CD review: “Born Again” by the Newsboys

On July 13, 2010, the Newsboys released a new album entitled Born Again.  This is their first album since their lead singer and composer, Peter Furler, left the band.  He is replaced by Michael Tait, who had great success as a member of dc Talk.

The Newsboys have been one of my favourite bands for years.  I was also a big fan of dc Talk and was very disappointed when the band split up.  So I was eager to see how the transition from Furler to Tait would unfold.  I had no doubts about Tait’s voice.  He’s a great singer, without question.  But I was curious to see how his song-writing skills would unfold within the Newsboys, because his solo career after dc Talk didn’t yield too many big hits.

This week, I purchased the “iTunes Deluxe Edition” of the album, which features 16 songs.  The “regular” album has 12 songs.  The 4 extras in the Deluxe Edition are closer to praise and worship style, including a cover of an earlier Newsboys song called Glorious.

The album’s sound is somewhat different from previous offerings, even featuring some female background vocals (Chanel Campbell) on the songs Way Beyond Myself and Impossible. The title track, Born Again, is a play on words on the familiar Protestant expression for new converts, while at the same time reflecting the band’s need to renew itself after the loss of their larger-than-life lead singer.

The song When the Boys Light Up is perhaps the most similar to their previous style, exhibiting some of the cocky self-confidence displayed in The Way We Roll (from the album In the Hands of God) and Everywhere We Go (Go) while giving credit to God for the band’s success.  Not surprisingly, that song was co-written by Steve Taylor, who has contributed to writing many Newsboys songs over the years despite never being a band member.  The song Escape, also co-written by Taylor, has a nice danceable beat that is likewise reminiscent of the traditional Newsboys sound.

The album features a new version of Jesus Freak, the monster 1995 hit from dc Talk.  This version is very similar to the original dc Talk version.  The rap sections are performed by KJ-52, who yields a striking similarity to TobyMac.  The album also contains a nice rendition of the praise and worship song Might to Save composed by Hillsong.

Overall, the sound of this album is different enough that I’m left with the impression that this isn’t really a Newsboys album.  It sounds like a new band.  But the album is still very good and has sold very nicely.  According to wikipedia, it debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, selling 45,000 copies that week, the highest ranking ever for the Newsboys.  It also hit #1 on the Christian charts, the fourth time the Newsboys have accomplished this feat.

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