Release Date: May 4th 2015
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Vice & Virtue (3:19)
- Thank You (3:01)
- Mamma Didn’t Raise No Fool (3:13)
- All We Need Is Need (3:12)
- Sirens (feat. The Quebe Sisters) (3:59)
- Only You (3:27)
- Forever and Ever Amen (3:55)
- Nice Guy (feat. KB) (3:29)
- Better Man (3:29)
- Jekyll & Hyde (3:17)
- The Story (A Spoken Word) (5:46)
One of today’s most eclectic and diverse musical artists, Jimmy Needham has blended pop, r&b, jazz, soul, gospel, motown and funk all together over all of his albums since 2006, in a genre that is so unique that it literally demands attention. His collaborations with rappers Lecrae and Trip Lee being the standout moments of his career; Jimmy’s album Clear The Stage in 2012 was one of the most musically diverse and creative records of that year, and still holds up three years later compared to albums released this year so far and last year. The new album from Jimmy, titled Vice And Virtue, releasing on Platinum Pop, hits stores and digital outlets this week, and let me tell you, it’s a real treat, and deserves multiple listens! Sharing a release date with high profile and already successful and popular new albums from Audio Adrenaline, Plumb and Fireflight, Jimmy ought ot be proud of his latest effort, which is probably his most personal and musically diverse offering yet!
The title track of the album opens proceedings (which is one of three songs we’ve already heard from his short EP released way back in February), and immediately from the get-go, Jimmy isn’t holding anything back musically and lyrically. Relaying about the fact that he struggles with his ‘vices’ as he holds onto his ‘virtues’, Jimmy reminds us that even on our best days, we struggle with sin every day, as the devil tries to grab our attention even on the days we believe we are invincible. As the title of the song outlines that vices and virtues can sometimes occur at once, we are reminded about the warpedness of this world, and the realisation occurs that we need Jesus, as Jimmy passionately declares that ‘…I’m close to sleep without you, don’t want to be without you, can’t even breathe without you, help me, yeah, on my own without you, oh, I’m alone without you, there ain’t no hope without you, help me, yeah…’. With a soul/funk/jazz atmosphere led by percussion, a groovy bass line and brass instruments, Jimmy has done it again with an explosive and powerful opener! The synth led reggae inspired laid back melody “Thank You” is next and expresses Jimmy’s gratitude and thanks for God being who He is and for what He has done in our lives; yet it is the album closer (the third and last song on this album which is also present on the EP) that kicks the whole listening experience up a notch and really impresses me, having my excitement for the rest of the album grow in leaps and bounds.
There’s nothing really to talk about on “The Story (Spoken Word)” that would fully explain how much I love this ‘song’, or piece of art, should I say. Except that any words that I do say would be far less that what I really think about the song. Amazing, revelatory, mind-boggling, impressive, fantastic, brilliant, these few words are just paint a bit of the picture of what Jimmy is portraying. Telling the gospel story in 6 minutes through rhyme, free verse, poetry and other metaphors, Jimmy eloquently and majestically speaks across soft synth, strumming acoustic guitar and light percussion, reminding me of Carman’s story songs. If there is one song you must listen to this year, Jimmy’s spoken word track is it; well done Jimmy for a seamless and enjoyable melody fitting to be the album closer!
In between the first two songs and the final epic brilliant artwork; there are eight other inspiring melodies stretching Jimmy’s prowess as a singer and a songwriter. The tongue in cheek gospel/jazz infused toe tapper “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” beautifully and artistically portrays how our faith in Christ (which predominately is inspired by our parents and their conversations with us), keep us in good stead for the future, as we can say with authority that the devil’s lies won’t hurt us because of our strong faith in Christ, as our parents raised us with the same conviction as them. It’s a multilayered song, and though at first impressions it seems a bit lyrically weird, a deeper listen reveals a melody with much planning, it’s quite remarkable.
With “Only You”, “Better Man” and “Forever and Ever Amen” predominately focused on love and earthly relationships, the universal themes and music make these heartfelt and poignant anthems special and vintage Jimmy, as they are sung with 110% intensity and passion, and they’re also very catchy R&B tunes! “Only You” has Jimmy singing in an impressive falsetto, conveying to his wife that ‘…only you, no one else can ever take your place…I can’t sing enough about you, I can’t see the world without you…’ while “Forever And Ever Amen”, a Randy Travis cover, is emphatically given a 21st century makeover with Jimmy ardently singing across the guitars and synth about his commitment to his wife, that ‘…if you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, I’ll be happy to tell you again, I’m gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever, amen…’. The final ‘love’ song present is “Better Man”, a slowed down and haunting synth led reflective piece about how marriage has changed Jimmy’s perspective on life, and his outlook on many other issues, also deepening his relationship with God. Yet in all of these three love songs, the core message of putting God first rings loud and clear, and Jimmy’s wife should be proud and honoured that he has written and sung a few songs dedicated to her.
“Jekyl and Hyde”, though still a mid-tempo ballad, picks the pace up thematically, as we are introduced to a stripped down acoustic blues piece that juxtaposes the tension we feel when we act contrary to what God wants, and the ease at which we fall away from the gospel and what He wants. There’s an inner battle within us, like Jekyl and Hyde, and Jimmy contrasts this viewpoint brilliantly, while in “Mr Nice Guy”, a full on pop/CCM/jazz/gospel mid-tempo melody, with a beautiful inclusion of brass instruments and strings; Jimmy makes a stand and reveals to listeners that her isn’t too be pushed around and made a fool of by others, as he is now being firm and taking a stand for the gospel, which is admirable.
The opening of “Sirens” is as haunting and chilling as we will ever hear from a Jimmy Needham song, with a passionate choir solo. As the song progresses, we quickly are introduced to a rap melody led by keys (and Jimmy’s vocals are spot on!) where Jimmy ardently reveals to God that there are ‘…sirens, there’s sirens, I hear them, they’re singing, I feel them pulling me under…’, referring to distractions in his life, also asking God to ‘…sing a better song for me…’. While the moving and inspiring “All We Need Is Need” is littered with electric guitar, fancy piano work, and hand claps, with Jimmy fervently relaying that we all need to be needed by God, regardless if we acknowledge the fact or not. As Jimmy prayerfully expresses that he’s ‘…doing my best, hiding my mess, but all we need is need, working so hard on my righteousness…’, we understand that being in a relationship with God isn’t a ‘do more, try harder’ mentality, but rather is a relationship where we can come to Him for any need w desire. Well done Jimmy for these confronting, thought-provoking and ressuring melodies bound to be on repeat on my iTunes playlist!
Jimmy has done it, he has created his most versatile and musically diverse album to date, and I feel personally that he has more to give! I reckon Vice & Virtue will be in my top 30 albums of 2015, and I absolutely am amazed that Jimmy has wowed us again like he always has. Relevant, confronting yet also respectful and unobtrusive, Jimmy Needham highlights his versatility with his signature jazz/pop tunes, as well as a ‘melody’ outside of his genre. Since moving off Inpop Records and now moving onto Platinum Pop; this new batch of songs is a new beginning that I look most forward to, as Jimmy walks in the path God has placed him on. Well done Jimmy for recording an album full of hope, truth and life. Praying that many lives are blessed by your music!
3 songs to listen to: All We Need Is Need, Mr Nice Guy, The Story (Spoken Word)
RIYL: Unspoken, Chris August, newworldson, Ginny Owens, Dara Maclean