Newsboys had released three albums prior to this one, and had gotten quite a name for themselveas as a crowd-pleasing live band; not to mention the appeal of being the first all-Australian Christian band to make waves on American shores. But it seemed during those three albums, the ‘Aussie Posse’ had not quite found their niche.
Their first two albums–Read All About It and Hell is for Wimps–needed a bit of fine tuning, though their raw energy mixed with a slightly alternative/New Wave sound was appreciated. Their third album, Boyz Will Be Boyz, was a leap into the pop realm, and was a sufficient effort, but they still needed a certain something.
Enter the one and only Steve Taylor.
Here, the band made the right choice in selecting Taylor, the industry’s most creative artist (maybe ever) to help hone their sound from good to great. And it was Taylor whom the Newsboys would stick with on and off for a number of years as not only producer, but also as a co-songwriter (perhaps one could say primary songwriter?).
And Not Ashamed has Taylor all over it with his tongue-in-cheek lyrical and melodic style, as well as a background vocalist and predominant vocalist on the chorus of “Love Comes True,” the album’s final track, “Lost the Sky Again” and as the satiracle ‘guess who’ on the cover of Degarmo and Key’s hit “Boycott Hell.”
Yes, the Boycott Hell cameo seems to have been a bit too hard of an ‘in the face’ punch to a particular song and artist that truly meant well. But the message needed to be said. Though artists back then tried to be cute and clever with their lyrics, they often crossed the line into sheer cheesiness. Taylor, the master of clever lyrics, had the creative authority to criticize, but maybe–just maybe–he went a tad too far.
But the rest of the album makes up for it. Not Ashamed gives us solid performances with the opening EMF -esque “Out of My System,” the anthemic title track, the beautiful blend of new verses to an old hymn on “Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” the catchy, “Upon This Rock,” and the soft, peppy, “Strong Love.”
The next half of the album continues with the EMF/Jesus Jones/C+C Music Factory -esque blend of mid-tempo, strong-yet-soft, catchy tunes such as “Dear Shame,” “We Come Together,” and the aforementioned, “Love Comes True,” “Boycott Hell,” and “Lost the Sky Again.”
Admittedly, Not Ashamed took a little getting used to for some of us who would have just rather had the raw energy of their first two albums smoothed out a bit. The guitar crunch went away as did Peter Furler’s live drumming. But after getting used to the drum machines and heavy synth sounds, this reviewer at least, has come to appreciate the album’s excellence and the newly-improved direction the band took on and progressed from there. Not Ashamed, now nearly 30 years old, has aged well. In fact, I find I like it more now than the day I first picked it up.