On 2003's Long Time Coming, Jonny Lang made the first turn from his rap as an itinerant blues-rocker to being a spiritually inspired rock and pop songwriter. Producer Marti Frederiksen took Lang's tunes and glossed them to the breaking point, leaving the album an unfocused gobbledygook set of songs that had no center. Three years later, Lang ...
On 2003's Long Time Coming, Jonny Lang made the first turn from his rap as an itinerant blues-rocker to being a spiritually inspired rock and pop songwriter. Producer Marti Frederiksen took Lang's tunes and glossed them to the breaking point, leaving the album an unfocused gobbledygook set of songs that had no center. Three years later, Lang returns with Turn Around. And the title does not refer to him turning back to his blues guitar slinger roots. Instead, the title refers to the biblical term that is the definition of the word "repent." (No mistake.) Lang's overt spirituality comes ringing through the mix created by Drew Ramsey Lang and Shannon Sanders. Turn Around is funkier, dressed in contemporary gospel, gritty rock and yes, the blues. Lang's still got a way to go as a songwriter, but the material here is infinitely better than it was on his last outing. The gospel underpinnings help because his "the Jonny Lang Thankful Choir" is no less than 13 voices strong. Unfortunately, the "anthem" on this record, "One Person at a Time," is just plain corny, talking about wishing for triple-platinum success, but if it "only reaches one set of ears/I will have fulfilled my purpose here...." C'mon. Nice sentiment, but as a song it's just plain lousy. Tracks like "Thankful," which utilizes the choir very effectively and employs duet vocalist Michael McDonald, is startlingly good. Another track that works well is "My Love Remains," which takes its opening riff from a very big radio hit of the '90s, and then inverts it. The track's real surprise is in Lang's falsetto vocal performance, which reveals a new depth for him as a singer. "Don't Stop for Anything," proves that Lang should just give up trying to be a hard rocker; he simply can't pull it off. Much better are his attempts at gritty soul, such as on "Anything's Possible (Don't Let 'Em)," which once again has dumb lyrics but as a singer's tune is a delight. It's as if he needs to prove to someone -- perhaps only to himself -- that he's arrived as a musician. The funky gospel and soul of "On My Feet Again" blends all of his talents as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter -- with killer horns and choir in the pocket -- and offers a real view of what this man is capable of. His acoustic numbers, such as "That Great Day" with mandolins, steel guitars, and a country gospel flavor are also noteworthy. Lyrically, he's singing from the heart, not his resentments on these tunes; he has nothing to prove to anybody anymore. It should also be noted that A&M is to be applauded for sticking by him with such a bold move. Ultimately, Turn Around is a great leap from Long Time Coming, and is an exciting if somewhat flawed hint at what is on the horizon as Lang develops further, becoming more confident in his role as a veteran instead of a boy wonder. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi