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The Blood by Kevin Max

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Review of The Blood

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The Advocate

The Blood by Kevin Max

Reviewed by Michael Ehret

"...Max [dances] close to originality and creativity only to back off and retreat to tired musical cliches."

Kevin Max has always been the “interesting” one, with reference to his life as part of dcTalk. You know, the way Paul McCartney was the “cute” one with the Beatles?

For that reason alone, I’ve always looked forward to his music projects. I find it exciting not knowing what to expect. But, honestly, all of his solo projects have been decidedly mixed bags. The Blood, his third full-length project continues that trend.

Max has said this disc is “not a classic hymns project”, and that is certainly true. Neither is it, he said, “a white/homogenized version of black gospel or soul music.” This also is true. But what is it?

He’s called the disc a “sensitive and stylized adaptation of the music that was at the root of rock and roll, blues, and popular culture.” Really?

The Blood opens with a blessedly short, fairly standard interpretation of “The Old Rugged Cross,” that segues into yet another dcTalk reunion – a remake of “The Cross” from Prince’s Sign O’ The Times project from 1987. It is just exactly what you’d expect from dcTalk if they were still together.

Much more interesting is the first single from the album, “Run On For A Long Time,” featuring a duet with 2007 American Idol Top 10 finalist Chris Sligh. Sligh and Max (SlighMax – doesn’t that sound like a great group name?) find some energy by combining in this cautionary tale about evangelizing sinners.

But that energy is short lived, unfortunately, as Max returns with an interpretation of “Trouble of the World” that sounds like it was ripped right out of the Jonny Lang songbook – only without Lang’s guitar playing.

And it goes on like this, with Max dancing close to originality and creativity only to back off and retreat to tired musical clichés. Along the way Amy Grant (?!) and Vince Gill join in for a spirited version of “Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air,” that is fine, fine, fine.

But then he retreats to familiar “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” territory with a version of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go” from Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) that swoops and soars where it should retreat and cower. Max should have asked Sligh what the American Idol judges always say about covering Stevie – “don’t do it, dawg.”

I long for Max to show us who he is. I refuse to believe he hit his creative peak with “Stereotype B,” his first solo disc. As good as that disc was, it was inconsistent too. He can do better. Will he?

Michael Ehret is a music maven who has written about music, secular and Christian, as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, several Internet sites, and even CCM magazine. He is also the editor of the newsletter Afictionado, the e-zine of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is testing the waters with his first novel, Beyond December, while working on his second, Skipping July.