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.
VINEYARD : Open, (Vineyard Records UK : VRUKCD35)
I have to credit Vineyard for inspiring me to think differently about worship music, for demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be bland and flavourless, but that it can be edgy, ground breaking and a source of musical creativity. Where the likes of “Holy” back in 2002 said it’s ok to turn up the guitars and have them loud, “Open” says it’s fine to crank up the synths and let the trance rhythms loose. Although Club J were doing such things back in 2005, and Nitro Praise before then, it’s good to see that such sounds are no longer confined to the domain of Kids worship. Not that all of these songs are new – some are re-workings of tracks already heard in the last few years, but this brings them together under a united sound and purpose. The eponymous opening track “Open” is a great song and I can see that becoming a worship stalwart in the near future though the second track “Living in the Light” is the one that I keep humming, and I would imagine is even more likely to be the one we’re still singing in ten years’ time. There is also a track rather confusingly called “The Light” which is another cracker with a simple hook: “All I need is you, all I need is found in you”. In a sense it embodies the Vineyard tenets of intimacy and simplicity, and lyrically and melodically that’s what this 10 track album has. Musically however, there is lots of complexity and nuances which makes it appreciable on multiple levels. I was told this is an album you will probably love if you’re under 40, but hate if you’re over. We’ll I’m over but I like it, though I suspect I may be an exception and it’s probably not a bad general barometer to the potential appeal of the album. 9/10 Robin Thompson.
VINEYARD : Waterfalls – Live from St. Albans. (Vineyard : VRUKCD33)
Recorded live at St Albans, in 2014, Vineyard, ‘Waterfalls’ captures the vibrancy and energy of the new songs being birthed from the Vineyard worship community. Mind you, if you’re expecting those new songs to be any different from the popular Hillsong or Planetshakers style, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, that’s not to say that this is a watered down affair. The album did take a few listens for me to appreciate the content fully, but I’m glad that I stuck with it. The opening “We Need More” has a rather thin vocal track that I found quite irritating. Indeed, the whole song lacks a little cohesion as it stumbles through its varied make up. However, “Glorious” is simply that! I really enjoyed this song, as it reminded me of an 80’s Madonna sound. I chuckled to myself when I heard “No Longer Strangers”, as it sounds so much like singer/songwriter Mark Pierce. A nice song, and well produced. Trusting God in all things and at all times, is the thrust behind the title track. It’s a high energy number that I, personally, would have opened the album with. Songwriter Dave Miller may have to re-look at his song “All For You” as it sounds uncannily like Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” at times. (A fact noted on various social media groups). The overall recording sounds like this was a great night of praise and worship. Most of the unfamiliar songs will become church standards I’m sure, including “O Great Light”, which fairly motors along, and the lovely “Bring Me Back”. Well worth checking out. 8/10.
VINEYARD UK : Spirit Burn. Elevation : ELE1893D)
Recorded live at Riverside Vineyard, London in 2013, this two Cd collection features songs gathered from Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland. I thought that the second Cd was much better than the first, and I think that my decision was mainly due to the rather flat production of that first disc. Indeed, it almost sounded like one of those early 70’s live recordings, when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. ‘O My Soul’ starts things off, with a repetitive and tedious chorus. The title track is similar, but the recording lacks depth and the song suffers from its thin sound. A lot of the songs are mini epics, that last well in excess of six minutes and ‘Emmanuel’ is one of the few that goes well. ‘The Light’ sounded like a Remission Flow track in both musically and production wise, and it is one of the stronger tracks on CD1. The second CD starts with an exciting sound. ‘Show Your Power’ is both sung and played as if the musicians actually do believe in what they are playing. Mind you, as I’ve already stated, the production is so much better. On ‘Holy One’ you can actually hear the congregation joining in during the song, rather than just mildly applauding at the end of the song. The foot tapping acoustic ‘You Are Faithful’ is by far the best song on offer, before the album closes with ‘Your Love Takes Hold’ – a track that just seems to go on forever. I’m not tarring all the Vineyard churches with the same brush, but if this is a sample of what’s on offer for praise and worship, I’ll be staying well clear. 3/10.
The National Conference by the Vineyard stream of churches, hosted in Anaheim, California, has sourced a worship album released this month. ‘Wonderful: Worship From The 2013 Vineyard National Conference Vol 1’ features such worship leaders as Casey Corum, Torri Baker, Annabeth Morgan and others.www.vcfanaheim.com
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems Live From Vineyard USA. (Elevation : ELE1819D)
Here we have a double CD compilation of 24 tracks selected from several previous ‘Vineyard Live’ albums. Printed lyrics are provided, and original albums identified – as are songwriters, but whilst there is a list of artists on the front of the insert, these are not credited against the tracks so it takes guesswork to know who is singing when. There is some good stuff here, beginning with a rousing rendition of Tony Sanchez’s ‘Bless His Name’. The problem with this track and many others however is that old bugbear of mine – i.e. poor sound quality. The following track ‘Father Of Lights’ is particularly bad in this respect, with heavy compression and distortion. A good few of the tracks are quite long but benefit from this, the arrangements taking their time to allow the songs to develop. Standouts for me that happen to follow this pattern whilst also having better sound include the seven-and-a-half minute ‘What can I bring’ – with excellent lyrics, brilliant female lead vocal (wish I knew who the lady was!) and great production – and the male and female vocal repeating-riff-based ‘Invitacion (yep, that’s how it’s spelt) Fountain’ which builds very effectively and stays in your head long afterwards. ‘One thing remains’ is another worth special mention although it suffers a bit sound-wise – this is another long one at almost eight minutes but very effectively reminds us that the one thing that remains is that His ‘love never fails, never gives up, never runs out’ on us. Amen to that! The reggae ‘If you say go’ is a well sung and enjoyable closer reminding us of Jesus’ ‘great commission’ and our lives of faith, with particularly clean sound. My lasting impression of this release however is of a few gems surrounded by a lot of distorted filler that distracts from the Christian message. 6/10 Dave Deeks.