Let me begin by placing a few statements on the table. To begin, I like David Phelps - he has an incredible voice and a strong musical talent along with a very likable personality. I mean, if you haven't heard his version of O Holy Night, then you've never really heard the song! Second, I am not accustomed to reviewing musical albums, so I probably won't have the necessary insight which better qualifies others for this job. The main reason here is not that I don't understand music but rather that I believe that the overwhelming amount of popular music (CCM or otherwise) is boring and uninspired right now. So, I only really pay attention to a few artists and tend to critique their albums as "really awesome" (as in, "That new DC*B album is really awesome!").
Having said that, ever since I received the much-anticipated new release from David Phelps I knew that something had to be said. David is probably the best musician who's never found a great album. Aside from projects with the Gaither Vocal Band, he has struggled along trying to find some musical focus to what he's released. And The Voice is a monumental step backwards on his journey. I am really struggling to figure out just how these 11 tracks fit together (they really don't, but I have some theories).
When listening to the 11 songs, there are a few which are good, two which are great and the rest which should never have been included in the first place.
1. "I Want to Know What Love Is" - Yes, a Foreigner cover. But this actually works on a certain level. I consider it one of the good ones because it isn't one to listen to over and over again.
2. "Angel" - A Sara McLaughlin cover. Why, David? Why?
3. "I Just Call You Mine" - New Song. This one is good and has the feel of Adult Contemporary radio.
4. "Nessun Dorma" - Puccini. This is absolutely outstanding.
5. "End of the Line" - New. Hated the sound of the track, only listened to the whole thing once.
6. "Moonlight" - New words set to a Beethoven sonata. Alright.
7. "Unchained Melody" - I like it and think it works really, really well.
8. "Higher" - I think this is a song about an overcoming faith, but when heard with the title of the project, it is hard not to think that this is an overly confident career statement.
9. "Angel Band" - This is interesting, I'm not sure what to label it on a stylistic end. . .but it kind of works and kind of doesn't. Perhaps in an album with a more focussed arc it could have been brilliant.
10. "Fly to You" - Banjos and bluegrassy theme which is ultimately drowned out by full orchestration, it highlights some of David's identity challenges which come from him having a diverse background and career.
11. "Your Love" - New and simple. This might be one of the best tracks on the list because he creates something which is quite pleasant to have listened to (this highlights another major flaw in the album).
So, what is David Phelps trying to do with the album? I have no idea, really. Other than a smattering of songs that he likes or has wanted to record, there is no connectivity here. And it will prove to be a problem that he named the album The Voice because it nowhere shows up in any metaphorical sense - leading the listener to think that perhaps he realizes what a great instrument he has been given and can easily rely on this instead of his own artistry. (I doubt this is the case, but that's the impression given.)
Perhaps it is the American Idol season that can never be: You have (1) the updated cover of an old song; (2) the updated cover of a kinda old song; (3) the sappy championship song; (4) the blow 'em out of the water with something unique yet amazing song; (5) the shouldn't have done it, I'm in the bottom three this week song; (7) the Unchained Melody cover because it's Simon's favorite song; (8) something for Simon to refer to as 'indulgent'; (11) a beautiful ballad to quiet the noise of a hectic competition.
Again, the voce migliore (best voice) which hasn't found its place in the world. At the end of the day, David Phelps should be taking lightweights (by comparison) like Josh Groban to task on these. He has a much superior instrument but has yet to produce an album which will cause the world to take notice. To date his best effort is One Wintry Night, 2007's Christmas release, which actually stands in as a really good effort - one that would never have received such harsh criticism.