Tyndale has an interesting product coming out in June called The Red Letters Project. It's a set of 3 CDs, 40 tracks, that put the words of Christ to music. Rock music. When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. I feared the music would be cheesy. I wondered how they were going to manage to put the NLT translation to music without it sounding terrible. I was curious. Especially since I've been working more with the youth at church, which appears to be one of the target demographics for this product, I requested a review copy so I could see what it was about.
Here's how Tyndale describes the project:
The Red Letters Project is an electrifying performance of rock music based on the words of Jesus from the Book of Matthew in the New Living Translation. This dynamic, one-of-a-kind listening experience features 40 tracks-both sung and narrated. The Red Letters Project is an excellent gift for teens, young adults, lovers of God's Word, and music fans. A unique alternative to spoken-word audio Bibles, The Red Letters Project was produced by entertainment-industry legend Russ Regan, a committed Christian who envisions this as his legacy project.
When the CDs arrived, I really didn't know what to expect. The packaging was slick, but didn't give a good idea of what was inside. The liner notes consist of minimal credits for each song at the end of a booklet that contains the entire text to the book of Matthew. One cool part about the booklet is that it shows you were each song draws its text from. But, other than that, there were really no clues as to what I'd hear when I put the CDs in.
I'm happy to say that I think they pulled it off. The music doesn't sound cheesy. Some of the songs remind me of U2, some remind me of southern rock, some remind me of R&B. This music sounds closer to what I think of when I think of secular music than what I think of when I think of "contemporary Christian" music. It's nice that there are several different styles represented, so there should be something for everyone. The words work well with the music, which is especially impressive since they stuck with the NLT rendition, without reworking it fit a predefined meter or rhyming scheme.
I've listened to the entire collection a couple of times now. The first time I listened to it piecemeal, a few songs at a time. The second time, I was able to listen to the entire collection straight through. It works well both ways. Listening to the whole collection straight through gives you a good overview of Jesus' ministry as recorded in Matthew. But since the songs aren't otherwise linked, it's nice to be able to listen to a song by itself.
If you enjoy rock music, you'll enjoy the music. If you're cool with the NLT, you'll enjoy the lyrics. If you like your Scripture spoken instead of sung, you're not going to enjoy this.
You know what? The easiest way to decide if you'll enjoy this or not is to listen to some samples. The project has a website that appears to still be under construction in some areas (there are no tour dates yet, no videos, etc.), but does have audio available for three of the tracks: Fish For People, You Fed Me, and I Was Hungry. They also have links to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter pages.
Would teens like it? I think so. I'm going to lend the CDs to a couple of the youth at church and get their opinion on it. Look for a follow-up post when I get their feedback.
I'm definitely a fan. I'll probably listen to it a few times a month, in the background while I'm working. I can also see this being used as part of a youth Bible Study or in a worship setting.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this product.