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BACK HOME (2003)
Back Home - Click to view! A man left home one day to embark upon a journey around the world. He loved his quaint, little dwelling, so he requested that his relatives move in and housesit for him during his absence. Seeing new and exotic places brought this individual so much joy that he was gone a full six years. Eventually though, he became homesick and decided to return to his cozy, humble abode. Upon walking through his front door, he was grief stricken over how different his house looked! His relatives had turned everything topsy-turvy while he was away, leaving an irreparable mess behind. Though he tried to straighten things up to the best of his ability, the poor man's home was never the same again.

This little parable is analogous to what it's like listening to Back Home, the fifth studio album from Caedmon's Call. Back in their college band days, these natives from Houston, Texas, had a knack for weaving beautiful acoustic/folk style melodies as delicious as grandma's home cooked meatloaf. While their musical ability certainly hasn't dulled, the group's artistic expression received a severe tinting during the mediocre worship of In the Company of Angels that has bled over into this self-produced project. Back Home is advertised as a return to "the signature harmonies and driving guitars that have made the group one of the most recognizable in music today." The results, however, are a tad bittersweet, and even more disappointing. Caedmon's first mistake occurs when they fail to capture the listener's attention with a decent opener and instead substitute "Only Hope," a mostly guitar-driven piece that drags the ground. A brief climax occurs during the bridge, but only because of the poetic lyrics: "And there for me the Savior stands / shows his wounds and spreads his hands / and face to face before the Son / like Isaiah I'm undone." The second track, "You Created" would have been a more suitable introduction. It combines the experimental pop flavor of Long Line of Leavers with modern worship, and Danielle Young's free-flowing background vocals are epic in performance. Unfortunately, this brilliant showing is instantly dimmed by "Hands of the Potter," the characteristic "fast" song of this particular Caedmon's album. Gone is the richness of such past performances as "Hope to Carry On," "Thankful," and "Ballad of San Francisco," as this track is merely an empty shell compared to those that preceded it. Not that the band's musical showing is amiss; in fact, Caedmon's abilities are a bit too polished and refined for a song of this caliber. Overproduction reoccurs as a major problem on "High Countries," "Manner and Means," and the Middle Eastern ballad "Kingdom."

Not all traditional fans of Caedmon's Call will be left displeased, however. "Emptiest Day" smoothes down production issues using a gentle drum loop and tambourine backdrop. The sincere lyrics are also just as soothing in quality: "And I'm looking for the well that won't run dry / the rest the weary thoughts cannot deny / when you wrap your arms around me / I can walk away or face the emptiest day." More acoustic and spontaneous, "Beautiful Mystery" employs the same comforting strategy and manages to obtain a decent melodic style. The vocal harmony of Derek Webb and Cliff Young is wonderfully in sync as they turn up their voices to offer praise to Christ, the "beautiful mystery…a servant and a king." Finally trying something new, Caedmon's ventures out to instill an almost Cajun air into "Awake My Soul" by throwing a spicy accordion into the mix. It works surprisingly well, and it flows nicely into this cut's overall stream of consciousness. Penmanship is also excellent; the lyrics describe how no one is good enough to save ourselves, so we must call on the Father to "awaken our souls." This is our one desire.

What is sorely missed on Back Home is the familiar songwriting of Derek Webb. Webb has been at work on his own solo project, which should be especially promising, but filling in during his absence has been musical prodigy Joshua Moore, who wrote nearly the entire In the Company of Angels record. Sadly, he appears to have single-handedly taken over Caedmon's Call, as each track has its own influences of his musical style, making Back Home anything but original. Caedmon's is a group who is widely known for their spontaneity and rawness, but they seem to be getting more and more predictable. We'll be hoping they return to their true form (which I believe was captured in Long Line of Leavers), but in the meantime, Back Home provides only a few satisfactory thrills.
- Rick Foux
January 2003
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