Prime Cuts: All About You (Featuring Hollyn), God's Not Done with You, September
Overall Grade: 4/5
As Christian music is moving more and more into congregational worship with trailblazers such as Hillsong UNITED, Bethel Music, Darlene Zschech and Chris Tomlin, Tauren Wells holds the fort for pop-centric CCM. With a red carpet of A-listed producers such as Chuck Butler, Jordan Sapp, Casey Brown, Colby Wedgeworth and Bernie Herms, Wells is cladded with an iron-cladded and formidable team. And with some of the hottest artists such as KB, Davies and Hollyn sharing his microphone, Wells is launching an all cylinders open attack. An attack that only secures for himself a victorious position on Christian radio but also in the spiritual battles of our souls. Recalling the story of 1 Kings 20, where we are told that our God is both the God of the hills and the valleys, this disc is rife with tunes that speak of how every circumstance is already earmarked with God's victory.
Wells was a founding member of CCM group Royal Tailor. The trio (and later quartet) released two albums over a five-year career, which garnered two GRAMMY nominations and a New Artist of the Year award from the Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards. Then in 2015, Wells left Royal Tailor in pursuit of his own solo career. Then in September of last year, Wells released his debut EP "Undefeated," which garnered the hit "Love in Action." Less than a year later, all the four songs from the EP together 7 new songs form Wells' debut album "Hills and Valleys" for Provident Label Group.
Rather than beating around the bush, Wells opens the album with what is the key of all spiritual victories, prayer. With echoes of 2 Chronicles 7:14, "When We Pray" is a powerful reminder of how God works in concert with our prayers. Then he goes all out in worship with "All About You." Recalling the pop songs of the 90s where a female singer is often brought in to sing the song's hooks, Hollyn does that. But her crystalline voice brings a layer of heartfelt worship that is just priceless. 70s Motown synth-driven japs has infused "Never Let Me Go," a powerful reminder that God doesn't abandon us even when we are in our fiercest battles.
While too many CCM songs become far too self-absorbed, the auto-voiced and staccato-beat driven "Love in Action" is verb propelling dance-centric song allowing God's love to transform our deeds. However, not everything works: despite Davies strong and invigorating rap, "Nothing But You" doesn't have a strong enough melody to sustain itself all the way though. Giving the beeps a recess, the stripped down acoustic guitar cladded "Known" is Wells at his most intimate best. But the song is letdown by a lack of a climax or a memorable hook, making Wells come across as sounding bored over many spots in the song.
Nevertheless, the album is saved by Wells' uncanny cover of Earth Wind and Fire's "September." Rather than trying to modernize this 70s classic, Wells has wisely kept the R&B funk of the original as he revels in the spirit of (God's) love. With songs that are anchored in God: his love, his victory, and his sovereignty, this is a powerful record. Listen to these songs long enough and you will find yourself being enlisted by the Holy Spirit to rest in Christ's victorious triumph in the midst of your daily struggles.