Label: Sonlite Records
Producer: Cody McVey
Songs: All Things Are Possible God; Chain Breaker; What You’ve Already Done; No Excuses, No Regrets; Since I Laid My Burden Down; Living Water
Rating: 4 Stars
Steve Ladd’s No Excuses, No Regrets is the second six-song EP I’ve reviewed in as many days. Unlike Misty Freeman’s Turn The Page, which features all new songs, Ladd’s EP is a carefully curated collection of mostly cover songs. I could not find a previous recording of “What You’ve Already Done,” but the other five tracks are remakes.
The exciting opening track, “All Things Are Possible God,” was recorded previously by a group called New Vision. Ladd quickly reaffirms his ability to convey a clear message at a quick, attention-demanding pace. This sort of song would be a great concert opener, so it’s nice to see it positioned at the beginning of the CD as well.
I reviewed Triumphant’s cover of Zach Williams’ “Chain Breaker” a few weeks ago. “Chain Breaker” is the sort of song everyone wants to sing, and will likely be covered many more times in the coming years. Ladd’s version, while good, is the least interesting of the three I’ve heard so far. The programmed percussion samples under the first two verses tend to stifle the urgency of the lyric. The levels do amp up nicely for the bridge, though. I also like the way the energy comes down well before the end of the track for a soft landing, contrasting William’s original version which stays strong right up to the end.
“What You’ve Already Done” dials the level down to just an acoustic piano (Jason Webb), allowing Ladd to display his ability to sing a tender ballad. The natural temptation with a song that starts in this style would be to add strings on the second verse and then keep adding more instruments until there’s a huge orchestrated finish. Instead, Webb’s piano simply responds to Ladd’s dynamics for the entire song. This approach is much more effective.
“No Excuses, No Regrets” was recorded by Overflow in 2014, a group that includes one of the songs co-writers, Cliff Duren. Like “All Things Are Possible God,” Ladd’s version has a driving rhythmic foundation that makes you want to hear more.
Ladd shifts to a higher gear for the traditional “Since I Laid My Burden Down.” He shares a word of testimony before the fourth verse, then the excitement builds more to a firm finish, or so you might think. After a brief moment of silence, the tempo kicks into double-time, followed by another minute and a half of sweat-inducing rhythms. It’s pure fun.
Most folks over the age of 35 will remember Bob Carlisle’s genre crossing hit, “Butterfly Kisses.” On that same 1997 CD, Shades Of Grace, was Carlisle’s best song ever, “Living Water.” It’s a true worship SONG with both verses and choruses that are sung straight to God Almighty. When I saw the song title on Ladd’s CD, I thought perhaps it was a different song that shared the same title. I was pleased to learn he had indeed remade Carlisle’s great song, and also pleased when I heard it. Ladd’s version is every bit as moving as Carlisle’s original.
Cover songs often fail to measure up, but Ladd mostly avoids this common pitfall on No Excuses, No Regrets. He selected one song that was nearly forgotten (“Living Water”), two songs that had not been promoted heavily (“All Things Are Possible God” and “No Excuses, No Regrets”), and then he took a classic (“Since I Laid My Burden Down”) farther than you’d typically hear it. Now, it’s true that “Chain Breaker” is somewhat hampered, but this is not at all due to Ladd’s vocals. In that instance, better instrument selection on the track would have made a substantial improvement.
Overall, No Excuses, No Regrets is a very good collection. Six songs just isn’t enough.