LABEL: OTIS ALAN RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: MAY 15, 2012
Mark Wagner is a relative newcomer to the Christian music scene. I’d never heard of him when his album came across my desk. But, I’m glad it did. An album rife with CHR-friendly singles, Needlove is sure to make other people sit up and take notice.
“All I Need” leads things off and introduces the listener to Mark Wagner’s smooth vocals. It starts out a bit mid-tempo track with a fair amount of subtle synth work in the background before hitting the chorus with a big sound.
The most radio-friendly of Wagner’s songs is “You Are With Me.” This is just what CHR ordered. It’s got a light, relaxed beat that is perfect for summer driving with the windows down and the volume cranked. Even when he reaches the chorus and the bridge, things could get “big,” but Wagner does a good job of restraining the instruments and his own vocals.
“Creed” is a nice rendition of the old Rich Mullins classic. I’m always up for a cover of Rich Mullins’ work. The last time I heard this covered was when Third Day performed it on their Offerings outing. Wagner doesn’t do a lot to spice things up or play with the original. Essentially, it’s Wagner’s vocals instead of Mullins’ or [Mac] Powell’s. That made me a little sad, but it is still a good cover.
“Made For Love” is my favorite track on the album and seems to be Wagner at his best. Everything just works well together here. It’s a simple song with simple lyrics about why we were made—to be loved by God.
My main gripe with this project is that it is so CHR-friendly. There are relatively few musical risks taken. I suppose, as a debut project, you’ve got to pay your dues. Once you’ve got enough buy-in from within the industry and from the fans, you can experiment with your sound. Still, a debut is also a good place to introduce something novel that is also marketable. There’s not a lot of that here. Wagner’s vocals can also be a bit nasally at times. They may grate a few people the wrong way.
All told, Needlove is a decent album. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but I wasn’t disappointed to have encountered it. At a mere 8 tracks long, it is just barely a full album and could have benefited by a few extra songs. Still, maybe the lack of extra music is what has me looking forward to what Wagner puts out in the future. The sky’s the limit. Will he aim for it? Let’s all hope so.