Half Past Forever
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Half Past Forever

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The best kept secret in music


"Take a Chance on Something Beautiful"

Small-town sensation Half Past Forever have finally broken onto the national scene with their new album Take a Chance on Something Beautiful. The draw for new listeners will no doubt be American Idol phenom, Chris Sligh, but don't be surprised to find his equally astonishing flair for songwriting and production. Even if the songs here weren't already his own, Chris's smooth control and distinctive, urgent ownership would make you believe he was spinning these wonders out of thin air. Backed by accomplished guitarists Adam Fisher and Cole Edmonson, Chris's gifts have the platform they've needed to let loose and shine.

Take a Chance is old school in some ways, delivering the refreshing album-based songwriting you didn't think existed in the mainstream anymore. Though several tracks should rightly become singles, this music was meant for more than 3-minute snatches, and has the wholeness of a concept album without the need for a concept. In other ways, the album is also on the leading edge of musical creativity. Alongside the delicious hooks of chart-bound hits like "Know" or "In a Moment," you're just as likely to find the complex musicality of songs like "Convenience," which melds hypnotic synth and soulful crooning with tinges of "A Day in the Life" and Gnarls Barkley. Or "Naive," which opens like a sorrowful Goo Goo Dolls hit, only to incorporate bits of Seal and Coldplay to refine the sound. Actually, the musical background here is so eclectic, it's probably most sensible to call this sound a remarkable beauty being born.

Take a Chance is an album that rewards multiple listens, and it may take you a dozen times through to begin realizing the lyrical depth or the calm interlacing between songs. Along with his Idol fame, Chris has a couple national songwriting awards under his belt, and it's not hard to hear the talent. You'll probably have the chorus to "Know" memorized by the third time around, but it may take a little longer until the meaning hits you like a slap in the face. And when Chris's half-despairing "I'm gone" moves into the album's last track, it's answered with the nascent discovery, "Now I know the pictures I hold on to are gone away / ... Maybe getting older brings me closer to you." There is remarkable range here: you'll find yourself carried away by equal parts free-spirit and turbulence, with songs evoking the spectrum from arena to quiet personal space. And all the while, Chris's soaring baritone will keep its enticing hooks in you. Certainly, there are missteps, and there is room for the music to grow. But Take a Chance on Something Beautiful is the sound of a band coming into its own. - Amazon.com

"Take a Chance on Something Beautiful"

If you've been watching American Idol this season—c'mon, you know you have—then you're already somewhat familiar with Half Past Forever.

Still not ringing a bell? Well, the mastermind behind the band is none other than Chris Sligh (though he's currently not a member due to the rigors of Idol). You know, the guy who's a dead ringer for Jack Osbourne, with a quick sense of humor and a devoted fan club known as the Fro Patrol?

Before earning reserved praise from testy ol' Simon Cowell and singing covers of Mute Math and dc Talk in recent weeks, the South Carolina-based worship leader and his cohorts—including guitarist Adam Fisher and bassist Cole Edmonson—recorded a stellar debut, Take a Chance on Something Beautiful. Citing the likes of Switchfoot, Mute Math, Bebo Norman, Downhere, The Afters, NeedToBreathe, and a slew of mainstream artists as influences, the band's debut shines with plenty of frenetic energy, catchy songs, and Sligh's diverse vocals, which handle rock as well as worship.

While the project is a little long by today's standards, there's actually not a throwaway in the bunch—from the decidedly optimistic strains of "Waiting" to the clever commentary on modern society in "Hero." Keeping things varied, "In a Moment" slows things down and wouldn't be out of place on Christian radio with its straightforward message of making the most of our lives.

The biggest surprise lies in the varied production, which is especially impressive for an indie band. They go all out with strings on the aforementioned "In a Moment," while faster songs like "Naïve" and "Closer" are reminiscent of The Strokes' latest project, with a more raw, stripped-down indie feel that offers nice contrast to overproduced pop.

Though most of the songs he sings on "Idol" won't have a spiritual message, all of this album's tracks are a reflection of Sligh's faith, something that's been important to him all his life. As a child, the missionary kid wasn't allowed to listen to anything but classical music. But in college he discovered many musical styles that would prove the foundation for The Chris Sligh Band, which later became rechristened Half Past Forever.

Sligh doesn't consider himself a Christian artist in the strictest since, clarifying in a recent interview with GreenvilleOnline.com that he is "a Christian who is an artist…I think ministry is more in relationships." Indeed, and he'll have a chance to build many of those relationships thanks to the exposure he's earned on American Idol. - Christa Banister (Christianity Today)

"Take a Chance on Something Beautiful"

Great Sound

To some of you, the band Half Past Forever may be an old friend. For others, this is the first time you've ever heard the name. To both groups I say, sit up and listen: the band has a new album. Yes, it's been only a couple years since the band's first, eponymous album (see their myspace here). And yes, sophomore albums have a notorious history. But trust me, this one is better. Much better. And I liked their first album.

The new band draws from eclectic influences, and their sound is all the richer for it. You'll hear hints of The Smashing Pumpkins, the Goo Goo Dolls, Edwin McCain, Switchfoot, Coldplay, Seal, John Mayer, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and more recent band interests like Muse and MuteMath. But where eclecticism (and experimenting) has gotten many sophomore albums in trouble , here it seems only to improve and mature the great sound the band already had with their successful first album. Of course, as some of you may know, the band now has a different makeup than they did on that album, with only one lead singer (Chris Sligh), and new guitarists.

The album's song "Know" has already gotten radio time in some areas, and it and some others seem likely to become popular hits. I would put a personal favorite, "In a Moment," in this group, as well as "Need," "Cry Tonight" and "How Long." Each of these has more of a pop rock feel (Goo Goo Dolls or Hootie & the Blowfish), and uses layers of instrumentation and prominent vocals to deliver an upbeat, catchy sound.

You're just as likely to find songs on the album that may bring the word "arena" to mind. Two songs begin (for better or worse) with a choric "Whoa-oh-o-o-oh" ("Rise" and "Somewhere", both available for play on the band's site), and others incorporate the kind of insistent drum pulsing and the frenetic guitar strumming that just might make you think that Chris and company are jumping around the stage during the instrumental sections of the song. "Closer," "Naive," "Hero" and "Tunnel Vision" also fall into this category. Several of these are more darkly-tinged, leading me to comment to Chris initially that you could summarize the band's first album as "happy" and this one as "sad." Obviously, that's a stereotypical, blanket statement that doesn't take into account the musical complexity that's actually going on. But you will find industrial or Southern rock sound on some tracks in this genre, one of the band's more recent musical developments.

There are also a couple unusual songs on the album. "Waiting" crosses over from the first album in a more polished version, with accelerated tempos and far more exciting musical layers and contrasts. Chris collaborated with his brother Jon to write "Convenience," a meditative, almost hypnotic song that manages to mix insightful lyrics, a depressive edge, sections of building tension that reminded me of those in "A Day in the Life," and closing lyrics sung a la Gnarls Barkley. "Gone" is one of the more interesting songs on the album, a fascinating mix of blues, industrial elements, and rock that gives Chris's voice a chance to shine. And one of the love-it-or-just-like-it elements of the album is the inclusion of two instrumental tracks (perhaps an homage to those on MuteMath's album). I've already told Chris that I'm only in the "like" category -- mainly because I feel the sound is too different, but I'll leave you to make your own decision.

Great Writing, Great Vocals

Though you'll want to hear this album for the music, I get this odd feeling that many may just want to hear Chris Sligh. Not that I blame you. Even though the band has continued to develop a distinctive sound, Chris's songwriting and especially his great singing are what have made Half Past Forever a band you will love to listen to.

Chris was classically trained, but has been singing popular music for years. His voice falls into the high baritone range, with clear and full tone, solid pitch on a huge range from slight rasp to power belting, and a warm breadth that keeps it from becoming either overwhelming or underwhelming. His sustained notes have nice vibrato edges, and there's a particular quality to his consonants that you may not notice but that subtly makes his sound memorable.

Though I tried to group the songs above into easy categories, there is an astonishing range in the writing here (Chris wrote all of them). Chris tells me that he hates albums that sound good, but whose songs are pretty much the same thing reworked and reworked into different songs. A good album needs to have a variety of tempos and sounds, and Take a Chance on Something Beautiful gives you just that. Many of the songs are also great poems. The lyrics are maturely Christian, and the entire album is one long musical take of meditations on believing life in a fallen world.

One of the most interesting elements of the music to me was the bridge that Chris would write into each song. In my opinion, the bridge i - Will Gray (Explorations)

"Take a Chance on Something Beautiful"

Here is my take on American Idol: regardless of one’s particular feelings about the show, it has accomplished two things that would normally seem to be diametrically opposed to one another. On the one hand, it has provided a platform of exposure and a launching pad for success to many well-deserving and talented singers who may have, for one reason or another, found it difficult to gain the level exposure and recognition that their abilities deserve. On the flip side, the show has provided the same platform of exposure for some markedly less skilled (I’m trying to remain politically correct here) and otherwise undeserving individuals who, for often inexplicable and/or unbelievable reasons, manage to maintain more than their fair share of attention and longevity in front of a large audience.

In my personal opinion, the 2007 season of American Idol has been even less believable than years past, and for those who have been watching I’m sure you have your own opinions as to who fits where, so I won’t waste time here with mine…with one notable exception that is actually germane to this particular review, and that is contestant Chris Sligh. After a performance that many agreed was a bit short of his best of the season, Chris was voted off the show last night, to the dismay of his many fans and supporters, which also happen to include many members of this website (CMCentral.com) where Chris has been an active member and participant over the past several years. It was fun cheering on one of our own as he made it through round after round, and it was a bit disheartening to see that come to an end last night. Yet while Chris may not have attained what some might see as the ultimate goal of becoming the last contestant standing on the show, Chris’ impressive vocal ability, unusually charming and self-deprecating wit, accentuated by his not-your-typical-rock-star appearance have earned Chris a significant fan base and, in this reviewer’s opinion, a well deserved measure of respect and recognition, both for himself and for the band Half Past Forever, for which Chris had been the front man since the Fall of 2005 until his acceptance into the current season of American Idol. So to give credit where credit is due and to see (or rather hear) what Chris can do outside of the confines of American Idol, I purchased the download of Take A Chance On Something Beautiful, which released on March 14th. Here is my take on the album:
First of all, let me just say that it was smart business for the band to put everything together and release the album when they did. The band has not been shy or evasive about their desire to achieve commercial success, nor have they tried to hide their attempt to create music that has wide commercial appeal. And regardless of the quality of the end product, Chris’ exposure from the show alone would have been sufficient to drive significant sales (we have all seen some downright awful albums rise up the charts for no other reason than press coverage or celebrity). However, even though press coverage and celebrity can drive album sales far higher and longer than would otherwise be possible based on merit alone, if the quality doesn’t measure up then eventually the fall from the top can be precipitous and often permanent, especially for a previously unknown band or artist riding that tide for the first time. Thus, I am quite happy to report that Take A Chance On Something Beautiful delivers surprisingly high on substance, quality and radio-friendliness, and even more importantly it seems to promise a bright future for Chris and the band if they continue to work together.

At first listen, it becomes clear that American Idol did not really allow for the proper showcasing of Chris’ vocal range and ability. Much like contestant Chris Daughtry of last season, Chris Sligh is clearly much more comfortable in the context of a rock band and his vocal control and strength is most impressive and at home within that framework. While not delivering an entirely original sound, Half Past Forever still delivers a sound all their own, and as a whole the album feels very consistent and solid throughout. From the first song to the last, Chris and his band manage to achieve a level of sonic intensity and solidarity that holds at a level that is unusual for such a relatively brand new band, although it is Chris’ vocals that carry most of the songs and in the end make this an album that stands a cut above most others in the genre of intelligent rock. On many of the songs, layers of keyboard and strings serve to fill cracks that might otherwise have been left open and help provide for a very full rock sound. Although their website credits only Chris and guitarist Adam Fisher for the production, engineering and mixing credits, Take A Chance On Something Beautiful feels and sounds like a major label release, and in my opinion delivers great value for the dollar.
Standout tracks on the album include t - Sean Von Tagen (CMCentral.com)


Take a Chance on Something Beautiful:
Know (Single - Rock)
In A Moment (Single - Pop/Rock)
Somewhere (Single - Rock)


Feeling a bit camera shy


With former Half Past Forever member Chris Sligh, what started off as a simple love for music and a desire to be a songwriter, has slowly transformed into something bigger. "Over the last few years, I have worked hard at the craft of songwriting, and even harder at becoming a great singer. I'm not saying the work is paying off, but i am starting to see some dividends...finally."

When you sit down with the members of Half Past Forever, it is a welcome breath of fresh air from the expected. The band, made up of former HPF member, Chris, and current members Adam Fisher and Cole Edmonson, is polite, concise and funny. It seems that the only things the band takes seriously are their faith and their music. Otherwise, nothing is taboo -- from politics to what they call religion to just simply cracking jokes on each other, it's all part of their genuine friendship.

"We feel like rock stars should be fun. For way too long, people have been taking themselves way too seriously when it comes to music," says Cole, the band's bassist.

The band's lead guitarist, Adam, chimes in, "We take our music seriously, but we certainly do not take ourselves seriously."

"The vision of this band, from the beginning," says former HPF member, Chris Sligh, "was for me to write good songs that we could put together in a way that would not only rock, but would encourage our audience to take part in our music. There are not a lot of bands now-a-days that walk that fine line between art and commerce -- not that we're successful at that -- but we wanna be."

When pressed for more meaning on this, Adam says, "There is nothing wrong with a band aiming to please audiences while still be true to themselves. No one is just one thing: no one is all artist. We are all complex -- why do we expect for musicians to limit themselves one way or the other -- making art or making music that isn't so artful?"

The former HPF member, Chris, responds: "Yeah, I mean, why do we look down on certain bands because they make accessible music? Obviously, the goal of art is to transcend, but really -- when it comes down to it -- we make music for the audience, and if we make self-indulgent crap that only we like...well, we've failed. The greatest way to make music, the way you see great bands like The Who and the Beatles and Pink Floyd is that they make music that the audience can connect with, then surround it, or perhaps infuse it with stuff that is perhaps a little more self-indulgent...a little more 'strange' if you will."

Cole, who at age 19 is the youngest member of the band, interjects his version of the concept it takes many musicians years to figure out. "We want to make music that we like. But we want to be successful and we don't think there's anything wrong with 'selling out' -- as long as 'selling out' doesn't change the way we make music."

The band's "way of thinking" has always been to write great songs that audiences can sing along with, then "smarten them up" by adding in as many elements as they can. They are never satisfied with the sound that would be expected.

Take a Chance on Something Beautiful is a cacophony of catchy songs that will have audiences singing along interspersed with odd, esoteric instrumental tracks and effects. The 14 tracks come together to form an album that is an experience from start to finish. Half Past Forever seems to be a long-lost band that makes albums instead of singles.

"I would say that I write more form an album standpoint than I do from a single standpoint," says lead singer and main songwriter, former member Chris Sligh. "Don't get me wrong, i think a song like 'Know' or 'In a Moment' are both singles...but as I write and as we produce and record, I am thinking about how to tie in a whole album together."

Adam concurs, "An album is a lot bigger than a simple song. Lots of people can write great songs, but it's tough to put together a full album that ties together and is a callback to the days of making great album, like the late 60's and 70's."

"My goal with this album," says former HPF member, Chris, "Is that people would come away with a sense that there is more to hear with each successive listen...yet there is something familiar in the way I write. I think when I listen to my favorite writers, that's the feeling I get. With my favorite artists, I want to hear more in the turn of a phrase or listen for distinct musical performances, yet the songs feel familiar. I really hope that the listener feels the same with this album."