REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/09/2008
In every musical genre, there are both the excellent but somehow forgettable albums, and then there are the ones that change the genre entirely. Whether Michael Tait, Toby McKeehan, and Kevin Max Smith intended it or not, they have achieved the latter in Jesus Freak. And, to top it off, the album sounds pretty darn good.
Following the hip-hop productions of their previous albums, dc Talk, Nu Thang, and Free At Last, the group opted to go for an entirely new sound on this disc, one that combined the grunge sound ruling popular music at the time and their hip-hop beginnings. Toby McKeehan was given opportunities to show off his rapping skills in specific parts of songs, but his and Tait’s singing abilities were given more of a chance to shine than ever before.
The first half of the album rocketed the group to fame even outside the CCM genre, and with good reason. “So Help Me God,” “Colored People,” and the title track are all superb songs, catchy enough to sing along to and with lyrics far deeper than anyone would have expected from the former M.C. Hammer wannabes. “Colored People” in particular, shines with its message about racism’s foolishness: “By God’s design, we are a skin kaleidoscope / We’ve got to come together – aren’t we all human, after all?” All three of these songs display the group’s improved musical chops, and both the instrumentation and vocals are superb.
The slower songs, such as “What If I Stumble” and “Between You and Me” carry with them beautiful messages, all shrouded in the gorgeous vocals of Michael Tait. These songs, though not the standout tracks on the album, nonetheless prove more than anything else the musical maturity that dc Talk underwent during the recording of this album.
Despite all the signs of change on Jesus Freak, dc Talk refused to sell out; the group maintained their unique sense of humor, as evidenced by the silly tracks “Mrs. Morgan” and “Jesus Freak (Reprise),” trivial bits that keep the listener from being bogged down in the deeply spiritual messages present on the album. As with all their previous albums, dc Talk has something to say, but they seem to feel that there’s no reason to stop the listener from enjoying themselves while they listen.
Finally, any review of this album would be incomplete without a mention of their remake of the popular Charlie Peacock song, “In The Light.” After his previous success with the song, dc Talk took his concept, ran with it, and came out with what I consider the definitive version of the song. Their cover instantly became a CCM radio hit, and with good reason.
Jesus Freak, more than any other album, is responsible for the CCM revolution in the ‘90s, and dc Talk deserves to be commended for their bold step out from their early hip-hop period. Through their musical evolution, they prompted the entire CCM genre to undergo a serious change in direction – and they managed to put out a terrific album at the same time.