MERCYME : Lifer. (Fair Trade : 69685931095)
This is MercyMe’s 9th studio album, as they continue to evolve their musical style. Removed from their last release, are the electro-synth sounds, and in come brass and layered guitars. The title track has quite a funky feel about it, while the song itself is a reference to the promise of accepting Jesus in your life is forever! “You Found Me” races along but I was put off liking this number due to the drawling vocals. Similarly, I wasn’t too keen of the rap mid-way through “Grace Got You.” For me, it just spoilt a good song. Of the slower songs, “Even If” seemed to meander along without really getting anywhere. However, the same can’t be said of “We Win.” This is a classic pop song that uses the sport of boxing as an analogy. If you’re “down for the count,” or thinking of “throwing in the towel,” with God as our Father, we will win. I find MercyMe to be a bit of an enigma, as they seem to change their sound with each release. Maybe that shows how they’re maturing as musicians, I’m not sure. This album does have other highlights, such as “Heaven’s Here” but at times I found the overall content to be a little dis-jointed. 7/10.
RIVERS & ROBOTS : Still. Volume 1. (Integrity Music)
Integrity Music have begun a new series of instrumental worship albums, each featuring the unique sound and aesthetic of a guest producer, beginning with Still Volume 1 and the critically acclaimed UK band Rivers & Robots. Infusing modern worship songs with a vibrant, chilled aesthetic, Still delivers the perfect backdrop for moments of devotion, prayer and meditation for individuals and churches. From creating an atmosphere for soaking prayer to offering a sonic oasis during the rush hour commute, this series calls listeners to still their hearts before God. I must admit that I enjoy some quiet times, with gentle music for accompaniment. This album contains 16 tracks, running for a total of some 45 minutes. While it was nice to hear some well known tunes, such as “Majesty” and “Saviour of the World”, it was good to hear brand new tracks too. Piano phrases and orchestral sounds make up “King of My Heart,” while there were some nice atmospheric guitar sounds on “Good Good Father.” Cello’s and violins provide the main thrust on many of the tunes, as on “Interlude 2” and the closing “Revelation Song.” It’s not an album to get excited about, but I think that it certainly does meet up with Integrity’s plan. 7/10.
VINEYARD UK : Saved. (www.vineyardrecords.co.uk)
Heartfelt worshippers Vineyard UK release their new radio single ‘Saved’, which captures their theologically rooted feeling of wonder at God’s grace. Originally recorded as part of the ‘All My Love’ EP at The Cause To Live For young adult conference, the track draws listeners into a moment of triumphant worship and gratitude along with hundreds of other voices that were captured in the moment. Led by Samuel Lane, the song plods along at walking pace, building into a cacophony of sound, that reminded me of Elbow. Sadly, Samuel’s vocals sound rather rough in places and, at times, get rather lost in the final mix. Originally recorded as part of the ‘All My Love’ EP at The Cause To Live For young adult conference, the track draws listeners into a moment of triumphant worship and gratitude along with hundreds of other voices that were captured in the moment. Unfortunately, listening to the track at home, it’ didn’t do a lot for me. 5/10.
THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY : The Best of…..Volume 2. (Stow Town Records : STR3172)
Following on from last month’s review of Volume 1, here’s the second release collecting the “Best of” this hard working family group. From the off, once again, it’s the strong harmonies that are the trademark of the Collingsworth Family. “Inhabit the Praise” sets the barre high with terrific vocals. “Light from Heaven” is a bright and happy song, while “he Already See the Rainbow” is a big ballad about letting God help you through the storms of life. As with the first release, there’s a few instrumental tracks thrown in, with the piano taking much of the lead. Of these, I found the closing “My Tribute” to be the best. Mid-album, I found my concentration waning a little, as the songs didn’t seem to be anything special. However, the uptempo “Bottom of the Barrel” lifted my spirits, as it simply raced along. I’m not sure which one of the Collingsworth ladies sings the lead on “I Can Trust Jesus”, but she comes out with a top performance, as she sings “I lean on His will because He know what’s best for me.” “Grandpa” is a sweet little song about days gone by, when true love last forever and promises meant more than they do today. It’s poignant theme certainly gives you food for thought. All in all, it’s another good collection but, perhaps, doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor. 7/10.
THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY : The Best of…Vol.1. (Stow Town Records : STR3171)
After 17 years on the road in full-time concert ministry, this is the group’s first comprehensive collection of Collingsworth Family classic hits. Many of these songs have long been out of print, but these collections bring them back fresh and better than ever. All new up-to-date vocals have been re-recorded, utilizing the original tracks. The resulting album is delightful and a must buy for southern gospel fans. Great vocals, harmonies and music stand up proud, as the family presents song after song, all of the highest quality. From the opening “God is Faithful” to the closing choral version of “How Great Thou Art”, the quality never dips. The foot tapping “I Know” is a real pleaser. “I Know that Jesus is coming again,” they sing, when all around the world news tells of wars and unrest. “When God Whispers in Our Heart” is reminiscent of a musical style of the 40’s. Terrific harmonies and nice orchestral sounds made this one of my personal favourites. A lot of the songs are M.O.R ballads, such as “God is in the Shadows” and “Shine on Us.” Breaking that mould is the happy number called “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness.” It’s a great message and there’s some really nice banjo playing in the background. If Volume 2 is anything like this album, listeners are in for a real treat! 9/10.
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Simple Pursuit. (Integrity : B01M5FMK4W)
Like previous recordings, this live album from New Wine 2016 has a heart firmly rooted in a love of worship, Simple Pursuit refocuses on what everything is, and always has been, about. That worship infused with a deep love of God comes into a new life, and it’s this reinvigoration that has led to this year’s release being both the most energetic and most reflective. Sam Bailey leads a lot of the worship, and you can hear those gathered joining in, either clapping of singing along. Chris Sayburn’s “The Lion and the Lamb” is a really potent song, and I liked it very much. The title track is a reflective number that centres on the wonder of an awesome God, while three short pieces entitled “Interlude” seem to be rather out of place within the track listing. I thought that “Pocketful of Faith” started quite well but, once the tempo increased, it sounded very much like plenty of other contemporary worship songs, and I was left disappointed. However, Tim Hughes’ “Hope and Glory” is the stand out song of the album. It’s marvellously anthemic, as he sings “Christ, Alone in you we stand.” That leads to “Love Song”, were Tom Eccleshall takes over lead vocals. Delivery is excellent and the song raises voices in worship of our God. Towards the end, we have a rocky “Sing It Out”, before quieter songs brings those gathered back to gently focus on their worship. It’s a bit of a mixed bag really. Hearing many of the songs for the first time, not many immediately caught my imagination. Maybe a few more plays will help. 6/10.
DAVID LYON : The Hands That Learn to Give. (www.davidlyonmusic.com)
David is one of those independent worship leaders and songwriters that make reviewing albums such a joy. Why not one of the major Christian labels haven’t picked up his music, I don’t know. Sharing the vocals with his wife Yvonne, David brings to the table twelve new songs of praise and worship. From the bright opening to “Higher Ground”, the song sets the standard for the rest of the album. The song itself is engaging and there’s a really nice, reflective break mid-way through. “I Will Hope” gets the Celtic treatment, complete with excellent fiddle playing from Seonaid Aitken. Yvonne’s first lead vocal comes on “Beloved and Frend,” as the song swings along with a great melody. “Exalt the Lord Our God” and “Lord of This Hurried Heart” are both gentler in sound but perfect for quieter praise and worship. I especially liked the fiddle and cello contributions, too. “Lord in your presence we bow, “ sings Yvonne on “All For You” – another song of great content. There’s a foot tapping folk feel to “You Make Us One”, while the uptempo beat of “Holy” races along. On this song, David’s vocals are superb, while the instrumental break between each verse are particularly enthralling. The album ends with one of the numerous duets, and sees David and his wife asking God to “[Lead us] As We Follow You.” A really excellent album, that sees David’s song writing and the production of Foundry Music Lab reach new heights. 10/10.