Release Date: January 10th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Say a Little Prayer
- The Finishing Line
- When I Look Back
- Faith, Hope and Love
- The 2nd Time Around
- From the Saltland to the River
- Run (Live in Norway)
- Indestructible (Alternate Mix)
It’s been a while since Paul Colman has written and recorded music. Sure he’e been in the music industry for a while. With Paul Colman Trio and the Newsboys, but prior to Recalculating EP 2 (and EP 1 released late 2015), his last solo album was in 2009. Despite such a long gap between albums, his songwriting has been as lyrically poignant and heartfelt as ever. And while Paul continues to blur the line between Christian and secular by making his music intentionally ambigious in the hope to bring in more listeners who may not have heard Christian music before; Paul’s heart to encourage and uplift has never been any more evident in these set of songs found on both Recalculating’s. You see artists that have gone before, from Switchfoot, needtobreathe and Skillet, to Carrie Underwood, Lifehouse, and even Plumb in her early years. Artists who are firm in their faith but minister in both the Christian and mainstream music industries. Songs by these artists that have impacted and influenced listeners who enjoy both (or either) styles/genres of music. Paul Colman now enters this group, and a seasoned veteran who has had his time in the Paul Colman Trio and the newsboys once upon a time, continues to impress with this second set of songs titled Recalculating.
Paul continues to remind us all that a song doesn’t have to be declared about Christ, for it to be Christ-inhabited. Recalculating EP 2 is a testament of that. Paul, like many artists before, and many artists after, is one that has walked the line of ministering to Christians and lovers of mainstream music alike, and has walked the line well. From the first track “Say a Little Prayer” to the uplifting “The Finishing Line” to live rendition of “Run” and the alternate acoustic version of “Indestructible”, this is a must for anyone who loves Paul and his music, loved his music when he was with the Paul Colman Trio and the newsboys, or just anyone who loves music in general and longs to be challenged about their life and where they’re headed in the future. The beauty about ambiguity in these songs is their wide appeal, which is what I think will be core in the success of Paul’s music in the months and years ahead.
With Recalculating EP 2 being the second of 3 EPs released by Paul over a span of three months, this second collection of songs is as poignant as the first collection. “Say a Little Prayer” is a unique track to place as the first one on the EP, yet somehow it works. With a light electric guitar riff, Paul sets about trying to set the record straight- that even though he has a little bit of other artists in him in the form of influences- ‘…I got a little bit of Elvis in me, I got a little bit of Bob Dylan in me, I got a little bit of Johnny Cash in me, I got a whole lot of Larry Norman in me…and I swirl it around, with a noisy sound…and if you ask me what I’m doing, it’s not just music that I’m making, I’m recalculating…’, there is a point to the music, as we are reminded that a guy like Paul always has a message of encouragement and hope. Not that all the other artists that have influenced Paul don’t, yet somehow, there’s something unique about Paul’s music- having the ability to somehow transcend the divide between ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’. Maybe it is the Aussie larrikin humour that Paul has, or the down-to-earth attitude I’ve seen in many of his facebook videos. Regardless, “Say a Little Prayer” is a hard-hitting pop anthem about us being reminded what our focus ought to be- not on the music, but on the message behind it.
“The Finishing Line”, along with “Someday” in EP 1, is the highlight on EP 2. If you were to pick one song to listen to, this’ll be it. Co-written with Tree63 frontman John Ellis, the song is about us finishing the race we’re on called ‘life’. A sobering message of not focussing on the mistakes we’ve made, the lines that we’ve crossed because it’s all been blurry, the hopes dashed and the hurt we’ve endured, but rather about the finishing line- the moment when we stand at the gates of heaven and Christ says to us ‘well done, good and faithful servant’. “The Finishing Line”, though very subtle, discusses this fact, that all we have to do is keep our eyes straight ahead on our goals and dreams, the things God has placed on our hearts to accomplish. It is not actually the song that has impacted me the most on this track, but rather the free-flowing ‘speaking verse’ that Paul uses to end the track with-
It doesn’t matter how it began, take a long look around
Listen to that beautiful sound, the crowd cheering on
The miles that are gone, the battles you’ve won
You’re a brand new song and now you know you belong
You’ve got years of your prime, so remind that voice with no spine
That you’ve been redefined with the love of the divine
And now the wind’s at your back, the howls of that wolf pack
The haters talking smack, can you hear their dirty voices crack?
See them turn their backs, to their nasty little shacks
So keep your eyes straight ahead, just keep your eyes straight ahead
To the finishing line
Freeform Verse from “The Finishing Line”
With a powerful acoustic riff married together with electronic keyboards, this Paul Colman Mia Fieldes penned “When I Look Back” is also a powerful reminder as “The Finishing Line”. Maybe there’s something powerful in co-writes. Maybe it’s the fact that Paul is a great lyricist, and uses the input of other people very well in these tracks. Regardless, “When I Look Back” brings a message of solace and peace, as we look within ourselves and ask the question- what is it that I want to see in my life when I look back a number of years from now? A song that brings us down to earth as Paul gives us a reminder that ‘…it’s only at the end that we begin where we can finally start again…’, “When I Look Back” delivers an acoustic flair, and a notion that songs can be beautiful and heartfelt even in the absence of electric guitar and powerful drums. “Faith, Hope and Love” brings into the frame vocal distortion and electric guitar undertones a la U2, and a message about love in its purest form- that even if we believe what we believe, if we don’t have love then what we have is for nought, or in Paul’s own words- ‘…we’re two fleas talking on the dog we’re living on, even if I’m right if I don’t love I’m wrong…’; while “The Second Time Around” is a 4 and a half minute attempt for the message of starting over to be conveyed to the listener, as Paul gives us a classic message of grace and what it means for grace to wash over everything we have done and for us to start anew, even sometimes on a daily basis. The three bonus tracks on this EP (to make it up to 8) include “From the Saltland to the River”, the title track from his 2012 indie album of the same name that delivers a hard-hitting message of travelling from the old to the new; a live recording of “Run”, a popular hit from Paul’s PC3 days, and a new acoustic and reinvigorating version of “Indestructible” (a version that I prefer to the original), the song from Recalculating EP 1, as we’re reminded through this track of who we are in Christ- indestructible. As we bear witness to what we experience in our lives, we know full well that God is in each moment, moulding us and shaping our outlook, on others, life and God Himself.
Three years, one new EP, and a further 5 new tracks later, Paul’s latest effort may be on par with Recalculating EP 1 as his most mature, lyrically and musically, yet. It is by his credentials of the Paul Colman Trio, his solo career and a stint in the Newsboys alone that makes his music a must-have for anyone who loves Paul’s previous roles (Newsboys, PC3), or those who love acoustic pop with a spiritual message. It is the ambiguity in the messages that I’m sure will work well for Paul and his music. From songs like “When I Look Back” and the poignant and comforting “The Finishing Line” to the 3 minute “Say a Little Prayer”; this is Paul’s most personal collection of songs yet, and one that’ll continue to propel him to new heights in the years to come. Well done Paul for such an honest, real, raw and heartfelt EP. Can’t wait til EP #3 and the full length album in March 2016!
3 songs to listen to: The Finishing Line, Faith, Hope and Love, When I Look Back
RIYL: Newsboys, Paul Colman Trio, Phil Joel, Grant Norsworthy