When I reviewed (maybe “raved about” is a better term) Joy Electric’s Old Wives Tales, I made the point that any pro-Ronnie Martin ramblings will probably be chalked up to “preaching to the converted.” Literally. And then came the somewhat disappointing Robot Rock, and the critics practically crawled over themselves, labelling Ronnie a pop genius and whatnot.
So Martin goes around and releases his most overtly-Christian work ever. But is it his best? It doesn’t quite reach We Are The Music Makers, with its perfect blend of fairy tale imagery and video game soundtrack. That album had a sense of magic and wonder about it that this album is missing in key places. But I think Ronnie learned something with Robot Rock (his self-described “punk” album) — defiance. And it shows on Christiansongs. Ronnie has always been very vocal about his Christian beliefs, and his lyrics always did paint spiritual portraits, but they were often veiled in metaphor and nursery rhymes. This time, Ronnie speaks his mind.
Need proof? Just check out the second track, “Children Of The Lord.” Ronnie proudly sings “so we pray and put on the whole armor/day to day the work of God grows… we are children of the Lord.” And for those of you who peruse the liner notes, you’ll find handy Bible references for nearly every song. At times, the lyrics approach a Vacation Bible School-ish level of depth. But Ronnie usually makes up for it with his uncannily reliable for writing absolutely perfect pop melodies. Even so, there are times when Ronnie spends so much time trying to inject depth into his lyrics that the music suffers for it. Just check out “The Magic Of,” which practically drowns in all of its imagery.
However, there’s nothing wrong with songs like “Disco For A Ride” and “Synthesized I Want You Synthesized.” I’m convinced that the former is the anthem for the Cornerstone Dance tent. The latter’s lyrics sound like a physics textbook written by Hans Christian Anderson, but with some beautiful imagery of God as the force that binds the universe.
Does Ronnie preach to the converted? Oh yeah… big time. And even more so on this album. And I’ll admit, I find it a tad heavy-handed at times. Not in the “fire and brimstone” sort of way, but rather in the “Sunday School” sort of way. In fact, I wonder why this album wasn’t packaged with some flannelgraph characters. But Ronnie’s made a gutsy move on this one, pushing on with his own musical vision and remaining steadfast to his spiritual beliefs. As a way of giving props to those who’ve influenced him, Ronnie covers Keith Green’s “Make My Life A Prayer.” In the not-too-distant future, I expect that many will be doing the exact same thing with Ronnie’s music.