Prime Cuts: Amazing, Eternal Grace, Lift Me Up
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Too often Gospel music can be too presumptuous. With a tiny hook that last for only a few seconds, many songwriters think they can sloppily extend that into a six or seven minute song padding it with fluff. This has given the genre a bad reputation of producing more ab libs than carefully thought out melodic structures. Javen is a rare exception. His songs do not exhibit any hints of laziness. You won't find half-written songs augmented with lots of "spontaneous worship." Rather, these 12 newly recorded cuts (two are interludes and one of them is a Spanish language counterpart) show strong melodic structures with variegated styles (ranging from pop to soul to Gospel to dance to ballads).
"Grace" is Javen's seventh solo effort as well as his first album in five years. The album gets onto a glorious start with the title cut "Grace." Featuring lots of soul-tinging keyboard arpeggios, clappy drums before Javen is joined by a magnificent choir, grace has never sounded more amazing. John Newton's hymn "Amazing Grace" receives a campy nu-folk Mumford and Sons update in "Amazing." With finger snapping drum beats and a driving melody, "He paid It All" sounds like a classic hymn to be. Continuing on the theme of grace is "Eternal Grace," a carefully crafted choir piece that narrates the account of Jesus' death and resurrection with a 70s-soulful touch.
Hands down, the best song on the record is Javen's duet with Christina Bell"You Lift Me Up." Never succumbing to any wasted notes, this worship ballad truly is a ministry to the heart. Listening to how Javen and Bell testify to God's deliverance in our troubled times is worth every penny of this download. Inspired by his visit to Jerusalem, you can hear Javen's heart leaping with joy on the festive "Jehovah." And the celebration continues with the hit-the-room dance romp "It's My Hallelujah." But the album does dip a little with the average "Right Now Praise," letdown by its far too aggressive demeanour.
Javen is to be congratulated for putting in the extra effort to craft his songs beyond just a hook. He is careful in developing his melodic arches and imbuing each tune with creative backings. Most importantly, the songs give exposition to the depth and dimensions of the Gospel hub word, "grace."