Release Date: February 12th 2013
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Ever since Jeremy Camp’s debut on BEC Recordings, he has released many albums, some of which turned gold, and sold half a million copies; as well as 1 Grammy Nomination, 5 Dove Awards and 32 No. 1 Radio hits. Amongst those top songs, he has written gems such as “I Still Believe”, “Walk By Faith”, “Understand”, “Take You Back”, “Speaking Louder Than Before”, “There Will Be A Day”, “Tonight”, “Give You Glory”, “Healing Hand Of God”, “Let It Fade” and “The Way”. Yet another rock worshipper at heart that has dipped his toe in the CCM scene a few times; the latest album Reckless drops to stores this week, and asks the question ‘What if all of the accolades were stripped away, and we were living like Job in the Bible? Are we willing to surrender everything to God?’. For Jeremy, ‘everything’ was music, and the answer to that question is found in the album’s lead single “Reckless”. Debuting as a music video on Godtube earlier in February, the upbeat and challenging rock melody is inspiring, yet the purpose is probably to catch people left field and take them out of their comfort zone. While musically Reckless is more aggressive than the previous album We Cry Out, it still however doesn’t match the intensity of albums such as Stay and Speaking Louder Than Before. Yet maybe this is a good thing. It means that Jeremy is evolving in his sound, and doing music from a place that is not duty or expectations, but of his own heart and his walk with Jesus his songs do still sound as passionate as ever. The result is 11 tracks of brutal honesty, with the heart behind the songs still present. Jeremy’s music will be around for a while yet, and though some people may not like the direction he is going into, he will no doubt be respected in the industry for many more years to come!
Opening proceedings is the uncomfortable yet refreshing and invigorating lead single “Reckless”, based on Acts 14, where Paul preaches at Lystra, (in a city where Turkey is now), to share the gospel, in a city where he had been stoned, ridiculed and left for dead only just days before. “Reckless” challenges us and brings us out of our comfortableness, as Jeremy passionately cries out ‘…I won’t waste any more time, my life’s Yours it is not mine, use me Lord no matter what’s at stake…’. This is a perfect rocker to open the track list with, and Jeremy wastes no time in discussing the deep issue of being ‘reckless’ for God, and following in His lead no matter where it takes us. It’s a scary notion, doing what God tells us despite the consequences, but it’s what great Bible heroes did, like Moses, Joseph, Gideon, Daniel, Paul; the list goes on and on. And what’s the difference between recklessness and just plain crazy? Jeremy says it’s obeying Jesus- “…[Paul] wasn’t being crazy for crazy’s sake, saying ‘I don’t care what’s going to happen. I just want to go.’ No, when you feel God calling you to do something, you have to be obedient. And that’s the difference. Paul was just obedient. That’s what reckless is…”. What an inspired God-given track with inspirational and motivational lyrics! With grunging guitars and the presence of the piano more at the forefront, this raw and in-your-face statement is a great platform for some life-changing songs!
“The Way You Love Me”, “Free”, and “Paradise” all speak about the love of Jesus and how we are free because Jesus loves us and now lives in us, and we all now have the assurance of living with Him in heaven after we die. This concept is nothing new though, and has been tried again on Jeremy songs before such as “Not Ashamed”, “The Way”, “Restored”, “Healing Hand Of God” and “I’m Alive”, yet the impact of this concept is still powerful and impacting. Lyrically these songs are well thought out and written, however the delivery and execution is less impressive. Jeremy proclaims that Jesus’ grace has saved us and that we’ve ‘…been humbled by forgiveness…and I want everyone to see…’ that we’ve been changed from the inside out (“The Way You Love Me”) and that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and favour, but rather he loves us in spite of what we have done. Based off a verse in Jeremiah (20:9), the pop radio friendly ballad with guitars to serve as a worthy 2nd single on the album, is a fun listen yet feels a step down from the enthusiasm and frenetic pace of “Reckless”. In the next track, which plays out musically exactly like the Switchfoot track “Enough To Let Me Go”, with the guitar riffs eerily similar in the opening seconds; Jeremy mentions that we are made free by the blood of Jesus Christ and that Jesus has saved us from ‘…my sin [that] was wrapped around me, trying to drown me…the chains that held me tightly are finally lifted…’ (“Free”), but this track seems out of place and feels uninspired. And the up tempo track “Paradise”, stretches Jeremy musically, and has plenty of motifs and imagery about being with Jesus in heaven, but feels a bit repetitive by the time the song reaches its conclusion. Though musically different with plenty of keys and guitars giving this song an anthemic feel, and I’m sure in time this song will become one of my favourites; lyrically “Paradise” feels a bit hit-and-miss, with the brilliant verses with sublime lyrics offset by the chorus which leaves much to be desired. With the chorus conveying ‘…one day I will be with You in paradise…but until that day I will surrender all my life…we sing hallelujah…’; though the subject matter on this well-meant song is a good reminder that we have heaven to look forward to, and that whatever pain and heartaches in this world will be transient and brief in comparison to the glory of Jesus that we will see when He comes back again; these songs still can’t top “Reckless” in quality! These concepts explored by Jeremy in the immediate tracks after the emphatic and bold opener seem like a bit of a let-down.
But as the album progresses, more highlights are found to make this album shine a bit more, and Jeremy more than makes up for the lack of originality later on in the album. The haunting and mysterious “We Must Remember”, with electric guitar riffs that give be goose-bumps; deftly and cleverly reminds us that God has forgiven our sins, and that ‘…we must remember that You have forgotten, and You died, You died once and for all…’. Basically a song which outlines the gospel message and tells us another point of view of John 3:16, what sets this anthem apart from others is that it is strategically placed in the middle of the album, and the chorus is repetitive for a reason. Our slate has been wiped clean and God’s grace has covered us so now we are a new creation. In this day and age with technology on an exponential rise, there are so many distractions around us that tear us away from the deserving attention that we should put on God, yet Jeremy once again reminds us that the things of this world will fade away, but Jesus will not, in this heartfelt and honestly written track.
“Shine”, “Come Alive” and “My God” follow, and all are worshipful in nature, with similar themes. While consecutive songs with similar themes may not have worked that effectively near the beginning, the beauty here is that Jeremy uses creative lyrics and music to make these tracks very memorable. “Shine” and “Come Alive” both convey and highlight Jeremy’s intense passion and want to be a light in the darkness and show Jesus to the world. Though both speak about being the change in a world full of calamity and chaos, the musical directions on both tracks are poles apart. “Shine” is a danceable anthem laden with slick and powerful vocals, while the techniques of repetition work in this song as Jeremy proclaims ‘…shine Your light, shine Your light, I am Yours Lord, lift me up, lift me up, I am no more, let me live, let me live inside your glory, glory now…’ as I am caught up in vertical praise to my Saviour. While “Come Alive” is slower in tempo and plays out like a ballad. With synth and strings to create an ethereal atmosphere, the potential single is where Jeremy expresses desire for us to experience the fullness of God and become fully alive. As Jeremy has pointed out in his bio, “…[walking down New York city], it was like looking at the living dead… all they’re doing is living for their own desires. I want this world to come alive, to see that yes, you’re dead in your trespasses, but you have been made alive in Christ…”. One of my favourite parts of the song is the punchy epic-like bridge and the subsequent impressive chorus where worship blends in with a pop tune- ‘…You have restored us, You have redeemed us, we have been given new life, You are alive…’. This vertical focus continues in “My God”, a track that could be sung in churches everywhere, and why wouldn’t it be, as these lyrics are very true and poignant, with Jeremy’s ingenuity as a writer breaking through, especially when he declares that ‘…my God, You are, the unchanging Love, my God, Your heart sends hope from above …’.
All across the album, as I mentioned earlier there are hits (“My God”, “Reckless”, “Come Alive”, Shine”) and misses (“Paradise”, “Free”) with Jeremy’s new album and the last few tracks follow the trend as well. “We Need” is very confronting, and brings the album back to the themes in the beginning about preaching the gospel and being the light of Jesus to the world. Singing about ministering to those living in lesser conditions to us (whether it be in our own backyard or in another country), reminding me of Matthew 25: 31-46; Jeremy’s heart for those in poverty is clear, and makes the song a whole lot more meaningful. With an added depth through the greater use of keys in this track, we are given a reality check as our motivations are put under the microscope, as we analyse why we help people. As Jeremy puts it, “…we can’t just say, ‘Here’s some food. Here’s some stuff.’ We have to be able to give the gospel, share the hope and have a real heart for that…”. Helping people needs to be from a secure place in our identity, knowing that we are loved by God unconditionally, and that He longs for others to be with Him also. If we get that stuck in our heads, then our actions will become a whole lot more selfless. Well done for a great song of conviction and action.
But just as soon as Jeremy redeems himself from the sometimes unimaginative tracks on the album, “Reign In Me” happens, with the song musically never taking off from the ground. The lyrics also feel out of place, and the themes explored on so many other albums and artists that by the time I hear this, it just feels tired and less than impressive. Not much creativity is given to the music, which is a shame because it could have been something great, along the veins of the other worship song on the album “My God”. But the album closer is one of the best songs on the album, and “Without You” is a great way to finish what I can only describe as an album that will grow on me. A declaratory and passionate anthem that highlights Jeremy’s faith where he calmly and unequivocally proclaims ‘…and I’m letting go, I give You control, it’s not my will but Yours I follow, and I lay my life down at Your feet, and I know I won’t make a move without You…’; the take home message of this song is that we mustn’t make a decision if God isn’t in it- in everything we do. For an album that is about being bold and taking risks, “Without You” is like “Reckless” Part II, and it feels good to end the album back where it began- a passionate cry to give everything to God, and in return go where He leads us.
Even though many critics and listeners have criticised Jeremy Camp’s work in the past few years (to be fair, he has recorded albums that are good, and some that miss the mark); it is clear that Jeremy has found his niche market, and plays to his strengths. “Reckless”, “My God”, “Come Alive”, “We Need” and “Without You” are album highlights, and with Reckless releasing in the week of Valentine’s Day where everyone is showing their spouse/loved ones how much they mean to them; Jeremy reminds us that God loves us, and that His unending love makes it easier for us to be ‘reckless’ and obedient to Him, even when we don’t know the answer or the reason why God wants us in a certain place at a certain time. With this album containing solid lyrical moments as well as containing songs which question our preconceptions and assumptions about Christianity (“Come Alive”, “We Need”), I can almost forgive the moments that I didn’t feel (“Reign In Me”, “Free”). Because while Jeremy hasn’t reached the standards of Speaking Louder Than Before way back in 2008, he is getting back there one step at a time. I’m not sure why the Dove Awards were pushed back to August/September this year, but one thing is for sure- Jeremy has made a great attempt and now has every chance of being a Dove Award nominee. As Jeremy time and time again reminds us that “…my heart’s desire is that people will listen to the Lord and his leading and really dive into the fullness of what He’s called them to do, whatever that looks like…” it is clear that this album is full of encouragement, and is step in the right direction. Well done Jeremy for an enjoyable album. I’ll be looking very closely at you next one!
- The Way You Love Me
- We Must Remember
- Come Alive
- My God
- We Need
- Reign In Me
- Without You