Review Xtra – Spring Harvest Praise 2014 Digital Songbook

Spring Harvest Praise 2014 Digital SongbookSpring Harvest Praise 2014 Digital Songbook : (Spring Harvest/Elevation SHM1935B)

I love digital songbooks. The convenience is excellent – having everything in an electronic format ready to print out or load into a tablet or whatever song software we like to use. In fact they are infinitely preferable to their weighty and bulky paper-based counterparts. This collection features 100 songs all written within the last three years from writers such as Ben Cantelon, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Martin Smith etc. Even Graham Kendrick gets a look in! The added benefit of this collection is that it comes with a copy of Power Music Essentials which you need to install in order to see and use the songbook. In fact, the disc contains just the software – not the songs. Once you have installed the software you then download the songs using the enclosed voucher code. The advantage of this is that you can download future collections or any other song compatible with this system. The software itself is pretty easy to use and quite flexible, so if you want to change the key of a song this is easy to do using the transpose function. If you want to print out the capo chords for guitar, this is just as easy, using the Capo function. You can also manually add songs if you wish, import from text or pdf files and there is even an inbuilt guitar tuner. All useful stuff. The package also comes with a hard copy of the songbook containing the chord sheets for all the songs but this has limited use as it is not very big (but you’re not buying it for that!). Beginner guitarists may find the guitar chord charts useful though. On the whole, a good package and a worthwhile investment.   9/10   Robin Thompson.

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Review Xtra – Spring Harvest : Unbelievable – Live Worship

Spring Harvest Unbelievable - Live WorshipSPRING HARVEST : Unbelievable – Live Worship.   (Elevation : ELE1934D)

First of all, and this is not meant to be an advertisement, I just want to say how well Elevation and Spring Harvest manage to consistently capture such brilliant live sounds at big top events. The UK market may not be as large as the US, but I know who’s recordings sound the best! The album contains 15 songs, ranging from upbeat and dynamic to reflective and faith-inspiring. It all starts with Cathy Burton leading the worshippers in ‘This is Amazing Grace’. It’s a glorious and powerful start, and one that’s carried on with high octane sound of ‘Let It Be Known’. I simply loved ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’. Great rhythm, excitement filled, and what a vocal! It was only when I looked at the sleeve notes that I found that it was none other than Pete James leading. I think I’m becoming a big fan of his, as I also liked ‘Sing and Shout’ were, once again, Pete’s vocals excel. Indeed, I’d love this song to be given a real celtic treatment by Keith Getty. What a song that would be! ‘Ready For You’ is a Coldplay-clone number, but I was quite disappointed with the Nick Herbert version of ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’. Although the worshippers lap it up, it just didn’t sparkle enough for me. Towards the end of the album, it’s time for some slower numbers, and it’s great to hear everyone gathered, in such fine voice. ‘The Same Power’, ‘God I Look To You’ and ‘The Cross Stands’ are just full of pure, magical worship and praise. Of course, those who were there will love this album. But, for those who weren’t there…..this will show you a glimpse of just what you missed!   9/10

Review Xtra – Matt McChelery : All Things New

Matt McChelery All Things NewMATT McCHELERY : All Things New.   (www.mattmcchlery.com)

This is the third recording from Matt McChlery and is a collection of songs that focus on the theme of freedom and Salvation. Indeed, he’s also written a book which also focuses on the theme of salvation and gives a biblical outline as to why we need salvation, as well as an invitation to it. However, back to this 6 track EP. ‘Won My Heart’ was co-written with Ryan Barker-Barnes, and has an 80’s electro sound to it. Declaring God’s amazing power to save, it has a catchy chorus, that is easy to learn, and one that the listener will enjoy joining in with. Starting with those immortal words from John 3:16, ‘Emmanuel’ carries another pleasing chorus, and finds Matt at his best, vocally. Indeed, his vocal prowess sometimes reminds me of a cross between Stuart Townend, and Welsh singer, Phil Lewis. I particularly liked the way that ‘Fingerprints’ reflects upon the idea that God is involved in every part of our lives. He leads us to salvation, takes care of our future, and gives us hope. The lyrics are lovely, but I felt that the song didn’t quite live up to the happy and joyous sound I expected. The title track and ‘Forevermore’ are quite attractive to the ear, while the closing ‘Thank You Jesus For Loving Me’ gives us more food for thought with lyrics such as “Thank you Jesus for loving me, thank you for the price you paid for me”. Focussing and giving thanks to God for the amazing gift of salvation, it reflects quite strongly upon the cross and the broken state of sin that came in as a result. Matt tries to fit a lot into just six songs, but I feel that he does this quite well. Some songs, I can see being used in church for collective worship, whilst others are meditative. All in all, Matt can consider this project quite a success.   8/10.

Review Xtra – Andrew Ehrenzeller : Children of Promise

Andrew Ehrenzeller Children of PromiseANDREW EHRENZELLER : Children of Promise.   (Jesus Culture/Elevation : ELE2028D)

Andrew Ehrenzeller is a native of Florida, and a relative new addition to the Jesus Culture label. Unlike a lot of the worship orientated sounds to come out of that stable, Andrew’s music is a little more personal. The theme running throughout the track listing is one of a journey – a journey, moving forward, with God by your side. I liked the pizzicato introduction to the opening ‘Cornerstone’. It made for an interesting sound, as Andrew sings about the assurance that he has, in that Jesus (the King) will return. On the title track, Andrew sounds a lot like Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon, and the song does have that rock feel. ‘(Your love is) Better Than Life’ gets a little over produced, and at times, it’s quite difficult to hear the lyrics. ‘Set My Love’ is an acoustic number, while ‘Meet You There’ becomes rather reflective in its demeanour. I must admit that I think that this is one of the best albums to come out of Jesus Culture. Some of the live stadium albums sound rather false, as if they’ve been robbed of feeling. This one, however, has some rough edges, but I found that quite appealing. One last mention must go to the song ‘Salvation’. It contains some very heavy brass sounds and reminded me a lot of Peter Gabriel’s ‘”Sledgehammer”. Apart from that, a spirit filled release.   7/10.

The Review Zone – Doug Horley & Mark Read : Songs from the Musical Noah

Songs from the musical noahDOUG HORLEY & MARK READ : Songs from the Musical Noah – a Musical Adventure.   (Elevation : ELE1987D)

Musicals are not really my thing, and I rarely find CDs based on musicals to be worthwhile – but this is great and stands up in its own right. Including a full set of printed lyrics and originally released in advance of the musical itself, here we have well written songs that clearly tell the story, excellently produced, and with top notch sound quality – altogether a great way to encourage lots of people to see the musical! It is difficult to pick standout tracks as the writing and performances are of such high quality. ‘Waiting for the rain’ is particularly effective however, being largely narrative with orchestral accompaniment. ‘It rained’ is given a brilliantly exhuberant gospel treatment. Ruthie Henshall, who plays Mrs Noah, makes an excellent job of ‘An ark in the garden’s not funny'(!). Under the umbrella of the Saltmine Theatre Company, the team evidently put many hours into this project by faith, but then sought funding to ‘achieve the excellence and exciting puppetry and innovative sets that we would like to bring to our audiences’ – subsequently gained by the end of March this year, leading to the musical’s launch in May. Based upon the music, I am sure that this humorous musical will prove an extremely enjoyable and entertaining way to spend time with the family. A big ‘well done’ to everyone concerned. 9/10. Dave Deeks

The Review Zone – Anchor Music : Hope of Glory

anchor-music-hope-of-gloryANCHOR MUSIC : Hope of Glory. (www.anchormusic.co.uk)

Anchor Music is a collection of worshippers from Vinelife Church Manchester. The EP features 6 homegrown tracks lead by four new worship leaders. ‘Hope of Glory’ also marks the first release from those connecting with The Collective, a new movement seeking to bring together creative worshippers from across the UK. Let me say straight off, that this release contains refreshing sounds and some very strong vocals. Penny Larkman is one of the vocalists, and what a pleasing vocal quality she has. “Who can stand against me, if my God is for me?”, is the main thrust of the song ‘Anchor’. God, being the “anchor of my soul”. The title track contains some very run of the mill lyrics, such as “Your death has set me free”, but the song itself is catchy and well produced. Ruth Hill’s voice is simply beautiful on ‘Breathe on Me’. It begins with just a piano backing, and then the sound carefully fills. Indeed, some ethereal vocals and music towards the end of the track, gives the listener the chance to meditate and quietly worship. ‘On the Cross’ is an uplifting song, with Louise Gregg taking over the vocals, while ‘All That We Want’ sees Penny return to lead a worshipful love song to God. I didn’t like ‘This Is Where You’ll Find Me’, when I first heard it, as it didn’t appeal to me as much as the other tracks. However, giving it a second listen, I really enjoyed it’s intimacy, compared to the higher energy of the rest of the EP. On this production, Anchor Music can congratulate themselves on a really good debut.   8/10.

The Review Zone – Various : Celtic Hymns Vol.3

Various Celtic Hymns Volume 3VARIOUS : Celtic Hymns Vol.3.   (Elevation : ELE1971D)

Much like Volume 2 of this series, this new release continues the procession of well known hymns and songs, given a Celtic style treatment. The question is, does playing a tune and adding a whistle or pipe make it a Celtic hymn? ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ starts with whistles and pounding drums, before settling into the tune and melody that we know so well. The rhythm of ‘Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus’ rather hurries the song at break neck speed, whilst the vocals sound rather awkward as they try to keep up. There’s a delightful version of ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ on show. With a backing of whistles and acoustic guitar, the vocals are simply delicious. Similarly, ‘Praise My Soul the King of Heaven’ features a female vocalist who, this time, is accompanied by piano and strings. I thought that the version of ‘Nearer to God, to Thee’ was rather pedestrian in presentation and the result, quite mournful. The album on the whole is quite enjoyable, without being outstanding. However, both ‘Before the Throne of God Above’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ are really good, and help to finish the album on a high.   7/10.