NFN AWARDS FOR 2014
Contemporary Album of the Year
|1. Ian Yates
|2. The Neverclaim
|3. Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil
|4. Antonio Neal
|5. Beth Croft
||Rule in My Heart
UNITED PURSUIT : Endless Years. (Elevation : ELE2058D)
After giving a rather poor review of their previous album, I was a little nervous about listening to this offering from United Pursuit. But, unlike their last outing, ‘Endless Years’ does have some spiritual food for the listener. The ragamuffin style of music has been replaced by a full, well produced sound that, on the whole, is pleasing to the ear. For instance, a great guitar sound leads the way through the song ‘Commission’. Indeed, this was my favourite track on the album. Mind you, ‘People of God’ and ‘Colourful’ run a close second. On the former, Will Reagan sings “I will follow you, I want to go with you Jesus”, taking one step at a time – a timely reminder to us all. On ‘Colourful’, there’s almost a dance feel to the number, in a Scissor Sisters sort of way. There’s definitely more depth to the writing on this album, and that really hit the right notes with me. “Can you feel my heart as I reach for you”, ring the lyrics of ‘Reach for Me’. A slight Celtic production to the sound results in an engaging song. The football chant on ‘Set A Fire’ just adds to, what is, a classic praise and worship number, while ‘Your love is Better’ follows similar suit. It’s not your run of the mill praise and worship album, but it’s make up results in a very interesting album. 7/10.
South Yorkshire based, PAUL WHITFIELD & the Aqua Babes have released a charity Christmas single called Put a Smile on Your Face’, with all proceeds going to the Wakefield Hospice. It’s available from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/put-smile-on-your-face-its/id945818034 If you would like a CD copy, then please contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLECTIVE VOICES : Volume 1. (https://thecollectiveuk.bandcamp.com)
This is, so the Bandcamp site for this album states, “a compilation of new UK grassroots worship music from a selection of up and coming songwriters.” I like up and coming artists. They’re usually rawer, more earthy and oftentimes more innovative than established and mainstream acts. I also like the title, “Collective Voices” as it evokes a sense of a colourful palette of different tones and characteristics. So that’s the impression it gives me, but does it match up to that? For sure, it starts off well enough. “Christ in Me” from Ian Yates is a guitar/electronica hybrid that moves along at a medium pace. I’m reminded of Mutemath or Haydon Spenceley. Matt Hill’s “Million Words” has a great Stones-like guitar intro with a song that sounds a bit like Bryan Adams. By the time we get to The Bright Expression’s “Gravity” though the main flaw with this album becomes clear. The voices are actually quite similar and therefore the album doesn’t present the variety and colouration I might have hoped, and looked forward to. This is exacerbated by the songs all being pretty mid-paced and similar in feel. So rather than a compilation, it feels like it’s the same band . It’s not until we get to the song “Hope of Glory” that we get a significant change with a female voice. To be fair, these grassroots artist are excellent at what they do, but what they do is all very similar and quite mainstream. So, not really a winner for me. It struggles to stand out in a crowded marketplace. 6/10. Robin Thompson
RICHARD JAMES BUTT : Conversation. (www.richjamesbutt.co.uk)
Born and raised in South- East London, to a Jamaican Mother and an English Father, Richard was exposed to different types of music that ranged from ‘The Who’ to ‘Stevie Wonder’ and ‘The Beatles’ to Christian devotional music. As a result, he has an eclectic taste in music and the music he creates draws from this wide base of influences. This 6 track EP produces an array of musical styles, some powerful lyrics, and excellent vocals. Striking guitar notes and an echoing cry ring out to introduce ‘Be My Strength’. It’s a song about finding Jesus, and the theme continues through the next five songs, as Richard explores the realities of life as a follower and friend of Jesus Christ. There’s a little resemblance to David Gray in Richard’s voice on ‘Let Me Sing’. “In my trouble, I will seek you, I will cling to you,” he sings, about moving closer to God. The loving relationship of Jesus is explored in ‘My Lover’ – perhaps my least favourite song. Quite the opposite can be said of ‘Overwhelming Peace’ A really classy song, great vocals and a terrific guitar solo. It builds powerfully, and on one vocal note near the end, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I had to compare the song ‘Not Alone’ to anyone, I would say that it has touches of The Script about it. It’s very melodic, yet still has an edginess that engages the listener. Finally, on ‘Praise Him’, Richard throws everything but the kitchen sink in its production. It’s a glorious finale, and I especially liked the drum beats. Richard says that he wrote the song after being “in a place of personal hardship and God had been ministering quite powerfully to me affirming my identity in Christ and reminding me of his joy over our lives.” Richard’s release shows that he is full of ideas in both song and production. He just needs to find the right recipe to make the most of all his ingredients. 8/10.
SANCTUS REAL : The Dream. (Sparrow Records)
Kicking off with the guitar-driven title track, then moving into electronica, this album gives you a good idea of the bases it’ll cover right from the start. Heavily echoed guitars, driving bass, wonderfully clear vocals. U2 and Delirious? inspired? Maybe (one of their “Number 1s” is a cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day” after all). There’s hints of other late 80s/early 90s classics there, too – such as Joe Jackson and After the Fire, plus Anathema and Snow Patrol from later years. It’s more gentle rock than driving rock, but very well done and deserving of more than one listen. It has the stadium-leaping-and-punching-the-air-together numbers too (such as “Same God”). Lyrically it’s very good, covering doctrinal faith as well as God-Person relationship and Person-Person relationship (as related to faith: “Shake ‘em off … at the cross where freedom is found” – “Lay It Down”, for example). “On Fire” does a nice shift from narrating regret over a fellow believer who has lost their spark and praying for it to return, to praying for that same fire for the narrator. It’s a good way to close an album (so I’m not sure what the 1 minute oddity “The Beginning (Outro)” was for – unless it links with other albums I’ve not heard, of course). The album drives nicely along, each track following nicely into the groove the previous has left for it. No new ground, therefore, but a nice addition to the genre. Best track: “Easier On My Heart”. 7/10. Paul Ganney
NEW WINE KIDS : Stand Together. (Elevation : NWWCD2014A)
“There’s nothing quite like seeing children worship”, so says Mark Griffiths, Head of New Wine Kids Ministry. “Childlike faith producing complete abandonment to the God they have encountered and recognised as creator.” Here is a collection of 12 songs aimed to help children worship. John Murphy starts things off with his own song, ‘Number One’. “Jesus is better than the very best”, he sings, in a Michael Buble sort of way. ‘Stand Together’ is sung by Jemima Woodbridge, and what a song it is. “Stand together, stand forever, we will stand strong”. A wonderful message, a fantastic jig enthused riff, and just a brilliant song, for all ages! There’s a Celtic feel to The Rend Collective’s ‘My Lighthouse’, while ‘Here I Am’ is a slow song that can be best described as a child’s prayer. ‘Guardian’ is a more adult sound, unlike ‘Never Far Away’, that epitomises everything I used to dislike about kids songs. I know that it’s for kids, but I still find the references to “roller-coasters, submarines, and aeroplanes” rather condescending. In the same way ‘Shine Like Stars’ includes “spaceships and the milky way,” as well as telling us to “boldly go where He leads us”, with Star Trek connotations. On the contrary, I thought that ‘You Fond Me’ was a very powerful song. “You’re the rock on which I stand”, sings Chris Sayburn. And, although a little repetitive, there’s a very good production to this song. Despite my reservations on one or two tracks, this is still a good album and resource for people with young children. 7/10.