Review: The Red Letters Project Book of Matthew

So sometimes I’m in a hurry … and sometimes when I’m in a hurry I don’t read emails as closely as I should. Last month was one of those times.

Whilst in said hurry, I received a note from my friends at The Ooze asking if I’d be interested in receiving a free copy of  Tyndale House Publishing’s The Red Letters Project: Book of Matthew for review on westcoastwitness.com.

I quickly perused the email description picking out the phrases “red letter words of Jesus,” “New Living Translation,” and “audio Bible.”

“Cool,” I thought,  “A dramatic reading of the red letter words of Jesus from the Book of Matthew. Maybe I can use that as a sweet intro for a Bible study or something – sounds good!” And I signed up.

Boy was I surprised when I opened the package a couple of weeks later and read this on the front of the album:

The Red Letters Project is an electrifying performance of rock music recounting every word spoken by Jesus Christ in the Book of Matthew …

Electrifying performance of rock music? Christian rock music?!? Bah!

Regular readers know this is not something I would have signed up for on purpose. Too bad … I said I would listen and do a review of this when I hurriedly signed up, so here we are.

To be polite I will not completely rip this album to shreds. I will, however, say this: while it is a noble thing to record the words of Jesus musically, large sections of Jesus’ words straight from the NLT do not work melodically (i.e. in song) and cannot be forced to when presented in big chunks.

The advice I would give someone attempting to create an album centered around the words of Jesus would be this: work with smaller sections of Scripture that more naturally form a melody rather than cramming large sections into a single track. Bite off too much, and it simply doesn’t work musically. That pretty much sums up my feelings as a listener.

Stylistically the tracks on this album move between generic sounding pop-rock to a few heavier tracks to a few rock ballads.

My favorite is number 3 on disc one entitled “Sacrifice,” mainly because it’s a bit heavier and in the first verse the singer stretches the word “hell” out for several beats. This provided laughs, and I actually restarted the track to hear that part again.

To conclude, if you are already into Christian rock, you may like The Red Letters Project: Book of Matthew. This may especially be good for youth ministers seeking a creative way to present Scripture to their kids. Additionally, if you are looking for a tool to help you memorize the words of Jesus as presented in the NLT, this will help as songs will stick with you (not because they are particularly great … simply because they are songs, and that’s what songs do).

TRLP is a three-disc box set that retails for $29.99 and can be purchased here.

I promise from now on I will read invitations from my friends at The Ooze more closely.

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