Wallace Rahming – Life Cycles – Album Review
Dig the mystic sound to the opening and the way Wallace has got a set of wise words coming at you instantly on “Prologue” – a short but effective intro into Life Cycles that’ll tell ya much about what you’re about to experience in words, and present one of several different vibes musically that you’ll upon this record. It all fits though…creates kind of an ominous beginning that’s definitely intriguing to the ears – but in my opinion, it’s the contrast it creates with the first official song on the record that makes the “Prologue” create even more of an impact, because that shift into the bright & vibrantly colorful, up-tempo & uplifting sound that you’ll hear on “Don’t Be Deceived” to follow, is magnificent.
Wallace might have to forgive me if the closest comparison I’ve got to a sound like you’ll hear on “Don’t Be Deceived” is going to be Prince…I know that’s not exactly the most religious reference out there, plenty spiritual & devout in his own right, but not the example of religion most people would think of. All that being said, I mean…”Don’t Be Deceived” really has that upbeat funky sound of Prince’s prime – you add in the way that the vocals work, the harmonies…it’s all there, it’s just that Wallace is preaching the good word instead. So in my books…I mean, consider me a big fan of what’s happening here in Rahming’s music & sound overall…as I’ve said multiple times, the faith-based community needs GENUINE options, not just another dude with an acoustic guitar, you feel me? Wallace Rahming could help fill that void with a verifiably different option – one that works – people out there will dig on the vibes he’s creating, and if they happen to be believers, they’re bound to get that much more out of it. With the ‘whoa-oh-ohs’ in there…that’s really reminiscent of moves made by Morris Day & The Time as well – so there’s pretty much not a doubt in my mind that Wallace is at the very least, well versed in music that’s been happening outside of the faith-based genre – and as well he should be, there’s incredible music being made is every style out there…I’m just saying, he seems to know his history. With “Don’t Be Deceived” being ultimately the first full-song that you hear and by proxy, the first impression – I don’t think you could ask for more out of Wallace and what he brings to the beginning of Life Cycles – this jam has incredible energy surging from the lefts to the rights and genuinely appealing sound at all times. Rahming sounds inspired on the mic too – for a first impression, all-around, inside or outside of religion, Wallace has opened the doors to this record wide to invite everyone in – solid gold beginning!
“Inexplicable” probably drifts a bit closer to the early 90’s sound or the early 2000’s resurgence of groups, crews, and boy-bands, but with just enough of a twist of R&B to the sound that it maintains that relevant & appealing style we recognize & love. Wallace works with the rhythm & bounce of the vibrant music surrounding him extremely well. What I really dig about “Inexplicable” and in general, ALL of the songs that you’ll find on this record, is that Wallace certainly never shies away from his faith – that’s front & center, straight-up, at all times; but while that might come across in preachy in most faith-based music, somehow the sincerity in which Rahming approaches these tunes and how good everything sounds makes the message available to those that want to receive it, while still leaving everyone else with songs they’ll truly want to turn up. Seems like a fair deal to me! And I mean, you gotta recognize the goals in making a record like this, which I’ll go into a bit later on as well, but it’s the intention of sharing His word of course, first & foremost – even if that’s done by proxy of repeating a sound or song you love, you’re absorbing the knowledge, faith, and message that Wallace is looking to communicate. So when something as smooth and groovin’ as “Inexplicable” comes along, you might notice the music at first – which is more than okay of course – but again, you’ll also have the option of always diving deeper into what’s being said throughout Rahming’s Life Cycles, and chances are, more often than not, whether based in scripture or not – the sentiment, intentions, and ambitions of the songs are relatable.
The title-track, “Life Cycles” was like a breath of fresh air into the record, taking the sound in a completely different direction. Admittedly, this is probably many degrees closer to what you might associate with faith-based music than the first couple cuts on this record – but it’s still got remarkable Pop-inspired sound that gives it broad appeal. Personally, I really enjoy that about this record…not only is there a distinct versatility in Wallace’s music, but it’s truly enjoyable stuff all-around…I’m sure it would benefit to be a religious person listening to it, but I didn’t once feel excluded as a person outside of religion at all; the entire vibe of this record is warm & welcoming. “Life Cycles” is a truly soul-soothing cut and contains one of my favorite performances from Wallace on the mic as well – everything about this song really makes the absolute most of its sweetness and gorgeous harmonies & hooks. The vocal pattern and the way Wallace sings the chorus of this song is pure perfection – the strength of that alone and the way the words roll right off his tongue so fluidly…what else can be said? Tremendous job in the writing, but certainly also the performance as well – he’ll have people singing along with this title-track, no doubt about it. I know this, because I speak from experience – “Life Cycles” is the kind of song that embraces its comforting vibes and surround-sound sweetness…and ultimately, as far as the hooks go, chances are Wallace has found some of the most memorable you’ll find on this record right here – and if you’re really listening, you’ll find they’re happening in both the lead & background vocals. Fantastic!
“He Made Everything Lovely” heads back more towards a smooth R&B gear. People out there, I’m tellin’ ya – you’ll be impressed with what Wallace can do & just how professional this record has come out; “He Made Everything Lovely” is perfectly mixed & flawlessly performed, beautifully expressive and structured to reveal the real heart of its melody more & more as you listen along. The gentle & comforting sway of this rhythm & groove works with a charming & enticing sound that’ll pull you right in to listen – and Wallace sounds excellent on the mic once again, which has been true of every song so far. I’ll admit, after the upbeat energy in “Life Cycles” just beforehand, it is a bit of a transition to go into the low-key vibes of “He Made Everything Lovely,” but in terms of how many different styles & sounds Wallace has ALREADY presented here within five tracks, you gotta dig how each track offers something significantly different. There’s a genuinely classic grace and professional approach to “He Made Everything Lovely” that Rahming absolutely nails as tight as can be; I can hear that a track like this goes against the grain of a lot of what’s out there right now – but I’d argue that’s half of Wallace’s intention with making such a varied, versatile, and diverse record. Many of these sounds are outside of the mainstream right now – but not many of them should be – and of course, with the ability to access music online, the multitude of fans out there of genres of all-kinds can experience their favorite styles os songs as much as they’d like to – and believe me, there’s a huge audience out there for something like this. Wallace’s crossover potential is seriously impressive and his hooks seem to really hit the mark – he’s working with a timeless style & sound on “He Made Everything Lovely” and wears this suit like he owns it, bringing the melody straight to the surface on the mic amidst the smooth music alongside him.
Wallace also has a couple of interludes that you’ll find on this record that Life Cycles wouldn’t be complete without. As far as I’ve read, these are tributary tracks of sorts…dedicated to his father, now passed on, and echoing the time spent in his youth with his first Holton cornet, which he uses on “Work In Progress (Interlude)” to add a lil’ bit of extra authenticity for ya. This was a great move Wallace – “Work In Progress (Interlude)” is a beautiful song and it sounds inspired…I would never want to take away from the guy’s singing, he does an exceptional job on the microphone whenever he’s called upon – but taking a moment here to go instrumental really speaks volumes for the music on this record as well. I’m not going to lie to ya – the interludes are two of my favorite moments on Life Cycles – everything just sounds so serene, beautiful, chilled-out, and relaxing on “Work In Progress (Interlude)” – and Wallace is 100% magnificent on the trumpet…a true pleasure to listen to & experience, full-stop. He’s clearly got that essential ability to translate emotion, thoughts, and feelings through the way he plays, expresses, and communicates through music, and it comes across brilliantly on this instrumental tune.
“Don’t Let The Small Things Get You Down” works with gorgeous vocals, an uplifting vibe, piano-led melody, and a combination of flute & synth sounds that keep this colorful song as bright as can be. And that’s what it’s all about here…sunny side up to the nth degree – so from a songwriting standpoint alone, you gotta admire the focus & cohesion that comes through this song from beginning to end. As I’ve often commented here on these pages of ours, writing ‘happy’ can be one of the toughest things for songwriters to do – but so too would ANY emotion if it wasn’t sincere or outside of your own norm. So like, for example, “Don’t Let The Small Things Get You Down” and its relentlessly positive vibes through the music & lyrics end up seeming like such a natural fit for a personality like Wallace Rahming has – at this point on the record, you’re well aware of who he is, what he’s all about, and what the overall intentions of an album like Life Cycles are – a track like this, just absolutely suits him top to bottom. The real question and challenge for an artist like Rahming would be much the opposite of just about everyone else – can he write ‘sad’ songs? Honestly, I don’t think the guy has time for them – and that’s more than fine with me, should be just as fine with you too…we’ve all only got so much time here on Earth and why NOT choose to use it spreading love & inspiration like Wallace is? And as the old adage goes, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’ – I mean, in that context, “Don’t Let The Small Things Get You Down” is the exact size & fit that’s perfect for Wallace – everything you’ll hear belongs and suits him strongly.
Interesting the contrast that occurs at times, from what your ears might typically expect to what they might find. For those out there listening to the mainstream stuff, you’d associate the sound of a track like “Keep Our Minds (On These)” with that turn-the-lights-down-low kind of vibe – but that’s where Wallace adds that twist of faith that changes up the entire direction & intentions of these tunes. As a result, tracks like “Keep Our Minds (On These)” stay as G rated and focused as the rest of the devout material taking place on this record. Bonus points for having a flute solo in there as well – short & sweet, but perfection…it’s a real highlight breakdown outside of the hooks that offers a beautiful moment to chill before Wallace takes us back into the pure-intentioned words & chorus he’s created for “Keep Our Minds (On These).” All-around though, you’ve gotta admire just how well this album is put together…the production is spot-on, the performances too…and like I said earlier, while Wallace might always have His word on his mind, there’s so much to offer the ears through his music that it’s bound to appeal to a much wider audience than most faith-based music typically has the good fortune to find. Instrumentation-wise, variation & versatility, lead, backing, vocal-harmonies…it really doesn’t seem to matter which category or aspect of Wallace’s music you examine, the work & effort have certainly been put in to ensure the smoothest experience you can potentially have in listening at all times – so dig that!
Absolutely gorgeous opening to “Through The Word” – as the music starts, it’s probably one of the most enticing beginnings to any of the songs you’ll find on this record really. Personally I like this song quite a bit, mainly because Wallace is such a committed artist when it comes right down to it I suppose…there’s a complexity that exists in the melody-line of “Through The Word” and a more subtly ambitious set of ideas in the music that appeal to me. That being said, by comparison to the majority of this record, there’s a good chance that this particular track will have to fight a bit harder for attention at first – it could very well end up becoming a favorite for many and a stand-out track upon repeat, but by nature of its gentle disposition, it’s probably going to be an unsung hero of Life Cycles for a while. Good tune though – Wallace and the backing vocalists on this song end up doing a fantastic job of harmonizing with each other – credit to them all, because they sound excellent singing together and really complement each other’s own individual sound – that’s Euphemia Rahming, Sarah Rahming and Wallace Rahming, Jr. you’re hearing on “Through The Word.” So if any names are any indication, it’s a family affair here on this tune – and given that it’s a track that’s guided by the unity you’ll find “Through The Word” – it was a good idea to find a crew of talented vocalists to present that unity through what you’ll hear. For me…I suppose I would say I highly enjoyed this track, even if I can hear it’d generally be more challenging for the everyday listener somewhat – I think the music is exceptional, and the way “Through The Word” opens-up and expands so brightly, boldly, and beautifully around the three-minute mark, is awesome.
Mixing in a bit of disco-inspired flavor into his Gospel music, Rahming gets the beat moving on “Lift Him Higher” as he praises the Lord. For me…as a person outside of religion, this is the kind of passion I completely appreciate – I’m absolutely cool with people believing in whatever they choose to, but be THIS passionate about it, like Wallace is! When you’re truly proud of what you believe in, it becomes a defining part of who you are – practically part of the skin you wear; not only does a track like “Lift Him Higher” reveal just how much FUN Wallace truly has making music – but it certainly also shows just how much sincere joy he’s found through his faith and sharing His message through these songs he creates. You’ve SEEN it either in person, at church, or at the very least in movies – you’ve seen the SPIRIT take hold and how those celebrating His Glory can seriously ‘get down’ and start groovin’ – “Lift Him Higher” definitely has that potential…it’s definitely a track that’ll get the people movin’ while they sing along. Good energy here though…and thematically, you’ll notice a move he’ll pull here that’ll be similar to a move he’ll employ on “Higher Than Me” later on as well, in which Wallace keeps on raising up the tones & octaves higher & higher as the songs play on, which from a songwriting standpoint, is a really smart way of tying-in the themes to the music. Rahming’s got the spirit here though, no doubt about it – “Lift Him Higher” has insatiable rhythm & melody that keeps on heading upwards, taking you along with it.
It’s interesting to review faith-based albums in the sense that, I mean, making ‘hit’ songs isn’t the priority like it so typically is when it comes to the mainstream – here, it’s the message of course. So on the one hand…I look at a fourteen track album much like I’d look at any other from whatever artist/band comes our way – that chances are, there are a few places to cut or trim, to keep the entertainment factor up and the record concise & cohesive. But when the intentions become to praise God and humbly share His word with the masses out there – it’s kind of hard to argue anything other than that a record could theoretically be as long as any artist/band would want to make it & people will listen for. In a typical situation, I’d probably be more on the fence with a track like “Lord You Are,” similar to how I might have felt about “Through The Word” – they’re good songs, but they’re also surrounded by great ones. Perhaps on another record, songs like these would be the ace material – but facts are facts, Wallace has continually found exceptional ways to entertain throughout this record, so if the strength of the material drops by even one iota, it can tend to be more noticeable. That being said, each time that this happens…it’s more of an opinion based on the hooks alone; both “Through The Word” and “Lord You Are” have extremely strong performances to be discovered through the music and vocals for sure. You gotta love the solo you’ll find on from the keyboards on “Lord You Are” too – really cool stuff happening there, and throughout the song when it comes to the keys, clever backing vocals as well.
Really digging the drums you’ll find on “Higher Than Me” – excellent, crisp snap to snare and a perfect mix on them. Wallace sings as sincerely & heartfelt as ever, establishing the connection of faith quickly on his own as the song begins – but there’s a lot in-store for you still as this track progresses, so be ready! You’ll hear the harmonies begin to make a presence as the song plays on – and by the time you’re around the 2:40 mark, “Higher Than Me” is in full bloom, finding ways to audibly go up, note for note, higher & higher, “Higher Than Me” and, well, I’d assume higher than all of us by the end! Wallace has done an exceptional job of revealing this song slowly and delivering one of the biggest finales you’ll hear on any of the tunes from Life Cycles in a highly memorable ending that echoes the sentiment of the song and its meanings by matching the intentions through the vocals…really well planned out stuff here. Another extremely enticing opening, “Higher Than Me” gently breaks to reveal the stunning vocals from Wallace, who takes a spectacular turn in the spotlight here, really embracing the power of the words and meaning that inspire this song. Definitely one of my favorites for the musicianship as well – I couldn’t decide if I loved the drums more or the piano, they both contribute so much to this tune – but really, overall, vocals, music, songwriting, sound…Wallace is delivering to maximum potential here.
And I gotta say Wallace my friend, I absolutely love the way you play the trumpet dude…these interludes are some real gems on Life Cycles that always hit the mark for me. I enjoyed “Work In Progress (Interlude)” earlier for sure – but I think “Almost Home (Interlude)” might just take the cake for me – this is an exquisitely beautiful cut and definitely one of my favorite tracks on a record full of great songs. “Almost Home (Interlude)” for me personally though, leaves me with zero doubt that what the world ALSO really needs, is that Wallace Rahming solo-trumpet album – because where is THAT my friend? This combination of crystalline sounds, piano, and his stunningly expressive trumpet create such an amazing experience…as sensory as it gets, you can truly feel every bit of the emotion that runs through “Almost Home (Interlude)” and no words that I could possibly write would be accurate enough in describing the true beauty you’ll find in the melody of this incredible song. Not an opinion – that’s facts.
“His Story” shows once again, just how smart Wallace’s music is in terms of attention to detail and focus on what suits & serves the songs he’s writing. Like, he’s still singing on “His Story” – but he is drifting closer to a narration here at times as well, with hints of melody in his tone…and in choosing that direction – don’t you think that it’s more than coincidence considering the title? I think it’s a really clever choice – “His Story,” by the implications of the title, should sound somewhat more like a tale being told, and that’s the way that Wallace played this tune, filling it with imagery and details throughout his lyricism, bringing the words to life through subtle inflections of his tone & energy as the song begins, and masterfully revealing bigger moments as the song plays on. Piano, drums, flute, & subtle synth in the solo for you this time around, found at the end of the song as Wallace Rahming gets jazzy with it all in the final moments of Life Cycles & delivers a wonderfully inspired instrumental ending. Compelling tune all around though, “His Story” is an excellent & conclusive end to this whole experience, not only summing up a lot of what Wallace has been communicating all along, but a final smooth glide through the well-written verses, choruses, hooks, and harmonies he’s done so well throughout Life Cycles. A great story should always have you listening – and “His Story” definitely does – credit to Wallace for creating such an intriguing sound through the music and singing this song with such character. The man is certainly onto something with this set of tunes – I think he’s done an exceptional job with this entire record and the crossover appeal is actually quite staggering – really well done Wallace.
Find out more about Wallace Rahming from his official homepage at: http://www.wallacerahming.com