Watch the New Video from Sam Archer

sam-archerThe Big Church Day Out are excited to announce that influential worship leader SAM ARCHER has just released River, the first of 4 brand new songs. Written in 2016, River is also the first song to be launched by the Big Church Day Out’s new publishing arm, ARKYARD.

Sam Archer has had a busy summer leading worship at festivals across the UK, with Main Stage performances at the Big Church Day Out and Creation Fest to name a few.

Sam’s songs reflect his heart to see people singing together in unity, with a love for God and a love for each other that changes communities.

With more songs set for release over the coming months River is also accompanied by a stunning video, see link below, which was filmed at the 1st Century Wiston Chapel that sits at the heart of the Big Church Day Out site at Wiston House.

See the video of the song “River” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L1-oKoocZY&feature=youtu.be

Review Xtra – First Call : Second Birth

first-call-second-birthFIRST CALL : Second Birth. (Elevate Entertainment : B01GUA9AQ8)

I’ve always been a fan of the tight harmonies of vocal group First call so I was delighted to be asked to review this, their reunion album aptly titled Second Birth. The opening track O Sifuni Mungu is a re worked version of a popular song from one of their 80’s albums. It has the tight harmonies you would expect from this vocally gifted group. However there was nothing fresh about this version. There are covers of popular worship songs like Mighty to Save and In Christ Alone as well as an interesting version of the old spiritual Wade in the Water. This was the stand out track for me. I can’t fault the vocals etc but this album felt a bit stale. I would have liked to hear some original songs rather than covers and a fresher, more modern sound. I had great expectations for this album which sad to say weren’t filled and I was somewhat disappointed. 3/10 Angie Lendon.

Review Xtra – Cosmo Moose : Summer Memories/Hola Havana @CosmoMoose

cosmo-moose-summer-memoriesCOSMO MOOSE : Summer Memories/Hola Havana. (www.cosmomoose.bandcamp.com)

For a number of years, Chris Medway has been producing quality instrumental music under the banner of Cosmo Moose. This latest, free, two track single brings together his blend of electronic music, with synthesizers and loops providing the framework of his sound. “Summer Memories” has a very pleasing rhythm, and a tune that was buzzing around in my head for quite some time after a first listen. “Hola Havana” carries on in pretty much the same style, with the addition of a few spoken salutations, thrown in for good measure. The latter track is, perhaps, the most suitable one for dancing to, although there’s little to pick between the two. Chris has always pointed to Jean Michael-Jarre as one of his influences, and it’s easy to see why. The download is free, so why not support Chris and take advantage of the offer. 7/10.

Review Xtra – Skillet : The Platinum Collection @skilletmusic

skillettheplatinumcollectionSkillet – The Platinum Collection. (Ardent : B01K8L5MYY)

Compilations and re-releases are always interesting to critique, as the original releases have already been under the reviewer’s knife so to speak. They have also had time to prove themselves worthy additions to the Christian Music milieu so any further comment or criticism is rather academic and probably not necessary. However, I will attempt to take this 3 cd collection on its merits and for what it is – a fantastic summary of the Skillet story so far. Two of the cds are full previously released studio albums, “Awake” and Comatose”, of which I prefer the former even if “Comatose” was more critically acclaimed. The reasons for this is “Awake” is just a little more akin to the earlier Skillet sound and I prefer this sound to the more radio friendly Skillet of later albums. Which is why, of all the cds in the collection, it is the third one, a compilation of songs from earlier albums, that I find myself coming back to. From the grunt of the opener “Gasoline” to the uplifting “Best Kept Secret”, there is a raw energy, enthusiasm and a freshness that – even though these are “old” songs – they haven’t quite managed to replicate on later releases. It’s a sound not unlike Kings X, not surprising given that Skillet, like Kings X, started out as a guitar, bass and drums three-piece. However, all three albums are excellent and, if you like your music heavy and haven’t yet checked out Skillet, this is a good place to start. 9/10 Robin Thompson.

Review Xtra – Karen Hornsby : Karen Hornsby @KarenHornsby

karen-hornsbyKAREN HORNSBY : Karen Hornsby. (www.karenhornsby.com)

When Karen Hornsby took the microphone on ABC’s innovative reality show, Rising Star, she did more than wow the judges with her remarkable voice. She touched the hearts of viewers around the country with her poignant story. Not only had this young mother survived a horrific collision with a semi tractor-trailer that left her vehicle engulfed in flames, but she later endured her husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, and perhaps most devastating, her 2-year-old daughter Gabi was diagnosed with brain cancer. From places of such deep suffering, Karen writes songs of encouragement for the brokenhearted. There are some really touching songs on this album, including the tear jerking “It’s Me.”. This is a song written after doctors revealed the news of her daughter’s condition. “The Time” is a song about loss, and how God can give you the strength to get through it. It’s piano led, as is the ballad “I Surrender.” Karen, then, moves into a bluesy gospel style for “Celebrate” and “Victory.” Full brass backing and guitars add to the overall sound. Pop songs “Use Me” and “I Will Not Be Moved” are both commendable, but I really liked the Dixie Chicks sounding “Let Go & Let God.” It’s a really good song, and the polished production is enhanced by a great fiddle break. Karen’s vocal prowess is put to the test on “I Need You Lord.” This is a classy ballad, and she storms through the song with finesse. I urge you to read Karen’s story at her website. Maybe, then, you’ll realise just what a personal and powerful set of songs these are. 8/10.

Review Xtra – Ben Lasky : Glorify @BenjaminLasky

ben-lasky-glorifyBEN LASKY : Glorify. (www.benlasky.co.uk)

Ben Lasky is a worship leader & songwriter from Colchester, UK, whose song writing, draws deeply from his own journey with the Lord. This 8 track debut album was recorded live, so it’s a warts and all production. Some of the “warts” are provided by Ben’s vocals which, at times, really strain to keep in tune. He has a vibrato modulation to his voice and struggles when he tries to hold a note. On the opening “Kingdom Come”, Ben takes some words from the Lord’s Prayer and fits them into an indie rock sound, which I found quite stirring. “Justice Reign” chugs along nicely, but the 9 minute song of worship called “Hallelujah” really struggles. Vocally, Ben is not at his best, and it’s really highlighted by the repetitive sung title, which takes over most of the song. Indeed, on both “Glorify” and “The Cross” the monotonous repetition of “We Glorify” and “Thank you for the cross” deter from what could have been two fine songs. Just when I was about to lose hope with this album, Ben comes up with a storming number called “You Alone.” Much in the mould of Tim Hughes or Paul Baloche, the song has everything that contemporary P&W should have. His voice is note perfect, and the live band really comes together for a song that is head and shoulders above anything else on the album. Closing the recording, Ben provides acoustic guitar backing to the simple song “I Know.” In my opinion, Ben lacks some experience in song structure. But, that will only come with time and despite some of my reservations, he shows that he’s a budding artist with plenty of ideas and a real heart for God. 5/10.

Review Xtra – Andrew Howie : Scars are like a Beacon @calamateur

andre-howie-scars-are-like-a-beaconANDREW HOWIE : Scars Are Like A Beacon (www.andrew-howie.com)

This CD is an instrumental re-imaging of “The Great Divide” from 2015. Howie took the individual audio stems, and in his words “mangled, re-sampled, distorted and warped them”. It therefore “bears no sonic resemblance to its source material”. It’s very ambient, full of long held notes over a lot (and I mean a LOT) of reverb and is one of those things that you either love or hate. It’s certainly not foreground music, that’s for sure. I had a lot of difficulty telling where one track ended and another one started, but I guess that’s a good thing in Ambient. Musically it reminded me more of film soundtracks where something eerie is happening in a cave – just before the protagonists discover whatever it was they were in there looking for. “Beacon” stood out, probably because it had a pulsating beat to it. Likewise, “Tremble” had a nice guitar figure that ran throughout. Overall it was OK, but not a CD I’ll be rushing to play again, unless I do get stuck in a cave, of course. Best track: “Found”. 5/10 Paul Ganney