Prime Cuts: I Can Do All Things, If I Only Had His Heart, I Wait
Kathy Troccoli's "Better Days" was released back in January of 2015. Due to the avalanche of releases and the untimeliness of securing a review copy then, this stellar album was sidelined. It would be a remiss to ignore it as this is one of 2015's finer Christian music releases. If you are tired of the din of heavy percussion and you can't feel the warmth surrounding electronic beats and auto-voicing, "Better Days" is a breath of fresh air. Organic and understated in its execution, Kathy Troccoli relies on no secondary sonic augmentation. She just sings. The songs here are all rich in melodic textures that recall back music from the 90s where sing-ability and memorability were indispensable criterion for one's song selection.
Unfortunately, time has changed. Once upon a time, Troccoli commanded the Christian and pop music markets. Like Amy Grant, Troccoli was a crossover success when her rendition of the Diane Warren tune "Everything Changes" brought her into the upper echelon of Billboard's Hot 100. After she had conquered the pop market, she became a mainstay on the Christian music charts. Songs such as "Help Myself to You," "My Life is in Your Hands," and "A Baby's Prayer" became Christian radio's darlings. However, in the recent years, Troccoli has spent more time speaking across churches and cruises rather than reigning on the Christian charts. Though she has had been quietly releasing albums, many have criminally gone unnoticed. The same can be said of "Better Days;" the album has come and gone without any commercial puff.
But those who have taken the time to invest in this album are greatly rewarded. Gone are the big bouncy pop days of Troccoli of the 90s, album opener "I Wait" is a stripped down ballad that deals with one of the hardest aspect of the Christian life: waiting on God. With her heartfelt delivery and gorgeous melody, waiting feels less lonely with this song. If you love piano ballads with to-die-for-melodies, "I Can Do All Things" is pure sublime. The Jim Brickman-styled piano, the swirling strings, and Troccoli's raspy vocals add a layer of vulnerability to this prayer of desperation for God that will definitely cause quite a few teary eyes. Troccoli has often been known for her love for show tunes, so it's no surprise she tackles a track from "The Wizard of Oz," albeit with new lyrics, "If I Only Had His Heart." With mostly just a guitar and Troccoli's vocals, less is definitely more here.
Time unfortunately has not been too kind on Troccoli, she sounds strain on various spots. Further, ageing has pilfered her of her higher registers. This becomes even more obvious with the skirmish-ishly augmented "Apology." Despite being a great tune, Troccoli sounds too breathy and too raspy. And she struggles through a new acoustic take of her #1 hit "Help Myself to You." Voice aside, this is a delightful record: filled with great tunes that are easy on the ears but weighty on the heart, don't let this album slip by unnoticed.