Review “Some People Change” – Michael English. (by Auke Bijlsma)

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Artist: Michael English

Album:’Some People Change’ (2012)

Label: Curb Records

This review is the first one I done before the record actually came out, and only a few connected to the production of the album have heard it.

Now I’m a guy who doesn’t automatically rave about any album by any artist I admire,
I take it as it comes, I like it, or I do not. Michael made some records I rarely listened
to, and that I bought just for the sake of keeping my collection complete.

This album is a collection of covers really, some quite well-known,
some more obscure.
I know only a few artists who could, and can get away with that.
A name that comes to mind is that of Elvis Presley, who practically made a career out of
singing other people’s songs.
I’d rather hear Elvis sing a Beatles tune than the fabulous four themselves.
A Bob Dylan tune by the King like ‘I Shall Be Released’ sounds a lot better than
the depressing monotonous raspy sound of scruffy Bob himself.
Another singer who made covers his very own was Ray Charles.
Hear Ray sing ‘Bye Bye Love’ and this will make you forget the original teeny bopper diddy by
the The Everly Brothers instantaneously.

There are more voices like that, people like Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, Aaron Neville,
Daryl Hall, John Farnham, Russ Taff, Steve Perry just to name a few.
Voices so captivating, distinctive and demanding, they’re kinda like cuckoos, in the context of taking someone’s nest and making it their own.

Michael English to me has that rare gift too. Michael’s take on Albert Hammond’s ‘When I Need You’ on the ‘Freedom’ album is another one that to me proves this fact.

Now let me walk you through the album and the songs on it;

The opener is the uptempo ‘Ain’t givin’ up on Jesus’ the same song Wilburn & Wilburn did and
still do, and do well.
Michael uses pretty much the same arrangement, although I like Michael’s instrumentation
better you can hear that Jay Demarcus (of Rascal Flatts) produced the album.
Michael’s incomparable melody interpretation makes the song more exciting to me, the way he
leans into the rhythm, sways on the chords, is the coolest thing. This song screams Michael
English! It’s a great way to get this thing rollin’.

The second song is ‘Come to The River’ a passionate soulful yet unpretentious tune, with
exceptional back-up singers, a laid back rhythm, warm Hammond B3 licks, and a cameo by none
other than Russ Taff.
Taff singing part of the second verse, and does typical Taff things around Michael’s lead, I
call them things because they are hard to describe…a Taff act to follow so to speak.
When two of the most influential singers in gospel music of the last few decades join forces
on a rather straightforward gospel song, it is anything but ordinary.

The next song on the album George Beverly Shea wrote the melody to. Speaking about ‘I Rather
Have Jesus’. The words were actually written by Rhea F. Miller from Brooktondale, NY.
One day in 1922,Rhea began to reflect on her father’s testimony (a delivered alcoholic),and
how he used to say he would rather have Jesus than all the gold and silver in the world.
Rhea wrote the words to ‘I Rather Have Jesus’ with that testimony in mind.
George Beverly Shea stumbled upon the song years later in its poem form and wrote music as we
now know it.
Mr.English takes this song, and without doing any injustice to it, sings a slight deviation
from the original melody line and it is just right!
Listen for example to my personal highlight of the song, it’s around the 1:56 mark where he
sings ‘I rather be faithful’.Why didn’t I think of that?

The title cut is a song most recently done by Montgomery Gentry, the country duo.
The song was written by Joe Neil Thrasher JR, son of Joe Thrasher who sang tenor with the
Gospel Quartet The Thrasher Brothers.
Michael’s approach is practically the same as the Montgomery Gentry version, Michael’s vocals
have less of a country twang, for me personally that is a tremendous plus.
The song obviously deals with the fact that people do change..nuff said! Great pick as the
title track.

Back in 1987 I bought my one and only 12′ inch single to this day, it was a song by George
Michael and ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin.
The song was entitled ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’ and was a worldwide hit back in ’87. Michael
teamed up with Crystal Lewis to breathe new life in this song.
Michael once told the story that he was at a party, and he was flipping through TV channels,
and he stumbled upon this channel that had Crystal singing ‘I Rather Have Jesus’.
He stated that he could not make himself switching off the TV, or even flip on through. So you could say that Crystal Lewis was kind of instrumental in Michael’s
restoration.
When I heard Crystal Lewis would be singing a duet with Michael on this record, I thought it
would be on Bev’s Shea’s classic song, which would have made sense given the personal history
Michael has with it.
But little did I know, and they choose this popular 80’s duet, and what a great surprise it
is.
Lyrically this song not only does capture Michael’s journey to Grace,but sums up most of our personal journey’s too.
We all had a paralyzing moment at some point in our life, where we could not do anything but
sit still, and listen to God’s voice.
A moment that later proved to be a pivotal one, a turning point.

Here are the lyrics to the opening verse,

‘Like a warrior that fights
And wins the battle
I know the taste of victory
Though I went through some nights
Consumed by the battle
I was crippled emotionally
Ooh, somehow I made it through the heartache
Yes I did, I escaped
I found my way out of the darkness
I kept my faith
I kept my faith’

When Michael ends the first verse he repeats the line ‘I kept my faith’ in a manner
Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler would do, the first time I ever heard him do this thing.
Crystal and Michael voices are an excellent match.

This next song is probably my favorite entitled ‘That Great Day’, a song by the recently born
again blues singer/songwriter Jonny Lang.
I have a few albums by that guy, and he is one of my favorite artists right now.
What a fantastic job Michael did on this song, he sings high and has a beautiful edge to his
voice. The inclusion of a Fender Rhodes and soulful female singers on the track compliment
the modest and sincere quality of this song.

‘In Christ Alone’ follows the Jonny Lang tune, and I was kinda weary when I learned there
would be a remake on this album.
A remake of a Dove Award winning song, and on top of that, done by the same guy! The same guy? I think
not! I’m here to tell you that, some people do change!!! The lyrics have not changed, but the brother singing it has.
So almost 20 years later the song’s lyrical content is more potent than ever. It’s a humble anthem of
acknowledgement,  a declaration of independence through dependence for us all,  through Christ Alone.
Won’t go into what’s specifically different between the 90’s version musically, you will have
to hear it for yourself, but I was deeply stirred by it.

Howard, Sam, Rusty and Vestal Goodman were sure enough dancing and singing around the Throne
eternal when Michael recorded this one.
I picture Vestal smiling, running around all of Heaven shouting ‘that’s my boy’, ‘that’s
Michael! Every Saint and Angel present would nod in agreement saying ‘Yep that’s him! ‘That’s
Michael alright!
The cut ( I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now) opens with an old recording by the Goodmans,then Michael shouts a countdown
‘two,three, four! And it’s rocking’ from here on out,
the transition to the modern-day version of this classic is spot on,done in great taste and with much vigor. Chip Davis, Jay Demarcus, Gaither Vocal Band and Gene McDonald provide the vocal backdrop.
The vocals arranged by Michael and Chip, and it shows, no one, other than those two have a better ear for this type of stuff.
His interpretation of this standard is so refreshing! The best version I ever heard!

‘Waking Up The Dawn’ opens with a melody that reminds me of the song by Michael Jackson ‘Will
You Be There’ that was on the soundtrack of the movie ‘Free Willy’.
This song by Jenny Lee Riddle, a Christian Dove-award winning singer/songwriter, best known
for penning “Revelation Song”.
Great song, and catchy melody, you will find yourself humming and singing along the chorus,
because it is so recognizable and it fits Michael like a glove.

The last song on the album entitled ‘Stubborn’ is penned by Brett James & Don Alan Schlitz JR.  Brett James wrote
Carrie Underwood’s no 1 hit ‘Jesus Take The Wheel’.
Multiple Grammy winner, Carolina native Donald Alan Shlitz JR wrote Kenny Rogers hit record
‘The Gambler’.
With writers that like sticking their heads together what can go wrong? When a writer uses
the word ‘molecule’in a song he is a hero in my book. ‘Stubborn’  though very
intimate in content, is the ultimate extrovert effort
of describing personal battles and what is needed to overcome them.

Bonus song is “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” written by Hank Williams, recorded for the movie ‘The Last Ride’ that Benjamin
Gaither produced. Michael’s voice paired with the acoustic guitar artistry of Kevin Williams, on such a haunting song is nothing short of
beautiful!

Concluding, this collection of songs is musically mature, beautiful produced and all
performances are stellar.
The overall lyrical content may seem kinda introspective of nature, but do not read too much
into that.
Not everything Michael sings was written just for him, if by chance it seems
like it was, it is probably written for you too.
If there’s one thing that is evident is that Michael never sounded more confident both
musically and spiritually.
Michael English is on top of his game again, he still got the powerhouse notes, but his
frail,soft and vulnerable sound is where his genius and brilliance really surfaces.
The songs are of a rare quality, the production by Jay Demarcus is remarkable. In such a way
that even banjos are suddenly sounding fresh and funky.
I never truly cared for the banjo, so my musical horizon has broadened some…and that is
what I always look for in a record. I love this album, there is not one song that made me wanna hit the skip button.

Back in the spring of this year Michael said the following about this solo album;
“I want to make sure people hear on this record that I have overcome these things, but not by my own doing. God is the one who has helped
me overcome them, my relationship with Him.
I can trust Him to help me through whatever comes.
It just so happens that He has let me come back and do what I love. It’s not easy,
because it takes me away from the people I love the most.
But I enjoy doing what I believe is God’s plan for my life.”

So what I’ve prominently heard in this album is a humble man, who happens to be one of the most gifted singers to ever grace a stage, who’s
grateful of the Grace that brought him back to that very stage!
I’ve heard Michael English himself on this album, and haven’t heard that in some time, now that may sound contradicting, considering he’s singing other people songs only.

The following quote by William Ralph Inge might better express what I’m really trying to say.

“A man is never so truly and intensely himself as when he is most possessed by God.

It is  impossible to say where, in the spiritual life, the human will leaves off

and Divine Grace begins.”

(Auke Bijlsma)

9 thoughts on “Review “Some People Change” – Michael English. (by Auke Bijlsma)

  1. Well said and appreciated Auke!! I’m so encouraged through all that I’ve heard from and about Michael English!! I thank God for his sincerity!! It’s evident and comes across well through his music and life! He tells his story or makes another’s his own. I draw from that!! I believe him when he says it’s not from his own doing but through trusting God. That kind of trust will always bring His blessings, favor and victory in his life!!

    Also I agree that not every song was written for Michael alone but for us too.. so true!!!
    That’s was keeps it real for me in my own life!! I dont’ have this project yet but I do have tons of respect for his music ministry!!

    God bless you for sharing Auke!!

    • Darlene thanks for the kind words, it’s a awesome album really, and I know once you get it, you will agree. Love you bunches, and we should catch up soon! Thanks and God bless you too!

  2. Hey Auke,
    The backing vocals on “I wouldn’t take nothin for my journey now” were myself (Chip Davis) and Michael . They may have added The GVB and Gene McDonald later but Michael and I did them together with Jay DeMarcus first. It was a blast. I agree….it is a great CD but then I’m one of Michaels biggest fans and have been for over 20 years. Jay was an awesome choice for producing because these are his roots!

    • Chip I thought so, I noticed seeing u guys doing it on socialcam (pickin’it out). I’m a big fan of Michael too, yet i would have said so if i thought this was a crap album. Thanks for ur reply..I think your an awesome vocalist and indvidiual! I love the clips of your album man, amazing I want that album too, will it be available on itunes too? ‘Standing in My own Way’ love the messages on the songs, thought provoking stuff, and what a voice! God bless u my brother!

  3. I am looking forwarding to purchasing your new album. I have always been a fan of not only your voice but of you determination. I love the title “Some People Change” for I know this is so very true. I also love the words you wrote about being a warrior. I am survivor of severe childhood abuse and of cancer. Through it all, I have to come to realize that God is God. Sounds so simple? It is not – for so many people tried to paint a picture of God to me and it always just did not seem correct. God is more than man can imagine and His ways are always so amazing. I am humbled that God chooses to love me. I am also in awe of the fact that God loves all people. Keep singing Michael for the fact is “Some People do Change” and your voice is a vessel that God can reach out and touch the center of someone and help them to see Him. You remain in my prayers.

  4. Love what this man said about Michalel’s new album. So thankful that God is using him to reach . WE love you Michael English & your famliy . God BLess yall!!!!! Can hardly wait to get this C D . I am always inspired by Michael’s songs!!!!

  5. My son alys liked your songs,as ateenager. He is 29 yrs now,married ,with two liltle girls. Pray for him,as he has kidney issues,needs prayer. So far he is doing ok,but was told he may need a transplant in 10-15 years. I don’t receive this report! I stand on God’s word.Isaiha 53:5. He needs to get back in church! Pray for him. He very seldom calls me ,have not seen him since March. My son was never distant with me. His wife is a aloof person,adopted from India.

  6. Michael, have followed your music for many years, all the way from Goldsboro, NC to Oklahoma City to West Virginia where we have lived for the past 25 years. Now back in Wilson, NC and still loving your singing and praising God for your come back!!!!

  7. Just got my cd today…oh wow. (It’s been like Christmas here for the last month…first, the GVB cd…then David’s Classic…now Michael’s…I’m just giddy! lol)
    Auke, I just want to say thanks for this review. I could not agree with you more!
    I got my mail today…there was the cd…I had errands to run in town, so my first listen was in the car. I was in the drive-thru at McDonald’s while listening to Stubborn…the girls at the window wondered why was I crying? What an incredibly well-written song! (I love inspired lyrics, which this song has in spades.) Just stunning. Would love to hear Michael sing this one live.

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