TRUE NORTH (1999)
"First contemporary album in three years!" the sticker on the CD exclaims. And yes, it is true. After taking a year off as she periodically does, Twila recorded Perennial, a quiet, contemplative collection of new and classic worship. She came right back, though, this year with True North which is definitely an excellent album. Although it is not the masterpiece that 1993's Beyond a Dream was, this album is nothing to laugh at. With two #1 singles already ("Run to You" and "I Choose Grace") Twila has proved that she can come back and blast to the top even after taking a bit of a sabbatical.
Striving for a contemporary attitude on True North, Twila chose renowned producer Charlie Peacock (of Switchfoot and Audio Adrenaline) to produce the album. His creativity and demands of excellence made Paris's latest a real winner, mixing in piano at a greater volume. Simply put, Peacock's guiding hand made Twila's style change come off well. Songs like "Wisdom" and "When You Speak to Me" prove it with their stunning guitar and piano arrangements. Another wise choice was to enlist Scott Dente (Out of the Grey) to play acoustic guitar for the album. While his playing isn't always upfront, you can hear it and it is clear that the music would not have been the same without his guitar playing. Other musicians who stand out are Kenny Greenberg who played electric guitar on Signs of Life (Steven Curtis Chapman), Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) who is a guest vocalist on "When You Speak to Me", and Chris Eaton who once again delivers awesome backing vocals for Twila.
"Run to You" kicks off the album and pushes Twila's number of #1 singles to 29 in an excellent way. While it is not the same as "God is in Control", and sounds much like it could have been on Where I Stand, it is a catchy tune which is very uplifting. The title track is up next delivering one of the best moments of the album reminding us of the truth in Proverbs 3:5-6: "God will lead us where He wants us to go." "Delight My Heart" echoes the words of one of the Psalms: "I will delight my heart in You / All of the joy You give is what I long for". Undoubtedly the best song on the CD, "Wisdom" sports the guitar skills of the aforementioned Kenny Greenberg who is accompanied by the cello and violin. The message: God is the only one we can trust, so follow the example of Solomon and ask for wisdom above riches and honor.
The next five or so songs may not strike you at first but are really quite good. The only song which I really don't like is "Daughter of Grace" because of the way the vocals were mixed. "Could You Believe" serves as a reminder to me that our actions speak louder than our words. An interesting song, "Wondering Out Loud" also attracted my attention. It is exactly what the title says it is: random thoughts by Twila all tied together in the chorus. "When You Speak to Me" ends the album off nicely with a soaring grand piano and excellent melody all expertly written by Twila.
The only major complaint I have about this album is the fact that the music isn't exactly "cutting edge" and at times makes you wonder if you're listening to Where I Stand. I'm not saying that the album isn't worth buying. On the contrary I think that if you are a fan of pop music you should buy this album. I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that this isn't anywhere near as good as Beyond a Dream and personally, I think Twila can do as good as she did with that highly acclaimed album. But until she reaches that height once again, I'll keep on listening to this stuff. In a genre (Christian pop) where most of the music is trash, this album shines out like a bright light.
PERENNIAL: SONGS FOR THE SEASONS OF LIFE (1998)
Twila Paris has long been known as "the modern hymn-writer". Her songs such as 'He is Exalted', 'We Will Glorify', and 'Holy is the Lord' have been sung in churches all across the world. Her latest album Perennial is sure to bring her status up even more as she once again amazes us with her worship songs.
As well as the hymns which are on this album Twila has written three new tunes and "rescued" two tunes from the eighties ('Faithful Men' and 'Father, We are Here'). All of the songs are good but some of the songs are more noticeable than others. 'My Lips Will Praise You' is noticeable because of the sincerity in Twila's vocals and voice. The songs speaks of the fact that God has chosen us and that we praise God because He is holy. 'Be Thou My Vision' is also noticeable because it's excellent orchestra music (skillfully arranged by Tom Howard). 'Fountain of Grace' is an excellent song praises God for the fact that he is a fountain of grace which never stops flowing.
I think that this second volume in the Sanctuary Series is quite an improvement on the earlier volume. From what I have heard of the earlier volume it is quite soft and breathy. Perennial is not like that. The style is much better and I think that Twila has been improving with her lyrics and her songwriting. Thank you Twila for this excellent album!
WHERE I STAND (1996)
It was this album that really introduced me to Twila Paris. My mother had bought her previous album Beyond a Dream and I had heard that but her music never really appealed to me. As far as I knew she was just another artist. But when I bought this album (mainly because of the duet with Steven Curtis Chapman) I was amazed at how good it was. The music was excellent and very nice to listen to.
Lyrically, the album is encouraging and helpful for growing in faith. The opening song of the album, 'Love's Been Following You', is reminding us that, because of our faith in God, His love is always following us. The following track 'Hold On' is definitely my favorite song on the album. This song contains some well arranged string parts and it reminds us that we should hold on to hope because nothing is else worth holding onto. 'Faithful Friend' is another song with excellent string parts and is a duet with Steven Curtis Chapman. It is similar lyrically to the next song 'Jesus in You' because it is telling whoever the song is directed to that they have been a help and that Jesus is in them. '(I Am) Not Afraid Anymore' is one of the more popular songs on the album and it is speaking joyfully of the fact that all of the guilt from "hiding" things from God is gone. One of the most impacting songs on the album is 'What Did He Die For?' which begins with an illustration about WWII and then goes on to talk about Jesus' death and asks us to ask ourselves what Jesus died for. The album ends off nicely with 'I Will Listen', a song proclaiming that "I will listen to His voice".
Where I Stand is an excellent album musically and lyrically and has some very good talent in it. Twila receives help on the backing vocals from Chris Eaton and Chris Rodriguez and has Dan Huff on guitar. Even though this album has not received much recognition it is an album well worth buying and I can assure you that you will get your money's worth.
BEYOND A DREAM (1993)
When looking at all of Twila's other recordings, it is hard to find one that is as good as, much less better than, Beyond a Dream. Full of helpful lyrics which accompany well-written music, this is definitely her masterpiece. What really struck me about this album is that all of the songs are very applicable in today's world. Dealing with subjects from Jesus' second coming to trust in friend, the lyrics in this album need to be heard by Christians around the world.
"God is in Control" starts this recording with a very uplifting tune that reminds us not to worry for God is in control of everything; He will make sure that everything is taken care of. This shows people that there is no sense in worrying about life - God has never let you down so why would He now? Running along similar lines, "Watch and Pray" reminds us that it is useless to try to predict when Jesus comes. This is especially relevant today as we approach the year 2000. Another one of my favorites is "I Will Worship" which proclaims that we should worship Him because He is just and He is great.
"Seventy Years Ago" keeps the number of great songs up as it talks of Twila's ancestors who, as the title says, lived seventy years ago. "All About You", another worship track, is probably my favorite song on the CD along with "Rescue the Prisoner". Of course, it isn't easy to pick favorites when the CD is as good as this one is.
So, all together it is a great recording. The lyrics and the music are both excellent and they show you why this album won many awards for Twila, including 2 Doves, 4 #1 singles, and a #1 song of the year ("God is in Control" - 1995). What more can I say? This is an album that if you haven't heard, I suggest you give it a thorough listen to. If you have heard the album, then why not listen to it more? The message of Beyond a Dream isn't getting any less relevant to us, that's one thing I know for sure.
IT'S THE THOUGHT (1989)
Christmas tends to be something where people are not focused on what they are giving, but rather what they are receiving. Even some Christians forget Christ's words that "It is better to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) Santa Claus is the man of the day and the significance of what Christmas really means is forgotten. Twila doesn't go down that path on It's the Thought, however. Instead she reminds us that "It's the thought that counts when the thought is love / It's the thought that counts when you're thinking of / All the blood that flowed in vast amounts." It is clear that Twila firmly believes that Christ is not to be forgotten as we celebrate Christmas with our families. Instead, we are to think about the significance of what He did for us.
Two things struck me when I began listening to this album. The first was that this album sounds a lot like her previous album, Same Girl. The only real differences are the types of songs and the addition of strings on this album. The second thing was how much keyboards they had packed into this album. Don't get me wrong, I like keyboards. I do not like keyboards, however, when almost every sound you hear in a song, is made by keyboards. Unfortunately, this album is on that line. While you do get used to it after a while and it does grow on you, it makes the album less enjoyable. However, with Twila's skill at songwriting it takes a lot to make her music unpleasant.
Some Christmas albums have too many carols and others have too many original pieces. It's the Thought, however, has neither of those problems with a great mix of both. Songs range from the traditional 'Down in Yon Forest' to 'This World,' a catchy song which is similar to bubblegum music. Once again, Twila's skill as a songwriter shows itself and demonstrates why we all love her music so much, especially in the songs 'Wandering Pilgrim' and 'It's the Thought'. The former encouraging people to follow God's light and the latter reminding us to focus our thoughts on Jesus.
Another wonderful attribute of this album are the songs that were chosen. All of the carols fit in perfectly with Twila's songs and the theme of the album. My favorite carol on this album is 'Away in a Manger' which is performed by Twila and her two sisters, Starla and Angie. Beautifully arranged, I could listen to this song over and over again. Two lesser known traditionals that are rendered on this album are 'I Saw Three Ships' and 'Down in Yon Forest', both of which are excellently arranged and performed. And you cannot forget her duet with Matthew Ward for the song 'O Holy Night' which exhibits Twila's powerful voice and her skill at performing duets.
Twila has been one of my favorite singers for about a year now, and it amazes me that I never discovered this fact as I delve deeper into her previous albums. Full of encouragement and skill, all of the albums that I have heard up to now I have heartily enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. The same thing goes for It's the Thought. With all of the excellent material contained on this album, it deserves a place on your shelf.
SAME GIRL (1987)
The style of music in the 1980's was quite different from the style of music which is popular today. Instead of relying on your guitar and rhythm sections keyboards were used a lot more and synth sounds were a common thing to hear in the albums of that decade. The way the songs were written in Christian music was also different. Instead of encouraging people and making theological statements, the lyrics were more praise and worship style.
Same Girl is no exception to the style of music which I listed above. If you think that that makes a bad album, however, I think that you should check this album out. With twelve inspirational songs this album will definitely earn a place on your shelf if you are a Twila Paris fan. Starting with one of her most popular songs ever, 'Holy is the Lord', the album captures your attention from the very beginning. 'Bonded Together', one of the songs which relies heavily on the keyboards, talks about how are bonded with Christ when we become Christians. Another good song, 'Send Me', is a cry to God that he would use us wherever he wants us to be. While the title track isn't one of the head-turners musically, lyrically it is one of the most important songs on the album. It reminds us that we need to listen to the older people because they have much wisdom which they can pass on and also because it is important to love everybody -not just people who are our age. My favorite song on the album is definitely 'Prince of Peace' which proclaims that our world needs God to come and reign. 'Throne Room Suite', a medley of three songs, ends the album quite nicely by praising God for being Lord of the earth.
I have noticed that in her more recent albums Twila has picked some very talented studio musicians to work on her album. It seems that this practice has deep roots because this album features a few musicians who are well known. Abraham Laboriel (bass), Lenny LeBlanc (backing vocals), and Twila's sister Angie (backing vocals) who is now a recording artist. I don't think that the string arrangements are as good on this album as they are on Where I Stand or Perennial and I think that it relies a bit too heavily on the synths and keyboards. However, this album is sure to stay on my shelf and not just for collecting dust.
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