Jars Of Clay - Much Afraid

Wednesday 1st October 1997
Jars Of Clay - Much Afraid
Jars Of Clay - Much Afraid

RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Essential 083061027629
RELEASE DATE: 1997-10-17
RRP: £4.99

Reviewed by Mike Rimmer

Probably the most awaited album of the year comes from JOC who in the two years since their debut have grown, of course, into one of the biggest acts in North America. Straddling mainstream and Christian markets, they have received both praise and criticism from the Church community who have sometimes misjudged their crossover activities. Their single "Flood" gained MTV play and opened up opportunities in mainstream venues and even a spot supporting Sting. A remarkable journey for a Christian band and now it's time to see whether their first album was simply a fluke! It wasn't! Taking its title from the main character in the allegorical story Hinds Feet In High Places, Jars have taken the strongest elements of their debut - great harmonies, distinctive acoustic guitar sound and strong rhythms but this time the bigger budget has given them a lusher, fuller sound. The choice of London-based Stephen Lipson (Sting, Whitney Houston, Annie Lennox, Simple Minds) to produce the album has only helped the band stretch and innovate. The best way to measure this is to compare the instrumental original demo version of "Frail" on the new CD single and see how on the album Lipson has transformed something great into a truly evocative masterpiece. The band's first single, the catchy "Crazy Times", is probably the closest sounding to their debut album and it theme of struggle is offset against the up feel of the song. Themes of struggle and doubt are continued on "Fade To Gray" which marries an urban groove with some great Hammond organ textures and just seems to explode halfway through! Kickin'! "Tea And Sympathy" is a stunning exploration of how love can so easily be wrecked on the rocks of communication breakdown. "Truce" is another example of the band innovating from a sparse opening giving way to a full on electric piano-driven pop sound. The title tune has a delicate, rootsy flavour and a vulnerable prayer, "Sweet Jesus never ever let me go." Simply beautiful. "Weighed Down" looks at the traditions and rules that so often seem to bog down the Church, whether it was written in response to the religious judgments that have come the band's way this past couple of years, we can't yet know, but it's a great tune. Destined to be a classic, I wasn't sure about it on the first play but each time I listen, it gets better.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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Sample Track Listing:
2. Fade To Grey [Listen]
9. Truce [Listen]

This track data is supplied by the Cross Rhythms CD/DVD review library. Please note that CD tracks may vary according to release region or product version.

Product Description
Much Afraid won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. The follow-up to Jars Of Clay's first album features a bigger sound with a wider lyrical scope and a more solid, grown up production. These new developments give Much Afraid a real sense of staying power.

Reader Comments

Posted by Don in state of Delaware @ 22:00 on May 29 2010

What a great follow up to their debut; even tho' it took 2 years until it's release in Sept. 1997. I have the cd and the special limited vinyl pressing. This cd does not disappoint, just like the debut; again, well-crafted songs to be heard. The opening song "Over-joyed" grabs the listener's ears, nice pop sound.
The next number has that nice pop sound as well "Fade to Grey", it contains acappella end which is awesome. "Tea & Sympathy" continues with its soothing sound. "Crazy Times" was the first song released for radio airplay; again, has that pop-feel good sound, but does not have the same quality as first hit "Flood". I have the video for "Five Candles.." this is a fave as the cd's first few numbers. The very last song on the cd, simply entitled "Hymn" is my #1 favorite on the cd:the sound of brokeness sings out.
This song captures me everytime that I hear it; the instrumental break is my silent words. Great cd!!
The second recording of most in any genre, seems to usually not have that same appeal as the debut; it is usually done in a faster process. Jars of Clay is an exception, this whole cd is worth the listener's time: and after all it did take 2 years to release, and was definitely worth the wait!! GOD Bless! -Don

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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