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[ take me to your leader ]

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TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER (1996)
Take Me To Your Leader - Click to view! Before Skillet was terrorizing the Christian market with their Alien Youth, before Luna Halo's "Aliens" took over the airwaves, and before Regis Philbin ticked off the general television owning populace with the phrase "Is that your final answer?," the Newsboys had a head start on the whole "encounters of the third kind" thing. Although Not Ashamed and Going Public were both fairly successful albums, no Newsboys recording before or since has come close to surpassing Take Me To Your Leader. There are several theories behind this mysterious phenomenon. The first is that former lead vocalist John James's departure sent the band spiraling into oblivion. That's highly doubtful since Peter Furler wrote all the songs anyway, and James just sang them. Another theory states that StarSong's fold into the cheese-pop conglomerate, Sparrow Records, sent the band spiraling into oblivion. Wait, that must be it.

Still, TMTYL's rocksteady musical balance must be credited. You won't find any pop here; only well-crafted, artistic rock anthems. "God Is Not a Secret" leads off the bunch, finding the Newsboys unshakeable in their Christian beliefs. Such a stance today would be deemed "politically incorrect" or "narrow-minded," but the awesome declaration "If the cross offends you, find another voice" gives me the desire to cheer "Rock on!" Following that up is the album's title track. In spite of its zaniness, "TMTYL" is evangelically minded, discussing the importance of living a Christ-like example in our daily lives through the rally cry "Let's take 'em to our Leader's son." "Breathe" is the phenomenal third track featuring a high level of electric distortion amongst a humble prayer: "Breathe on me, breathe oh breath of life, Breathe on me 'til I love like you do."

Every Newsboys album has that epic fourth track that usually becomes a radio hit. For Step Up to the Microphone it was "Believe," and for Thrive it will no doubt be the title track. Take Me to Your Leader's radio winner was "Reality," even though most stations edited out the line encapsulating the lyrics about elephant dung, probably because it was un-Christian. Spare me. Thankfully, track #5, "Breakfast," doesn't contain any offensive content, unless you happen to be a fan of Captain Crunch. Pulling out the stops with every breakfast reference known to man, the Newsboys humorously point out that breakfast, as well as any other meal, is not served in Hell. This is obviously a big deal, and if anything should be an incentive for listeners to accept Christ as Lord. The addition of whistling and a back-up youth choir make this toasty tune the most well-known Newsboys hit, second only to "Shine." "Let It Go" is quite a contrast; the acoustic, mellow rawness only adds to the beauty of this already stirring melody.

There's not much to gawk at during the latter portion of the album. "Cup O' Tea" offers more fast-paced rock action amid the charging sounds of an electric synthesizer, and "It's All Who You Know" uses several illustrative examples to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship in being a God Follower. A unique point of interest occurs in "Miracle Child" due to its smooth, laid-back style of groove. The real hidden treasure here, though, is "Lost the Plot." At first, the boys are barely audible in their statement of how Christ has taken a backseat in our daily lives, but the accusations escalate, followed by the wailing six-string and James's raging vocal chords. The result is some of the hardest, thrashing rock music the Newsboys have ever pulled out of their bag of tricks. Its verses resound with the apathy adopted by an inattentive world: "Sigh / let's be blunt / we're a little distracted / what do you want? / Once we could follow / now we cannot / you could not fit our image / so we lost the plot."

Considered by many to be their best, Take Me To Your Leader is a Newsboys classic. The songs are brimming to the edge with truth, ministry, and some well-produced rock stylings (a la Steve Taylor). This is the epitome of a band in their prime, but it's doubtful anything this creative will ever come from the Newsboys again. However, with the recent success of Thrive, the ball is back in their court.
- Rick Foux
April 2002
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