Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive A

!AUDACIOUS : Mighty. (Integrity : 99892)
How do you capture a moment? Well, according to Senior Leader, Glynn Barrett, "In 2009, we captured the moment when the !Audacious band led !Audacious City Church (Manchester) in passionate praise and worship." I wasn't aware that this particular church was so big, so I was surprised when I received a recording, backed by Integrity. In a way, albums like these make me feel rather old now, as I don't remember praise and worship being so loud or rocky. There's the usual driving guitars and stomping beat on songs like 'God you Are' and 'Made Alive', and a great guitar solo in the middle of 'My All In All'. The female vocals on 'All That I Need' get rather lost in the mix, but the first four songs certainly give out lots of energy. There are some great times for slightly quieter collective worship on 'You Alone Are God' and 'Breathe On Me', but the pace doesn't slow for long. Songwriters like Matt Hill and Joel Weaver seem to contribute a hefty amount to the tracks, but I can imagine a lot of jumping up and down and thumping the air to Dave Adam's 'Deeper'. Those gathered certainly seem to be enjoying their experience and, listening, I just had to turn things down a bit. Old age? Probably. 8/10. (October 2009)
!AUDACIOUS : For all It's Worth. (Integrity-Provident : 99962)
The band from Manchester's Audacious City Church release their latest album in what seems to be quite a flowing stream of material in recent times. 'Lift Your Name' kicks off with shed loads of drive in a building rock anthem-style number, with the adrenaline rush continuing apace, showing no mercy as 'Found My Freedom' launches into action. Good think I, but not exactly new and innovative. If like me though you are quite partial to a bit of good old fashioned rock riffs, power chords & bold drums you may overlook that as you'll probably be nodding along in the car to many of these just like the Churchill dog on the parcel shelf!! The album kind of feels like it has been cut from a contemporary worship mould of some sort, following a pretty standardised pattern with the style of music crossing between big 80's rock, Hillsong & reminiscences of some earlier Delirious tracks. The bouncy "get the kids jumping up and down" tracks are occasionally broken by slightly slower numbers of which 'Move In Me' is the first - a lovely, relaxing, chill-out piece with simple smooth vocals from Jenni Dring. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad album & the worship obviously works wonders in a live setting, making uncomplicated declarations of faith & praise but I would like to see someone break that mould. I think these guys have the gifting from God to do that. 7/10 Simon Redfern (December 2009)
!AUDACIOUS KIDS : Lift Off.   (Audacious : B01G6QGGYA)
!Audacious Church are no new kids on the block when it comes to worship albums, having quite a number or releases to their name, but kid’s praise is a relatively new avenue for them. Following on from the success of their first !Audacious Kids release “Way of the Brave”, the Manchester, UK based church released the next instalment “Lift Off” just a few weeks ago, on Father’s Day. I didn’t catch the first release but anticipated that this album would have a very contemporary feel; that is a heavy slant towards synths and sequencing. I wasn’t disappointed. And, as with most children’s worship releases, it’s uptempo and upbeat. “Boom Chick (Books of the Bible)” is, not surprisingly, a song about the books of the bible. I know the idea has been done many times before but not, I suspect, as a rap like this version is. And it works, with a great hook too. “Praise Party” and “Family” have a more soul/R’n’B texture to them but sit well with the overall feel. “Whisper to my Heart” is a departure, an intimate song which is well crafted enough, but feels a little out of place. “Sunday School Mashup II” is an interesting idea – taking several Sunday School classics and fusing them together in a modern-day style. I’m not sure it works entirely, but it sounds like great fun nonetheless. Overall though, I think Lift Off is a great snapshot of the !Audacious Kids ministry and a very good album, though it loses a point for me or including the kids voices in the mix (just a personal preference, sorry!). But that is really my only complaint on what is a vibrant and lively expression of worship.   8/10   Robin Thompson. (July 2016)
A-1 SWIFT : Tales From the Swift. (Gospocentric/Alliance : GCD2135).
If I remember rightly, this is the first gangsta rap album that I've ever had to review. It's the type of thing that you'd expect from the likes of Coolio, and starts of well with the cry 'Bring the Praiz'. A-1 Swift are Chris & Alisha Tyler who rap out their message with only the most basic backing. This, however, does not make a thin sounding album. At it's best, there's a great song about spiritual warfare. Never mind just using the spirit's sword, when the horned guy starts messing, get down on your knees and 'Drop Da Bomb'. They take it in turns to sing/rap and Alisha's voice comes over well on the more melodic 'Don't Cry'. The strangest track is the one called 'Praiz God'. It sounds like Shaggy, and he keeps calling out for someone called Chris Barber, although the printed lyrics don't mention him! Are you ready for this? I'm not sure. 6/10. (January 1997)
A BROKEN LINE : A Broken Line. (https://thumperpunkrecords.bandcamp.com/album/a-broken-line)
A Broken Line met in church and began playing songs to raise money for the charity HOPE California and then gained opportunities to play further afield, all of which “career to date” culminates in this debut album. Their fiery sound has a mix of street punk, ska, pop punk, metal and rock and roll and they base their music around a desire to know God and make God known, through lyrics that reflect the battle for faith in a difficult world. It’s a very enjoyable mix of styles, all held together by an underlying punk style and the sheer energy of the band. No track is longer than 4:14 and the excellent “Drive” is only 41 seconds which really did epitomise the saying “leave them wanting more”. The mix of styles, especially the ska influence invokes memories of the Clash, with the guitar work being more Buzzcocks/Only Ones and vocally possibly Sham 69 with less shouting or the Libertines (“Alive on the 111” being a good example). There’s some lovely riffing going on between the three band members, especially the intros to “Teeth” and “The Enemy Is Within When The Heart Is Without” and the outro of “Big Black Ocean” plus the vocal hook from “John Tesh! You’re Giving Us A Bad Name” will stick with you long after the album has stopped playing. Overall a very enjoyable album and possibly the best punk offering I’ve heard in a long time. Best track: “Teeth”. 8/10 Paul Ganney. (December 2016)
A COMMON GOAL : For God And Country. (www.acommongoal.bigcartel.com)
I’d like to be able to tell you something about the band, but the review CD came with only a track list and Google couldn’t find them, so I’m stuck with the CD itself (which is probably what you’re most interested in reading about anyway). This CD snarls at you in the best punk tradition, but also has some melodies to go with its 100mph drumming and strumming. Lyrics like “Open the Bible and read what’s inside” (“Lessons”) comes across as command more than exhortation, befitting the genre. The overall mix is a bit muddy, something like you’d get in an underground club but you can’t mistake the energy (with a clearer mix this CD would rip your speakers off the wall). Live this would sound great, but sat at home you find yourself craving a bit more clarity and variety. If I were to liken it to anyone, it would probably be more Sham 69 than Sum 41 (especially the pause to shout “hey hey hey” in “Life”), although the relentless guitar is more Ramones. It’s not bad, but it could be better. Best track: “Life”. 5/10 Paul Ganney. (June 2013)
AARON FERRIS : Solitary Realignment. (www,myspace.com/ferrisaaron)
Here's a new name to the Christian music scene. Winging it's way from County Antrim, comes the debut album from singer songwriter, Aaron Ferris. Now, unlike artists such as Martyn Joseph, and Gareth Davies-Jones, Aaron doesn't weave stories into songs. Instead, he proclaims Jesus as His Saviour, and writes songs that are all based on gospel truths. The first song, 'All I've Ever Wished For', unashamedly stands up for Jesus as savour and friend, while the short 'Heaven Awaits' thanks God for such a friend. It's a, mainly, acoustic sound that is used throughout, with guitar, piano and drums being the most used instruments. Aaron's voice measures favourably with his counterparts and I found the lyrics very easy on the ear, apart from 'Happily Ever After'. Have you ever thought that you don't deserve to be loved by God? Well, Aaron, puts his thoughts on this with a song called 'I Don't Deserve You'. My favourite track on this folk/pop album has to be 'Think on This'. If I've understood it right, Aaron asks the question about making ourselves ready, For the return of Jesus to this earth. It's a bit of alternative praise and worship, to my mind, and I think that Aaron tackles it well. Judging by his myspace page, his music certainly seems to be picking up plays, and that's always a good sign. 8/10 (February 2010)
AARON FERRIS : State of Emergency. (www.facebook.com/AaronFerrisNI)
More than three years after his debut CD, Northern Ireland’s Aaron Ferris, returns with a six song offering. This time, Aaron tells stories with his lyrics, and cleverly weaves in evangelistic messages. With mostly acoustic guitar backing, the sound is clean and well recorded. After the foot tapping ‘Propaganda Village’, he lets loose the song of the album, in my opinion, ‘Mission Field’. Sometimes, we forget that there is a mission field in our own community. Indeed, our own street! The song is radio friendly and gets that message across. On a different level, are two songs, ‘1859’ and ‘Annie’. The former is written about the story of the last great spiritual awakening in Ulster. . Two men were aware of the desperate standards and morality of their country and set about meeting once a week to pray for the land that God would intervene. In short, the effects of that revival are felt to this day. As for ‘Annie’, I found this a very dark and sad subject. It tells of the murder of a little girl by her own father, and the anguish and pain that she must have felt. It’s a brave song for anyone to write, but Aaron obviously feels strongly about it. ‘Jerusalem of the East’ tells of the Lord’s return to this earth, while ‘The Way Out of Here’ is sung as a lament. This time, the message is loud and clear – In times of trouble, or when doors seem to shut, cry out to Jesus. ‘Refreshing’, and ‘enjoyable’, are just two of the words that easily describe this release. 8/10. (August 2013)
AARON JEOFFREY. 'After the Rain'. (Star Song).
I've got to be honest here, the first time I played this, I couldn't wait for it to end. I didn't like it. But, a couple of days later, I gave it another chance and one or two songs seemed quite catchy. Since then, I've come to really appreciate this father and son duo from America. Sounding, at times, like Hall & Oates or Michael Bolton, the songs are very big on production. The powerful vocals of both men carry each song to it's full potential, of which the ballads shine out. 'After the Rain' is one such number while 'Beyond' is a classy piece of music. If it's singalong time you want, then there's plenty of that too. What a good way to start your day. 9/10. (July 1996, Album of the Month)
AARON KEYES : Not Guilty Anymore. (Kingsway : KMCD3132)
As this is a re-release of Aaron’s 2007 recording, I resisted the temptation of searching the NFN Archives for a previous review. It certainly sounded fresh, and the opening ‘You Never Cease to Amaze Me’ certainly gave me high hopes for the rest of the album. The song has driving rhythms and a chorus that will hook you in first time. ‘Psalm 62’ was written by Stuart Townend, and has a Celtic flavour in it’s praise. I liked Aaron’s vocals and they seemed to suite both the slower and more upbeat numbers. ‘I Am Yours’ is quite self-explanatory, while the declaration of wanting to be ‘Like Jesus’ is something that we all have tried to do in our walk with Him. Aaron mixes sup the pace of the track listing well, so that there’s a good flow between the songs, and I liked that very much. Towards the end, he sings two slower praise and worship songs, ‘Where Are you now’ and ‘Not What My Hands’ – the latter building into brilliant power of worship. The album may be 4 years old, but it still contains up to date, relevant sounds. If you didn’t buy it the first time round, perhaps this is your chance. 8/10 (January 2011)
AARON KEYS : Not Guilty Anymore. (Kingsway : KMCD2806)
I must admit that I was expecting something quite different when I first picked up this album, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear it. This CD kicks off with a fast moving track called "You never cease to amaze me" which has a really catchy melody to it, and really it just carries on from there. I didn't find one track on this CD that I didn't like. There's a track called "Psalm 62" which was co-written with Stuart Townend, but the rest of the CD is self penned. All of the songs are worship songs, and most of the tunes are the kind that stick in your head after you've listened to them a couple of times. The last track "Not what my hands" is a slower number with some really nice strings in the background. If you want to check this CD out there are some tracks from it at http://www.myspace.com/aaronkeyesmusic Personally, I'd recommend it. I would have given it top marks, but during the first track the sound was pretty badly distorted, and I tried it on more than one CD player. I didn't get the impression that it was part of the arrangement, it just seemed like the levels were a bit too high. Maybe it was just a faulty pressing, but it does spoil what otherwise is a brilliant CD. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2007)
AARON KEYES : Dwell. (Kingsway : KWCD3236)
Well, this is one of those albums that gets better, the more you play it! After a first listen, I wasn't overly impressed but, for whatever reason, the second play really made me sit up and take notice of some of the songs. Was it my previous day's mood? Had I been too tired when giving the album it's initial listen? I'm really not sure. What I can say is, that it contains some crackin' songs. There are simple themes behind most of the songs and you won't be surprised to learn that 'I Am Not the Same' tells of becoming a new creation. The 'Song of Moses' praises the Lord, while the title track puts "trust" at the top of it's list. Things really get going with 'Only Just Begun', a good song that flows so naturally, and is pleasing to the ear. 'Sinless Saviour' is a glorious number, while 'Life Without My God' bounces along in a Beatles Sergeant Pepper style. Aaron's vocals are easy to understand, and you can hear every word that he sings. On 'Raised Me Up', he celebrates being rescued by God from despair, and this song would be my choice as a single. A really good album, from a fine artist. 9/10 (October 2011)
AARON SHUST : Anything Worth Saying. (Brash : BRH 0017-2)
This isn't a bad CD really, it's full of quite catchy tunes delivered on the whole in a fairly laid back pop style, mostly led with acoustic guitar, but backed up when needed by electric. The outstanding track for me is "My Saviour My God" (My saviour loves, My Saviour Lives, My Saviour's always there for me) This is one of those CD's you can out on in the car while driving, or listen to it as background music. I found that if I sat and listened to it too intently it was a bit "samey" and despite the fact that I liked all the songs individually it seemed to just lack a bit of a spark somehow, but still it kind of felt like it might grow on me after a while. Despite saying all that, there is some excellent musicianship on display here by all the members of the band, and the final track "One Day" has some really nice acoustic guitar playing in it. So this might be your cup of tea if you don't fancy anything too heavy, or loud, it definitely wouldn't offend your granny. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2009)
AARON SHUST : This is What We Believe. (Centricity : CM1157)
This is Aaron’s 4th studio album and what a cracker it is! Since his debut album ‘Anything Worth Saying’, plenty of people in the media have said that his follow up releases have fallen short, in trying to repeat that initial success. Well, I for one, certainly believe that he’s made it this time. The title track starts things off with a solid declaration of his faith. Indeed, the whole album just shouts of personal faith in Jesus. Apparently, Aaron and his family have known some pretty rough times but, he says “Through all of the sickness and heartache and loss, my family has run to God and his promises. We’ve been forced to our knees, but this trial has made life exponentially more meaningful. And through it all, God has never left us.” Song after song arrowed straight into my heart and left me with a yearning for more of what God has to offer us. ‘Your Majesty’, ‘Risen Today’ and ‘Sing of My Redeemer’ are all very special, in a soft rock way. There’s a great duet with Kari Jobe on ‘Wondrous Love’, but the best is kept for last. Based on John 3:16, I just played this track again and again. ‘God So Loved the World’ is destined to become a classic church song of worship. It is so beautiful. Albums like this make reviewing so worthwhile, and what a privilege it is to have heard this one. Quite stunning. 10/10 (February 2012, Album of the Month)
ABANDON : Control (www.abandonrock.com)
This is a CD which kicks off in a very lively fashion with shades of Delirious in the vocals (especially on “Help”). It’s therefore no surprise that there are U2-esque guitar pieces in here too. It’s all very well done – the clear vocals, the lifts into the choruses, the strong drumming. “Live It Out” and “S.O.S.” will no doubt see whole fields/halls bouncing along joyously (and so they should). As the CD progresses, it slowly gains its own character, though. There are hints of Muse in there (some of the arpeggio’d keyboards and the distorted bass, for example) but gradually the melding of all these influences becomes the band’s own sound. The tempo drops as well as it progresses, which to my taste is not so good, but it does allow the band some space to work in. Overall, some more creativity and songcraft like the tail end of the album married to the energy of the opening (as “Under Fire” indicates they’re capable of) would see this score even higher. Best track: “S.O.S”. 7/10 Paul Ganney (August 2011)
ABANDON KANSAS : The Harder They Fall.
This is probably the best Christian Rock CD I've reviewed this year (Kairos came a close second). The opening title track has a Nickleback feel to the band, with a Muse tinge to the vocals (without being so space-rocked out) which is occasionally transmitted to the arrangements. The empty verse and rocked-out chorus approach works very well, especially as the "ups" are so lifting. Overall, the guitar work on this CD is very good with some of the overlays working very well indeed - the mix is great and overall it's a very enjoyable CD to listen to. Aside from "The Harder...", "Make Believe" is very good, with a Snow Patrol drive to it, but basically there's not a duff track here at all and the band do have a sound of their own (despite my reference points - there's even some U2-isms in there, especially on the intro to "Close Your Eyes", together with a Big Country-esque riff underneath it) and the uplifting nature of the music makes it a real pleasure to listen to. The only downside is that I'd have preferred more tracks on the CD, as I was enjoying it so much. I'll just have to play it again, instead. 9/10 Paul Ganney (December 2009)
ABI JOPSON : I Owe You. (www.abijopson.co.uk)
Abi started learning to play guitar during her teenage years and I love writing music. She says that; “Song writing is a lot more than an emotional outlet for me; it is a way to be real and honest with people about situations in my life and hopefully to give a good testimony as a Christian.” The theme of this album is about how we owe God, our creator, everything, and the songs have been written through different experiences. The opening song, “Tainted Picture” begins with a tinkling piano, that leads into a chugging guitar rhythm. Abi’s vocals are sweet and the song really blossoms as it progresses. The title track of the album has an east coast American feel to it, courtesy of some jangly guitars. On “God Shaped Hole” Abi’s vocals get a little lost in the overall production, but the song itself reminded me of early Blondie material. If I had to compare Abi’s sound to anyone, I guess that Francesca Battistelli would come to mind. The layered vocals on “What Kind of Man” work well, while the Latin tinged “I Need You” shows off Abi’s vocal versatility. I really liked “Always in My Heart.” I found it a very moving song, about losing a close friend or relative, feeling the pain of loss, but knowing the joy that we’ll meet again in Heaven. No matter how small your good deed, we can all make a difference in our lives. That’s the whole story behind “Make A Difference”, and it’s very poppy sound. Abi also shows that she can rock it up a little on “The One I Can Depend On.” Here, the song motors along nicely, and hits just the right notes. Song writing wise, Abi succeeds in getting simple messages across in her songs, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t make you think! I listened several times to the bright and sunny sound of “If You Were A Potter”, and found something new in it each time. Finally, for an old guy like me, I loved the twang of the retro guitar on “Creation’s Dance.” For a debut album, Abi is a lively and welcoming light to the UK’s Christian music family. 8/10. (August 2016)
ABRAHAM LABORIEL : Guidum. (Integrity : 08642).
I think that this is the first jazz album that I've ever had to review, and it was very difficult too! Only the title track contains lyrics, so it's ears tuned to Abraham's slappin' bass for inspiration. He has, apparently, played with all sorts of top artists' recordings but wanted his own album to sound live. Many of the tracks laid down were in one take and, at times, it sounds just like a bunch of musicians jamming together. 'Wassup' is quite a happy little number, and 'Exchange' follows up in similar vain. However, by track seven the sound was getting just a little monotonous and, towards the end, I was getting really fed up of each track. Abraham's son gets his own drum solo on 'Beebop Drive' while there is no denying that Justo Almario's sax break gives 'Another Day' something special. I guess, given my lack of jazz knowledge, that this may be quite an album but, for your average Joe it's nothing more than, average. 5/10 (June 1997)
ABUNDANT LIFE CHURCH : Send Me. (Authentic Media : 8204362)
This CD and DVD twin set kicks off with two distinctly Delirious-esque numbers, "Take all the Glory" and "You sent Your Own". It's a strong and positive start, without breaking the bounds of originality. The tone, in true worship album fashion, then begins to calm down a bit with more intimate numbers, highlighted by the one track that keeps replaying itself in my mind "You Never Fail Me Lord". Mind you, considering that is one of only two lines in the song, its not surprising. I guess it will be harder to remove the song from my head than the pews from your local Anglican church. But it's this section of the album that's the problem. Whilst the worship is genuine, as far as a cd/dvd release goes I just don't feel these songs have anything new to offer. It picks up again with the song "To Know You" which is supported by a super guitar riff - shame more of the album couldn't be in that style - but overall, its pretty much the same old same old. 6/10 Robin Thompson. (November 2007)
HIGHER - Live Worship from Abundant Life Ministries. (CD Recording £13.99 inc' p&p from: Abundant Life Ministries, Wapping Road, Bradford, England, BD3 0EQ.)
With all due respect to Hillsongs Australia, I'm really pleased to be able to say that, finally, we've got a British release that to rival such great praise and worship music. From the church, that is, The Abundant Life Centre, comes this 12 track release with songs all written by worship pastor Lara Martin. The record begins in true Hillsongs tradition with the triumphant sounding "God Will Build This House". That's closely followed by another uplifting track, in the shape of Higher". Not sure who sings on the individual songs but the female on the slower "Your Grace Covers Me" has a voice like Olivia Newton John. "I Will Follow Jesus" gets a bit repetitive towards the end and tends to lose itself in it's own importance, but this is a minor blemish on a truly marvellous album. Great things have been happening at this church for three years of so, and this worship release is another great testimony to the ministry as a whole. Talented songwriting, excellent musicians, and well worth your time. 9/10. (February 2001)
ABUNDANT LIFE MINISTRIES ; God Is here. (Kingsway : KMCD2434)
For their third major release, The Abundant Life Centre in Bradford gathered, once more, to record an album that matches anything that Hillsongs Australia has put out before them. Not that I'm trying to say that there's a contest going on here, just that this album proves beyond any doubt that there are some great praise and worship movements here in the UK. With songs written primarily by Lara Martin, vocalists Betahn Stevens, Yolande McKenzie, Alex Crossley and Helen Kempster are joined by the Abundant Life Choir to raise the roof and lift up their hearts to God. From the powerful "I Live to Worship" to the gentle "More of You", there's a real sense of god's presence resonating through song. Loved the string sounds on "The Voice of Hope", which just gave a wonderful song that something extra. The female vocal on "How Amazing" is just that! It leads the whole congregation into full bloodied praise. With jonathan James andBethan Stevens chipping in with the song writing credits too, there's certainly some gifted people sharing the good news from Bradford. 9/10. (April 2003)
ABUNDANT LIFE MINISTRIES : How Loved. (Kingsway : KMCD2521)
One of the biggest and most thriving churches in the north of England must be the Abundant life Centre in Bradford. The previous releases from their live gatherings have been of the finest quality and have shown that British praise and worship is alive and well. Lara Martin contributes quite a lot of her songs and she has become an accomplished singer over the last couple of years. However, it's Johnathan James's "Everybody" that starts things off here, with an exciting new song that sets the tone. On the other hand, Lara's "I Trust in You" is one of the poorest I've heard from her. The song sounds very laboured and runs out of gas too early. Songs such as "You Are There" and "As For Me/I Have Decided" show the togetherness of the congregation in full flight, yet "Delight in You" chugs along without any real conviction. "On Earth as in Heaven" is a good song that flows well, and "Peace" is a beautiful song that has a real punch. A little patchy in parts but nonetheless, well recommended. 7/10 (August 2004)
ABUNDANT LIFE MINISTRIES : "Sing". (Kingsway KMCD2574)
This is the first studio recorded album to be released as part of Kingsway's new 'Devoted' series - and it's a good one. It mostly features the vocals of Lara Martin and Mark Stevens, who also wrote most of the songs. All the vocals are good - including the one track led by Helen Kempster ('Swept Away'), and I would have liked to have heard more from her. Nine of the ten tracks are strong lyrically, musically and performance-wise. The one 'duffer' is the closer - a 'mother doting over new baby' song with only guitar and piano accompaniment, labelled 'unplugged'. For the rest, some bluesy rhythyms and a great hammond organ sound contribute to the general 'feel'. The standout track is probably "My Everlasting Lord" although others run it close - in particular "Your Great Love" and "Your Grace Covers Me". With such strong vocals however, it is a shame that the voices are sometimes a bit low in the mix - the first track, "Incredible" is one example. Another minor comment is that Lara has a tendency to pronounce the occasional word a bit strangely, including 'a - live' becoming 'uh - live' on "He's real"! One thing I can say after hearing this album is that a certain Colin Parkinson can definitely play bass guitar. His crisp and inventive playing adds significantly to the five tracks that he contributes to - including in particular "He's Real" and "You Are My God". So, overall a good one, definitely worth a listen - and if you are wavering, all tracks can be sampled at www.alm.co.uk where you will also find details of other Abundant Life recordings. 8/10 Dave Deeks (March 2005)
ABUNDANT LIFE MINISTRIES : Divine Exchange. (Kingsway : KMCD2798)
Here's another one of those CD & DVD packages that seem to be whizzing around the market place at present. This time, it comes from Bradford's amazing Abundant Life Ministry. But, wait a minute…..isn't that Gareth Gates on the front cover? And, as I read the credits, how come this album has just been released although it was recorded live in 2001! Hmm, something's not quite right here. Oh well, onto the music and you find that most of the songs have been written and led by Lara Martin and Mark Stevens. They do a fine job too, leading those gathered through the usual energetic openers like "I Am Changed" and " I Will Bless the Lord at All Times". I was really pleased to hear the musicians complimenting the vocals, without having none of that over zealous guitar or brass section which sometimes muscles it's way into the limelight. The title track is a time of worship and that comes mid-album. Then, as the pace picks up again songs like "Book of Days" and "This is Our Time" launches things off again. In the years since this recording I think that the Abundant Life Centre has produced better albums but the added DVD also gives you a taste of just what all the fuss is about. 6/10. (August 2008)
ABUNDANT LIFE MINISTRIES : How Loved. (Kingsway : KMCD2840)
This is the latest offering to come out of the Abundant Life Ministries based in Bradford. With worship leaders Lara Martin and Mark Stevens at the front of things, they both whip up the excitement with the opening 'Everybody'. Both leaders have terrific voices and are backed by some talented musicians. I must admit, the accompanying DVD brought things to life for me, whereas the audio CD alone left me feeling that some of the songs sounded rather flat. The DVD also shows just how those gathered respond to the music and take part in the worship. 'You Are There' is a very smooth number while 'How Loved I Am' builds up in power and glory. It's great to see just what's happening at this church in the UK, as it looks to be a very exciting time. Everyone joins in with songs like 'Forever Faithful' and 'On Earth As In Heaven' and it's plain to see that God is with them. As a CD & DVD package, the latter only enhances the former. 8/10 (June 2008)
ACCORDING TO JOHN : A2J. (KMG : KMGD8681)
Let me say, straight away, that this album got played over and over again for review purposes. Couldn't quite put my finger on it, but there was something very refreshing about this band from the moment "Remedy" opened proceeding. It's acoustic rock, in a sort of REM style, that reminds you of things like "Losing My Religion" and "Stand" John Waller's vocals aren't quite as distinctive as Michael Stipe, but his individual flair is just as infectious. The songs are well written and there's solid, bible messages throughout. "Blue Sedans" tell of the hope the band have as followers of Christ, and "Rock" affirms that they all put their trust in THE rock. Yes, they slow things down a bit with "Nothing Back" and "Everlasting", but it's the rockers that will really make you sit up and take note. 9/10. (April 1999)
ACROSS THE SKY : Across the sky. (Word : WD2A-886261)
I enjoyed listening to this CD, it's a straight forward no nonsense rock album. I'm told by my son that it sounds a bit like Busted, which is not a nice thing to say about any band, I know, but it is that kind of music, perhaps a bit more restrained, and also, of course, with something worthwhile to sing about. I thought that the singer sounded a bit like Justin Curry (Del Amitri) for some reason, which is odd because this band is American, not Scottish. The only really daft thing about this CD is that the promo version only contains half of the tracks from the final release version, which seems a bit bizarre. So this is only a review of half an album. If I assume that the rest of the CD is as good as the six tracks here then I can recommend it, but unfortunately I have no way of knowing for certain what the other six tracks are like. So far, then…9/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2004)
ADAM BAKER : Beyond the Sun. (www.adambakermusic.co.uk)
In 2006 Adam Baker released his first CD to help raise money for missions projects in Africa. From this point on, he started to gig regularly. In 2009, he also released a follow up Cd, whilst studying at Bible College in Glasgow. The album, 'Your Eyes' was selected as Album of the Week by the Northern Ireland radio station U105. This new CD reflects some of the things that are close to Adam's heart. Recorded by James Duffin at the Foundry Music Lab, this 8 track offering should win Adam plenty of new fans. He plays guitar himself, but is joined by some, more than capable, artists, and a fine production. His vocals instantly reminded me of Neil Young, and this is really strong on 'Wish you All the Best'. Here, Adam sings of a young girl, leaving home to escape a violent father. Back to the beginning, and 'Eagles (When We Wait)' bounces along brightly, and I was instantly hooked by the sound. 'Carry You' is a foot tapper that has Jesus speaking at the centre of it, saying "When the road gets rough, when you're lost and confused, Let me carry you". It's simple, but very effective and engaging. There's some impressive guitar work on 'On the Cross' while Adam gives a bluesy feel to the closing 'Set Me Free'. Adam's already won plaudits from the likes of Robin Mark and with this release, you can see why. 9/10 (September 2011)
ADAM BAKER : The New Day EP. (www.adambakermusic.com)
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Adam Baker is a songwriter and musician. His music reflects some of the things that are close to his heart, from issues of social justice, to his faith in God. This 5 track ep is a follow up to his 2011 release ‘Beyond the Sun’. It opens with the stylish ‘Come Away’, that just begs to be played time and time again. As I indicated on his previous release, there’s definitely a sound of Neil Young in Adam’s vocals and on this track, his backing shows influences of REM. The title track contains some excellent guitar work, as does ‘The Beauty and the Broken’. I found the latter recording slightly annoying, as the percussion sounded a little robotic. But, the song itself is well written. Adam says; “the song for me is a song about hope, change and transformation. It’s recognition of beautiful things in life existing alongside the struggle and brokenness. I believe that we are made in the image of God and as such have to some extent the same desire to see change. Our world of both beauty and brokenness gives us this hunger.” On ‘Weary Soul’ Adam comes up with some serious, old fashioned, blues, while he chooses a simple acoustic sound on the sweet love song, ‘Next to You’. Joining Adam’s guitar is some lovely violin playing from Sophia Pitcher. This only adds to the overall production of the song. It’s a real pleasure to review this ep, and this release only underlines the quality and consistency of his music. 9/10. (August 2015)
ADAM CUNNINGHAM : Adam Cunningham. (Track Star : 8 81534 4024 2 9)
Adam Cunningham is a classically trained pianist, singer and musician. After leaving the Lord along way behind, Adam's faith was re-ignited when his second son was miraculously healed from a serious condition. He soon found himself writing songs based on his hard times, as well as the new life he was beginning to lead. "You Are My God" is a simple declaration, and it's obvious from this opening track, that Adam has a big voice. Indeed, I thought it sounded something like that of Mark Schultz. These powerful vocals are even more to the fore on "Don't Let Go, a ballad about being strong in Jesus. The style is adult pop, but Adam's not afraid to mix it a little with the country edge to both "What Love Can Do" and "One Angel". (I really liked the fiddle break on the latter). "Glory Down" portrays a real excitement for Jesus and Adam's personal lyrics makes the song really come alive. Produced by veteran CCM man, Martin Omartian, I think we can look forward to some great music form Adam Cunningham in the years to come. 7/10. (July 2007)
ADAM WATTS : The Noise Inside. (bec Recordings)
A true solo artist, Adam Watts writes, sings, plays, produces and engineers all his own material. His back catalogue of over 300 compositions have been included on various TV and motion picture soundtracks. His songwriting seems to be based around American pop rock of the current genre, and is a bit of a mish-mash of quality. After the opening two, very ordinary, songs Adam lets himself go a bit with the heavier sounding "Meaningless Things". His acoustic guitar work on "Forgiven" is particularly nice, and he repeats that quality on "I Would Choose You". Here the pretty guitar verse is joined by a heavy sounding chorus that works really well. The best song on the album is "With You", a catchy thing that has some jangly guitars to accompany his passionate vocals. Adam shows he has some good songs in his collection, but here, the consistency lets him down. 4/10. (March 2005)
ADDISON ROAD : Addison Road. (INO : 43582)
Addison Road are a 5 piece indie/rock outfit from Dallas, Texas, and have been on the Christian music scene since 2001. Their independent releases have raised more than an eyebrow or two, and their music is described as being in the same genre as Superchick and Barlowgirl. Singing is the job of the only female member of the band, Jenny Simmons, and an admirable job she does too. I thought that her voice and the opening two tracks reminded me a lot of Pink or Avril Lavigne. High energy, and rather catchy. The press release says that the band's lyrics are meaningful to teens and young adults. I guess that's why they meant very little to me then. Well, I still caught onto the fact Jenny was singing about faith, and being given a second chance, but the songs were all very much the same after you'd heard the first two or three. The writing credits are shared by the band, and they've obviously done well to get this far. Perhaps, a little more time may see them mature into something better. 4/10. (August 2008)
ADIE : Don't Wait. (BEC : BED45601)
Just in case you didn't know, Adie is the wife of singer Jeremy Camp. She also supported him on his last tour, thus keeping it "all in the family". Adie is more of a pop singer than Jeremy, and it's an album full of material that could chart quite well. "Your Way" is a promise by the singer to live for God, and it chugs away quite nicely. "When It's Over" is the strongest cut. It has a good guitar sound, excellent vocal delivery, and is just a good pop record. Similarly, "Don't Wait" is pleasant and very catchy. Most of the tracks have writing credits for Adie and Jeremy together and I guess that's why the songs seem to fit well together. "What Have I Done" is almost a lullaby which asks "what have I done to deserve your (God's) endless love, and "Turn, Turn, Turn" is an up to date version of the timeless classic. If you want nothing more than some good old fashioned pop music, Adie could well be for you. 8/10. (March 2007)
ADRIAN SNELL : 'City of Peace (Part 2) - My Every Breath'. (Alliance).
Regular reader's will, no doubt, remember Part one of this musical epic being reviewed just before Christmas. With this relase, Snell continues the story of the Jewish people's story. 'The Cry' is a haunting number which begins wit crashes of thunder before Adrian literally does cry out, rather than sing, the words. Despite having most of Iona providing the backing, this album fails to lift many of the offerings above mediocrity. On track 5, he recites a 12th century poem over some very bland music. My only thought here was "could it ge much worse?". Thankfully, there are a couple of highlights, such as 'City of Peace' - the song, but this CD is poor. 3/10. (May 1996)
THE ADVENTURES OF CHRIS FABLE. (Pilgrim Productions : SIG17)
Based on John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, this family film tells of a runaway child who lives with a bunch of mis-fits in a junkyard, stealing to survive. When a friendly preacher tells Chris that his father is still alive and that he must go and find him, the boy begins a journey through the wilderness and comes up against fiends of many kinds, and the devil’s temptations. Sounds good doesn’t it? Wrong! Budget film is the quote that comes into mind, and the special effects, just aren’t very special at all. Acting is quite wooden, and story lurks from one scene to the next. CCM star Crystal Lewis makes an appearance, and also sings on a couple of songs, but I’m really scraping the barrel to find anything positive to say about this DVD. 5-8 year olds may find it entertaining for a short while but I should stay well clear if I were you. 3/10. (February 2012)
AFTER EDMUND : Hello. (Slanted : CMD1126)
Likened to The Killers in one review, this band consists of five members, all of whom are classically trained musicians. This is their debut album and it's sound is generally modern rock. The guitars play a big part in the sound and the vocals of Mitch Parks are sometimes are sometimes lost in the mix. When he does appear, he sings with great authority, as with 'Thank God' and the melodic 'Like A Dream'. I thought I heard a touch of Newboys influence in some of their songs. Indeed, 'Stealing Away' could well be a Newsboys song. The members of After Edmund are also multi talented as far as their instruments are concerned, and often swap guitar and drum playing if the mood takes them. The strongest cut on the album is 'Come And Rain Down', where they offer themselves to Jesus and ask to be filled with Himself. I'm not sure what 'It's Alright' was supposed to prove, but there's a lot of layered string sounds on a messy arrangement, before it all leads into a rather tepid rock song. Not a stunner of a debut by any means, and I feel there's plenty of work left for these guys before they hit the big time. 5/10 (February 2009)
AFTER THE FIRE : Signs of Change (RoughMix - order from www.afterthefire.co.uk)
This is a very difficult album to review in a short space. I mean, I could wax lyrical for days on how important it was when it was released in 1977 and how fabulous it sounded then against a very bland CCM landscape. It still sounds as good as it did then (except that my CD copy doesn't click, hiss & jump) - so, assuming you liked it then, you're going to like this now. Or maybe even more: the bonus tracks are very good (the demo of "Back to the Light" revealing some very Wakeman-esque synth work and "Dreamaway" being every bit as good as I remember it) and the transfer to CD is very well done. If it all sounds very dated then that's because it's a product of it's time: 1977 was the cusp of the transition from prog rock to new wave and it shows. But it's still a wonderful album - I can't wait for the re-releases of the others... If you were into it then, buy it again. If you missed it but were ever into Gabriel-era Genesis or Wakeman-era Yes, give it a go. Otherwise, buy a copy for your organist for Pete Banks' wonderful Hammond playing. 10/10 (1977) 9/10 (2004). Paul Ganney. (January 2005, February 2005)
AFTER THE FIRE : Forged from Faith. (Available from iTunes)
Released on October 10th, this single represents the reason behind the band's recent decision to start playing again. With lyrics written by singer Keith Smith, it's a reflection of his experience after performing at Greenbelt's 2004 Festival. Peter Banks was immediately inspired to put the words to music and the result is a sure-fire radio hit. Showing that the band have lost none of their musical quality, the song is a mid tempo rock number that has that "feel-good" factor about it. In all honesty, the moment the song had finished playing, I played it again, and again. Get those downloads working! 9/10. (November 2005)
AFTER THE FIRE : Live at Greenbelt...Plus (CD from www.angelair.co.uk)
This was a very difficult CD to review - it's essentially the soundtrack to the DVD "You had to be there", and I was. After the Fire's triumphant return to the Greenbelt festival after 25 years (during most of which the band didn't exist) is captured here exactly as it happened - complete with the odd bum note, missing words and not-quite-there-in-time mixing. You therefore have to listen to it twice - once to get used to the fact that it's not a mega-polished studio outing, and then again to enjoy it for all the energy and memories that AtF evoke. There are some storming tracks - Joy, Gina 2004, Starflight, Dancing in the Shadows - and the odd "hmmm…." (Der Kommissar) but mostly it's a real pleasure. Then there's two bonus tracks recorded the following year in an "unplugged" session in the Christian Aid tent. The sound here has been lifted from a video camera, and is very good. "Forged From Faith" is the better of the two, but that's being picky, really. Knowing that the whole of this CD comes from live tapes which couldn't be edited, overdubbed or re-done just goes to show how good this band are live. Buy it if you're already a fan - even if you've already got "You should have been there". Otherwise the CBS double CD would be a better bet. 8/10 (for pure energy!) Paul Ganney (May 2006)
AFTER THE FIRE : AT2F (Angelair records : LC10415 www.afterthefire.co.uk)
Anyone who is in their forties now will need no introduction to After the Fire. In the late 70's and early 80's they were arguably the biggest CCM band in the country, and their live show was excellent. This particular CD was meant to be released in 1984, but the band split up before it was released, and it never saw the light of day until now. These tracks are demo tracks and therefore not quite up to what you'd expect for a production CD, but to be honest they are still pretty good. And it's interesting to see the direction that the band could have gone in, when listening to this alongside their other albums. There are a couple of tracks that are more guitar based than most ATF stuff was at the time. And the instrumental 1984-F is an attempt to do something similar to 1980-F from an earlier album. Step by step is typical of what the band were doing at the time while the following track Don't say Goodbye is more like the tracks on the later albums. The only track that's a bit iffy to me is the cover of Stand by Me, which just isn't them. Overall though this CD covers most of their musical styles, and I found it to be an interesting CD to listen to, being heavily into ATF at the time, and even now if I still listen to them a lot. I suppose that a lot of people will think that this is a CD for die hard fans only, but I think it's better than that. Definitely worth a listen. If you do a search on Myspace for them there are some tracks and video that you can peruse to give you an idea of what it was all about. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2006)
AFTER THE FIRE : 'ATF - Radio sessions 1979-1981': (Angel Air SJPCD301)
London-based After The Fire were originally on the scene from the 1970's to early 1980's. In 2004 they were re-formed by keyboardist founder Peter Banks, with guitarist John Russell returning and new members added. Here we have tracks recorded live at radio sessions when they were at the height of their fame and had minor chart success, first in the UK and then the US, and in 1981 were on the same bill as a newly famous band called U2(!) ATF specialise in synth-led high energy melodic rock. Lyrics tend to be positive rather than overtly Christian. Having owned their 'Laser Love' album when first released (was it really 30 years ago?!) I was looking forward to hearing this reminder of the ATF sound and was glad to be launched into it via the instrumental opener 'Joy'. As the CD continued it was great to be reminded of tracks such as 'One rule for you' (probably the stand-out for me), 'Laser Love' (two recordings, the second one being the better mix), 'Like the power of a jet', 'Life in the city' and the medium-paced 'Sailing ships'(another particularly strong track). The CD very successfully captures the energy and essence of ATF, but sound quality and mixing could be better, and there are occasional vocal tuning problems ('Who's gonna love you' and 'Billy Billy' being examples). I am not sure also that the strongly synth-based approach stands the test of time too well as I found the rasping sounds of these keyboards from 30 years ago getting a bit much after a while and would have loved to hear more guitar - but then I am 30 years older too, so this could be the reason! Overall then, for me 7/10. www.angelair.co.uk. Dave Deeks (July 2009)
THE AFTERS : Never Going Back to Ok. (INO : 43062)
Three years after their debut album, The Afters return, looking to make waves in both the Christian and secular market place. Their sound is something akin to Snow Patrol meets Embrace, but most of the songs are very mediocre in quality. Josh Haven's vocals are quite good and he excels on the classy, medium paced love song 'Ocean Wide'. Then, there's some great, chunky guitar chords on 'Myspace Girl - a song written about the former bass player of the band who tracked down a girl on the internet and married her. I struggled to find any real meaning of life's struggles or glories in a lot of the songs, and the lyrics are certainly not overtly Christian. 'We Are the Sound' is a more attack minded performance, while 'One Moment Away' plods along at it's own pace. Really, there's not a lot to get excited about here. It's not a bad album, but there are few highlights. 6/10 (August 2008)
THE AFTERS : Life is Beautiful. (Fair Trade : 3621160419)
The Texas-borne band—comprised of vocalist-guitarist Josh Havens, guitarist-vocalist Matt Fuqua, bassist Dan Ostebo and drummer Jordan Mohilowski—cites verse James 1:17 as a major source of inspiration for this album. Unlike their ‘Never Going Back’ release of 2009, this album is full of melodic pop songs that make a refreshing change to the monotony of current indie records. It’s a real pro-life themed album, highlighting God’s love for us, and the beauty in the world around us. ‘Every Good Thing’, comes from you, is praise at it’s best, while the thankfulness held in ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’ for the simplest of pleasures is a reminder to us all to appreciate what we have in our lives. ‘Moments Like This’ is such a happy sounding song that it’s impossible to listen to just once. Indeed, I found myself playing the album almost immediately again after the first listen. Song after song hit just the right spot with me, and it was a real joy to be wrapped up in so many good songs that had a pure pop tune to enjoy. There’s no hidden messages in these songs, it’s pure and simple, Love God, like He loves you. 9/10. (November 2013, Album of the Month)
AIRSTAR : Retrospect. (www.airstar.bandcamp.com)
This is an album that kicks off screaming “summer” at you, from the infectious “Wake Up” onwards it demands to be listened either when the sun is shining or when you really wish it was. From there it’s a move into mid-tempo (as though the sun had just gone down and it was time for some reflection: e.g. “Neon”), before picking up the pace (and feel) from “Chromium” to the end. The album has a solid 90s pop feel to it: familiar sounding without actually cloning anyone: lush guitars, anthemic choruses et al – possibly the band it most reminded me of was Dodgy, although there are hints of Deacon Blue and Cast in there too. Lyrically it seems more “Boy meets Girl” than “Man meets God”, but that seems to fit the style well. The songs are well constructed (I gather they spent several years putting them together: a review of a demo from 2005 has some of the same songs on it) and pleasant enough, without being ground-breaking. A lush album, but possibly a few years too late (unless I’ve missed the 90s revival). Best track: “Chromium”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (January 2016)
ALAN SHACKLOCK : Classical Guitar Chill. (Kingsway : KMCD2704)
Advertised as "22 songs taking you to a place of worshipful rest", this was obviously not going to be an album to set the pulses racing. What you have is a mixture of well known, and not so well known, songs, played skilfully by guitar maestro, Alan Shacklock. Songs included are such classics as "Call to Worship", "In Christ Alone", "The Lord's My Shepherd" and "How Deep the Father's Love For Us". In fact, quite an array of tunes on show, but they all sound alike! Alan is, without doubt, a skilled classical guitarist but even these skills cannot stop one tune merging into the next. The pace never varies and it all becomes quite monotonous after a while. Indeed, after listening to all 22 tracks in one session I was more comatose, than chilled out. Maybe I should have used the music in shorter sessions, perhaps that would have helped. I think the album would be ideal for those of you who like to soak in a nice bubble bath, whilst burning candles and sweet, smelling oils. 5/10. (August 2006)
ALATHEA : What Light is All About. (Rockettown : 82687200227)
Alathea are three East Tenenessee women determined to engage their faith in a fresh way through authentic Appalachian roots music. On listening, I instantly compared some of the music to that of the Dixie Chicks, but further plays has swayed those thoughts more towards Nickel Creek. Why? Well, it's that light country sound that has a little rock mixed in it, as well as some folky traits. "Indian Creek" falls straight into this mould, as does "O Love….", complete with it's great fiddle playing and harmonies. It's not often that I call a song "pretty", but that's all I could describe "Emmanuel" as it depicts the birth of Christ. Want a radio friendly hit? Look no further than the infectious "Runaway Heart" - foot tappin' chorus and all. The album's got an enjoyable, calming feel throughout and the girls' vocals compare favourablywith any mainstream equivalent. Thoughts are put carefully into lyrics, and never more so than "Always". "May joy come in the morning, may the sparrow sing of it all day, May peace float down like an autumn leaf, and gather in piles for children to play". Let's welcome Alathea to the UK. 10/10. (July 2003, Album of the Month)
ALI CROMPTON : Leave A Footprint. (www.leaveafootprint.co.uk)
Ali Crompton may be a new name to many of you, but he's been around the Hull and district music scene for a number of years. This is his first outing as a solo artist and features 11 songs written primarily by himself. "Be My Everything" kicks things off in a happy, mid-tempo beat that would score well at praise & worship events. On "Sacrifice", he uses drum rhythms well to provide a background of African origin. His vocals struggle once or twice during the listing but I think that this has more to do with the different style of song, rather than vocal quality. The title track, for instance, is where Ali sounds least convincing, vocally. "You Light Up My Life" is a song of two halves. The first is pure worship, while the second ends as an atmospheric instrumental. "Sing" is one of the most strongest songs on show and would, I feel, really go down well in a large, live setting. Towards the end, Ali slows things down with a couple of worship songs, of which "Whitest Snow" stands out as the best. "Leave a Footprint" is an album of different styles and production ideas that result in a collection that showcases a talent that has every chance of gaining wider recognition. 7/10. (July 2005)
ALI CROMPTON: SEARCHLIGHT EP (http://alicrompton.bandcamp.com/album/searchlight-ep)
Given all the stuff that Ali Crompton is involved with on a local level in East Yorkshire, I confess the first thing I thought when this passed across my screen was “How does he get the time to make recordings?”. He clearly manages his time better than I do! This EP consists of 5 songs, and like many independent productions there is a certain raw and naïve quality to both the songs themselves and the way they are recorded, in particular the lead vocal which strays at times and would have benefitted from some work in post-production. As for the songs themselves, the standout for me is probably ‘The Day’, which was co-written with his church youth group as part of a project to raise awareness of human trafficking. The title track, ‘Searchlight’, is also pretty good, and the two re-worked hymns ‘Glorious Things’ and ‘Our Saviour King’ work well enough, but there is too little variety in dynamics, tempo and arrangements for the collection to ever really get out of second gear. Overall, decent but not spectacular and, sadly, not on a par with some of Ali’s earlier work, especially his 2005 full length album ‘Leave a Footprint’. David Cooper 6/10. (July 2013)
ALICE-CLAIRE : Live @ The Rook & Gaskill. (www.claire-alice.bandcamp.com)
Cutting her musical muscle, leading worship in her home church in Hull, Alice-Claire has recently spread her wings by playing various open mic nights, in and around York. This recording, at one of those nights, features 6 songs, of which 5 are covers. ‘Run Daddy Run’ sounds like quite an angry song, even though Alice-Claire’s vocals are so sweet. Lyrically, it’s quite intense, and I’m afraid that I’d never heard of the original version, by Pistol Annies. She, then, moves onto Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’, before launching into in to Katy Perry’s ‘Thinking of You’. It’s on this song that Alice-Claire’s vocals show real emotion, and she becomes one with the song. Florence & the Machine’s ‘Girl With One Eye’ comes next, before the highlight of the Cd, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’. Of course, so many artists have covered this classic. But, this interpretation is so beautiful and moving that, it really does stand out. Closing the track listing is the self-penned ‘With You’. (A sweet love song that takes a few listens to appreciate). Perhaps, Alice-Claire’s guitar rhythm needs a little more variation, but that will come with time and experience. This recording reminds me so much of one of my own, in my early days. It’s raw, yes, but there’s a little gem shining here. 7/10. (October 2014)
ALIKI : House Of I AM (www.aliki.com.au)
Aliki (pronounce it 'A-leaky') is a talented lady singer, songwriter and communicator whom I had the privilege to meet and see and hear at an international media conference in Australia in 2003. She was born in New Zealand of Greek parents, and came to live in Queensland, Australia as a nine-year-old. 'House Of I AM' is her second album, following on from 'Signs Of Grace', released in 2002, and it's a good mix of styles, with pop/rock, powerful ballads, and some gentle and intimate stuff with piano and acoustic guitar. Also, it's nearly all her own work, just two tracks are other people's material: Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene's classic Christmas song 'Mary Did You Know', which sounds gently funky, and the old 19th century hymn by Horatio Spafford and Phillip Bliss, 'It Is Well With My Soul', which gets a full-on rock treatment. As for her own stuff, 'A Million Distant Suns' is a rock praise anthem, inspired by Psalm 8; and the title track lobs along with a jazzy backbeat and echoes of Psalm 23 ('Surely his unfailing love will follow me, goodness down in the House of I AM'). The whole thing is very well produced, Aliki is on good vocal form, and this deserves to be heard more widely than just Down Under - visit her website and find out more. 7/10 Trevor Kirk (September 2006)
ALL ABOUT WORSHIP : My Pursuit. (Integrity Music : 000076867522)
This is a ten track worship CD which features various different artists, and I have to say that It’s quite nice to come across a worship compilation that is full of new songs rather than the endless rehashes of the same old songs from the same old artists. The music varies in style from county, to powerful rock worship songs, and the inclusion of different people leading the songs adds a bit of variety to the album, which is good. The songs are mostly about the everyday struggles that people have with their faith, and there is a definite feel of honest feelings here, and I should think that a lot of people will be able to identify with many of the issues covered here. I pretty much liked all of the songs on this CD. The last track “Royal Blood” featuring Michael Farren is a particularly powerful track in my view, If for no other reason that I just personally liked the feel of that one song, but taken as a whole, this CD is quite encouraging, and if you really listen to the words, it can give you quite a lift spiritually. I reckon that this album is really worth listening to. You can get hold of it on iTunes. 10/10. Andy Sayner. (June 2016)
ALL SONS & DAUGHTERS : All Sons And Daughters. (www.allsonsanddaughters.com)
All Sons And Daughters are an American ccm worship-acoustic folk duo originating from Franklin, featuring Leslie Anne Jordan on vocals and guitar and David Alan Leonard on vocals and piano. Although I haven't had the pleasure of hearing their music before, they have been around since 2009 and this is their third album release – like the others, available in CD and digital download formats. And believe me, listening to this album IS a pleasure. Beginning with the beautifully reflective opener 'You will remain', with Leslie on lead vocals and David harmonising, it is obvious that this is a quality product. The more upbeat 'Tonight' follows with David on lead, and as the tracks continue a series of memorable melodies unfolds. In the running order Leslie and David tend to alternate with lead vocals but always deliver excellent harmonies and are backed by a small band skilfully supporting each song as appropriate (the drummer deserves special mention) – prepared to hold back yet driving things along when needed e.g. as on 'The victory'. Here we have songwriting of the highest quality, delivering worshipful lyrics through carefully judged arrangements and production. I usually refer to standout tracks, but for all the right reasons I simply cannot in this case. And … the audio quality is excellent! – which just begs the question as to why so many releases these days sound harsh and compressed. It's quite a while since I awarded full marks to a review album, but this one is definitely a 10/10. Dave Deeks (June 2014, Album of the Month)
ALL SOULS ORCHESTRA : Prom Praise – Loves Excelling (Recorded live at the Albert Hall.)   Integrity Music 65072
This is an odd CD. Either you make a classical album, or a worship album. This CD tries to do both, and it doesn’t really work that well. The CD starts with a rendition of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”, which is fine until the bit where the lyrics come in. I’m sorry, but you can’t replace “Land of Hope And Glory” with new lyrics, I don’t care how spiritual they are, you just can’t. The second track is the traditional “Love Divine All Loves Excelling, which is ok with the orchestra and choir, but as the song builds to a climax at the end, there is something that seems to be way off key, the singing seems to be flat, against the organ. I listened to it several times because I thought it must be me, but I’m convinced that it’s not. Reuben Morgan features next singing “Mighty To Save”, with a bassline that’s completely unsuited to it. There are one or two songs where the orchestral arrangements don’t complement the vocals, but seem to fight with them for prominence. The Classical tracks that are not worship songs are better, There’s a nice version of “The Warsaw Concerto” for example. The best of the worship songs is  easily “O For A Thousand Tongues” which lends itself to the big arrangement quite well. Despite featuring Matt Redman, Christy Nockels and others, I thought this was a fairly disappointing CD. There’s also a DVD that comes in the package, which features some extra tracks that are not on the CD. All in all though I’d sooner watch the real proms.   4/10   Andy Sayner. (December 2015)
ALL SONS & DAUGHTERS : Poets And Saints. (Integrity : B018PYKNZO)
This CD is inspired by a journey across Europe, looking into the lives of various poets and saints, and there are songs based on people like St Francis, C S Lewis, to list just a couple. The songs are all fairly laid back affairs, with lots of ethereal sounding choirs singing in the background, and plenty of strings and synthesisers. The songs are all straightforward worship songs, although I’m not sure that many of them could be used in church very easily. This is a strange album to place really. The songs themselves are all perfectly good songs, and the album isn’t unpleasant to listen to. (Not sure that linking the songs to all these other people really helps though, to me it just kind of clouds the issue somewhat). A worship song is just that as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t need anything else tagging on. This is only my opinion of course, and there is a booklet included with this album, with some photographs of various places throughout Europe, and a lyric sheet describing which poet or saint was the inspiration behind the song. In the end I prefer just to hear the music, but others might be more interested in the process that lead to it. 6/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2016)
ALL STAR QUARTETS : Hymns. (Daywind : 1418712682)
This album is a collection of classic hymns, sung in four-part harmony by quartets consisting of the some of the best Southern Gospel singers. Artists like Greater Vision, Gold City, Mike Bowling, and the Hoskins Family flex their vocal talents and show off some polished performances. Not that this is usually my sort of thing, but I found the songs all very relaxing and pleasant. "Holy Manna" is typical old fashioned gospel in sound, but "Surrender All" is a little more modern. Some of the songs reminded me of Radio 2's Sing Something Simple programme, with the male harmonies reminding me of Sunday nights in front of the fire as a kid. "Amazing Grace", "Precious Memories" and "Power in the Blood" are just three more of the tracks featured on this very acceptable compilation. 7/10. (June 2002)
ALL STAR UNITED : International Anthems For the Human Race. (Reunion : 02341-0005-2)
If any of the US bands are good enough to make the secular music industry sit up and take note, then All Star United would rank closely after DC Talk. Following the huge success of their debut album, these 5 guys have produced a new release that doesn't just copy their previous formula, but adds so much more. First, there's the explosive "Welcome To Our Big Rock Show" and "Popular Americans", showing the bonus of adding a brass section to the sound. Then, it's the brilliant title track that has everything a hit song should have. Catchy chorus, guitar hooks, and an overall 'feel good' factor of 10. My favourite piece is track 5 called "If We Were Lovers", anopther classic with just a cutting edge that will appeal to British radio, given the chance. You could really say smoething good about all the tracks but if I could just point you to "Theme From Summer". Play it all year, never mind the summer, and listen out for those hidden tracks at the end of the album. 10/10. (March 1999, Album of the Month)
ALL STAR UNITED : Love & Radiation. (Fierce! : FIERCD25)
Lead singer Ian Eskelin says that "This band is a creative outlet that I absolutely crave. Making an All Star project is an excuse to reunite with friends around the globe and make some noise together, something exciting that doesn't have a lot of rules". It's some nine years since the band blasted onto the scene with their self-titled album, and the band has gone from strength to strength since that time. The sound is rock/pop, with some rich guitars and plenty of catchy hooks, such as on the song "Before You Break My Heart". "You, You, You" has the sound of summer written all over it, and it's really infectious. Then comes two brilliant songs together. "Let's Rock Tonight" is a punchy number with a singalong chorus, while the simple but pounding bass line of "Jesus on the Radio", makes for a sure fire hit. There's a few choice tracks on offer and "The Song of the Year" shows just how dynamic a simple song idea can become. My only complaint was that the band seemed to run out of ideas after this song, as the last three tracks weren't as instantly memorable. But, if the band put as much energy into their live shows, they must be a "must see" act. 9/10. (September 2006)
THE ALL SOULS ORCHESTRA : Kendrick Collection Live! (Langham Arts/Alliance : LANGD011).
Just one week after I had been asked to talk on 'Praise & Worship beyond Kendrick' (no offence), this CD landed on my doormat. Divine retribution? I think not. I will still hold up my hand, admit to buying the "Let the Flame Burn Brighter" single and acknowledge Graham Kendrick for his contribution to CCM. It's almost with sadness then that I try and pick out the high points of this mediocre album. It's not that the orchestral sounds detract from the usual, simple but effective, backing but the spark just isn't there. The man himself features occasionally and is at his best on the opening "Teach Me To Dance". Other well known favourites include "Is Anyone Thirsty"? and "In the Tomb So Cold", but neither Joanna Hughes or Brindley Sherratt liven proceedings. "Inspired vocal performances, and moments of sheer enthusiasm and foot-tapping enjoyment", so reads the inlay card. It's there word against mine but then, isn't every review? 4/10. (March 1997)
ALL STAR UNITED : Revolution. (Fierce Distribution)
One of the top US acts to make an impact in the UK over the last few years has been All Star United. They've played many festivals and have gained a hard core army of fans. "Kings And Queens" begins proceedings, and in a very attacking sort of way. "We Are the Future" is more like the Britpop sound we've come to know and love from the guys, while the acoustic led "Made In Heaven" is just great. "We can spend the rest of our lives in Heaven". That's part of the chorus and, this song really does make you believe it. The press release says that the mix was done in conjuction with Mark Freegard (of Manic Street Preachers and Del Amitri fame) but there's enough of the bands own skills to raise them above being labelled as just "another band". Two and a half years in the writing, "Revolution" brings new classics like "Sweet Jesus" and the energetic "Weirdo", as well as the swaying worship of "Making It Beautiful". 8/10 and growing with each play. (March 2002)
ALL STAR UNITED : The Good Album. (Fierce! Distribution : FIERCD47)
I must admit to looking forward to this album. Over the last 10 years, Ian Eskelin has written some really good songs, and the band play them to the max. This is their 5th album, asking questions that need to be aired. Love, commitment, humility…they all come under the lyrical microscope. The Brit-pop "Surface of the Sun' opens things up, and it has some great, swirling guitar sounds as the gang tell of a "love revolution". There have been many songs over the year's to tell of someone standing on the edge as they decide whether of not to follow Christ, 'Is This the moment' must rank of one of the best. It's so personal, and I found myself remembering that time in my life. 'Once Again, With Feeling' is more medium paced and I loved the line that said "open our broken hearts with feeling", - let's really mean It! Two songs that deal with growing up are the wonderfully titled 'Dude, That Freaking Awesome!' and 'Good Luck With the Girls'. The former looks at late teenage or early college years, full of wild party's and too much drinking, while the latter has a sideways swipe on the male mid-life crisis, and still trying to act like a 21 year old. It's great rock/pop music from start to finish. The minor moan is that the whole thing only lasts 35 minutes long, and I wanted more. Never mind 'The Good Album', this is fantastic! 10/10. (October 2009, Album of the Month)
ALL TOGETHER SEPARATE : Unusual. (Ardent Records)
ATS say that as they come from diverse backgrounds, they've never felt the need to hone-in on one specific style. Hearing them for the first time, I can confirm that, that seems to run true. "I Won't Slow Down" is blues/funk, while "You're the One" is a dose of pure acoustic pop. "We Know" is a strong cut and is guitar led, while "Bring it On" sounded like Jamariqui. Then, there's a couple of heavier rock tracks that aren't so hot. Dex Alexander's vocals have much to admire, and the instrumental skills of the rest of the band are pretty competent. Their debut album gave them their first number one radio hit in 1999 and this follow up may well see a few more hits to their credit. If you want something new, this is worth a listen. 8/10. (October 2002)
ALM UK : Name Above All Names. (Integrity : 47802)
Just in case you didn't know, ALM UK is the worship band from the Abundant Life Church in Bradford. The songs on the album are born out of this multi-cultural congregation whose mission is to reach people for Christ by being God-centred, purpose-driven and people-empowering. Although I've never visited the church myself, all reports say what a great God movement there is at the Church. However, if you're a traditionalist, as far as the music goes, then it may not be the place for you. The album starts with the chance for everyone too jump up and down and join in the rocky chorus, declaring that God is 'Great & Glorious'. It's quite an energised track listing and even the slower paced 'Name Above All Names' electrifies the atmosphere. 'Take My life' has to be my favourite track, as it builds with power throughout the song. As with the Vineyard album, (reviewed above), I found one or two of the performance tracks, difficult to worship or praise with - 'Back to You' being a prime example. 'First Love', however, is just rich in worship, and it really draws the listener into that special place with God. A nice touch on the sleeve notes is that the guitar chords are included, as well as the lyrics. Well done guys. If you want to some new and exciting songs for your church, then look no further than ALM UK. 8/10 (August 2010)
THE ALMOST : No Gift To Bring. (Stage Music)
This CD sets its store out for the off: acoustic guitar-driven US west coast-style rock. The Almost are based around Aaron Gillespie, Underoath's drummer. That said, it's not a drummer's solo album but more in the singer-songwriter mode, with the backing (rocky as it is) mostly held back in the mix. I wasn't too sure about the cover of "Little Drummer Boy", which probably depends on whether or not you like the original song. Far better re-working is in "Amazing Because It Is", which uses a large part of the hymn "Amazing Grace" as its lyrical base. Overall it's a pleasant enough EP, but it does rather pass you by that reach out and grab you. That said, you'd play it more than once, which is a lot more than I can say of some CDs I've bought. 5/10. Paul Ganney (March 2009)
ALVIN SLAUGHTER : On the Inside. (Integrity)
World-wide ministry is nothing new to Alvin Slaughter. He's been there, done it, and got the t-shirt. He's a big man, with a big heart, and a huge love for God. Through his ministry, he has blessed countless thousands, and that's a credit to his own faith. For me, he can be the world's greatest smoothy, as on the opening "Love Is" and the powerful "I Believe". Here, he sounds like George Benson and gives great depth to each song. Then, on "Ain't No Rock", he slips into MC Hammer mode and doesn't really do himself justice. It basically just doesn't work, and this is duplicated on the hip-hop sound of "Power". Stick to the gospel ballads Alvin, is my advice. There again, which one of us has sold millions of records? 6/10. (August 2003)
ALVIN SLAUGHTER : Overcomer. (Integrity Music : 43632).
I'm not really a big fan of American soul/funk/gospel music to be honest, so I found this to be a fairly tedious album from the word go, coming in as it does at around 65 minutes long, it was just hard work. These are all worship songs, and the feature that stands out is the female backing singers, who are too much of a distraction by far from the main vocal. The only way I can think of to describe the music on here, is that If you imagine Whitney Houston when she's doing her most spectacular wailing, and then swap her voice for a male one you won't be too far away, and I'm honestly not trying to be sarcastic. There's a version of "He is Lord" on here, which wouldn't be too bad if the guy would just sing the right notes at the right time, but he insists on ending every line werbling five notes up and down before finally hitting the right one. Presumably they'd call souI, I found it really annoying. Some parts of it reminded me of what Leon Patillo was doing years ago. Andrae Crouch might be an influence here too. Some of the prayers in between songs have a pretty high cringe factor too, but then we are dealing with Americans here I suppose. I think you'd really have to be heavily into this kind of music to appreciate this CD, it's probably not for the casual listener who might just pick it up and give it a try. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (November 2008)
AMY GRANT : Behind the Eyes. (MYRRH)
Amy's career, to date, spans 18 years, 5 Grammy awards, and more than 20 million album sales. Not bad eh? This new release is a collection of the most vulnerable musical thoughts from a woman who taken an unflinching emotional inventory of herself, telling the truth about the most reflective season in her life. Amy co-writes a lot of the songs with her long time friend,, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and they are the strongest on offer. "Nobody Home" is a good, foot tappin' opener, and "Turn This World Around" is pure pop of the highest quality. Ballads come in the shape of "Cry A River" and "Missing You", were Amy lays her thoughts, on loss and longing, bare. In musical style, I don't think that this will shock her army of devoted fans. It's a continuation of her popular characteristic work but, as she says, the words thought provoking, and sometimes show pain, truth, and ultimately hope. 9/10. (October 1997)
AMY GRANT : A Christmas To Remember. (Myrrh : 7012687266)
I remember receiving Michael W Smith's Christmas album last year and thinking, "surely he wouldn't stoop so low as to release a typical American yuletide offering". Sadly, he did. Now, Amy Grant does the same with her brand new release that was recorded during the summer. Listening, itb makes me cringe as songs like "Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away" and "Mister Santa" conjur up sad pictures of 70's TV specials, complete with lots of snow and sweet little kiddies sat around the tree. Chris Eaton shares the writing credits on a couple of songs and the opening title track is quite good. I think it says something about the whole album when the best track is an instrumental. "Highland Cathedral" is real quality and shines like a diamond in this collection of everything that is bad about Christmas albums. 1/10. (December 1999)
AMY GRANT : Legacy…Hymns & Faith. (Word : 0688613723).
For her 17th album, Amy Grant reflects on her heritage and unceasing heart of worship, to produce this collection of songs produced by Brown Bannister and, husband, Vince Gill. To date, she has sold more than 22million albums world wide - a true testament of her faith and popularity. Now, she takes classic hymns and 5 new songs on her first studio album for four years. "This is My Father's World" begins the track listing and although not a new or innovative sound, it's simplicity is, I believe, it's strength. There's a celtic feel about "My Jesus I Love Thee", and "What You Already Own" is Amy at her best. There's a nice harmonica and acoustic guitar break on "Do You Remember the Time" that, along with Amy's vocals, make for one of the best arrangements I've heard for some time. Not so sure about the bagpipes on "Marching to Zion", nor the gospel tinged "I Need Every Hour" but, this proves that Amy Grant is still a force to be reckoned with. 7/10. (August 2002)
AMY GRANT : Simple Things. (Word : 8862482)
The thing about Amy Grant is that she's a victim of her own success. After selling over 22million records world wide, how does she "follow that"? Three years in the making, this brand new studio album focuses on herself who, like us all, has struggled with life choices, and is amazed by newfound mercy and healing. That's all very well, but do the songs reflect this successfully? Well, in a word "No". I've even played the album more than I usually do for a review, in trying to squeeze some more credibility from it, but it just doesn't happen. The songs are nothing new, although I did think that "Eye to Eye" improved with play. Amy experiements with a few vocal effects over the course of the album and, perhaps, the title track is the only successful result. Of the others, "I Don't Know Why" is pleasant enough, but it's nothing more than average in the world of CCM. I've plenty of Amy Grant records in my collection, but I can't see this one getting re-played too often. 4/10. (December 2003)
AMY GRANT : Time Again. (Word : 8868492)
Recorded live in Fort Worth, Texas last year, this album is Amy's first live album in 25 years. Hearing so many of the songs for the first time in a long while, I was reminded just what great songs Amy has sung over the years. Kicking off in style, we have a 6 minute version of "Lead Me On" - one of her most memorable hits. But, hey, wait a minute…so many of these songs have been hits! "Stay A While", "After the Fire", "In a Little While", they just keep coming, one after another. Amy's voice is in top form and her backing musicians do a great job too. One song I didn't remember was "Out in the Open", but what a sweet little number it is. Then come the big guns. Terrific versions of "Baby Baby" and "Every Heartbeat" are met enthusiastically by the audience, and why not? If you want to get closer to the concert, then, there's a DVD release too - (Word 8869309). Here, you get all the songs in all theirglory, but also see the great rapport that Amy has with those gathered. She seems to really enjoy herself and the songs just flow. If you've never heard of Amy Grant before, where have you been? If you have, then maybe it's time you had another listen. CD & DVD get 9/10 (May 2007, Album of the Month)
AMY GRANT : Greatest Hits. (EMI : 5099950 279722)
So soon after last year's Word Record's live release of 'Time Again', I'm not sure who EMI are trying to sell this CD to. Most of the tracks on the live album are repeated here, only this time, they're studio mixes. There's 19 songs on show and all the hits are there for all to hear. 'Simple Things' is just a simple song, yet it's depth of glory goes deep. There's some nice harmonica playing on the pop orientated 'Takes A Little Time' and, of course, the world wide hit 'Baby Baby' stands out. Of course, there's more to this album than just the "big hit", and songs like 'Every Heartbeat' have plenty of energy too. My personal favourite is 'That's What Love Is For'. It hasn't always been my No.1 track, but it has grown on me over the years. This recording shows just how great Amy's vocal range is, and the triumphant sound of 'Lead Me On' shows it off to it's best. Other highlights include ' Saved By Love' and the timeless 'El-Shaddai. If you've not stumbled across Amy before, or want to put her career highlights together on one disc, then this will be worth your while. 8/10 (May 2008)
AMY GRANT : Somewhere Down the Road. (EMI : 5099969368325)
I must admit, that this collection of songs was not what I was expecting from Amy Grant. There's a distinct lack of the catchy pop numbers that we've come to expect from this queen of CCM. Instead of an all guns blazing beginning, the opening track gently invites the listener to cry for God in their life. Indeed, according to Amy, the songs are all about the journey of living your life with God. Wayne Kirkpatrick takes his share of co-writing credits on several songs, and 'Every road' is one of the highlights of the album. No surprises from the title. We travel many roads in our lives, but each one should lead back to God. 'Hard Times' struck a chord, personally, with me. Here, Amy sings that the hard times come to galvanise our love for God . Co-written with Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks, Amy is at her best with this one. Of course, fans of this wonderful lady will know 'Somewhere Down The Road' very well. It's still a special song, even after 15 years, and well worth hearing again. Amy also revisits former glories by singing a new version of the 1982 song that she wrote with Michael W Smith and Gary Chapman, 'Arms of Love' - a lovely way to feel God's arms around you. It took a few plays, but I finally got to like this release more and more. Maybe the mellow sound is just Amy moving into a new stage of her craft. 8/10 (September 2010)
ANA LAURA : Ana Laura. (Reunion : RRA 10090)
"When God leads the way, anything you dream can happen," says this bi-lingual 19 year old from Brownsville, Texas. She's already toured internationally and has developed a passion for her music ministry. The first two songs on the album are uptempo pop numbers. "Sometimes" begins things with a very catchy number about needing a saviour. "No More" is another radio friendly song that bears more than a passing resemblance to Enrique's "Escape", and I liked this onje a lot. There's some South American rhythms to "water", while the mid-tempo "Safe In You" really shows great vocal range for such a young lady. I thought that the whole production of the album was really good and this leant to songs like "Don't Run Away" and the ballad "Completely" really standing out. Later on in the listing, Ana sings Celine Dion's big hit "Because You Loved Me", and it works well. Overall, I can see Ana Laura making a big impression on the Christian scene. 9/10. (July 2006)
ANAM CARAS : Celtic Prayer Rhythms - Resurrection & Creation. (CD from: MillsTone Recordings, 9 Miles Meadow Close, Willenhall, Walsall, UK)
The songs on this album are all inspired by the book "Prayer Rhythms" by Ray Simpson, and this is the first of three planned CD's inspired by the 7 days of Celtic liturgy from that book. Anam Caras (meaning "Soul Friends") are Terry Braithwaite, Terry Mills, and Jackie Mills - the latter, formerly of the band, Nuffsed. The lack of a track listing hampered me a little when writing this review, but the quality of the songs shone brightly throughout, to give an uplifting and relaxing sound. Track 2 is a pleasant folk song, while Track 3 is a merry little song about letting God into your life. I particularly liked "Let Our Hands" (Track 11) as I felt that it could be a terrific song for a congregation to sing. "Sing A Song" (Track 13) has full instrumental backing, including jangly guitars like those so prominent on The Byrds, "Mr Tambourine Man", and there's nice harmonies on "Thanks For your Creation" (Track 17). I felt that Tracks 14 & 15 weren't as strong as the rest on show, and "Soul of the Water" didn't seem to fit with the feeling of the rest of the album. Anam Caras have found themselves a niche that many artists leave well alone. On this outing, the trio can count their debut release as a great success. 9/10. (September 2005, album of the month)
ANAM CARAS : Peace and the Spirit. (CD from: MillsTone Recordings, 9 Miles Meadow Close, Willenhall, Walsall, UK)
This is the second in a series of folk style albums prompted and inspired by Ray Simpson's 'Celtic Prayer Book - Prayer Rhythms'. As with the first release, instrumental backing is kept simple but is well used throughout. 'Come to Life' is an early opportunity to marvel at the trio's close harmonies and Jackie's excellent vocals. 'Acceptable Offerings' has a nice acoustic guitar sound to it, while the fuller sound of 'Hung on High' works just as well. I thought that pick of the crop was the terrific song 'Rejoice!', which has a gentle flow and good use of string backing. 'Do Not Be Afraid' finishes rather abruptly, but is another good song, while 'What Love is This?' offers an uncomplicated prayer to God. In comparison with it's predecessor, this album continues Anam Caras' gift for folk roots music, and I believe that it's perfect for personal meditation and relaxation. 8/10. (June 2006)
ANBERLIN : Cities. (Tooth & Nail : TND73673)
This is Anberlin's third full length album, and they spent quite some time making it. Indeed, they even posted updates and song samples on their website so that fans could comment on how they felt it was all going. I'd never come across them before, but they must be well thought of, because they've already gained support slots on tours by Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. The style of musc is alternative rock, and the opening "Godspeed" moves along at quite a pace. Mis-heard lyric of the month award must go to the song "A Whisper & A Clamor". Each time I listened to the chorus it came out as "Crack your heads, all ye children". Upon inspection, the lyric sheet revealed that what actually was been sung was "Clap your Hands". The band throw in the odd acoustic number here and there to mix things up a bit, and the haunting "The Unwinding Cable Car", depicts the gift of salvation. "Hello Alone" had me reaching for the lyrics sheet again because I was sure they were singing about the search for alien life. I'm still not sure. "Inevitable" came across as something completely different. It's a clever pop tune with some orchestral backing and nice harmonies, and it's a track I'll certainly be playing again. As for the others, well, the songs just didn't do anything for me. There was no excitement, and nothing really stood out. It all ends with a children's choir singing nicely in a midst of guitar frenzy. All too strange for me I'm afraid. 4/10. (July 2007)
ANCHOR MUSIC : Hope & Glory. (www.anchormusic.co.uk)
Anchor Music is a collection of worshippers from Vinelife Church Manchester. The EP features 6 homegrown tracks lead by four new worship leaders. 'Hope of Glory' also marks the first release from those connecting with The Collective, a new movement seeking to bring together creative worshippers from across the UK. Let me say straight off, that this release contains refreshing sounds and some very strong vocals. Penny Larkman is one of the vocalists, and what a pleasing vocal quality she has. “Who can stand against me, if my God is for me?”, is the main thrust of the song ‘Anchor’. God, being the “anchor of my soul”. The title track contains some very run of the mill lyrics, such as “Your death has set me free”, but the song itself is catchy and well produced. Ruth Hill’s voice is simply beautiful on ‘Breathe on Me’. It begins with just a piano backing, and then the sound carefully fills. Indeed, some ethereal vocals and music towards the end of the track, gives the listener the chance to meditate and quietly worship. ‘On the Cross’ is an uplifting song, with Louise Gregg taking over the vocals, while ‘All That We Want’ sees Penny return to lead a worshipful love song to God. I didn’t like ‘This Is Where You’ll Find Me’, when I first heard it, as it didn’t appeal to me as much as the other tracks. However, giving it a second listen, I really enjoyed it’s intimacy, compared to the higher energy of the rest of the EP. On this production, Anchor Music can congratulate themselves on a really good debut. 8/10. (August 2014)
ANCHOR MUSIC : My Hope Is In You. (www.anchormusic.co.uk or iTunes download)
This is a live worship album, which lasts over an hour. It was recorded at a conference in Harrogate last year. The music on offer here is quite powerful sounding rock / pop style, with lots of strings and guitars in the background. Kicking off with a short synth intro, the first track is a fairly laid back worship song, also it’s the title track of this album. The next few tracks are pretty much in the same vein really, in fact there’s not much variation in pace or style until Track 6, which is called “When You Walk Into The Room” which features a different singer. This track kind of redeemed the whole thing for me, I found the lack of variation to be a bit boring personally. All the songs on offer here are quite good in themselves, I could quite easily listen to any of them on their own, all together though, the whole thing in one sitting was a bit of an effort. There is at the end a version of “Be Thou My Vision” though, which is probably the best song on the album for me. Despite my comments about this being a bit on the tedious side it is still not a bad album. It just worked better for me dipping in and out of it rather than listening to the whole thing. There does appear to be a strong “Hillsongs” influence throughout, so if you like this kind of music you would most likely enjoy this. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2015)
ANDRAE CROUCH : The Gift of Christmas". (Alliance : 2470912)
After many long years of album silence, one of Christiandom's finest gospel musicians has returned to fore with a Christmas release. Sadly, it didn't reach NFN Towers in time for the December issue but, that's no reason to ignore it. Mind you, there were times during my listening, when I wished I could ignore it! The opening rendition of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", with Yolanda Adams, is one of the most painful experiences I have come across. It gets worse on track 2 with a "Christmas Medley" that includes a children's choir who almost murder "Jingle Bells". Thankfully, however, there is light and Andrae redeems himself with a lovely new song entitled "Take Me To Jesus". Gospel, rap, calypso, it's all there and makes for a really good song. The incredible Chaka Khan appears on "This Christmas", and other notable mentions must go to the "Angels Medley" and "Away in a Manger". Hats off for not just making one of those 'ready made' Christmas albums, but please concentrate on your own songs - they work the best. 6/10. (January 2001)
ANDREW CLEATON : Messiah's Dawn.(CD £11.99 from 3 Kings Approach, Bramley, Leeds, England, LS13 2DX)
Andrew is an accomplished composer, producer and keyboard player, and has worked with the likes of Joe king and Simon Goodall. "Messiah's Dawn" is a musical that was premiered in Leeds in 1999 - this album followed. It tells the story of Christmas through instrumentals, songs, and choral pieces, and it's this diversity which makes this limited budget recording so compelling. It's difficult to pick out tracks that rise above the others but the tone and standard is set from the opening "Prelude". Instrumentals like "The Journey" show competent arrangements, while "Shout for Joy" even has a litte Spanish feel about it. I think thatAndrew has captured the essence of the Christmas story very well and, while others may identify the likes of Roger Jones as a musical writer, Mr Cleaton certainly has a bright future. 7/10. (December 2003)
ANDREW EHRENZELLER : Children of Promise. (Jesus Culture/Elevation : ELE2028D)
Andrew Ehrenzeller is a native of Florida, and a relative new addition to the Jesus Culture label. Unlike a lot of the worship orientated sounds to come out of that stable, Andrew’s music is a little more personal. The theme running throughout the track listing is one of a journey – a journey, moving forward, with God by your side. I liked the pizzicato introduction to the opening ‘Cornerstone’. It made for an interesting sound, as Andrew sings about the assurance that he has, in that Jesus (the King) will return. On the title track, Andrew sounds a lot like Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon, and the song does have that rock feel. ‘(Your love is) Better Than Life’ gets a little over produced, and at times, it’s quite difficult to hear the lyrics. ‘Set My Love’ is an acoustic number, while ‘Meet You There’ becomes rather reflective in its demeanour. I must admit that I think that this is one of the best albums to come out of Jesus Culture. Some of the live stadium albums sound rather false, as if they’ve been robbed of feeling. This one, however, has some rough edges, but I found that quite appealing. One last mention must go to the song ‘Salvation’. It contains some very heavy brass sounds and reminded me a lot of Peter Gabriel’s ‘”Sledgehammer”. Apart from that, a spirit filled release. 7/10. (August 2014)
ANDREW HOWIE : Scars Are Like A Beacon (www.andrew-howie.com)
This CD is an instrumental re-imaging of “The Great Divide” from 2015. Howie took the individual audio stems, and in his words “mangled, re-sampled, distorted and warped them”. It therefore “bears no sonic resemblance to its source material”. It’s very ambient, full of long held notes over a lot (and I mean a LOT) of reverb and is one of those things that you either love or hate. It’s certainly not foreground music, that’s for sure. I had a lot of difficulty telling where one track ended and another one started, but I guess that’s a good thing in Ambient. Musically it reminded me more of film soundtracks where something eerie is happening in a cave – just before the protagonists discover whatever it was they were in there looking for. “Beacon” stood out, probably because it had a pulsating beat to it. Likewise, “Tremble” had a nice guitar figure that ran throughout. Overall it was OK, but not a CD I’ll be rushing to play again, unless I do get stuck in a cave, of course. Best track: “Found”. 5/10 Paul Ganney (September 2016)
ANDREW MITCHELL : Your Kingdom Come. (Authentic : 8203632)
Once again, a CD arrives through the post with no background information on what is, to me, a new artist. I've never been good with guessing ages, but from the front cover of the CD, I should imagine that Andrew is in his mid-twenties. He sings in a style much akin to that of Paul Oakley, and that's no bad thing. The album consists of ten songs that all focus on praise and worship of our Lord in a contemporary way. It's guitar led, and there's a mixture of uptempo and slow songs within the listing. The title track is a fanfare of declaration that Jesus, indeed, lives and the so the scene is set for the rest of the album. "Calvary Song", "Without Your Love" and "My King Awaits" are just three of the top songs that you can expect to hear on an album of fresh praise and worship from this new artist. 7/10. (May 2005)
ANDREW MITCHELL : Take My Life Away. (Kingsway : KMCD2747)
Recorded in Nashville, this album comes from Andrew Mitchell, worship leader at Scotland's "Awakening" conference. The sleeve notes say that it is a "passionate and sensitive offering", but I didn't feel that at all. For me, the music felt very distant, and hardly ever drew me close to God. Take, for instance, the title track. It's so repetitive that I was itching to press the skip track button. On the other extreme, "This is The Day" DOES have the passion, and I really did enjoy this track. Saying that, it was hard to pick out anything else. The lyrics are fine, and are run of the mill praise and worship fodder, but the songs are just too much alike. After the second listen, I was still feeling the same and am unable to must much enthusiasm about the album at all. Really, I'm lost for words. 3/10. (March 2007)
ANDREW PETERSON : Clear to Venus. (Essential Records : MPCD40508)
Here's one that fans of the likes of Paul Simon will enjoy. It's this singer songwriter's clever way of weaving his lyrics into very listenable songs. Born in Florida, but now residing in Nashville, Andrew Peterson plays around 150 concerts a year, and most of these songs were written whilst travelling. He's opened concerts for artists such as Fernando Ortega and Caedmon's Call and admits to learning a lot about the art of songwriting from his time with them. I first heard him around a year ago when I received a copy of his beautiful single "Rise And Shine" and, so, was ready to hear more. The first song to impress me was the bouncy "Isn't It Love", while the enigmatic "Mary Picked the Roses" (a Rich Mullins composition) needed a few listens before I was able to understand it clearly. There's some great Hammond organ sounds on "Steady As She Goes" and some hammered dulcimer on "Song And Dance". It's not an album that actually excites me but I do find it very enjoyable and fresh in sound. 8/10. (April 2002)
ANDREW PETERSON : Behold the Lamb of God - The True Tale of the Coming of Christ. (Fervent Records : 4300602)
Andrew Peterson started writing the songs on this album 5 years ago. But, for one reason or another, they've only just appeared as a collection. He says that it's an album that "tells a story". Indeed, it tells of the coming of God into the world, and the opening track depicts the birth of Jesus. "Gather Round, Ye Children Come" is a great song and should be a Christmas classic in my humble opinion. "Deliver Us" is a duet with Derek Webb, while Andrew's other collaboration sees him team up with Jill Phillips for the wonderful song "Labour of Love". This song tells Mary's story of that wonderful night, when her child was born. Mid-album there's a cleverly written tune that lists the whole blood line of Joseph, called "Matthew Begats", and then there's an intelligent interpretation of the carol "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks". Yes, this album does tell the story, and Peterson's knack for producing fine songs make this a fine Christmas release. 9/10. (December 2005, Album of the Month)
ANDY BROMLEY : Love Mercy. (Kingsway : KMCD2543)
A new name to me, but hopefully one that will become familiar to many over the coming years if this release is anything to go by. Whether it's the simplicity of songs like the simple worship of "Such Beauty" or the more intricate lyrical waxing of "Beautiful in Majesty", Andy Bromley has the knack of making each song feel very personal to the individual listener. "Cast all your burdens upon the Lord" is a well known Bible truth, but the power of those words seem heightened during the song "Praise the Mighty Name of Jesus". It's sound builds throughout and ends in a crescendo of salute to the Lord. I found the album a real treat to listen to and only the closing "Glorious King" left me slightly disappointed. However, here's to a singer songwriter who seems to have a great gift for all to hear. 9/10. (September 2004, Album of the Month)
ANDY BROMLEY : One Way. (Kingsway : KMCD2680)
Andy Bromley is the Worship Pastor at Kings Community Church in Bedworth, where he has been for the last 11 years. He's recently recorded this new album in Nashville and is an established part of the British worship scene. Kicking off things is the easy to singalong to, "Glorious Majesty", which I really enjoyed. "Holy God You Reign" and "Clothed With Splendour" both chug along with driving rhythms but then things start to fall a little flat. I found nothing to get excited about with either "You Are Everything" or "Your Name", and the mid-album track listing seemed to be filled with very lack lustre songs. The songs lean, on the whole, towards light rock but most of the songs lacked any sort of individuality to make them stand out from the crowd. however, late in the listing, the powerful words of "Speak O Lord" certainly did reach the parts other worship songs, sometimes, fail to reach. Andy's already received some favourable reviews for this album, sadly, this isn't one of them. 5/10. (November 2006)
ANDY CHERRY : Nothing Left to Fear. (Essential/Provident : 83061-Q929-2)
Nothing Left to Fear is North Carolina worship leader Andy Cherry’s debut recording, although that’s not obvious, which is a good sign. Yes he has had a fair amount of input from established Christian producer & songwriter Jason Ingram, but Andy certainly puts his all into the delivery of the tracks and it shows. His style is predominantly rocky worship with strong percussion & passionate vocals, reminding me in many ways of a CD I reviewed many years ago by The Longing which still gets played a fair bit even now. The first 4 songs are probably the most useable in a congregational setting, with the opener “City of Light” having a very gradual build-up to a passionate chorus with a bit of ‘oomph’ as it were. The title track “Nothing to Fear” is somewhat more relaxed in pace – good track but doesn’t quite grab your attention in the same way as the preceding number. Things pick up again with “To Follow You” with Andy’s own reworking of “Nothing But The Blood” complete with original chorus – a particularly effective combo I have to say. The way songs have been ordered on the CD doesn’t fit the standard formula, i.e. energetic bouncy numbers, winding down to the thought-provoking melodic worship then rounding off with another rousing chorus but I like this. Andy’s style is consistent throughout which for some has been a case for critique but I cannot personally knock this. OK some tracks are a bit “samey” but this is better than trying to be something or someone you’re not & making a proper hash of it! He has done a great job of bringing us a good honest & open bit of worship without pretence & showmanship – how it should be. I for one shall be looking forward to hearing what else Andy Cherry has to offer in the future. 10/10 Simon Redfern (August 2012)
ANDY CULLEN & MIKE BAKER : Atmosphere. (Private Cassette Recording : £4.50 inc. p&p from: Andy Cullen, 25 Lincoln Street, Longsight, Manchester).
Over 12 month's in the making, and a complete surprise to all who have previously heard Andy's work. From the moment the title track began with a sort of Gregorian chant, my ears were alive with expectancy. A lovely piano piece was followed by 'Let Me Know', a song that instantly had me tapping my feet along to the rhythms. The whole concept was not written as a musical but I, personally, feel that this is were 'Atmosphere's' strength lies. With a little more work, a production in the class of Paul Field's 'Daybreak' is not beyond comprehension. The songs do seem to tell a story, and real social issues are not taboo. 'Quick & Easy' is one such number that tells of a man, with a wife at home, and the lure of another woman. The 'Nothing Song' actually has no words, but the music gives a feeling of hope and light after being encased in darkness. Instrumentally, there's some excellent keyboard & clarinet, and Andy's vocals are well used. Perhaps, 'Monica Says' and 'SOP1' need a little more work but 'The Road to Emmaus' ends the tape in lively style. Recorded on a 4-track, there are production flaws but, the musical content is extremely good. 7/10. (November 1997)
ANDY FLANNAGAN. (ICC : ICCD60630)
Andy Flannagan is British Youth For Christ's National Songwriter/Performer/Worship Leader. He has already written for bands such as Oxygen and TVB, as well as performing himself at events such as Spring Harvest and Summer Madness. This release sees him showcase 10 songs, mostly acoustic based, like the excellent "My Soul Praises the Lord". Occasionally, an accompanying keyboard sound fills out the backing and does so, never better, that on "When Was the Last Time?". It's catchy chorus asks when was the last time you put someone at number one in your life, rather than yourself? The old time folk feel of "Here I Stand" brings meditative worship to the fore, as does the piano led "You Came". I couldn't help thinking that Andy writes and performs his songs in the same very personal way that Martyn Joseph looks at life. There's an open honesty about how he feels just how the Lord should be praised and worshipped. There's no big productions on show here but the power of the songs speak for themselves. 9/10. (February 2002)
ANDY FLANNAGAN : Son. (ICC : ICCD79530)
Andy Flannagan returns to the fore with his own release following his collaborations on so many compilation albums over the last couple of years. Once more, it's an acoustic based record and one that provides an alternative take on your run of the mill worship release. Like Miles Cain's album, you really need to sit an listen to this album to appreciate the quality of the songs. Saying that, I don't think that this album quite matches his self titled release of 2002. "Talk All night" and "All I Am" open things up and go down quite well. Then there's a rather patchy period where I didn't find any of the songs too embracing. It picks up half way through again with the gentle song "See The Stars". On this track, as with some others, the string arrangements by Karen Bousfield and Jamie Hill are well done. "Flying into life" is, perhaps, the strongest cut as Andy tells that there are no heights you cannot reach when you know the true Son of man as your Saviour.As my old school report would read, good, but can do better. 7/10. (June 2004)
ANDY FLANNAGAN : Drowning in the Shallow.   (Absolute : DMM30662)
This new album from Irish singer/songwriter, Andy Flannagan is an invitation to take some steps out into deep water, away from relative safety and comfort of our flat-screen  worlds. Director of the Christian Socialist Movement, he actively encourages Christians to see politics as a mission. With all  this in mind, it certainly took me two or three listens to get to grips with Andy’s songs, and what he was trying to say. Even now, I’m not sure I understand everything! However, the title track seems like fairly simple cry for God’s love to fall down on him. I liked the catchy chorus of ‘The Reason’, very much. Here, Andy points us in the direction of material things and what we should actually value. The music is very much led by his acoustic guitar, but there are some interesting backing sounds throughout. The light pop of ‘Ego’ may well trigger feelings about laying down your own ego on the altar. It certainly made me think. ‘Addictions’ is an enjoyable listen, while the poignant ‘Fragile’ looks at life’s fragility. I found this a tough album to listen to because I had to concentrate so much on trying to understand Andy’s written words. He obviously doesn’t write the “throw away” song, and he should be applauded for not conforming to the norm. However, I think it’s going to take a few more listens before I really appreciate the album fully.   7/10. (September 2012)
Jesus the Dreamer - Andy Frost (Big Book Media : 9781842914427)
This is part three of a seven part dvd study series called "The Jesus Series" aimed, I would imagine at small groups or house groups. It's very nicely packaged in a fancy digipak case with a stylish information booklet. This contains the usual disc information and numerous images from the dvd, but, most importantly, also includes some study questions, though these are scattered randomly throughout the booklet in different fonts and sizes. It looks good, though might not be as practical as a group leader would like. Having said that the questions are good, and are reflective in nature rather than theological. The dvd itself is pleasantly impressive, featuring Andy narrating his "sermon" over dramatic footage played by actors, adding a strong visual reinforcement to the narrative. There is potential here for the end protect to look rather twee and crass, but this is actually very well done - for example the visual representation of Jesus avoids the usual romantic stereotypes whilst still being recognisably Jesus. The acting is good, not overplayed, but convincing and engaging. Overall, a very good package, with a good theological message that is communicated well. If the others in the series are as good, it's a winner for me. 9/10 Robin Thompson (October 2011)
ANDY HAWTHORNE : Hope Unleashed. (Survivor : ISBN 978-1-4347-6448-9)
Andy Hawthorne is the founder of the Message Trust, an award-winning Christian Message Organisation, TheHope Movement & The World Wide Message Tribe. He's also a popular speaker at events such as Soul Survivor, New Wine, Grapevine and Festival Manchester. This new book offers practical ideas and strategies for Christian evangelism based on word and deed. I found this book a fairly easy read, but not one that made you want to read more than a few chapters at a time. Andy plants seeds of thought for you to consider, both personally and for your church. For instance, he says that if you want to reach out for Jesus, don't just form a mission committee. Instead, find a group of friends to do the job, and remain friends through thick and thin. There's also a look at helping people in other countries, and he encourages the reader to do God's work in rough and tough places - the sort of places that Jesus would go to. At the end of each chapter, Andy gives time for reflection, such as "who would you condem"? Are there people who live near your church who are not accepted by polite society? While sharing inspiring stories from his own experiences in ministry, Andy draws principles from Scripture, and gives the reader plenty to think about. 8/10 (November 2009)
ANDY HUNTER : Life. (EMI : SPD95602)
Here's the guy who been making crashing waves in the dance music scene all over Europe. Film scores and high energy hits is what Andy Hunter is about, and this release gives us all a chance to hear just what all the fuss is about. For us older folks who usually turn our heads in disgust at the thumping noise emanating from dark windowed cars cruising around the city centre, this is a real eye opener of a listen. I guess it's because he's a Christian that I, personally, gave Andy Hunter the chance to impress me albeit with a style of music that I usually wouldn't give the time of day to. But, from the opening rhythms of "Open My Eyes", I was pretty hooked. The synth sounds, the sampled voices, and hypnotic tempo, all went in making the listen well worth while. The same can be said of "Alive" and my favourite track "Wonderful". Somehow, it didn't seem to matter that this was an album primarily aimed at the youth of today, I liked it. Closing with theinfectious "To Life, To Love", "Life" is simply the best Christian dance album since DBA's "Bubble". 9/10. (October 2005)
ANDY MAYO : Lavish. (www.turquoisetracks.com)
Having spent several years living in the Balkans, it’s fair to say that London born Andy Mayo has seen quite a differing spectrum of life. He’s played concerts in universities, café bars, and even prisons, as he tells his audience about God’s goodness and meaning in today’s world. On most tracks, Andy uses a jazz/funk style that, at times, sounds not unlike Level 42. However, on the beautiful ballad ‘A Place’, the smooth delivery is more reminiscent of the great Matt Munro. ‘Calling’ is a nice, catchy opening track, that benefits from a super saxophone break, courtesy of Nick Beston. At Easter time, Christians focus on the cross and remember that Jesus died at Calvary. ‘A Hill’ looks at His death, and paints a picture of what it was like to be there. I liked the funky backing to ‘Broken Man’, where Andy almost narrates the story, rather than sings. “This broken man stands before a mirror and he stares at who he really is. And in his heart, he kneels, overwhelmed”, as Jesus reaches out. There’s more saxophone sounds on the title track, while ‘Hide’ dips into the easy listening genre. If you’ve never realised just how special you are to God, then heed the words of ‘You’re That One’. It’s an intimate little number, and Andy delivers each word, with such meaning. Closing proceedings are ‘Wedding Song’ and ‘Show Me’. The former is a celebration of the marriage, while the latter has a hint of Southern Gospel about it. Both are smashing songs. I, sometimes, find it difficult to enjoy this style of music but that wasn’t the case with this album. Fine writing, impressive production, and likeable vocals, make for an appealing collection. 8/10. (April 2015)
ANDY PARK : In the Secret. (Vineyard : 6012 1280622 2)
I think that I'm going to stop reviewing albums by individual worship leaders. Why? Well, you hear them on compilations and they come out with some really strong songs. But, give them an album of their own, and the result is, so often, nothing more than what any half decent church worship band could come up with. And so it is, for the best part, with Andy Park. He gives a decent version of "The River Is Here" early on but apart from that, the songs are very bland. The title track lifts spirits a little with a toe-tapping beat and, later on, there are two more highlights. Both "Yet I Will Praise" and "Have Your Way in Me" are lovely, crafted songs and make a mockery of most of what's gone before. This album fails to show Andy Park in a good light which is a pity because I think that he has so much more to offer. 4/10. (March 2005)
ANDY SMITH : Ladders, Rocks & Lightning Swords. (Elevation : ELE1642D)
Andy Smith is a worship leader and songwriter who has worked with The Eden Project and The Message and has won acclaim for leading worship at large events such as Breathe and New Wine. This album presents original songs, and includes an insight into each song within the sleeve notes. ‘Sing To Help My Heart Remember’ starts off very gently in sound, before breaking into a mid-tempo ditty. I’ve always enjoyed the work of producer, Dan Wheeler but, on this album, I’ve got to say that I think he’s got it wrong. ‘Praise You’ starts off well, but during the song, more and more sounds are thrown in and instead of it building with power, it becomes cluttered and rather messy. The same can be said of ‘Come To Us’. Andy begins with quite a good song but towards the end, I really began to get a headache, listening to the infernal cacophony of sounds. In my humble opinion, the first half of the song stood up well, but is ruined by over production. When sounds are more pure, songs like ‘Run’ and ‘Together’ and Love Song’ really stand out. Individual instruments aren’t lost in the overall sound, and Andy’s vocals show a real quality. ‘Love Song’ is the one I would pull out for a single release. It’s plain praise and worship of Jesus and would go down well in either a live setting or on the radio. Andy certainly shows signs of promise in his writing, it’s just pity that the finished album is not as polished as it could be. 6/10. (March 2013)
ANDY SAYNER : Journey. (www.andysayner.com)
I remember being so excited 22 years ago when I recorded my first album of songs on a 4 track cassette machine. Time and technology has moved on, but I feel that same excitement must still be felt by aspiring artists such as Andy. This mini album features self penned tracks that show influences from many years both listening to music and playing in live bands. The opening track is called ‘City Lights’ and Mr Sayner brings to the table a prog’ rock style, reminiscent of Barclay James Harvest. Synth’ strings take the lead, while it also features some nice guitar work. ‘Mr Politician’ is a more modern sound, and simply questions the morals of today’s members of parliament. On ‘I Wish That I Was Home’, Andy turns in a lighter song that I thought could well have been from ELO’s hey day. It’s possibly the strongest track on the album and deserves some radio play. He uses the technology available well, but I did feel that his vocals suffered on some tracks by not adding more effects or even doubling up to bring more warmth to his voice. The closing track is an instrumental number called ‘Journey – Part 2’. It’s full of electro music and samples, and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Elevation’s ‘Worship Workout Mix’ (see earlier review). It may need a bit of polish, here and there, but essentially Andy can be well pleased with his debut release. 7/10 (May 2011)
ANDY THORNTON : The Things You Never Say. (EIS : EISCD001)
If you've already read this month's 'spotlight' feature, you'll know that Andy Thornton has a fine musical pedigree. Although the press release names Elvis Costello, Radiohead, and Van Morrison as influences, I was immediately struck by a comparison to David Bowie. The vocal delivery, at times, is uncannily similar to the mega star, and I found myself on numerous occasions actually visualising the man himself singing Andy's songs. "Home", the title track, and "Overtime Overground" are just three of the songs that would fall into this category and, as a result, shows the strength and depth of his writing. On the lighter side, "She Won't Talk To Me" would be an ideal throwaway, radio friendly hit, given the right push. My favourite song must be "Confessing", a full blown classic with marvelous keyboards and terrific vocals. "The Final Key" is a quieter rock number, while the acoustic "Hands of Time" is a thought provoking song for the 'hurt child'. Call me old fashioned, but I have a hunch that - given a bigger deal - Andy Thornton could be big!. 9/10. (August 2000)
ANDY THORNTON : The Things You Never Say EP (EISCDS001)
You would think that Andy Thornton wouldn't have much spare time, being the organiser of Greenbelt, but thankfully he has enough to produce this excellent EP of four songs. Lyrically innovative and musically dynamic, this taster has got me wanting to seek out Andy's albums. The title track, from the album of the same name, combines very tight acoustic guitar with some great piano and gradually builds with the lyrical content. 'One Less Holy', from the same album, again uses the piano but is a more up tempo number using a lot of rhythmic pushes and brass stabs, giving it more of a funky feel. The mood switches to a more contemplative one with 'Shake The Moon Down', but here again we have a memorable tune with mature lyrics. The EP closes with the excellent 'She Won't Talk To Me'. Anything with the lyric 'I send her CDs with love songs, but she stays tuned to Radio 4' is definitely worth a listen. Well, don't worry Andy, this lady's talking to you! Overall, the production is polished and tight, with Andy's vocals reminding me of a slightly less nasal Elvis Costello. Andy's playing at Greenbelt I hear, so if you're down there check him out and get hold of a copy of this EP. 9/10. Julie Lord. (August 2000)
ANGELA : Faithful & True. (Diamond Cut : 6828 97019220)
Nujoi fans will recognise the name of Angela Priester, as she goes it alone with this brand new solo project. Portraying a whole range of influences, Angela still manages to keep her sight firmly fixed on the Lord with a musical style that can only be described (in my book) as that of TLC and The Honeyz. Thank goodness the awful title track is out of the way so soon. It must be the worst cut on the whole album! "Do What's Right" sounds as if it's come straight out of the Top 20 singles chart, and "Holy UR" is just as good. Gospel rap, is that a style? Well, I find it hard to describe the second half of the album, in particular, any other way. Shuffling rhythms on "Do What's Right" sound very much like Destiny's Child and this albmu stands up well against her secular counterparts. Not my sort of thing but I can see it's good. 7/10. (July 2000)
ANGELLA CHRISTIE : The Breath of Life. (ACSM : 10042)
Angella Christie was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of missionary parents. After graduating from Houston Baptist University with dual degrees in music and social work, she set about making music for God - a calling she'd had for years. Choosing the saxophone as her instrument, Angella plays gospel instrumentals, and I've got to say, that she has a great talent. However, the problem, for me, with this album, is that every tune sounds incredibly like the last one. I think that when you make an instrumental album, you've got to make each song quite individual, and here, Angella fails to deliver. As well as a few self penned numbers, there's also writing credits to the likes of Martha Munizzi and Smokie Norful. On the opening 'Like the Dew', Angella blows her sax for all she's worth, and there's a few choir phrases thwon in every now and again. That formula is the pattern for the whole album and I just didn't enjoy it at all. 2/10 (February 2009)
ANGIE LENDON : Honesty. (CD : £13 from www.angielendon.com)
It's always great when I receive an independently recorded CD because of the unexpected listening pleasure it may or may not reveal. Well, this one, I'm pleased to say, is a goody. Mixing fine tunes with intelligent lyrics, Angie has come up with a debut that would sit nicely with her bigger name contemporaries. "God is My Salvation" is a song of proclamation and you soon start singing along and tapping your feet. There's a light country feel to "No Eye Has Seen" but it's the Dido style of "So Much More" that raises this release to a high standard. It's a great pop song and deserves some concerted airplay. I think I noticed some Chrissie Hynd influences in some of Angie's vocals and that's no bad thing. It's especially noticeable on another super song, "The Lord is Mighty" and "The Way, The Truth, The Light", complete with infectious chorus. Add to the listing "My Prayer" where she truly captures the very essence of worship, you have a terrific debut album from a young lady who should go far in the world of CCM. 10/10 (January 2005, Album of the Month)
ANGIE LENDON : From Hull With Love. (www.angielendon.com)
It's been more than three years since Angie's debut release, and the wait has definitely been worth while. Here's a woman who's sure of her faith and not ashamed to declare it. 'Amazing Days' is the opening song, and that's just what it's about. It's well sung, well produced, and is bound to make a few radio play lists. 'Worthy Are You Lord' is another really strong track and it was with this song I became aware of Angie's delivery being akin to that of Amy Grant. Her vocals have really matured over the last couple of year's and Angie is on top form with 'Thy Kingdom Come'. Her style is easy listening, adult pop and there's unashamed praise and worship of Jesus in songs like 'Jesus I Love You' and 'You Said Ask'. Numerous songs have that infectiousness that make Amy Grant so popular around the world, on both side of the Atlantic, and Angie produces the same on catchy number's like 'You Are Wonderful' and 'Open the Windows of Heaven'. She's one of a new breed of female singer songwriters in the UK, along with Chris Mercer and Rachel MacDonald. Enjoy the lyrics, enjoy the songs, and enjoy getting close to God. This album is a triumph. 10/10 (July 2008, Album of the Month)
ANGIE LENDON : Be Still.   (www.angielendon.com)
Recorded with Mark Walker, Angie went into the studio with no agenda but to record whatever God released to them. She says; “Every song on the album is a spontaneous response to His revelation. It’s like a conversation with God through His Holy Spirit. This album has a mandate to be what David was to Saul when he was troubled and stressed.” Indeed, I sincerely believe that album is one of those collections that will speak to many in time of individual mediation and prayer. Soaking, the words and music convey God’s love for us in a very gentle, yet powerful, way. With just keyboard sounds for backing, it’s Angie’s lovely vocals that carry each song along. I’ve often likened her voice to that of Amy Grant, and I see no reason to change my mind here. “Come to the Fountain” is the first song, with an invitation from God to fill yourself with Him, no matter who or where you are. The title track promises that God will never leave you, as the music and vocals simply wash over you, leaving you in awe of His great love. Songs like “Never Alone” and “New Day Dawning” follow in similar manner, while “Psalm 27” stands out, for me. It’s a cry for and ultimately a declaration of belief in the greatness of God and trust in the protection he provides. The listing cumulates in the 11 minute track called “The Revelation.” Here, Angie’s voice reaches new heights at the revelation that the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. It continues with His resurrection and leaves the listener in doubt about what He lives again. The album is strong enough to listen to a few tracks at a time. However, setting time aside to hear the whole thing in one play really does put everything into perspective. It’s a complete change from Angie’s previous releases, but one that sees her moving deeply into worship.   8/10. (December 2015)
ANNA BLUNT : The Power of the Cross. (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
Since being a teenager, Anna Blunt has yearly travelled the length and breadth of Britian along with her parents, two sisters and two brothers, running children’s Bible clubs in many towns and villages. She and her family also live by faith alone. When asked to lead services, Anna usually sings solo’s and as a result of many requests, has recorded this album, with the help of Nigel and Rowena Steady. Musically, it has a very stripped down feel to it, so I guess that it does sound like Anna singing live. ‘How Deep the Father’s Love’ is the first track, and Anna’s pure, sweet voice is married to orchestral pads and flute. Bryn Haworth’s ‘Jesus the Man’ sees the acoustic guitar rhythms give this song a change of pace, highlighted by it’s catchy chorus. ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ and ‘In Christ Alone’ feature piano, with a flute interlude, plus the chance for Anna to record some very fine vocal harmonies. The sound of ‘What Kind of Love Is This’ strikes a chord with me as a personal favourite. Anna’s vocals throughout the album are crisp and clean, and this helps in the ease that you can meditate on each word. Whilst not bringing anything new to the table as far as song writing goes, Anna competently shows why her vocals are loved by many. 7/10. (January 2013)
ANNA BLUNT : The Power of the Cross No.2. (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
This is the follow up to Anna’s 2013 album, all put together by the lovely people at Cherith Music. Since being a teenager, Anna Blunt has yearly travelled the length and breadth of Britian along with her parents, two sisters and two brothers, running children’s Bible clubs in many towns and villages. She and her family also live by faith alone. The album sees Anna performing songs written by the likes of Hillsong, Nathan Fellingham, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Don’t expect any Hillsong type backing though! The otherall sound is primarily acoustic, and it all begins with that well known modern worship song “Cornerstone”. Anna has a delightful chorale voice but, sometimes, it doesn’t quite sit right with the song. The classic hymn “And Can It Be” is sung to the modern Fellingham tune and, for me, it spoils the whole thing. “You’re the Word of God the Father” is one of the better songs, and Anna’s vocals fit nicely. “Every Promise” is probably the best song on the album, and richly deserves the said accolade. Music comes from the multi-talented Row Steady, but Anna also plays flute, trumpet and violin, at various times, too. I’d question the choice of songs for this release, as Anna doesn’t quite come across as well as her first album. Saying that, Anna continues to run children’s Bible clubs in many towns and villages, as well as leading services and singing solo’s. 5/10. (November 2015)
ANNOINTED : Under the Influence. (Myrrh/Word 7019683606).
Around 15 months ago, I reviewed Annointed's previous release 'The Call', and gave it a mark of six. From the moment I heard the opening track of this new offering, I knew that would beat that last score. This award winning US trio have superb vocal harmonies and tunes that groove along deliciously. The title track is featured as two slightly different versions and it is, probably, the pick of the album. Sweet vocals and catchy hook make it an ideal single. When the girls sing, it's like listening to Eternal - only better. 'Adore You' is one such example, 'Answer to My Prayer', another. Track 6 says "Tell me why I do the things I don't wanna do?", homing in the constant spiritual battle between spirit and mind - sound familiar? Only the jazz-funk 'Walking in the Light' stops this release from being my first ten of the year. 9/10. (February 1997)
ANOINTED : The Best of… (Word Records)
One of the most popular US harmony groups of the last decade has been Anointed. With albums like "Under the Influence" and "The Call" all selling well, amongst others, it's no surprise that a "best of" compilation has been marketed. Listening, I guess that it does pull some of the best tracks from the back catalogue and favourites like "Revive Us" and "Under the Influence" are listed. I think that you've got t be either a real big fan of an artist to buy a collection of tracks you've probably already got, or maybe a new one catching up on what's gone before. There's a mixture of funky numbers like "Anything is Possible" and the pretty pop of "One Fine Day", both showing just what Anointed are all about. Never a huge fan of the group, I didn't find this album too exciting either but it's still a good starter for new fans. 6/10. (February 2004)
ANTHONY EVANS : Letting Go. (Integrity Music : 38682)
I have to say, that there is not much in the way of American CCM that I like that much these days, a lot of it is over produced and boring. However in the case of this CD I will be happy to make an exception. I half expected it to be another tedious dance CD, but it was a pleasant surprise to find an excellent Rock album with driving guitar licks all the way through. The lyrics seem to be written from personal experience with God,and Anthony has a really good voice too. The style goes from a Delireous like guitar style on the opening track "Good Enough" to the title song "Letting Go" which is very Keaggy like… "Whatever I Can't Erase" is a slower track with a really nice arrangement of piano and a cello (at least I think it's a cello, might be a violin or a viola but you get the idea) If you go to www.anthony-evans.com there are samples of all the tracks on the album, and also from his previous one. If someone had played this CD to me I would probably have gone out and tracked a copy down for myself. There wasn't a single track on it that I didn't like to be honest so I guess it'll have to be a maximum score for this one. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (July 2006, Album of the Month)
ANTHONY EVANS : Home. (Fair Trade : 60189)
If I'm honest, my heart sank somewhat when I found this album in the post. American soul music on the whole bores me rigid, I hate all those whining vocals that seem to be a necessity for this particular genre. However this CD wasn't as bad as I expected at all. It's true that it is American Soul music, but Anthony does have quite a pleasant voice, and the music is on the whole not unpleasant. The only song I know on this CD is "I will follow" (Where you go I'll go), which is a song that I usually skip on any album, but other than this song all the other tracks here have some good lyrics, that I would think most of us can relate to, dealing with things of everyday life that all of us struggle with to a greater or lesser degree. Doubt, confusion, the way that God can sometimes seem to be far off, are all covered on here in a sensitive and worshipful way. Being on the whole a dyed in the wool rocker, this album probably wouldn't make my personal list of favorites, but despite that it is quite a good album, and worth giving a try should you get the chance to hear it. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (July 2012)
ANTOINE : At the Piano. (www.weddingpianist.co)
Well known for his "request" shows in the pubs of East Yorkshire, Antoine Robinson is a multi talented guy. Predominantly released as a promotional tool for his day job as a function pianist, 'At the Piano' deserves a much wider audience. Containing a mixture of sung and instrumental titles, it's the sort of thing you can relax to at any time of the day. From the start of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', you realise that you are listening to a very gifted pianist, as he skilfully treats each note with equal polish. He also doesn't lack confidence when it comes to singing and on both Billy Joel's 'Piano Man' and Elton John's 'Rocket Man', Antoine captures the essence of each song. From a singing point of view, perhaps 'Desperado' is his finest moment on the album. It's a classic song, and this is a classy version. Other instrumental tracks include 'Wonderful World', 'Chasing Cars', and the timeless 'Unchained Melody'. In some respects, the album is a throwback to years gone by, when production was simple, and every spoken or played phrase could be heard. How lovely it is to re-capture those moments again. 8/10 (July 2011)
ANTONIO NEAL : Welcome Home. (iTunes)
Multiple Dove Award recipient Antonio Neal has had three releases to his name as a singer songwriter, and including his work as producer for other artists has sold more than five million albums. His own music is sort of 'chilled out jazzy r'n'b urban' – reminding me of Jack Johnson in delivery, but with a great soul voice and oodles of street cred. I'll say at the outset that this latest eight track release of classy, cool contemporary soul is likely to be my ccm album of the year. It is really a 'concept album', with most obviously the theme of the prodigal's return to his Father, but Antonio describes it as also encompassing “many kinds of relationship – with God, the Church, family relationships, friendships, even romantic relationships, such as husband and wife”. The songs are beautifully written and drawn from Antonio's own life. The melodies are memorable, the production and arrangements excellent, and all are recorded with great sound quality. If I am pushed to select standouts these are probably the opener 'Things will get better' (four and a half minutes of positivity!) and 'Breathe', one of the more upbeat numbers, featuring great jazzy piano. The weakest track for me is the unaccompanied closer 'At the end of myself'. If you like your ccm smooth and mellow however – and even if you don't usually – you really ought to check out this release. On the strength of the rest of the album I'm still going to give it ... 10/10. Dave Deeks (December 2014, Album of the Month)
ANY GIVEN DAY: Any Given Day. (Alliance : CD6174272)
This is an album instigated by Jason Carson of the OC Supertones. He was inspired to do it following the response to the worship times the band have towards the end of their set. Consequently it consists of a collection of songs by different authors, some well known others new (certainly to me - they may be well known across the pond). In style, the album is very up-tempo, and has a consistent style which was very reminiscent of Deacon Blue (vocals) and Hothouse Flowers (piano), albeit somewhat Americanised. Certainly "Spirit of the Living God" wouldn't sound out of place on an album by either band. An album like this will stand or fall on the strength of its arrangements. Certainly it is more "listenable" than many live recordings (how many reviews don't say "you had to be there"?) but adds little to the repertoire of the local worship leader, unless your worship band have the style described earlier. Try to hear a track: if you like it, you'll like the rest. 7/10 Paul Ganney (April 2000)
APT° CORE: Rhythms of Rememberance
If you've been to a youth event in the last few years, you've probably heard something like this. It's a collection of passages of scripture (plus the apostle's creed) read over a dance backing (fast & slow). They're read very well, too. And the backing's pretty hot. There's also a lot of sung bits - the hook lines of the passages, if you like: the version of U2's "40" being particularly good. The whole CD runs together without track breaks (well buttressed, rather than break mixed). The tempos move about a bit and there's a lot of Indian rhythms, so I'm not too sure how easy it is to dance to, but it's certainly easy to listen to (if you're into the style of music, that is). Only down point: the reader of "Meditate" (a collection of psalms) sounds horribly like Rolf Harris. The rest are really up points. More projects should be this well executed. 8/10 Paul Ganney (September 2001)
ARKANSAS GOSPEL MASS CHOIR : Hold on for Life. (T Records : TRCS-2571)
This choir has been together for around 2 years and this is the first cd to showcase its 130 plus voices. From a technical perspective it's pretty spot on with the usual extemporising and vocal acrobatics. However, I feel that this has been overdone to the extent that every song feels like one long jamming session. Long is the operative word here, with the first track "This is the Day" lasting 6 minutes 22 seconds and the title track clocking in at a whopping 8:42. This is a problem when there isn't really anything to grab onto - the melodies are too complex, hard to recall and even harder to sing, and you just feel like an outsider looking in. This is hardcore gospel and unless that is the sort of thing that rocks your boat you will find this an extremely hard listen. 2/10 Robin Thompson (June 2009)
ARTICLE ONE : AO. (Inpop : POD1396)
Canadian rockers, Article One are one of Canada's up and coming rock band. They were recently nominated for New Artist of the Year at the Gospel Music Association in their home country, so they are obviously highly rated. They say that they are inspired by the Beatles and U2 but I thought that they were a little too light for either comparison. For us Brits, Article One sound more poppy than rock, and songs like 'Slow Down' and 'In No Time At All' were more akin to McFly than anyone else. I found heir lyrics a little hard to understand from time to time, but I did get the feeling that 'Hold onto Me' was very straight forward. From time to time, the band use a fiddle in their recordings and it works quite well, especially on 'So Many Ways to Say Goodbye' - a song about the unexpected death of a friend. 'Dream October' has to be the ideal song for radio play. It's energetic, and everything about it just combines to make a brilliant song. I can't say that I was overly impressed by the band as a whole, but there are flashes of inspiration. 6/10. (January 2008)
AS IF... : Forget Me Not. (Spirit Music : SMD 130).
The name of this band had been reaching my ears for some time but this is the first time I've had the pleasure of hearing them. "This is excellent", I thought as the powerful introduction to 'Psample' blasted into being. Keyboards, guitar s, programming and vocals are all down to one man, Phil Goss but this is more than just a one man band. Bass-man Steve Rothwell ploughs an enthralling line while Phil Heard's drums provide the ideal beats. The style wanders through various guises but all given the AS IF treatment. 'Flame' warns about the evils of drugs, while 'So Sorry' says just that. The lyrics are nothing out of the ordinary but the presentation is radical. I think that As If are still in the experimental stage but that can only be a good thing. tired of Bon Jovi rock? Give AS IF a try. 8/10. (March 1997)
AS IF : Strange Blue Thing. (New Dawn Music : NDD002)
These guys do have a reputation for being a bit different from the norm when it comes to CCM. Categorised as a techno band, As If's last release had a very raw industrial feel about it, which won vast numbers of fans. Now, the band have moved on, developing a much more dance/club image but without disregarding their roots. The opening 'Lost or Found' is hit material and I can see plenty of radio stations up and down the country adding it their playlists. There must be more to your walk with God than just what others see of your exterior. It's what's inside that counts, and 'Outside In' gets that message across in quite a style. At times there seemed to be hints of dba - like in 'Heaven' - but there's also some U2 moments to enjoy in things like 'Game On' which would be my choice of a single. Phil Goss and friends have really grown into their music and look certain to raise their ever increasing fan base with this release. 8/10. (December 1998)
AS IF…. : In Full Bloom. (CD £13 inc p&p from: As If, Glebe Farm, Ludgershall, nr Aylesbury, Bucks, HP18 9PL.)
In the world of grass roots UK CCM, in my mind, AS IF are up there with the likes of Kato (pre - ICC). Phil Goss, Phil Heard and Steve Rothwell have been around long enough for you to know that their electro based dance music matures with each recording. This latest offering is a little more commercial than 1998's "Strange Blue Thing" and, therefore, should win the band even more new fans. The opening "Love Is…" has a great dance beat to it, and some clever Spanish guitar between verses. "All Fall Down" becomes quite funky and benefits from an excellent brass section. "Take Me to Your Leader" is sung to people who worship idols - be they material or other - and asks if they can offer what God gives freely to all. Each track has a website linked to it, such as the title track that goes to the Royal Horticultural Society site, while "Aberfoyle" is actually an enchanted village located in Scotland. As If continue to stretch their own skills and ideas with this recording, which makes for a progressively interesting listen to really appreciate it properly. 9/10. (April 2002)
AS IF... : Plugged Out. (www.as-if.co.uk)
My earliest memory of As If was seeing them play for a few minutes at the 1996 Reading JAM Festival. Following on from that, I've been pleased to review numerous albums in their electro prog-rock style. But, things have changed, and after a couple of quiet years on the recording front, the band are back with a more acoustic approach. Gone, are the synthetic sounds that were so prominent in the past, and in come more guitars and simpler keyboard sounds. The opening track, "Love Is…" has a certain REM sound to it, but with Phil Goss' vocals being a little smoother than Michael Stipe. "Wait and Wonder" brings the first Celtic touch to proceedings, with some nice string sounds added. "I Still Believe" touches on the truth that Jesus is the rock and there's nice use of the violin from guest player Tony Collins. The pipes on "Fear No Evil" work well, and I loved the song "Down To Love", but I'm afraid the 60's blues feel of "Outside In" left me rather cold. The overall quality of the album lies in it's simplicity and that's due to the excellent playing of the musicians. It might take old As If fans a while to warm to this new sound, but should win the band plenty of new ones too. 8/10. (July 2006)
AS IF... : Aurora Noise. (Windmill Records/Appletree AICD006)
If you're a long standing follower of Christian music, chances are you will have come across "As If" in the past as they've been on the go for many a year now & have tended to be best known for their synth-led pop/rock style material. Aurora Noise is their first release since way back in 2004, being billed as a more "organic" and "real" style - but what exactly does that mean in real terms? How does this translate into music? When I think organic, I tend to drift along thoughts of expensive, naturally grown fruit & veg!! What the CD delivers is slow to mid-paced music that is well played & produced by seasoned musicians, most of which can be used in a purely acoustic setting. However for my tastes the resulting pop/rock was a little too bland to spark any real interest. If you take time to listen to the lyrics & read the CD insert, there's some good potent stuff in there drawn from the band's real life experiences over the past few years, such as 'So Long' written around thoughts most of us will have had when suffering the loss of a loved one. Musically though, a number of tracks such as the opening 'Land of the Blind' sounded a little dated & tended to blend into one another - a bit "samey" which meant real effort was needed to pay attention. I am very much aware that these guys are a well established band & have a pretty solid following of fans. I have also read a very upbeat review elsewhere, but I have to be honest & say personally this just didn't float my boat. 5/10 Simon Redfern (January 2010)
ASCENSION : Everything in Nature Cries. (CD Recording. £3.49 from 14 Royal Oaks, Belfast, N. Ireland, BT8 6YX.
Releasing a three track single just before a new album is, I think, a little risky for a band who, although going places, are still, at present, relatively unknown in the British Isles. How sales of both will be affected I don't know, but I'm praying that the single will inspire it's buyers too investigate the album, too. With acoustic guitars at the forefront of the songs, it's a sound that could be put in the style of folk rock. There's a feeling of classic Simon & Garfunkle about the title track, and that's no bad thing. It's a great song, clean and uncluttered sound, excellent harmonies, and an endearing lead vocal. "Word on the Street" is more of the same, but uses some synth brass to good effect. The final number is a slow praise and worship piece that, although good, is nowhere near as strong as the others. However, more neat guitar work reminded me of Dire Straits, and I'm already waiting for the aforementioned album. 8/10. (April 2000)
ACENSION : Trendy to the Roots. (CD £11.99 from: Ascension, 14 Royal Oaks, Belfast, UK, BT8 6YX).
Following on from their successful EP release of three months ago, comes the long awaited album from this Irish folk rock combo. "Everything in Nature Cries" is still as hard hitting as it was then and, in my books, that appeal is a sign of a strong song. "Coffee Bars & Christian Bands" could be written about any number of artists who have played these types of venues. The song itself asks, however, is being a Christian more than just playing a few songs? Do you (the artist) live those words in your own life? On the whole, most of the songs are bouncy things that have a little something that made the likes of Eden Burning so popular live. "Word on the Street" has been remixed since it's original conception and the result is just mind blowing. "Goats" gets almost into funky mode, but tracks like "Not Perfect" show that the guys can slow things down yet still keep those tight harmonies in one piece. Thought provoking lyrics, good tunes, and God inspired. All Ascension need now, is the backing to give them that final push in the world of CCM. 9/10. (September 2000)
AUDACIOUS : Bounce. (Integrity : 997627)
Audacious are the youth orientated band that have the City Church in Manchester as their spiritual base. This is their 4th album release and it's one for those of you who like to rock. The lyrics are unashamedly evangelistic throughout, and the band manage to make even well used phrases like 'Light in the Dark', come alive. Indeed, 'Made Alive' is the first track, and the guitar driven sound is excellent and celebrates knowing Jesus as Saviour. The title track reminded me a little of DC Talk's, 'Jesus Freak' There appear to be numerous singers taking part but the lighter female vocal on 'Never Letting Go' has to be a highlight. 'Set My Feet' has some U2 style guitar work, and it begins a heavier sound to the remainder of the album. Chip K (thebandwithnoname) literally chips in on 'A Tribe Called Praise', while 'Resonate' sounds like McFly! This release definitely rocks. 8/10 (December 2008)
AUDIO ADRENALINE : Some Kind of Zombie. (Forefront/Alliance: G2 7243 8251822 8).
70's rock meets 90's punk. Yeah, after some thought, that just about sums up the new sound of Audio Adrenaline's latest release. Saying that, the best track 'People Like Me' is a Geoff Moore clone! Sparkling guitar and chugging rhythms tell of how we all fall so short in our work for God. I've got to say, on the whole, it takes two or three listens to appreciate the sounds but numbers like 'Chevette' and the title track do grow on you. 'Lighthouse' is a song that uses the old cliché of our lives been like a ship, floundering from dangers and being guided by Jesus. It works well with the contrast in style between the quieter verse and grungey chorus. Produced by Dan Brock and Eddie Degarmo, it's another band looking to move on from their previous musical style. It may take older fans a while to appreciate 'Zombie' but, eventually, I think that they will. 7/10. (February 1998)
AUDIO ADRNALINE : Until My Heart Caves In. (Forefront Records FFD63758)
This is a typical Audio Adrenaline CD, High energy guitar led rock from start to finish. The title track is an excellent worship song, and the following track "King" reminds me a bit of Delireous with the way that the guitar line runs through the verse. Actually there are quite a few Delirious like guitar lines on this CD, although. on the whole the music on this album has much more bite. Every track has something going on that's a bit different from the previous one, so it's quite easy to listen to it without getting bored. The one track that is a bit unexpected is a cover of "Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher" which if I remember correctly was a hit for Rita Coolidge about a hundred years ago, or back in the late seventies anyway. I never really thought of this as a worship song before to be honest, but it does seem to work quite well. All in all I reckon that this is a pretty good CD for anyone who likes Rock worship with no frills attached. In fact the only grouch is the insert which is one of those single sheets folded several times rather than a booklet, and it's on really thin paper that catches on those little plastic lugs every time you try and get it out , I reckon it will get ripped to shreds really quickly, but I guess that it's not really detracting from the music is it, so perhaps I shouldn't mention it. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2006)
AUDIO ADRENALINE : Adios (EMI FFD55087)
Formed in the early '90s, Audio Adrenaline has been popular on the CCM scene for around 15 years with over 3 million album sales to their credit, but they have been forced to call it a day after success has taken it's toll on singer Marc Stuart's vocal chords. Despite such a tremendous track record however, their popularity hasn't been as well mirrored in Europe as in the US. Adios as the title suggests is their farewell greatest hits compilation with possibly their greatest known "Big House" being the 1st on the CD, although I cannot claim it as my favourite. The album flows in an almost chronological order & for me gets better the further we progress along the timeline, with the tracks taking on a more refined edge in terms of the musical qualities & content. The first few tracks were a little bit feeble & were showing signs of their '90s roots, but the pace picked up noticeably with the rockier "Goodbye" & kept up from there on in. Much of the content focuses on their more energetic rockier tracks (Blaze of Glory being an excellent example), but there's the odd ballad-style piece such as the excellent "Pierced" to strike a good balance…you can have too much of a good thing sometimes! As well as the CD, there's a DVD with some band history & music videos which is not a bad package at all. Although it's a listenable album from a well established band, it doesn't have a big wow factor lacking a little in the "catchy tunes & riffs" department. 7/10 Simon Redfern (February 2007)
AUDIO ADRENALINE : Kings & Queens. (Fair Trade : 60489)
2007 saw the last appearance from this band, and many thought it was the last time we’d hear of them. Well, the name has reappeared but only bass player Will McGinniss has survived from the original line up. In, come musicians from Bleach and Superchick, as well as DC Talk’s Kevin Max on vocals. The sound? Well, it’s not quite the same as the old stuff. This album is more pop/rock and does have it’s good points. The opening ‘He Moves You Move’ is a good song, with a real catchy chorus, and it’s probably one that I’ll be giving airplay. The title track tells us that if we love our children like Jesus did, then they will become ‘Kings & Queens’. ‘King of the Comebacks’ is the first song that gets a little rocky treatment. I liked the guitar sounds especially, here. Max’s vocals are strong throughout and sound their best on ‘Fire Never Sleeps’ and ‘Seeker’. At just over 36 minutes long, the album is soon over. Older fans of the band may be put off by the lighter sound of this reincarnation, but there’s still many who will welcome this new line-up. 7/10. (June 2013)
AUDIO ADRENALINE : Sound Of The Saints. (Fair Trade Services : 9685930951)
I quite like Audio Adrenaline, and have a few of their CD’s in my hoard, so I was looking forward to listening to this. I must admit to having a few doubts though at first though, as the album opens with a section of electronic drums and some very dance flavoured keyboard lines. However, when the band came in all was found to be as I originally expected, and the usual brand of up tempo rock worship songs was revealed. This CD is the first one to feature the newest line up of the band, and also the first time that there have been none of the original founding members involved, and it does, to be honest sound a little different to the other albums, but there is a nice mixture of rock, pop, and even a nod towards punk rock. Maybe this incarnation of the band hasn’t quite decided which way their music is going to go yet; I still found this to be an enjoyable listen. The title track, and “Out Of The Fire” are my favourite songs on here, although I didn’t dislike any of it really. Perhaps die-hard fans will be a bit disappointed with this album, as it certainly isn’t the Audio Adrenaline of the past, but I still think it’s a good record, and I will await with interest to see in what direction the band decide to go. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (November 2015)
AUDREY ASSAD : The House You're Building. (EMI : 5099945707520)
It's hard to stylise the music of Audrey Assad. One moment, she's sounding like Avril Lavigne, the next, it's Susan Ashton. This album is a mixture of a few modern pop sounds but Audrey's voice carries them all, well. She has co-writing credits on all the songs and pens such excellent numbers as 'For Love of You' and 'Everything Is Yours' - both Lavigne style plodders. On 'Restless' Audrey co-writes with Matt Maher. It's a fairly straight forward sort of song, which tells how restless you can be if you're not resting in God's arms. Those reader's with a long memory may well remember the name of Phil LaRue who sang for many years with his sister. Well, he turns up here, co writing 'Carry Me', a song about knowing that God will carry us, as we each carry our own crosses. The old Bible verse about God knowing each hair on our head, is the basis to the pretty 'Known'. Again, Audrey's vocals fit this pretty number to a tee. I can't say that this is an outstanding album. However, I did find myself playing it again a few times as background music. 7/10 (February 2011)
AVALON : In A Different Light. (Sparrow : 7243 8516872 7)
Suddenly, at least here in the UK, it's cool to like old fashioned pop songs. You know, the sort of things that Abba were churning out around 20 years ago. Well, joining that pop bandwagon are Avalon with an album here is just full of great tunes. The promise to God to "Take You (Him) at Your (His) Word" sets the tone from the outset with dance beat and great guitars. "In Not Of" reminds me a lot of British singer Helen Jayne (where is she now?) and the overall quality of the music barely dips from start to finish. Contributors to the writing and performance of the album inlcude Chris Eaton, Sheila Walsh, & Scott Dente, and the result is a truly superb pop album. If you ARE a fan of Abba, as well as current chart toppers Steps, you will simply love tracks like "Always Have, Always Will" and "I'm Speechless". There again, just when I thought it couldn't get better "Let Your Love" burst through my speakers and I was smiling from ear to ear. Don't just sit there, buy it and enjoy! 10/10. (May 1999, Album of the Month)
AVALON : Oxygen. (Sparrow : SPD1796)
Last year's holders of the 1999 NFN 'CCM Album of the Year' return with what turns out to be a rather disappointing new release. What made "In A Different Light" so special was the catchy choruses, great tunes, and overall feel of love that oozed from it. "Oxygen" sees that successful formula only repeated here and there, the title track being a prime example of just what a good pop song should be. Overall, the ballads are very ordinary, and the over the top production on "The Glory" led me to despair. The power pop sound of "Make It Last Forever" isn't too bad and "Come & Fill My Heart" shows promise. "I Don't Want to Go" IS one ballad that does make the grade, and shows that Avalon can still make great music, so why the change? Well, I can only suggest that they didn't want to just rest on their laurels and produce "In A Different Light II" but, like me, fans who buy this new release expecting more of the same are in for something of a shock. 5/10. (November 2001)
AVALON : Stand. (EMI : SPD 74733)
Avalon are an American foursome that have hit the 3 million sales mark and achieved their 20th number one radio single. Jody McBrayer, Melissa Green and Janna & Greg Long make up the group, and this is their 7th studio release. The album opens with two outstanding and exciting songs. "The Other Side" is about reaching out to God, while "Love Won't Leave You" tells you that with God's love, you'll never be alone. Then, comes a powerful pop ballad in the shape of "Orphans of God", featuring a terrific vocal from one of the girls. Mid-album comes a dip in quality were I thought there was nothing particularly wrong with the songs, but they failed to live up to the openers. "Jesus", is a great pop song and should guarantee another radio hit for the group, but the rockier "I Survive" just doesn't work. The vocal quality of the band is built around warmth and harmonies, and the rock style is way off the mark. I think that Avalon have made better albums, but this should satisfy their band of followers. 7/10. (May 2006)
AVALON : Faith - A Hymns Collection. (Sparrow : SPD57742)
This is Avalon's 8th studio album and the group say that their performances are buoyed by countless hours belting out these songs in church pews during their youth. Well, "belting out" certainly describes a few of the songs. Take, for instance, "The Solid Rock". I'm not sure which of the two female members gets the lead, but boy does she yell! I remember commenting on their 2001 album "Oxygen" how I thought they suffered from a messy production, and this is the case here too. "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" didn't make me too joyful. "In Christ Alone" starts off well but then gets totally lost as instrument upon instrument seems to be thrown into the mix. Whereas Avalon have starred in the past with their harmonies, I thought that on occasions like "It Is Well With My Soul" and "Total Praise", it just didn't happen. "How Great Thou Art" is probably the least annoying track, but the foursome commit murder when they mutilate "Amazing Grace". Being used to Avalon providing good pop songs and crafted harmonies, this release depicts them as no more than just another worship band, and a very ordinary one at that. 4/10. (May 2007)
THE AWAKEN MOVEMENT : Kingdom Rise. (Elevation : ELE1907D)
Awaken are a US based church network that is planting in Europe. Kingdom Rise has been produced by Stu G, of Delirious?, and is intended to be more than just worship music. The Awaken Movement has written a collection of songs designed to equip Christians to live lives of worship. They hope the EP will inspire a generation to embrace Jesus in all they do. Even though there are only 5 songs, it did take me a few listens to actually “embrace” what these guys are trying to do. I actually thought that, at times, they sounded a lot like Coldplay. Indeed, from the first drum beats, piano, and male voice chants, ‘We Will Go’ felt like a Coldplay song. Glory to you ‘Most High God’ comes next and still left me quite cool in my reception to it. Where things really take a turn for the better is with ‘Fatherless’.Oh how I wanted to be at a large gathering, singing this song at the top of my voice. It’s just right for somewhere like Spring Harvest. ‘Move’ is another good song. I can’t see it being used for collective worship, but what a beautiful song it is. The vocals of either Mark or Joel Warren really excel here. I found the closing spoken word track rather bland. It focuses on trying to explain what worship really is, but I thought that the message got rather lost in translation. Saying that, it’s great to hear some new songs that don’t just sound like everything else. 7/10. (June 2013)
AYIESHA WOODS : Introducing... (Gotee : GTD72966)
After two years in production, here is the debut album from Ayiesha Woods. The style is unmistakably R&B but it's difficult to pick out a similar artist. "Happy" is the first song on the track listing, and what a feel good factor it has. Along with "Big Enough", it is a very commercial sound, with the latter also featuring Toby Mac. The message of reading your Bible is the subject for "Crazy", while the slower "What You Do to Me" is a plain and simple loving worship number. It's round about mid album that the better songs seem to disappear, and the whole thing begins to run out of steam. "Days" is a very ordinary funky sound, while "Beauty" is rather noisy, and very dis-jointed. By the end of the recording, Ayiesha's even sounding a little like Mariah Carey open the acoustic "What Matters Most". Some positive moves from Miss Woods, but what's needed next is some consistent writing. 6/10. (January 2007) Forward to the next archive
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