A Musical Sneak Peek at 2011

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 11:11

album promo image for A Musical Sneak Peak at 2011

By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com


Just because the holidays are winding down doesn’t mean the excitement has to simmer, especially when it comes to gearing up for the 2011 CD and concert schedule. In fact, the first quarter of the year is shaping up to look even stronger than the end of 2010, which was mostly filled with holiday releases and tours. So get those iPods charged up and ready to load fresh cuts from mega-stars in the making, like Brandon Heath and Red or classic rockers like The 77’s and John Elefante, while saving up some extra dough for tickets to the Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith double bill and Chris Tomlin’s latest worship collective.

1. The double bill of a lifetime
Between Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, they’ve sold an astounding 47 million albums, though even more monumental than sales is the endless impact made upon their listeners. The crossover queen and her longtime sidekick (turned solo star/worship leader) reunite for their first official tour since the 1988 Lead Me On outing, which is sure to make Christian music history once again as each artist uncovers gems from their equally treasured catalogs.

2. A hearty dose of Heath
After taking home two Dove Awards for Male Vocalist of the Year and a GRAMMY nomination, Brandon Heath is poised to be one of the new year’s biggest blockbusters. His third studio CD Leaving Eden (Essential) drops January 18, preceded by lead single “Your Love,” marks yet another collaboration with super producer Dan Muckala, who’s worked with many of Christian music’s elite and even helped drive the Backstreet Boys’ recent comeback.

3. Powerhouse praise
Chris Tomlin’s newest CD And If Our God Is For Us... (sixsteps) had no trouble shooting straight up to the top slot on Billboard’s Christian chart and even landed at #17 on the Billboard Top 200. As a result, his upcoming tour of the same name is sure to sell out, accompanied by the always angelic Christy Nockels and thought-provoking speaker Louie Giglio. Before that spring outing, Tomlin also appears at Passion’s 2011 conference, which takes place at the Philips Arena and George World Congress Center in Atlanta January 1–4.

4. C.S. Lewis-inspired alt-rock
The third time up to the plate could be Red’s greatest charm yet, thanks to a unique theme wrapped around its signature screams and guitar growls. The February 1 release Until We Have Faces (Essential) was inspired by C.S. Lewis’ text Till We Have Faces, which speaks of finding one’s true identity. Catch a preview of the collection from January–April on the multi-artist Winter Jam tour.

5. Punk goes acoustic
Longtime Hawk Nelson listeners are sure to scope out its brand-new studio CD Crazy Love (Tooth & Nail/BEC Recordings) on February 8, which promises to have an old-school punk feel crossed with modern rock and pop. In addition to the Ian Eskelin-produced album, the guys are turning in the accompanying specialty album The Light Sides, which features unplugged hits and fan favorites, and will be bundled exclusively in a deluxe edition.

6. A colossal opener opportunity
When it comes to country/pop crossovers, there’s no one hotter on the charts than Taylor Swift these days. As excepted, the teen dream’s launching a full-fledged arena outing this summer, for which she hand-picked a burgeoning band that spent its earliest years in the Christian scene. Be sure to show up early to catch Needtobreathe, a group that’s already logged more than a thousand gigs together and landed of a slew of TV shows like MTV’s “The Hills.”

7. New beginnings from a fan favorite
She spent much of the 1990s dabbling in alternative music, but has transitioned towards pop and praise in recent years. At the moment, Rebecca St. James is returning to the worshipful side of her identity for a project produced by Mark Miller of Casting Crowns. The disc will drop on her new record label home (Beach Street/Reunion Records) later this spring, marking a follow-up to last year’s best-selling devotional Pure (Hachette/Faithwords).

8. A killer classic rock compilation
Late great guitar player Tommy Bolin is best known for his time in Deep Purple and The James Gang, though considering he died before his career was fully realized, it’s uncertain just how much potential he possessed. But fans won’t have to fill in as many blanks thanks to Mr. Bolin’s Late Night Revival (Rainbow Foundation Music Inc.), which finds members of Foreigner, Boston, Mr. Big, Survivor, Tesla, plus Rex Carroll and The 77’s (among others) interpreting unfinished demos. Thus far the latter act’s “Long Way to Go” has topped CD Baby’s charts in the classic rock, blues and compilation categories, with all proceeds from the project going to the Jackson Recovery Center (a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Bolin’s hometown of Sioux City, Iowa).

9. Melodic rock reunions
Speaking of classic rock n’ rollers, John Elefante is back for his first studio CD in over a decade, reuniting with Mastedon for Revolution of Mind. The project finds the former Kansas frontman teaming up with the band’s guitarist Kerry Livgren for the first time since they originally played together in the ‘80s on the 11-minute jam “One Day Down By the Lake (See You Real Soon).”

10. Saying goodbye
When it comes to leaders of the metalcore scene, few are as revered as Haste the Day, as evidenced by career sales of 250,000-plus CDs. But after ten influential years together, the ministry-minded head bangers are hanging up their guitar straps and drum sticks forever (or so they say). Either way, it’s better safe than sorry, so any truly dedicated fans must score a seat to its 32-city trek sometime between January and March.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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