author: Michael Janke
When the Newsboys released Adoration last year many were quick
to point a finger at the band and accuse them of jumping on the modern
worship bandwagon. At first glance it was a bit of a curious choice.
The group was coming off of a highly successful rebirth of sorts in
Thrive and seemed poised to carry on that second wind in their
career. Little did we know that this new phase would be so vertical
in its liner notes. Adoration became the Newsboys' most successful
album yet. Similar to Third Day's Offerings, the album crossed
the band over to a new set of listeners. However, the play for accessibility
also probably cost the group some credibility with the part of their
fan base that simply wanted to hear the Newsboys rock.
The unwritten rule of thumb about crossover worship albums seems to
be that if one is good, two is better. Michael W. Smith chose to Worship
Again, and Third Day gave Offerings II. Perhaps one day Jeremy
Camp will be Carried again, but for now we have the Newsboys
choosing to make a second go of it with Devotion. Produced by
the band's own Peter Furler, and with Mr. Steve Taylor along for the
ride on seven of the tracks' lyrics, Devotion avoids many of the pitfalls
of Adoration by keeping a stronger overall vision and focus.
The title track kicks off the album. Though it is somewhat reminiscent
of Starfield's recent "Filled With Your Glory" and it does
not match up to the crowd-pleasing "He Reigns" from their
previous album, "Devotion" does nicely set the tone for what
the rest of the album has in store. Musically, the bulk of the project
falls somewhere between the guitar-driven rock of Thrive and
the more heavily programmed Going Public, demonstrated nicely
on "I Love Your Ways," for instance. "Presence (My Heart's
Desire)," is a lovely song of adoration that recalls such Newsboys
classics as "Be Still" and "It Is You." Though it
is by the numbers, the numbers in this case are strong enough to call
it a winner. "The Orphan" feels a little out of place on a
worship project, but with its message is both thoughtful and heartfelt,
and it stands out as the best-written track on the album.
If any song has become a classic in the past year it is Matt Redman's
"Blessed Be Your Name." It is covered again here, this time
in a duet with Rebecca St. James. It's an interesting choice, especially
when Rebecca quite often sounds like she would be more comfortable in
a lower register. In the end it's fun to listen to, though it lacks
some of the passion that previous recordings hold. I think we've reached
our quota for covers on this song now too, thank you.
Devotion deserves props for improving on its prequel, and the
Newsboys deserve credit for not just serving up a worship album full
of ten cover tracks. The album knows what it wants to be, and does it
well. Hopefully, though, the Newsboys will continue to follow in the
footsteps of Smitty and Third Day and limit their worship career to
two projects. Since they did it well, album number two can be excused.
Anything further and the idea of the Newsboys being a rock band will
probably have to be written off.
Michael's rating: 84 %
--Michael Janke ««