Producer: David Phelps
Record Label: StowTown Records
Ever since David Phelps burst on to the scene when he joined the Gaither Vocal Band in 1997, he’s been hard to pinpoint as a musical artist. He immediately endeared himself to fans of Southern Gospel music with his soaring tenor and heartfelt vocal delivery. He released a couple solo albums while with his first tenure with the group – but it didn’t really see him stretching too far from the inspiring chords of the GVB.
When he left the group in 2005 to pursue a solo career, he jumped labels and went to Word Records where he was fully engaged in a pop/contemporary sound with Revelation. Subsequent releases would see him toying the line between the more inspirational tones of his roots (see 2008’s The Voice or 2015’s Freedom) and more pop-defined and eclectic releases (like his Christmas releases or 2005’s Life Is a Church).
GameChanger sees Phelps swinging back to the more polished pop and eccentric releases rather than classically inspired inspiration albums. This album literally feels schizophrenic at times (in a good sense), covering so many musical styles and sounds. “Be My Brother” has a definitive late 80s R&B tinge to it, which Phelps interprets nicely. “Hello Beautiful” has a nutty, synth-pop vibe, while “Give It Time” is not unlike something you’d hear off of one of Clay Crosse’s mid-90s blue-eyed soul releases.
The title cut, “GameChanger,” is the most mainstream pop sounding of the lot, not unlike something you’d here on Top 40 radio by the likes of OneRepublic or for King & Country. This song in particular works really well with Phelps’ dramatic and operatic tones. “It Was Water” recalls early Bryan Duncan, while “Eye to Eye” is an intriguing duet with Phelps’ son Grant.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, and some of these songs just don’t work. “Fix Myself” tries a little too hard to recall Michael Jackson or Avalon’s Jody McBrayer-led tunes. “Love On the Horizon” see Phelps doing lots of vocal acrobatics coupled with an odd backing track that leads into an 80s infused pop number. “Song For Sinners” feature a more stripped down production and uneven tempo, and it just feels out of place on an already cluttered release.
With 15 tracks, GameChanger just feels a bit bloated and chaotic at times. Phelps is a talented vocalist, writer, and arranger, but he might do well to tone it down or stick to just a couple of sounds. When this record works, it really works. Cuts like “GameChanger,” “Eye to Eye,” “Give It Time” and “Be My Brother” are some of David’s best songs to date. However, this recording could have dropped 5 tracks (I’m looking at you “Love Is On the Horizon,” “Harmony” and “Fix Myself” in particular) to save the record from feeling too disjointed.