Prime Cuts: All I Want is You, One Little Heartbeat at a Time, With You Daddy
After 2002's most disappointing "Can You Hear Me Now?," which was an over-produced album of songs with misplaced hooks, "Mission Temple Fireworks Stand" features tighter songs with a looser, rowdier and more organic production courtesy of lead singer Mark Miller. Of noteworthy import is the enlistment of contemporary Christian music's Steven Curtis Chapman who wrote two tracks, and he shares the pen with Miller on three other tracks. With Miller not being reticent about his deep seeded faith in Christ and with the boys' affinity with rock oriented songs, Chapman works effortlessly with Miller producing some of this album's cap sheaf. Conversely, Mac McAnally, one of the group's most invariable songwriters (whose songwriting credits include "Café on the Corner" and "After All These Year") is clandestinely absent.
Charging out of the boondocks is the smoldering Southern gospel rock title track. Though Miller's turbocharged performance is befitting, but lyrically the song is too esoteric to garner widespread radio appeal. Telling the story of a sanguine Southern pastor who gave up a prestigious job at a big church in order to preach in small tents and as a result causing quite a spiritual stir, may be intriguing. But, somehow it's not something that most lay people (such as non-clerics) can relate to. This may explain why "Mission Temple" has prematurely sizzled off from the Billboard charts without much of a dent. Much better is the Steven Curtis Chapman's "Tarzan and Jane," a bluesy uptempo tale of mutual dependence. Like what Phil Collins did to the "Tarzan" soundtrack, "Tarzan and Jane" is replete with the pyrotechnics of a tropical forest ambience with the boast of even a monkey's holler. Keyed by some trebly guitars and some pounding percussions awash with a swirling bluesy soundscape, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" owes a debt to Delbert McClinton and Lee Roy Parnell.
As fans of Sawyer Brown know Miller is peerless when it comes to exploring the convolutions of the heart. The wistful snivel, "With You Daddy" finds Miller reluctantly saying farewell to his dying father. Miller's understated delivery coupled by this weeper's plangent sounding keyboard is a show stopping exemplar of how superior Miller can be as a balladeer. The family is again the tableau of the Steven Curtis Chapman slowie "One Little Heartbeat at a Time." While the current single (which is also Sawyer Brown's 50th Billboard charted entry) "They Don't Understand" presents a litany of tales of forgiveness culminated with the greatest paragon of love in the Cross of Christ Jesus. Written by Gregg Hubbard and Miller himself, "All I Want is You," like their previous hit ""With This Ring," is a gorgeous love ballad that steals the stars of all romantic nights.
Other than the title cut and the pretty average blue-collar rocker ("Ole' Kentuck"), "Mission Temple Fireworks Stand" find the boys consolidating their strengths to deliver one of this group's finest albums since "Café on the Corner." With such heavy weighted ballads that engage the heart and soul, this CD ought to cause some fireworks indeed!