BSR Official Review: The Choir-The Loudest Sound Ever Heard

Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I don’t think you can properly appreciate The Loudest Sound Ever Heard unless you have experienced its three predecessors: Flap Your Wings, O How the Mighty Have Fallen and Burning Like The Midnight Sun. To illustrate my point I would like you to consider the deliciousness that is the “Hot & Now” Krispy Kreme Donut. Nothing melts in your mouth like a warm, glaze covered KK donut. Whenever the famous “Hot & Now” sign blazes red in the window of a KK Donut shop, there are those who nearly cause traffic accidents as they, with tires screeching, abruptly pull in for a dozen of those southern delicacies. Of course these tasty treats are delectable, even after they have cooled, but anyone “in the know” will swear there is nothing like a “Hot & Now” Krispy Kreme Donut.

The point I’m trying to make is that although TLSEH is a wonderful project by itself, if you really want to get the full enjoyment out of it, then before diving in you should explore The Choir’s complete works,(BSR retrospectives covering the first 20 years can be found here and here). If that’s not possible, then start with Flap Your Wings and continue with the two that follow, (To make this easier the guys are offering a digital download of 2010’s Buring Like The Midnight Sun, free for 1 week). The reason for this suggestion is that I strongly feel like these 4 records flow together perfectly, and that your auditory pleasure will be enhanced if you listen to them in succession

With this new collection of tunes we find Derry, Steve, Dan and Tim in a good place. It’s clear they are content with who they are as musicians and have found where they want to be musically. They know what works for them and what their fans have come to expect. On TLSEH the fellas aren’t trying to make the “White” album, but there is still much here to discover. Within the tracks there seems to be a mature sense of peace with God, self and with others. The overall tone is one of hope and encouragement, more so on this album than any in recent memory. These sentiments are best expressed via  the pleasant musings of The Forest.

…I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend
I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons
Even now the sun is breaking though the clouds again
But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons
And I still can’t see the forest for the trees
Don’t be afraid, don’t hide in the dark
Climb the mountain, hear the meadowlark
Wait for the sun…

Steve’s lyric’s and Tim’s bass licks are as solid as ever, but the real star on this project is saxophone/lyricon player Dan Michaels. Yes, I said Dan. Typically Mr Michael’s contributions to a Choir record are subtle and nuanced. They add a certain beauty that is undeniable, but because of their low-key nature I’m afraid they are often overlooked. However, on TLSEH  they come to the fore, and in some cases are actually featured, giving Dan well deserved time in the spotlight.

My favorite example of Dan’s stellar performance would be the quirky, head boppin’ Takin’ the Universe In. From the start Dan’s sax is just plain fat & nasty. It splatters all over the song adding vibe and personality to the mix. Derri’s tender whisper lays Steve’s lyrics perfectly over the track and together they have produced one of the best love songs I have heard in a long time. The whimsical nature of the lyric really moves me. I admire Steve’s enthusiastic affection for his wife and each time I listen to this track I long to love my wife with that kind of passion. The following lyric describes a desire for spousal “oness” that I find deeply profound.

“…I want to ride the train that keeps rumbling your floor
I want to feel the draft that seeps under your door
I want to be there for your hereafter and your here before

To kiss the honey on your tongue
See the glorious morning sun through your eyes
I wanna share the hope in your heart
Dance with the skeletons in the dark of your mind

Baby, I love your mind…”

Vocalist Derri Daugherty has always been known for his emotive vocals. But with this new record I hear a new level of tenderness that takes each song to another place. The tracks Learning to Fly,and Laughter of Heaven come to mind as Daugherty’s voice blends perfectly with his etherial guitar tones. I can’t really explain it, but on this album Derri has a tremor in his delivery that just cuts to the heart. Each song seems to be felt so deeply. It’s almost as if at any moment Derri is going to break down in tears. But It’s not sadness that comes through, it’s more like an intense longing, or a sense of awe. It has always been remarkable how Derri has been able to make Steve’s lyrics sound like they are pouring out from the very depths of his soul.

One track that is sure to generate some buzz is After All (featuring Sixpence’s Leigh Nash). To say that the two voices are perfect together would be an understatement. Derri’s harmony on the chorus drifts seamlessly in and out of Leigh’s beautiful lilting as together they ask “…Are we mear, specks of dust, floating though, the milky way? Are we here, to learn to Love? I think that’s true, either way…”

After revisiting the band’s 21st century works and living with TLSEH for a week, I can honestly say that The Choir, as a band, is creating some of their best art to date. And while many of  their contemporaries have long since been forgotten, these men continue to inspire others with relevent lyric and melody. History may record that the loudest sound ever heard was the eruption of the ancient volcano Mt Krakatoa, if that’s the case then I’m willing to submit that the guys in the Choir could be running a close second. But that’s just me.


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