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Portable Sounds (With Bonus Remixes)

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Album Review

Take this any way you want, but the fact is that Tobymac is pretty much the Justin Timberlake of the Christian pop set. A refugee from a successful boy band, he is jaw-droppingly talented, with a gift for both butt-kickingly funky grooves and irresistible hooks. Like Timberlake, he also knows how to distribute his hooks, doling them out carefully so as to keep your attention focused; he also possesses the admirable ability to work in a wide variety of styles without ever sounding like a panderer or a dilettante. On his third solo album, he opens with the fun and funky "One World," then settles into a pretty neo-soul groove on "Made to Love" before jumping into a rock-ish hip-hop mode on "Boomin'," and then lapsing into straight-up rock & roll on "I'm for You." Every one of those tracks feels perfectly natural — though he does sound a bit too much like a Sting imitator during the reggae interlude near the end of "Made to Love." "Ignition" and the embarrassingly titled "Feelin' So Fly" both invoke the glory days of '70s soul. Almost everything here rises to an almost amazing level of musical quality and pure pop joy; the only flies in the ointment are the between-song sketches (please, someone pass a law against between-song sketches) and the obligatory track featuring his son, TruDog — who seems like a genuinely nice and even talented kid, but whose appearances on his dad's records are just too cloying to be enjoyable to anyone outside the family. Highly recommended overall. [CMG issued a deluxe edition in 2007.]

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Biography

Born: October 22, 1964 in Fairfax, VA

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Toby McKeehan (or tobyMac, as he is professionally known) grew up in the northern Virginia suburbs in the shadow of Washington, D.C., where he fell in love with rap music. While attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, during the mid-'80s, he met Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith (aka Kevin Max), and the three friends formed the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling Christian pop group dc Talk, which mixed elements of CCM,...
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