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    Music Reviews



    Today’s youth often claim to be “misunderstood” saying that no one really relates to them. Well, who better to relate to youth than other youth? Amplified, with their young sound, does a terrific job of presenting God in a musical way to other youth. Most of their album has a hip-hop feel, and explores a range of upbeat, mellow and slow songs.

    Opening the album is “Amplified,” a song that starts strong and doesn’t slow down, and would be appropriate music for a dogfight scene in the movie Top Gun.

    The second song is guilty of musical redundancy, but is followed by a surprisingly complex rap that shows off the vocal talent in the group. The album slows down after “War Call” with a wonderfully smooth and flowing song that asks God to, “Send Your Anointing.” The next few songs use strong rhythm and lead to the last portion of the album, which ends with two very powerful songs, and wrap the album up with honesty and sincerity. But Amplified follows a sharp departure from other “normal” albums. Before the final two songs, a “decision time” is presented. While quite unusual, it strongly testifies to the band’s outreach focus and gives a brief testimony and opportunity for interested listeners to accept Christ. While a few songs are easy to predict musically, the lyrics boldly declare this band’s beliefs. Many bands bring God into their songs-Amplified centers them on Him.

    This album would be right at home in a youth director’s office, getting played at youth outings and being recommended by the director for youth and their friends to whom they are witnessing.

    ‘Hiding in the Shadows’ (by FOCUS)

    The past few years have carried a slow but steady resurgence of 80s hype that has touched many aspects of our culture, including the music. “Hiding in the Shadows” by FOCUS, a local band, delivers all of the appeal of the 80s Christian rock surge.

    Most songs, in one way or another, have traces of groups like Randy Stonehill, DeGarmo and Key, and The Mirrors. Instantly noticeable are the lyrics: extremely straightforward, they address basic issues and struggles facing today’s culture that are not common subjects presented by artists. The first song asks, “Where are the leaders?” that starts out with haunting verses and picks up with the chorus.

    Song two, is the album’s “fun” song, bringing a strong Weird Al Yankovic feel through the lively guitars and staccato vocals.

    Throughout the entire collection, the music does a fantastic job of setting the appropriate feel for the lyrics, and the third song, “Aimless,” demonstrates this the best. With excellent background vocals that complement and don’t compete with the lead, this is one of the best songs here. However, a few songs suffer with the lead getting drowned out by the instruments, especially some in the middle of the album.

    The eighth song deviates from the feel of the others by presenting a very strong “praise song” feel with basic, repeating lyrics and music. This is followed by “The Road” which, through its driving beat, would certainly get everybody out on the floor at a high school dance. They wrap the album up in typical fashion with a mellow song, that seems to draw from the 70s for inspiration. It was a good choice to end with.

    The album doesn’t have any particular musical element that sets it apart, and makes it difficult to pinpoint a likely audience. However, if one enjoyed the sounds of the 70s and soaked in the Christian rock of the 80s, FOCUS may appeal. However, the most unique thing about this group is their presentation of real-life issues and concerns in extremely appropriate musical packages.

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