By Sean Fennessey
The New Jersey-born preacher and showman Tye Tribbett is a rock star living in a gospel world. "Fresh," his fourth album -- technically a solo debut since he disbanded Greater Anointing, the choir he led for nearly five years -- is a fascinating synthesis of high-grade hair metal cheese, Black Eyed Peas-style rave-pop and classic gospel arranging. This peculiar and occasionally wondrous album features the high-energy Tribbett, 34, stretching his scratched tenor, sometimes with the aid of vocal manipulation, into frantic cries to the heavens.
But what keeps "Fresh" engaging is how time lost it seems. "Take Over" is pure Journey balladry -- you can practically hear Tribbett clutching his chest over cascading pianos and grungy chords. The woozy "Only Help!" is a classic gospel renunciation of self, draped in contemporary haze: "I cast out all pornography/Uproot that thing up out of me/Devil, you no longer have any control over me," Tribbett sings, his voice twisting off into roboticized sadness, like an alien lament to loneliness.
The stirring "Keep Me," a duet with Tim Rogers, is prime pulpit drama, a nod to form and musical legacy. And "Replace Me," well, it's basically a Goo Goo Dolls song. Tribbett weaves around convention in surprising ways, often turning to the schmaltziest of styles to sell his shtick. But his brand of manic passion is so enveloping, it can be worth suffering through his one-too-many guitar solos.
Recommended tracks: "Keep Me," "Take Over"