Release Date: June 17th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Body Be [Relient K] (originally performed by Johnny Q. Public)
- Ooh, Ahh [Capital Kings feat. John Reuben] (originally performed by GRITS feat. tobyMac)
- River [The Katinas] (originally performed by Out of Eden)
- Constant [Out of Eden] (originally performed by House of Heroes)
- Love Addict [John Reuben] (originally performed by Family Force 5)
- Stereo [House of Heroes feat. Stephanie Smith] (originally performed by 4th Ave. Jones)
- Getting Into You [Jamie Grace] (originally performed by Relient K)
- Refine Me [Ayiesha Woods] (originally performed by Jennifer Knapp)
- My Refuge [Ryan Stevenson] (originally performed by Sonicflood)
- Doin’ [Soul Glow Activatur] (originally performed by John Reuben)
- Here’s My Heart [Harper Still] (originally performed by Out of Eden)
- Bless the Lord [Sarah Kelly] (originally performed by Jeff Deyo)
- Undo Me [GRITS] (originally performed by Jennifer Knapp)
- One More Time [Finding Favour] (originally performed by The Katinas)
- I Celebrate the Day [Stephanie Smith] (originally performed by Relient K)
- Valley of Decision [Paul Wright] (originally performed by Christafari)
- Over Thinking [Zilch] (originally performed by Relient K)
- Gotee’s Groovin’ [The Gotee Brothers] (originally performed by Out of Eden)
- Love Addict (Lounge Club Version) [John Reuben] [originally performed by Family Force 5]
- Sadie Hawkins Dance (10 Year Reunion) [Relient K] [originally performed by Relient K]
Gotee Records, one of the major Christian record labels today (although right now there are only 4 artists signed to the label), recently had their 20th anniversary this year. Yep, that’s right- Gotee Records was founded in 1994, by legendary rapper/pop-rock artist TobyMac (who was 1/3 of dc Talk) and a couple of his friends. Doesn’t the time just fly by? While Toby didn’t record his own albums on the label, but rather on ForeFront Records; he has been a major influence on the artist roster of the label so far, with many artists that have been/are signed to the label all musically sounding very diverse, yet all of these artists fitting together and complementing each other’s styles quite nicely. And now, as a reward to all of the loyal fans and friends, Gotee Records has released a special ‘greatest hits’ package, a compilation album of sorts, of the best and most popular songs from past and present artists on Gotee Records. But here’s the unique twist. While many other label compilations would just include these songs on the compilation as they were recorded however many years ago, on Gotee Records: Twenty Years Brand New, these songs are redone…by other artists who were/are on Gotee Records before- check out the tracklisting to see what I mean! Doesn’t this unique album excite you? I know I was eager to hear how old and new Gotee Records artists would sound singing each other’s songs, and I am sure this compilation album has probably received the most buzz out of any other compilation album over the past few years. So how do the tracks live up to their originals? Well, the answer is varied, and requires analysis from many different viewpoints.
For an album like this, you can categorise and classify it so many ways. For me I would group these 20 songs into artists who are still currently on Gotee Records, those who have left the label but are still in music, and artists who have have reunited especially for this release (which is a nice surprise)- artists who have come back to record a song, but other than that may not be planning to record anything any time soon. And each ‘category’ definitely has its representatives on this record. Many of the previous Gotee Records artists, who have moved on to other labels, or have gone on to record albums independently, or have ‘retired’ from the music industry, are featured on this special release, marking the first time that we can see all of our fan favourite Gotee Records artists in one album.
It’s a fact of life that artists come and go, and it’s no different for many on this Gotee Records compilation. Artists like John Reuben, Out Of Eden, Soul Glow Activatur, Grits, Paul Wright, Zilch and The Gotee Brothers were all pretty big and popular from the late 90’s til mid 2000’s (except for Soul Glow Activatur, who rose to fame with Family Force 5 in the mid-late 2000’s), and for some reason or another, these artists quickly left or went on hiatus for a while. But now, they’re back, and that has me very exciting.
John Reuben’s “Love Addict” (and the Lounge Club remix version), originally performed by Family Force 5, is transformed from a heavy metal song into rap/rock (and dance edm version), and is thoroughly enjoyable (especially the second verse that was altered, and the slowed down speed in the chilled remix version). As we are met with a rapper (similar in style to KJ 52 for anyone unfamiliar) who is passionate for Jesus, who should be releasing a new project soon, this song was greatly enhanced in my opinion, as John fervently sings about a love greater than anything on this earth, a not-so-subtle reference to Jesus. Soul Glow Activatur brilliantly covers John Reuben’s catchy hip-hop/rap/pop tune “Doin’”, a tongue and cheek fun song about John Reuben’s career as a singer in general and his walk as a Christian- and this track brings a smile to my face as I hear what Soul Glow could venture into musically now that he’s not in Family Force 5. GRITS, a rap duo that were popular a while back, are back also, and add new rap verses to Jennifer Knapp’s acoustic pop/rock guitar led single “Undo Me”, giving the song, which speaks about asking God to break us down and show us more of Himself and His truths, a different atmosphere. This takes a while getting used to (as it seems that Jennifer’s vocals in the chorus were not recorded again, but pasted on and were from 1998), but it’s neither good nor bad. With Zilch, Paul Wright and The Gotee Brothers all singing songs by Relient K (the relationship themed synth driven pop tune “Over Thinking”), Christafari (The reggae inspired Caribbean style acoustic guitar led “Valley Of Decision”) and Out Of Eden (the rap/pop tune “Gotee’s Groovin’”, about the formation of Gotee Records) respectively; these tracks are ok (though do not really stick in my mind that much), and do not stray that far from the original. Yet it is the Out Of Eden song that resonates with me the most out of the disbanded artists.
I have been listening to one of my favourite vocal groups of late- Out of Eden recently; it’s a shame that I have just started listening to them when they are now disbanded. Anyway, Danielle, Lisa and Andrea Kimmey have been making powerful and impacting music for a number of years now, and this rendition “Constant” (of House Of Heroes’ smash hit), 9 years after their last album, makes me wonder why they left in the first place (obviously it was for valid reasons though…). With stirring vocals and beautiful harmonies, as the trio sing out ‘…You never gave up, never gave in, never quite gave up on me, You are my constant…’, this praise and worship ballad to Jesus, driven by keys and hand clicks, declaring that Jesus is our constant, does the original version justice, even though the electric guitar is absent, and the rock vibe is replaced by soft acoustic/pop undertones. A drastic musical change doesn’t change the feel and message of the song, and personally I love this version better than the faster paced original.
From the disbanded/on hiatus artists to the current independent/other label artists; there are tracks recorded aplenty from ex-Gotee Records artists. A couple of these artists’, House Of Heroes and Stephanie Smith, are probably going to tour together quite frequently, as Tim Skipper is married to Stephanie. “Stereo”, originally recorded by 4th Avenue Jones, and a melody about the artist’s love for a stereo (nope, it’s not a metaphor for anything!), is covered by House of Heroes and features Stephanie on guest vocals. Though I haven’t listened to 4th Avenue Jones prior to this track, this rendition, driven by grunging guitars and Tim’s explosive and vibrant vocals, far surpasses the original track; with House Of Heroes’ turning this song into their own (even though lyrically it leaves much to be desired. Stephanie Smith covers Relient K’s laid back, slow paced guitar led ballad and original Christmas tune “I Celebrate The Day”; and though it’s not Christmas yet, this song works, with Stephanie’s passion and enthusiasm shining here; her voice is sublime also (when will we hear something new from her?). The Katinas, a band of brothers from Samoa who sing r&b/gospel/soul/pop, are also present; singing Out Of Eden’s pop melody “River” (vividly describing God’s live, which is like a river), which is right in their element. These two bands are similar in musical style and vocal delivery- in fact I would say that The Katinas are like the male version of Out Of Eden, lyrically and musically; and this song, a highlight of mine, brings a smile to my face, as I dance to the catchy rhythm and beat, and sing at the top of my lungs that ‘…when the river runs, overflows the seas, I know You’ll be there, and You will still be loving me…’.
There are a few mediocre songs in this bunch as well though, but it’s nothing to warrant skipping or complaining about. Aiyesha Woods (Jennifer Knapp’s acoustic guitar driven worship anthem “Refine Me”) and Sarah Kelly (Jeff Deyo’s popular radio worship hit “Bless The Lord”) both unveil their renditions, which to me are mediocre and are not as appealing, impacting nor hard-hitting as their lyrically poignant and inspiring original counterparts. Though these tracks are competent, and are not bad by any means, for me it seems like the vocalists were out of place- perhaps they could have swapped with some other female vocalists on the tracks, or maybe Jeff’s song could have been covered by a male vocalist. Though I commend Aiyesha and Sarah for their effort and passion, the tracks don’t really stick out, and need that extra kick in it for depth and brilliance. Relient K’s presence on the album, with them recording a 90’s song “Body Be” originally by Johnny Q Public (which is frankly slightly too noisy for the opener, and musically distracting as well), and the album closer, a remix of Sadie Hawkins Dance (a fun song along the lines of Hawk Nelson’s “California”), originally recorded by themselves, is welcome, as they have been the mainstay of Gotee Records for years- these tracks sound as good as they have ever recorded. Yet amongst all of the other superb and engaging tracks, these two fall to the ‘middle of the pack’ sadly- although maybe more listens can change my opinion, as they are a great band with an infectious and catchy sound and heartfelt lyrics.
The last 5 tracks are all from current (or yet to be current) Gotee Records artists. Jamie Grace, known for her bubbly and fun personality and honest and real melodies (who recently released Ready To Fly early this year), covers Relient K’s smash hit “Getting Into You” (about how we’re ‘…getting into You, because You’ve got to me in a way I can’t describe, I’m gonna love You with my life…’, and in my opinion she has recorded it brilliantly, despite the criticism she is receiving for it elsewhere online- Jamie’s version will never be like the one Matt Thessien leads, yet it’s not supposed to. In that light, this song, driven by light acoustic guitar in the chorus and electronic keys in the verses, is beautifully rerecorded, and deserves a place in this lineup. Finding Favour and Ryan Stevenson, both new additions to the Gotee Records family- both signed in 2013- try their hand at the Katinas performed acoustic/acapella track “One More Time” (turned into an upbeat worship anthem), and the Sonicflood praise and worship mid tempo radio friendly guitar led tune “My Refuge” respectively. While each track is recorded professionally, and almost flawlessly, with the two artists injecting new life into these older melodies, these songs are almost carbon copies of the original tracks. Though this is not a bad thing, as familiarity brings with it enjoyment sometimes.
Harper Still, a duo featuring Jamie Grace and her sister Morgan, and almost certain to be signed to Gotee Record in the near future, breathe new life into the Out Of Eden piano led ballad “Here’s My Heart”, although the pace being quickened greatly was a surprise from left field, yet the harmonies from Jamie and Morgan are quite exquisite, that I’m willing to overlook just how quick the song it. At 3-and-a-half minutes, though, I think that such a great song should be savoured as long as possible- that is my only nit-pick here. And the final song featured on this compilation, is from Capital Kings, as the electronic pop/rap duo show us their version of the popular and respected GRITS song “Ooh Ahh”. John Reuben also makes a guest appearance, singing the parts sung by TobyMac on the original version- and this is yet another song where the rerecorded version in my opinion stands tall and may surpass the original. Well done Gotee for the 20 tracks and the artists represented here; overall this is a worthwhile project that deserves to be listened to thoroughly many times over before the year ends.
Despite the absence of other Gotee alumni singing on this compilation, such as B Reith, Christafari, Sonicflood, Jennifer Knapp, Our Hearts Hero, Abandon Kansas, Jeff Deyo and Family Force 5 (I can really envision Family Force 5 rocking out to Relient K’s “Be My Escape”, or Christafari singing Sonicflood’s “Holiness”, or even Jeff Deyo singing “I Want To Know You”, like he did when he was the lead vocalist of Sonicflood); there’s really nothing to complain about here, on this solid release. Presenting me with fond memories of the label, and showing me how diverse and great the label was and still is, Gotee Records: Twenty Years Brand New is a must for fans of all the artists featured here, or for those who love to hear artists sing other artists’ songs. As I am eager to see who Gotee Records signs in the future, this collection will certainly be on rotation on iTunes for a long time. I’ll also be hoping for albums like this from other record labels- this is certainly a great tool to introduce new Christian music to listeners!
5 songs to listen to: Constant, Ooh Aah, River, My Refuge, Love Addict
RIYL: Every/any artist past and present from Gotee Records