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Denver and the Mile High Orchestra
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STAND (2002)
Stand - Click to view! Chances are, the phrase "college band" brings to your mind thoughts more of Hootie and the Blowfish than of the Brian Setzer Orchestra. However, despite their beginnings at Belmont University, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra shares company with BSO, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and a slew of other bands from the Big Band renaissance of the mid- to late-90's. The difference is, while those bands played at a "Big Band" sound, DMHO has the manpower to pull it off. Boasting 14 regular members and augmented with studio musicians for the CD, the band is led by the silky-voiced Denver Bierman (yes, that's his real name, and yes, he does sound a lot like Harry Connick, Jr.), and they're on a mission to show you the fun side of life in God's plan.

Stand is a romp through the best of swing, jazz and funk. Just for good measure, there's even a mambo thrown in. That sort of musical range is only made possible through the talent and flexibility of such a large band. The energy that comes from playing such upbeat music passes through the musicians and infuses the listener with real excitement. All of which is only made better through the insightful and meaningful lyrics.

Each song's lyrics are listed with the scriptural reference which deals with the theme of the track. The opening cut, "One Time Show," is a perfect example of the blending of passionate performances and heartfelt messages that make-up this album. Like a carnival barker, the opening lyrics of "step right up / step right in / the show's about to begin" serve to entice the listener to move a little closer. The greater message, though, is that we only get one chance to make it in the "show" of our lives. The title track brings to mind some of Carman's best work and, oddly, has the most subdued tone of all the songs on the album. It stands out both for its different sound and the beautiful poignancy of its lyrics. Both sides of a successful relationship with Jesus are shown; that if we "stand" up for Jesus by placing our faith in Him, he will "stand" for us on Judgement Day. "That's Got Soul" is a metaphor for how Jesus moves into our hearts and cleans up every bit of the dirt and darkness found there. A cool cabaret-jazz number, "Souled-Out Holy Shoes" is fun for its play on the style, and is meaningful for its message: to happily wear the shoes God has given you in life. The project closes with a hidden bonus track, Dixieland-jazz standard "When That Last Trumpet Sounds."

I found it pretty much impossible to dislike this disc. It's just too much fun to revel in powerful music paired with praising and worshipful words. By no means have I spilled all of the secrets from this project, but I think you get the idea. This album is well worth the price for anyone looking for something completely different from anything else out there.
- Scott Bush
July 2004
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