CD Review: Need, the new album from Todd Agnew

NeedTodd Agnew’s first CD, Grace Like Rain, blew me away and he’s been top of my musical list ever since. It was the first album I’d heard in a long time that was worth plugging in the headphones and cranking the volume. (This was before I got into the newsboys and David Crowder*Band, so I’m casting no aspersions there….)

Todd sings with a passion that proves the truth of his words – to me it’s as if he can’t not cry out to God. That’s where we all need to be, if we’re honest. He gives voice to the need of everyman/everywoman, and his lyrics have taught me more about grace than any other artist’s.

I love Todd Agnew’s music: his voice, lyrics, diverse musical style, and his honesty. Although I’ve had Need since it released on October 6, I couldn’t begin to write a review until I marinated in it for a while. Now it’s worked its way into my daily soundtrack, and I’m starting to hear snatches of different songs in my head throughout the day or even to wake with them.

I find it ironic that this new album articulates our hearts’ needs less than the previous ones (think “Wait for Your Rain” and “Always There”). Instead, it points to the One who meets these needs. At first I wondered why the title wasn’t “I Need No Other” after the song, or something like “We Need Jesus,” but I think it’s to prompt a question.

Need – What do you need? – Jesus.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the title choice, but this line of reasoning does follow nicely from the title of his recent album, Better Questions.

I’m glad I pre-ordered Need to get the bonus tracks. “All That I Have” and “Way of the Cross” are two of my favourites from what I’ve grouped on my mp3 player as “Need – the extended version”.

Each Todd Agnew album has at least one song that’s his fresh look at an established hymn. It’s a great way to bridge the musical generation gap and to remind us of the songs – and teachings – that have gone before. Some have the original lyrics arranged to vibrant new music, others are songs like “Grace Like Rain” and “Blood on My Hands” that mesh a public domain hymn with Todd’s additional lyrics.

Need delivers a blend of both types of songs, and you can’t tell the difference by the sound. I just discovered from the liner notes that the radio single, “Joy Unspeakable,” is one of the old-new hybrid songs, but “Jesus, the Hope of Glory” is all new.

Just so you know, “Give Me Jesus” is a different song from the one Robin Mark and Jeremy Camp sing.

I’d classify all the songs as “Christian rock,” but they weave in elements of blues, gospel, soul and country – all things I’d avoid straight-up but that nicely enrich the album. Some are fast, some slow, and with the variety of musical elements I’m sure there’s a song here for everyone.

As Joel Klampert says in his review of Need at The Joint Review, “If you like Todd then you will like this CD. If you don’t like Todd then you still might like this CD.

Bottom line: I really enjoy this CD, and appreciate how it points us to Jesus as the Meeter of our need. Yes, we should articulate our specific needs the way “Written on the Wall” and “Did You Mean Me?” do, but in the end it all comes down to Jesus: let’s just run to Him and trust His care.

For more musically-literate reviews, see Worship Leader, Chosen for Grace and The Joint Review.

Todd will be introducing one song a week from the album, giving some background, interesting thoughts, and a taste of the sound. Check out his YouTube page. You can listen to “Joy Unspeakable” and “I Need No Other” from Need, as well as some of his other songs, on his MySpace player. Also you might want to check out his blog. He has some neat things to say.

PS Apparently there was a precursor to Grace Like Rain, an indie recording called Breath of God.  If it were a book, the amazing database at AbeBooks.com would have found it for me by now, but I don’t have a good network for finding used CDs. If anyone knows how to obtain a copy for a reasonable price, please leave me a comment here or email me. Thanks!

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