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Newsboys - Step Up To The Microphone

Review by Paul M. Carhart
Originally published in The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine (TLeM)

The Newsboys are back...well at least some of them.

The new project, Step Up To The Microphone, marks the departure of long time front man, John James and signals a change in direction for the band that the critics love to hate.

Stepping up to the microphone (pun intended) from behind the drum kit to fill James' shoes, or at least his silver pajamas, is Peter Furler who has had a very heavy hand in the creative aspects of the group from the beginning (long time band percussionist, Duncan Phillips takes over Furler's drumming duties). In fact, perhaps due to the obvious Aussie accents, Furler doesn't sound much different than James did. Casual listeners probably wouldn't even know that this project sports a different singer than the last if it wasn't being widely publicized.

Vocal similarities aside, Step Up is definitely a new direction for the Newsboys. Gone is any hint of their pseudo-punk roots and for every heavy handed guitar lick (of which there are many), there is a thin, drum-machine-like beat going on in the background. The group is also much more vocally oriented than it has been in the past, interweaving harmonies throughout the album. The result is some sort of modern techno-rock/pop-dance concoction. To further confuse things, there are orchestral arrangements and classical guitar parts interspersed into the music, proving to the critics that love to hate them that they are much better musicians this time out than they have ever been.

What does this all mean? It means that the listener is in for a refreshing rollercoaster ride of ten tracks that sound like no others. Produced this time out entirely by Furler (Steve Taylor co-produced their last three projects with Furler), Step Up delivers unique, surprisingly melodious rock/pop with a few quirks that can only come from those silly guys who brought you the "Shine" video.

The album's first single, "Entertaining Angels," is the most similar-to-old-Newsboys track you will find on Step Up. Other highlights include the furiously moving "Hallelujah," the rockin' and nonsensically titled, "WooHoo," the very danceable title track and the smooth guitar laden "The Tide." Lyrically, much of their trademark puns, turns of phrase and humor are still intact, however there are serious portions of the album as well and it is obvious that the Newsboys are not pulling their punches, especially in the title track.

You won't find the good old familiar Newsboys on this project. But, if you are opened to originality and new directions, Step Up To The Microphone is worth steppin' out to the music store for.

There very well may not be anything else like it on this earth.


Related Information

For a year or so I was a CD reviewer for The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine (TLeM) where this review was originally published.

- Paul M. Carhart


  © 1998 Paul M. Carhart, all rights reserved, all media.