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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Caedmon's Call -- Overdressed

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7/10

When I heard Caedmon's Call's third album, Long Line of Leavers, was going to go even further down the poppier CCMier route of 40 Acres, I ignored it and largely forgot that the band was still working...for almost a decade. One day in the late 00's, I heard a freshly released Caedmon's Call song on the radio and decided to give the band's new stuff, an album called Overdressed, a try.
After first listen, I was confused.  I knew Derek Webb had been gone during most of the time I had neglected listening to Caedmon's Call, but one of the reasons I checked out Overdressed was his reappearance. While Webb is back to some degree, I was surprised to hear a different voice belonging to one, Andrew Osenga, someone who wasn't in the band during the first two albums, saturating the album.  Not only did Osenga seem to dominate vocally, but a leaf through the CD book made clear that of the twelve tracks, Osenga wrote nine.  That's kind of nuts, and it makes Overdressed seem less a Caedmon's Call album, and more a round of Andrew Osenga and friends.  Nothing against Osenga--he is a talented songwriter and artist, but he doesn't provide what I expected from this disc. First, his style is more of a straight ahead, CCM style.  Secondly, his lyrics really seem geared toward Christians and Christians only.  He's got songs here about raising a Christian family, accountability partners, church disappointment, mission trips to Africa.  Sure there are also more general songs about the struggles of life, but I've spent most of mine in church and even I felt a bit alienated.  I think Osenga's work just needs more balance. "Sacred" and "Love Grows Love" are just a little too bubbly about the joys of parenthood.  Meanwhile, "Hold the Light" is too deadly serious in its recollections of the narrator's relationship with a friend who has helped through tough spiritual times.  With the former, I wish he'd be a little more real, and with the latter, I wish he'd lighten up.
Osenga does have some real winners here, though.  "Expectations" is a brilliant summation of the life one thinks they are getting into with a conversion to Christianity versus what can really happen.  Things aren't all sunshine and roses all the time, and the honesty and elegant harmonies Osenga sings with longtime female vocalist Danielle Young serve the song well.  "There Is a Reason" is another great track in a similar vein.
Meanwhile, Webb sings lead on three tracks, one his own creation, and two written by his wife.  My issue with certain elements of his songs here are the same with some of his solo work from this same period: just because you are white does not mean you have to feel guilty.  "Don't blame your brother for the color of his skin" he sings, but he needs to include himself in the equation. He can't help being born white and middle class anymore than those who are born poor and black in Africa.  You can't blame yourself for fate, you can only use what you've been given in life to better the lives of those with less. Many people actually do do this, and I don't really feel like listening to someone make me feel guilty for things out of my control.  Maybe I'm crazy, but if I say I'm not a racist or "I don't see skin color," I have to be referring to my own skin as well (The next line in the song, "Don't blame your neighbor for the house he lives in" rubs me wrong, too. What if that house was purchased through ill-gotten means? Should I not be outraged? Actually, Webb's wife wrote this track, and I've enjoyed a lot of her solo work.  Heck, I've enjoyed a lot of Webb's solo work, too, and even their work together. Not to bag on him in this review, but his work on this particular album is not his best, in my opinion. I like some of his other stuff plenty.).  Anyway...
This album is still solid work, though it doesn't touch the passionate, grittier work the band did in the 90's.  Then again, I guess I shouldn't be blaming people for getting older.  I'm just as big a hypocrite as anyone.


2007 INO Records
1.  Trouble 3:36
2.  Need Your Love 3:09
3.  Sacred 3:25
4.  Expectations 3:21
5.  There Is a Reason 3:46
6.  Share in the Blame 3:40
7.  Hold the Light 6:00
8.  Two Weeks in Africa 3:44
9.  Love Grows Love 3:59
10.  All Across the Western World 3:00
11.  Always Been There 2:37
12.  Start Again 3:55

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