Review Xtra – Rivers & Robots : Still Volume 1 @riversandrobots @IntegrityEurope

Rivers and Robots Still Volume 1RIVERS & 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.

The Review Zone – Various : Silent Night Carols @integritymusic

silent_night_carols_cover_1_VARIOUS : Silent Night Carols. (Integrity : B00OEK6826)

First released back in 2014 but re-submitted for review in time for Christmas 2016, here we have a 12 track compilation of ‘brought up to date’ carols, delivered by a wide range of ccm artists. The standout for me is undoubtedly the opening track ‘Silent night (Christ the Saviour is born)’ with its almost six minutes of excellent arrangement and production, very capably delivered by Faye Streek. Starfield’s ‘What child is this’ (to the tune of ‘Greenfields’) is also enjoyable – as is Lincoln Brewster’s ‘O holy night (Another hallelujah)’ which builds well and incorporates the famous Leonard Cohen chorus! Lenny LeBlanc’s ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ features an excellent backing vocal arrangement, including an acapella verse. As with many such releases however, the simple melodies characteristic of Christmas carols mean that arrangers tend to add ‘counter melodies’ in an attempt to add interest, with varying results. One example is ‘Joy to the world (with Miss Eliza’s reel)’, which struggles because the ‘reel’ doesn’t sit well with the ‘Joy to the world’ tune. As a contrast, Kelly Willard beautifully delivers uncluttered but effective arrangements of ‘O come all ye faithful’ and ’The first Noel’. If carols are your thing, worth a listen. 7/10. Dave Deeks

The Review Zone – Various : Ultimate Worship 2017 @integritymusic

ultimate-worship-2017VARIOUS : Ultimate Worship 2017. (Integrity : B01LQT4OS2)

I’m always a little wary towards compilation albums but I’m pleased to say this is a really pleasant collection of worship songs that will appeal to all tastes. There are songs from established and well-loved favourites like Tim Hughes, Paul Wilbur, and Soul Survivor as well as emerging artists like All Sons and Daughters, ICF Worship and All About Worship. There are real lyrics that depart from Christian jargon “resentment and depression and all anxiety they have no power over me” declares Amanda Kinner from the latter. There are some really great songs with a fresh sound that are paving the way and pushing creative boundaries. Closer would sit comfortably in any live church setting. It’s encouraging to see writers like Chris Sayburn teaming up with the likes of Jock James and bringing an influence and freshness to the established sound of Life Worship from Bradford. All in all an enjoyable collection of songs that would play nicely in the car, in a personal worship time or in the background as you go about your every day. 8/10 Angie Lendon

The Review Zone – Various : Majesty in a Manger @integritymusic

majesty-in-a-mangerVARIOUS : Majesty in A Manger. (Integrity : B01LWJIGY8)

I always get excited when a new Christmas album arrives on the scene that is packed with brand new songs. This one, I’m pleased to say, does not disappoint. Beginning with Dustin Smith’s infectious take on the song “Joy,” this album has some tracks that are destined to become yuletide classics of the future. Greg Sykes sings the title track well, but Darlene Zschech’s vocals on “Gloria” is pure joy. With a piano and strings backing, it’s a lovely ballad. Similarly, Christine DiMarco performs “Will Ever Be” with such gentleness and power, on a song that pays homage to the birth of Christ in a manger. Then comes the stand out track. Seth & Nirva’s “Fill the Silent Night” really moved me. It’s a terrific song and the pounding drums on the chorus are spot on. After listening to it, I just had to play it again. Michael Farran provides a big ballad on “Let My Soul Sing”, while Michael Neale’s “Forever Amen” swings along majestically. I wasn’t so keen on the rather lethargic sounding “King of All the Earth”. To me, Paul Baloche’s delivery didn’t seem too enthusiastic as what the song title might suggest. Finally, Lincoln Brewster plays a guitar instrumental to the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” If you’re tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs, this one guarantees some fine, new tracks. 8/10.

Review Xtra – Kids Worship : Ultimate Collection @integritymusic

kids-worship-ultimate-collectionKIDS WORSHIP : Ultimate Collection. (Integrity : B01GNT20X6)

Here’s 20 songs that have been especially chosen to help kids worship. With the exception of one track from both Cathy Burton and Dave Griffiths, there’s no credits given to the lead vocal, and this led me to remember those horrible Top of the Pops albums done by session singers in the 70’s. The only change here is the appearance of children’s voices, backing most of the adult performances. A lot of the songs remain faithful to the original recordings, but the tacky dance feel given to “History Maker” should never be heard again. “Gods’ Great Dance Floor” and “Happy Day” start the ball rolling, and are followed by a competent version of “My Lighthouse.” As well as singing, lots of children cheer enthusiastically on the “Happy Song” – I guess, because they ARE happy! “Freedom” has a gospel edge to it, with some off-putting hollering thrown in, whilst I found “Nothing is Impossible” to be rather repetitive in delivery. I’d not heard of the song “Dance, Dance” before, but I thought that it was quite infectious, and one that kids would really love. “I Am Free” is retro punk, with thrashing guitars, but my favourite track has to be “Soul On Fire.” Everything seems to click musically on this song, and the choir sounds spot on. For once, the kids sound as if they’re meant to be there and not just added into the sound for good measure. All in all, it’s quite a decent selection of songs, with just one or two exceptions. I’d aim the appropriate age range somewhere around 8-12 years, otherwise the listening kids might want to hear the original artists instead. 7/10.

The Review Zone – All About Worship : My Pursuit @integritymusic

All-About-Worship-Live-My-PursuitALL ABOUT WORSHIP : My Pursuit. (Integrity Music : 000076867522)

This is a ten track worship CD which features various different artists, and I have to say that it’s quite nice to come across a worship compilation that is full of new songs rather than the endless rehashes of the same old songs from the same old artists. The music varies in style from county, to powerful rock worship songs, and the inclusion of different people leading the songs adds a bit of variety to the album, which is good. The songs are mostly about the everyday struggles that people have with their faith, and there is a definite feel of honest feelings here, and I should think that a lot of people will be able to identify with many of the issues covered here.

I pretty much liked all of the songs on this CD. The last track “Royal Blood” featuring Michael Farren is a particularly powerful track in my view, If for no other reason that I just personally liked the feel of that one song, but taken as a whole, this CD is quite encouraging, and if you really listen to the words, it can give you quite a lift spiritually. I reckon that this album is really worth listening to. You can get hold of it on iTunes. 10/10.   Andy Sayner.

Before Amen : A Worship Collection

Max Lucado

Released internationally through Integrity Music is Before Amen: A Worship Collection, the musical companion to the book from New York Times bestselling author and pastor Max Lucado, Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (Thomas Nelson, October 2014). Written for everyone who wants to pray more, better and stronger, with more fire, faith and fervency, the album offers songs that that were chosen to complement the book, providing a musical backdrop for prayer and personal devotion.

The 13-track recording features inspirational, spoken word messages from Max Lucado and songs recorded by All Sons & Daughters, Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe, John Mark McMillan, Brian Doerksen, Kathryn Scott and Soul Survivor, as well as brand new songs from worship leaders Paul and Rita Baloche, Planetshakers and Darlene Zschech. Lucado cites in his new book that every week, more people will pray than will exercise, go to work, or have sex. But when it comes to praying, many don’t know where to begin.

Lucado believes that a vibrant prayer life does not mean your prayers are better or more eloquent than others. Quite the opposite. Lucado says humility combined with confidence provides a God-given prayer strength. Writes Lucado: “Since you matter to God, your prayers matter in heaven. You’re never without hope because you are never without prayer.”

Lucado sprinkles Before Amen with powerful stories of powerful prayers. He also writes about some of his own doubts about prayer, sharing how to overcome disappointment from unanswered prayers and be confident that God hears. Before Amen will allow readers to calm the chaos of life by embracing a prayer life that brings peace and rest.