I can picture the smile on the guitarists face as the chords ring out on the first track ‘Love one another’. No I’m not a dancer but my steps syncs effortlessly as i walk down the metro station towards office Everybody’s on a deadline, a ‘me’ trip.. Such goes the almost cheeky lyrics and no doubt is the apt song for the way of the world, especially in this part of the world. The raaga, the chenda and a very impressive Jamaican accent on the rap takes a listener on an instant high. ‘Reach out’ makes you want to shake up your fellow wayfarer to the quintessential truth – to seek Jesus than worldly ambitions, to lay down one’s own life.
Track 2 is the title track of the album ‘YouTurn’ and it starts off with a wind instrument i cannot place. Whoever played it made it dark enough for the conscience stirring lyrics that follows. I pass by a towering Burj Khalifa. And the ironic question arrives. Have we been building mansions on shifting sand. I cannot but look at my sinfulness and know how much I need Jesus. The steady throb of the bass and the looped beats remind me of neon lights of the roads i pass by every day. A brave and bluesy Guitar lead left me wanting for more of it, maybe a tad more expressive tone could have helped, but there – the haunting lyrics, as in all RexBand songs, compensated for it. Deep and Dark enough for a very broken soul to relate to, and at the same time personal and touching enough to bë led to the calling to repentance. The time is here right now, His word is ever new.
Out of the darkness and into the light. ‘I lay down my ways’ is the point of truth in the album. The beautiful female voice comes out with conviction and sounds ike anyone’s inner voice. And there, a solid wall of RexBand’s signature harmony and a karnatic bridge follows as in reaffirmation. A strikingly beautiful bamboo flute interlude in Hindustani takes me to the best of India, of rolling paddy and corn feilds. Its these tiny swirls, curves and eddies of a combination of voice, piano, acoustic guitar and of course the ethinc wind that compliments the beauty of the words. This song is centered on repentance and the road back to the heart of God. If not anything, This song is it, the YouTurn we speak about,
And then there are some songs that bring out the cheers and howls from a dance floor. The first of it’s kind, we have never come across such a radical Christian song ever. No jokes, it will make you want to jig right on the middle of the road. ‘Rise up and dance’ is the song you might want to play on your compilations if you’re a DJ, and rest assured the screaming is not going to bë any lesser. Apparently, this song was something like a running theme of the JesusYouth Jubilee (which sadly I missed) and still retains its infectiousness even a year later. And if not enough, a Malayalam and Hindi chant comes up right at the climax overlaid on a marriage of Bhangra and Safri Duo styled rhythm . You can imagine the frenzy it will bring about.
‘Patitha Paavana’ is a natural Karnatic song sung in er.. English. Very skillfully sung and orchestrated on a 5/8 timeline. Again, the bamboo flute is all over the song, along the way we find a raaga Jamming. Clearly lower notes are not the strength of the singer but nevertheless he compensates it with amazing dexterity on the higher ones. Stupidly enough, I can only picture the band play this song sitting cross legged, it is that Indianized. The electric Guitar strikes sound a little over-synthesized, as in from a keyboard, and of course, the fretless bass is too perfect to be humanly played. The songs is an uncommon structure leaving the listener to figure out which is Chorus, Verse or Bridge. Somewhere in between it even appears to lose direction. Overall, it may be not the best song in the album for some, but clearly not the lowest rated either, considering what is to follow.
‘Only you’ is an attempt at Jazzing up things. However it seems like it did not turn out the way it was meant to bë. The song is possibly the outcome of someone’s hopeful comment ‘lets do Jazz on this one!’. The chords are voluntarily unrelated and the vocals are far from being genuine. Piano runs throughout on all octaves with some really cool and christmassy organs. On the overall, the listener may assume ignorance of the genre to be kind enough not to judge. To jazz enthusiasts it may come across as a vain attempt albeit the bass and some parts of the Rhodes which carry elements of it. The song speaks about the singers description of glitz and how only Jesus can satisfy. Great lyrics but an arguably poor carrier.
Next on the CD is those kinds of wannabe cool tracks people normally skip listening to. The theme of ‘Let His praise go boom’ is built loosely around our Praises going resounding the earth, going boom.. Most noticable is the poorly articulated lead voice, the feeble ‘boom’ and the rap with an accent. Somewhere in the middle the bass guitarist breaks out in a slap lick and some other antics as in frustration.
‘O Hallelujah’ is a very welcome change after the last two tracks. It starts with a chant not very different from AR Rahman’s Vande Mataram We are introduced to a different voice with a very prominent rasp to it. The beauty of the song lies in its simplicity in contrast to the rest of the songs. The lyrics are nothing but a very simple and human conversation with Jesus and the overlaying strings and pads takes the listener to sunsets on beaches. Traces of the Australian indigenous instrument Didgeridoo and Hindustani Sitar adds to the soul of the song while the voice carries on in a mellifluous drone.
The ‘Jesus Youth Jubilee Anthem was the theme song for the 25th Jubilee of JesusYouth and is an anthem in all respects. The songs starts off with the all too familiar naadaswaram Clarinet, the types you hear at Hindu Bhramin weddings. A powerful snare keeps time as the song moves. A very sing along melody and a very contagious Chorus is guaranteed to make any South Indian do the dappankuthu (the local dance move). The naadaswaram and the drums blend really well and brings out the raw sense of the celebration to the listener.
In totality, YouTurn is a great album with the RexBand signature sound running throughout. However, to a musicians ear, the bass Guitar tones and styles for most of the songs could be different from the previous albums- possibly because of change of musicians. We have seen the drift of RexBand, like any other popular music act today use more of computers and less of real-time talent. The music is literally impossible to reproduce and play live in its fullness and at times the it is far too neatly quantized to feel manmade. For those of us who grew up listening to RexBand, this could be the sad reality. Nevertheless, this is a very secular review and nothing in this was intended to belittle the band or its well-wishers in any way, (im a huge fan myself) since their sole intent is to proclaim the name of Gođ, where all love, music and talent came from.