Jesus Freak: 20 Years Later


Wow. 20 years of Jesus Freak.

Originally posted on decentchristiantalk:

It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since the groundbreaking Jesus Freak record. It’s fun to look back and see the impact that Jesus Freak had. Let’s go back 20 years and hear from those that had a hand in one of the biggest successes in CCM history.


Dan Brock (former Forefront Records President): 1995 was quite an exciting time for us at ForeFront Records. We were a small independent label that had grown quickly. We had recently received our first Platinum Album award for dcTalk’s Free at Last release. The group was back in the studio recording and we were preparing our plan for the biggest release in our company’s history – ‘Jesus Freak’.
In August of that year we released the AVCD single of Jesus Freak which also featured the Gotee Bros. Freaked Out Remix, I Wish We’d All Been Ready, and a Jesus Is Just…

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To American Christians Who Reject Refugees


A point well-worth considering for every single one of us who consider ourselves Christians.

Originally posted on Merely Me:

To the American Christians who are rejecting refugees from our Country:

Do you remember a couple of months ago when we saw images of the little boy named Aylan who had washed up on the beach? He and his family had escaped from Syria and were trying to make their way to Canada. Sadly, he never made it. We were all heart-broken when we saw his picture. Many of you said that you would have opened up your home to him and his family if you had been able to.

But then the attacks in Paris and Beirut happened.

Now you are signing petitions asking your governor to close your State’s border to refugees. You are frightened by the images of terror attacks you’ve seen on the news. I know that you mean well, because you think that you are protecting your families and your country from harm. But my heart breaks when…

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Music Review: STARRY EYES SURPRISE by Kevin Max

Songs of the night: STARRY EYES SURPRISE by Kevin Max

Kevin Max’s vocal dexterity is well matched by his penchant for playing hopscotch from one musical genre to another. From R&B/hip-hop to alternative, modern rock and radio-friendly pop, Kevin Max has done it all well and with relative ease. It was just a few months ago that he released BROKEN TEMPLES, a critically acclaimed showcase of his personal faith and love of new wave. But, with his new album, he’s focused his attention exclusively on the music and ably delved into the magic of mid-twentieth century speakeasies and Hollywood in a manner that exudes deep reverence for the character of each song while simultaneously flirting with each track’s creative potential. It’s as if Max found a seam in time to sing his way through leaving, intertwined in his wake, a series of revitalized crooning standards (e.g., “Nature Boy”) and lavishly reimagined modern songs of the night (e.g., “Sunglasses At Night”) that are each ready stand on their own and, now, are all collected for the listener’s convenience and pleasure as STARRY EYES SURPRISE. A solid soundtrack for a quiet evening without the kids.

The Latest Kevin Max Project Is In The Works: Starry Eyes Surprise

Enigmatic. It’s a word that many have used to describe the musical journey of Kevin Max, DC Talk member and former lead vocalist of Audio Adrenaline. Since the legendary contemporary Christian music group DC Talk’s “intermission” some 15-20 years ago, Max has charted a course that resembles more of a multifaceted, obstacle-laden pinball game table than that of a carefully curated recipe for profitable longevity in the Christian music industry. His back catalog includes: a world music/pop explosion that was STEREOTYPE BE (2001); the critically acclaimed rock and roll of THE IMPOSTER (2005); a timeless Christmas staple – HOLY NIGHT (2005); an amazing gospel covers album – THE BLOOD (2007); the wildly experimental/electronic COTES D’ARMOR (2010); critically acclaimed missionary pop rock as lead singer of Audio Adrenaline – KINGS & QUEENS (2013); and a profound collection of pop-rock/nu wave spirituals – BROKEN TEMPLES (2014), in addition to a number of other EP’s, side projects, books of poetry, and the writing of his fictional novel FIEFDOM OF ANGELS.

Kevin Max’s journey has led him all over the place, but, that fact is much more a testament to his relentless creative energy and artistic integrity than it is a knock on his ability to make a buck. He could have easily just continued in lock-step with Christian music industry protocol and secured a steady and more-than-comfortable income, but, he’s never been content with the status quo and with that in mind, he has, yet again, ventured in a different direction.

STARRY EYES SURPRISE, the project he is in the process of recording and gathering support for through his second Pledge crowd-funding campaign pays homage to the classic voices that have and continue to influence his love and performance of music: Nat King Cole, The Smiths, Frank Sinatra, etc. It is a project that, thematically, lends itself to notions of evening romance and reverence for the crooners of the past. The musical arrangements of the songs that have surfaced, so far, are remarkably played  (with instrumentation and backing vocals being provided by John and Painter and Flemming McWilliams) and are reverent to each song’s original history while, also, lending a creative nod to Max’s own experimental instincts. It’s an interesting project that is definitely worth lending an ear, and possibly, your support to. I’m really hoping that he continues in this vein for a new Christmas album. HOLY NIGHT is an amazing album, but, I’d love to hear him take on classic Christmas songs as performed by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, and Burl Ives.

Check out what he has to say about it and learn more about how you can get involved in STARRY EYES SURPRISE.

Reaction (a stream of consciousness poem)

The focus of our time
That which steals the purpose
The substance that could be our reaction
To something divine
Outside our realm of understanding
But fully capable
With infinite potential
To create beyond the scope of our conception
Life abundant
Through grace incomprehensible
Prompting us
If we will let It
To overflow with foolishness
For that is what it is in comparison
To the scales – the units of measure
By which humanity has limited itself
God and everything outside of ourselves
Outside of self
Our attention focused on the other
Our attention and time and energy
Spent outside of ourselves
Is equivalent I believe
To Love
To God
To worship God is to let our attention
Let our limitations
Let our reactions and our fear
Free to run away
and in doing so
Freeing us to trust and place
Our hope
Our time
Our hands
Our feet
Directly on the path that He has drawn out
To reveal His glory through
To love others
To serve others
To focus your attention outside
Of ourselves
Is to love God
To worship God
To touch the heart of Jesus
And to remove ourselves
From our own grip
With which we cling so tightly
To sin and the death
The absence of life
That it brings
Lord teach me in each moment
Of each day going forward to
Look outside of myself
To let go of myself
To release my fear
And grab Your hand
As it is extended out to me
Each day in need
Empty my hands
Oh Lord
So that I am free to react
To focus my attention
To spend my time
Outside of myself
Outside of sin
But, in You
In Love


Like canvas stretched tightly over the frame
Imposing upon each gessoed fiber strain

Constitution’s vulnerabilities
Raked and now exposed for the world to seize

Endless hours spent chasing carrot tails
While stuttering words and accruing fails

Squandering away these precious few hours
Tasked to preserve the substance of flowers

Regardless the cost for vain veneers paid
I find my own dignity worn and splayed

With all cupboards bare
The absence clear shows
I have nothing more
To give from behind doors that only close

Meanders Music Review: BROKEN TEMPLES (Deluxe Edition) by Kevin Max + “Love Feels Like” (Feat. dcTalk) from TobyMac’s THIS IS NOT A TEST

BROKEN TEMPLES (deluxe edition) now available through iTunes

BROKEN TEMPLES by Kevin Max was released earlier this year and what follows is my original review of the album as it was released then, but, updated with commentary on the additional tracks available on the Deluxe Edition of BROKEN TEMPLES that is now available through iTunes. Also included in this updated post is the lyric video “Light Me Up” from BROKEN TEMPLES and the lyric video for for the new song “Love Feels Like (featuring dcTalk)” which features Kevin Max, along with Michael Tait, on TobyMac’s just-released album THIS IS NOT A TEST.

Broken Temples, the latest solo album from Kevin Max, the iconic voice of dc Talk and “Kings & Queens”-era Audio Adrenaline, is an album that celebrates space and the perspective it can bring, both figuratively and literally. Lyrics throughout the album paint a bird’s eye view of literal and figurative open highway landscapes, deep valleys amidst jagged peaks, and moments of still, quiet solitude contrasted by the boundless measure of the heavens and the infinite God that moves in, around, and through them.

The themes explored lyrically on this album are a marked departure from Max’s last solo effort, 2010’s Cotes d’Armor (True Rebels). Instead of what, by comparison, were darker, cryptic lyrics juxtaposed with ambient electronica, Broken Temples offers a direct line to hope, but, without the candy coating of Christian clichés so overused on contemporary Christian radio. Laid out on a framework of new wave with occasional nods to the influence of U2, Johnny Cash, and the Beatles, the album is a clear product of Max’s musical influences. That fact, in and of itself, is respectable, since so many artists make so many concessions in their music just for the sake of getting on the radio.
It is Max’s ability to articulately explore and celebrate truths of God and the importance of grace as a dynamic in the lives of believers that I appreciate as much as, if not even more than, his amazing voice. Kevin Max is a poet and his expertise as a craftsman of words is on full display in the songs of Broken Temples. It takes a great lyricist to be able to use words within reach of the common lexicon, and to arrange and partner each of them with just the right musical moments in a song, in order to produce an emotional and personally relevant response within the listener that is both memorable and meaningful, and to do so to a degree that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is even more impressive when he can do so while simultaneously leaving enough room in the interpretation of the lyrics to allow almost anyone to connect their own bruised hearts with the experiences of a man who has stated that the lyrics to the songs of Broken Temples (“Just As I Am,” in particular) are some of the most personal that he’s ever written.
Lyrical gems alluding to the broken nature of humanity, and the relief and purpose that we have the chance to grab hold of through God’s grace, are threaded throughout the album and employed in a manner that communicates hope for the broken without ever conceding to the banality of the latest Christian music industry platitudes. I’m certain that I could tell my own redemptive life story by simply excerpting lines from the lyrics of songs like “Good King’s Highway,” “Light Me Up,” “Just As I Am,” and “That Was Then And This Is Now,” – all songs that reflect back on life-lived, for better or worse, and acknowledging the wonder of grace and eternal hope in the face of it all. But, it is the stripped down arrangement of “That Was Then And This Is Now,” certainly one of my favorite tracks from the album, that grabs me immediately within the first few seconds of the song and engages me on a deeper level, as Max sings about finding assurance and peace in the growing space between the mistakes of our past and the present hope of our future, through the duration of the song.
“Good King’s Highway” is a solid opening track that rings with optimism and celebrates providence in the midst of the journey of life from the very first note going forward while “Light Me Up,” a decidedly and unapologetically-pop song, alludes to God’s ability and desire to use us, in our broken state, for his lasting purpose and, in doing so, provide a more abundant sense of life and meaning than we ever could’ve imagined before. The slick pop sound, set against the substance and poetic depth of the lyrics in “Light Me Up,” “Just As I Am,” and “When We Were Young,” are another characteristic stroke of Max genius.
Purchase and Download the music of Kevin Max on iTunes

Purchase and Download the music of Kevin Max on iTunes

As the 80’s new wave-inspired tracks “Just As I Am” and “Clear” unfold, the listener’s attention is focused inward as Max reflects upon the one-to-one, personal dynamic that exists between God and believer when we choose to accept His hope personally. Max ably meets the challenge of taking a sound so characteristic of the 80’s and making it sound completely relevant decades later.

Like “Good King’s Highway,” “White Horse” has an expansive sound, but, also has a spirit that steers closer to praise music than Max typically ventures. It does so, however, in a truly Max fashion, as he has managed to present a song that honors the truth of God without leaning on standard Christian music industry cut-and-paste lyrics, thus creating a song that is accessible not just to common believers, but, also to a wider audience that appreciates texture and artistry in music.
Broken Temples is rounded out by two Derek Web remixes (of “Just As I Am” and “Clear”) and “Infinite,” a celebratory chorus in the vein of “Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon and “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles.  While the argument against including remixes in an album does have merit (who wouldn’t want two more original songs instead?), I enjoy Webb’s alternate take on the two remix songs (“Another Big Mistake” and “Going Clear”) further the continuity of tone established in the first eight tracks of the album, while, also adding texture to the album as a whole. “Infinite” (featuring a well-placed appearance by Rachel Lampa) provides a memorable exclamation point to the album by celebrating the fact that God is so much more than any of us can even comprehend with our finite minds. There is more going on than we can see or even hope to understand, but, God is worthy of our faith.
As a whole BROKEN TEMPLES is simply amazing. Only time will tell whether the album will gain enough of the exposure it is worthy of in order to propel Max’s presence and notoriety in the Christian music industry onward and upward to the level of respect that he deserves as a solo artist. Regardless of whether it does or it doesn’t, Broken Temples is an album that stands firmly on it’s own accord. It takes guts to trailblaze through the wilderness that Kevin Max has and the grace of God to sound this good on the other side.
DELUXE EDITION REVIEW UPDATE: With the July 2015 release of the Deluxe Edition of BROKEN TEMPLES, listeners are treated to an additional five tracks not included on the original album. Two of those, “Lay Down Your Weapons” and “Freak Flag,” were available to supporters of the BROKEN TEMPLES Pledge Campaign when BROKEN TEMPLES released in March, but, the standard version available elsewhere didn’t include them. The Deluxe Edition of BROKEN TEMPLES also includes “Memoria,” “Desperate Heart,” and a demo version of “That Was Then This Is Now.”
“Lay Your Weapons Down,” a bluesy, soul guitar track, and “Freak Flag,” a tongue-in-check nod to 90’s Christian rock in the vain of classic Audio Adrenaline and dcTalk, represent a tone not characteristic of the album as a whole, but, certainly warrant their own inclusion as bonus tracks. “Memoria” is my favorite of the additional tracks. It carries on a very Beatle-esque quality that is hinted at on “Infinite,” and one can’t help, but, to sing along after just a listen or two. “Desperate Heart,” on the other hand, fits extremely well into the pop-new wave feel of earlier album tracks such as “Just As I Am,” “Clear,” and “That Was Then This Is Now,” with synthesizer, bass line, drum machine, and vocal textures that would make any 80’s music fan swoon. The demo version of “That Was Then This Is Now,” is very closely related to the slightly more produced version that ended up on the standard release of BROKEN TEMPLES. They are so similar, in fact, that I’m tempted to ask why it was included. But, altogether, the five additional songs gave BROKEN TEMPLES the balance it needed to tip my assessment of this album from 4.5 out of 5 to a full 5 out of 5.
There is a fair amount of space for the listener to soak in and reflect upon the lyrics, as presented by Max on BROKEN TEMPLES, in order to make them their own, while the arrangements and production of the album ensure that the songs will only gain traction with repeated listens and that the album, as a whole, will age well and, perhaps even, better than other albums released by his contemporaries in the contemporary Christian music industry. Well done Mr. Max.
Meanders Music Review on a scale of 1-5 Stars: 4.5 (BROKEN TEMPLES)/5.0 (BROKEN TEMPLES – DELUXE EDITION)
“Light Me Up” by Kevin Max from BROKEN TEMPLES
Knee-jerk Review: “Love Feels Like (featuring dcTalk)” from TobyMac’s THIS IS NOT A TEST
There has been a good deal of fanfare surrounding the release of Kevin Max’s fellow dcTalk-alum TobyMac’s new album THIS IS NOT A TEST, and with good reason. But, the track that I found most interesting was “Love Feels Like” which features a mini-reunion of dcTalk by including Michael Tait (Tait Band/Newsboys) and Kevin Max (Audio Adrenaline/solo) along with Toby McKeehan. Simply put, it’s a great track. There is a magic that happens when their voices come together that is captured here and they picked the right kind of song to do it on, too. It’s an in-your-face, powerful song that carry’s weight in terms of the sound and the substance of the lyrics. One can only hope that there is more of this on the way.