Revival in the Land

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Carman has always been more concerned with energizing the evangelical community than with the artistic quality of his product. The majority of his energy has typically been spent on the concerns of his ministry -- praising, testifying, preaching, exhorting -- while his music follows relatively bland and uninspiring pop and easy listening conventions. Revival in the Land marked something of a change in this respect. Not that Carman's religious fervor was in any way diminished on Revival. On the contrary, this is one of his most passionate and deeply felt albums, a fiery Pentecostal plea for widespread renewal of conviction throughout the Christian world. And no one could accuse Carman of watering down his message, despite the possibility that his unapologetic and unequivocal condemnations of abortion, so-called "New Age" religions, Zen Buddhism, and even Dungeons and Dragons games might alienate less-conservative believers. But on Revival in the Land, Carman and his producer Keith Thomas do seem more interested than usual in musical exploration. The two storytelling songs, "A Witch's Invitation" and the title track, seem like transparent attempts to re-create the success of Carman's 1985 boxing parable "The Champion," and his "Resurrection Rap" is ill-advised and laughable. But the rest of the album uses a remarkably cohesive blend of R&B, pop, hip-hop, praise music, and black gospel to express the charismatic energy of his message. The creative deployment of the Christ Church Choir is particularly effective throughout, especially on the exuberant "I Got the Joy." At least for this one album, Carman seems to realize that genuine artistic quality is the best way to bring focus to the sincerity of his ministry.

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