The first thing that struck me about Michael Sweet’s new CD Him is the energy. The first five tracks are full of life without guitar riffs obscuring the lyrics.  The guitar driven tunes demonstrate excellent balance between the singer and instrumentalists. Dickie Paris’ beats on the opening track “Calvary” do not compete but accompany. What a great way to familiarize the youth of today with great old hymns by putting a new face on them with fresh arrangements. This is a solid pop rock tune that is not irreverent but instead revives words that have gathered dust for too long.  “Alleluia”, “Every Hour” and “I Know” have great but not overbearing rock riffs.

I made a very interesting observation while spinning this disc. When listening to “I’ll Remember You” I thought the organ montuno sounded familiar and after a few minutes deliberation I still couldn’t quite pick out which George Michael song I was recalling. After searching through my memory banks and audio files I pulled up Michael’s “One More Try” and gave a listen to Sweet’s “I’ll Remember You” after the introductory percussion beats fade away. Whether it was coincidental or by design it would be an understatement to say the two are similar.

Fortunately for us this is the only comparison that can be drawn between the two Michaels. Sweet’s “I’ll Remember You” is a gentle prayer of gratitude to our savior. Most people would be hard pressed to recall the last time George Michael was gentle or thankful.

What is great about Him is Sweet the frontman for Stryper has delivered a refreshing vibe and he doesn’t take the easy way out by opting for CCM syrupy hooks.

The only thing I would have done differently with this album is picked a different tune than “Still” for Sweet to sing on track seven. It sounds like he is really stretching unnaturally to hit some of the higher notes. Having said that I am neither a singer nor a vocal coach and I am simply offering a layman’s opinion.

“Take My Life” has a beautiful heavily draped strings introduction and is followed by a simple acoustic guitar accompanied by Sweet’s (dare we say it?) sweet vocals. He is much more within his range with this song than the previous one and it allows the listeners to totally immerse themselves in both the music and the words. The strings created by Peter Valentine and LeRoix Hampton are warm and beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful songs to come our way in 2006.

Who would ever have thought that one of the pioneers of Christian rock music would provide a soothing prayerful rendition of “Surrender” that is as beautiful and gentle as anytime you have heard these words,  “All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live/”

This is Sweet’s fourth solo effort and just as was the case with his previous CDs Him has been critically acclaimed. What comes through more than anything else is the sensitivity of both the artist and the producers. Sweet co-produced this CD with Kenny Lewis. Sweet’s guitar chords are supported by bassists Lou Spagnola and Tracy Ferrie.

This is an album that should appeal to listeners of all ages who are serious about communing with God.

As Sweet says, “Whether this record sells 5,000 or 100,000 copies, what it’s about for me is that the songs encourage people and draw them closer to God,” he says. “If that is accomplished, then I will be the happiest man alive.”

Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.