Madonna has written a song specifically for her. Phil Collins has had a number one duet with her. Stalwart producer David Foster, who produced Whitney Houston's iconic "I Will Always Love You," has worked with her. Fleetwood Mac's Steve Nicks was her touring partner. Kenny Loggins, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh have all shared the stage with her. Her name is none other than Marilyn Martin. Most noted for scoring a hit duet with Phil Collins, "Separate Lives" is arguably one of those immortal love songs from the 80s that we can all hum with our eyes closed. After her runaway success with Collins, Martin recorded two pop albums and an unreleased country collection for Atlantic Records. Madonna, in fact, was so impressed by Martin that she even co-penned a song for her. Though Madonna writes the bulk of her own body of work, she rarely (or almost never) writes for other people. But with Martin, the Vogue superstar made an exception. She offered to Martin a brand new cut "Possessive Love" which became Martin's lead single from her sophomore record "This is Serious." Later, Martin was even invited to sing backing vocals for Madonna on her multi-platinum "Like a Prayer" album. As a result, Martin's popularity spread, her voice has since appeared on some of music's most monumental albums. Albums such as Richard Marx's "Paid Vacation," Gary Allan's 'Smoke Rings in the Dark" and Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit's "Tell Me the Truth." Despite all her success in the secular music industry, Martin is also a Christian. She grew up hearing her grandma sing the eternal hymns on her front porch. After all the detours and distractions, Martin is back with her brand new record "Trust, Love, Pray" in 25 years!
"Trust, Love, Pray" as the title suggests is a Christian record that goes back to Martin's roots. This is essentially Martin's only third (released) record in a career that spans for more than thirty years. This time around instead of being surrounded by a legion of songwriters and producers, this record is very much in house. Helmed by her hubby and guitarist Greg Droman, Martin herself penned 9 of the 10 cuts. With the opener "In God's Arms" being co-written by Martin herself and famed scribe Eric Kaz (who has written for Linda Ronstadt, George Strait and Kenny Rogers). Over the years, Martin has donned quite a number of musical personas. After her bubbly girlish pop image on "Possessive Love," her leather slick rock chick look on "Night Moves" or her girl-next- door country gal vulnerability on "Through His Eyes," what is the musical direction of this new record? She answers it in the title of one of her songs, "every way and always." Like a buffet of styles, there is much to enjoy here: from string-laden big balladry to jaunty soul-filled funk to straight ahead vintage pop.
As far as single potential goes "More than a Dream" is the prime candidate. With its Britt Nicole-like dance loops over a persistent percussion line, "More than a Dream" is a contemporary hook laden pop piece finding Martin rejoicing in the ever present love of God. Martin indulges in some Gospel funk ala Salvador in "Stop and Listen;" while she has never sounded more relaxed in the bluesy title cut "Trust, Love, Pray" that boasts a twangy Americana underlining. If you are into cinematic big dramatic productions, "The Arms of God" (co-written by Eric Kaz) with its sweeping strings is a Psalm-like praise to God that is lyrically poetic yet sincerely delivered. Don't let the busy twirl of electric guitars or the layered sounds of the keyboard scaffold you from the confessional honesty of Martin as she echoes many of our struggles with temptations before God. And just when you think Martin has run out of styles, she goes into Gospel with a slight R&B polish on the rowdy "Every Way and Always."
Though the songs are deftly written but some of them lack defining hooks that could grab the listener with greater immediacy. If only Martin could polish up the hooks and make them more prominent, the album would be even greater. Also, the central ideas of some of the songs are not strong enough; for example, "In My Father's House" utilizes a rich Biblical imagery, it would be greater served if the imagery could be expounded more in the song. Other than these quibbles, it is such a joy to have Marilyn Martin back. Though she was great singing about heartbreak with Phil Collins in "Separate Lives," when she sings for the Lord, she sounds even better.