VARIOUS : Good Good Father. (Elevation : ELE2212D)
This 2 Cd collection features 30 contemporary worship songs that are inspiring and building the church today. Maybe I’m missing something, but around two thirds of these songs were brand new to my ears. “Good Good Father,” “At Your Name,” and “Friend of God” lead proceedings, and they’re all pretty good versions. “Wide Open Spaces” has become a firm favourite with me. Meanwhile, people may moan, but I still think that “Once Again” and “10,000 Reasons” are smashing songs to worship with. Indeed, I led the former at my own church only a few days ago. “Guardian” was one of the new songs to grab my attention, with the theme of God, our great defender. Sung by Nick Herbert, it soon had me reaching for the lyric booklet so that I could join in. Mark Tedder sings “Above All” very well, while Martyn Layzell kicks off the second CD with “Happy Day.” The next few songs fialed to ignite my passion. In fact, “I found the song “Canons” to be quite torturous to listen too. However, the tide turns with “The Same Power” and “Here is Jesus.” Both songs are quite beautiful, yet powerful at the same time. To end, there’s a rousing, contemorary version of “How Great Thou Art,” led by Pete James. There have been a number of worship collections of late and, although not the best, this one does have the added bonus if those new songs. 7/10.
VARIOUS : Worship Gold. (Elevation : ELE2225D)
For those of you who love today’s worship songs, this is a collection of those which are currently enriching the worldwide church. All the tracks are studio recordings but as is often the case in these compilations, there are no vocal credits given. And, for me, that is a pity, because one of the female vocalists has such a terrific voice! Kicking things off is a rather lethargic version of “Hosanna.” There’s a good version of “This is Amazing Grace”, but this track is completely outshone by a sweet, acoustic rendition of “Cornerstone.” The female vocal is so sweet and pure, that I had to play the song again straight away, because I enjoyed it so much. Similarly, “Calvary” delights the listener, before the well known sound of “10,000 Reasons” fills the air. This song has grown on me immensely in the last 12 months, as has another inclusion, “Mighty To Save”. Leading worship myself with both of these songs, I have seen how people bathe in the presence of the Lord, whilst singing. “Every Nation Under Heaven” was a new song to me. Written by Tom McConnell, it has all the traits of a modern country number. The female vocalist, again, raises the barre with excellent performances on “Revelation Song” and “God of Our Yesterdays”, before there’s a quite majestic feel to “We Believe.” As worship collections go, this is one of the best. 9/10.
#WORSHIP : Holy Spirit, You Are Welcome Here. (Elevation : ELE2175D)
Here’s the latest in the popular #Worship series, with 12 more songs of worship. First up is David Lyon’s Celtic folk song, “I Will Hope.” It’s bright and cheery, and encourages the listener to join in. Ben Cantelon’s “Love Came Down” is full of predictable clichés, such as “I was blind but now I see” and “I was lost but found in you.” I can’t say that the song impressed me much. “Waiting Here For You” is a slower number, while the title track sees the song writing credits of Bryan & Katie Torwalt. My favourite track has to be “Calvary.” Written by Reuben Morgan and Jonas Myrin, it’s a gentle sound but I was really moved by the chorus. As usual, no credits are given for the vocalists, but the female voice here is lovely. An acoustic, Celtic sound accompanies “Alleluia, He Has Loved Us” before the album seems to move into big production songs. Both “Christ Be All Around Me” and “At the Cross” sound as though they have both been lifted from a Hillsong event. Pete James’ “Talk to Jesus” is a prayerful song that reminds us that Jesus’ ear will never turn away. There are some good songs featured on this album, but on the whole it did sound a rather dis-jointed listen. 6/10.
VARIOUS : Old Hymns New Hearts. (Elevation : ELE2185D)
Sound theology, imaginative poetry and a stirring melody are three essential elements that make a hymn great and enduring. This album delivers 12 hymns, old and new, recorded with fresh arrangements to inspire faith, offer comfort and courage and enrich your Christ-centred life. I must admit, that I found it very difficult to hear the lyrics of traditional hymns, sung to new tunes. For instance, Chris McClarney’s take on “Immortal Invisible” left me totally cold. I just didn’t like it. Neither did Chris Weninangar’s delivery of “And Can It Be” soothe my soul. However, showing a great deal of sympathy to Wesley’s original lyrics, Chris Lawson Jones gives a stomping tune to “Come, Thou long Expected Jesus.” Quite a number of the tracks a produced in a folk/pop sort of way, akin to the sound of popular UK band, Speak Brother. Songs in this genre include “The Glory Hymn” and “Alleluia He Has Loved Us.” The gravel toned vocals of Anthony Skinner open the album on “The Sound That Saved Us All.” Meanwhile, my favourite track had to be “Love, You Never Let Me Go.” Here, the wistful vocals of Savannah Ellis are pire delight, accompanied by some nice mandolin playing. Another track I enjoyed was the duet between Weninagar and Katie Gustafson on the country tinged “This I Know.” Without being outstanding, this is an fascinating concept with more positive results than negative. 7/10.
VARIOUS : The Greatest Gift of All. (Elevation : ELE2187D)
This Cd is marketed as “Twelve new songs for Christmas ideal for singing in schools, churches, seasonal productions and to raise awareness of the amazing project Operation Christmas Child which sends shoeboxes to children all over the world”. With all that in mind, I’ve got to say that some of the songs are a little too complicated for younger children. I would say that early teens would benefit from this album that features a multiple of styles. “All the Angels Sing” is one of those bouncy children’s songs that you’ve heard dozens of times before. A simple tune makes the song sound very happy, so I guess it does the job well. There’s a more contemporary sound to “Star Bright”, while I really enjoyed the ballad that is the title track. Doug Horley and Mark Read provide the songwriting credits for “No Ordinary Baby” – again, with a happy singalong chorus. Christmas bells are chiming during “Can You Imagine”, alongside a simple banjo sound, while Becky Frith’s “Christmas Time” tries to get everyone dancing, with uptempo beats and loud synth’ phrases. Backing tracks are available for all the songs, and that will obviously prove useful for those who do want to use new songs this festive time. 6/10.
#WORSHIP : Our God. (ELECD2101D)
The popular #Worship series returns with more songs for the church which features current and contemporary songs of worship, written by some of the finest writers in the world today. There’s a nice mix of new and more familiar songs on show, with “God of Wonders” kicking things off. There’s a rather rough vocal sound to “Holy is the Lord”, but it works well with just a mandolin backing. “Our God” gets a top rating from me, as it’s such a powerful version. The female vocals are top notch and the thrashing guitars help to get the message across that “Our God is Greater.” In similar style, “You Never Let Go” has a prevailing sound that just hits the right note. Of the newer songs, the quieter “Would You Restore”, written by Steve Fortunato is really good. On both “The Power of the Cross” and “Amazing Grace” vocalists are at the forefront of the songs, as just piano is used for accompaniment. I thought that the former worked well, but I wasn’t too sure about the latter. It seemed to lack any real meaning. Of the others, “Because of the Cross” deserves a mention. The female vocalist reminded me of Leigh Nash, and consequently the sound came over in a Sixpence None the Richer sort of way. Some nice choices of tracks here, and well worth a listen. 7/10.
SPRING HARVEST : Gamechangers. (Elevation : ELE2134D)
Here’s one of the annual collections of songs from this year’s Spring Harvest. It contains 16 songs featuring lead worshippers Cathy Burton, Ben Cantelon, Lou Fellingham, Nick Herbert, Chris McClarney and Sound of Wales. It’s Cantelon who starts proceedings, with a song called “Lion and The Lamb.” There’s bright guitars, that lead to a typically modern worship song, but with the added bonus of an over long bridge. “Hallelujah” features Fellingham on vocals and I was surprised just how squeaky her voice sounded. However, most of the album suffers from rather poor vocal production, which surprised me, as Elevation are usually so good with live recordings. On “Highway to the Heavens” Burton gives a gentle, laid back vocal, while McClarney gives a very lethargic performance on “No Longer Slaves.” Even though the song does improve towards the end, it just doesn’t hold the power of the Newsboys recent version. Sound of Wales offer, possibly, the best tracks on the album, with “Wide Open Spaces” and “Here is Love.” Both songs contain excellent vocals, and the latter is, for me, simply glorious. Of the rest of the songs, Nick Herbert shows great feeling on the particularly engaging track “Lord I Need You,” and Cathy Burton receives great audience appreciation on “Great is Our God.” Of all the live Spring Harvest albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, this one just seems to lack a little of the magic. 6/10.