Jesus soundtrack, 'Grace' albums offer inspiration
The soundtrack to the "epic mini-series" Jesus, which airs this month on CBS, is out on Sparrow/Capitol and features DC Talk kicking new energy into the old Norman Greenbaum hit "Spirit In The Sky," alongside Sarah Brightman's quietly operatic performance of "Pie Jesu" (taken from the 1985 Andrew Lloyd Webber album Requiem). Along the way there's also a new big ballad from Leann Rimes ("I Need You"), a choir and rollicking organ and piano gospel hymn from Edwin McCain ("Jesus He Loves Me"), a song from Steven Curtis Chapman that sounds like a cross between a Seal and Eric Clapton ballad ["Nobody Ever (Only You)"] and new songs from 98 Degrees, Jaci Valasquez, Hootie &The Blowfish and more.
On a similar "holy" note, the all-female act Point of Grace, who sound like a Christian pop version of Wilson Phillips mixed with the Andrews Sisters, has just released an album on Word/Epic of Rarities & Remixes.
The 15-track disc includes remixes from their first two albums (1993's Point of Grace and 1995's The Whole Truth) contributions from the 1995 Hymns& Voices and 1999 Streams various artists collections and a handful of early live tracks which got the group its record deal.
The Right Stuff label has released a concert album from the late Marvin Gaye. The Final Concert includes rare live recordings of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Let's Get It On," "What's Going On," "Sexual Healing" and more.
In 1986, after the split of Australia's Split Enz, a couple of Enz joined together to form Crowded House, and hit the charts almost immediately with two bigger hits than their previous band ever logged in "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong."
Unfortunately, while leader Neil Finn's picture perfect pop songs continued to bloom in subsequent years, the charting singles trailed off, even after reuniting with his brother and former partner in Split Enz, Tim Finn. By the mid-90s, Tim had gone solo again and founding drummer Paul Hester called it a day. Eventually Neil did as well and the House wasn't crowded anymore.
But now Capitol has pulled together a solid album's worth of Crowded House leftovers. The 13 tracks on Afterglow, made up of seven previously unreleased tracks and six rare B-sides listens less like an odds and sods collection than a fifth cohesive Crowded House album.
More than half of the tracks were recorded during sessions for the band's third album, Woodface, during Nick Seymour's hiatus from the band (when Seymour returned, the songs were scrapped and new material written). Three more songs were written during sessions for the band's final album, 1993's Together Alone and another song, "Help is Coming" was written for a fifth album which was never finished.
There are Neil Finn's trademark ascerbic pop rockers ("You Can Touch," "Dr. Livingstone"), brooding anthems ("I Am In Love" and "Left Hand," the latter of which has a Joe Cocker "You Can Leave Your Hat On" piano base), and midtempo singalongs ("Sacred Cow,""Anyone Can Tell").
There are also his easy loping, sweet harmonied early Beatles-sounding numbers ("I Love You Dawn," "Lester"), a couple of gentle ballads — "Private Universe," "Time Immemorial" and the gorgeously layered guitar of "Recurring Dream" — that rank right up there with "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Fall At Your Feet."
Pop albums were meant to sound like this — even if this isn't the "final" album Crowded House ever intended to make.
They don't write 'em like that anymore.