GENRE: FOLK POP
LABEL: BEC RECORDINGS
RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 28, 2010
RATING: 3.75 OUT OF 5
Bebo Norman’s seventh studio release has had me thinking. Listening to Ocean, I cannot help but slow down and just … contemplate. Packed full with introspection, this folk-rock album wants to live in my mind and cultivate there.
My exposure to the mind of Mr Bebo Norman has been limited to say the least. I’m only familiar with two of his biggest hits, “Nothing Without You” and “I Will Lift My Eyes”, but I loved the worshipper’s heart that I saw. Nothing on “Ocean” sounds remotely like those, the worship here is not so straight-forward, but I believe the heart of the worshipper is still here.
“Everything I Hoped You’d Be” opens up the project. It is possibly the best composed pop-rock opener I’ve heard in a while. The underlying drum beat, Norman’s driving vocals, thoughtfully added synths and guitar work all come together to create a unique listening experience. Sadly, this experience doesn’t quite last to track 2. “Here Goes”, which Bebo Norman co-wrote with Brandon Heath, left a little disappointed, which I found surprising for an artist I knew so little about. It may be the tired lyrics of the chorus (“here’s goes nothing, here’s goes everything, gotta reach for something, or you’ll fall for anything”), but it didn’t leave an impression.
“God of My Everything” manages to redeem the album a little. Although why Ocean offers two versions of this track no one knows. The radio version is so similar it seems inane. It is really “Could You Look At Me” that takes us back to the glory of the start. In this love song to his wife, Norman explores his weakness, fears and faith. It is honest and undemanding but effortlessly eloquent. Likewise is “I Hope You See Jesus”, penned in collaboration with Laura Story. It should be the prayer of every Christian – instead of our flaws, or our good works, our campaigns or anything – the world should see Jesus. It has become my personal statement of faith at for this time of my life; the words continue to speak to me.
The title track continues the meditative theme. But as Norman reflects, he worships. What could have been a soppy, mushy affair is transformed into something meaningful. “Every time I turn around, there is so much more to be found. And every glimpse steals my breath away. So open up these eyes to see, more of you and less of me. All my fear is turning to faith”. The lyrics in “Sing Over Me” also resonate…. “Sing over me, sing over the noise I am making. All I ever needed was to hear your melody”. Bebo Norman clearly has a talent for lyrics, poignant lyrics, and this is what sets him apart from others. This is what music needs.
Ocean has its high points and its lower points. While I enjoyed each track, compared to the amazing quality of the aforementioned standout tracks “I Hope You See Jesus”, “Ocean” and “Everything I Hoped You’d Be”, the others always quite hit the mark. This was my first true experience of Bebo Norman, so I may not be the best judge. A little more consistency would take his work further. However, I know he has the heart of the worshipper, and gift of writing truly inspiring lyrics. With these tools on his side, I am sure that when I have the privilege of listening to the eighth project, it will be able to move from my head to my heart.
Review title provided courtesy of BEC Recordings