Monday, March 26, 2012

Jimmy Needham: Clear the Stage Review

If there’s one thing you should know about Jimmy Needham, it’s that despite the accolades, successful albums and multiple radio singles, it all means nothing to him if God is not glorified through it all. That’s the message that shone through Jimmy’s third release Nightlights, and shines yet again through his fan-anticipated fourth release, Clear the Stage. In addition, Clear the Stage is shaped by a life-changing event in Jimmy’s life – the birth of his first baby girl. Jimmy and his wife Kelly painfully endured several miscarriages and were both excited and terrified at the thought of being parents. “If I ever needed grace, God, it’s now,” Jimmy prayed as he went into the studio. In a turn of events, that prayer shaped his latest release, more heart-felt, soulful, and colorful than ever before.

We all love the fun, funky tracks that Jimmy Needham delivers, and for the opening track “I Will Find You,” Jimmy brought in his live band to record this upbeat track. Lecrae also appears, making for a bang-up opening track. “If I Ever Needed Grace” follows, significantly slower, but is a very strong as a prayer for God’s grace to come and overflow in our times of weakness. It also serves as an autobiography of sorts, as Jimmy speaks of needing God’s grace especially in the areas of marriage and fatherhood in his life.
The ridiculously happy lyrics of “Daddy’s Baby Girl” will no doubt have the listener smiling along as they listen to Jimmy celebrate the birth of his daughter and how deep he is in love with her. The swing tempo definitely adds to the fun of it. The piano flavored pop track “Rock Bottom” follows, speaking of how there is always hope in Jesus Christ, no matter what life brings our way.

The soft acoustic guitar track “Stay” features Lizi Bailey, in a sweet picture-perfect love song, while the more upbeat “In the Middle” is a thoughtful track that Jimmy wrote, realizing his wife’s heartbreak over her miscarriages: “In the middle of a cold dark night/ in the middle it’ll be alright/ I will be there/ I will be there…” It’s sweet, not only for it’s poetic lyrics, but also for the encouragement it offers.

“Arrows” takes on a gospel twist, mostly for the choir backing, but has a message of how God guides us all along the path of life, and even uses US as those arrows in others’ lives. The simpler “Victory” has a strong contemporary note, but as always, Jimmy’s heartfelt vocals shine through, as he against celebrates the fact that God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, and He is our hope and victory.

With a mellow soul twist comes “The Only One,” speaking of how Jesus is all that we ever need, while the album closes with the very beautiful title track. Written by a friend of Jimmy Needham’s, Ross King, back in 2005, the strings and piano make a nice backing for the powerful lyrics that “worship is more than a song” and that we should clear the stages of our lives and give all glory that we receive back to God. The ending song-prayer that God would tear down any idles in our life is also very relevant, making for a very touching track overall.

Jimmy Needham has again done a fantastic job of taking his spotlight and shining it back on the God who gave him his platform. In addition, he has delivered a ten-track set of relevant tracks, worshipful and fun altogether, plus a handful of sweet love songs. Take a listen to Clear the Stage, and you’re bound to walk away with a reflection of what it means to be selfless and devoted to God.

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: March 27, 2012

Track listing:
1. I Will Find You (Feat. Lecrae)
2. If I Ever Needed Grace
3. Daddy’s Baby Girl
4. Rock Bottom
5. Stay (Feat. Lizi Bailey)
6. In the Middle
7. Arrows
8. My Victory
9. The Only One
10. Clear the Stage

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