Godspell: A Review

Godspell: A Review

Introduction:

I had never heard of the show Godspell until it was announced as the musical my senior year. So I figured, what better way to promote my final high school musical than by reviewing the original cast recording. Written by John-Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell follows the adventures of Jesus Christ and his band of misfits as they form the most enduring community in world history in the form of playing games, telling stories, and singing songs, leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Since there are many versions of the show, I decided I’d review the original cast album, which excludes “Tower of Babble” and “Beautiful City” (written for the film).

1. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Starting with some obnoxious horns, the opener launches with some stellar vocals from David Haskell, the originator of the roles of Judas and John The Baptist. After his a capella solo, the 70s disco/gospel music kicks in and we have a full cast that gets the listener moving to the grooving disco-esqe number.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Save the People

The second number features pianos and acoustic guitars, arranged in a style similar to Billy Joel. Stephen Nathan, the original Jesus, jumps into a beautiful number calling for God to “save the people” of Earth. It’s beautiful song vocally and instrumentally that is an infectious and catchy tune.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Day By Day

The most popular number from the show, “Day by Day” is a slow burn. While asking for God’s aid in taking life one day at a time is a pretty topic, the song takes a bit to pick up. Once it does, it’s a pretty fun tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

4. Learn Your Lessons Well

An overly exuberant number about memorizing scripture and what you’re taught in Sunday school, it’s a fun tune that slides right into the show.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

5. Bless the Lord

The soft rock song is pretty solid. It moves pretty well and grooves along nicely. It speeds up and creates a real sense of fun in the show. As a stand-alone song, it’s not great, but it’s solid. Joanne Jonas’s vocals are solid.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

6. All for the Best

This vaudeville-style duo between Stephen Nathan and David Haskell is the best song of the show. With its comical sense of timing and wonderful arrangements, the sixth number is truly a delight.

Track Rating: 10/10
Grade: A+

7. All Good Gifts

This acoustic, Gospel-inspired number is beautiful. Lamar Alford shines vocally. His prowess is truly unmatched. The song about being thankful for the gifts of God is really wonderful.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Light of the World

This disco pop number is the definition of infectious. It’s just a delightful blast that does a perfect job of closing the first act, utilizing dance breaks and unparalleled energy.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Turn Back, O Man

This sleezy showtune is fun gives a real 20s showgirl vibe, which is what they’re going for in the show. Sonia Manzano is incredible and her performance is wonderful. It’s song that is so catchy that you’ll be singing it forever.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Alas for You

This rage-filled 70s rock number is directed as a warning to hypocrites and truly exhibits the performance of Stephen Nathan and his range. It’s a wonderful tune.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

11. By My Side

This slower, more personal number lands better than “Day by Day”, but it’s still rather dull. Overall, the performances are haunting, but the lyricism falls short.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

12. We Beseech Thee

Jeffery Mylett and company deliver a final fun and lighthearted number for the show as the company pretends to be instruments and just jam in the Gospel-Rock blend. It explifies the fun of the show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A+

13. On the Willows

The song performed traditionally by The Band, in other version Judas, is a tragically beautiful number carried by acoustic guitars as Judas prepares his betrayal of Jesus. While David Haskell doesn’t perform the song in the show, Steve Reinhardt leads The Band in a final tune before we reach the end of our show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

14. Finale

Stephen Nathan’s acting is once again displayed as he and the company really bring the show home and fill the audience will several different emotions at once: despair at the death of Jesus, anger at the circumstances, fear of the unknown, and hope and joy for the future. It evokes such incredible feelings and closes the show in an incredible way.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. Day by Day (Reprise)

While our show does not perform this number, it closes out the cast album. I’m not sure contextually why the song is placed last other than to symbolize Jesus’s resurrection and epilogue the show as they’re continuing the community, but overall, it’s not a good song in the slightest. While faster paced than the original, it’s a sad reprise that doesn’t need to in the show. I can see why they replaced it with “Beautiful City,” a much superior song.

Track Rating: 1/10

Grade: F

 

Conclusion:

The album is fun and the songs are really great. It’s a show that must be experienced in person, with a cast that works for you, and you have the chance to do so Friday, November 17th – Sunday, November 19th at the East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Showtimes are at 7:00pm Friday – Saturday and 2:00pm on Sunday.

Album Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

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Reputation: A Review

Reputation: A Review

Introduction:

Arguably the biggest pop star of the century, Taylor Swift’s highly-anticipated sixth studio album has finally dropped. Coming off of massive success, both critically and financially, with 2014’s 1989, all eyes are on Taylor as she looks to top her previous successes. Having been criticized for her seamless transition from country (Taylor Swift, Fearless) to pop (Speak Now, Red), she’s also been praised for it; she is one of the only artists to successfully do it. Her new album, Reputation, is set to focus on just that and deal with media persecution and celebrity feuds. Are we ready for it?

1. …Ready For It?

The opening song of the track is much more aggressive than 1989. The song is really well produced and Taylor’s vocals are really well mixed. The lyricism is solid as ever. The song about what it’s like to love Taylor, it’s presumedly written about her current boyfriend, .

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

2. End Game (ft. Ed Sheeran and Future)

The second song directly references the name and theme of the album and Taylor’s reputation. It’s a similar theme to the last song, but with a better package. Future isn’t my favorite rapper but he does a really solid job on this track. Ed Sheeran is very welcome addition and he absolutely kills it. The two are references to rumored lovers of T-Swift, despite those rumors being dispelled. This song is very well produced and written. The performances from the features actually outshine Taylor. It’s a really good song.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

3. I Did Something Bad

Taylor is very aggressive and in-your-face, while also emulating a playful and ominous tone, dropping her first expletive in a Taylor Swift song. The lyricism is actually really good this track, with the production. Taylor’s performance is really interesting and fun to listen to. The bridge is haunting and might be the highlight of the standout lyricism of the song. 

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

4. Don’t Blame Me

The R&B and Gospel-style song is actually really well done. Her songwriting is impeccable, once again talking about losing a lover. It’s a really cool song that sounds great and features a really nice performance from Taylor. This could be my favorite from this album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Delicate

Opening with really crisp and nice vocals, this is a little more in-line with the Taylor we knew from 1989. The song about new love is really clean sounding, which is really nice to hear on a primarily aggressive album so far. However, this isn’t really any substance to the pretty, gentle sounds.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A

6. Look What You Made Me Do

The striking lead single is very straight forward in its intentions. Its impressive production and standout performance make for a scary number. It’s really intense and pushes the aggressive nature of the new album to the highest heights. It’s not bad, but she’s made better songs

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

7. So It Goes…

Things are slightly lighter at the outset, but it’s still not letting up fully. Things get more anthemetic. It again sounds more akin to 1989 then the rest of the album. In fact, the vocals are at their best this song. The production is pretty good. The lyricism is spotty, but it’s not bad. It’s one of the highlight tracks of the album overall.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Gorgeous

A love song that again sounds more like the Taylor we are used to. It’s a much lighter song than some of the others off of Reputation. It’s a playful song about loving someone so much that you hate them. The lyricism is excellent, with outstanding production and stellar vocals. This might be my favorite off the album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Getaway Car

The vocals are solid from the outset. The production isn’t the highlight of the album, but it’s subtle and good. The lyricism is the focus of the song and it’s great, serving as a happy encore  to what we just heard. It’s another good Taylor tune. While the song itself isn’t happy, it’s a very nice treat, with “Gorgeous”, that are reminiscint of 1989 Taylor. The performance is great and her lyricism is wonderful.
Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

10. King of My Heart

The production is good and the lyricism is solid. Her vocals are solid. This marks the third song that feels like it belongs more on 1989 than Reputation. It’s not a Taylor classic nor a bad song. It’s fine.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied

The groove is new and original for Taylor. It’s actually really good. The production is more in keeping with a Calvin Harris song than a Taylor song. Her vocals and lyricism are great. It’s a close second to “Gorgeous”.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

12. Dress

It’s a weird shift tonelly to go from dark songs to brighter songs that feel like they belong on a different album. This is a very adult song for even Taylor. While the production suggests a brighter song, it’s still mature. However, it just doesn’t fit fully with the style of the album.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

13. This Is Why We Cant’t Have Nice Things

The Katy Perry clapper is a genius song. It features her best performance of the album and some of the best lyricism. The production is great. It’s a banger with attitude. This fits with the style and tone she was going for with the first single.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

14. Call It What You Want

This one falls flat for me. While it works like an aftermath of anger following the last song, it falls flat lyric-wise, production-wise, and performance-wise.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: C+

15. New Year’s Day

With light pianos and gentle feel of a party that’s ended. It’s a beautiful ending for this album. It feels like it belongs on Red or Fearless. It is gorgeous vocally and lyrically, with production that brings it all home for the last song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

I think Taylor had a good idea of what she wanted the album to be initially, but she loses the emotion warranted for the kind of project she wanted to make. The first half of the album is mediocre and is filled with the fire needed to make an angry pop album. It’s aggressive and in-your-face music, which isn’t for everyone. The second half is a traditional Taylor Swift album, like 1989. It has a hard time deciding what it wants to be. There are some good songs in there, but there’s more mediocre music. Overall, this might be Taylor Swift’s worst album.

Album Rating: 7/10

Grade: B-

Phenom4Eons: A Review

Phenom4Eons: A Review

Introduction:

This #MusicMonday gets personal. As a musician myself, I am friends with several artists of varying backgrounds. This week, I’d like to take some time to highlight a friend and collaborator of mine: MyzBeatz. Myz is a rapper based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and works as a campus pastor at UND, heading up Chi Alpha. Along with my friends SW, C-Los, and myself, MyzBeatz makes up a rap group based out of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, called The Forks. Having been active since his teenage years in Apple Valley, MN, he released three projects before switching artist identities and moving to Grand Forks. His first project, Salt + Light, was released in 2013. He followed that up with a collaborative mixtape with UND artist D’Tay called Who Am I? in 2014. In 2014, he also released two singles: Take Offense and BassHeads, which featured D’Tay and Casstaway. He appeared on C-Los’s 2015 single Show N’ Tell (Remix), alongside Reschad Oliver and Empty Vessel, followed by features on Treal B’s 2016 EP Apathy and C-Los’s award winning 2016 single Together. Today I’m reviewing his 2016 album Phenom4Eons, in honor of The Forks’ newest collaboration. I will also be reviewing C-Los’s album SonRize at a later date, as well as SW’s Reminiscent. You can check out Phenom4Eons and download it for free here.

1. The Nobodys

The production is really solid. The beat comes in hard and immediately gets your head bobbing. The hook is catchy. Myz introduces himself and C-Los as he starts ripping in. His flow pattern is really impressive. He rides the beat very well. The theme for the album is set up well with this really solid intro track. The last hook he’s joined by C-Los who has a really funny bit with him.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

2. This City

The second song slows things down and pitches us a deeper track. The vocals on the hook are really solid. The wordplay is killer, especially with all the local in-jokes. While it grooves at a slower pace, the track is exceptional. He grooves right along with the beat and it’s very impressive.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

3. Finding Myz

The track starts with really pretty vocals and an emotional setup. This track is very real and intense. The idea of self-identity and discovering yourself is truly exceptional. The vocals are truly spectacular. The production is really great.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. BassHeads (ft. Ki’Shon, Seckond Chaynce, & Casstaway)

Things get lighter and more fun with this one, as we get a fun track about his love for bass. Myz goes first and rides the beat like it’s a bike. Ki’Shon goes next and adopts a style like KB and flows pretty well with it. After an intro from C-Los, Seckond Chaynce jumps on like it’s nothing and absolutely murders it. His chopper style allows him to spit bars at a supersonic pace. Casstaway, a veteran of Myz’s records, gets on and rides the beat well. Seckon Chaynce and Myz are really the highlights of the track, along with the incredible production, but the track is a perfect jam.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Ancient Glory

The hook is gorgeous! While the uncredited female vocalist remains anonymous, she sounds familiar; her vocals are absolutely knockout. The track is slower and more personal, which Myz proves is a strong point for him. While the verses don’t quite love up to the hook, the sentiment is there are and, therefore, very appreciated. While so far this one seems to be a bit of step back, it’s still a pretty tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

6. No Air

The gasps for air in the intro are a nice touch. Myz’s vocals are absolutely dynamite on the track. Myz gets on and rides the beat once again. He grooves right along on the medium paced beat. The production is a standout hit, especially in the mixing. While short, it’s a sweet track.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

7. Sinking (Interlude)

The production on this interlude fits the title 100%. It’s a really well produced beat that generates emotions like sinking. It’s a nice interlude that gives a breather before we jump into the next track.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

8. Deep Waters

The interlude before sets up this track very well. The track about being rescued from drowning in sin has some really beautiful vocals from Myz. The flow is solid too, in keeping with the slow song pattern. This track might have the best vocals of the record.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

9. Shipwrecked

The strings and vocal samples that start of the song are beautiful. This song is an inspirational sequel to last song and absolutely outdoes the previous track. Myz absolutely kills the track and delivers some solid wordplay. He paints a really vivid picture and delivers a rap parable that is unparalleled in anything I’ve heard in CHH or otherwise. The C-Los cameos are a really nice touch too.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

10. Tapdance

The pianos and choir vocals are a really pretty way to start the next track. This one has another inspirational start to it. The tap-dancing sample is a stroke of genius. The song about purity and holding hope is a true jam. The track is a head-nodder and Myz grooves on it incredibly. The vocals are spectacular; between the female vocals and Myz’s own, it creates what could be a mix of the most real and the most pretty track. The choir vocals work like a siren song and it really creates what might be the best performance on the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

11. I Salute You

Sampling horns in an epic style already has me in. The beat is a jam and an absolute banger. The song serves as a thank you to the military. The C-Los cameos are a perfect fit and the song itself is a great jam. It’s an arena jam waiting for an Alerus Center audience.  The lyricism and energy are excellent and infectious.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

12. Surface (ft. Jacie J)

Now we’re slowing things down again. With a really pretty piano sample and some wonderful production, Myz brings up another real topic in living a “two-face” life. Jacie J’s vocals are strong and a perfect fit for the track. The wordplay is incredible and his performance is wonderful. The examination of the idea of denominations among the Protestant Christian faith is an incredible topic that is never explored in either mainstream music or Christian music. The song is groundbreaking and truly a treasure on this record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

13. Six Feet Under

The faster paced track is storytelling track is absolutely aggressive and wastes no time in getting the story across. It’s a great track telling the story of the betrayal, trail, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s redemption song for the people who haven’t heard the story before and a fresh spin for those who have lost count of how many times they’ve heard it. It’s very well done and a perfect fit for the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

14. Tidals (ft. Abbi Grimaldi)

We flow (literally) from the last song to the newest one. The song is gentle and peaceful and serene. The synths and samples of rolling waves are a perfect blend into the production. Abbi’s vocals are a sweet fit into the track. The overall vocals are pretty. The lyricism is stellar. The story of just a daily struggle to spend time with God is a really well done topic that often gets overlooked in CHH. It’s another groundbreaking track for the record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. The Depths You Go (ft. Bryce Meyer)

The flow (sorry, the puns about the songs being connected by crashing waves was too good to pass up a second time) from song to song doesn’t let up as we get another serene and peaceful song. The acoustic guitars mixed into the production are perfect. The production is excellent. Bryce’s vocals are a perfect fit for the track and work on every level. The lyricism on this one is excellent as well. Entering through the topic of the unexplored depths of the ocean, Myz creates another perfect song for the album. This is a genuinely perfect song. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. The flow pattern, vocals, production, samples, topics, lyrics, and the vibes are all perfectly stitched together to create another hit.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

16. Phenom

We roll (there, I changed it up, happy?) right into the final song seamlessly. The production is absolutely incredible. Myz’s vocals are beautiful at the start of the track. We fade out and come back with a dripping, ticking, ominous vibe. Myz’s vocals are chilling as we enter the finale. It’s a terrifying. Myz is delivering what is a Grammy-worthy with the performance he’s delivering here. The tension builds with the production and it starts to lighten up but it’s growing into an inspirational track. Myz keeps speeding up as things brighten up. The beat creates a sense of fleeting time and the need to get to work before Jesus comes back. This final song is groundbreaking and incredible and captures the entire sense of the album in one incredibly produced song that wraps up the message in a way that deserves a Grammy. We are left in total silence for 22 seconds to reflect on what we just heard. This track is genius, masterfully performed and produced, executed in a manner that plays like an NF song at the start and ends in the most original way ever. If you weren’t a MyzBeatz fan before, you are now.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Phemom4Eons is a project that starts pretty cut and dry. It starts how you might expect a local rap album to: a fun jam that you might listen to once, that feels maybe more surface than substance. But the album is like the ocean that it bases its theme on, it has layer after layer that just keeps getting deeper and deeper the more you dive into it. The production is incredible and Myz’s performances are stellar, with some displays of lyricism and wordplay that truly left me speechless. There are ideas and themes in this project that are groundbreaking; things we always think about but never say, articulated into words. I can’t recommend this album enough.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+