do work up a good head of steam in the swing department, with tracks like the title cut, "Take You Away" (which has more of an old-style jazz feel than swing) and "This Side Of Town" filling the bill. But Bierman's definition of "swing" is much more far-reaching, as songs like "Spend My Life" and "Chasing The Wind" covering more territory than one might expect.
Bierman and crew even dare to do something I haven't seen many CCM artists do - take on a song with absolutely no religious messages... that is, none which is blatant. "Corduroy Blues" is a track which, simply put, kicks out the jams and allows even the most skeptical listener a chance to let their guard down and simply enjoy the music without worrying about being overpowered by any message. Bierman and crew take a chance by doing this - and it's one which works well.
Act The Scat is a surprisingly enjoyable collection of songs from an artist who, while still having to polish up one or two things, should make a mark on his genre with this one. Oh, I still don't like listening to CCM music... but Bierman and crew definitely make it easier for me to approach the subject matter.