Reviewed by Tracy Darlington
Portable Sounds by
the young and the young at heart will appreciate the variety of Toby’s
sounds: Retro, Progressive Hip-Hop, Disco, Rock and Roll, Urban, Caribbean,
all rolled into one “Portable Sound”."
Besides being “an artistic maverick and a prophetic voice for reconciliation”, Tobymac is a humble guy. He strives to keep from being cynical about his music. “My fight is to remain fresh and unjaded, where I’m not looking through hollow eyes, but I’m looking at things like they’re new again.” Toby is excited about his 3rd solo album, Portable Sounds. He’s expecting lives to be changed as God speaks to the world through his music. And the message is loud and clear as Toby dishes up another catchy, chart topper of an album.
In some way or another Toby always pays tribute to the ‘70's on his albums. But this time there are no re-makes, as he’s offered us in the past. Instead, Portable Sounds opens with the 70's vibe of “One World” (featuring Joanna Valencia). We move right on to the album’s first single “Made to Love”. Shooting up the charts, it continues Toby’s signature hip-hop sound, but adds live horns and female BGVs (background vocals).
Destined to be concert favorites, “Boomin’” and “Ignition” meld Toby’s rocker side with heart-thumping, bass-driven choruses. Track 9, “Suddenly”, is Toby’s tribute to grace and one of his favorites on the project. In this song he’s thinking about people around him who’ve been wounded by divorce and the forgiveness that awaits. He feels this cut is the biggest diversion from his normal style, but the verses sound hauntingly similar to the song “Gone” from his last project Welcome to Diverse City. And in case you think Toby’s not in touch with his softer side, “Face of the Earth” slows things down (and stylistically reminds us of Paul Wright) in what Toby calls a warm, flow-like-a-river sort of way.
As Toby’s done before, there are a few bars of some of his earlier songs embedded in a few of these new creations. Toby also has a tradition of giving the mic to his son Truett somewhere on every album, and this cd is no different. It’s a clearly older “Tru Dog” putting his mark on “Hype Man” with his rap hip-hop style. This kid has got the gift. In other songs Kirk Franklin, Nirva Dorsaint-Ready, and Mandisa (from American Idol) make appearances.
Toby’s not taking a leap into the unknown with Portable Sounds (there was a greater jump in style from Momentum to Diverse City), but it’s pure Toby-as-we-love-him all the way. As a whole, Portable Sounds is an excellent, if not unexpected, entry in Toby’s discography. Both the young and the young at heart will appreciate the variety of Toby’s sounds: Retro, Progressive Hip-Hop, Disco, Rock and Roll, Urban, Caribbean, all rolled into one “Portable Sound”.
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.