Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive B

BACKROOM STEREO : Dreams. (www.backroomstereo.co.uk)
Mark Tiddy (aka Backroom Stereo) has been songwriting for a number of years and has released EP’s featuring both punk and acoustic styles of music. This latest project sees him make full use of the acoustic guitar, alongside the latest pop sounds. He says; “Most of them (the songs) came about through films and music that seemed to inspire me to write last year. 'A Beautiful Love Story' was largely based on a dream I'd had and remembered.” It’s that very song that starts of this 6 track release, in a bright, happy sort of way. The dream unfurls, as Mark finds his true love and revels in that feeling of contentment. ‘Brighter’ tells us not to give up, when things look black. There may be a brighter future ahead. Here, perhaps Mark tries to fit in too many words, as lyrically, the verse sounds a little too hurried. The theme of love follows most songs, like the melancholy ‘Out of My League’ and ‘Falling Fast’, which contains the best acoustic guitar sound on the recording. The stand out track has to be ‘Mess It Up’ This time, the lyrics tell of meeting a love and includes a couple of lines about a disastrous first date. It’s got a foot tapping rhythm, and reminded me of The Bluebells hit ‘Young at Heart’. Mark’s lyrics are very down to earth. He doesn’t worry about using ordinary conversational sentences to tell the story, and that can take the listener by surprise. However, on the whole, I enjoyed something that is, a little bit different. 8/10. (March 2015)
BACKROOM STEREO : Pop Culture. (Private Recording.)
The first thing that I thought of when I listened to the first track on this album was that it sounded exactly like “There Might Be Giants” so much so that if I’d heard this on the radio then I would have assumed that it was them. It must be said that the same goes for the rest of it. This CD consists entirely of catchy pop style love songs, that won’t particularly challenge you on any deep and meaningful level, but are still quite listenable to all the same. I can’t really say that any of the songs on here stands out above the rest in any way. If you like the first track, then you can be pretty certain that you’ll like all of them. You can check it out at   http://backroomstereo.bandcamp.com/album/pop-culture Where you can listen to all the tracks, and buy it on CD or various downloads formats. It’s also one of those “name your own price tag” albums, so you can have a listen and decide how much you think it’s worth for yourself.   8/10   Andy Sayner. (June 2015)
BACKROOM STEREO : If You're Gonna Fall in Love   (https://backroomstereo.bandcamp.com)
Backroom Stereo is actually one man, Mark Tiddy, who evidently began the project back in 2013 and has issued singles and EPs prior to this full-length release. The vast majority of music reviewed in NFN is usually Christian in nature – overtly or otherwise – but here we have 11 tracks of indie guitar-driven pop which are, according to Mark's website, '.... about falling in love, heartache and hope'. And 'It's a record that reminds me that there is always hope no matter how bad things get and not to settle for second best'. There is an 'Englishness' in Mark's vocal delivery, and he reminds me somewhat of Mark Nevin, leading light of the late eighties band 'Fairground Attraction'. Sound quality is pretty good whilst varying a bit -– compression is most obviously wacked up for instance on track 1 'Nashville' – but his vocals are clear and musically I found this album quite enjoyable. Lyrically however I found myself feeling quite sorry for Mark. He is evidently '... more personally attached' to this album 'than any record I've ever written' and '... lyrically it's incredibly honest in places and as an overall record it tells a story'. My impression at the end was of a guy who tends to lust after women from a distance, and if he does successfully enter into a meaningful relationship something goes wrong – let's hope and pray that Mark finds the lady of his dreams! Best tracks for me are 'Therapy', 'Is she crazy for me?' and 'Near misses and lost summer kisses'. The closing track is a 'bonus' one, being a duet version repeat of 'Trainwreck', but the female vocals sound somewhat strange and indistinct. Difficult to rate, but I'll settle on 6/10. Dave Deeks (October 2016)
BACKROOM STEREO : Something About You. (https://backroomstereo.bandcamp.com/album/something-about-you-single)
As with his previous releases, East Yorkshire’s Backroom Stereo’s latest single revolves around love. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! And, released on Valentine’s Day, this song tells of a newly found love. “I want to spend every second I have with you,” he sings, and you get the drift of the lyrics to the rest of the song. The tune is uptempo and guitar led, in a sort of early McFly sort of way. My disappointment with this track is the lack of a bridge or a change of tempo, that would break up the verse, chorus, verse chorus feel. A weak guitar solo does nothing to improve matters, but the song does grow on you with successive plays. Backroom Stereo reminds me of Welsh independent artist Phil Lewis, who has released countless, excellent, albums over the last 20 years. In the same way, I feel that Backroom Stereo still has more to offer in the future. 6/10. (March 2017)
BANDWITHNONAME : Dying to Be There. (ICC Records : ICC1283A)
This is a package containing both a CD and a DVD, although to be honest I didn't find much of any interest on the DVD. There's a couple of music video's, a few interviews and some outtakes, plus the obligatory "Making of". The CD is a kind of fusion of rock music and rap, which was ok for a couple of tracks, but after that it got a bit monotonous, It's almost as if the band aren't able to decide which style they want to play, and I'm afraid that after a while, I found myself "dying for them to be there" too. I reckon that this is one of those bands that you either like or you don't, but there just wasn't enough variation in the music for me. Every now and then there was a nice intro to get your hopes up, but then as soon as the song got going normal service was resumed. I'm sure a lot of people out there who like this band, and will find this to be a really good buy, but it doesn't do it for me I'm afraid. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (October 2009)
BANG BANG : Living Among the Dead. www.batcavestudio.com
This CD is from a band that have reformed after a gap of 13 years. Originally called "Bang Bang You're Dead" they formed after the split up of "Press Any Key" a band which any fans of After the Fire will probably remember well. One member, Rob Russell is the brother of ATF guitarist John. This CD is basically late seventies / early eighties rock music all the way through, but with modern day lyrics. There are some fairly impressive sounding guitar solo's scattered through the songs, well they are to me anyway (Bass player). And everything is on the whole fairly up beat. You get the impression with this lot that they are a load of old blokes with nothing to prove just enjoying what they are doing, and I reckon that this comes over in the music. You probably have to look past the cover though, as someone else remarked it does look a bit kind of "Spinal Tap" if you know what I mean. Just goes to show though, that you can't judge a book, or a CD in this case, by the cover. This is a really enjoyable CD, which now has a place on my Zen player. Definitely give it a try. The website has some samples on it, and you can buy the CD from there. www.batcavestudio.com 9/10 Andy Sayner. (October 2007)
BARLOWGIRL : Barlowgirl. (Fervent Records)
Barlowgirl are the three sisters who have a passion to write songs about the journey that God has taken them on in their lives. Their main song topics include trusting God, purity, and their stand on not dating. Indeed, there's a massive Barlowgirl movement in the States now, all taking similar stance. The album itself is very much in the Avril Lavigne mould. "Pedestal" rocks like "Skater Boi", while the more melodic "Never Alone" is more like "I'm With You". "She Walked Away" is a prayer from a family who's child has left home without a word. They're left, hurt, grieving, and not knowing why. It's a brilliantly intense song and my favourite overall. The girls write the songs themselves and also play drums and guitar, therefore creating a simple rock sound. But, the producers seem to have used string pads at every opportunity and it works well. It's an album made by teenagers for teenagers, but older folks like myself will still find food for thought. 8/10 (March 2004)
BARLOWGIRL : Another Journal Entry. (Fervent : 8864462)
Their last album saw Barlowgirl perform songs very much in the style of Avril Lavigne, so credit them, this time, for moving on. This time, there's a more typical US rock feel to the album. Take, for instance, "Grey", it's more in the mould of one time pop/rock goddesses, Vixen. The girl's harmonies work really well on the mid-paced "enough", while the acoustic led "Porcelain Heart" is quite mellow. To me, the production is quite messy at times although I got a feeling that they've been listening rather too much to the Manic Street Preachers for their own good. "Take Me Away" and "Psalm 73" would fall into that category. Sadly, I didn't think that the songwriting was as strong as their last album, and this really lets the album down. "5 Minutes of Fame" is a pleasant enough rocker, but things just seem to fizzle out, rather like a damp firework. Lots of promise, but fails to deliver. 4/10 (May 2006)
BARRY & BATYA SEGAL : Sh'ma Yisrael. Word : 77797-0002-2)
Produced by none other than Martin Smith, this album blends rhythmic praise and ethnic overtones with passionate worship towards the "Holy One of Israel". For those of you who don't know, Barry & Batya live in Jerusalme and are at the forefront of what God is doing in the present day nation of Israel. Following two tracks of introduction, the Segal's move into full flow with "Baruch Haba" and the bouncy "Hallelu Et Adonai". Mixing English and Hebrew languages, worship is of the essence as "Hineh Lo Yanum" and "Kadosh" gently minister. The latter actually had me thinking I was listening to Joanne Hogg, Batya's vocals being so smooth. Someone once joked to me that listening to Barry & Batya was like been locked in a room with the worst entries of the Eurovision song contest. Thankfully, I can assure you that this is not the case, as this album has many winners. 8/10. (March 2000)
BARRY & BATYA SEGAL : Go Through the Gates. (Galilee of the Nations : 677797001925)
Barry and Batya Segal were one of the first Messianic artists that I ever reviewed, way back in 1995. since then, I have come to know and respect their music that brings a contemporary ethnic sound that speaks insightfully to the prophetic times in which we live today. This latest album shows the sprit of worship rising up out of the Land of Israel and encourages believers everywhere during these perilous and uncertain times. "On Your Walls O Jerusalem" is a typical uptempo piece that conjures visions of dancing and laughter, it's a very uplifiting song. "We Delight in Your Shabbat" is so full of happieness and praise, as it proclaims "We delight"…in God. "Shimcha Kadosh" finds Batya singinig to just an acoustic backing, joined mid-song by an angelic choir - it's quite beautiful. "Go Through The Gates" will draw the listener into the peace and presence of the Lord, whatever your cultural background. 8/10. (October 2002)
BART MILLARD : Hymned. (INO Records 683581)
Some may recognise Bart Millard as the excellent 'country rock' voice of Canadian CCM band Mercy Me - try sampling their stuff via www.mercyme.org. Bart explains the title of his first solo offering 'Hymned' as being '… sort of a play on words off of the sewing term 'hemmed' which I'm using in the sense that the experience of having these songs sung to me in my childhood is a big part of what has sewn my life together'. Seems a bit obscure - but it's Bart's album! The sleeve note credits/comments suggest that here we have a project that is very … err … American (yes, I know Bart's Canadian, but ….). It's the music that matters however, and with Brown Bannister sharing production credits this album has a great sound. Bart is joined by Mercy Me guitarist Barry Graul and a band of professional Nashville musicians, with Vince Gill guesting on 'Pass me not, O gentle Saviour'. Ironically, the one (almost) 'non-hymn' track also turns out to be one of the best - 'Mawmaw's song', written by Bart and Barry but with its chorus taken from 'In the sweet by and by'. 'My Jesus I love Thee/'Tis so sweet' is also particularly well done. To my ears many tracks are less successful, with their tunes set to inappropriate arrangements. Many obviously disagree - 'Hymned' has evidently been selling like hot cakes. As usual, the recommendation is to try before you buy (visit www.bartmillard.org). For me however, 5/10.Dave Deeks. (October 2005)
THE BBC DAILY SERVICE SINGERS : The Daily Service. (Kingsway: KMCD2330)
BBC Radio 4's Daily Service programme is the longest running daily radio programme in the world. The current crop of singers are all experienced worship leaders who not only have the skills to sing the widest range of Christian music, but an ability to communicate the faith itself. On this, first, commercial release, 14 songs are featured. Beginning with "Praise My Soul", the track listing then runs through Stuart Townend's "How Deep the Father's Love", Paul Leddington's "O Lord of Every Shining Constellation", and back to Townend once more for "From the Sqaulor". Each are given timeless classic renditions in the style and quality that The Daily Service produce. Other songs featured include "From Heaven You Came", "Be Still" and "When I Survey" in what can only be called a top album of it's kind. 9/10. (NOvember 2001)
BEANBAG : Freesignal. (Inpop : 7243 8517312 7)
Signed to the Newsboy's Inpop label, fellow Australians, Beanbag are going to raise quite a few eyebrows with this release. Mixing rap, funk and rock with crunching guitars, it's an album that is sure to appeal to fans of Prodigy and the like. However, for your average music fan, both your head and your ears are going to take a severe pounding. For me, personally, the meaning of lyrics on such tracks as "Bite the Hand" were completely lost due to the barking vocals. Even reading the lyrics whilst listening failed to help, although I did manage to stay with "Face I Paint"."Disturbed", "Why?", and "Stale" are all very much the same and, although the band were a big hit at last year's Cornerstone Festival in America, I simply couldn't play this more than twice. Perhaps I just don't understand. 2/10. (April 2000)
BEAUTIFUL WORSHIP - The Greatest Praise and Worship of All Time. (INO Records : 41342)
Well, with a title like that, this album certainly had a lot to live up to, even before I listened for the first time. There's some top notch performers delivering the goods, but some of the versions of well known songs I found to be rather weak. Brian Doerksen starts proceedings with an acoustic version of "Come, Now is the Time to Worship". It's all very "laid back" and I wasn't to keen on it. Similarly, Paul Baloche's rendition of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" fails to match the awe of it's original version by Delirious? Lenny LeBlanc co-wrote "Above All" and, here, he gives it his all to perform a smashing version of a great song. Twila Paris excels herself with "He is Exalted" , while Robin Mark leads a determined version of "Shout to the North". Of the songs I didn't know so well Hillsong and Delirious? Play a deeply moving song called "I Give you My Heart". The others, I'm afraid, are much of a muchness, and songs like "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" and "Awesome God" sound rather tired. Sorry, but while the album does contain some of the greatest praise and worship songs of our time, the renditions just don't live up to expectations. 5/10. (July 2007)
BEBO NORMAN : Big Blue Sky. (Watershed : MPCD40505)
I like this album. That's it, end of review! But it's too good for me to leave it there. Bebo Norman is an American who's been making a name for himself throughout Europe ever since his previous album 'Ten Thousand Days' grabbed our attention in 1999. Not just another acoustic guitar based singer/songwriter, Bebo has a real depth in his songs, and manages to combine well thought out lyrics with memorable tunes and good structures. In short, his songs are 'complete' and work well. This album sees him at his most mature yet, with a departure into full arrangements with a more commercial feel. A classy production brings out the best in his voice, which is lovely and husky with a great laid back tone. The title track 'Big Blue Sky' shows this, along with others such as 'I Am', 'Underneath' and 'Cover Me'. But this album also shows Bebo Norman unplugged, the real McCoy, in such beautiful tracks as 'All That I Have Sown' and 'Where You Are'. So we have the best of both worlds, and the good thing is that he's still maturing and progressing so we've got a lot of goodies to look forward to. Yes, I like this album. 9/10 Julie Lord. (July 2001)
BEBO NORMAN : Myself, When I Am Real. (Essential Records :(MPCD40538)
I have heard a lot of really good things about Bebo Norman as a songwriter and performer, and the fact that his last album "Big Blue Sky" was named #1 Christian album of 2001 by Amazon.com served only to reinforce those things. It was therefore with a sense of genuine anticipation that I put this new release into my CD player, and (to my great relief) I was not disappointed. Musically there is nothing revolutionary here, and the acoustic guitar-led Nashville influence is obvious, but the musicianship is superb from beginning to end, and the songs are beautifully put together. The lyrics are very much focussed on Bebo's own relationship with God, and a sense that this is a very personal collection of songs stays with you throughout, which only serves to strengthen the album as a whole. For me the highlights are "Beautiful You" and the awesome "Great Light of the World", and unusually there are no obviously weak songs so, in spite of having only an unmastered review copy to go on, this one comes highly recommended. 9/10 David Cooper (October 2002)
BEBO NORMAN : Try. (Essential : MPCD40572)
I already have Bebo's excellent 2002 CD 'Myself when I am real' in my collection so was pleased when I received this new one for review. If you're wondering about Bebo's name, his real name is Steven but a baby sister who couldn't say 'brother' started calling him 'Bebo' when he was just four years old - and it stuck! He has a really good 'light with a touch of gravel' bang-in-tune voice, and his music is sort of in the Marc Cohn vein, which suits me nicely. Bebo's albums date back to 1999, and this is his fifth. Good songs as usual - Bebo has a talent for lyrics and melody to add to that voice of his. There are probably fewer immediately memorable 'tunes' than on the 2002 offering, but a couple of plays soon had me singing along. The best song lyrically is 'Borrow mine' - a neat idea skilfully put together, but I won't say more in case I spoil it for you! 'Disappear' is also excellent, and others worth special note include 'Nothing without you' and 'Other side of the day' - but there really isn't a weak track here. If your preferences include listening to guitar-based singer-songwriters, Bebo is pretty well as good as it gets. The only down side is the sound, which a good sound system shows up as being a bit over-compressed - probably mixed for (so-called) 'radio play'. Despite this, a definite recommendation - and also worth checking out Bebo's other albums via www.bebonorman.com. 9/10 Dave Deeks (January 2005, February 2005)
BEBO NORMAN : Between the Dreaming and the Coming True. (Essential : 083061079925)
Bebo's three previous albums have all scored highly in NFN reviews, interestingly enough by three different reviewers. He says that this collection of songs are "about life lived some days in the trenches and some days on the mountain top". From soaring with God, down to deep despair, Bebo covers every angle. "Into the Day" is a good, positive start and would fit nicely into anyone's "feel good" chart. "Time Takes It's Toll on Us" is another good song and Bebo's vocals make every word plain to hear. If you want contemporary praise and worship at it's best, then look no further than "I Will Lift My Eyes" and "Bring Me to Life". Both songs are just classic tracks which I can see going down a storm at live worship events. At times, his delivery reminds me of Chris Rice but Bebo certainly is a man who knows his own mind. Sticking close to the truth of God in his life, he conveys everything in pure and simple terms, but in a very delicious way. 9/10. (March 2007)
BEBO NORMAN : Great Light of The World (The very best of Bebo Norman) Essential / Providen-Integrity 83061-0861-2
Bebo Norman is one of those artists that would need no introduction on either side of the pond, having been on the CCM music scene for around 10 years now. This as the title suggests is a greatest hits style compilation spanning from his earlier career in 1999 the present day. Saying that though, I personally cannot admit to being greatly familiar with his work of late but having heard this, it is something I would certainly make steps to becoming re-acquainted with. We kick off with "I Will Lift My Eyes" from Bebo's 2006 Between The Dreaming & The Coming True album which is an excellent start & reminds me very much of a recent offering from a band called The Longing; a greatly passionate number with a rhythmical rocky feel to it, starting quietly & building gradually to a real powerful chorus made all the richer with Bebo's gravelly tones. Great driving drum rhythms with a very catchy guitar riff in the chorus! 'Nothing Without You' follows on in a slightly more relaxed pace with some great lyrics speaking of how God is central to everything we are. The CD includes a collaboration with Caedmon's Call (Holy Is Your Name) which of course ties in with Bebo's roots in CCM, as well as 'Sometimes By Step' with Rich Mullins. What I like about this CD is that the lyrics come through without being overpowered by the musical aspects which is a great balance, often so difficult to achieve. A great introduction to the man & his music with lyrics that will make you sit up & think. 9/10 Simon Redfern (Feburary 2008)
BECCA JACKSON : It'll Sneak Up On You. (Word : 7019671608).
Another debut album by one of those American artists who seem to appear at almost alarming regualrity. In the mould of Susan Ashton comes Becca Jackson with her blend of acoustic pop, folk rock and down-to-earth music. Ten songs which embrace God's word and promises to the full. Loved the opening 'Hands Tied' which tells of our constant falls from grace, and the catchy title track with excellent hook. The backing music is superb but does not detract from the sweet voice of Becca. She is, indeed, a talented new singer/songwriter and looks set for greater things. The lovely 'He Will Build A Bridge' rounds things off, telling of Jesus' outstretched hand, calling the lost. A good start. 8/10. (June 1997)
BEEHIVE : Brand New Day. (Airplay/Word : AIRCD971).
In the world of British Acid Jazz, Jamariqoui lead the rest by some distance. Whilst Capitaan flew the Christian flag last year, Beehive have released an album which collects together, the sound that is making the music press sit up and take note. Singer Kaz Lewis has been praised to soul diva status and it's easy to see why. Her voice is soft and warm , with a power to make a song stand out - the laid back 'Can't Stop the Rain' being a prime example. The track which is getting most radio play is 'Get Busy' a funky tune that I thought was awful - it takes all sorts. 'Hype' has a Latin feel to it and the summer feeling 'Father's Eyes' has 'hit' written all over. The music is tight and Rob May's keyboard work gives a good feel throughout. It's not a stunning debut but Beehive look set to be the Buzz-band this year. 7/10. (June 1997)
BEING AS AN OCEAN : How We Both Wondrously Perish. (www.invoguerecords.com/being-as-an-ocean/)
Piling in with massive guitars and a (mostly) shouted vocal, this album is aiming for your throat and doesn’t miss. It has doom-laden picking (“Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air”, for example) and great song titles (ditto). The title track is a very moody (and slightly weird) instrumental. The interplay between the two vocalists (described as “clean vocals” and “unclean vocals”) gets better as the album progresses, working very well on “We Drag The Dead On Leashes”, for example. “Even The Dead Have Their Tasks” has a more mainstream rock feel to it spotlighting the “clean” vocal whereas “Grace, Teach Us What We Lack” has a deadpan vocal that sounds slightly flat making the “unclean” vocal shine in contrast. It’s solidly in its genre (so you probably already know whether or not you’ll like it). In trying to describe the overall sound, I’d say that there’s a feel of Anathema in parts, some early Pink Floyd, a bit of (dare I say it) 5 Seconds of Summer, maybe The Way and a lot of Nirvana, Seventh Day Slumber and Sum 41. Best track: “Grace, Teach Us What We Lack”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (August 2015)
BELIEVER : We The Gathered.
There’s no way to mistake where this CD is going: the heavy drum intro, the rapid-fire guitar riffs and then the guttural vocal. It’s not quite Death Metal, as it’s far too uplifting. It’s more P.O.D. meets Napalm Death, really. With a different vocal it’d almost be mainstream metal in an Iron Maiden kind of way (especially on “Idolizer” where the guitar work is very good indeed). The lyrics are as uncompromising as the music (so it’s very holistic) but the music does have its lighter moments – like the mid-section to “Savior” or the instrumental “Tragedy”. Whilst the musicianship is very good, the vocal style is one of things that you either like or don’t. I’m not a great fan – I like it as a counterpoint (e.g. Leaves’ Eyes) but not as a sole voice for a whole CD. So you probably know whether or not you’re going to like this CD from that description alone. Best track: “Idolizer”, for the guitar work and the energy (not that this CD is lacking in that department). 6/10. Paul Ganney (January 2012)
BEN CANTELON : Running After You. (Survivor : SURCD6152)
Born to Pastors in Vancouver, Canada, Ben heads up the worship for the UK-based Soul Survivor movement. He says that this album "links in with the idea of being desperate to follow and connect with God; wanting God to get closer but life getting in the way." The track listing begins with 'Not Ashamed', a rocking declaration that we shouldn't be ashamed to nail our colours to the mast. 'Jericho' tells of tearing down walls of issues and blockages within us, and it's a fine song. 'Coming Back' is an orchestrated piece in the prodigal son mould, while 'Remain' plods along with God at the centre of the song, remaining constant. I particularly liked the song 'Breathe', which prays for the Holy Spirit to be with you, but pick of the bunch has to be 'Carry On'. This song is quite stripped down, musically, and I think that it's sincerity shines through. Ben plays acoustic guitar and keyboards on this release, and he's obviously a talented and gifted guy. However, there are several songs that left me quite cold, even after two or three listens. Consistency in the songs would have seen a better score than...6/10 (November 2009)
BEN CANTELON : Everything In Colour. (Kingsway : KWCD3289)
Although a Canadian national, Ben now resides in the Uk and is a worship leader at London’s Holy Trinity Church, Brompton. Over the last few years, his music has become increasingly popular for worship, and this album includes several of his best known tunes. The title track is a strong song musically, and it really sets the tone for the whole album. ‘New Day’ speeds along, celebrating finding Jesus in your life, and I thought this was the strongest cut on the listing. Saying that, there’s still more quality praise and worship to be had with songs like ‘Saviour of The World’ and ‘My Deliverer’. Produced by Jason Ingram, there’s also writing credits for Stu G and Matt Redman. There’s more celebration with ‘Lord Strong and mighty’, while the closing ‘Love Divine’ I think would be perfect for a time of communion. I think that this collection of songs will only increase Ben’s popularity in this country. 9/10. (July 2012, Album of the Month)
BEN GLOVER : 26 Letters. ((Word:080688608729)
22 year old singer songwriter Ben Glover comes from a small town on the edge of the Rockies. He loves music and loves the Lord even more. His new album tackles issues of faith, community, and culture with fearless questioning and unswerving faith. Great sentiments but the album is, sadly, filled with too many average songs. He's a little bit like Stephen Curtis Chapman in style but neither the vocals or songs come up to scratch. The title track is, probably, the best on offer, while "The Man I Want to Be" would run it a close second. Apart from that, it was one of those albums that I played through without there really being one memorable song. "Hope Will Be My Song" is quite nice but the quality just isn't there. 2/10. (June 2001)
BEN LASKY : Glorify. (www.benlasky.co.uk)
Ben Lasky is a worship leader & songwriter from Colchester, UK, whose song writing, draws deeply from his own journey with the Lord. This 8 track debut album was recorded live, so it’s a warts and all production. Some of the “warts” are provided by Ben’s vocals which, at times, really strain to keep in tune. He has a vibrato modulation to his voice and struggles when he tries to hold a note. On the opening “Kingdom Come”, Ben takes some words from the Lord’s Prayer and fits them into an indie rock sound, which I found quite stirring. “Justice Reign” chugs along nicely, but the 9 minute song of worship called “Hallelujah” really struggles. Vocally, Ben is not at his best, and it’s really highlighted by the repetitive sung title, which takes over most of the song. Indeed, on both “Glorify” and “The Cross” the monotonous repetition of “We Glorify” and “Thank you for the cross” deter from what could have been two fine songs. Just when I was about to lose hope with this album, Ben comes up with a storming number called “You Alone.” Much in the mould of Tim Hughes or Paul Baloche, the song has everything that contemporary P&W should have. His voice is note perfect, and the live band really comes together for a song that is head and shoulders above anything else on the album. Closing the recording, Ben provides acoustic guitar backing to the simple song “I Know.” In my opinion, Ben lacks some experience in song structure. But, that will only come with time and despite some of my reservations, he shows that he’s a budding artist with plenty of ideas and a real heart for God. 5/10. (September 2016)
THE BENJAMIN GATE : Contact. (Forefront records)
I really enjoyed listening to this CD. It's one of those albums that doesn't sound like a Christian CD, if you know what I mean. The Benjamin gate have had two number one singles, both from their last CD, I reckon that they could have more if there is a single release from this one. A lot of the songs reminded me of delerious in their King of fools era, although this band has a female vocalist. Some of the more quiet tracks have a similar feel to The Alarm. There is a definate raw edge to the music, something sadly lacking in a lot of material that is produced nowadays. Unfortunatly there is no contact information supplied for this country, but there is a website which contains loads of stuff about the band, and it seems to be regularly updated. It could be hard to obtain this CD over here, (the band come from South Africa) but if you like that raw edge to your music then it would be worth your while trying to chase a copy down. The web address is www.thebenjamingate.com or you could try www.forefrontrecords.com. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (October 2002)
BENJAMIN HERSH : Fulfilled Promise. (www.binyamin.org)
It must have taken a great belief for a Jewish man to go against his own family tradition and declare his faith as a Christian. But, that is exactly what classically trained pianist, Benjamin Hersh did. He and his wife, are currently establishing a ministry, after having worked with the Jewish people for many years through street evangelism, hospitality and building long term relationships. This album of messianic praise will not be to everyone’s taste, as many of the songs are sung in Hebrew, an no English translation is given on the sleeve notes. However, from the songs that I could lyrically understand, Benjamin attempts, with success, to tell some of Jesus’ story. For instance, ‘Oh What Pain You Suffered’, although a little long in length, tells the story of the crucifixion with real depth in the vocals. With just his piano playing for accompaniment, he waxes lyrical on the subject of the people of Israel crying out for a Saviour, on the song ‘A Cry From the Desert’. Of the Hebrew sung songs, I thought that ‘Hine Ma Tov’ (based on Psalm 133:1) sounded like a lament rather than my translation of brethren gathering in unity. However, I am not an authority on Hebrew, and stand to be corrected. ‘Oh Zion’ actually seems to be a little repetitive and is quite a listen at nearly 17 minutes long. What I had to do with this release, is to remember that it IS messianic praise, and that it is aimed, primarily, at Jewish people. Therefore, it’s not going to race away to the Top of any Christian charts. On the other hand, I do believe that it will be welcomed with open arms by the very people Benjamin is trying to reach. 7/10. (July 2013)
BETH CROFT : Rule in My Heart. (Integrity Music : 0000768622025)
This is the debut CD from Beth, who is a worship leader at Soul Survivor. It’s an album of straightforward rock / pop style worship songs, and with a good solid band backing her this is an excellent CD. The album kicks off with an upbeat track called “Love takes over” which features some nice delay guitar in the verses, building up to a powerful chorus section. I like the way that the songs build up as they play through, rather than everything being at one level all the time. I get the impression that a lot of thought has gone into this CD, and I would say that it has paid off. Every song seems to have something different to offer, and I didn’t find boredom creeping in at all whilst listening. The outstanding track for me was “Rule in my heart” I just love the feel of it, but really there isn’t a bad song on this CD at all. In fact I am quite happy to give this one a maximum score. You need to buy it. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (August 2014, Album of the Month)
BETHANY DILLON : Imagination. (Sparrow : SPD 73905)
Bethany Dillon is a 17 year old girl from Bellefontaine, Ohio. She released her self titled debut album in 2004 and won critical acclaim for her songwriting. The theme of the album is an invitation to look at life with a fresh perspective, but I'm not sure that she really achives her ideal. I found most of the song pleasant enough, but I kept waiting for one that would take my breath away and set the album alight. Sadly, that didn't happen and, instead, I was left with a collection of very mediocre songs. Perhaps the best song on the album is "All That I Can Do", a song about realizing when you need more than your own strength to do things. It's a song that could well rate high on the charts, given enough exposure. "My Love Hasn't Grown Cold", is quite melancholy and I wasn't impressed at all, neither was I by "Vagabond". Bethany has quite a nice voice, but I really felt that the songs did little to grab my attention. 4/10. (April 2006)
BETHANY DILLON : Waking Up. (Sparrow)
Here's a young lady who has been spending her time, not only recording a new album, but on mission trips to India. Indeed, the track, "Beggar's Heart" reveals a little of what she witnessed. Bethany has sometimes failed to deliver when it comes to a full album, but I think that she's made great strides forward with this release. "The Kingdom" provides a bright start while "Come Find Me" is a cry to Jesus to rescue your soul. "Waking Up" is another sparkling song, while "Something There" takes a little rock edge on board. The songs seem to be written from a very personal point of view as she tackles subjects such as guilt, infertility, and that never to be forgotten feeling of when you first receive God into your life. The latter is cleverly captured on "Top of the World". "Tell Me" and "Are You Sure" are a little meloncholy, and reminded me of Janis Ian in style. Probably the best song on the album is "When You Love Someone". Both delivery and backing music is excellent, and it's a very catchy number. While I don't think that it's ever going to be a million seller, this album goes a long way in establishing Bethany Dillon as a worthy CCM artist. 7/10. (June 2007)
BETHANY DILLON : Stop & Listen. (EMICMG : 5099922634528)
Bethany Dillon's songs not only encourage and inspire, but deal with real spiritual truths in her life and the listeners'. Her sound is pleasing to the ear, and her popularity can be measured by major tours and Christian radio airplay. I'm sure I've made the comparison before, but I can't get away from the fact that she does remind me a lot of Susan Ashton. 'Everyone to Know' is a song about not keeping Jesus a secret, but to tell the world about Him. 'I Am Yours' is a light little number, and the title really says it all, surrendering to the Lord. The title track is probably the most mainstream sound on the album, and is a very strong song. Bethany writes or co-writes all of the songs and I think that over the years, she has honed a great style. 'Say Your Name' is a catchy number, while 'So Close' and 'Reach Out' also deserve a mention. They say that the simple things in life are the best, and that's true of the closing song, 'Everyone to Know'. Not many words, an easy song to sing a long to, and most heart warming. 8/10 (January 2010)
BETHEL CHURCH : Be Lifted High. (Kingsway : 649241927327)
This is a live worship album from Bethel Church, Redding, California and features 13 original worship songs plus a DVD. In that respect, you certainly get plenty for your money, so there are no issues as to quantity. However, in terms of quality I'm not convinced that it delivers. The style of this album is, not unexpectedly, strongly in the Hillsongs mould. In fact, if I hadn't known better I would easily have mistaken this for a Hillsongs recording. Fans of the genre will therefore feel very at home with this cd but, beyond that, I'm not convinced it really offers anything. The songs are derivative and predictable and, whilst there are some moments of note, "God I Look to You" being one of them for the most part one song sounds very much like the next. It's always an issue for live worship albums - they very rarely reflect the occasion being recorded. To work as cd they need to be more than just a recording of a good worship session and I'm not convinced that this cd offers anything more than that. 6/10 Robin Thompson (July 2011)
BETHEL LIVE : For the Sake of the World. (Integrity : 60978820144)
Two years ago I reviewed “Be Lifted High” another live worship album from the same church, Bethel Redding, California. I deemed it predictable and derivative; so is this one any better? On the whole, no. The opener “To Our God”, starts things off in a low key way and, whilst it has an engaging verse, the chorus is bland in comparison and lost my attention. The next song “Our Father” is an adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not bad but takes some liberties with the lyrics which are enough to change their meaning. It also finishes with an adlib section which for me, comes far too early in the cd. I’m not ready at this point to go off in the Spirit. I guess this is where it is difficult with a cd as what might have been appropriate at the time, doesn’t work later on a recording. The album continues through a succession of slow to mid pace songs which are fine as far as they go, but don’t stand out from the rather saturated crowd of similar songs out there. It’s not until song number 9 “In Your Light” that I feel the album really gets going by picking up the pace. I don’t doubt their sincerity in the slightest but I think a cd needs more than that to make it work – it needs a freshness and a flow. As my eight year old daughter asked whilst listening to one of the songs “Don’t we do this song at church?” We don’t, but it was so like so many other songs it felt like we do. And that, I’m afraid, is the problem. 6/10 Robin Thompson. (May 2013)
BETHEL MUSIC : The Loft Sessions.   (Kingsway / Bethel Music : 61096211064)
Bethel Music of Redding (California) are perhaps best known for their big stadium rock sounds, but this CD is certainly a departure from that famous Jesus Culture style.  With The Loft Sessions , one of the key songwriters Brian Johnson says they wanted to "shake the stereotypes of what people think Bethel music is" and they've certainly done that.  As you would expect, the staple of all the songs is acoustic guitar, accompanied by strings & piano as well some very subtle drumming plus an occasional dash of banjo which results in laid back ambience and generally chilled-out mellow tone.  There's a number of worship leaders featured which varies the style of each song but I have to say that for me the tracks led by the Brian Johnson and Jeremy Riddle fared better, with some passionate vocals and engaging lyrics. The opening track from Brian "One Thing Remains" had more than a hint of Coldplay unplugged, followed by a more up-tempo "My Dear" which I wasn't so keen on as I found it a bit repetitive in places.  "You Have Won Me" which comes up next is the pick of the CD, which is relaxed but builds nicely towards the end with some fab banjo picking plus vocal harmonies give it an amazing atmosphere of genuine heartfelt praise which is also catchy and listenable.  Jeremy Riddle does a cracking job on "Walk in the Promise"  - very chilled and atmosphere by the bucket load; bringing back memories of some of A-Ha's less mainstream album tracks, including Jeremy's incredible and enviable vocal range.  Of the remaining tracks, I can't say that any of the tracks are particularly bad, but some inspire more than others.  The band are excellent all the way but I am not so sure though that the understated tranquility and sometimes repetitive nature of the lyrics will engage everyone.  There is a DVD in with the package which is OK but I did get the feeling that on occasions the sound wasn't quite in sync with the picture.  It didn't add anything to my personal overall experience and I couldn't help but wonder how genuine some of the gathered worshippers were in their expressions.  8/10 Simon Redfern (May 2012)
BETHEL MUSIC : Without Words. (Integrity : 78456)
How anyone in their right mind could have passed part of the artwork for this album’s sleeve is beyond me. Dark grey wording on a black background makes it almost impossible to read the track listing. Come on guys, sort it out! As for the album itself, I gleamed the following from the Bethel website "Without Words "began as an instrumental experiment by the Bethel Music community who set out to push the creative boundaries of worship. Each song offers a distinct listening experience and carries its own story. Each track creates a dynamic, ambient, and cinematic atmosphere free from lyric and discourse. This album ventures into new territory and explores what it is to worship without words”. So, with pieces composed mostly by Brian Johnson, does it really achieve it’s objective? From my point of the view, the answer is a definite “No”. Once I managed to copy the track listing from the website, I re-assessed my initial thoughts. Track 1 is called ‘What Does It Sound Like?” My reply would be; a non descript, short piece of music, with a viola sound taking the lead. ‘God I Look To You’ is filled with lots of individual music phrases, but they don’t seem to link up well to make any real tune. The strangest sound used, has to be that of a rotary telephone being dialled, at the beginning of ‘For the Sake of the World’. What that’s all about, I have no idea. A trumpet seems to fight against some new age backing but, again, it doesn’t really lead anywhere. Try as I might, I didn’t enjoy this album at all. I just couldn’t relate any of the titles to the tunes being played, and worship was a non starter. ‘To Our God’, perhaps came the closest with what sounded more like a film score, than anything else. Later on, ‘Worthy is the Lord’ had tones of Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” theme. I’ve not said this for a long time, but this really is one to avoid. 2/10. (September 2013)
BEVERLEY TROTMAN : Voice of Hope. (Integrity : 99922)
Beverley Trotman entered the public eye in 2007, as the teacher who entered the UK's X Factor programme, to inspire her pupils. Since then, she has toured with a production of Fame and led worship at Spring Harvest. Now, she has released her debut album. Right from the start, can I say that this is a most uplifting collection of songs in a style that compares favourably with that of Yolanda Adams. Beverley has recorded songs from some talented writers, including the title track, written by Lara Martin. From the off, she has a terrific voice and this ballad is one of the strongest cuts. 'Awesome God' is a mid-tempo affair and mixes RnB and gospel which is easy on the listening ear. 'Love Completes Me' is another strong song, while the gospel version of 'Amazing Grace', maybe, doesn't quite come off. 'Voice of Hope' is an album of gospel praise, plotting a course of faith in a trustworthy God, and the song 'I Belong' sums that feeling up perfectly. 9/10 (December 2009, Album of the Month)
BEYOND THE ASHES : Living in the Moment. (Stow Town Records : STR3116)
Here’s a refreshing sound from Dove Award Nominee trio, Beyond the Ashes. Produced by Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun, this album features eleven songs and some great harmonies. Like me, if this group are new to you, then Anthony Farcello, Dustin Doyle, and Casey Shepherd will soon win your favour. Their style takes in country, southern gospel and pop, and their songs are very appealing. ‘Songs like ‘So Amazing to Me’, ‘Oh The Thought That Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘Walking With My Eyes on Jesus’ are just pure enjoyable praise of our Saviour. ‘Living in the Moment’ bounces along, while the vocals really comes alive with the strong ballad ‘Peace in the Midst of the Storm’. I thought that ‘When Love Whispers Your Name’ sounded very much like Lonestar, and maybe that’s why I love this song so much. Quality throughout the track listing make this release a super album. 9/10. (September 2013)
BIG DADDY WEAVE : One & Only. (Fervent Records : 9143002426)
The and may be new to you, but they've been together and touring since 1998. They have, apparently been compared to mainstream favourite the Dave Matthews Band and their music is described as acoustic pop/rock with a twist. What you're supposed to gleam from that I'm not sure. There's 10 songs on the album and they're not really exciting. They speak of the usual stuff like, having a relationship with God, and living the Christian life, but the music just didn't move me. "In Christ" tells you that all you need in your life is Christ, as He will provide all you need. It's the Gospel truth, and I'm not denying it, but the song is just……flat. "Sacrifice" is not the Elton John number, but about you offering your life as a sacrifice to God. It's probably the best track on the album, but that's not saying a lot. I liked the keyboards throughout, which almost single handedly stopped this album from being reviewed after just two plays. 2/10. (October 2002)
BIG DADDY WEAVE : What I Was Made For. (Fervent : 4300672)
Singer and main songwriter Mike Weaver says that all of the subject matter of the band's previous two albums has been based on their relationship with God. This new release was recorded just as band members had survived Hurricane Ivan, bringing recroding engineers to them rather than going further afield themselves. On a personal note, I didn't find 2002's "One and Only" release much to write home about, scoring it only 2/10. But, this new release certainly is a big improvement. Classy pop songs such as "Just the Way I Am", comfortably sit side by side with the more rocky title track. "You're Worthy of My Praise" sees the guys duet with the members of Barlowgirl, and the "marriage" works well. Pick of the bunch, for me, has to be "His Name Is Jesus". It has such a simple set of lyrics, yet it's so well delivered and produced - it will certainly be on my radio playlist. I wasn't moved so much by the funky sounds of "Give Up, Let Go" or "Killing Me Again", but the slower praise numbers like "Without You" make this album a good listen. 8/10. (May 2006)
BIG DADDY WEAVE : Every Time I Breath (Live). Fervent : 8865302)
'Just a bunch of college buddies' - that's how main man Mike Weaver describes Big Daddy Weave in one of the PC-playable videos on this 'enhanced' CD. 'Every time I breathe' is the latest offering of contemporary, drums-driven, worship-based pop rock from the five members of this band who have been together for over eight years now, with a number of albums behind them. Here we have well written songs with good melodies (Mike Weaver's writing figuring strongly), well-sung lead vocals and harmonies and spot-on drumming, well produced in a predominantly guitar-based 'acoustic' setting. Stand-out tracks for me musically are 'All the same' (sax-led intro and links, complex drumming and time signature changes - a definite cut above the ordinary), 'When I see you' (medium-paced, particularly good melody, very well sung), and the old but very effectively re-worked hymn 'Trust and obey'. Whilst in some respects Big Daddy Weave are typical of a whole rash of bands Stateside at the moment, there is enough originality here to make them worth a listen. If in doubt, try www.bigdaddyweave.com for samples and downloads. Incidentally, as well as the PC-playable video content mentioned earlier, audio anoraks with the appropriate kit may be interested to know that this is a High Definition CD (HDCD) - although the somewhat compressed recording makes the only discernible benefit of this a particularly clean 'top end' to the sound. Overall, a worthy 8/10. Dave Deeks (May 2007)
THE BIG GLASSHOUSE : In The Beginning. (www.thebigglasshouse.mycylex.co.uk)
The Big Glasshouse describe their music as “dancey pop sounds with spiritual lyrics and melodies that you hear once and then remain in your memory for a long time” and it’s fair to say that they deliver – the opening track “So Amazing” setting the tone well. The use of the word “dancey” is appropriate as it’s more swagger and sway than rave (which suited me fine) and lyrically their description of “spiritual” is spot on (the repeated “Jesus you’re my hero” from “Be My Guide”, for example). The songwriting is good (and catchy – just try and ignore “What Goes On” while it plays in the background) and the performance/recording/production really breathes life into the songs. Their sound overall reminded me of Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Icicle Works, Orange Juice and suchlike (with a hint of Jeff Lynne on the vocals) so I guess “80s pop dance” would be a good description, with the drum sound and keyboard stabs probably pointing me that way. And then, just as you think you’ve got the measure of the album, they round off with guitar-based blues boogie on “A Fool’s Awoken” and “Living In A Glasshouse” complete with the same production and songwriting values, as if just to demonstrate their versatility. The album concludes with two bonus tracks. I wasn’t too sure about the instrumental version of “We Are One”, although it did show how well put together the backing is. The extended “Living In A Glasshouse” was worth inclusion, though. Best track: “You’re Not Alone”. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (January 2017)
BIG MINISTRIES : Welcome to the Big Academy. (Elevation : ELE1746D)
So here’s the summary of this album, taken from the cd cover – 13 fantastic songs, aimed at 7-11s but with something for everyone. And actually that’s true. This isn’t merely a children’s worship cd it is most definitely suitable for the whole family. In fact, it puts much of the current crop of adult worship to shame. The reason is simple; the songs are joyful, varied, melodic and full of meaning. It used to be that children’s songs were the inferior siblings of the worship family but now it seems things have done an about turn and the opposite is true. From the crunching guitar riffs of “Wonderstruck” to the brass Flash Gordon style licks of “Hero of the Word” this album captures the joy and the wonder that being a Christian brings. There is one departure into a more reflective song, the quite sublime “Walk With You” which works well because it sits in contrast to the rest of the album. Most worship cds get stuck in this style of song with the result that their effectiveness is lost but not so here. My only criticism is that sometimes the vocals don’t quite have enough attitude for the respective style of song, the accents being a little too “English” but it is not a major issue. Make no mistake, this is a great cd. Can we have this for the adults too please? 9/10 Robin Thompson. (June 2013)
BIG MINISTRIES : The All-In Thing. (Elevation : ELE2092D)
This Cd release accompanies the “The All-In Thing” book, which is a unique resource aimed to facilitate worship when everyone’s ‘All-in’ together. The problem I found, listening, was that so many of the song’s lyrics were aimed at the very young. Sure, there were some contemporary adult sounds, but the words just didn’t match up. ‘Everybody’s Welcome’ grated on my ears, and reminded me of that 80’s BBV TV Rock Gospel Show. Not bad at the time, but sounding very dated now. ‘Strong and Brave’ and ‘Love the Lord Your God’ are both okay for kids, but I can’t see many adults wanting to singalong. ‘Whole World in His Hands’ gets the rock n’ roll treatment, but left me wondering why? On the other hand, a rocky version of ‘To God Be the Glory’ works very well. In fact, I had to play it three times in a row, as I was enjoying it so much! If you’re a teen who likes the UK group Scouting For Girls, then ‘I Believe’ will suit you down to the ground. It’s very similar in style to all their hits, containing good harmonies and keyboard sounds. If this release had been marketed with under 10’s in mind, I wouldn’t have been surprised. For that age group, it’s a credible collection of songs. Unfortunately, even as a parent, I would seriously doubt I’d join in with most of these songs. 5/10. (September 2015)
BIG TENT REVIVAL : Open All Night. (Forefront/Alliance Music).
A new name, I'm sure, to most readers but this is actually the band's second album release. Sometimes they sound like Bon Jovi, other times The Beatles, and - then again - Chris Rea! There's a great track called 'Letting Go', which tells of doing just that with a selfish life, which has become an instant favourite of mine. Most songs are quite short and, like the previous number, 'If Loving God Was a Crime' and 'You Are' don't last long enough. The latter track has one of those deep, echo, Duanne Eddy guitar sounds, that I can only dream about producing. Some really good stuff here, and I like it. 8/10. (November 1996)
BIG TENT REVIVAL : Choose Life. (Alliance : 7668 8717042 6)
One look at the front cover of this album had me wondering if BTR had undergone major surgery! Gone are the jeans, leather jackets, and long hair, and in come shorter cuts and designer wear. So, what of the music? Thankfully, the band have not changed their musical style and produce am rock steady, tight album. Every BTR album I've heard has always had one song that has really stood out from the rest and this one is no exception. "Fill Me With Your Spirit" has already become a favourite on my radio spot, and I can see it being played quite regualrly in the months to come. Acoustic guitar and strings are the mainstay of the delightful "The Word of God", while the wonderful ballad "One More Song" shows Steve Wiggins vocals at their very best. It's a rock ballad, it's a praise song, it's great. "Live For You" finds the band in a heavier mood and not quite as tight. The album finishes with "What I Want For Christmas", a sort of throwaway rock-boogie that really should be thrown away! Despite that, a good album. 8/10. (January 2000)
BILL & GLORIA GAITHER : A Campfire Homecoming. (Gaither : SHD2723)
This couple and their friends have ministered to tens of thousands of people over the years, in the USA, but have yet to make a real mark over here in the UK. The reason? Well, for me, the music just doesn't travel well. It all starts well enough, with Jeff & Sheri Easter's renditions of a happy song called 'Jesus, Hold My Hand', and a foot tappin' number, 'Livin' In the Rain'. From there, it's mostly downhill as various vocalists provide the words to some seriously dated songs. Even the Reverand Jessy Dixon can't pull things back, with an irritating cry on 'Touch Me Lord Jesus'. It all sounds as if these guys are stuck back in the 50's, and while that may work in certain parts of America, I've yet to find a niche for them here in Britain. Karen Peck and New River deliver light relief with a country ballad called 'Hold Me While I Cry' but it all finishes with a depressing melody of 'O The Blood of Jesus/ Nothing But the Blood of Jesus/ Near the Cross'. Definitely, one to avoid. 3/10. (July 2008)
BILL & GLORIA GAITHER PRESENT... : Homecoming Picnic. (Gaither Music Group SHD2724)
From the hugely successful Gaither empire comes this compilation recorded live outdoors at a picnic park in Tennessee, bringing together 19 tracks in their trademark southern gospel style. As you would expect from the Gaithers, the package is pretty glossy & very well put together with the musicianship, vocals & production being very hard to fault on all tracks despite the wide variety of people involved in this offering and the fact it was recorded outdoors. There are some real golden oldies in here including the opening "This Great Caravan Keeps On Rolling Along" & "I'm Living In Canaan Now" (both dating from the late 1930s & early 40s) & "I Was There When It Happened" - one of Johnny Cash's earliest Gospel recordings. There's the occasional more recent number coming right up to present-day with "Eastern Gate". Sadly I found the tracks very "samey" & the whole thing to be a little too twee and manufactured to inspire me into any real praise and worship. The images it conjours up are those of barn dances, cosy camp fires, older people on front porches in rocking chairs, etc. and sure enough You Tube is full of such visuals taken from the DVD of the same name. For die-hard Gaither fans and those with a penchant for foot-tapping Country & Western style music, this compilation will be an worthwhile addition to the musical library but not one for my collection. 4/10 Simon Redfern (August 2008)
BILL & GLORIA GAITHER & FRIENDS : Legacy Worship. (Elevation : ELE1469D)
I'm sad to say that, over the years, I have yet to find a UK fan of the Gaither's music. Indeed, some reviewers tell me in no uncertain terms not pass on any of their CD's! But, do the Gaither's twee American music really deserve the bad press? I guess the nearest UK comparison would be one of the All Soul's Orchestra gatherings, fronted by various worship leaders. And, with that thought, would it find favour in the US? This album doesn't give any surprises. If you've heard one Gaither album, you know exactly what you're going to get. There's great voices, and superb harmonies, and the audience definitely enjoy the songs. 'Feeling At Home in the Presence of Jesus' has some spot on harmonies, and the easy listening tone reminds me of days gone by, as a child, listening to Sunday evening radio with my mother. 'We Have Come Into the House' is interspersed with prayer, while later on in the track listing 'O For A Thousand Tongues' includes what is termed as "Worship time". What you actually get is one female, speaking about her relationship with God. It all gets too much for the poor lass, and mid way through her testimony, she begins to sob uncontrollably. Songs of merit include the triumphant marching of 'Holy Highway' and the lovely ballad 'I'd Say "I Love You" In a Thousand Ways'. If old fashioned, easy listening does it for you, then why not give the Gaither's a try. 6/10 (February 2011)
BILL DRAKE : Crimson Thread of Grace. (ICC : ICCD33230).
For those of you who don't know, Bill Drake is the International Music Minister of Operation Mobilisation. He ministers all over the over the world encouraging people to find fulfilment in investing their lives into the Kingdom of God. Despite it's bright opening, the album doesn't particularly flow well. "Toward the Mark" is a song of personal witness that moves a long nicely, but all too soon we're into the worst kind of cringe-filled praise & worship of "Shout For Joy". The following piano led worship doesn't get much better, and then it's 'spandex time'. Yes, tonight, Bill Drake IS Michael Sweet!. Joking aside, it's a very powerful track that was written in 10 minutes. A good rocking sound, great lyrics and superb instrumentation. The last two tracks had me thinking "Iona" and, when I looked closely at the sleeve notes, there's Mike Haughton providing his usual experience on saxophones and whistles. A bitty release that needs a few listens to appreciate. 6/10. (September 1999)
Billy: The Early Years (DVD, Kingsway)
I made my first formal commitment to Christ at Billy Graham’s 1986 Mission: England event in Sheffield so was interested to see this biopic covering the early years of (probably) the world’s most well-known evangelist, played here by Armie Hammer (The Social Network). Framed by a deathbed interview with Graham’s long-time friend, one-time preacher and later agnostic, Charles Templeton played by Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Space: 1999), the movie opens with a sceptical young Billy becoming a Christian at a 1934 tent revival meeting and quickly moves on to his time at Bob Jones College, first fumblings as a preacher, then his time at Wheaton College where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Ruth (Stefanie Butler). After the wedding, the second half of the movie covers the development of Graham’s preaching ministry with Templeton (played as a young man by Kristoffer Polaha), and Templeton’s eventual scepticism, and it ends with Graham’s Los Angeles crusade in 1949. It is a charming film, with cinematography and soundtrack highly evocative of the period and location, and it pulls no punches in its depiction of great preachers delivering the gospel. The cast are all excellent, especially Hammer and Butler, and there is a nice cameo from The Bionic Woman herself, Lindsay Wagner, as Graham’s Mother. Whilst the story itself lacks the dramatic punch of something like The Cross and the Switchblade, it is a beautifully made film if a little ‘by the numbers’ at time. 8/10. David Cooper (February 2012)
BILLY RAY CYRUS : The Other Side (Word 08068 862742).
Being a country singer, or being perceived as a country singer, is something that arouses mixed emotions in the minds and hearts of music lovers. I've listened to loads of country music in my time both secular and sacred, and although I'm not a great country music enthusiast, there's some that I like to listen to and can appreciate - Randy Travis, Susan Ashton, Buddy Greene, Paul Overstreet, and now, albeit in a slightly grittier, bluesier, rockier vein, Billy Ray Cyrus - yep, the guy with 14 million unit career sales, and six US Top ten Radio singles, and who still holds the record for the longest time spent at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Album chart with a debut release, an amazing 17 weeks. Although loads of country singers, whether Christian or not, feel that they have to do at least one "gospel" album, Billy Ray has gospel music in his DNA - his dad sang in a gospel quartet, his grandfather was a preacher, and Billy Ray's own strong faith comes over well in his first Christian release for Word, 'The Other Side'. Eleven songs, a mix of old and new, with standouts being the Bebo Norman song "Tip Of My Heart", receiving airplay on UCB Europe; a gritty twelve bar blues arrangement of "Amazing Grace"; and in new country vein, "Holding On To A Dream", which will be the next song on the UCB Europe playlist. Whilst Billy Ray doesn't do much songwriting, he penned the title track, and it's a good gentle country ballad, with plenty of slide guitar. If you only know him for "Achy Breaky Heart", then investigate this, you might be surprised. 7/10 Trevor Kirk (April 2004)
BILLY & SARAH GAINES : 'Come On Back'. (Warner Alliance Music).
R&B gospel comes to NFN and a welcome change in style it is too. Sounding a little like Nu Colours, this duo (husband & wife?) have teamed up with co-writer Michael Omartian and musicians of the quality of Dan Huff. Track 6 is my favourite, which puts a slightly different slant on the old chestnut of how your walk with God is doing? "If everyone was just like me, what kind of world would it be?" Think about it. Programmed instruments provide most of the music but Huff's guitar is at it's best throughout. There's romantic sounds, and there's danceable sounds to. It's a good release and well worth your time. 7/10. (November 1996)
THE BLAIR BAND : Celtic Sessions. (www.ricblair.com)
According to their publicity sheet, the Blair Band are a 'Christian, Celtic folk-rock group' who have been 'impacting audiences' around the world with 'the message of freedom in Christ'. They are also 'a passionate, high energy force with an innovative organic sound'. Formed in 1995, they have evidently 'shared the stage with Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, Michael Card, and others'. Quite a build-up, then, but how do they sound? Well, despite leader Ric Blair being credited as the vocalist, he doesn't share his vocal chords with us here. This is a completely instrumental CD, and the tunes are not well-known 'Christian' ones, losing any opportunity to spread the gospel - which, if their ministry is such a powerful one, seems a shame. The CD makes for an enjoyable listen however. Whilst I see from the credits that veteran CCM guitarist Phil Keaggy features on bass, this doesn't seem to be much in evidence. But we have some Seth Lakeman-style violin-playing, beautifully haunting uilleann pipe playing (including on the effective closing track 'Taimse Im' Chodloch'), effective contributions from the penny whistle, and an overall nicely 'live acoustic' feel to the sound. All of the instrumentalists clearly know their stuff and also gell effectively as a band, always an indicator that apprenticeships have been properly served through entertaining audiences. Best track for me was probably 'Glasgow reel'. The lively combination 'Coppers and brass/The gander in the praitie hole/Merrily kiss the quaker' also merits a mention, if only for its title! Overall then, not quite what you might expect from the publicity blurb, but definitely worth a spin. 7/10. www.ricblair.com Dave Deeks (November 2006)
BLAKE : Jubilee. (https://thisisblake.bandcamp.com/album/jubilee)
Not to be confused with the acapella group of the same name, this Beatles and Dylan-influenced artist probably pre-dates them (this being his thirteenth album). The album has a glorious late 60s pop (especially Liverpool) feel to it – jangling guitars (only gently processed), gentle melodies, guitar figures, odd effects, etc. It only really lacks harmonies on every chorus to make you wonder when it was recorded (and the fact that the recording quality is so much better, of course). More recently, I’d compare the overall sound to the Lightning Seeds. Nothing speaks of the influences more that “Going Back To Liverpool”, a song set in the Beatles era (released on the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, so the influences are deliberate). The opening instrumental (“Atonement”) is an odd choice as it’s not really indicative of the CD – I’d have preferred it as a coda, really, although it certainly made me sit up and take notice. Lyrically, Blake deals with issues of faith, politics and love (both good and when it goes wrong). All of them are done in a gentle melodic style that has enough interest to make sure you listen to it rather than let it flow past you. If you did let it just go past, then you’d miss stories such as on “Fifteen” – about illegal abduction and forced detention. The musical style means that the subject matter creeps up on you so it takes a while to realise what you’re hearing. Much better is the Dylan-styled (complete with harmonica solo) “Dignity” telling of someone forced to rely on the state and the injustices of the social reforms – here the musical style makes you listen to the lyrics from the start. The album ends in a more uplifting style, “Set You Free” telling of how Jesus came to set us free (the clue’s in the title…). I enjoyed this album and am sure it’s one I’ll return to. Best track: “Going Back To Liverpool”. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (March 2017)
BLEACH : Space. (Forefront/Alliance : FFD5152).
Seattle praise & worship? You'd better believe it! With touches of Smashing Pumpkins, smatterings of Nirvana, and a little REM, Bleach turn p&w on it's head with their debut offering. Simple, oh so simple, lyrics that literally leap from your speakers. You may look good on the outside, but what's inside? So, asks the opening song "Eleven". "Perfect Family" speaks of God at the centre of the marriage while "Wonderful" takes the same stance in a boy and girl relationship. The latter track is just out of this world, with it's grungey guitar chorus but laid back verse. These five guys sing of meeting God for the first time and about being a friend to your brother/sister in a style that you just wouldn't expect. I dare you to listen to this album without loving it. 10/10. (April 1997, Album of the Month)
BLESSED & CURSED (DVD : Tyscot)
Unless you are watching "The Blues Brothers", when the most complimentary thing you can say about a movie is that it has good music, you know it is not quite hitting the mark. If you will forgive the play on words, “Dietrick Haddon’s Blessed & Cursed” is blessed with good songs, sung by gifted singers, and cursed with poor acting, a story that meanders and a script in which the most interesting things happen unseen and offscreen. The story opens with young Dwight Hawkins (Dietrick Haddon, who also wrote the music and story) moving to a new school, and his father (John Fleming) approaching a local church board to fund his vision of a brand new church in the local community. They turn him down, and this (apparently important) plot then disappears from the film only to be resolved in the last 10 minutes in a quite unexpected way. In the meantime, the now adult Dwight’s gift for singing is recognised by Bishop Wright (Loren Dean Harper) from the largest church in the city and he is appointed Minister of Music, a role he fulfils with passion and skill until family tragedy distracts him, leads him into sin and allows the church Deacon, Horrace (Connell Brown) to engineer his exit ... said “betrayal” happening mostly offscreen and with minimal foreshadowing. With the assistance of Bishop Wright’s niece, Patrice (Drew Sidora) Dwight redeems himself and we stumble into a stirring musical climax featuring a church full of people praising the Lord. Sidora shines among the unknown cast but, sadly, most of her character’s development takes place (again) offscreen. When the cast are singing, this is an enjoyable film. When they are talking and acting ... not so much, consequently the mark includes an extra 2 points just for the soundtrack and songs, without which this film would be a complete waste of time. 5/10 David Cooper (March 2011)
BLUETREE : Greater Things. (Fierce! : BTCD001)
Bluetree are from Belfast and created so much hype with their independent release of 'Greater Things' last year, that Fierce! Music couldn't resist marketing and distributing the album to a wider audience in 2008. There are 13 tracks on the album but, sadly, my copy would only play the first 8. Still, those songs gave me more than enough time to see that there's plenty of energy and excitement about this outfit. Bluetree's rock orientated songs, and Aaron Boyd's splendid vocals make sure that the album gets off to a very solid start with 'Life's Noise'. 'Burn Me Up' has a more attack minded sound to it and declares that there's "no-one like you, God." The 6 piece band also show a milder side to their product, as shown with 'When I Survey', but there is plenty more guitar based rockers for aficionados. 'Each Day' is a particularly good song, and well produced. It's message is simple. When God is with us, we are never left alone. So, the album looks promising, and I'm only sorry that I didn't get to hear the rest of the tracks in time for this review. As far as it goes...9/10 (September 2008)
BLUETREE : God of This City. (Survivor : SURCD5167)
"God of This City" is a re-titled re-release of Belfast band Bluetree's original debut album "Greater Things", which hit the US Christian retail chart big-style back in 2007 holding the top spot for 4 consecutive weeks. Indeed Chris Tomlin featured the title track on his album "Hello Love" so there's commendation for you! It is quite amazing what has been born from a mission trip to one of Thailand's notorious red-light districts - a CD crammed with spiritual truths and hope. You do get a very real sense from the passion in the words and their conveyance through the music that there's some proper worship going on here - fantastic, just what it's supposed to be!! Bluetree's style is akin to a rockier Tim Hughes with a twist of the earlier Vineyard material for good measure which I found to be a very listenable mixture, typified by 'Life's Noise' the 1st track. This builds up slowly starting with lots of background sounds eventually joined by a relaxed but atmospheric Celtic rhythm which keeps things going 'til the rock kicks in on the chorus. The rock theme continues with 'God's Plan' with a bit more synth added; only slowing down a little as we reach 'Your Love'. I often find that many bands are good with faster rock & not so strong with ballads or vice-versa but not here; Bluetree manage both with equal gusto which makes a really great change. Although in print this is a 12 track CD, you will find a 13th "hidden" track which is a reprise of some spontaneous worship which is worth a listen. Very difficult to find fault with this; it's a passionate well-produced material that I have found myself listening to repeatedly. Definitely one for the collection & I would look forward to hearing more from these guys. 10/10 Simon Redfern (November 2009, Album of the Month)
BUILDING 429 : We Won’t Be Shaken. (Essential : 83061-0979-2)
This is the band’s 6th release on Essential Records, and the first to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Chart. Over the years, the sound of Building 429 has matured from grunge to adult rock. However, on this recording, I’m not the only person who has passed the opinion that Jason Roy’s vocals sound a lot like Take That’s Mark Owen. Indeed, there’s a remarkable resemblance to the opening track ’Get Up’ and a well known Take That single. ‘Bonfire’ is a lot heavier in style, with the message of “leaving the dark behind”. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a softer number and features a duet between Roy and Blanca Callahan of Group 1 Crew. It’s a nice song, but is somewhat out of step with most of the album. My favourite song has to be the title track. It’s message is pure and simple, that whatever tomorrow brings, we will not be shaken with God on our side. The second half of the album, for me, fades, and only the closing ‘Where I Belong’ lifts the mediocrity. Still, if an album gets to #1 in the charts, it can’t be bad….can it? 6/10. (July 2013)
BOB CARLISLE : Songs From the Heart. (Diadem : 84418-2312-2)
This is the follow up to the hugely successful 'Butterfly Kisses' which knocked the Spice Girls off the top of the US album charts. As we would expect, it's an album full of big, polished production, with the man himself in charge. It opens with the current single, 'We All Fall Down', complete with orchestral arrangements and children's choir, but I have to say that I feel the album has too many slow ballads, with lyrics bordering on the slushy. 'Lately (Dreaming About Babies) is a good example. Bob Carlisle's voice is a lower pitich than Michael Bolton and he really comes into his own on the faster numbers. 'International' is excellent, and the inclusion of the Big Motor Horns on 'Power of Love' is superb. The album closes wih an orchestral version of a previous track, which I felt coould have been omitted leaving the gospel choir on 'In the Hands of Jesus' to bring it to a rightful close. Nice album, but a bit too sentimental in parts. 7/10. Julie Lord. (January 1999)
BOB FITTS : My Eyes Are Fixed On You. (Kingsway : KMCD2190)
Bob Fitts is a new name to me but he's the man who, in 1990, pioneered the School of Worship with the University of the Nations as a training ground for worship leaders. This collection features 13 songs from his collection, dating back to the 1992 opener "Draw Near". It's a MOR pop song with the careful type of vocals associated with the likes of Michael Card, and it's really nice. The easy going "Over All" continues a similar feel and "I'll Never Leave You Or Forsake You" has some beautiful backing music. Mid-album, Bob decides to take things a little slower and produces some worship ballads. Of these, "Behold the Man" and the title track have a tender and thoughtful style. It's not an earth shattering album but, with another great song called "He Will come & Save You", would grace any praise and worship fan's collection. 9/10. (August 2000, Album of the Month)
BOB FORDHAM & STEVE GARDNER : Timeless. (CD from S Gardner, 23 Hilltop Close, Baglan, Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, Wales, SA12 8YH)
Sometimes, when you review as many albums as I do, you have to discern between those which have full record label backing, and those which are independently released on a miniscule budget. This, then, falls into the latter category. Steve Gardner writes the lyrics, and Bob Fordham puts them to music and sings. Now, Steve isn't trying to become the next "big thing" but is anxious to share his writing with church groups, or even individuals who could write a suitable melody. Indeed, many of his songs have already been taken up by churches as far away as Canada, so there's plenty of potential. All the songs on this CD are in easy listening style, and written by using gospel truths and passages as a base. Therefore, they do tend to sound a little alike but, there are a few gems. "It Only Took A Moment" has Bob's voice sounding very much like Lou Reed, and his delivery works very well. He's not blessed with the greatest of vocal ranges, but his work is consistent and reminiscent of 70's duo Gallagher & Lyle. Take, "The Jailbreaker" or the title track, both well sung. Sometimes the music is a little samey, or a song finishes too soon. "All of You" is one such piece where a promising melody seems to run out of steam and ends with a whimper. No, you're not getting the glossy record production of a big name, but what you are getting is good, honest, truth from two guys who are trying their very best to share the good news in the only way they know how. 6/10. (May 2003)
BOB SMILEY : I've Got A Funny Feeling About This. (Inpop : DPR017081)
US Christian stand-up comedy albums are, thankfully, few and far between. Of the few that I have had the unfortunate pleasure of hearing, none are memorable. I'll say that, right away, Bob Smiley's effort falls into the same category. He has, apparently, opened for such groups as Newsboys, and Third Day, and "revels in the real-life stories and the not-so-everyday situations that he constantly finds himself surrounded by. With sharp wit and gentle humor, he touches on topics that range from lessons learned in grade school to lessons he's learned by being a dad." Thing is, US comedy often fails to travel well across the Atlantic - and vice-versa. He looks at discipline of children; his father's sayings; visiting the supermarket, and the like, and makes comments that just aren't funny. Mind you, the live audience seem to be enjoying it - I can't see it being canned - so maybe it's just not for the English. Over an hour of an annoying American guy talking total rubbish is not my favourite thing. Bob Smiley? Maybe he should be marketed as Bob Irritating. Bless his heart. 1/10 - I did laugh once. (September 2002)
BONAFIDE PRAISERS : Destined to Worship. (Emtro Gospel : EGOS-031519-2)
If good old fashioned gospel music is your bag, then this will be a welcome release to your ears. Twelve songs featuring the Bonafide Praisers, whooping it up, and getting very mellow too, at times. The opening 'Trust in the Lord' starts off well with an RnB feel. The album also includes the "hit single" 'Work it out', and this is by far the best track. There's some lovely female vocals providing the backing, while a male artist takes the lead in a Ron Kenoly style. I certainly didn't enjoy the screaming vocals on 'Awesome power' and 'Take Your Burdens'. Why on earth the singer thinks that yelling the words is going to catch your attention is beyond me - it was just a complete turn off. Then, completely out of the blue, comes a Grits style hip hop type of thing, called 'Heal the Land'. Well produced, and well sung. The thing I found most annoying about this album was the lack of consistency is the songs. While some were rather good, others lacked any real power and consequently, the finished article is only average. 5/10 (March 2009)
BOOLEY : Bathroom Floor. (ICC : ICCD42730)
Citing such people as Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, and Bruce Cockburn as his influences, Booley (aka Peter Wilson) presents an album full of interesting and, sometimes, very deep thinking songs. The whole concept is based around his own life, warts and all, and the song "My Little Glory" says it all. Lost, and then found, it's another declaration of what God can do in anyone's life. Not quite sure where he's coming from on the excellent "Patrick Moore", but it reminded me of those classic Undertones' singles of the late 70's. "Alright" is more of an acoustic sort of thing that tells of a journey, while the tongue in cheek "Tesco Queen" has a sideways look at love. Booley is certainly a very talented writer and not just a run of the mill one, at that. I couldn't listen to the title track as the CD was damaged but for someone who wants to look at everyday life as a Christian, this is one to buy. 8/10. (May 2000)
BOTTLEROCKIT : One Small Step. (Elevation : Eled00330)
A debut Cd from a new band that appeared on the bill at Greenbelt this year. The album is rock orientated in the modern style of such bands as Blink182, although the lyrics are less controversial - or more so depending on your outlook. It should appeal to the younger generation and to middle aged teenagers like myself. "One Small Step" starts with the thrashing guitars on "Better Than I do" and ends in the same way with "Cartoon Rumours" - my favourite two songs. The who album is in the same style, with the exception of the more reflective "Goodbye JFK". The vocals are clear throughout making a good all round release. If you like this type of music Bottlerockit are certainly worth listening too. 8/10. Tim Robinson. (October 2001)
THE BOYS OF ST JAMES', GREAT GRIMSBY : Praise. (CD £13.95 from Cantoris Records, Freepost NEA1269, Lincoln, LN2 1BR).
My first thoughts on receiving this traditional choral release was "What do I know about this type of music?". The answer being, "Absolutely nothing". 'Praise!' contains 14 tracks, of which 3 are instrumental organ pieces. 'Elegiac Romance' lasts for some 10 minutes, whilst 'Saraband in modo elegiaco' sounds as if it's been culled from a 1930's horror movie. Both tracks are quite dreadful. However, the choristers themselves are the main thrust and they do come over very well. Being the average Mr Sunday Churchgoer, I found that, although one track quickly melted into another, there was a distinct quality and relaxing feeling about the songs. Well known ditties such as 'There is a Green Hill' are complimented by 'Magnificat in G' - not to be confused with 'Magnificat in D'. Traditionalists will love this album and, quite rightly, sing it's praises. For the rest of us, it's still quite enjoyable. 7/10. (November 1997)
BRAND NEW DAY - Nathan Wesley Smith (www.smallpersonmusic.com)
The title of this, Nathan's second solo CD, is rather appropriate, since Nathan, his family and his delightfully named label, Small Person Music, have just relocated from Alabama to North Carolina, so it's a brand new day in more senses than one. However, on the strength of this, he might become a Big Person in contemporary Christian music very soon. Nathan's style is easy-to-listen-to acoustic power pop, with the majority of the 11 tracks self-penned; the opener and title track is a belter, with Mike Weaver from the roots rock band Big Daddy Weave on guest lead vocals, but there are gentler moments. 'Amazed', written by Jared Anderson, the music pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, is five and a half minutes of acoustic worship; 'This Is Love' is inspired by the well-known words of I John 4:7-11; and 'Blessed Are Those' is another finely-crafted acoustic ballad with some very poetic lyrics that blessed me to bits when I first heard it. If you'd like to hear what I'm on about, 'Brand New Day' is on the UCB Europe playlist, and there are sound clips on the Small Person Music website. A worthy effort from an excellent indie artist - buy with confidence. 8/10 Trevor Kirk (March 2006)
BRANDON HEATH : Don't Get Comfortable. (Reunion Records) . www.brandonheath.net
I had to listen to this a couple of times before I started to like it, but after that I found it to be quite a pleasant album all round really. It's mostly acoustic guitar led pop / rock music, It reminds me a lot of the kind of material that Del Amitri used to play,or maybe early Randy Stonehill, so on the whole it's a fairly laid back affair. The lyrics are all well written, and you get the impression that most of the subjects covered here are from personal experience, yet there's nothing that so deep and mysterious that you can't identify with it, which makes it work well in my book. I personally liked the track "I'm not who I was" the subject is fairly obvious. All in all then this is a good CD and definitely worth a listen. 8/10 Andy Sayner (March 2007)
BRANDON HEATH : Blue Mountain. (Provident Records : MPCD40694)
This CD is set in a fictitious place called "Blue Mountain". The songs all deal with different characters that live there. The music is fairly laid back, kind of acoustic guitar led rock / pop, but there's a strong element of folk music in the writing. the standout tracks for me are "Jesus in disguise" about the fact that Jesus comes to us all in different ways that we don't recognize. "Dyin' Day" is about a man on death row receiving forgiveness, and is another good song. All of the songs here are stories about life, and most people will be able to identify with something on this album. All the music here has been very thoughtfully written, and this is a most enjoyable CD, that is just a little bit different from the rest. It would definitely be worth your while to track down a copy of this CD. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2013)
BRAVEHEART II : Live Worship from Edinburgh. (www.morningstarministries.org)
For those who missed God TV's Braveheart II Conference last October, or indeed for those who did attend, this album release captures some of the dramatic praise and worship that was witnessed. Revival in the UK is what it's all about and Jean Darnell's challenging prophecy is something a little different to the norm. The music? Well, it's provided by the Morning Star Band and brings a mixture of songs old and new. Take, for instance, the opening "Awake O sleeper" - it's just full of praise and anointing! The worship during "Amazing grace" is so spontaneous and encompassing, that you do really feel that you're there with everyone. My favourite track has to be the closing "Hey, Won't You Come Around". It sounds as if proceedings has been interupted by some classy rock band, as the whole style of praise changes and becomes out of this world. If you're used to the normal style of praise and worship, then there's plenty for you to get your teeth into. However, just be ready for one or two surprises. 8/10. (April 2003)
BREAD & WINE : One.   (www.breadandwineonline.com)
BREAD & WINE is the sound of those pursuing deeper communion with God and one another.  Founded by Bethel Atlanta worship pastors Ben and Kelly Smith, BREAD & WINE lead simple gatherings of worship for all to experience the beauty, mystery, and wonder of relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As far as the production of the album goes, it really does capture the true essence of this live gathering. There are 12 tracks in all, but 5 of them are spontaneous versions of the previous song. For instance, the opening “When You Are Here” features some great vocals by Ben, testifying to the great miracles that God can do. It’s followed by a spontaneous version which I really liked. Sometimes, these things can sound a little contrived, but note here. Likewise, when Kelly takes over on “Great is the Lord”, the power of the song spreads through both versions. The overall style of the album is contemporary, but is very different to that emanating from, say, Jesus Culture. For me, that’s a big plus, as I found this release so appealing. Stand out song is “Mountain to Valley”. Ben sings so well, with lyrics such as “In the silence or in the city streets, your presence covers me.” What a great promise to know, that God is with us at all times and everywhere we go! And, for those who struggle with the father figure as Godhead, just listen to “Never Met a Father”, it’s simply wonderful. The excitement of listening to a new artists’ album is one I treasure, and hearing this one has been a pleasure.   9/10. (December 2015)
BREAD & WINE : Two.   (www.breadandwineonline.com)
The duo Bread & Wine is made up of Ben & Kelly Smith. The album TWO offers songs recorded live at Serenbe (a new urban village south of Atlanta, Georgia) and co-written by the couple along with friends such as Matt Redman ("10,000 Reasons"), Jason Upton ("In Your Presence"), Pat Barrett ("Good, Good Father") and Aaron Keyes ("Sovereign Over Us"). These well written quality songs give this album a flying start and there’s no denying the Bethel connection as you listen to the sound of these second generation worship leaders. Break Open the Box is a powerful song that would sit comfortably in most local church worship sets I particularly like the inclusion of the spontaneous part of this track. It leaves room for the listener to enter into worship too. Another very personal and powerful song, "Oh Good God" was co-written and sung by Kelly Smith out of the pain, and ultimate realization of the sovereign goodness of God that she went through after the miscarriage of her first child. “In a way I want to blame you but I know your heart is grieving too” she sings with honesty and vulnerability. These lyrics are fresh and real. There’s nothing predictable here! Ben & Kelly have managed to find their individuality within a well-known worship culture. I really love this album and have no doubt it will do very well & I look forward to hearing more from them. 10/10 Angie Lendon. (July 2016, Album of the Month)
BRENTON BROWN : Adoration. (Survivor : SURCD5178)
Brenton Brown's contemporary praise and worship has become very popular in the UK over the last three or four years. 'Holy' and 'Because of Your Love' are just two songs that are just made for collective praise and worship. Of course, the well known title track bounces along as a very solid opener, but there's also the stirring rendition of 'Our God Saves', co-written with Paul Baloche. This collection of Brenton's songs goes as far back as 1998, with the inclusion of 'All Who Are Thirsty', a prayer that asks the Holy Spirit to visit each one of us. The album seemed to whiz by very quickly each time I listened to it. This made me wonder about the content of each song, and whether there was enough in the lyrics to keep the listener hungry for more? There again, sometimes, the simple songs are the best. 7/10 (April 2010)
BRENTON BROWN : Our God Is Near. (Kingsway)
Having moved to America, Brenton Brown has recently been writing with other artists like Paul Baloche and Matt Maher. Whether that has led to improved material I'm not sure, but this album certainly does have it's high's. 'Our God is Mercy' is the opening number, and it's a rousing statement, within a rousing song. 'Joyful' is sung in similar, contemporary style, while 'We Lift You Up' stands out as my favourite track. This is a song that you instantly want to play again. It's very well sung, and the production is first class. 'Glorious' describes the Lord, while 'His Name' glorifies Jesus. The frist time I heard this album, I was really impressed with each track, but the more I played it, I realised that some tracks stood out more than others. 'Arise and Sing' and 'All I Want' sound a little lethargic, but the driving guitars and thumping beat of 'Higher' really rocks things up. Not outstanding, but a good, solid album with plenty of food for thought. 8/10 (November 2010)
BRENTON BROWN : Our God Is Near. (Kingsway : SURCD5204)
Brenton Brown will be known to many as one of the worship leaders behind Vineyard, and a great number of their popular releases such as ‘Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)’ and ‘Lord, Reign in Me’. Having now established himself as one of the biggest names on the CCM scene, he brings us ‘Our God is Near’ – his 3rd solo release, where he collaborates with other big names such as Eoghan Heaslip, to deliver a top-notch and very upbeat album. The proceedings kick off with ‘Our God is Mercy’, described in the press as “shamelessly euphoric2, which you can’t contradict, with it’s slowly building drums and jangly guitars. We follow this with ‘Joyful’, which is a very effective re-working of the classic golden oldie, written to the tune of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Into this mix, throw in a little Kings of Leon, from ‘Glorious’, and the effective simplicity of ‘Arise and Sing’, and you have an album which maintains a real sense of worship, as well as being a CD that can be cranked up in the car and hold it’s own, and even surpass, most secular offerings. Many of the tunes lend themselves more to worship at big events rather than church congregations, but could be used in smaller settings with a competent band of muso’s. For me, the most important element of this album is the re-kindling of the enthusiasm I had for Christian music in the early Vineyard days. And that’s amazing. There’s no chance of this album gathering dust, and I would thoroughly recommend it to fans of contemporary music who are fed up of listening to the same old stuff that’s all too prevalent on the CCM scene. 10/10 Simon Redfern. (June 2011)
BRENTON BROWN : God My Rock.   INTEGRITY : KWCD3318)
Native South African worship leader, Brenton Brown has released his 4th full length album, recorded live in Dayton, Ohio, in front of 4,000 high school students. Featured, are 6 new songs, as well as new versions of brown classics, including “Everlasting God,” which was honoured by ASCAP as one of the most performed songs in the USA in 2007 across all genres, marking the first time that a worship song has been recognized with such an honour. Musically, the backing group are very tight and give most songs a real edge. The title track is one of the new numbers on show, co-written with Paul Baloche. It’s a mid-tempo affair, where the guitar solo is almost as memorable as the vocals! ‘Jesus Take All of Me’ is a song of real quality. Originally, a 19th century hymn, Brown and the band give it a warm, up to date feel, and it stands proud as a real highlight. ‘Wonderful Redeemer’ and ‘Hosanna’ work well, as does the majestic ‘Glorious’. It’s an album that has a typical American feel to it – Brown is now based in the States. The guitars take the lead and the man himself is totally immersed in his songs for God. Find out more at www.brentonbrown.com   9/10. (February 2013)
BRIAN & JENN JOHNSON : Where You and I Go. Ion : Ion1008)
Recorded live at the Bethel Church in Redding, California, this album features 12 songs written and performed by Brian and Jenn Johnson. According to the sleeve notes, the songs were birthed in a move of God where the supernatural became natural and miracles became and everyday part of life. That's a bold statement, and certainly the wild cheering between tracks seems very enthusiastic. Brian has a voice and singing style not unlike Martin Smith, and sometimes it's hard to forget that you're not listening to a Delirious album. 'Greatly to Be Praised' and 'All My Worship' being two prime contenders. Jenn delivers a lighter style and the pop sound of 'Isn't He Great' is quite enticing. The title track sees both the singers whipping up quite a frenzy with those gathered, despite it being one of the most tedious songs to listen to. Indeed, I found the whole album a chore, rather than a listening pleasure. Songs are very much alike and the format rarely changes. While great things may be happening at the Bethel Church, it fails to ignite this recording. 5/10 (July 2009)
BRIAN & JENN JOHNSON : Here Is Love - Live Worship from Bethel Church. (Bethel Music : 5019282620122)
Many will know of Brian and Jenn Johnson as the worship pastors at Bethel Church in Redding, California, who have written numerous songs that have become favorites in churches worldwide. Here they are joined on vocals by Jesus Culture members Kim Walker-Smith, Leah Valenzuela and Chris Quilala, and solo worship leader Kristene Mueller. All vocalists are excellent, with Jenn Johnson deserving special mention for her terrific 'white soul' voice. Most tracks are longer than is customary (the longest is 9 minutes), allowing the excellent arrangements to develop - and overall this is a particularly strong live worship album with the recording capably capturing the atmosphere and band, and giving clarity to the lead vocals. The set begins with the Delirious? song "My Soul Sings" followed by Ben Cantelon's "I've Found A Love", and the album continues with compositions of similar quality. The Vineyard song "I Love Your Presence" is probably the stand-out track for me (a particularly strong performance from Jenn Johnson) and incorporates part of the chorus of David Gray's "Babylon" (amazingly - it works!) before leading into a time of spontaneous worship. Other highlights are "What does it sound like" (sung by Brian Johnson) "Healer" (Leah Valenzuela) and "I need you more" (Kim Walker-Smith). Downsides for me? - the oft-repeated electric guitar riff in "My Soul Sings" is a minor irritation(!), the beautiful "Here Is Love" is spoiled by too heavy an arrangement, and the mastering suffers from the fashionable tendency to wack up the volume, great for car listening but losing much in the way of dynamics and giving lead vocals a nasty digital edge. As many people don't seem to notice this however(!), a worthy 9/10. Dave Deeks (August 2010)
BRIAN DOERKSEN : You Shine. (Hosanna! Music : 22012)
I get the feeling of deja' vu this month, as this reminds me exactly of last month's Paul Baloche review. Why? Well, Brian is another worship leader who's songs rate highly on various compilation albums. Now there's a chance to listen to a whole album of his own material, and it's a bit of a none event really. Not that it doesn't start off well. The title track, plus "Hallelujah" shows that everyone at this live recording were really getting into things, with some enthusiastic praise. And, later on, that feeling is mirrored during "With All My Affection". But, as for the middle running order? Well, it just, sort of, happens. "Your Faithfulness" gives gentle assurance of a loving, constant Father in Heaven but the rest fail to inspire. Perhaps it's due to the various duets included, I'm not sure, but there's little energy or feeling to the remainder of songs. A big disappointment in my book. 4/10 (April 2004)
BRIAN DOERKSEN : Level Ground. (Integrity : 48572)
Brian Doerksen dsays that ‘Level Ground’ is not just a collection of his new worship songs. The project began as a simple idea…a picture of grace. He’s collected some fine musicians around him, and shares these songs in an intimate setting. A lot of the songs are very laid back in presentation but later on in the track listing, he does liven things up. ‘Welcome to the Place of Level Ground’ is a very pleasant beginning, while ‘The Jesus Way’, featuring Steve Mitchinson, plods around in your brain for some time after hearing it. Teresa Trask takes the singing role on ‘Lifelong Passion’, and some “full on” worship, while ‘Enter the Rest of God’ tells the listener to “Lay down all your burdens”. There’s a touching medley of ‘Here is Love’ and ‘Give Thanks’, but a rather sombre piano accompanied piece called ‘Giver of Life’. Other highlights include ‘Thank You For the Cross’ sung by Stephanie Lang, and Tracy Rahn, on ‘First’. It’s not a mind blowing album, but one that most people will find as “comfortable” worship. 8/10. (April 2011)
BRIAN DOERKSEN : The Ultimate Collection. (Integrity : 51162)
Canadian worship leader Brian Doerksen is one of the most prolific Christian singer/songwriters of this age; someone with whom few can claim to be unfamiliar with. Even if the name doesn't ring a bell, his songs most certainly will. Brian started out with Vineyard Music way back in the late 80's, penning such classics as "Refiner's Fire", "Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)" & "Come, Now is the Time" - songs which are sung in many a church pretty much every week across the globe. As the title suggests, The Ultimate Collection features 15 of Brian's most well known worship songs, including the aforementioned tunes as well as a couple of my personal favourites ""Light the Fire Again" & "Today (As For Me & My House)". The album features a mixture of live & studio tracks with the quality of the vocals & musicianship being excellent, as you would expect from a guy with such an incredible track record. Having been led in worship by Brian a number of years ago, I have some idea of what he can belt out and it's amazing! I did find, however, that the album felt a touch over-produced and little bit flat in places and lacking atmosphere. That said though, I did find great benefit in getting to know some slightly less familiar tracks like "Holy God" as well as hearing classics done in a different style - even "Your Love is Amazing" complete with a distinctly Irish feel to the musical interludes. Most enlightening! This album is a great addition to the collection of dedicated fans as well as newcomers & unlike a lot of "best of..." type albums, the element of worship isn't lost in commercialism which is very refreshing. 9/10 Simon Redfern. (May 2013)
BRIAN HOUSTON : Big Smile. (Kingsway : KMCD2304)
Brian Houston has toured with and opened for such names as Van Morrison and Dr John, and has a folk/country rock style that blends nicely with either. Oh yes, least I forget, he's also quite Dylanesque in some of his musical delivery, like the opening "Won't Let Go", and the closing "I Love You". His lyrics have great strength and depth, yet Brian uses ordinary words that have appeal easily to your average man in the street. "Every Plan" gets the old feet tapping along with a song about laying everything (good & bad) in front of God. "You took me as I am, you know what I had done", are more of the simple words that are used to form part of "Your Whisper", where Brian, once again, conveys just how much the Lord loves every single person of His creation. Who would have thought that the great hymn "Be Thou My Vision" would ever make an album like this, but it has. Here, powerful drumming and rocky guitar produce a holy sound of praise. If I had to pick a fault (and I usually do) then, there's a slight dip in quality mid-way through the running order but, believe me, add this one to your Christmas list. 9/10. (November 2000)
BRIAN HOUSTON : Jesus & Justice. (BHS : BHCD2010)
You'd be right in thinking that it doesn't seem long since we reviewed a Brian Houston CD. It is, in fact, only a matter of months since we had the pleasure in hearing the brilliant "13 Days In August", complete with his witty writings and Bob Dylan sounding songs. So why release another CD so quickly? Well, your guess is as good as mine, but it seems that Brian may have had a few songs he felt ready for release but weren't quite good enough to make the first listing. Indeed, I think that this album sounds a lot like a collection of "nearly" songs. When I say that, I mean that they may well have been ready for the first album but didn't quite make the standard of those that did. The opening "God is My Shepherd" is a rousing number but, from then on, the standards drop and it becomes what, years ago, would have touted as an album of B-sides. The songs just don't have the same kick as Brian's previous collection and the shuffling rendition of "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" fails to hit the mark. All in all, quite a disappointment. 3/10. (May 2005)
BRIAN HOUSTON : Gospel Road. (Brian Houston Music : BHCD2021)
I must say I wasn't sure what to expect when I found this album on the doormat. I can't say that I've heard anything from Brian before, and the picture on the cover in the old suit and bowler hat all in sepia made me fear the worst. I was however quite pleasantly surprised by this CD, It's a collection of traditional sounding gospel, bluesy, kind of material, leaning towards the acoustic rather than the electric. If I were to compare it to something you may have heard of, then the nearest thing I can think of would be Mark Knoppfler's solo stuff, or maybe the Notting Hillbillies, but without the guitar solos of course. Also it must be said that Mr. Houston can genuinely sing, whilst Mr. Knoppfler seems content to grunt the lyrics, but that's the feel of the music anyway. I wouldn't want to listen to this every day, and if I'd come across it in a record shop without hearing it I probably wouldn't have bought it on impulse, but it has grown on me more and more as I've listened to it. The sleeve by the way, is actually spot on for the type of music. Definitely worth a listen. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (January 2010)
BRIANLITTRELL : Welcome Home. (Reunion : 602341-0098-29)
Despite being at risk to all the usual trapping that mega-stardom can bring in the world of pop music, Backstreet Boy, Brian Littrel has never kept his faith a secret. Nor has he been afraid to speak out about that faith, and this debut solo album shouts it loud and clear. "My Answer Is You" is a brilliant song to start the album and it soon had me playing it again and again. His single and title track is a classy pop song and shows Brian's warm vocals in all their gloss. It'snot just an album of simple pop though, and Brian brings a little gospel into being, with the soulful "You Keep Givin' Me". There's a little intimate number called "Gone Without Goodbye", before we get back to the pop of "I'm Alive". Brian shares many of the writing credits for the songs on the album, but there's also worthy contributions from Joy Williams and Ian Eskellin, amongst others. Closing with the accapella "Jesus Loves You", this is a fine release. 8/10. (July 2006)
BRIDE : Oddities. (Organic : ORCD 9830.1998)
Combining a hard rock sound with several almost-ballads, Bride has crafted a genuinely fine album of late 20th century popular music. The first time through I found my reaction to be the one from the past - this is Bride and thus it can't be very good. After several additional playings, I came to appreciate most of what is on the album. The faster, louder songs will please the hard music enthusiast, while the slower, more melodic ones will attract an older listening crowd and will appeal to radio programmers. On the whole, I found the album to be extremely fine, with many of the harder tunes to my liking. The slower ones continue to demonstrate Dale Thompson's growth as a songwriter and this, if for no other reason, makes "Oddities" worth your attention. 8/10. The Old Codger, courtesy of The Cutting Edge Magazine. http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/venue/1006/118bride./ html (March 1999)
BRIDE The Lost Reels Vol 1. (www.retroactiverecords.net)
I don’t know Bride that well – of the only 2 tracks in my collection by them, one is a Steve Taylor cover (see Vol 2) – so I’m unable to compare this CD to the best of their output, which means I’m coming to it fresh although it is hard to escape the “out-takes” feel. Bride have been through quite a few band members, but vocalist Dale Thompson (who sounds like cross between Axl Rose and Rob Halford on tracks such as “Dirty” and “Pyramid”) and guitarist Troy Thompson have remained throughout. The tracks on this CD are material recorded between 1988 and 1993 for possible inclusion on albums released then, but didn’t quite make it (although two tracks did eventually morph into one that did and “How Long” made an appearance on a live album). The CD has energy, but the songwriting is not quite there – which may explain why these tracks didn’t get released first time around: good but not yet great. Some moments don’t quite sound right, as thought they’d have been tidied up/re-recorded if the track had made it. The album is surprisingly consistent, given its origins, but doesn’t have those stand-out moments that would mark it out as a “must-have”, although the album that “I Don’t Get It” and “Hollywood” failed to make it onto must have been a cracker to keep these out and the quality improves as the CD progresses, despite it not being in chronological order. The rockers, especially the heavier ones, stand out overall. If you’re after an introduction to Bride, then this is probably not the best one. If you’ve got some of their CDs and are wondering whether this is worth adding to your collection, then the answer would seem to be “yes”. Best track: “I Am The Devil”. 6/10. Paul Ganney (February 2014)
BRIDE : The Lost Reels Vol 2 (www.retroactiverecords.net)
I don’t know Bride that well, as I noted in my review of “Vol 1” so I won’t repeat most of those comments here. It is part 2 of 3 in that it contains demo versions of songs from 3 of their earlier albums from the early 1990s. Along with Vols 1 and 3 this was originally released in 1994 but this is a remastered version from 2013. Being demos, these tracks generally have a rawer feel to them than the final versions (especially compared to the bonus track) and (I’m told) different arrangements that range from the subtle to major. Some tracks don’t quite sound finished (“Kiss The Train” and “Everybody Knows My Name” sound very much like parts 1 and 2 of the same song, for example), whereas some (such as “Same Ol’ Sinner”) have a “ready to release” feel about them. It’s a CD for the fans, really, but certainly not a rip-off (as so many “out-takes and demos” CDs are). The bonus track I mentioned earlier is a cover of Steve Taylor’s “We Don’t Need No Colour Code” from the “I Predict A Clone” CD. It’s a testament to the overall quality of the CD that it doesn’t fly so high above them – indeed, I don’t place it as “Best track”: that honour goes to “Same Ol’ Sinner”. 6/10. Paul Ganney. (February 2014)
BRIDE : The Lost Reels Vol 3. (Retroactive Records : 845121067132)
I don’t know Bride that well, as I noted in my reviews of Volumes 1and 2 so I won’t repeat most of those comments here. It is part 3 of 3 in that it contains professionally recorded demo tracks from the 1997 Jesus Experience sessions. Only one track (“Alive” – an unplugged session) has been released before, and then only on a compilation limited to 1000 copies. There’s thus a feel that these are the tracks that didn’t make the final cut, for one reason or another. There’s a good consistent feel to the tracks – almost as though they were one long session. They’re polished, but not finished (if you know what I mean). “Break My Spine” shows some nice changes in feel as it progresses and “Cosmic Christ” has sparks that made me wonder what it might have become had they worked further on it. The same might be said of other tracks – “Cover Dry Bones” just settles into a groove and sits there for ages before breaking out for a while and slipping back again. It’s a good groove, but just needs that bit more, really. They’re certainly doing grooves well here: “What Am I Supposed To Do?” has shades of “My Sharona” about it but lifts out of it for the choruses. It’s the middle of the CD that provides the best tracks – the above listed especially, although “Alive” does stand out slightly, mostly for its different feel. If you’re a fan of Bride, then this is the best of the 3 “Lost Reels” CDs. If you’re not, then it’s probably better to check out one of their other albums. Given the quality of the stuff that didn’t make it, “The Jesus Experience” must be pretty good. Best track: “What Am I Supposed To Do?”. 6/10. Paul Ganney (July 2014)
BRIGHT CITY : Bright City. (www.brightcityuk.com)
The self-titled debut album from British creative collective ’Bright City’ presents 13 tracks of faith and hope. Based at St Peter’s Brighton, UK, the Bright City project brings together song-writers, musicians and producers who all have a vision to make music that is authentic, creative and passionate. Written by Johnny Bird, Sarah Bird, Paul Nelson and Martin Smith, the title track is a song of triumph and an excellent way to start the album. ‘Force Field’ has electronic beats and is sung in Kesha style, while the guitar driven ‘Forever Yours’ has a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on any secular radio playlist. There’s such a variety of styles on the album that, on first listen, I had no idea what to expect next. The dance beats of ‘Colour’ is bound to be a favourite, while the slower ‘I Will Rest’, benefits from clear, crisp vocals, and some simple, but effective guitar phrases. The running order of the album sounds like a live concert set list, and the anthemic chorus of ‘We Believe’ would see any audience lift the roof in worship. Likewise, ‘All I Need is You’ brings pure exhilaration and pleasure, as you worship the Lord of all things. Ending the album, are two quieter, reflective numbers. ‘Never Let Me Forget’ and ‘Broken’ sit well in, what is a super release. 9/10. (May 2015)
BRIGHT CITY : Hello Maker. (www.brightcityuk.com)
Following on from their critically acclaimed 2015 debut, the family of artists from Brighton’s St Peter’s Church bring us their new release. The sultry vocal that begins “Maker of the Moon” immediately pricked up my ears. What a voice! Sleeve credits aren’t song specific, so I’m not sure the vocals belong to Sarah Bird or Lizzy Coulson. The song itself is about the God of time and space, which cleverly links to the album’s title. It’s one of those number’s that builds in power as it goes along, and is really well produced. “You Are the One Thing” has to be my favourite track. Give Evanescense sound an electro twist, and you have a terrific song. Writing credits are too numerous to mention, but there’s a welcome sound, overall, that differs from the monotony of Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and Planetshakers music. “Father” is a song of thanks, with the promise that “I will never leave your loving arms.” “Come, Holy Spirit” is a 7 minute epic that dries to god to show His glory, while “Fly” is given a hi-energy dance feel. It was good to hear some guitars driving the praise filled “You Reign” – another excellent song. The closing “Song For A Dreamer” starts off rather atmospherically, before transforming into a cacophony of electric sound. Just when you expect the song to pick up again it, disappointingly, fades to an end. There’s a lot packed into this album, and the family that is, Bright city, can consider this album a success. 9/10. (August 2017)
THE BRILLIANCE : Brother. (Integrity : 64232)
The Brilliance are a US-based liturgical band led by David Gungor and John Arndt, who previously released four albums. The duo are backed by a variety of musicians including cellists, violinists and rhythm players, and it all makes for a type of worship music that I can’t remember hearing before. The title track reminds us to look at everyone as our brother in Christ, even our enemies. A theme of forgiveness also runs through the lyrics. ‘Now at the Hour’ is a lovely acoustic number, with vocals that seem, almost, apologetic in their delivery. For ‘Does Your Heart Break?’, piano leads the way, but with some interesting orchestral fills too. Towards the end of the song, percussion crashes in, as does some rather random distorted guitar sounds. I found this rather bizarre! God’s love is constant, in all our trials, and that’s the message of ‘Love Remains’. It’s very difficult to define the band’s style. Is it folk? Is it classical? Is it, indeed, just a mixture of many, musical styles? I enjoyed the oboe's that’ lead on ‘Breathe’ – always an underestimated instrument of beauty, I think. There’s a feeling of simplicity about the music and its production, and I think that it will take listeners a few plays to appreciate. On the plus side, if you thought that you’d heard every type of worship music, The Brilliance will make you think again. 7/10. (May 2015)
BRITANNY RYAN : Unfatal Attraction. (http://www.madikinnovation.com/brittany.html)
Brittany Ryan has been a singer her entire life. While receiving some formal vocal training, she refined her skills and passion through singing along to influential artists, such as Adele, Tori Kelly, and Joss Stone. Her mother, who gave up her own singing career to raise Brittany and her two brothers, heavily inspires Brittany and her music. Brittany’s story and life experiences give her a unique chance to speak to others who may be going through difficulty. This single release begins with a simple piano, before launching into the type of song that has made the aforementioned Adele so popular. Brittany’s vocals are crisp and clean, with real feeling in each word that she sings. The song itself is about finding God and trusting in a relationship with Him, when hurt from worldly ones. She’s currently raising money to fund an album and interested parties can go to www.gofundme/brittanyryanmusic 8/10. (April 2017)
BRITT NICOLE : Say It. (Sparrow : SPD79964)
There's been a lot of hype about this young lady in the Christian media, so it was with mixed feelings that I began to play this album. After the first track, 'Holiday', I still wasn't sure. It's an RnB sound that didn't really hit any high points for me. But, then, Britt moves into straight forward pop with her next song. 'Believe' is a little rocky, well sung, and is very catchy. She says that she has a heart for the youth of our generation, showing them that God is for everyone. Well, she really comes into her own mid album, and the music should get the message of God right to the heart. Britt's vocals really soar on 'Set the World on Fire' and 'You' - I think - is a sure fire radio hit. At times, she sounds a little like Kelly Clarkson, then, at others, Gwen Stefani or Pink. For one so young, her song writing has to be applauded and I believe that we've unearthed another great talent here. 9/10. (November 2007)
BRITT NICOLE : The Lost Get Found. (Sparrow : 509992 1235825)
Fresh off the heels of her critically-acclaimed debut album, 'Say It', rock/pop artist returns to the shops with this second release. She says that the album is "simply about being who we are called to be as Christians, and through that, seeing the lost get found." For this album, Britt has lost a lot of the angst that seemed to be with her previously. Only on 'Welcome to the Show' does she really rock it up in an Avril Lavigne sort of way, and it doesn't really work. Far too often, I struggled to hear the lyrics as the music seemed to take centre stage. The title track is quite an individual sound, and the catchy 'Headphones' make them both ideal tracks for the radio. The best song, for me, has to be 'Walk on the Water'. It's a medium paced number about stepping out in faith, and is well constructed. I'm not sure that Britt's got all the right material here. The album certainly has it's highlights, but there are plenty of lows too. I guess it's that old fashioned "second album" thing, and only time will tell if a third is forthcoming. 6/10. (November 2009)
THE BROKEN : The Moment Of Truth (MK1CD003)
Well, this review has been a long time coming for which I apologise to The Broken, but it's given me longer to listen again and again to this album! I'm not a great worship album fan, as you know, but this one stands head and shoulders above most of the rest. Featuring Dave and Sue Clemo, things are kept in the family by including their son, Chris on drums. Dave's been in the business a while, and has honed his songwriting skills over the years to produce some excellent songs on this CD. The album is recorded well, with Dave's crystal clear vocals ringing out. Mainly guitar based, there are some great mandolin sounds, and the arrangements work well. I particularly liked 'Salvation Comes To Those Who Believe', 'Such A Mystery' and 'For Such A Time As This' - the theme song for a recent Cross Rhythms festival. The album includes several covers of Matt Redman, Martin Smith, and Janis English's material, but I felt this was one of the few things that let it down. The standard of original songwriting is so good, that I would have liked to have heard more! Check it out on their website: www.thebroken.co.uk 7/10 Julie Lord. (December 2001)
BROKEN STATE : For Your Glory. (www.brokenstate.co.uk)
Broken State are a Christian electro/rock/EDM worship band from Reading, and consist of Andy Aitken, Rob Eisner and Pete Redfern. They formed in 2010 and aim to write songs that are, at their heart, congregational worship songs, but with a sound that challenges the idea of what 'worship music' sounds like, with the aim of leading people closer to Jesus. This 4 track EP gives just a taste of what Broken State are all about, and it’s great to hear. The opening ‘I Love Your Name’ is full of synth sounds, drums and guitar, and reminded me of a cross between The Remission Flow and Phil Wickham. ‘Mighty’ is a little more abrasive, and I think that it certainly does challenge your idea of what worship music sounds like. The song itself has fine lyrics, putting your trust in God, and worshipping His greatness. ‘Pour Your Anointing’ is a stripped back track, with barely a synth in sight. This time, the song focusses on the Holy Spirit “raining down”. I’ve got to say, that I thought Rob Eisner’s vocals are spot on all the way through, and it’s the sort of voice you immediately like. The last track, for me, is the best. ‘For your Glory’ is all about surrendering to Jesus and living a new life for His glory. I simply love the synth sound on this track, and it’s production makes this song quite glorious. Indeed, it’s been played many times over the past few days. There’s certainly nothing broken with this band, and I can’t wait for the album. 9/10. (March 2015)
THE BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR : Light of the World. (Word: 080688612429)
I read the track listing of this Cd, played the album, and my worst fears were born true. Christmas is just around the corner, and the first festive Cd has been released. Taking a closer look at the sleeve notes, you might think that this is just another Christmas album, full of familiar songs that, in the past, have been re-arranged to death. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a really enjoyable album. There's some great vocals from both the main choir and individuals, including various children. Listening, it had me imagining an old fashioned, traditional Yuletide, complete with everyone gathered around a big log fire, and being led in some great tunes of yesteryear. "Glory to God", "O Holy Night", "Peace on Earth", they're all there. The medley of "Tell Me the Story", "The First Noel", "Angels We Have Heard", and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is particularly good. One of the better Festive albums. 9/10. Judith Wilson. (October 2001, Album of the Month)
THE BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR : Be Glad.
The choir began recording this album in late September of 2001, just days after the nation's tragic loss of lives in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Many choir members worked in the towers, and fortunately were able to escape the buildings alive, although other members of the church were lost in the tragedy. "We were all in shock and it took a while for us to get our bearings," Choir leader Carol Cymbala shares. "We start each of our choir practice sessions with prayer - sometimes we might pray for an hour, and sometimes we may end up spending the entire practice in prayer. As we began to come together in September to rehearse for this album, a lot of that time was given over to prayer. Many of our members just needed encouragement, and they needed to get their comfort from the Lord." The finished product, then, is one of great power and deeply personal. As long as I listen to this type of gospel music, I can't see me liking the old fashioned hollering that goes on in some of the songs. It just isn't for me. But, there again, that didn't stop me enjoying the calmer songs such as the title track - a real swinging good feel chorus - and the big production number "He's God". Brilliant harmonies throughout and never bettered than on the slow and powerful "Go Forth". A really good gospel album. 9/10. (June 2002)
THE BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR : Live…This is Your House. (Integrity : 000768250228)
There's just something about a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir release that brings out the best in gospel music. From the moment they begin with "Made It", the amazing voices of the choir ring true throughout. The choir have the most amazing sound, while the soloists really wear their hearts on the sleeves. "Lord I Believe in you" is a big production, and I mean - BIG. It showcases the choir in full flight and the power of it all is just out of this world. Also included on this double CD are testimony's that, somehow, just blend into the rest of the album. The ballad "Holy Are You Lord" shows that there's more to gospel than just energy, although the rendition of "Days of Elijah" would exhaust me - one of the best versions I've ever heard. If you had negative thoughts about this type of gospel music, think again. This is superb. 10/10. (March 2004, Album of the Month) Geoff writes: Wanting to show just how reviews of the same Cd can differ, I secretly reviewed the same album as one of our regular reviewers. You can read my review above as Album of the Month, but let's see how David Cooper sees the same album:
THE BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR : Live…This is Your House. (Integrity : 000768250228)
I have nothing against live worship albums in themselves, in fact I quite like them. Unfortunately they are everywhere at the moment, and the ones I have heard share a fundamental flaw: a singular lack of creativity and imagination. This is fine when you are right there at the event, where the simple spontaneity of meeting with God and following the Spirit's lead is all important, but the "sameyness" of the recordings grates on me after a while and I long to hear something genuinely original, or even slightly out of the ordinary. Don't misunderstand me, I am a huge fan of the big choir sound, and BTC do it very well. Magnificent close harmony singing, solid worship songs (including a nice interpretation of Robin Mark's 'Days of Elijah'), uplifting and worshipful feel, these are all here in abundance, but to be honest you could be listening to any live worship album featuring any large American choir. Much is made of the two testimonies included in the double CD set but, whilst they are powerful stories in their own right, they sound like they were recorded in a metal filing cabinet and badly disrupt the flow of the music. Overall … not terrible, not brilliant. But OK. 6/10 David Cooper
BROTHER'S KEEPER : Cover Me. (Ardent Records : DPRO17014)
Taking over two years in the making, "Cover Me" is the follow up to this band's self-titled 1999 debut. The members of the band are all high school and church group friends who's original album cover photo shoot was set for September 11th last year. As the events of that day unfolded, the guys called off the shoot and prayed. Thankfully, the album has finally made it and what a good one it is too. A little reminiscent of Big Tent Revival in style, it's an album filled with acoustic led edgy pop. "Blonde & Tan" has some added keyboards to the basic sound, which give it a bit of an edge over some of the other tracks. However, neither "Take Me To the Cross" or "Be Like You" suffer - the former being my favourite track. "Out of the Blindness" talks of being blind to God and then, suddenly, seeing the light that has been hidden for so long. It's another good song that's enjoyable to listen to. If the album has a dip in quality, it comes in the second half, where the noisey "Out of This World" sounds like the 'odd one out' in an otherwise excellent track listing. The sounds are fresh, and the time taken to record the album has been well worth it. 9/10. (April 2002)
THE BROWNS : Love Loud. (Stow Town : STR3121)
The Browns are three blonde siblings and their mom from an Iowa farm family. After catching the attention of StowTown Record co-founders, Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun, it was only a matter of time before The Browns spent time in the studio crafting a CD with a progressive style that is all their own. There’s a great start to the album with one of the two female vocals coming over really strong on ‘Love Loud’. There’s a traditional southern gospel feel on ‘Rock & Redeemer’, and some nice harmonies thrown in too. I wasn’t too sure about ‘The Captain’s Got It Under Control’, but somehow it works. Basically, it’s telling you that, in the storms of life, God is the captain of your ship and that everything is under His control. ‘Everything Changes’ is more modern in style, while it’s old style country on ‘A Place in the Choir’, complete with obligatory banjo. While I wasn’t too sure about an earlier song’s lyrics, ‘River in the Rain’ is just the opposite. “My heart is like a river in the rain”, tells of a heart being renewed and being constantly filled with the love of God. It’s an album that is worth a listen or two, even if the style is not your usual sort of thing. You may well be surprised by The Browns! 7/10. (February 2014)
BRUCE CARROLL : Boomerang. (Benson/Word83061-0304-2)
"Anyone who listens to CCM, likely knows half a dozen of Bruce Carroll's songs off by heart". Well, that's what the press release said. Me? I knew none! The opening title track is a pleasant enough tune, paving the way for nine more m.o.r country/pop songs. "Pray Hard" has a touch of blues about it, with the message of praying hard, rather than just going through the motions. Carroll makes you think about your relationship with God in an easy going style that nice to listen to, without being out of the ordinary. "Memory of Chains" attacks well and is my favourite track of the album. It's more uptempo and raw feel, out-strip the rest. "Boomerang" is a light-weight album that Christians may find most helpful if they are, themselves, asking questions about their religion. 7/10. (April 1998)
BRYAN & KATIE TORWALT : Here On Earth. (Elevation / Jesus Culture Music : ELE1697D)
Building on the success of their involvement in leading worship at the US “Awakening” conference with Jesus Culture, this husband & wife duo release their debut album on the JC label. Their style is a little less stadium rock than Jesus Culture releases tend to be, but that’s not to say the tunes lack any vigour – quite the contrary! From the outset, it is quite clear why they did make an impact & why this release has attracted many positive comments / reviews to date. ‘Glorious’ begins the offering in fine style – a pretty lively track, mixing more than a hint of Coldplay with Katie’s melodic, slightly folky tones making a highly palatable combo. Bryan takes the lead on ‘Holy Spirit’ which is very laid back in comparison to ‘Glorious’, the impact of the song coming more from the heartfelt words with the vocal & musical arrangements bearing more than a passing resemblance to US group “The Longing”…a group which I’ve not heard for some years but an album which I was immediately hooked on. There’s a good mix of lively & relaxed tunes on the CD with the music being well played & produced throughout; blending well with some cracking passionate vocal solos & harmonies from the couple. All songs are original compositions & it’s evident that lyrics are from the heart which helps Here On Earth stand out from the crowd. This is further aided by the absence of performance from the worship offering which is fantastically refreshing. If I had to pick up on 1 thing, it would be a criticism that has been leveled at many a modern worship song in that some of the choruses can be a little repetitive - “I’m a Lover of Your Presence” is a classic example. I could imagine people in a corporate worship setting starting to wander off (mentally not physically)! That said though, this is one of the best & most original worship CDs I have listened to in some time & it certainly won’t be gathering dust on the shelves. 9/10 Simon Redfern (March 2012)
BRYAN & KATIE TORWALT : Kingdom Come. (Jesus Culture : ELE1988D)
Two years after their debut album, Bryan & Katie Torwalt return with their second release on the Jesus Culture label. With so much new music coming out of the Jesus Culture and Bethel Church, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of everything. It’s very similar to what’s been happening through Australia’s Hillsong and Planetshakers, but it’s a very, definite American sound. Imagine if Amy Grant had been crossed with Kelly Clarkson, and I think you would get an inkling into how some of these songs sound. Saying that, Bryan takes on some of the lead vocals, as in ‘He Is the Light’. Not a bad song, but it sounded exactly like tens of songs that had gone before, over the last twelve months. Katie comes to the fore on ‘Weight of Glory’. Lovely vocals and a powerful musical backing. ‘When You Walk into the Room’ isn’t the old 60’s classic, but a new song that plods along, without really getting anywhere. I hoped that the chorus would burst the song into life but, it didn’t. ’Shores’ is the best song on the album, as Bryan & Katie lead you praying for Holy Spirit. This song really does capture the essence of worship, and stands head and shoulders above anything else on the album. From mid album, it’s a bit of a bore. ‘Worthy King’ lifted my spirits a little, with it’s worshipful sound, but that was all. The couple’s last album, ‘Here on Earth’ scored a mighty 9/10, but, for me, this one doesn’t reach the same heights. 6/10. (April 2014)
BRYAN & KATIE TORWALTt. (Elevation Music : B002280002)
This is a collection of contemporary worship songs, that feature lead vocals from both artists. It starts off with a cracking song called “He Is Faithful” which is a high energy no nonsense rock arrangement, this song pretty much sets the tone for the whole CD. Most of the songs on here are cleverly arranged and tend to build up from a quiet start into what are some quite busy and atmospheric rock / pop arrangements. I sometimes feel that a lot of worship albums tend to be somewhat “over produced”. This one certainly doesn’t fit into that category, and in fact works quite well, although most of the songs do give the impression of being intended for use in large meetings, and not your local church. It’s probably an advantage, having two different singers leading these songs. Both of them have a completely different vocal style. and it does keep things moving along nicely, which is probably quite a good thing, as this CD runs in at just under 75 minutes. One of the highlights for me is “Holy Spirit”. Which is a song calling for the Holy Spirit to fall on the congregation, and is a very powerful song. I can’t say that I found any of the tracks on here to be disappointing. I would certainly recommend this CD if you like good solid worship music, as opposed to the normal watery rubbish that we get served up on endless compilation albums. This is well played and original, and a breath of fresh air to my ears. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (September 2015, Album of the Month)
BRYAN DUNCAN : Blue Skies. (Myrrh : 7017009614).
For Bryan's 10th studio album, he and producer Don Posthuma chose to collect a core group of musicians to play on all the tracks instead of relying on computers. The result is a mixture of good and average numbers, sandwiched between one excellent and one downright awful song. The former ("Tell Me Where You Are") is a ballad that includes a searing guitar solo midway that almost make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The album begins with the happy sounding "Blue Skies" and it bounces along quite nicely. This one leads into "After This Day Is Gone", another chirpy number that gets you singing along quite merrily. Bryan's vocals are nothing out of the ordinary but, there again, he copes quite admirably throughout. It's an album of MOR pop that you'd expect to hear on the likes of BBC Radio rather than Independent Networks. As albums go, it's quite good, without being anything special. 6/10. (April 1997)
BRYN HAWORTH : Songs & Hymns. (Kingsway : KMCD2083)
To celebrate his 25th Anniversary of becoming a Christian, Bryn decided to make this album, based around his love for the lyrical and musical content of old hymns. Here, he gives the 'Haworth Treatment' to such classics as "Praise to the Lord" and "What A Friend We Have in Jesus". The former is quite delicately displayed while the latter features some of the slide guitar work that Bryn is renowned for producing. There are some original songs on the album and "The Glory Zone" really stands out as a fine country number, complete with accordion accompaniment. "More Lird" is another Haworth penned number and, at nearly 7minutes in length, really does lead the listener into a great and personal time of worship. Surprisingly, this is the first solo album of Bryn's that I have ever heard and, apart from the slide guitar solo's, it has left a very positive impression upon me. 7/10. (June 1999)
BRYN HAWORTH : Simply...Just As I Am. (Kingsway : KMCD2632)
This triple album is in Kingsway's new 'Simply...' series, being re-releases by early CCM artists. Here we have Bryn Haworth's albums 'Wings of the morning' (1983, slide guitar, soft country), 'Live' (1993, rock n' roll and blues) and 'Songs and Hymns' (1999, easy listening). I have to admit that I have never found Bryn's voice particularly inspiring - tuneful, but curiously uninteresting. His main abilities lie in his guitar playing - but it is too rarely here that he shows what he can do, with the 'Live' album doing so the most. The first album features particularly simple tunes and unimaginative arrangements and sounds especially 'low budget' - although 'Make us holy' and 'I found a love' are worth a listen. The best tracks on the second album are the always brilliant 'People get ready' (with a particularly good guitar solo), and 'Start with me'. The first track on the third album, 'Praise to the Lord', is also good. If you are a fan of Bryn's you may well have these albums - but if not, you could find this triple a welcome addition to your collection. Too few high points for me, but you may like to decide for yourself by listening via www.kingsway.co.uk. 5/10 Dave Deeks (July 2005)
BUILDING 429 : Space in Between Us. (Word : 0806 88632120)
Here's a bunch of US guys who have been making great strides in their native country, especially after the release of the single "Glory Defined". No doubt about it, it's a great song and it's first on the list. The songs mainly take on a worship and evangelistic approach, but in the modern rock style. Whilst Third Day may rule the roost at the moment, I can see Building 429 running them pretty close in that genre. Songs like the title track, plus the rocking "Angeline" show that the band have got a good strength and belief behind their writing. "No One Else Knows" turns into a ballad - the sort every rock outfit sing - but I really enjoyed it. Lots more to come, I think, from this band. 7/10. (September 2004)
BUILDING 429 : Rise. (Word : 8864052)
Debuting in 2004, the album "Space In Between Us" spawned "Glory Defined," a song that hit No. 1 on eight different charts and became BMI's 2005 Song of the Year for Christian music. The band received four Dove Award nominations and was named the Gospel Music Association's 2005 New Artist of the Year. Now, they're back with a brand new album promising more of the same. The opening, "Searching For A Saviour" starts things off well, in a no nonsense rock style. "I Belong To You" carries things on, but then things start to go downhill. "Because You're Mine" is a love ballad of mediocre quality, while I found "I Believe" to be instantly forgettable. It became one of those albums that finished without me hardly noticing. Sadly, the songs on this album just don't come up to those on their previous release. "Alive" talks about glorifying God, and finishes the track listing as well as it began, but in between, there were just too many below par songs. 4/10 (October 2006)
BUILDING 429 : Iris to Iris. (Word : 8870932)
Well, I'd heard, on the grapevine, that Building 429 had changed their sound somewhat from their previous album, so I wasn't too sure what to expect this time round. Gone, are the grungy sounds of their previous two albums, and in has come a more mature rock style. While I didn't think that their songs were brilliant, Jason Roy's vocals certainly have improved and suit the new sound well. 'Majesty' is a light rock praise number, while 'You Carried Me' delves into the style of rock worship. 'Amazed' had me smiling as, at times, you can sing 'I Could Sing of Your Love Forever' to it's similar tune. 'Taken', I think, is the song that I'd choose as a potential radio hit. It's just got everything. There's great guitar's, a good tune, and Roy's vocals caress every word. 'Constant' is a six minute rock worship song about not being able to live without God in your life. What I like about this song is that it's so straightforward and un-complicated in its production. The album is an improvement on their last release but it will be interesting to see how many of their fans mature with the new sound. 6/10. (October 2007)
BY THE TREE : Invade My Soul. (Fervent : 679143001894).
Chuck Dennie and Kevin Rhoads are the two founding members of By the Tree, and who both love the Lord. And although their songwriting styles may differ, the two come together with drummer Aaron Blanton to create a new sound for Christian music. Blending modern pop sensibilities and a slight rock edge with their worshipful and vertical lyrics. I picked up on their lyrical content straight away with the song "Reveal", praising the wonder of a personal relationship with a loving an almighty God. "Walk" is the next one to make you sit up. A slower song by comparison to the first two but, nonetheless, every bit as good. "Open My Eyes" gets better with each listen as does the guitar driven title track, and it's hard to know quite where to pigeon hole them. "Wonderful Again" features some Verve like strings, while the modern worship feel of "Fall" had me making comparisons to "The Stone Roses". "Invade My Soul" isn't just another album. It's got some quite refreshing sounds and songs, and I hope that By The Tree will blossom into something big. 8/10. (September 2001)
BY THE TREE : These Days. (Fervent Records)
This is a straightforward rock/pop CD with some catchy tunes, and enough variation to keep you interested. This is the second album from By The Tree, who were apparently voted one of the top ten acts of 2001 by "Soundscan" (No I don't know what it is either). In some places it reminded me of Robbie Williams in his more melodic songs. the production is very good, and this band are obviously quite a talented bunch.(They have already taken two Dove awards for their first CD)There is a nice cover version of Into Your Arms (The Lemonheads), but as there are no songwriting credits anywhere I'm not sure if any of the other songs are original or not. For me the best track on the CD is the last one, entitled When I found you, recorded with piano and strings it's a nice change of pace to what is a CD worth trying to get hold of. 9/10. Andy Sayner. (December 2002)
BY THE TREE : Hold You High. (Fervent Records)
It's nearly three year's since this Texas trio debuted with their album "Inside My Soul". I said, then, that I hoped they would grow into something bigger and better, and judging by this album, they certainly have. Although primarily a worship album, it's very contemporary, with a rocky edge that blends well. There again, at their most melancholy, they sound like Coldplay or Keane, as shown on the track "Miraculous". Well known songs like "Beautiful One" and "Your Beloved" both motor well, with a guitar flavour that's done tastefully well. I also liked the acoustic led "Jesus Washed", which shows the band in true worship, quiet, worship mode. At this rate, the band should add many more sales to their current status of 150,000 units. 8/10 (August 2004)
BY THE TREE : World on Fire. (Fervent : 8065022)
By the Tree have gone through numerous line up changes over the years but have become one of the most popular bands on the contemporary worship scene. They've been likened to Leeland, amongst others, and they've a modern pop/rock sound to appeal to the youth of today. This album seems to have the theme of "love" running all the way through it with references to satisfying and pefect love, as well as a love song to Jesus. "How Beautiful You Are" encompasses the latter while "Perfect" and "You Are My Desire" relate to the former. "I WIll Follow You" has a real catchy chorus and it's the song I would personally pick as a potential radio hit. The guitar playing, especially, stands out here. I understand that the former drummer, Aaron Blanton, is now doing all the lead vocals, and he does quite a good job. The music itself is quite good, but I would like to have been excited more than I was. Still, it's not a bad album. 7/10. (May 2007)
BYRON CAGE : Memoirs of a Worshipper. (Verity Gospel/Authentic Media : 88697-97077-2)
Memoirs of a Worshipper is the 7th album from American gospel recording artist and Stellar award winner, Byron Cage. It features eleven tracks, some of which are co-written by Byron whilst the others are penned by a variety of other writers. The songs are recorded live, in a worship setting, though there are some interesting fade-outs. Whether these are for timing purposes or for some other purpose is not clear but I found that they interrupted the flow slightly. Not a major flaw in the recording, but since Byron is an accomplished worship leader it does undo some of his hard work! True to the gospel genre the songs offer some complex arrangements and interesting nuances - they will therefore only ever appear in churches led by accomplished musicians - in fact I wouldn't say that the songs lend themselves to congregational worship at all. However, their complexity makes them interesting and engaging, they brim with emotion and passion and require some serious and considered listening. The songs I believe to be the pick of a very good crop are probably the declaratory "Out of then All" and "Victory" but the anthemic "Great and Mighty", the longest song on the album at over 10 minutes, probably comes out on top. This album is nearly 70 minutes long but it seems surprisingly shorter. Since they say time flies when you are having fun, I therefore have to declare this album to be exactly that - fun - at least in the sense that it is unexpectedly enjoyable and wonderfully uplifting. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (October 2012) Forward to the next archive
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