When I was discerning becoming Catholic and when I became a neophyte Catholic, I was purchasing Catholic books on Amazon like they were going out of style. Not every book labeled as "Catholic" on Amazon is authentically Catholic, though. During that time I made some great purchases, like The Lamb's Supper and Hail Holy Queen, both by Scott Hahn. Unfortunately, I also made some regrettable purchases like Richard P. McBrien's Catholicism, which is money I would have been better off flushing down the toilet. I wished and longed for a guide on who to buy, what to read, and a store that carries only products that adhere to the Church's teachings. It took me a while, but I finally found one in Aquinas and More. Aquinas and More is one of the few online stores that you can feel safe buying from, because you know exactly what you will get. They also have an excellent program for bloggers, called Tiber River, where they can get a copy of a recent Catholic book (or other product) for review. Today, I will be reviewing the Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible: New Testament, which Aquinas and More was gracious enough to send to me.
Truth and Life Dramatized Audio Bible: New Testament is an 18 disc, 22 hour reading of the New Testament. The version of Bible used is the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). Unlike traditional audio Bibles that just have one reader, this one has multiple voice actors, as well as music and background noise appropriate to the passage in the Bible. For example, when feeding the 5000 you hear a lot of crowd noise, because well 5000 people would make a lot of noise. Who are the voice actors? There are some major and minor Hollywood actors that you might or might not recognize depending on how much TV or how many movies you see. Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings and Rudy), Kristen Bell (Frozen and Veronica Mars), Malcolm McDowell, Blair Underwood, and Neal McDonough. I admit I got a little distracted from time to time in the Gospel of Matthew, with Sean Astin voicing the part of Matthew the Narrator. He has a great, yet distinct voice, so everytime he talks I had to make a conscious effort to focus on the Gospel and not say, "Hey that's Samwise Gamgee."
Before I discuss the recording, I would like to briefly talk about the packaging. The CDs are packed in three different sleeves, six discs to a sleeve.This isn't the ideal way to keep CDs from getting scratched, but I understand that it is more cost effective. I will give them credit to their package presentation though. Each sleeve unfolds into the shape of a cross, so I have to give them credit for their creativity there.
As for the actual recordings, allow me to present some notes I made while listening. Each chapter is on its own individual track. This is great because it makes for easier navigating. Unfortunately, the book of the Bible and chapter number isn't announced at the beginning of each track. If you are listening through a book straight through, you'll be thankful because that would be distracting. If you are listening to a few a day, then you will be wondering what chapter you are on when you resume your CD on the track it stopped on from the previous day. Some people will find the background music and noise distracting. It didn't bother me, but I can see how it would bother some people, especially because every so often, it did get a little loud/overpowering. The voice actors were also hit or miss. It was great to hear different voices for different people in the Bible, as it helped some passages to really come alive. However, some voices (Neal McDonough as Jesus in particular) really started to get on my nerves after a while. Mr. McDonough spoke like with a bit too much overemphasis and his emotion level or tone just felt off half of the time. It made you wish that instead of getting Hollywood actors that they had just hired experienced audiobook recorders.
Overall, I found the CD set to be quite enjoyable. Was it perfect? No. Could it have been better? Yes, with a few changes in voices and some other tweaks. Would I recommend it? Yes, because there are few Catholic audio Bibles out there, and this one comes with an imprimatur from the Vatican! Will I get the Old Testament one if they ever produce it? Yes. Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.