This year sees the 5th BigChurchDayOut event at Wiston House, Steyning, West Sussex. This annual event continues to be one of the largest national ecumenical gatherings from all sections of the church, as well as attracting increasing numbers of non church goers because of its value as a great family day out. Crowds of over 20,000 are expected on the Bank Holiday weekend (25th & 26th May), and this years lineup of 34 artists includes no less than two of this years Grammy award winners Matt Redman and Israel Houghton, along with 80’s stars Amy Grant and Yazz. Tim Jupp, Festival Director comments that, ‘’so often the media paint a picture of a church that is in decline, but the BigChurchDayOut helps to tell another story, of an active church that is committed to playing its part in the community as well as enjoying two days of great fun together.” In addition, HRH The Prince of Wales has recorded a video greeting to the BigChurchDayOut which will be shown at this years event, and encourages the church by saying that, ‘This unity through diversity offers the world a message of hope.” For more information go to: www.bigchurchdayout.com
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as Dove and Grammy Award winner JOHN SCHLITT partners again with his fans for his newest musical project, an as-yet untitled Christmas CD. The legendary vocalist is teaming with supporters in an innovative approach to fund the new album through Kickstarter, a popular “crowd-funding” platform for creative projects. “For the past few years, my fans have heard me talk about making a Christmas album,” Schlitt says. “The time for talking is over—THIS is the year!” Schlitt, who has never recorded any Christmas music, neither during his 20-year stint as the lead singer with Petra nor as a solo artist, says he has been feeling “a very strong tug” to make this seasonal record. “This past Christmas, I felt regretful about my minimal participation with holiday music, and at the same time, I felt a very strong tug on my heart to ‘get in the Christmas spirit,’ musically,”
Two years ago I reviewed “Be Lifted High” another live worship album from the same church, Bethel Redding, California. I deemed it predictable and derivative; so is this one any better? On the whole, no. The opener “To Our God”, starts things off in a low key way and, whilst it has an engaging verse, the chorus is bland in comparison and lost my attention. The next song “Our Father” is an adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not bad but takes some liberties with the lyrics which are enough to change their meaning. It also finishes with an adlib section which for me, comes far too early in the cd. I’m not ready at this point to go off in the Spirit. I guess this is where it is difficult with a cd as what might have been appropriate at the time, doesn’t work later on a recording. The album continues through a succession of slow to mid pace songs which are fine as far as they go, but don’t stand out from the rather saturated crowd of similar songs out there. It’s not until song number 9 “In Your Light” that I feel the album really gets going by picking up the pace. I don’t doubt their sincerity in the slightest but I think a cd needs more than that to make it work – it needs a freshness and a flow. As my eight year old daughter asked whilst listening to one of the songs “Don’t we do this song at church?” We don’t, but it was so like so many other songs it felt like we do. And that, I’m afraid, is the problem. 6/10 Robin Thompson.
This is the second solo album from Jesus culture’s Kim Walker Smith, recorded during a night of live worship at the Cascade Theater in Redding, CA. There are no credits or song lyrics on the one page cover, but I’m led to believe that most of the songs are originals. There are only 9 tracks in total, but some of them are quite lengthy, so running time is in excess of 60 minutes. ‘Alive’ starts things off, and this is a belter! At times, the backing music sounds a little like a well known Killers’ track, but it’s an absorbing song. With all the press releases highlighting the fact that it was recorded during a night of live worship, I was rather disappointed with the content overall. For sure, Kim has quite a strong voice but I found very few of the songs having any real pull for collective worship. Indeed, songs like ‘Waste It All’, and ‘Healing Oil’ sounded more like performance orientated numbers that anything else. ‘The King Is Here’ is rather repetitive, and both ‘Spirit Break Out/Spontaneous’ and the aforementioned ‘Healing Oil’ were just monotonous. The audience are obviously loving it all but I found them rather tedious to listen to. Despite all the hype, a rather flat collection of songs. 5/10.
Singer/songwriter JULIE ELIAS will share the stage with the likes of Building 429, Newsboys, Plumb and others at the LifeLight Texas Festival, scheduled for May 24-26 at Willowood Ranch, Sherman, Texas, in the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The free festival, which has sister events throughout the world—and is coming to Texas for the first time—gathers top Christian music acts for a weekend of family entertainment. Elias, who will be performing songs from her debut CD, A Wild Rose, will be featured on the Triple Shot Café Stage Friday night and the Main Stage Saturday afternoon for the Memorial Day Weekend festival.
Canadian worship leader Brian Doerksen is one of the most prolific Christian singer/songwriters of this age; someone with whom few can claim to be unfamiliar with. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, his songs most certainly will. Brian started out with Vineyard Music way back in the late 80’s, penning such classics as “Refiner’s Fire”, “Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)” & “Come, Now is the Time” – songs which are sung in many a church pretty much every week across the globe. As the title suggests, The Ultimate Collection features 15 of Brian’s most well known worship songs, including the aforementioned tunes as well as a couple of my personal favourites “”Light the Fire Again” & “Today (As For Me & My House)”. The album features a mixture of live & studio tracks with the quality of the vocals & musicianship being excellent, as you would expect from a guy with such an incredible track record. Having been led in worship by Brian a number of years ago, I have some idea of what he can belt out and it’s amazing! I did find, however, that the album felt a touch over-produced and little bit flat in places and lacking atmosphere. That said though, I did find great benefit in getting to know some slightly less familiar tracks like “Holy God” as well as hearing classics done in a different style – even “Your Love is Amazing” complete with a distinctly Irish feel to the musical interludes. Most enlightening! This album is a great addition to the collection of dedicated fans as well as newcomers & unlike a lot of “best of…” type albums, the element of worship isn’t lost in commercialism which is very refreshing. 9/10 Simon Redfern.
JULIE JACKSON : Finding Sanctuary. (www.juliejacksonmusic.co.uk)
Julie Jackson has been involved in musical worship for a number of years now across different churches. Living in Cumbria for the past 9 years, she has been blessed with writing songs inspired by the Lord that have touched people in the local churches. Recorded at the Linden Studios in Tebay by Guy Forrester, the album showcases this new artist with a collection of delightful songs that are very pleasing to the ear. There’s a summer, Latin feel to ‘I Will Choose’ and ‘Lord You Satisfy’, and Julie’s vocals are very warm. The vocals are often layered, and the result is very good. On ‘If I Don’t Cry Out’, there’s also some nice electric guitar phrases, as well as good harmonies. ‘Here In Your Presence’ didn’t quite do it for me. Supposedly a song of praise and worship, the overall sound is surprisingly quite sombre. ‘I Will Say’ was my favourite track. Based around the simple truth that Jesus died and rose again, it’s a really enjoyable song that would be my pick for a single. Of the remaining tracks, ‘I Cry Aloud’ and ‘When I Look to You Lord’ deserve a mention. Overall, it’s a tidy and well produced debut from yet another talented independent artist. 8/10.