“Clear the Stage” is arresting and unforgettable.
Clear the Stage
Artist: Jimmy Needham (www.jimmyneedham.com)
Label: Inpop Records
Length: 10 tracks/38:24 minutes
On Clear the Stage, Jimmy Needham sacrifices a little of his blue-eyed soul for a more pop-oriented sound. He loses a little distinctiveness on some tracks, but retains the R&B influence that is a trademark. Writing about family life also makes his fifth studio release the most personal.
It starts with “I Will Find You,” a quick-tempo song with an equally speedy rap towards the end. Jeremy Lin, the celebrated point guard of the New York Knicks, was asked what music he listens to before a game. LeCrae was one of two artists (the other being Hillsong), that he focused on, mainly for his lyrics. LeCrae’s lightning-fast words of testimony are a highlight of this track. This is the funkiest song that Needham has ever done.
“Stay,” is a duet with Lizi Bailey on a delicate guitar-driven ballad. It’s about remaining near to God where “fears have no voice at all.”
On “If I Ever Needed Grace,” I treasure the thought that we never need God’s help more than when embarking on marriage and starting a family. It is recognizing the need to rely upon God in any and all situations.
“Daddy’s Baby Girl” is a whimsical ode to his first child. “In the Middle” was written as a comfort to Needham’s wife, who suffered through a series of miscarriages. It is a soulful declaration of unconditional love and commitment.
“The Only One,” with its emphasis on finding satisfaction in Christ alone is the ideal intro to the closing title track. It might be hard to find a more arresting and unforgettable song than “Clear the Stage.” Ironically, it is the one song that Needham did not write. Needham’s restrained vocals however, make the song his own, reflecting the brokenness that the song encourages:
Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.
The words of the closing stanza are like a hammer:
Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
Few songs have the potential to spark revival but this is one of them. It is the cornerstone of this release, ending it on a somber note, but it can lead to that Godly sorrow that produces change.
Needham incorporates a variety of music styles that are held together by his R&B-leaning vocals. He gets co-writes from the aforementioned guests and heralded producer Ed Cash. Needham chose to have his touring band perform the songs live in the studio rather than using session musicians, which judging from their versatility and sound was an excellent move.
This may be Needham’s best and most mature recording to date, and the way he sings “Clear the Stage” is worth hearing.