Reviewed by Tony Cummings
When, in 1996, Heavenly Place burst onto the scene the 16 year old was toted as the new Amy, while CCM fans everywhere instantly warmed to a voice of such spine tingling, bitter-sweet purity. Then, at 19, Jaci dipped into her Latin roots and made the Spanish language Liegar A Ti and its Latin scene success established her with Spanish speaking audiences. Now, at 20, Jaci seeks to marry her two support bases as well as showing that her new found maturity has spilled over to her music. She succeeds magnificently and with all radio formats (pop, Latin, easy listening) covered on this breathtak-ingly classy album she could well soar into the stratosphere in terms of CD sales. One of the musical foundation stones of this set is the south-of-the-border rhythms and George Cocchini s spine tingling Spanish guitar interjections. The kick off track, Escuchame (which, if you don't do Spanish, means Listen To Me) is a delightful hot pepper romp with a pumping horn section which deliciously lays on the salsa sauce behind a lyric which is a sobering warning to a younger woman to slow down and trust in God. Elsewhere, there are some great ballads featured on Crystal Clear and most of the songwriting is very fine with Chris Eaton, Brent Bourgeois and Plumb s Tiffany Arbuckle all weighing in with classy material. If the songwriting is state-of-the-art, the production is top dollar too. Mark Heimermann (dc Talk, Michael W Smith) and Rudy Perez (Christina Aguilera, Luis Miguel) behind the recording desk are Jaci working on her vocals with producers Brown Bannister and Brent Bourgeois. There is an infectious dance-tinged You Don t Miss A Thing and even the easy listening ballad closer Just A Prayer Away works. The one track which stops this getting the coveted CR 10 squares is Every Time I Fall, a catchy enough radio ditty, but with the melody of the verses clearly copped from the chorus of Jennifer Lopez hit If You Had My Love (Nashville must stop doing this kind of thing). But immediately after that mistake is a stone classic, You're Not There, which is a minor key, mid tempo floater Jaci wrote with Mark Heimermann and is a song which beautifully brings out the truth that God isn't some remote being, wandering in his great unknown, but a persona! God intimately involved in the human experience. What transports it to classic status is a mind boggling arrangement while strings eerily swirl and guitars that recall the Cure (I lie to you not). As creative as pop gets.
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