THE REVIEW ZONE
With grateful acknowledgement to: AUTHENTIC, ELEVATION, EMICMG, FIERCE, INTEGRITY, JOININGTHEDOTS DISTRIBUTION, McCAIN, SURVIVOR & VERITY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS.
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
TENTH AVENUE NORTH : The Struggle. (Reunion Records : 02341-0163-2)
This is on the whole, a fairly up tempo rock album. Some of the songs are contemporary, some of them are worship songs. The lyrics deal with the general doubts and worries of everyday life, and I would think that there would be something on here that just about everyone could relate to in some way. The music reminds me a lot of U2, in particular the vocals. I didn’t find any tracks on this CD that I didn’t like though. The title track is very good, and there’s a track called “You Do All Things Well”, which I thought might be a cover of Chris Tomlin’s identically titled song. It isn’t though, It is one of the best tracks however. This will appeal to anyone who likes straightforward no nonsense rock music. Definitely worth a listen if you get the chance. 9/10. Andy Sayner.
NIGEL & ROWENA : Emmaus Road. (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
Husband and wife Team Nigel & Rowena Steady have been playing music together since 1982. After around 4 years, they recorded a cassette of songs, and this Cd is a re-master from that original recording. Music comes from acoustic guitar, piano, and keyboard, and along with Rowena’s vocal delivery, the style is pretty much folky. The songs are unashamedly evangelistic in most cases, such as ‘Hearken’ and ’Seed Packet Song’ which tell of how Jesus can give you a new start, and how you can be born again. After the gentle pace of the first, two songs, ‘Take My Hand’ is more uptempo, but rather short to make a lasting impression. ‘Mary Magdalene’ is a very thoughtful song, looking at how Mary was feeling after seeing Jesus die on the cross. It’s one song that gives the listener time for reflection on the subject. The title track is, perhaps, the strongest cut, and sticks in your head for a while afterwards – always a good sign, I think. Towards the end, the couple sing a Bryn Haworth song called ‘Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness’. I’d never heard it before and, although this version is very well done, I would like to hear Rowena’s sweet vocals with a fuller backing sound. The rise in the use of computer generated music since the original recording has meant that albums like this are few and far between. Perhaps that’s why this collection of songs sounds so fresh. It will be interesting to see how Nigel & Rowena’s new album sounds in a few months time. 7/10.
DAVE CLIFTON : Old Sea Road. (www.littleroom.com)
For those of you who haven’t come across Dave’s music before, then, his Little Room Music company have been recording and publishing for nearly twenty years. His own music pedigree has seen him tour with the likes of Bob Geldof, Suzanne Vega, and Clannad, amongst others. This latest 5 track EP is clear of any electronic loops or samples and features the musical sounds of mandolin, guitar, violin, and whistles. ‘Old Sea Road’ is written about a traditional music pub that he and co-writer Phil Baggaley visited in Ireland. Dave’s voice is very warm and reminded me of 90’s Leeds based artist, Joe King. It’sa really nice song, and one that I enjoyed listening to. ‘21st Century Song’ looks at our busy lives and how we not only fail to make time for God, but our family as well. The overall sound of each song is crisp and clear, while you just can’t help loving Dave’s vocal tones. ‘The Water Is Wide’ is a wistful love song, while the closing ‘Welcome Home’ sees David Fitzgerald’s whistle accompanying Dave’s mandolin on a short but enjoyable celtic jig. The download version from the website is for sale at a “name your price” option, and that’s a bargain! 8/10.
FRED HAMMOND : God, Love & Romance. (Verity : 88697-80990-2)
As original co-founder of the RnB gospel group Commissioned, Fred Hammond’s career span more than twenty years. This latest 2 CD package contains a mixture of romantic ballads with traditional, worshipful gospel originals. There are also a number of spoken Bible verses that relate to the following song on the track listing. The first disc concentrates on human love and relationships, especially marriage. ‘When I Come home to You’ declares the joy of a husband being so grateful for the love of his wife. It’s a nice song, and a very smooth sound. ‘I’m In Love With You’ needs no description, it’s just a very simple love song, in the Teddy Prendegrass style. I must admit that the dialogue between songs didn’t help the flow of the music but it did show that a lot of thought and prayer had gone into the make up of the album. The second CD is basically praise and worship, and includes the hit single ‘I Feel Good’. Again, the music is smooth RnB and works well on songs like ‘I Will Lift Him Up’ and ‘You’re Gonna Make It’. U.S gospel doesn’t always make the transition to the UK but this one is worth a listen. 7/10.
FIKE : The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For. (Integrity : 50572)
This is the debut CD by husband and wife worship leaders Richie and Dana Fike, from Colorado. Slickly produced pop ccm, some tracks feature Dana on lead vocals, others Richie. Both are accomplished, note-perfect vocalists (with no discernible auto-tune present(!) – Richie’s voice a typical ‘tenor with gravel’ and Dana’s clear and pure. The overtly ‘Christian message’ lyrics can be easily followed, and are also included in the CD insert. Opening with the title track, Dana takes lead vocals on what is in effect Fike’s equivalent of Phatfish’s ‘There is a day’ – i.e. about Christ’s second coming. This is a good album overall, but three tracks stand out for me. I wasn’t surprised to discover that the bouncy ‘Wait’, with Richie on lead, was evidently released as a single – I’m blowed if I can remember the artist/band that this track reminds me of, but it’s very good! Dana’s slow, worshipful delivery of ‘Glorious You are’ is very effective, and the slow and bluesy closer ‘That’s why I praise’ best shows what Richie can do vocals-wise – excellent. Downsides? Only one really – with mostly good sound quality, it is a pity that one or two tracks sound thrashy and compressed. I must mention however that the front cover features a clock (‘the moment we’ve been waiting for – geddit?!) that has its hands out of alignment! Significant, or what? A worthy 8/10. Dave Deeks
THE REMISSION FLOW : The Light That Floods. (www.7coremusic.com)
Based in Monaghan Ireland, the Remission Flow are seven ordinary musicians, from across the sectarian divide. Having originally formed to lead worship at the Remission youth event, the band are united in their love for Jesus, passionate about leading people in sung worship and desperate to see God heal and restore lives. After the release of two singles, this is the album that the media has been waiting for. It’s not your ordinary worship album, but there lies its strength. ‘Walls’ opens proceedings, and I particularly liked the football chant ending. I can see this taking off at live events! The strongest track though, for me, is “The Father’s Love”. It’s not really a singalong type of song, but it has a beat that buzzes in your head. Darren Mulligan’s vocals are different enough to stand out from the crowd, and it was good to be able to hear every word that he sings. “Your Word” is one of those simple repetitive praise songs that you just can’t help joining in with. There’s also some infectious guitar work too. The lyrics of each song are plain and simple such as the phrase my “Saviour died for me” on “My Saviour Lives”, and the “Love of Jesus” on “All Creation”. Don’t expect The Remission Flow to be “just another P&W band”, they’re much more than that. With a sound that has already created their own identity, I’m sure that we will be hearing a lot more of them in the future. 8/10.
VARIOUS : Say the Word. (Elevation : ELE1752D)
This album has been produced for those who can’t read, or English is their second or third language. It contains easy to remember songs that enable people of all sorts, ages and abilities to express their worship to God. I’m really pleased I read this, because otherwise, I would have been greatly disappointed by this collection songs, written and performed by a host of unknown artists. Both ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’ and ‘Send Your Light’ sound as if they are aimed at very young children. We then move onto some more adult worship with ‘Jewel in the Crown’ and ‘We Trust in You Jesus’. Chas Spradbury’s ‘Praise God For He Is Mighty’ is one of the few tracks that I can see being used in collective worship, and stands head and shoulders above anything else. There’s also a disc containing backing tracks of all the songs, but I certainly won’t be using them. I’m not sure that the album really hits the mark. 4/10.
Little Room Recordings (Website: www.littleroom.com)
The first thing to say before diving in is that this is not a review of the music presented at the Little Room site, but the site itself, which has undergone a significant revamp. Run by acclaimed and eclectic musician, David Clifton, Little Room was formed in 1993 primarily to release material produced by Clifton and Andy Piercey, and the site offers this and much more besides. The focus is on the sale of music for download and offers a number of file formats, not just the classic mp3 so beloved of most. It is easy to navigate, although the fact that you have to click through to a recording’s purchase page in order to hear a sample can make finding something of interest a fairly drawn out process, and there are clearly marked links to both specific artists and different genres. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the usability of the site, and it works well. However, there are some issues, mainly in the style department. Firstly, it is too text heavy, with even the home page livened up by only a few CD cover thumbnails down the left hand side, and I just didn’t find it very inviting. The designers have gone for a fairly muted choice of colours which is fine, but combined with the predominance of text it comes over as a little dull. More of a problem was the decidedly not dull “hot pink” text on the Library page which, when combined with my minor visual impairment, was almost impossible to read clearly. On the plus side, then, there is plenty of content here that you won’t find on mainstream worship music sites but the look and feel doesn’t grab the attention, which probably won’t encourage visitors to spend the time needed to find something new to listen to. 6/10 David Cooper
SPRING HARVEST : Live Worship – Actually. (Elevation : ELE1734D)
With worship leaders like Vicky Beeching, Mark Beswick, Pete James, Geraldine Latty and Cathy Burton on show, you know that this collection of songs are going to lift your spirits. Of course, there’s an uplifting opener, and on this occasion it’s Brian Johnson and Jeremy Riddle’s ‘You Are Good’. Expertly sung by Pete James, it has a worshipful verse, followed by a great chorus of praise. Vicky Beeching sings her own song, ‘Better Than Life’, and somehow manages to weave a verse of ‘Amazing Grace’ seamlessly into it. ’Praise the Lord With Me’ has few words but is strangely infectious and really draws the listener into praise. I’m always on the look out for those songs that can easily be used in a church environment, rather than just a big top celebration, and Samuel Lane’s ‘Adore Him’ is one. Cathy Burton sings it, and does a great job, too. Unlike some live recordings, the sound quality is very good throughout, and it’s also nice to hear some of the audience singing gloriously along to songs like ’My Heart Is Singing Loud’. Well done everyone, this is a very good album. 9/10.
LLEF (The Cry) : Sound of Wales. (Elevation : ELE1680D)
Sound of Wales are more than just a worship band, they are a worship ministry, a collective of musicians based in Wales who want to be part of revealing Jesus glory to the earth. They are about impacting communities with the power of music and training up the next generation of worship leaders. And now they have collectively released a worship album. The four main musicians involved in this project are Cath Woolridge, Jon Goode, Mark Galozzi-Hibbert and Rachel Mathias though there are many others than contribute to the album including the Dependent Sessions Male Voice Choir – well you cant have an album from Wales without one can you?! It features a collection of eleven songs written by the team (though mainly Cath and Jon) and some traditional hymns in a contemporary style. Of the latter you will find Stuart Hine’s arrangement of “How Great Thou Art” and the undervalued “Here is Love Vast as The Ocean” with lyrics in Welsh and English. There are Celtic nuances in the sound, unsurprisingly, but it is not strongly a Celtic album. For the most part though, it does seem to offer a fresh perspective on contemporary worship – there is definitely a “sound of Wales” in there – and Cath’s mezzo vocals are a welcome change to the more regular and ubiquitous sopranos that usually take centre stage. “Your Way, Yahweh” and “Romans 8” are the stand out original pieces for me and although it seems to lose a little consistency of style towards the end, it is a an excellent debut. 8/10 Robin Thompson.
PLANETSHAKERS : Heal Our Land. (Integrity/Columbia : 00076850772)
Ever since the first Planet Shakers conference in Australia in 1997, the band leading worship there have produced no less than 25 albums and in the process have gained quite a following across the globe. Of these releases, over half have been live recordings and this one joins that throng, bringing the expected mix of incredibly catchy rock anthems, bouncy pop numbers and atmospheric ballads. “Supernatural” opens up for us with a high octane rock anthem complete with thumping drum rhythms, catchy riffs and synths. The 2nd track “Good to Me” is more synth led and had a distinct 80s Euro flavour to it which brought back many memories of my mis-spent youth! If you have any energy left, the pace continues with “Do It Again” until the title track “Heal Our Land” allows you to catch your breath and relax a little with a more worshipful ballad with some Psalm like poetic words of worship. In addition to the CD, you also get an accompanying DVD of the live tracks, including “Nothing is Impossible” which features no less than giant of the Gospel scene Israel Houghton I sometimes find such DVDs a bit of a damp squib but this one is well shot and does help convey something of the event’s atmosphere. As a listening experience, it is hard to fault this package: great production, a sharp set of musicians plus some memorable tunes and riffs. However if I do have to find a possible flaw, it would be that it does tend to feel like a bit of a holy disco at times as opposed to an out-and-out offering of worship. That said though, this could work in its favour in appealing to a more secular audience which is no bad thing. I cannot help but like this album and there’s little chance of it sitting gathering dust here! 9/10 Simon Redfern