Review Xtra – PERRY LAHAIE: AHEAD

Perry LaHaiePERRY LAHAIE: AHEAD (www.perrylahaie.com)

Perry Lahaie works with Frontiers, with a well-established outreach ministry in the Muslim world and, according to the PR blurb, this follow up to his 2008 debut album ‘Endless Fields’ furthers his foray into “guitar-driven, radio-friendly roots rock”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. It also marks the singer’s first project collaborating with other songwriters rather than tackling all the writing himself but, being unfamiliar with his earlier work, I can’t really judge what difference that has made. As for the album itself, I still believe a good opener is essential (even when so much music is played on shuffle nowadays) and we get one here in the shape of “The End Will Come” which is driven along splendidly by a solid rhythm section and some nice layered guitars and voices, and sets the tone for the rest of the album which maintains its quality throughout. For me, the slower tracks are the real stand-outs, especially “American Dream” and “Help Me Find My Way”, and these also seem to have the most personal lyrics on the album. The latter song also makes great use of strings and provides some welcome variation in sound and tone. To round things off, we have an excellent version of the classic hymn “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name” and a surprisingly low-key finale in the shape of “Come Lord”, another highly effective slower song that could easily be used in a congregational setting. All in all, an excellent album.   David Cooper 9/10

Review Xtra – NICK & BECKY DRAKE : Unique

Nick & Becky DrakeNICK & BECKY DRAKE : Unique.   (Kingsway  : KWCD3298)

Unique is the 4th album released by the Drakes – a husband and wife team responsible for worship leading at St Paul’s Hammersmith as well as New Wine conferences.  The album is billed as “worship for everyone” with an aim of having adults and children worshipping God together.  Most of us will be painfully aware that it’s difficult to please everyone and my own experience of all-age worship CDs has not been great, so these guys have a high bar set indeed!  One of the 1st things I noticed was that the lyrics are kept very simple in most cases which certainly for the younger audience is a huge plus.  However I do think that some older listeners may find the repetition a little irksome, but like I say: you can’t please everyone all of the time.  Musically, what I found with Unique is that some tracks seem to be clearly aimed at kids, such as the opening “Amazing” and “Take the Plank Out” which come complete with choral backing from children and could well be at home as a CBeebies interlude jingle.  Personally, I did find these to have a hint of cheesiness so wasn’t too enthused.  Others however seem to be way ahead and are beautifully arranged and performed by the couple and their musos.  Particular favourites were “Love” – a beautifully simple ballad-style song where Becky takes the lead on vocals which I have to say are fabulously smooth and “God be Glorified” with Nick leading a more lively number, complete with U2 guitar riffs.  It is very clear that the Drakes’ talents complement each other incredibly well in the composition of these self-penned songs across to the musical execution and harmonies.  I cannot imagine all songs working as worship for all ages, but there is a mix of songs across the album which will appeal to different age groups as separate offerings, so could well be a good one to play in the car if you have kids on a long journey and like me you’re slightly irritated by a full-blown kids album.  On the whole, this is streets ahead of anything I’ve heard of this genre so could recommend it on that basis alone.  8/10  Simon Redfern

The Push CommunityThe Push Community is a group of friends, song writers, worship leaders and creative types. They meet to write songs, eat, pray, worship and make each other laugh. ‘Everybody’ is their debut album and features some of the songs they have been writing over the last couple of years. The friends come from different places and churches, so there is plenty of variety within our music, but they have a common heart – to worship Jesus. ‘Everybody’ is out on general release from all the usual outlets (iTunes, Spotify etc.) and on Bandcamp for a donation. #somethingforeverybody.   http://thepushcommunity.bandcamp.com

Review Xtra – VARIOUS : Live Worship from Vertical Church

Vertical ChurchVARIOUS : Live Worship from Vertical Church (Essential Worship 02341 0165-2)

On receiving this thirteen track CD for review I checked out ‘Vertical Church’ and discovered that it is a movement created under the leadership of James MacDonald, the Founding and Senior Pastor of the US ‘mega church’ Harvest Bible Chapel. Its main thrust seems to be an emphasis upon biblical principles and the truth and completeness of the scriptures – so, can’t argue with that! First impressions of this release were not good, with track 1 ‘Open up the heavens’ being typical thrashy and distorted contemporary worship fare. ‘Let your light shine in’ was better, but with track 3 everything changed – my comment against ‘Not for a moment’ says “a breath of fresh air” – and it was. Describing God’s faithfulness and with the repeating line “Not for a moment will You forsake me”, this is a beautiful song lyrically and melodically, nicely arranged, and beautifully sung by Meredith Andrews. And so it continued through tracks 4 and 5 with ‘The greatness of our God’ (“there is nothing that could ever separate us”) delivered by Kyle Fredricks and Lindsay McCaul, and then Heather Headley with ‘All glory’ – a particularly effective arrangement, very well delivered. The only criticism here was that the tempo remained almost identical for these three tracks, everything then suddenly changing with the uptempo and enthusiastic track 6! I had to wait for track 8 for another strong one – Heather Headley with ‘How great is your love’ (“Thank you for the way that You love us”) and then track 10 ‘Thank You for the cross’, ably delivered by Seth McConkey – although I found myself needing to turn up the volume on this one until near the end. The two real standouts for me however were about to follow – tracks 11 and 12 are simply superb. ‘Who will rise up’ cries out for believers to “help the church” and is a great song, brilliantly arranged, and beautifully delivered by Lindsay McCaul. With ‘God you are my God’ we’re back with Meredith Andrews and a powerful song about God’s greatness – another excellent arrangement that climaxes then drops back to close with the repeating title line. Best to ignore track 13 – it’s a prayer and reprise of track 1, and for me simply spoils the end of the album. 9/10. Dave Deeks.

More News – Ring the Bell Movie

Ring The BellRING THE BELL MOVIE : Slick big city sports agent Rob Decker has it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life, and the faith of the people, stands in stark contrast to his own mind set. Torn between these two worlds will Rob have the courage to allow faith to transform his life?
Features Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman and Matthew West along with several baseball all-stars such as Rick Sutcliffe and John Kruk. www.ringthebellthemovie.com

More News – Philippa Hanna

Philippa HannaSheffield based artist PHILIPPA HANNA has announced that due to a number of exciting developments she has taken the decision to put back the release date of her album “Through The Woods” to July 1st 2013. Storm 5 Management say; “We know that so many people have been eagerly waiting so we’re sorry for any disappointment this may cause in the short term, but we appreciate your patience and promise it will be worth the wait! In the meantime we are planning a couple of single release starting with Lighthouse, which is available for download now accompanied by a stunning music video.

Review Xtra – VARIOUS : Your Grace is Enough

Your grace is enoughVARIOUS : Your Grace is Enough.   (Benson Records : 84418-0882-2)

Sub-titled “Today’s best known worship songs”, I was at somewhat at a loss when I perused the track listing. There seemed to be so many songs that I hadn’t heard of before. Closer inspection of the sleeve notes revealed that this was, in fact, an American release so, obviously, some of the songs haven’t made it across to the UK as yet. Matt Maher kicks things off with a strong version of ‘Your Grace is Enough’, closely followed by a typically classy rendition of ‘Mighty To Save’, led by Michael W.Smith. Mac Powell and Danielle Young present a pleasant duet on ‘God of Wonders’ while the highlight of the album has to be Rebecca St James on ‘You Never Let Go’. Rebecca has a terrific voice and there is such feeling in this song. Leeland provide a watery version of ‘Majesty (Here I Am), and both Third Day and Casting Crowns feature on a couple of new songs. It’s not a bad album overall, but I can’t see me playing it again very often.   6/10.