St. James - Pray
by Paul M. Carhart
Originally published in The Lighthouse Electronic
St. James is of that rare breed of artist who is not only an exceptional
performer and recording artist, but also possesses a vision and
a specific ministry that she perceives that God has put before her.
St. James' heart is called to the youth and her string of well-received
albums has embodied messages targeted to that elusive genre.
it seems like quite some time since she released her controversially
titled God album, St. James has now brought before us an
entirely new collection of songs that should easily fill the time
gap that we have all experienced. Every song on this project seems
to have been carefully crafted to utilize the three E's common to
a Rebecca St. James album: Enjoyment, Edification, and Encouragement.
keeping with her one word album title pattern, Pray, as the
new album is called, peppers this eleven track collection of catchy
tunes and danceable beats with some new takes on some old standbys,
three in all.
first cover tune, Rich Mullins' classic "Hold Me Jesus", is an esoteric
exploration of the nature of this extremely popular song. It seems
as if St. James is not afraid to take chances on such a well known
standard. She easily takes control perhaps in an attempt to make
the song her own to the extent of combining verses, altering the
melody in the chorus slightly and using repetition to underline
the humanity and timeless message that Mullins had captured so well
when he originally wrote the song. She succeeds in pulling off the
transformation, although just barely. There was so much or Rich
Mullins in this song, that it hard to listen to it without hearing
his voice as well.
second cover that one encounters on the album is the immortal Keith
Green penned "Lord You're Beautiful" which survives a little more
intact than "Hold Me Jesus". St. James turns in a beautiful and
reverent performance on this track which is nothing less than pure
worship. Certainly nothing to gripe about here unless you have a
hard time with a weird little dance beat going on throughout this
last song on the album, actually the hidden track, is the last of
the tunes that you might have heard elsewhere and probably the best.
The traditional hymn, "Be Thou My Vision," is St. James at the top
of her form. Although it seems to move a little fast at first due
to her now trademark percussive backbeat, it isn't long before this
beat transforms itself into it's own throbbing rhythm, allowing
the arrangement, primarily keyboards, to soar over the beat just
underneath St. James' own powerful vocal performance.
produced by Tedd T., the rest of the album has a very dancy feel
to it, although it does manage admirably to keep the edge established
on God by possessing some well placed guitar tracks, including
the Batman-esque surf guitar throughout the verses of my personal
favorite track on the album, "Come Quickly," which addresses the
issue that Jesus actually is coming back, which I think is often
played down if not downright forgotten in Christian music. In fact,
the over riding theme of the original tracks on the project line
up well with the songs she has covered: "Pray," (for which the album
is named) "Give Myself Away," "Peace," "Mirror" and "I Love To Love
You" are all about letting go and giving yourself to Jesus in order
to become more like Him. It would, however, be difficult to draw
a very good musical connection between God and Pray
if one did not remember last year's St. James holiday release, Christmas,
with which Pray actually has more in common with stylistically.
only real downside to this project seems to be that there are only
eight new St. James songs after one subtracts the covers mentioned
above, which would be a skimpy album to say the least if the cover
tunes were not so masterfully done. Taken together though, Pray
certainly holds up to any expectations that long time fans might
have had and even goes a little further by breaking a few rules
and throwing in a surprise or two.