CASTING CROWNS GAINS RIAA PLATINUM STATUS FOR UNTIL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS

Casting Crowns

Reunion/Beach Street Records artist CASTING CROWNS adds another RIAA Platinum album to its list of accolades with Until The Whole World Hears, making this the band’s fifth studio recording to hit Platinum status. In addition, their latest release, THRIVE, was named the best-selling record of 2014 according the Christian/Gospel Nielsen SoundScan chart.

The record-breaking group also performed at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall on January 24 as part of a full weekend with fans. The unique worship experience featured a 275-member choir (made up of fans from 44 states across the US as well as Canada) and a 40 piece (professional) orchestra. Not just a one-day event, Casting Crowns put together a three-day package that included rehearsals, time to hang out with the band and/or explore New York City. For fans who did not perform, the band offered a “friends and family” package that boasted many perks of its own, including backstage access at Carnegie Hall and a post-concert celebration dinner cruise to the Statue of Liberty.

Casting Crowns is one of the most successful Contemporary Christian artists with its RIAA 2x Platinum record (CASTING CROWNS), three RIAA Platinum albums (UNTIL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS, THE ALTAR AND THE DOOR, LIFESONG) and two RIAA Gold albums (COME TO THE WELL and PEACE ON EARTH).  Having also released four Gold DVDs and four RIAA Gold certified digital singles; the band currently holds the position as Billboard’s top-selling act in Christian music since 2007.

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Review Zone – ELEVATION KIDS : So Much Fun

ELEVATION KIDS So Much FunELEVATION KIDS : So Much Fun.   (Elevation : ELE2052)

Compiled to help you and your children discover the Bible together, this 20 song album features many tracks in the style of today’s popular secular acts. For instance, Damien Herbert’s ‘Brand New Day’ is energetic, teen pop that sounds just like McBusted. It’s not a bad song, and I think that it has great appeal. It’s a pity that the same can’t be said of Doug Horley’s ‘Hi-5’. This time, the song is performed in rap style, that sounds rather dated. ‘Lean on the Lord’ comes over like a bad karaoke nightmare, before the truly awful ‘The Wiggly Waggly Song’ hits the speakers. I know that it’s aimed at the very young, but the backing music sounds like it was played on the cheapest set up ever. If this all sounds like I didn’t enjoy the album, that’s true. But, there were some highlights. Pete James’ ‘Talk to Jesus’ raises the musical standards ten fold, with a song that tells children to talk to Jesus, no matter what they are worried about. Similarly, the Owl City electronica style of ‘I Believe’ is a very good song for youngsters to affirm their faith in Jesus. Other songs that I’d like to forget include ‘God Can Do Anything’ were the song speeds up with each nauseating chorus, and ‘The Vegetable Song’. On the latter, the kids choir list many vegetables, and ends with the line “But I Don’t like Sprouts”. Again, the musical backing is third rate. There’s some cheap, tacky drum beats, and the worst attempt at a slide guitar sound that I’ve ever heard. Finally, just when I’d almost lost the will to live. Damien Herbert’s ‘You Need Not Fear’ raised my sagging spirits. It Gary Barlow was a Christian artist, this is the song that he would write. Melodic, a great tune, and some fine production work. Some of the tracks date back to more than twenty years ago. Sadly, they should have been left there.   4/10.

Review Zone – PRECIOUS MOMENTS 5&6 : Amazing God/How Great Thou Art @elevationmusic

PRECIOUS MOMENTS 5&6 Amazing God How Great Thou ArtPRECIOUS MOMENTS 5&6 : Amazing God/How Great Thou Art.   (Elevation : ELE1999D)

I’m not sure what I can say about this album, that I haven’t already said, whilst reviewing all the previous volumes of this series? Recorded at the Keswick Convention, once again, it features many, well-known songs, with the congregation singing at the tops of their voices, in praise and worship. ‘O For a Thousand Tongues’, ‘Indescribable’, and ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ all get an outing, mid-album, and I thought that these were some of the best versions that I’ve heard, recorded live. I didn’t recognise ‘Every Promise of Your Word’ but the Celtic feel of it, should have pointed me straight away for it being written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. ‘Jesus is the Name We Honour’ is simply wonderful, whilst I also loved the powerful rendition of ‘Rock of Ages’. Other favourites include ‘How Great Thou Art’, and ‘Praise to the Lord’, as well as the rousing ‘Creation Sings’. The Precious Moments series consistently produces fine albums, and this one is no different.   7/10.

Review Zone – VARIOUS : Your Great Grace @elevationmusic

VARIOUS Your Great GraceVARIOUS : Your Great Grace.   (Elevation : ELE2027D)

This 30 track double CD is subtitled ‘Worship Anthems of Grace, Faith, Mercy and Justice, based on 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Although everyone will recognise a few of the tunes, it’s nice to hear so many new songs. It’s one of my favourite modern songs, that starts things off. ‘We Are the Free’, written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin, has lots of energy and never fails to give me a spiritual lift. “Scream it from the mountains, tell it to the masses, that He is God”. Wonderful words, and a lovely song. I also liked the modern country feel of ‘Lend Me Your Heart’. A great female vocal but, sadly, no credits listed. All of the songs have been taken from 5 previous releases, but I found so many of the songs being new to my ears. I particularly enjoyed ‘Our God is Mercy’. Sung by a Leigh Nash sound-alike, she sings; “If your heart is heavy, if your soul is thirsty; There is a refuge, a home for the lonely. Our God is here”. In fact, there were too many good songs on this album, for me to mention. But, Joel Houston’s ‘From the Inside Out’ has a great guitar solo, while Paul Oakley’s ‘Father Me’ is a very pretty little song. As compilation’s go, this one rates highly.   9/10.

Review Zone – MELISSA HUBERT : Jericho @Melissa_Hubert

MELISSA HUBERT JerichoMELISSA HUBERT : Jericho.   (www.melissamusic.co.uk)

This is Brighton based singer/songwriter Melissa Hubert’s second solo album. Like its predecessor, it’s been produced by former Phatfish keyboard man Mike Sandeman. Melissa says that “Most of the songs relate directly to bible characters in a story-telling format that aims to make their perspectives more relatable to a modern audience”. However, ‘I Surrender’ sees Melissa baring her own soul on a song were her vocals simply soar above some wonderful musical backing. The title track tells of a battle and to “stand fast”. I actually thought that the rocky music didn’t do her vocals any favours, as Melissa’s voice is so melodic and pure. ‘Rock of Ages’ is based around the traditional hymn of the same name. With twists and turns, she makes this song into a classic of the future, whilst still remaining faithful, in parts, to the original. There are some lovely musical waves on ‘Rachel’, while ‘The Watchman’ creates a sound like a film score. Production is excellent, and I simply love Melissa’s vocals in this one. ‘You Made Me So’ has a glorious chorus, while ‘Why O Why’ lends just a passing nod to the pop harmonies of The Corrs. Certainly, it’s a very catchy number. Sandeman produces some fine orchestral sounds for ‘The Prophet’, lending all his years of experience to Melissa’s lyrical depth. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear some fine, independent releases by female UK artists. Nancy Sawyer, springs to mind, as do Catherine Francis and Helen Sanderson-White. Melissa Hubert is up there with them, as a very talented young lady.   9/10.

Prophetic Books from Raymond McCullough.

Raymond McCuloughRAYMOND McCULLOUGH from Co. Down, near Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been a professional writer for over twenty years. Beginning with technical articles and reports for UK magazines, he then began publication of an Irish Christian magazine, ‘Bread’, from 1990-96, with his first book, ‘Ireland – now the good news!’ in 1995; co-edited by his wife, fiction author Gerry McCullough. From 1996, for seven years, he and Gerry led a cell-based Christian fellowship in the Belfast area – also producing an album of Celtic & Hebrew worship music, ‘Into Jerusalem’ (2005) and a Celtic pop-folk album, ‘Different’ (2008). In 2008, he began ‘Celtic Roots Radio’ – a 30-minute show of Celtic, folk, folk-rock, Breton, Galician, bluegrass, Cajun, Cape Breton, acoustic and singer/songwriter music, now broadcasting on FM, satellite, webcast and iTunes podcast to more than 100 countries around the world – with around 14,000 downloads/month via iTunes – and syndication beginning on FM stations in Ireland and beyond.

Raymond has written two books on Bible Prophecy. ‘The Whore and her Mother: 9/11, Babylon and the Return of the King’ looks at the Hebrew Prophets. Could the writings of the ancient Hebrew prophets be relevant to events taking place in the world today? http://smarturl.it/Whore-and-her-Mother

Raymond’s second book offering is ‘Oh What a Rapture’. Many are convinced that very soon an event known as ‘The Rapture’ will take place, where bible believers all over the world will suddenly disappear, leaving society at a loss to explain the disappearance of so many. Many non-fiction books, fiction thrillers and movies have capitalised on this theme, earning a fat revenue for their authors/producers. But is this really what the bible teaches? Is ‘The Rapture’ genuine, or a false hope? Are those who trust in it being duped, so that they do not get ready for what is coming? And are they being disobedient to the clear command of the Lord? http://smarturl.it/Oh-What-Rapture