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Monday, June 11, 2012

dc Talk -- Free at Last


The Fourth of July, 1993. Church picnic. Goodwood Park. I was eleven going on twelve. The adults were playing volleyball. The children and teenagers were finding other ways to entertain themselves. Somebody pulled out a boombox. I miss boomboxes. All of a sudden, I heard this song.
Time Is by dc Talk on Grooveshark
Reverb vocals. Big beat. Big guitars. Funky Bass. Rapping. Trippy bridge. Young sounding.  I was eleven, and I thought it was awesome (later that year I would discover Sade and Clannad and Deep Forest (thanks to the Mor Music channel) and begin my transformation into someone truly weird).
Fast-forward almost twenty years. I am not going to ignore the dc Talk section of my music collection. I will listen to and review it. But is Free at Last freaky awesome, or dated tripe that should live in the bargain bin?
I can easily render my first reaction to re-listening to this music a few days ago:
"Yep. This sounds like 1992."
But after a few minutes, something magical happened. Michael Tait's incredible singing prowess. Kevin Max's delightful weirdness. Toby Mac's trend-hopping, which could result in sounding dated sometimes, but was almost always pretty exciting. Something about these three things together created some type of inexplicable alchemy.
In 2012, this should not work. Early 90-s Hip-Hop. Big giant keyboard sounds. Bill Withers covers. This album should grate on my ears. Clicking play for the second listen was so easy I didn't even have to think about it.
I think what makes this album timeless, even though it exists in a dated genre, is its vitality. Free at Last is full of life and positive energy. Also, the songs are pretty good.

Props to the Achtung Baby-era U2 guitar, saxophone bridge, and three-part harmonies. Nothing wrong with that.

1992 Forefront
1. Luv Is a Verb 4:15
2. That Kinda Girl 4:12
3. Greer 0:21
4. Jesus Is Just Alright 4:37
5. Say the Words 4:59
6. WDCT 0:43
7. Socially Acceptable 4:57
8. Free at Last 4:55
9. Time Is... 4:10
10. The Hardway 5:19
11. 2 Honks & A Negro 0:18
12. Lean on Me 5:00
13. Testimony 0:44
14. I Don't Want It 4:14
15. Will Power 0:14
16. Word 2 the Father 4:02
17. Jesus Is Just Alright (Reprise) 1:00

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