Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive L

LA RUE : La Rue. (Reunion : 02341 0039 2).
La Rue are brother and sister Phillip and Natalie, aged 17 and 15 respectively. And, despite, their tender years, they have - in my humble opinion - produced one superb pop album. With songs written from their own teen hearts it would be easy to say that the album will only appeal to a similar age range. However, that is most certainly not the case, here. To pick out one song that stands out would be very difficult but, "Fallen King" would just get the vote from me. Reminiscent of Sixpence's "Kiss Me", it has few words but a chorus that rings around your head for days. "Someday" sounds a little like Out of the Grey, and "Waiting Room" only confirmed this feeling. It's a beautiful song and the vocals just melt together so well. Are you a Christian just on a Sunday?". Well, that's what the song "One Day of the Week" asks and, if that's you, be sure that God knows your true heart. Brilliant album. 10/10. (March 2000, Album of the Month)
LA RUE : Transparent. (Reunion : 0234100682)
What made La Rue's self titled debut release the NFN 2000 CCM Album of the Year was it's wonderful lyrical depth, portrayed by two teenagers in an infectious pop style. With this follow up, brother and sister - Phillip & Natalie - show that they've been influenced by an edgier guitar style of indie rock.. Indeed, "Wake up" wouldn't have been out of place on the current All Star United Greatest Hits album. Later on, "I Can't Sing" falls into the same category. The writing, however, has remained the same and "Jaded" is written straight from how two teenagers can feel with life. "Brianna's Song" is a piano led duet while the pick of the bunch, for me, is "No Goodbyes". On this track, Natalie takes the lead vocals while Phillip adds effective backing for a very radio friendly song. Their debut was an instant hit with me, while this one will have to grow. 8/10. (April 2001)
LAKEWOOD LIVE : Cover the Earth. (Integrity : 27822)
Now, I remember Cindy Cruse Ratcliff in the days that she was promoted as a Christian "rock chick", and still possess the album to prove it. For whatever reason, Cindy has since been led into leading worship all over America, and her soulful voice seems to suit the genre well. Here, she's joined by Israel Houghton, as well as the Lakewood Church Choir for more than 70 minutes of powerful praise & worship. Both the title track and "Sweeter" are outstanding tracks, and I can see the latter featuring well on radio. What comes across to the listener is the great feeling of togetherness of those gathered, and it's most certainly not a Cindy and Israel performance. "Holy You Are" is another striking number, while "I'll Never Stop Loving You" tones things down a bit for lovely harmonies. The sleeve notes say that 30,000 people attend Lakewood Church, Houston, each week. Obviously, this album reflects just what's happening. 8/10. (March 2004)
LAMAR CAMPBELL & SPIRIT OF PRAISE : The Praise Collection. (EMI Gospel : DPRO17072)
Talk to me about Kirk Franklin, and I know who you're talking about. But, mention the name of Lamar Campbell and I would have asked "Who?". That is, until this CD appeared. This release is a collection of songs from his three previous albums, plus three brand new songs, thrown in for good measure. Out of those new songs "Whatcha Here 4?" is probably the best, in a sort of gospel meets hip hop sort of way. The opening "Just For Who You Are" threw me a little as it does sound like a female voice taking the lead. Whoever he/she is, they have a real quality vocal, although not quite as seasoned as, say, Shirley Caeser. The who album is very much in the modern gospel sound, although "It's All About the Love of Jesus" does sound like an old fashioned number that's had an uptempo beat put to it. "I Really Want to See you Now" is a laid back song that has some really sweet harmonies, while "When I Think About You" comes across stronlgy, especially with it's opening brass section. If I was to stick my neck out here, I would say that this track would do well if released in the UK as a single - it's that strong. Lamar campbell gets a little carried away towards the end of the track listing with some obligatory hollering but, on the whole, he's impressed me. Check it out. 8/10 (April 2002)
LARA MARTIN : The Voice Of Hope - The Very Best Of... (Kingsway : KMCD3083)
I've heard several tracks by Lara on worship compilation CD's, although none of them are on this album strangely enough. It's a fairly pleasant mix of contemporary worship songs delivered in a fairly straightforward pop style. The title track stands out, as does "Incredible" and "I will bless The Lord at all times" but, to be honest, there's not really a bad track on this CD. It is a double album, with twenty eight tracks, so it's probably a bit tedious to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, but then that applies to most double albums in my experience, you can stick it on in the background though and get on with something else while you listen, and it works fine. All in all I think that this CD is a good mix of songs, and if you don't own anything else by Lara, then it's definitely worth getting hold of a copy. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (November 2010)
LARRY FORD : Peace Be Still. (Heartbeat Music : 1902482).
American born Larry Ford is, as the sleeve notes say, an "adopted Irishman" because of his long association with the emerald isle. As one of gospel music's finest tenor's, Larry will be mostly appreciated by the older generation. His finely honed vocals take you through a trip of well known songs, mixed with one or two lesser known. The backing music is nothing out of the ordinary but compliments the singer, bringing out his finer points. Classic hymns include "O For A Closer Walk With God", "I Cannot Tell" and "Praise Him, Praise Him", while more contemporary songs like Stuart Townend's "How Deep the Father's Love" and Andy Park's "Down the Mountain" also make an appearance. The nearest comparison I can make would be Harry Secombe meets Daniel O'Donnell and, while not really my cup of tea, I can still appreciate a good album. 7/10. (February 2002)
LAST BEACON : First Light. (Private Cassette Recording £2.20 from: Jon Gurr, 7 Stonelea Drive, Rastrick, Brighouse, Huddersfield, HD6 3PT).
Only two tracks on this cassingle from a band based in West Yorkshire. Recorded, presumably, on a limited budget, the finished sound could have been better. However, the first song ,'Run', is a mixture of Brit pop meets Runrig. "Waiting at the bus stop of my life" is the songs first line and gives you some idea of the lyrical content as a whole. Some, might say that the words are rather weak but I, personally found them oozing with honesty. Some good guitar work, interesting break, and never mind the robotic drummer. Track two 'Holy Day' is a quieter song and lacks any real impact. Although the guys do try with their harmonies, it just doesn't quite happen and, perhaps, it's one to work on. With so little to go on, it's hard to give a wider view of the band but with such a catchy song as 'Run' in their repertoire, (I've been singing it for days now) there's sure something worth listening to. 6/10. (November 1997)
LAST MAN OUT : All or Nothing. (CD from www.lastmanout.co.uk)
I've been waiting for an album like this for ages. Why? Well, I just wanted a new grass roots UK band to produce a guitar driven sound that would get me excited. Last Man Out are based in Scotland and this debut release leaps from your speakers with some really tasty sounds. At times they remind me a little of Kato, especially on the opening "Great & Glorious", but Pete Chalks lead vocals can also be a bit Jon Bon Jovi too. The songs are full of simple truths and the result is an album of praise and worship rock. Backing vocals are supplied by Susie Allan - who also plays keyboard - and they work really well with Chalk's lead. "Everything" has those good driving guitars forcing it's way through and "SOS" shows that Allan can also take over the lead vocals with confidence. "Fly" is a slower number but one of quality, while "Saved", "Only You", and "Yours" get things rocking again. I really enjoyed the overall sound of the band as the instruments seemed to gel instantly. It sounds as if a lot of time has gone into the production of this album and, if so, the time has been well worth it. 9/10. (October 2005)
LATE LATE SERVICE : Deep Peace. (Sticky Music : GUMCD35).
If the infamous 9 O'clock Service highlighted the down side to Alternative services, then the LLS must take some credit for it's continued, powerful ministry. 77 minutes worth of sound, that has been split into 3 sections. SONGS doesn't start off too well but "Visions of Heaven" begins the true worship of God's love for us. "Heal Me", certainly helped me re-focus, and the word 'peace' washed over me as I listened to "Young Men..." and it's calming influences. PSALMS contains 3 new settings to Psalms 116, 1, and 86. "Breathing fresh life...into these venerable texts", states the information sheet. Unfortunately, I personally believe 116 is in need of oxygen. It's difficult to please the listener/worshiper all of the time and the other two tracks have some excellent harmonies - of which one sounds suspiciously like Prelude's 'After the Goldrush'. The final section is classed as MEDITATION and, although I found "Into Darkness" rather uninspiring, the epic lengths of "Lament" and "Susan's Meditational Music" were, once again, very helpful. The latter, 13 minutes of quiet, repetitive piano music, is just so soothing. One recent review said of this album "Like a blood transfusion for me....buy it and be inspired". In medical terms, I'd say it was a tonic for the tired Christian, and should be taken daily. 8/10. (December 1997)
LATE LATE SERVICE : Project Reformation/Dry Bones Dancing. (Maranatha/Word : 7016363848).
Performed by former members of Prayer Chain and Violet Burning, as well as Chris Lizotte, this is an alternative worship experience for today's generation. In the old cliche of it being a soccer match, then the second half of the album is better than the first. All too often, the songs just sound like a Lizotte solo, due to his production work. Jaime Eichler provides the half time refreshment, a beautiful song - written by Lizotte - sang with such feeling. 'Prepare the Way' reminded me a lot of Noel Richard's, complete with it's stirring guitars and easily picked up chorus. The crowning glory for the album is the closing "He Knows My Name", just simply oozing with worship. What a pity that the classy stuff is outnumbered by the rest. 6/10. (April 1998)
LAURA STORY : Great God Who Saves. (INO : 42432)
Most of you will have, at some time, sang the great worship song 'Idescribable'. Well, Laura is the young lady who actually wrote it. After paying her dues with a band, she's now released this solo album, and has a really delightful voice. The happy, opening song, 'Bless the Lord' sets things off nicely, and Immortal Invisible' follows suit. There's some good use of a banjo or mandolin on 'Mighty to Save', while the title track does bear a passing resemblance to Natalie Imbruglia's hit, 'Torn'. Whether she's singing with a full backing or just a stripped down acoustic sound, Laura seems to be right at home. Indeed , who would havetohught that she'd never even written or sang a song until she was in her twenties. Laura is the worship leader at Atlanta's Perimeter Church, and that experience must have rubbed off on her, and the song 'Perfect Peace' It's very simple lyric wise, but the more you listen to it, the more you realise that God's perfect peace is for you. If Laura keeps producing songslike this, then she's going to be around for a long time to come, and that's no bad thing. 9/10 (October 2008)
LAURA STORY : God of Every Story. (Fair Trade : 736211605894)
This is Laura’s third studio recording and continues her success of writing middle of the road pop songs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this collection of songs differ very little to those on her last album. Of course, there’s a strong opening track, as you would expect. ‘There is a Kingdom’ is bright and cheerful, and the listener is warmed by the sound and lyrical content. ‘O Love of God’ is written as a celebration, and although I didn’t enjoy the track on a first listen, it’s well worth playing again to get the most out of it. My favourite song is the title track, which really lights up the album. “You’re the God of every story, and you are faithful”. These words, and those of the last verse, are particularly poignant to Laura, as she sings about her husband, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour 7 years ago. Other songs, like ‘Who But Jesus’ and ‘Keeper of the Stars’ are quite pleasant, while ‘Grace’ stands out as a fine song, complete with it’s marching band drums. We all have the power and love of God’s grace, even when we fall, as long as we seek His face. A lovely promise, and a nice song. Laura has a fine voice and with Ed Cash producing, the overall sound is excellent. Sadly, too many songs just pass you by. 5/10. (February 2014)
LEAD KINDLE LIGHT : Classic Hymns - A Choral Collection. (ABC Records : 50141 8203592 2)
Here's one for the purists amongst you that like nothing better than a choral presentation of some of the best known hymns around. What can I say, the style doesn't differ from one tune to the next. The voices are exceptional in their quality and everything swings from one song to the next. Personally, it's not my sort of thing but hymns like "When I Survey", "Rock of Ages" and "The king of love" are all treated with respect. Nearly an hour of music and if this is your sort of thing, I don't think that you'll be disappointed. 7/10. (February 2005)
LEAH MARI : All I Have Needed. (Bethel Music : LM1001-1)
Leah Mari is a worship leader from the US Bethel Church. She's also part of the collective known as the Jesus Culture, but this is her debut solo release. The songs are traditional hymns, given a country/folk make over and, on the whole, it all hangs together very nicely. The album begins with an interesting acoustic version of 'All Creatures of Our God & King'. Leah Mari's vocals embrace every word and the song works well. I can't say the same, however, of 'Holy, Holy, Holy'. It's beat is very pedestrian and I kept wanting to speed it up. She has a very, lovely voice and it's shown to the fore on the beautiful 'Tis So Sweet'. 'There is a Fountain' is more uptempo in the country style, as is 'Pass MeNot'. 'Nothing But the Blood' and 'Be Thou My Vision' are very pretty renditions, and there's some nice guitar work on 'Blessed Assurance'. Although none of the songs were new to me, these versions made most songs sound brand new. It would be interesting to hear some original songs from Leah Mari, as I think that her voice would be well worth hearing again. 9/10 (November 2010)
LECRAE : Real Talk. (Reach Records).
This is the first album by Lecrae, who hails from San Diego. Like most hip hop CD's, once you've heard the first track you've heard them all. There is absolutely no variation between any of the tracks on this CD at all, every track has the same plodding drums/bass rhythm punctuated by a synth line consisting of about half a dozen notes that repeat throughout the whole track, and over the top of it all some guy trying to break the world record for the maximum number of words delivered in the quickest time possible. I have to say that this was the probably one of the most boring CD's I have ever listened to. I did let a couple of other people hear it, just in case it was me being hyper critical, but I'm afraid that I couldn't find anyone who liked it. Maybe hip hop just isn't hip in York, or maybe this CD would just go down better in America than Britain, but whatever the reason it doesn't do anything for me I'm afraid. There is some info about Lecrae at http://www.soundclick.com and there are two MP3's that you can download there too. Both are from this CD so you can try it out for yourself. 4/10 Andy Sayner. (January 2006)
LECRAE : Rebel. (Reach Records)
I've no background information to this artist, but he follows in the same rap/hip-hop style as DA T.R.U.T.H. It's a mammoth 15 track album, dealing with temptation, sin, love, mercy, etc….you get my drift. When I come across these albums that I wouldn't normally listen to, I'm always pleased to make the effort, and compare them with current UK chart acts. On the scale, Rebel comes out pretty well, as I think he's pretty good. The title track gives a sort of overview of Jesus' life, while "Indwelling Sin' looks at temptation and how to resist it. 'Breathin' to Death' is very much an Eminem clone of a song and I did, really, like this track. Another good song was 'Live Free', where Rebel proclaims that we do "live Free" by His mercy and peace. While this album hasn't made it into my car stereo, I can certainly say that if this style of music is your thing, you won't be disappointed by Rebel. 7/10 (April 2009)
LECRAE : Rehab. (Reach Records : 829569816125)
Rehab is Atlanta rapper Lecrae Moore’s 5th studio album & it’s been a massive hit in both the CCM & secular charts alike, having a debut at number 16 in the US Billboard charts making him one of the best selling Christian Rap/Hip-Hop albums of all time. Pretty impressive! I will be the first to admit though that rap/hip-hop music & I don’t normally get along too well to say the least, but even for a Philistine such as myself, it’s easy to see why fans of the genre will lap this up. The CD has a whopping 17 tracks to it’s name & is released on Reach Records, a label which Lecrae co-founded. From the outset, we’re confronted with some pounding bass lines which will give any set of speakers a good workout – particularly notable on the opening “Check In” & the following “Killa”, interwoven with plenty of synth which gives the tunes more feel & atmosphere as opposed to some of the secular material which often sounds like a nonsensical din to the untrained ear! I am pleased to say that the album offers plenty of variety, possibly as there has been much collaboration with fellow artists such as Trip Lee in the production. I particularly liked “Children of the Night” which even has a dash of reggae in the mix. There are others such as “High” on the other hand which were very heavy & too genre-typical to do much for me. Vocal quality is high throughout & it is refreshing to hear that instead of glorifying materialism, sex and ‘macho’ behaviour, the songs relate to daily struggles with sin & addictions of all kinds, how this affects others & the need for our lives to be modelled on Jesus – not on some worldly icon. The CD is well presented but I have to say some of the typo on the insert was so microscopically small it was impossible to read! All in all a quality offering that deserves success for it’s target audience. Not one for my personal collection though. 8/10 Simon Redfern (April 2011)
LEELAND : Sound of Melodies. (Essential : 083061081225)
The title of this album really gives the game away. It's full of majestic melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Giving in to my better judgement, I can see quite a bit of Coldplay influences within the songs, as well as a little Killers drive, especially on "Can't Stop". The album took me a couple of plays to enjoy, but "Yes You Have" was an instant hit with me. It's about God purifying your heart and there's some nice harmonies too. "Tears of the Saints" is a slower song about leading lost sheep back to God, and it works very well. Later on in the listing I felt that the band loosened up a little and bouncy songs like "Lift Your Eyes" ventured into the land of pop rather than rock. Indeed, both "Too Much" and "How Wonderful" would make good listening to those of an easier style to the ear. It all ends with an anthemic finish which is, "Carried to the Table" - a great song of worship. Not an instant hit, as I said, but it is quite enjoyable. 8/10. (February 2007)
LEELAND : Opposite Way. (Essentail : 83061 085421)
For me, Leeland sound like a cross between U2 and Delirious?. Their power rock and guitar riffs can, at times, excite, and they get their message across with their well written lyrics. The opening 'Count Me In' is one for the guitar aficionado's, and it steams along. The more melodic 'Enter This Temple' talks about being more like Jesus in our lives, and is a timely reminder of how far short we fall. I instantly liked 'Wake Up'. It's a call for us all not to keep God a secret. Go out, "wake up" and tell the world about Him! If you've come through darkness in your life, then you'll recognise the sentiments of 'Brighter Days'. God's promise is to deliver us from the darkness, no matter what we've been going through in our lives. 'Don't Go Away' has an edgey feel to it, while 'May Our Praise' was the closest the band come to a Delirious type of number. Certainly an album to consider. 8/10 (August 2008)
LEELAND : Love is On the Move. (Essential Records : 083061090524)
Although they have been around for a while, this CD represents my introduction to Leeland. The band consists of talented lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Leeland Mooring supported by keyboard player/vocalist Jack Mooring, guitarist Austin Tirado, bass player Jake Holtz, and drummer Mike Smith. Formed in 2005, their debut 'Sound of Melodies' was released in 2006, followed by 'Opposite Way' in 2008. Here we have their latest offering - and very good it is too! Probably best described as melodic pop rock, here we have grown-up lyrics that largely escape the trap of well-worn evangelical phrases, infectious tunes laden with memorable hooks, note-perfect lead vocals and a liberal use of effective close harmonies. On top of all this, production is great and the arrangements include original little touches to further add to the listening experience. It is some time since my track notes were so consistently positive for a review album, but if pushed for standouts I would say that 'Via Dolorosa' particularly impressed on early listening (the title means 'way of sorrows' and represents Jesus' journey to the cross) and others that soon matched it on repeated plays included 'Pure Bride', 'Carry me on your back' and 'Weak man'. Interestingly, the 'HDCD' light on my Linn CD player indicates that the recording is in the now little used 'high definition audio' format. Unfortunately the sound doesn't reflect this, with some of the common tendency these days to harshness and compression. This won't prevent me keeping an eye out for Leeland Mooring in future however! - a very talented guy, leading a great sounding band, recording excellent songs that reflect a faith in the One who has blessed him with the talents he is using to His glory. 10/10. David Deeks (March 2010)
LEGACY 5 : London. (Daywind : 1319D)
When the award winning Southern Gopsel group The Cathedrals retired, two of the members decided to form a new group. The resulting Legacy Five now have an established fan base, and a terrific new Cd, recorded with the London Session Orchestra. As the Greater Vision review testifies, this type of music has really got a hold of me and this is another great album. Brilliant harmonies, right from the opening ballad "Holy is Thy name". "I've Got That Old Time Religion" is done in typical old fashion style but the song itself is quite uplifting The use of vocal stacking is pure gold on "Joy" but, then, the vocal quality is there throughout the album. I wasn't so keen on the brass sounds that accompanied "Meanwhile" but with goodies like "I Found Grace" and "Committed to the Cause of Christ", we're soon back on track. The band's desire is to live their lives in accordance with God's will and deliver performances that will inspire and encourage a widespread fanbase. This album does the business, and the closing "Home Free" should become one of the hit's of the year. 9/10. (June 2003)
LEIGH BARNARD : Countless are the Mercies. ( ICC ICC0874D)
This is a CD of worship music, it's a fairly middle of the road light pop/rock style mostly guitar led stuff. It's a strange CD really. There isn't anything particularly wrong with it, but then again, there's nothing particularly outstanding about it either. It just kind of drifts along somehow. I think that it might be that there isn't much variation in style or tempo, it could do with a couple of faster songs probably, some of the intro's make you think that this will be a faster song, but as soon as the vocals kick in everything just slows down again. It's a pity really because if you listen to any of the tracks on their own the songs are quite good, just not enough variation for me when listened to as a whole CD. There is an offer with this CD to get a free video of one of the tracks "Our God Reigns" (No not that one) on a CD-ROM. The other strange thing about this CD is that the title track is listed as a bonus track at the end of the CD. It must be one of those marketing tricks that we have come to expect from certain secular labels, who seem to think that the music buying public are a bit gullible. I doubt that this is going to be a multi-million seller. It's definitely not the sort of thing you'd expect one of the leading CCM labels to stoop to. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2006)
LEIGH NASH : Blue on Blue. (Nettwerk : 0 6700 30478 2 1)
Like many, after the demise of Sixpence None the Richer, I often wondered what had happened to Leigh Nash - she of the ethereal vocals. Well, finally, here she is with her debut solo album, "Blue on blue". There's no mistaking those vocal traits from the moment she launches into "Along the Wall", but it's a rather unconvincing opening. "Nervous in the Light of Dawn" is, I think, about a personal wish for guidance and peace but, again, it's a rather weak number. Things then brighten with a catchy, shuffling love song, centering on a special relationship. "My Idea of Heaven". It's very cleverly written and has you singing along within an instant. Unfortunately, things take a dive in quality and most of the remaining songs belong in the waste bin. Leigh has co-writing credits on all of the songs, but I'm afraid that they just don't have much quality as far as potential hits go. "Cloud Nine" grabs a little of the limelight with it's catchy hooks but two good songs don't make for a good album. It's very ordinary and rather disappointing. 4/10 (December 2006)
LEIGH NASH : Hymns & Sacred Songs. (Kingsway : KWCD3263)
I guess that Leigh Nash will always be promoted as the voice behind Sixpence None the Richer. Even now, I still get requests to play ‘Kiss Me’ on the radio. But, Leigh has also followed a successful solo career, and this album is her latest release. Now, although the title suggested that the songs were a compilation of well known tunes, I really struggled to recognise a lot of them. Indeed, it was only when I scanned the sleeve credits (with a magnifying glass), that I realised the rich pedigree of the song writers. The opening ‘Saviour’, written by Dororthy A Thrupp, includes some nice, uncredited, banjo playing. It’s a prayer to Jesus, our Saviour. ‘Isaiah 55’ is a modern number, and it’s a super song of praise, with Leigh’s vocals soaring throughout. Nash has her own quirky style at times, and it’s at it’s best on the well known song, ‘The Power of the Cross’. The poppy ‘Give Myself To You’ is light and happy sounding, while Fanny Crosby’s ‘Blessed Redeemer’ is also given a breath of new life. The theme throughout the album is praise, and you couldn’t ask for more than Leigh’s rendition of Charles Wesley’s ‘Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above’. The chorus is infectious, and I’ll wager that as soon as you hear it, you can’t stop yourself singing along. For the second month in a row, I am so blessed to have been able to review a really wonderful album. 10/10. (March 2012, Album of the Month)
LENNY Le BLANC : All for Love. (Integrity : 42472)
It has been a while since Lenny's last album, 5 years in fact, and the sleeve of this his new release promises "12 fresh worship songs". They partly fulfil this criteria in respect of being new original songs but they don't really provide a fresh perspective or sound. Produced by Lenny under the watchful guise of Don Moen the overall sound of the album is typical worship cd fare to be honest - It's slick and neat but, for my mind, over processed. The first song "Ascend" is excellent. I like its strong melody line and as a result it is a worship song in the traditional sense - it will work well sung by a congregation. The second track "Walls Come Down" is pretty good too and it gives a sense that this album could really be something special. After that though I find that Lenny's great songwriting somehow struggles to shine through. I know there are some great songs amongst the bulk of the album, such as the touching "All for Love" but there just does not seem to be enough distinction between the songs. It's a trap that many albums in this genre have fallen into of late and a crying shame that this has suffered the same fate. 6/10 Robin Thompson (December 2007)
LES ISAAC : Street Pastors. Survivor : ISBN 978-1-84291-9)
Britain's late night street stories are familiar to all: binge drinking, loneliness, gang culture, knife and gun crime, violence and fear. But, since 2003 a new breed of help has been on hand to dispel the tension and bring some desperately needed hope back to our urban communities. This is the book which tells the story of a group of people, including Les Isaac, who decided to do something about the chaos, setting up the country's first street pastor's team in Brixton. Six years later there are over 125 Street Pastors teams at work around the country, with more than 3,000 Christians involved. I was pleased to receive this book, as it coincided with the launch of a street pastor team in my home city. Les takes you through the journey. From his first thoughts, he narrates in detail how the first group was put together, the problems and the impact that group has had. Using testimonies from street pastors around the country, he gives direct insights into the work. He gives food for thought to anyone considering starting their own community team, and encourages those already on the frontline. It's an engaging read, and one that you will not put down easily. 8/10 (December 2009)
Letters To God (DVD, Kingsway, unrated)
Don’t ask me why but, for me, a movie is off to a good start when the first character who speaks to you is played by John Walton Sr (actor Ralph Waite for those too young to remember), and the next 102 minutes lives up to that early promise. Letters from God is written by Patrick Doughtie, inspired by his son Tyler’s fight against cancer, and, whilst the real life Tyler Doughtie (Tanner Maguire, as Tyler Doherty) story hit the headlines when an associate stole money from funds raised to help him, none of that darker story features here. The movie instead presents a fictionalised version of the story featuring an alcoholic mailman, Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnson) who is moved to change himself as a result of reading the daily letters he collects from Tyler addressed to God, and grows close to the family in the course of the film. As well as Ralph Waite, who plays the Grandfather of Tyler’s best friend Sam (Bridge To Terabithia’s Bailee Madison), the cast supporting the central characters is excellent, without exception, even down to the bit part players such as Brady’s churchgoing boss, and the barman at his drinking den. The film looks and sounds great, the dialogue is crisp, if occasionally clichéd, and the script is by turns funny, heart-warming and moving, particularly as Tyler’s Mother Maddy (Robyn Lively) and Brother Ben (Michael Bolten) wrestle with their relationships with God and each other amid Tyler’s illness. The spiritual dimension, along with the inspired conceit of Tyler’s letters to God, add new and interesting layers to what could have been just another bog standard movie about a cute kid with cancer and even an old cynic like me can heartily recommend it. 9/10 David Cooper (April 2011)
LIBBY REDMAN : Where Love Begins. (www.libbyredman.co.uk)
Libby Redman is a soul influenced singer who, for ten years, was musical and creative director at York’s Ark Church. This is her first full length album and I must say that it packed a surprise or two. Almost immediately, my ears pricked up as the opening ‘Keep the Faith’ began. “Ah, that’s it”, I thought, “she sounds like Yazz!” The track is very stylish and tells how Libby is living her life for God. On ‘Count My Blessing’s, Jon Taylor’s sax sound enhances a nice middle eight section. There was still something bugging me about her voice, mid-album and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. ‘His Blood’ features the One Voice Gospel Choir, and what a fine song it is too. Then it struck me. Libby’s soulful vocals, coupled with Iain Boulton’s production work result in some fine work, sounding very much in the Amy Winehouse territory. Puzzle over. For an independent recording, the individual instruments come over very well, as on the piano and acoustic guitar led title track, where Libby’s vocals are simply majestic. Later on, there’s a tongue in cheek song about having her tonsils removed, but in the main, the songs are totally God centred. A very good first outing. 8/10. (April 2013)
LIES DAMNED LIES : Lamentations. (Sticky Music : GUMCD32)
Three years ago I went to the local art gallery and viewed the paintings in a new exhibition. I couldn't believe it, they were awful. I walked around them all twice and then decided to have a cup of tea. Suitably refreshed, my eye was caught by one of those said paintings. "Wow", I thought, "that's really good", and so were most of the others. In similar light then, comes this album written around Lamentations. It was only with the fourth listen that I began to appreciate the early Pink Floyd sounds, and the Sting-like vocals. Even the previously abysmal 'Mumble & Moan' started to appeal. 'The Sea' is the opening track and goes through 4.5 minutes of atmospheric music before jumping into a nice song. I can't pretend to understand the relationship between Lamentations and the chorus of 'Happiest', "You, sitting on my shoulder, talking about Bethnal Green'. Nevertheless, I've heard nothing like this in CCM before, and LDL may well be pushing back the frontiers. Currently 7/10 & rising. (January 1997)
LIEZEL : Oath of God. (office@newlifehull.org)
Liezel Goosen is originally from South Africa, but has recently joined a church in the north-east of England as one of their worship leaders. This album has just been released here in the UK and contains 13 original songs. Liezel has a very pure and clean vocal style, which I found very refreshing to the ear. The music is definitely "MOR" and that should appeal to a whole range of adult listeners. The first track is called "Living in the Sunshine" and it's a catchy, bouncy little number. The same can be said of "That's Why God Made You" as well as the foot tapping "Fix Me". Liezel says that the songs have been written as part of her life-story, through experience and emotions, and the lyrics do seem very personal. "Draw Me Lord" does exactly what the title says, while "If It Hadn't Been For You" gives thanks to God for being in her life. "Heaven" sees her relax into a "lounge bar" singing style which I didn't enjoy so much. Meanwhile, the album closes with the title track which sounds like a spoken Psalm over some nice backing music. Four songs are sung in her native language, but the Cd does come wit a short translation of each, which I found helpful. I certainly thought that the album has a crisp and clear sound, and found it a joy to listen to. Liezel is a welcome addition to the UK CCM scene. 8/10. (October 2006)
LIFE CHURCH : Dance Again. (Integrity : B00J5VVESM) .
I must admit to not being a big fan of dance music in any shape or form whatsoever, so I was not really looking forward to reviewing this album. However, I have to say that on the whole I enjoyed listening to it. The album opens with a fast number called “Alive Inside” which is quite an anthemic worship song, with a catchy synth hook running through it. In fact I’m not sure that I would call this CD dance music really, most of the songs are straightforward rock / pop arrangements. There’s a good selection of songs on here, some are fast upbeat numbers, and some are slower. More contemplative worship songs. The outstanding tracks for me being “The promise isn’t over” and the final track “Emmanuel” which are both among the slower songs The lyrics to most of the songs are simple to pick up, and you can easily worship along with this CD. So definitely a pleasant surprise this one. You can find it as a download on iTunes, I’m assuming that it will be out on CD too, although I couldn’t find anything on the album website to confirm this one way or another. It’s certainly worth a listen if you can find it though. 9/10 Andy Sayner. Editor’s Note: The CD version was released on 26th May. (June 2014)
LIFE WORSHIP : Wide Open Space.   (Integrity Music)
This is a dance worship album admittedly, and I would expect the drums and bass to be fairly up front in the mix, but on a lot of the songs on this album they drown out the words far too much. And there is in the background on a lot of the songs some kind of choir effect, which detracts from the lead vocals somewhat. It might be fine on the odd track, but when it appears as often as it does here it gets a bit boring. The actual lyrics themselves are fine, very heartfelt and well written worship songs, I just don’t like the arrangements. The slower tracks are better in my opinion, as the endless rhythm is absent, in fact the track “With Me Always” is by far the most musical track on the album. It’s not the kind of album that you can put on in the background and forget about, most of the songs are too much in your face for that, maybe you could listen in the car while driving or something. I admit to not liking dance music much to start with, and to be fair I don’t want to slam this album just because I don’t personally like it. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people younger than I am who will think it’s really good, and it must be said that there is an energy about the music that does give it some appeal. So if you like your dance music give it a go, if like me you prefer rock and roll, you might want to think twice. 6/10   Andy Sayner. (July 2016)
Like Dandelion Dust (DVD, Mission Pictures International, Unrated)
It is unusual for me to get to review a movie that has a page on rottentomatoes.com, but then this is an unusual Christian movie. Directed by John Gunn, and based on the novel by Karen Kingsbury, Like Dandelion Dust refuses to wear its faith on its sleeve, although it does play an important role in the story. And it is the moving story and the compelling characters that make it really come alive. We open with two police officers arriving at a run down house and arresting alcoholic husband Rip, played by Barry Pepper (The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan), for abusing his wife Wendy, played by Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, Norma Jean & Marilyn). During his seven years in prison, Rip cleans up his act and when he discovers on release that Wendy had his child and put him up for adoption while he was incarcerated, he immediately moves to have his son returned to the re-united couple from the idyllic life he is now living with his adoptive parents in Florida. By turns sad, moving, frustrating and heart-warming, the film follows this potential lose-lose situation through heartbreak, legal wrangling, kidnap and violence to its only logical conclusion, which I won’t give away here because it really is worth investing the time to see it yourself.  Christian or otherwise, this is a superb film graced with stunning performances from all the lead actors, particularly Pepper and Sorvino, and it deserved far better than to make back only $350,000 of its $2,500,000 production budget at the US box office. 9/10 David Cooper (May 2012)
LIKE WORSHIP : 30 of Your Most Liked Worship Songs. (Elevation : ELE2008D)
Performed by the Oasis Worship Band, this album contains songs that “the church” likes to sing. The sleeve notes say that it includes “Top ten songs from the CCLI charts, songs from the Official Charts Company, and new songs that everyone is singing. Well, when I began to listen to this 2 Cd collection, I wondered if I was living in some parallel universe, as I’d never heard of many of the songs. In fact the opening two tracks, ‘Your Grace Finds Me’ and ‘Whom Shall I Fear’ were pretty dour. ‘Cornerstone’ was far better. “Christ Alone, cornerstone” is really well crafted and a must for any congregation. Of course, eventually, some well known songs came along. ‘How Great is Our God’ and ‘Mighty To Save’ are performed well – the latter never failing to amaze me as to how powerful it is. There’s some lovely female vocals on ‘Stronger’ written by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding, while Fernando Ortega’s ‘Give Me Jesus’ features a superb male voice. From the staple diet of many churches, comes, ‘Let Everything That Has Breath’, ‘Spirit Break Out’ and ‘Blessed Be Your Name’. Meanwhile, I found ‘Our Great God’ quite stirring – written by Ortega and Mac Powell. The classic Delirous? Song ‘Majesty’ gets an outing, but this version doesn’t quite get close to the wonder of its original sound. Listeners will enjoy the comfortable sounds of well known songs, but after a few listens, there are equally some good, new songs that will equip the church to worship. 8/10. (November 2014)
LINCOLN BREWSTER : All to You. (Vertical Music 35622)
Lincoln Brewster has an interesting pedigree, having turned his back on what would surely have been a successful secular music career in order to concentrate on leading worship. Three successful years with ex-Journey frontman Steve Perry are testament to that. This makes for an interesting live worship album, as Lincoln's undoubted talent on the guitar is allowed to shine through. There are numerous guitar solos on this cd, which some people may deem inappropriate, but I would contest that this demonstrates that Lincoln is giving his best and his all to the Lord. The album gets off to a rousing start with one of Lincoln's own songs, "Majestic" and this is followed up by an excellent rendition of Joel Houston's "Everyday". The frenzy continues with "Love the Lord" and the bouncy "All to You" before moving into a period of more reflective worship. This features a version of Marc James' "Surrender", a haunting adaptation of "Great is thy Faithfulness" and one of the albums highlights, a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Another Hallelujah" (with new lyrics by Lincoln). The album then finishes where it started, with a couple of guitar driven praise numbers. There is much to commend this album, not least Lincoln's unequivocal talent on the guitar which makes this stand out from the ever increasing crowd of live worship albums. The emotion and passion of the occasion are captured well and the production, by Lincoln himself, under the watchful guise of Don Moen and Chris Thomason is first rate. There are a couple of downsides. For me, some of the songs, especially the more reflective ones, don't seem to stand out greatly and are a little derivative. The best numbers are not those written by Lincoln. Secondly, I would like to have seen the whole thing even more guitar driven, in a style akin to that adopted by Paul Oakley, but that really is a personal preference. All in all though, an album that is likely to be the best live worship album of the year, and is just a whisker short of being superlative. 8 ½ /10 Robin Thompson. (December 2005)
LINDSEY GRAHAM : No Greater Song. (www.lindseygrahamministries.com)
Lindsey Graham is a full-time vocalist pursuing God's call on her life in ministry through music. She is a graduate of Belmont University with a degree in Commercial Vocal Performance, has a Masters in Religion with an emphasis in Worship Studies, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Worship Studies from Liberty University. Her latest album is called “I Lift My Voice” and from it comes this single release. It’s the sound of a banjo that introduces the song, and its constant plucking carries the song along. Lindsey has strong vocals and I really enjoyed her performance on this southern gospel single. The song itself is all about Jesus. “Sing of our redeemer, sing of His birth and His love.” Be sure that Lindsey loves the Lord and is ready for Him coming in glory. With tracks like “No Greater Song,” her ministry looks set to grow into a thing of beauty. 8/10. (April 2017)
LINS HONEYMAN : The Secret Diary Of A Tunesmith Vol 2.   (Free download  from: https://linshoneyman.bandcamp.com/album/the-secret-diary-of-a-tunesmith-vol-2
I’ve listed this as “Roots/Acoustic” but it’s far more diverse than that and I kept changing it as the CD went on, but deciding that none were right I left it as the same style as CR’s review of “Vol 1”. Lins Honeyman is a member of the online songwriting collective Tunesmiths in which each member has to write and record a piece in a different genre each month. This is the second volume of material he has released as a result. It’s eclectic, therefore, with some work best described as “experimental”, from the quite odd “The House” (which has echoes of the Beatles’ White Album sonic experiments that you only ever listen to once), to the fairly straight-forward “Home Someday Very Soon”. The 13-track CD contains an Indian piece, a dance track, a minimalist piece and a song inspired by space. Some work better than others, as you would expect from an exercise designed to stretch you as an artist. “How Silently” is a nice Christmas-themed song which deserves wider usage, especially as it moves through juxtaposed images of “how violently” and “how joyfully” and “This Is What It’s Not (A Christmas Rant)” has a great bass line with a vocal that is very reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. Less successful are the dance track (“Dance”) and the Indian one (for which my keyboard doesn’t have the correct script to type). Best Track: “How Silently”. 5/10 (but mostly because it’s so eclectic) Paul Ganney (July 2016)
THE LION’S ROAR : Moving to Higher Ground. (www.wingsprayerhouse.com)
The Lion’s Roar are a collection of musicians, from the W.I.N.G.S prophetic prayer movement, which aims to make a contribution in bringing the Kingdom of God to the UK and to other nations through hope. With songs written by Angie Lendon and/or Rob Parker, this 11 song debut comes over, in style, as Deacon Blue meets Mumford & Sons. “He Is Coming” declares the first track, with a triumphant chorus that instantly lifts your spirits. ‘You Set My Feet On Fire’ is one of those songs that bounces along, and will have the listener tapping their feet, and the live audience, jumping up and down in praise. I made a note on hearing this song that the violin was very good during this track. Unfortunately, in other songs, it gets used rather too much and becomes rather annoying at times. ‘God is moving’ is a gentle song, that Angie caresses in a style that she has performed for many years. The harmonies are excellent on ‘Sing O Barren Woman’, while the reprise of ‘Breathe on Us’ spoils what is, otherwise, a lovely song, by the token use of the violin again. ‘Song of Heaven’ was rather bland, compared to the other songs on offer, but ‘Incredible Jesus’ is simply wonderful, and comes over as verging on gospel, in style – a really nice duet here. “I Will Rise Up and Be Strong” is just one of the powerful phrases used in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, while lastly, comes a song that the violin shines on. My apologies to violinist Ben Couper, as I think that over production of the instrument, elsewhere on the album, is to blame for me tiring of the sound. However, here, it fits perfectly and leads the way to another very good song. I’d like to see The Lion’s Roar, take this music on the road to many venues, as I think that they have every chance of becoming a very good, live ministry band. 8/10. (November 2014)
LISA McCLENDON : Soul Music. (Integrity : 26392)
I didn't hear Lisa's debut album last year but, apparently, it received critical acclaim for her neo-soul style and insightful lyrics. Her influences include Curtis Mayfied, Natalie Cole and Harry Cornick Jnr, and she serves as a worship leader in Jacksonville, Florida. The music isn't, I must say, my favourite genre but I have tried to look beyond my own personal taste to provide this critique. Positively, she does write, or co-write, most of the songs, and they range from "Stuck", a story of love, to "Accountability" and it's plain adgenda. I found the title track to be one of the best on the listing, as it had a catchy feel that easily captured my imagination. "Vibe Out" and "You Are Holy" also had that "certain something" about them, and I found these three the most enjoyable. Other's? Well, perhaps I just couldn't listen as open minded as I would have liked, as too many times I was tempted to reach for the "off" button. 5/10. (February 2004)
Little Room Recordings (Website:  www.littleroom.com)
The first thing to say before diving in is that this is not a review of the music presented at the Little Room site, but the site itself, which has undergone a significant revamp. Run by acclaimed and eclectic musician, David Clifton, Little Room was formed in 1993 primarily to release material produced by Clifton and Andy Piercey, and the site offers this and much more besides. The focus is on the sale of music for download and offers a number of file formats, not just the classic mp3 so beloved of most. It is easy to navigate, although the fact that you have to click through to a recording’s purchase page in order to hear a sample can make finding something of interest a fairly drawn out process, and there are clearly marked links to both specific artists and different genres. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the usability of the site, and it works well. However, there are some issues, mainly in the style department. Firstly, it is too text heavy, with even the home page livened up by only a few CD cover thumbnails down the left hand side, and I just didn’t find it very inviting. The designers have gone for a fairly muted choice of colours which is fine, but combined with the predominance of text it comes over as a little dull. More of a problem was the decidedly not dull “hot pink” text on the Library page which, when combined with my minor visual impairment, was almost impossible to read clearly. On the plus side, then, there is plenty of content here that you won’t find on mainstream worship music sites but the look and feel doesn’t grab the attention, which probably won’t encourage visitors to spend the time needed to find something new to listen to. 6/10 David Cooper (November 2012)
Little Town Of Bethlehem (DVD, Kingsway)
From the same stable as Beyond The Gates Of Splendour (NFN June 2011) and Miss HIV (NFN July 2011) Little Town Of Bethlehem is another fine piece of documentary film-making that lays bare the realities of a situation that too few in the world truly understand. For many, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict simply appears to be an intractable issue, unsolvable without serious bloodshed on all sides, but this thought-provoking film follows the stories of three men; a Palestinian Muslim, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Christian, as they strive for non-violent means to bring peace to their home. The marriage of the honest and passionate words of these men with the dark, and at times brutal, imagery of war, destruction and human suffering is a striking one that serves to bring home just how superficial is our understanding of the issues involved and how deep seated they really are. Together with a soundtrack that is stirring, without getting in the way, the overall effect inspires a feeling that maybe, just maybe, it might be possible for the Holy Land to finally find peace after centuries of struggle. It is stretching the point too far to say that the film is ‘entertaining’, but it is both eye opening and rewarding and it is well worth taking a look at if you have even the slightest passing interest in the Middle East conflict. The DVD itself also features a director’s commentary and a music video set to two different songs from the soundtrack, one in English, one in Arabic. If you value quality documentaries, this one is recommended. 8/10 David Cooper (November 2011)
LIVE WORSHIP : Standing at the Cross. (Elevation : ELE1619D)
Recorded at St Thomas’ Church, Philadelphia, Sheffield, this is the second album in the Worshipping Churches series. Pete James is the worship leader, and he takes centre stage on the opening ‘We Have Come to Worship’. It’s the usual contemporary worship formula, but the song does get a little monotonous towards the end. ‘Our God Is Stronger’ is a brighter number that really draws out some collective worship, and I enjoyed this song immensely. ‘We Believe’ has a few rough edges to it’s recording but, perhaps, that’s what makes the song so endearing. I know people moan about having the same worship songs played to them over and over again, but it does take time for these new tunes to sink in. However, ‘Fill Me’ is so simple to pick up that I can’t see anyone not liking it for worship in the church. The closing songs are a little slower and quieter, as the Pete tries to bring those gathered, closer to God. I’m not sure that it really works, and the songs just close with a whimper, rather than glory. It’s a brave try from a buoyant church, and maybe the album deserves a few more plays. 6/10 (March 2012)
LIVE WORSHIP FROM NEW HORIZON. (ICC : ICCD69730)
Never heard of New Horizon? Me neither. So, for the uninitiated, New Horizon is a 7 day interdenominational Christian event held at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. Last year's event saw David Lyle Morris and Ian Hannah lead the worship, which attracts some 4,000 people each day. "All Hail the power of Jesus' Name" is a favourite hymn of mine but I had never heard it sung like this before. It was a truly amazing rendition, and that song alone hooked me into some great personal worship. All too often, live praise albums are just like the last one but, not this one. It was really good to hear some new songs (to me) like "Father We Dedidcate". If I was from Australia, I would call it "a beaut". "Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit" is a tremendous song, and the feeling of those gathered just leaps from the album into your soul. There is really so much strong, pure worship and praise on this album that I could go on and on about it's content. Let me say no more, then, than this is a top notch release. 10/10. (February 2003, Album of the Month)
LIVING FIRE : Jesus Rules. (http://thumperpunkrecords.bandcamp.com/)
This was my third attempt to review this CD – the first was blank and the second the dog put her teeth through. It was worth the wait, though. This CD is a “take no prisoners” powerpunk explosion. Leaping out of the case with a great 9-note riff and a repeated “Jesus Is Not Dead” (the title of the opening track) you know what you’re in for. This is not a sit-back-and-listen CD, it’s a leap-around-the-room-not-caring-who’s-watching CD. It is a wall of sound, solid Ramones-style rhythm, no-nonsense drumming, driving bass and uncompromising vocals (Sham 69 being my closest comparison). The CD is Buzzcocks with a better guitar sound and Ramones with more to say (see “Adore The Lord” for a good example). Damned with faint praise? No way – Damned with serious praise: powerpunk isn’t a cerebral lyrics style, it’s a get-the-message-over-quickly genre and this delivers in (ace of) spades. Covering classics was a hallmark of 70s punk and Living Fire do it with “Old Rugged Cross” (yes, the old hymn) – I can’t see many churches singing this arrangement, but I liked it. They even have a go at Napalm Death-ism with the 22 second 120mph “He Will Come Again” and Undertones with “Redemption Of His Love” (vocally bearing probably a bit too much resemblance to “Needles And Pins” by the Searchers). There’s only one guitar solo on the entire CD and that’s at the end of the final track. Classic. Best track: “One Way”. 8/10. Paul Ganney. (July 2014)
LIVING HOPE : With Faith. (CD : £5 from R & H Thompson, 199 De La Pole Avenue, Hull, Yorkshire, England, HU3 6RF)
For their first venture into the world of traditional praise and worship, husband and wife duo - Robin & Helen Thompson - have released this mini album containing 7 self-penned songs. Also available is an accompanying songbook containing full lyrics, guitar chords and acetate masters - a boom for church worship leaders. It's primarily Helen that does the singing, with Robin concentrating on his excellent guitar work. "Almighty God" and "You Have Broken Me" are simple acoustic numbers, both worshipping the Lord, and doing a fine job too. "Here We Stand" is my favourite. It's an uptempo number that has a catchy chorus, and you can easily see many congregations praising with this! As fine as Robin's vocals are, his "Mighty King", I'm afraid, seems to be quite a struggle and doesn't work for me. On the other hand, there's never been a question about the power of Helen's vocal chords, only now there seems to be a mature warmth with them, too. If you long for good old fashioned p&w, you won't be disappointed. 8/10. (December 2002)
LIVING HOPE : Chronicles. (www.nadezhdamusic.com)
Hull's Robin & Helen Thompson have been on the Christian music scene for many years. Stalwarts of bands such as Medieval Fete, Trinity, and Giants Will Fall, for the past 15 years, they have been quietly going about their business as an acoustic duo. Their first CD, "With Faith" contained a mixture of pop and folk songs, and it's the latter style in which the couple seem to have settled with on this album. Proceedings begin with a re-working of the ancient hymn 'Amazing Grace'. If you thought that you knew the hymn well, then, think again. The words are sung to a completely new tune and has been met, so far, with very positive feedback. 'Better Place' is an uptempo number where Helen sings that being in God's heart is better place". Her voice is at it's best on 'Watch The Sunrise'. Helen's gentle tones are caressed by Robin's backing vocals, and some warm string sounds. Once or twice I found the mix of the vocals to be a little low, and found it difficult to hear some of the words in 'This Song's For You'. Robin's guitar playing never falters and he's ably accompanied by his wife's skilful playing of various whistles. The beat is fairly steady through the album, but the blues tinged 'I Want You' does move the pace on a little. US singer/songwriter J.Brian Hill joins them on the closing song - a well produced version of 'Be Thou My Vision', which I can see going down well, live. Living Hope remind me, a little, of Anam Caras. It's a simple album, but there's a lot of quality within, and should appeal to many. 9/10 (August 2010)
LIZ CLARK : Path of Dreams.   (www.planktonrecords.co.uk)
Although this is Liz’s first album release with Plankton Records, it is, in fact, her fifth full length album. Honing her musical gift and talents through numerous gigs and events across the UK and USA, this Belfast born lady brings to the table, a musical style that I find difficult to name. Yes, there’s a touch of Celtic melody here and there but it’s really a very individual sound. The choppy beat of ‘Holy Holy’ is a perfect vehicle for Liz’s powerful vocals, and on ‘Brand New Day’ her voice literally soars with distinct phrases. Writing with producer Paul Mcllwaine, the pair of them certainly know how to bring the best out of each song. Multi instrumentalist Mcllwaine is a gem of an artist, and his guitar playing, first class. ‘Pure’ is a simply beautiful song, with Liz’s exquisite vocals leading you through some brilliant instrumentation. On ‘Holy Rain’, the song almost breaks into mainstream pop, and there are some really nice rhythms included too. Quieter songs such as ‘Whispers of Love’ fit nicely in the track listing, while the more radio friendly ‘Only You’ rounds off this album of faith songs. If you’re expecting something in the mould of Moya Brennan or Joanne Hogg, then think again. Liz Clarke provides something a little out of the ordinary for you to meditate on.   8/10. (September 2012)
LIZ CLARKE : Destiny. (www.planktonrecords.co.uk)
Northern Ireland’s Liz Clarke follows up her 2011 release, ‘Path of Dreams’ with this 10 track album. In contrast to her previous album, there’s less emphasis on the contemporary celtic style, and more a leaning to rhythm & blues. Saying that, there’s a definite 70’s progressive rock sound to the opening ‘Driftin’ Sun’. The Robert Burns poem ‘Red Red Rose’ is put to a gentle acoustic guitar backing and on this track, Liz’s vocals are perfect. There’s not any real overtly Christian message in any of the songs, but I thought that ‘My Destiny’ could well have told the story of the search for Christ in one’s life. There’s some nice guitar work from co-songwriter, Paul Mciwaine, on a blues version of George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. Here, the vocals soar and wrap themselves lovingly around each word. ‘Burning With the Blues’ gets a mention for being one of the most miserable songs I’ve ever heard, but Liz redeems herself with the wistful, celtic lament ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. I’m not quite sure of the track listing itself because, towards the end of the album, the guitar solo’s of Mcilwaine become rather repetitive and intrusive. On songs like ‘Threw It All Away’ (a 12 bar blues), ‘When You Are Near’ and ‘It Will Be Alright’ the guitar really detracts from Liz’s voice and sometimes sounds alien to the track.. The result is a pity, for me, as the basic love song, that is, ‘When You Are Near’ is a lovely number. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that Liz, herself, has a terrific voice that commands a larger audience. 7/10. (June 2014)
LLEF (The Cry) : Sound of Wales.   (Elevation : ELE1680D)
Sound of Wales are more than just a worship band, they are a worship ministry, a collective of musicians based in Wales who want to be part of revealing Jesus glory to the earth. They are about impacting communities with the power of music and training up the next generation of worship leaders. And now they have collectively released a worship album. The four main musicians involved in this project are Cath Woolridge, Jon Goode, Mark Galozzi-Hibbert and Rachel Mathias though there are many others than contribute to the album including the Dependent Sessions Male Voice Choir – well you cant have an album from Wales without one can you?! It features a collection of eleven songs written by the team (though mainly Cath and Jon) and some traditional hymns in a contemporary style. Of the latter you will find Stuart Hine's arrangement of “How Great Thou Art” and the undervalued “Here is Love Vast as The Ocean” with lyrics in Welsh and English. There are Celtic nuances in the sound, unsurprisingly, but it is not strongly a Celtic album. For the most part though, it does seem to offer a fresh perspective on contemporary worship – there is definitely a “sound of Wales” in there – and Cath's mezzo vocals are a welcome change to the more regular and ubiquitous sopranos that usually take centre stage. “Your Way, Yahweh” and “Romans 8”  are the stand out original pieces for me and although it seems to lose a little consistency of style towards the end, it is a an excellent debut.   8/10   Robin Thompson. (November 2012)
LONDON COMMUNITY GOSPEL CHOIR : 21st Anniversary Concert Live at Abbey Road. (Kingsway : KMCD2844)
Together with some of the many great artists they have worked with over the years, this album sees the London Community Gospel Choir celebrate it's 21st birthday. It's a couple of years since I saw the choir live in my home town and, then, they really blew away a packed audience. Their delivery compares pretty well with that of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and there's a fair range of songs on this album. 'How I Got Over' and 'Faith' are typical gospel numbers, and the choir deliver them very well. Then, it's time for the first guest, Paul Carrack, with a great version of 'The Living Years'. As the track listing went on, I realised that I was enjoying the guest tracks more than those by the choir on their own. Both Matt Redman and Martin Smith take the lead on 'Blessed Be Your Name' and 'I Could Sing of Your Love Forever', and these were very enjoyable. Of the other songs, I quite liked the electro-funk sound on 'Dance' but I failed to get as excited as I had at the live event. The package comes with a DVD of the concert but none of my media players were able to play the disc. 6/10 (May 2008)
LONDON COMMUNITY GOSPEL CHOIR : Glorious. (Anthemic Music : ANT2010CD1)
When I saw this choir perform live a few years ago, I was struck by the sheer joy that they exuded to those gathered. Not a particular lover of this kind of music, I soon found myself joining in with most of the songs. The question for me with this recording was, "Could that same joyous feeling be replicated to CD"? Well, the choir do their very best to prove the point when they open with U2's 'One'. It's very well sung, and I like this version so much more than the original. Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' was played to death last Christmas on UK TV and Radio through three different versions. Perhaps, then, it wasn't the best thing to do on this album. For me, it was a complete turn off. Similarly, I found the mellow and rather refrained version of 'When the Saints Go Marching In' to be rather ordinary. Things do lift with the unmistakable guest vocals of Paul Carrack, on 'Soul to Soul'. The Beatles' 'Let It Be' is the next song to get the gospel treatment and, although there's nothing wrong with the vocals, the production is less than inspiring. Acappella tracks such as 'Glory, Glory, Hallelujah' and 'Down in the River to Play' fair quite well but I felt that songs like 'Now That We've Found Love' and 'Abide With Me' just lacked any real purpose. The closing 'God is Love' is obviously meant to be a big number but I thought that a messy production and too many individual lead vocals spoilt it. So, to answer my question; only in parts, did this album bring joy. 6/10 (August 2010)
THE LONELY REVOLTS : Broken Bones Burning Hearts. (www.thelonelyrevolts.com)
This is a punk band, make no mistake. And that’s punk as in the spirit of 1976 rather than the rather more glossy stuff of the same label these days. Thin lead guitar sounds (composed of short riffs), fast distorted playing behind a half-shouted, half-sung lead vocal. The backing vocals are chanted, not sung. And only 2 songs make it to over 3 minutes in length. Lyrically it’s right, too: “we’re all gonna die” (“Open Graves”) is not your Hillsongs-type refrain. When they chant “Alleluia” it’s with an edge of defiance. And their idea of slow is reserved purely for intros (e.g. “Inside Job”). If there’s a criticism it’s that there’s an element of sameness to a lot of the material: the tracks tend to merge one into another in your memory. Overall, think Sham 69, Buzzcocks, the Damned, Bill Mason Band (and the “I’ve got a problem” on “Falling Apart” is pure Johnny Rotten). If you loved them you’ll love these guys: I did. Best track: “Check Your Pulse”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (April 2015)
THE LONGING: The Longing. (Authentic (6100101)
Out there in the big wide world of worship music, it's often hard to find something that stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons, but I believe The Longing have cracked it with their self-titled debut album. The longing are a 4 piece band from Nashville who play as if they've been together for years. The lead singer & main songwriter Jason Ingram has released his own solo material whilst also having written for the likes of Rebecca St James; not a bad pedigree with the other band members also being seasoned pros, which shines through in every song without exception. The opening track "Heal This Land" lulls you into a false sense of security with a gentle melodic intro before launching into a rocky chorus with some force (and very effective that is too). The next track "Salvation Songs" follows on in a similar vein - not a quite such a pace, but keeping your head nodding away all the same. Even the old classic "To God Be The Glory" gets a reworking. Most CDs I have contain a couple of corkers that I tend to play over and over again, but this is a rarity in that I can listen all the way through without fiddling with the repeat buttons. The Longing's style is a mixture of Delirious, Sonic Flood & to a lesser extent Vineyard, producing some very strong phrases that'll have you singing along & tapping away without realising. All but 2 songs have been written by the frontman Jason & he successfully manages to remain original with his lyrics, steering well clear of tired & clichéd worship fayre which is a huge blessing in most listeners' books! One that has to go to the top of the pile. Can't wait to see what else they're going come up with. 10/10 Simon Redfern (June 2007, Album of the Month)
LOOSE GOOSE : 'Break Over Me'. (Loose Goose/Nelson Word)
Imagine Iona playing a set of contemporary praise and worship songs, and you've got a good idea about how Loose Goose sound. With both current and ex-members of the aforementioned band providing the music, it's not surprising that we've got that sort of sound here. LG are three members of the worship team at Holy Trinity Brompton's first church plant, St. Barnabas. It is an album of p&w, and opens with the enigmatic 'Show Me Your Ways'. Carolyn Stillwell's vocals are the strongest of those on offer, and she really shines out on 'Back to Avalon' and 'Eternity' where the voice is very Cheresque. This latter song is probably the pick of the pile and many will instantly join in the chorus of 'No more tears, no more pain, no more fear, no more shame'. If you like the quieter, atmospheric type of worship, you'll like this a lot! 7/10. (November 1996)
LORDSONG : Refuse to Be Afraid. (Daywind : 8713162)
After hearing the great track "While I Wait" on a Daywind sampler, I was really looking forward to some terrific southern gospel from this new trio. Sadly, I'm still waiting. Not that I really dislike any of the other tracks, it's just that they're all a bit too thin. In fact, the album was over before I realized that I'd heard every track. "Empty Fields", "He Didn't Have the Heart" and "Nothing Compares" just don't ever rise above average. Inspirationally, only the aforementioned "While I Wait" did anything for me. As for the rest? I guest they would be okay in a shopping mall. 3/10 (November 2003)
LORIAAN SMITH-TAYLOR : Believe. (loriaanmusic@gmail.com)
Loriaan was born and raised in South Africa. Singing since the young age of 3, her earliest memory of singing, was when her father used to play Lionel Richie. She used to belt out at the top of her voice to, “You are my Destiny”. From that moment onwards she knew she wanted to be a singer. Loriaan’s contemporary gospel songwriting reflects everyday life issues and the joy of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Indeed, it sounds like a very personal album, written from the heart. For the most part, it’s a pleasant pop collection of songs with a mixture of uptempo and slower songs. The opening ‘Everlasting God’ is very pleasing to the ear, as is ‘Hallelujah to the King’. The latter is quite catchy but suffers from a rather weak ending. The title track is a ballad and really shows off Loriaan’s vocal quality to the full. Praising Jesus, the song is performed with real feeling, and should be a hit with most listeners. With Phil Goss producing and providing most of the instruments, the album is quite a polished affair. Songs like ‘In Your Name’ and ‘New Sound’ are very appealing, and the gentle ‘It’s Your Love’ flows effortlessly and caresses each word. The simplicity of ‘You Alone’ is the song’s real strength, with Nancy Sawyer making a guest appearance on piano. Closing proceedings is another fine song. ‘Jesus’ has a great hook, a well thought out middle eight, and is just one of those songs you immediately want to play again. A couple of songs didn’t quite meet the grade but, really, maybe I’m being too picky. Well worth a listen. 8/10. (December 2011)
LOU FELLINGHAM : Promised Land. (Kingway : KMCD2853)
Lou Fellingham is, perhaps, best known for being the lead singer of top UK band Phatfish. However, her debut solo album of 2006, 'Treasure', created such a stir, that she's been flown out to Los Angeles this time to record her follow up. Along with husband Nathan, she's joined by some terrific musicians, and co-writes most of the songs. And, when the music starts, it's pretty powerful stuff. The title track stirs you into praise, while 'Come Let Us Enter' really motors along. Lou has sung on a lot of praise compilations over the years, and it's a credit to her that her voice is so sharp and clear. She has blossomed into a fine singer and is at her best on songs like 'Mercy From the Throne' and the bouncy, 'Breathe'. Of the ten songs featured, the first five are very strong, so I'm somewhat bewildered that the second half of the album tails away with some lesser quality songs. Indeed, I found little to get excited about after track five. The album has already topped the Christian charts in the UK, so it's evident that I may be missing something in my critique. However, for me, it's only 6/10. (September 2008)
'LOU FELLINGHAM : The Best of…Live!' (Kingsway : KWCD3301)
Regular readers of these columns will be aware that I rate Lou Fellingham highly, considering her to have one of the best voices on the CCM scene. In this two-cd release we revisit well known ancient and modern church anthems as well as 'Fellingham family' material featuring its usual intelligent, bible-based lyrics – all beautifully delivered within carefully worked arrangements. Emphasising just how capable Lou is as a singer and worship leader not only within the Phatfish environment but also as a solo artist, there really isn't a poor track here. The 8 minute 'See the Lamb of God' is an excellent example of a mini-sermon in a strongly melodic song, delivered worshipfully and note-perfect. An over-7-minute version of 'There is a day' is also included – a particular favourite of mine that I long ago decided I would have at my funeral! 'God immortal' includes a prayerful centre section that then builds before dropping back to the original verse and chorus and ending with a call to 'come and worship Him in His majesty'. 'Holy Holy' is superb, featuring a particularly strong 'Chris Eaton – like' grumbling bass arrangement that builds and builds. A complete contrast that spotlights the quality of Lou's vocals is the stripped-down piano and voice of 'God of mercy (prayer song)'. Sounding coherent in a way that many 'compilations' do not, and with consistently good sound quality, this is overall an excellent release. The review copy was supplied as downloadable tracks so with no indication of whether the CD booklet includes lyrics etc – but in the hope that it does, worth a comfortable 10/10. Dave Deeks (August 2012)
LOU FELLINGHAM : This Changes Everything. (Integrity).
Here’s the first single to come from Lou Fellingham’s eagerly awaited live album of the same name. After quietly spoken phrases of “Jesus is alive” and becoming “alive in Jesus,” she launches into a number that sounds as if it’s come straight from Jesus Culture. From my first listen, all I could compare it to was Kim Walker Smith. The song builds well throughout and Lou’s vocals are crisp and clean. Instrumentally, the backing, is fine and the resulting recording obviously goes down well with those gathered. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the album sounds like. 7/10. (April 2017)
LOU FELLINGHAM : This Changes Everything. (Integrity)
Two years after the release of her last album, Fascinate, Lou Fellingham returns with This Changes Everything. Recorded live at the Old Market Theatre in her native Brighton, Lou’s sixth solo album captures her in her element: worshipping with a full band, among old friends, using new songs to communicate timeless truths. A lot of the tracks sound very much like similar releases from Jesus Culture. Were as they have Kim Walker Smith, Lou takes control of these song with her own, fine, voice. “Praise the Name of Jesus” is the first song, and is quite quiet in presentation. The other extreme is the pace of which “The Final Say” races along. Lou sings of the promise that God is with you at all times on “Turn My Life Around,” while “Strong to Deliver” sees her duet with a male singer. Then comes the albums ‘purple patch.’ “Everlasting Arms” sounds like one of the great hymns of our past in presentation. It flows majestically with lyrics such as “Lean on the everlasting arms” and “Your mercy flows like a river.” In similar vein, “Lord I Need You” comes across with great power within. Sandwiched between those two tracks is the gentle “Speak”, which is all about listening to God. These three songs are, for me, the pick of the album. Of the others, “Tapestry” starts off okay, but seems to go on forever, losing its way, halfway through. Then, there’s “Sweet Surrender.” It’s repetitive chorus and unimaginative lyrics are laid on a bed of funky rhythms that sound like some 70’s disco tune. It’s not a bad album, but I’d preferred to hear more songs that didn’t sound the same. 7/10. (May 2017)
LOUNGE WORSHIP Vol.3 : Chill Out Celebration. (Spark : SK7184)
The sleeve notes on this CD describe it as "Songs of worship and inspiration to help you find a quiet space and time in the fast paced and noise filled world of today" It's full of dreamy synth pads, saxophones, and boring vocals. To be honest I've heard more inspiring lift music. This CD is a complete bore from start to finish. The choice of songs is a bit strange too, "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers, and "I Belong To You" which is a Lenny Kravitz song to name a couple, but the really strange one is Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" not the kind of track you'd expect on a CD like this, and it doesn't work at all. It's a long CD too running in at well over an hour long, and if there was any real variation between the tracks it wouldn't be so bad, but it just seems to drag on forever. I fell asleep listening to it twice before making it all the way through, so I guess as chill out music it does have the desired effect. At one point I was wondering when the first track was going to end, when I looked at the CD player I realised that we had actually made it to track three and I hadn't noticed, as there was no noticeable change of tempo, style or choice of instruments at all. There is no band name to be found anywhere on this album, just a list of the musicians who played on it. So I'm guessing that it's probably an idea that originated in a church somewhere, which is fine, a lot of good worship CD's have been produced that way. I'm just not sure that this is one of them though. 3/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2006)
LUCY GRIMBLE : Overcomer. (https://lucygrimble.com)
Lucy is a London based singer/songwriter, who released her album “Created to Worship” recently. She has been writing songs for the church and leading worshippers for many years, both as a solo artist and with her talented band of musicians. Her desire is to create space for anyone to encounter the love of God. Lucy’s own worship flows from a place of personal intimacy and consecration to God, out of which she writes songs that carry a message of freedom, hope and identity. This new single tells of giving thanks through during disappointments and “hopeless places”, as well as asking Jesus for help to see through times of sorrow. It’s a rather choppy affair, musically, that drifts from one tempo to another. Lucy’s voice reminded me of Florence Welch, so that’s no bad thing. The recording was done live and, at times, during the choruses; Lucy’s vocals do get rather lost in the mix. However, overall, it’s a bright number that should garner plenty of radio play. 7/10. (May 2017)
LUKE DOWLER : Live At Swan City.   (www.lukedowler.com)
On the last night of a 2-month US/Canada tour, Luke’s soundman decided to record the gig. It therefore captures all the energy of his performance (a lot, for one man and his guitar – plus looper: there are a few good bits where he plays solos over his own backing) together with the imperfections that make live music so brilliantly unpredictable. The vocal is therefore a bit distorted in places and the audience seem a bit far away, but there’s no mistaking the quality in Luke’s guitar playing. “Gabby’s Song” showcases his vocals better, being a gentler number, whereas I’d probably have left “Lovestruck” out. The nature of the recording means that this isn’t the best introduction to his songs and is therefore difficult to recommend, but if you’ve seen him live it will form a great reminder. Best track: “Hero (An Anthem For The Apathetic)” (and not just because I really liked the title).   4/10   Paul Ganney. (June 2015)
LUV ESTHER - The Musical. (Fierce)
Based on the life of Esther, the musical that has been touring the country draws in some of the Bible's essential messages for life today. The media reports hail it as a great success, and it was only a matter of time before the soundtrack appeared. Without seeing the presentation itself, I've got to say that on it's own, the album doesn't really shine. There's a whole bunch of musical styles on show, and the Britney type rip-off of "Ordinary Day" sounds cheap and nasty. But, there's worse to come as Vaudeville makes a return on the tacky "Welcome to Our World". Out of the blue comes a dance track, mid-album, that is so out of place with everything else you actually wonder just what the writer's were thinking of. "For This Very moment", for me, is the pick of the listing. It's a lovely ballad that is sung well, and with a lot of passion. On their own, the rest songs fail to live up to the press hype of the musical itself. Maybe you had to be there. 3/10. (January 2006)
LYDIA RICHARDS : Soul Awakening. ( Voice Music : Download from iTunes, Amazon, etc)
‘Soul Awakening’ is the debut six track EP from upcoming singer/songwriter Lydia Richards. The album has been supported by the Brighter Sounds project, a part of the Voice Music initiative that seeks to invest in and support talented young musicians. The title track is a laid back number that starts with voice and piano and then ebbs and flows through various crescendos and diminuendos. I like it, even though it reminds me of something else, though I can’t think what! The next number, “Don’t Let Me Get Away” is a surprising contrast with a heavier sound and more of an Evanescence type feel. This was unexpected on first listen, but after a few runs through it becomes apparent that the melody and cadences are in a similar vein to the rest of the EP and anchor it to the rest of the songs. I’d have liked a few more songs in this style. After that the EP settles in to a collection of acoustic numbers, which provide a window into the faith that pervades these songs. However, whilst it tends to park in the reflective, thoughtful vein, there is still some movement and colouration and enough to keep you interested in where it’s going. The last track, “Break my Stone” lifts the feel of the EP again with a fuller sound and some excellent harmony work. It’s clear that Lydia has great potential and what is presented here is very much a rough diamond. Once this is smoothed and polished there is much that this young talent can achieve. On the whole, a very, very good debut. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (April 2014)
LYNDA RANDLE : God On The Mountain. (Gaither : 844692)
This is the first time I've come across Lynda's music, but I hope it's not the last. Beginning with the nice and easy gospel of the title track, her vocals soon melt into your heart. The timeless classic, "One Day at a Time" gets an airing, while the soulful "He Will Carry You" is just the thing for a heavy heart. Her slower paced songs can be likened to those of Marilla Ness, and that's no bad thing. I didn't particularly like the bluesy sound of "Until I Found the Lord", but found myself tapping my feet to "There is Power in the Blood" - a song that features full choir accompaniment. Lynda has a splendid vocal quality and it's at it's best, perhaps, on the closing ballad "It's All Right". What I'd call, a very easy and enjoyable listen. 8/10. (November 2005)
LZ7 : Light. (Fierce! : FIERCD6057)
For those of you who haven’t caught up with LZ7 already, the line up is Lindz West, with Nichola Scholey, Rob Evans, and Nana Ntiamoah. The title of the album refers to the band’s message; “be the Light of This World”. The musical style is modern R n’B and, at times, there’s evidence to compare LZ7 with the likes of Black Eyed Peas – certainly on the track ‘Amazin’. The opening song, ‘This Little Light’, is really catchy although the repetitive remixes of the same song lack imagination. Another message of the band is to spread love, and that’s the subject of ‘Ditto’. Vocals seem to be shared out and each singer shows what they are capable of. ‘The Greatest Day’ speeds along at pace, while ‘Dance This Night Away’ has all the makings of a secular hit. I also enjoyed the mid tempo pace of ‘Fall At Your Feet’, and I can see just what all the hype behind this band is all about. The music is relevant to current chart sounds, and stands up well. The lyrics are simple to understand, yet powerful at the same time. Although this reviewer may be getting a bit long in the tooth, this album still had plenty of appeal to me. 9/10 (January 2011) Forward to the next archive
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