Vineyard UK will release ‘Small Group Worship Vol. 02’ on 4th December 2015 featuring Vineyard classics such as ‘Faithful One’, ‘Come Now is the Time To Worship’ and ‘Breathe’ as well as some of the best songs from the latest Vineyard releases. “Uniquely, the songs are arranged into worship sets so that you can just press play and sit back and worship,” explains Vineyard UK. “The CD version also comes with a DVD, so you can simply put it into a player and the lyrics will appear on the screen – no more messing around with printing out sheets of paper! Limiting the instrumentation to just acoustic guitar, piano and cello means that these are songs you can really sing along with – and they have been intentionally recorded in keys that work just as well for both men and women.
SALT OF THE SOUND : Echoes of Wonder. (www.saltofthesound.com)
Echoes of Wonder is the latest album from husband and wife duo, Salt of the Sound (aka Anita and Ben Tatlow), a Kickstarter funded follow up to their 2013 debut album “Journeys” and 2014’s “Meditations, Vol 1”. Their aim is to create music that encourages spiritual reflection and is therefore calming and meditative in style. I’m hearing elements of Gungor, Mutemath and Enigma in this album as, whilst reflective, there are lots of electro-pop elements. Arrangements are piano or synth led with the occasional overlay of electronic drums where some extra depth is needed. The opener “Echoes” is a one minute instrumental prologue though I’m not entirely sure of its purpose. I think it would have worked better segued into track two “Did You Hear It?”, the first track to feature vocals, provided exquisitely by Anita. This is followed by another instrumental, “Dawn” featuring ethereal synth pads and a piano melody. There are four instrumentals on this album and this is the best one as it has a focus. The others tend to build to nothing and I find myself wanting some sort of resolution with them. The finest parts of this album are towards the end though. “Bring the Rain” is my favourite song, with a strong melody but I also like the final two songs, “Unveil My Eyes” and Dwell Among Us”. Both of these feature some really powerful harmony work which I would like to have seen featured on the earlier tracks. Overall, it’s a good album but does lack a little variety. There is a reliance on similar sounds throughout each track. This does allow it to achieve consistency but a little more creativity could have made this a stunner. 7/10 Robin Thompson.
MARY-KATHRYN : Wonders in the Deep. (Rhythm House Records)
Hailing from the USA Mary-Kathryn’s PR describe this her fifth album as “a blend of the elements of soft pop, rock and folk with world music influences as diverse as the continents to create a spiritual amalgam that transcends musical boundaries. Sophisticated without being elitist, understated without being simplistic, Mary-Kathryn displays an emotional depth that can only be described as ethereal.” With 16 tracks this CD is certainly very different from the usual female vocalist offerings at the moment. With some interesting percussive sounds and beautifully sung vocals I found this album to be quite refreshing. If you listen very carefully you can hear similarities to both Julie Meyer (track one Hear My Cry) and Susan Ashton (track four Ships) which is no bad thing! In part this album has a very Mediterranean feel in its instrumental arrangements. I can imagine myself being somewhere hot listening to this. It’s relaxing, easy on the ear and perfect for chilling to. The only negative would be the overkill of electronic effects. Her voice stands well on its own. I found these effects somewhat overshadowed her and at times irritating. Favourite tracks for me would have to be Ships. Based on Psalm 107 it has a somewhat jazz feel in its arrangement. I also enjoyed Hear My Cry which demonstrates Mary-Kathryn’s clear vocal beautifully as it sits on a tight instrumental arrangement. All in all a well-balanced album of songs and an enjoyable experience if you’re looking for a laid back non-intrusive album. 8/10 Angie Lendon.
VARIOUS : My First Bible Story Songs. (Elevation : ELE2094D)
There’s quite a variation in styles on this album, ranging from the calypso version of “Noah’s Song”, to the adult, country rock sound of “Mud on My Eyes”. As well as those, there’s also a cringing classic in the shape of “Yo Ho Ho”, which tells the story of Jonah coming from the belly of a whale, and therefore he must have been very smelly. I did try to remember that these songs were for kids and, on the whole, I think that they work quite well. “Five Loaves and Two Small Fish” is suitably sung by a young child, while “David’s Song” gets a M.O.R pop praise treatment. The ragtime style of “Rocky Wocky Song” didn’t do much for me and, to be honest, I wasn’t too sure what the Bible story was that linked to it. Other stories featured include The Good Samaritan, and the birth of Jesus, as on “Long Ago in Bethlehem”. Both songs are simple to listen to and, while this album isn’t a classic, it should make its way into homes and church groups alike as a valuable resource. 6/10.
Hymns of Worship : How Great Thou Art. (Elevation : ELE2095D)
This release will please the fans of more traditional praise and worship, in the style of the annual Keswick Convention releases. There are no credits for the singers and musicians, but they sound like a fairly competent band. On the whole, it’s all very straight forward, with songs like the title track, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, and “How Deep the Father’s Love”. There’s a new tune to “The King of Love”, which I didn’t like, but I did enjoy “Here is Love”. This newer song felt really passionate, and the guitar solo sits well within the tune. I’m always pleased when “O For A Thousand Tongue” gets an outing, and I wasn’t disappointed by this version. I feel that the rousing chorus lifts the darkest of feelings, and I’m a real sucker for it. I had to smile at the smooth vocals on “At the Name of Jesus”, as they sound uncannily like Cliff Richard – although I’m pretty sure that it isn’t him. Other songs of note include “At the Name of Jesus” and “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”, and together with the other 16 tracks make up a worthy listen. 8/10.
ANNA BLUNT : The Power of the Cross No.2. (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
This is the follow up to Anna’s 2013 album, all put together by the lovely people at Cherith Music. Since being a teenager, Anna Blunt has yearly travelled the length and breadth of Britian along with her parents, two sisters and two brothers, running children’s Bible clubs in many towns and villages. She and her family also live by faith alone. The album sees Anna performing songs written by the likes of Hillsong, Nathan Fellingham, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Don’t expect any Hillsong type backing though! The otherall sound is primarily acoustic, and it all begins with that well known modern worship song “Cornerstone”. Anna has a delightful chorale voice but, sometimes, it doesn’t quite sit right with the song. The classic hymn “And Can It Be” is sung to the modern Fellingham tune and, for me, it spoils the whole thing. “You’re the Word of God the Father” is one of the better songs, and Anna’s vocals fit nicely. “Every Promise” is probably the best song on the album, and richly deserves the said accolade. Music comes from the multi-talented Row Steady, but Anna also plays flute, trumpet and violin, at various times, too. I’d question the choice of songs for this release, as Anna doesn’t quite come across as well as her first album. Saying that, Anna continues to run children’s Bible clubs in many towns and villages, as well as leading services and singing solo’s. 5/10.
I quite like Audio Adrenaline, and have a few of their CD’s in my hoard, so I was looking forward to listening to this. I must admit to having a few doubts though at first though, as the album opens with a section of electronic drums and some very dance flavoured keyboard lines. However, when the band came in all was found to be as I originally expected, and the usual brand of up tempo rock worship songs was revealed. This CD is the first one to feature the newest line up of the band, and also the first time that there have been none of the original founding members involved, and it does, to be honest sound a little different to the other albums, but there is a nice mixture of rock, pop, and even a nod towards punk rock. Maybe this incarnation of the band hasn’t quite decided which way their music is going to go yet; I still found this to be an enjoyable listen. The title track, and “Out Of The Fire” are my favourite songs on here, although I didn’t dislike any of it really. Perhaps die-hard fans will be a bit disappointed with this album, as it certainly isn’t the Audio Adrenaline of the past, but I still think it’s a good record, and I will await with interest to see in what direction the band decide to go. 8/10 Andy Sayner