Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive C

C3NC : Strongest Place. (www.c3nc.com/music/)
This is a very contemporary praise and worship album from a very contemporary band, so expect Coldplay/U2/Delirious style guitars and vocals (especially the male ones – the female vocals are more modern folky), with lyrics obviously tending more towards the latter and disappointment won’t follow. It’s recorded/produced in a presentation setting which suits me fine – I’m not much of a fan of recorded worship events, really, as they rarely capture what it was like to be there. Much better (in my opinion) is to have a well-recorded album to listen to that includes guitar solos etc. and save the calls to join in (and “second verse again”) for when you see them live. This album fits the bill every nicely, therefore. It has the up-tempo stuff (“Lift My Eyes”), the reflective stuff (“I’m In Awe”), the worship wall of sound stuff (“Covered”) and the anthemic stuff (“Strongest Place”). It’s well-written, recorded, played, sung and produced – which made it very easy to listen to and concentrate on the music rather than the medium. The overall theme of the album is that our strongest place is the place of worship of Jesus Christ and they convey that well. If there’s any criticism, it’s that you feel like you’ve heard it before as the style is so familiar now. However, it would be hard to hear this album and not be uplifted by it. Best track: “Lift My Eyes”. 8/10. Paul Ganney. (January 2017)
CADIA : Cadia. (Fervent : WD2-887322)
Cadia are Courtney Myers and Tori Smith and seem to have had a bevy of top writers to help them create this release. The girls have strong harmonies, and their voices really do compliment each other well. 'Trust in Me Now' is the opening track, and what a strong start it is, telling how you can trust in Jesus evening your darkest times. The story continues with 'Safe Place to Fall' - where safer to fall than into the arms of the Lord? They're great pop songs, and they give a new twist to the Martina McBride song 'This One's For the Girls'. It was hard to pick out just one song above the rest but 'Jesus' has a strong hook for a chorus and the song will soon be buzzing in your head once you've heard it. Every now and then, you hear a song that you know is just perfect for driving along the open roads - 'Inside Out' is that song on this album. Not sure what it is, but it's just a feel good number and Cadia are on top form. An early contender for this year's Album of the Year. 10/10 (February 2009, Album of the Month)
CAEDMON'S CALL : Long Line of Leavers. (Essential: 83061-0559-2.
When you've read such a lot of great things about a band such as Caedmon's Call, you really do tear open that CD packaging a little more quickly than usual. Put the Cd in the player, and wait for that first song, "The Only One". It finishes, and you think "Yeah, that wasn't bad for an opener". The next two tracks play and you find yourself pretty disappointed by the ordinary, middle of the road, American pop that's coming from your speakers. Ah, but then comes hope. The latest single from the album is called "Prove Me Wrong", and it's that song that I have to play again and again. Unfortunately, Caedmon's Call fail to prove me wrong overall. The music, they say, is "edgier" than before. Well, if this is edgier, the previous stuff must have been pretty bland. "Love Alone" is a nice ballad and the throwaway "Ballad of San Francisco reminded me of the BareNakedLadies. Big in their home country, and a wow on the college circuit, but CC leave this reviewer wondering why? 4/10. (May 2001)
CAEDMON'S CALL : In the Company of Angels - A Call to Worship.(Essential Records MPCD40514)
A sincere fellowship, community and worshipping within their local church body are the foundation and vision behind this album. Despite selling more than 750,000 units of their three best selling albums, Caedmon's Call hold on to the simple roots that first formed the band nine years ago. What this release brings is a collection of 12 new songs to worship the Lord. No, over the top productions here, just simple celtic tinged songs with power and truth within. Take, for instance, "Warrior". It's an excellent song and one that proclaims the God as a warrior for His people. "Before There Was Time" is a good song, and "We Delight" reminded me of Sixpence None the Richer in sound. "God of Wonders" is a live acoustic worship number while "Laden With Guilt" has a touch of Iona about it. After so many worship albums sounding alike, it's very refreshing to hear some songs as good as these. 9/10. (April 2002)
CAEDMON'S CALL : Back Home. (Essential : 3061069421)
Still carrying the gospel torch amongst colleges in their native USA, Caedmon's Call return with a new album that's bound to add to their previous one million record sales. Six No.1 radio singles and ten Dove Award nominations are proof that this guitar driven band are one of the most popular today. "You Created" has that sharp guitar feel behind it, as the band proclaim that nothing created is better than God, himself. How true. "Walk With Me could almost be a Sixpence song as the jangly guitars caress the exquisite vocals. "Kingdom" brings in some layered strings that hint of eastern music, while "Beautiful Mystery" concentrates on an acoustic led style, singing about the wonder of the Lord. The album tails off somewhat towards the end, with two or three numbers that sounded very similar. Perhaps it's just because I'm remembering so many of Caedmon's previous songs? 8/10. (April 2003)
CAEDMON'S CALL : In the Company of Angels II - the World Will Sing. (Essential : 83061 - 0793-2)
Following on from their 2001 hit album, 'In the Company of Angels', folk/pop outfit Caedmon's Call have now released volume II. It features some familiar praise and worship choruses along with original material written by the band. One of the latter songs is the opening 'Great and Mighty' - a very pleasant foot tapper. This style is mirrored by 'Sing His Love', which I picked out as an instant radio hit. But, as well as performing great, hooky pop songs, the band are just as at home with quieter, prayerful numbers like 'Draw Me Nearer' and 'I Surrender All'. 'The Story' is another classy pop song and I also enjoyed 'The Fountain', even though it was rather short in length. 'We Give Thanks' does just that, and the acoustic 'Fellowship So Deep' is a warm and soothing song. Caedmon's Call have a heart for sharing and ministering, and this album shows them at their best. 9/10. (June 2006, album of the month)
CAEDMON's CALL : Overdressed. (Integrity : 42442)
Oh, this is disappointing! What a bland collection of songs from this, usually, talented group. Try as I might, I just couldn't raise much enthusiasm when I listened to this album. It's as if the artists were just going through the motions whilst recording - most of the songs are so lifeless. 'Sacred' and 'Two Weeks in Africa' stand out in the crowd. The former is quite a good foot tapper, while the latter lends more than a passing nod to Paul Simon's 'Gracelands' album. Sorry, I really am lost for words. 3/10 (Feburary 2008)
CANOPY RED : Wake Up. (www.canopyred.com)
The jangling driven guitars and the slightly clipped, slightly reticent vocal give the genre away from the off and you think you know exactly where this CD is going. It’s solidly in indie territory. There’s elements of Snow Patrol, of the Cult, of Anathema, of By The Tree (and others I’ve not listed). It’s all very well done, but doesn’t seem to break new ground. That said, the keyboard riff in “Disguise” is very good and “Forever” I can see lifting many a church service a notch or two in praise & worship. But then the CD starts to move and gain a character more of its own: “Paralyzed” being especially strong: it has the same sorts of elements as the songs that precede it (chiming guitars, driving drums etc) but it gains some space from somewhere (and not just in the pauses) and lifts the band out of “very similar to…” and into “very interesting…”. From there on the attention is well and truly grabbed and deservedly so (the riff in “Wake Up”, the synth work in “Won’t Let Go” – they make you listen and it’s worth it). The CD peters out a bit, but in the end this is a band that have taken their influences and built on them well to create a very good CD and a solid step forward. Don’t play it just the once as the initial tracks sound so much better after you’ve gotten into the mid-CD ones. Best Track: “Paralyzed”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (August 2012)
CAPITAAN : 'Driftwood' (ICC).
A four track EP from 4 guys and a girl, from London. Classed as either acid or corrosive jazz, what the band actually play is something remeniscent of Shakatak meets Jamariqui. Good rhythms, slapping bass, well crafted guitar, and laid back keyboards all provide the platform for the vibrant vocals. 'Come Into My House' had me singing Dr Alban's hit single 'It's My Life', but soon got me grooving around the house. 'Elegance' didn't quite live up to the first track but 'Resurrected Man' puts Capitaan back on the right road with it's easy going style. The best is kept until last. 'New Generation' talks about "spreading His news across every nation", and is the most commercial of the tracks featured. It's not the sort of music that I'd usually listen too but, nonetheless, it's the best offering this month. 7/10 (May 1996, Album of the Month)
CAPITAL KINGS : Capital Kings. (Gotee : 669447004301)
Capital Kings are an American pop, electronic and Christian pop duo consisting of Jon White on vocals and Cole Walowac on programming and also vocals. This is their debut full album, following on from their EP release “I Feel So Alive” last year. The copy I received was unfortunately damaged, to the point where some tracks were unplayable which is a shame as I have been unable to listen to the full context of the album. However, the six tracks that worked, plus the one that almost plays to the end were enough to demonstrate what this band has to offer. The opener, “All The Way” demonstrates their sound very well - catchy synth driven pop with a strong dance feel and beat. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ibiza dance floor. “I Feel So Alive” reminds a lot of Lady Gaga except of course this song has a far better sentiment. ‘My heart has been revived’ they sing – quite so. “Ready for Home” combines rap with another catchy hook and a positive message. “Born to Love” tricks you into thinking you’re about to hear a slushy ballad before it picks up about 40 seconds in and reminds you this is Capital Kings, not Boyzone, where dance beats and driving rhythms abound. There is a slightly more laid back number “Tell Me” a few songs later before the hard synth sounds return for the closer “The Paradigm”. Overall, I liked this album. The band clearly knows what their sound is and as a result are able to present a distinctive and coherent collection of songs. It’s polished, uplifting and contains a positive and powerful message. 9/10. Robin Thompson. (August 2013)
CAPTAIN ALAN & THE CAPTAIN'S CREW : Box of Delights. (ICC: ICCD60730)
I know I said that I'd never review another children's album but, I just couldn't resist the challenge of this one. A double CD too! - it was either going to be very pleasurable, or extremely painful. So, I'm pleased to report that the result was the former. Yes, a few had me cringing a little but, on the whole, there were loads of songs that I enjoyed listening too, and could visualise the impact they would have on young children. Take "I'm Enthusiastic. It's noisey, it's energetic, it's quite wonderful actually. Then, there's "Now I Belong To Jesus", you can just see loads of kids marching along as they sing this one. "Salt for Jesus" takes one or two simple truths from the Bible and makes them come alive with meaning for young people to understand more easily. "The Chistian Conga", "The Holy Hokey" and "I Am So Glad" are just three of the many more songs that will be of great benefit to any children's leaders. 8/10. (December 2001)
CAPTAIN ALAN & THE CAPTAIN'S CREW : Now is the Time. (ICC: ICCD68430)
The Captain is non-other than Alan Price who has been a Church Army Evangelist for many years. This is his 7th children's album and full of great songs that will help youngsters (and oldies who are still young at heart) express their worship and faith. "Isn't It Brilliant" is the title of, and also sums up, the first track. "All Fired Up" has a sea-shanty feel, and "Jesus Is Here" slows things down to a simple act of prayer. Alan says that he has a new puppet friend called Tommy Tortoise who sings on "Keep On Praising the Lord". Sorry Alan, this one DID make me cringe. However, we're back to top notch songs soon after with "La La La LA La" and "Walk in the Light", which aims at spotting the difference between loving the "dark" things, and loving Jesus. It's a great CD package because a second disc contains all the backing tracks and music scores for you to use with your own children or church groups. If that's not all, there's even one of those crazy kids songs that just gets faster and faster - bound to please them! 8/10. (November 2002)
[CARELESS] : Galactic Tourists. (www.careless.me.uk)
As a punk music fan of 1976, I was witness to some of the greats from that era I never saw the Pistols live, but I did see the likes of The Damned and The Stranglers. Punk never really died, it just evolved as the years went by. Move on to 1996 and the first entity called [careless] had been brought together by Jamie Liskutin. By 2001, the band were touring across Europe and making a name for themselves on the undeground Christian Punk Circuit. 2004 saw Jamie struck down with cancer and the band broke up while he took three years to recover. Having survived these ordeals he's first to admit "I wouldn't have got through it without my faith and the grace Jesus gives me, I wouldn't be here now." This new CD is a definitive collection of powerful live and studio recordings - put together by Jamie himself. There are fourteen tracks and it's quite a ride. For me, the album couldn't start any better than with '25 Feet Per Second'. I just love the guitars, and the song is terrific. The sound of 'Apollo 13' is so fresh and exciting, these opening songs took me back to those halcyon days of '76. Jamie has been described as the Christian Johnny Rotten, but his vocals are much better than that. He can snarl like the best of them, but there's a real depth in the quality. 'To Yourself Be True' includes more great guitar work, on a song that has it's own football chant within. The songs fairly race along, but 'There is Peace For you' does slow things down a touch without losing anything musically. 'Bringing It Back Home' (Part 2) features some more of that great guitar sound, a stomping chorus, and Jamie, caressing every word. Once in a while comes an album that breaks the mold, this is one such album. A classic. 10/10 (March 2010, Album of the Month)
CARMEN : Yo! Kidz - the Hitz. (Everland/Word : 7019928609).
An album for the kidz, so I asked my 12 year old son, Richard to do the honours. "I've heard some of songs before. There's slow songs, rap, and just plain chart type songs. 'U Before Me' is a song that I'd heard before, and I still like it now. It's got good music and a good tune. I didn't like the babyish 'Sunday School Medley', or 'Hall of Faith'. There's a song on the CD that helps you memorize all 66 books of the Bible. It's a good song but I still can't remember all the books. It's a better Christian CD than some of the others I've listened to, and I will be playing it again. 8/10. RJH. (August 1997)
CARMAN : Mission 3:16. (Sparrow/Alliance : 7243 8516402 6).
The mission of this new release is a combination of two things. First of all, to fulfil the Great Commission of taking the Gospel message to the streets and, secondly, to take the message of salvation to those who don't know it. Well, that's what the man says and, after so many hit albums, who can argue with this out of the ordinary preacher. Whether it be to audiences of thousands or with a Sunday school of a few dozen, Carman is the man for all seasons, with the know how, and the gift to make all his words count. This one starts with a tongue in cheek Mission Impossible/Bond theme that leads well into the "People of God" rap. Just how many styles he covers should be counted, fusion, accappella, ballads, rock, and even a calypso/reel version of "The Lord's Prayer". In true Carman fashion, there's the obligatory story, where he narrates the meeting of a sinner in court. God is the judge and the devil is prosecuting, all looks lost until the Lamb of God saves the day. Nobody in the UK could do it this way, there's only one Carman, and thank the lord for him. 9/10. (May 1998)
CAROL LEE SAMPSON : Bigger Picture. (www.carolleesampson.co.uk)
Carol was born in Jersey, and wrote her first song at the age of 9. After various musical partnerships, she moved to West Sussex in 1990 and became part of the music ministry at the Kingdom Faith Bible College. Her 1995 Kingsway album (recorded under the name of Carol Owen), ‘You Alone Are God’ gained good reviews, and since that time, she has gone on to minister and lead worship in numerous countries. This latest album sees Carol writing most of the songs herself, and what a nice album it is. ‘Breathe New Life’ is a real feel good song, while ‘Everything’ has a summer feel to it – very relaxing. I liked her dip into modern country with the story of ‘Rosaleen’, and her Amy Grant sound on ’44 Mayfair’. As you would expect from someone with her pedigree, the vocals are faultless, and should appeal to a wide audience. There’s some sensitive saxophone playing on ‘You Make Me Feel’, and great guitar work form Gordon Giltrap on the pretty ‘Everlasting Arms’. There are no lyrics printed on the sleeve, but I found these easy to listen to and understand. Carol weaves God’s love into most songs, and sings about building your relationship with Him on ‘The Rock’. There’s more country on the rocky title track, and a bouncy feel to ‘Swept Away’, where God replaces sadness with joy. The album ends with a beautiful song called ‘Don’t Wait’. If there’s someone that you care for, or need to tell them how much you love them, don’t wait until it’s too late. It’s a sign of an enjoyable album if it makes it from my house CD player and into my car. I’m pleased to say that this one made the trip. 9/10. (June 2012, Album of the Month)
CAROL LEE SAMPSON : Hallelujah is Our Song. (CAS Records : CASCD09) .
Malvern based singer/songwriter Carol Lee Sampson has released her latest song as a charity single in aid of Cancer Research UK. Her best friend is currently battling the disease, and this song was written for her. It’s about their friendship and faith. The title of the song comes from the words uttered by the late wife of the Bishop of Worcester, on hearing the news that she had cancer. The song itself is simply glorious! The lyrics and tune are uplifting and must be a great encouragement to those suffering from cancer. Carol Lee’s vocals are spot on, and the swaying rhythms of both the guitar and keyboards are pure joy. Also appearing on this release are six bonus tracks, taken from her back catalogue. Of those, ‘Back to Life’ has an ambient feel to it, and one on which Carol Lee’s vocals sound remarkably like Olivia Newton John. ‘Everlasting Arms’ is a pleasant song about being carried and held in God’s embrace, while the piano led ‘Don’t Wait’ carries a strong message. “Don’t wait” to say sorry, or tell someone something, before it’s too late. The cost of this CD or download is just £3.99. for that, you’re getting a blend of lovely songs, plus raising money for a very worthy cause. 8/10. (October 2014)
CAROL LEE SAMPSON : The Key.(www.carolleesampson.co.uk)
Carol wrote her first song aged 9. Since then, she’s written and recorded many songs for corporate worship, as well as leading worship at numerous events around the UK. This new release sees her reflecting on life, and relationships, and her aim is to communicate hope, empathy and encouragement to her listeners, as well as having a great desire to see people released and healed through music. Recording with a full band, that includes her husband Gareth, this sound is even better than her 2012 album ‘Bigger Picture’. Opening with the Sharleen Spiteri sounding ‘Addiction’, you know that you are listening to a special album. Dave Draper’s jangly electric guitars on ‘Here For You’ are a dream, while Maurice Hipkiss adds some delightful pedal steel on ‘Cut Loose’. Here, Carol moves into Martina McBride territory on a very delectable song of love. Once in a while, a track will make you really sit up, and on this album, that song is ‘I Try’. I just can’t get it out of my head! The chorus, especially, hit just the right note with me. The song itself is about a forbidden love, and the battle of resisting temptation. ‘Returning’ makes a passing nod to the story of the return of the prodigal son, as the song’s character wrestles with his demons and possibly crossing the point of no return, in his life. Again, Carol and the band turn this into a great song. I had to ask Carol about ‘Room 109’ because I found it so moving. She replied, “I was told about an old romantic film called 'Same time next year', which is the story of a couple meeting up each year,.......it just captured my imagination”. Ending the album is her single ‘Hallelujah is Our Song’, which she released last year in aid of Cancer Research UK. It’s still sounding fresh, and has gone on to raise more than £1400. With songs written from the heart, Carol has come up with a wonderful album.   9/10. (July 2015)
CAROL LEE SAMPSON : Precious Gift.   (www.carolleesampson.co.uk)
When Carol released “The Key” earlier this year, I realised just what a talented singer and musician she was. Indeed, this new 6 track charity CD just confirms my belief that she has one of the best voices on the UK CCM scene today. Recorded in aid of the St Richard’s Hospice, as I write, it’s already raised hundreds of pounds. The title track is a beautiful, original song about the birth of Christ that I instantly took to my heart. That warm vocal sound of Carol’s simply warms me inside. Her guitar and Mary Pitchford’s violin offer the backing to a well-crafted version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – a style that’s repeated on “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I’d never heard of the “Sans Day Carol” before, but I heartedly enjoyed it, complete with harmonica and accordion. Again, Carol’s voice is on top form on a catchy, folk number. The final track is another self-penned, light pop song. It’s a great track that tells people of our Saviour, and just what He can do for them. “I will pray you will hear His call, as it echoes to your soul.”  It’s a lovely collection of songs and my only disappointment was that there weren’t more  included.   9/10. (December 2015)
CAROLYN ARENDS : Feel Free. (Reunion Records : CD 10000).
Now, this is an album that I have been waiting for, as I fell in love with this young lady's debut a couple of years ago. From her humble, folk orientated, pop, Carolyn now has a full band behind her and sounds a lot like Sheryl Crow. Indeed, the opening "Do What You Do" sounds more like Miss Crow than she does herself! The song itself is pretty awful and I prayed that the rest of the album wouldn't sound the same. Thankfully, it doesn't but there is a definite progression in the musical style. "New Year's Day" is the top song on show and tells how our yearly resolutions last a few days, despite all the good intentions. Therefore, Carolyn decides that it should be New Year's Day every day and so start afresh each day. "Do We Dare" sees her fall back on her previous style but there's also a bit of fusion thrown in for good measur . For computer freaks, there's a net -media program, where you can watch a music video, see her interviewed - visiting sites were she grew up, and get a taster of her first album. All in all, not quite what I had hoped for, but it might grow on me. 6/10. (July 1997)
CAROLYN ARENDS : This Much I Understand. ((Reunion : 023410004 2)
For her debut album, Carolyn Arends presented a collection of folk based pop songs that appealed straight to the heart. Her follow up saw a more aggressive approach in the style of Alanis Morrissette, and a lot of her fans (including myself) were disappointed. So, this new release features 12 songs in a mixture of both the aforementioned styles. Songs like "In Between" and the opening "Happy" are just plain poor. Neither the material or Miss Arends' voice really stand up to the test, and the result is not good. On the other hand "Love You Out Loud" is back to her folk roots, as she sings about the loss of a loved one. The vocals are spot on and the music is top class. "In Good Hand" she carries on the trend and it really makes me wonder just what made her produce such a patchy record. There are more highlights than just the these two songs but, really, someone should have a word in her shell like. 5/10. (June 1999)
CAROLYN ARENDS : Under the Gaze. (2B Records : www.carolynarends.com
As a result of a fair bit of down-sizing in the US Christian music industry, some quite well-known and successful names have recently found that their big label record deals have been cancelled, and Carolyn Arends, singer, songwriter, guitarist and devoted wife and mom from the fair city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has been one such. Three very listenable albums for Reunion Records, 'I Can Hear You', 'Feel Free', and 'This Much I Understand', were followed by a 'Greatest Hits' package notable for a live 'in concert' duet with Third Day's Mac Powell of what is in my humble opinion her best song, "Seize The Day" - and then for some unknown reason, the plug was pulled. Undaunted, Carolyn has made three more albums since: "Travelers" from 2001, a very Celtic-tinged collection; 2002's "We've Been Waiting For You", sub-titled "The Parenthood Project", much more reflective, and including a cover of the Goffin King and Wexler pop standard "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman"; and this one, which is (as usual) well crafted, lyrically and musically; excellently produced and engineered, and apart from one co-credit to Connie Harrington, totally self-penned. Songs that grabbed me on first listening included "Getting Ready For Glory", profiling an 80-something lady who's cramming for her finals by memorising hymns and verses of Scripture, so that when she gets to heaven, 'she's got some greeting for meeting her Maker'; and "Any Given Sunday", espousing the virtues of churchgoing ('that's why it really matters that two or three are gathered any given Sunday.') I have to confess that I've been an Arends Aficionado since her first release in 1995 - if she continues for another 10 years with stuff of this quality, I'll not complain. 8/10 Trevor Kirk (July 2005)
CAROLYN ARENDS : Pollyanna's Attic. www.carolynarends.com
Vancouver, Canada resident Carolyn has been part of Christian music since 1995, and her music has been consistently popular for all 'gal-with-a-guitar' CCM fans. After ten years of gigging and composing, however, Carolyn found herself with a back catalogue of unused material, and a few favourite songs by other artists, that had never really fitted, either in concert or on CD. She confesses that she's been dubbed a Pollyanna, because (if you recall the Disney film from way back starring Hayley Mills) Pollyanna had a relentless optimism and hopefulness in all that she did and said, which is Carolyn to a T. So as an attic is the place where you put things that you can't deal with but don't want to lose, 'Pollyanna's Attic' was the perfect title for her self-produced ninth album. Carolyn states in the CD notes that the songs are about "the kind of hope that shows up more in the cracks and fissures in our lives than in our pinnacle moments," and on this CD she tackles issues like loneliness, the empty quest for material wealth, and life's more difficult moments where Christians may even question their own beliefs - definitely not happy-clappy bubble gum Christian music! Nevertheless, her cheerful vocal style means that this is not as depressing a listening experience at it could have been. Highlights for me - "More Is Less", with the message that having all the world has to offer will actually leave you empty in the end; and the opener "Just Pretending" with clever turns of phrase like "Family full of achievers, beat the Jones and be the Cleavers; give the lawn a manicure, no rough edges, that's for sure." Certainly a different listening experience from her other stuff (all of her back catalogue is on her website, with audio, liner notes and song lyrics), and worth investigating. 7/10 Trevor Kirk (September 2006)
CARPE DIEM : .Com _ Culture. (Private CD £6.99 from: Mark Pease, 9 The Stray, Idle, Bradford, Yorkshire, England, BD10 8TL).
Carpe Diem are a 6 piece outfit from Bradford who release their second offering on June 19th. 6 is also the number of tracks contained on this EP, which kicks off with the Jars of Clay orientated "Braindead". Lot's of good indie/rock guitars and a meaty hook to get your teeth into. "Lookin 'Round is a lot lighter in depth and feel, while "Wishing Well" proves to be vocalist, Kevin Pease's highpoint. Indeed, without being overtly strong, the singer does have an endearing voice. Perhaps, the only blot on his copybook is "Let It Flow" but, then again, the whole band seem to struggle with this one. Jock James writes practically all the songs but is helped out by Charlotte Amadeo on "Always", where she also shares vocals. This song is more of a worship number with the simple message to God of "Never Let Me Go". By the time we reach "Start Over" we have, indeed, come full circle into the style of track 1. Swirly keyboards and distorted guitars carry the song through to a sound finale. It sounds as if Carpe Diem are still finding what's their best sound and this EP should help them smooth the rough edges. Overall, they reminded me a lot of Devon's NSC, and should prove popular, especially on the live front. 7/10. (June 2000)
CARRIE & DAVID GRANT : Watching & Waiting. (ICC :ICCD22430)
The long awaited debut gospel album from David and Carrie is finally here and I expected great things. 'It's So Good' opens things up nicely with it's pop/soul feel but that smooth vocal sound that Mr Grant is renowned for is sadly missing. Indeed, it's the lack of that inimitable style that hits you throughout the album. Perhaps he's changed but, on the whole, David provides a poor Ron Kenoly sound to Carrie's sweeter voice. She, actually, tends to be behind most of the good things that come to light, including the title track. Otherwise, we're treat to some old f fashioned black gospel that really slips on by. 'Lord I Worship You' is a ballad that provides brief respite in proceedings but this is quite a disappointing release. 4/10. (January 1998)
CASE CRAYENORD : Running into Love. (Kingsway : KWCD3308)
Dutch born worship leader Case Crayenord won last year’s NFN Award for Praise & Worship Album, with his “Best of….” Release. This new album has some of that collective energy but doesn’t quite have the same punch. The opening ‘Only You Can Save’ reminded me of Pete Furler’s last album. Great guitars, and a song that really motors along. The same can be said of the following ‘Wide Open Spaces’ and ‘We Are On Our Way’. Case duets with Chris McClarney on ‘O What A Mystery’, declaring that Jesus came to save the world. ‘Saviour’s Song’ is pure worship of our Lord, while I really liked the Beatlesque ‘You Make Everything New’. There were a few songs that didn’t quite make the grade for me, ‘Adopted’ and ‘Defender’ being two, but the closing ‘There’s A Beauty in This Place’ is quite simply, beautiful. Here, Case uses just acoustic guitar to accompany himself on what is pure worship. 7/10. (August 2012)
CASE & SHEARS : Time Comes Around. (ICC : ICCD42930)
Here are two guys from South Africa who do a fair impersonation of Simon & Garfunkle, with a millenium feel. What do I mean? Well, the songs have got those lovely harmonies and clean acoustic guitars, but there's an additional edge to the finished product that only the technological age can give. The title track is nice little ditty that cruises around your head for days. "Can You See Jesus In Me" asks if we actually show, in our lives, what we believe. The sweet mellow folk song "Don't Throw It All Away" is a plea for the believer not to give up everything he/she's had, while "Carpenter's Son" tells the story of Jeus' early years. In a world where music plays such a big part in one's life, there's room in your heart for something light. Case & Shears are certainly no Delirious? but the message they deliver is just as important. 8/10. (June 2000)
CASPAR McCLOUD : Faithfulness (Anthology 1998-2016). (SNT Records : B01KTU9WKO)
Caspar is one of a number of Christian artists who started out in the secular music business but after a conversion part way through their career, turned their back on the prospect of fame and riches and decided instead to dedicate their talents to the glory of God. Interestingly enough, another one of those musicians is Phil Keaggy who mentored Caspar in his early days and led him to Christ. Signed to Atlantic records back in the seventies, Caspar was certainly expected to be the next big thing; in the words of MTV a “virtuoso guitarist” with “lightning fast technique” and was indeed touted as the next Jimi Hendrix. However, a career in the Christian music industry is where UK born but US based Caspar ended up. He’s also an acclaimed portrait artist and is now an ordained minister, so he’s a pretty versatile and talented guy. This is a ten song selection but I will pick out three for specific mention. The opener on this anthology “I Need The Lord” leaves you under no illusions as to Caspar’s style. It’s unashamedly 80’s hair metal (and yes Caspar still has the hair to go with it). It’s not backwards in coming forwards either in respect of Caspar’s faith – in many respects he’s very much in the Stryper mould. The title track “Faithfulness” has a bit more grit and a bit less cheese with a saturated guitar riff, driving drums and memorable hook for a chorus. You get some acoustic guitar work too on the closer “Presence of Our Lord” which is a straight up worship song befitting of its time. Yes, today these songs sound dated but they reflect a very important period in Christian music when brave folk defied convention and a stuffy church establishment to embrace the creativity and relevancy of popular music. If you were there, it’ll take you back, if you weren’t it’s a lesson in where it all came from. 7/10 Robin Thompson. (February 2017)
CASTING CROWNS : Lifesong. (Reunion Records/Beach Street Records - 83061-0770-2//BSR10770)
This is the long awaited follow up to Castings Crowns platinum selling, self-titled debut and on the evidence of this new release, they are destined to repeat that success. A deeply spiritual album, it draws you in and involves you emotionally an a very unique way, endorsed by songs that are refreshingly honest and realistic. "Stained Glass Masquerade" for instance speaks of the facades we often wear to hide our true selves whilst "Love them like Jesus" addresses the issue of loss and how to deal with it. In so doing, Casting Crowns refuse to compromise and pull no punches. Their style is very reminiscent of "Third Day" and the like but, rather than being derivative, they have managed to give it their own spin. Mark Hall's soul searching vocals are, at times, infused with such passion that they will have you in tears, and credit must go to all involved for capturing such strength of feeling. It did take me a few listens to really appreciate the magnitude of this album but, given what I have already said, it really was no chore. This gets my vote for album of the year. 10/10 Robin Thompson (January 2006, Album of the Month)
CASTING CROWNS : Lifesong. (Reunion Records/Beach Street Records - 83061-0818-2)
This album has proved to be my favourite album of the last year surpassing anything released by both Christian and Secular artists (see my review in December's NFN). Now it has been released on dual disc format, i.e. CD on one side and DVD on the other. The CD side contains the original album, its brilliance left untouched and unaltered. On the DVD side you get the album in two formats, 5.1 surround or PCM stereo plus a couple of live concert tracks and a ministry promo. This version is worth it for the live concert tracks alone as these demonstrate very effectively the ministry of Casting Crowns in full flow. They are quite superb and impacted me as much as when I first heard their album. I'm now left yearning the release of a full length live DVD or, even better, getting the chance to see them live at some point, for it is quite clear that this is when the band are in their element. Their live sound is so close to the studio sound as to be almost indistinguishable, which is a credit to those involved in the studio recordings. As to whether the DVD audio versions of the album are better than the original CD, well, I think that is a matter for personal taste. Whatever, considering you can get this for same price as the CD, you may as well get this one. If you've already got the CD, buy this anyway! 10/10 Robin Thompson. (October 2006, Album of the Month)
CASTING CROWNS : Lifesong Live (Integrity/Provident 602341010627)
Before getting my sticky mitts on this CD, I had heard many rave reviews of Casting Crowns material without actually having sampled any. Now I have heard it & watched the accompanying DVD, there's little else I can do but join them in their enthusiastic choruses! The title track "Lifesong" has more than a tinge of U2 with the guitar riffs & opening vocal composition (with the exception of Megan Garrett sounding like Mel C at several points!!); this builds up rapidly into a terrifically passionate praise & worship number that's all the better for being recorded live. The following "Praise You in This Storm" keeps the energy going before "Love Them like Jesus" & "Does Anybody Hear Her?" bring a touch of calm. Casting Crowns display a major strength with stories & scenarios in their songs that so many of us could relate to with lyrics that instantly provoke thought without getting heavy duty. Musically, they have well composed songs and the musicians don't over-complicate things or "showcase" theselves which is so effective without reducing the impact. The DVD that comes with it has 6 of the 7 of the live tracks on it, interspersed with some strong talks & testimony. There's also behind the scenes snippets, background on the band & their ministry focus - this has been well thought out as opposed to some of the last-minute add-ons that often come in such packages. Well worth the investment - pity there were only 7 tracks...I want more! 10/10 Simon Redfern (March 2007)
CASTING CROWNS : Casting Crowns Gift Edition. (Beach Street/Reunion : BSR10120)
Anyone who knows me will know I hate re-releases. A re-release can occasionally improve upon an album (as in the case of the Family Force 5 record recently) but in most cases they are a shameless, shameful stunt, pulled by money-grabbing record companies with little or no regard for the intelligence or finances of fans who follow bands they love. For the life of me I cannot understand why this "Gift Edition" has been released. Granted, "Casting Crowns" is a good album, perhaps even a great one, but then anyone with a passing interest in Christian Music and its popular artists already knew that, and this isn't the first time the record has been re-released. In terms of the actual content, the record itself comes with an informative DVD which provides a lot of interesting tidbits, videos and concert footage. Still though, it's not enough to alleviate the bitter taste in my mouth. The music is decent, the lyrics are brave, the marketing campaign is neither of those. 2/10 Haydon Spenceley (August 2008)
CASTING CROWNS : The Altar and the Door. (Beachstreet Records/Reunion)
Well, by the time I'd received my copy of this album 'The Altar and the Door' had already blasted it's way into the Billboard Top10. NFN reviewers, on the whole, have also given their thumbs up to the sound of Casting Crowns previous releases. However, it's my turn now, and I've really got to say that I can't see what all the fuss is about. It's not that the tracks are hideously bad, but they're nothing out of the ordinary either. Rock music is the order of the day and 'What the World Needs' lays it straight on the line, the answer being, a Saviour. 'East to West' sees a more melodic tone come to the fore, while the title track is nice but nothing to get ecstatic about. Singer Mark Hall has a decent enough voice but he's not really tested by the range of the songs. The songs themselves are all based on real life situations but the delivery lacks punch. I guess if I had to pick one track out then, 'All Because of Jesus' would be the one. It drives quite well and I did find myself drumming my fingers along to it. All power to the phenomenon that is, Casting Crowns, I just can't see it myself. 6/10. (December 2007)
CASTING CROWNS : The Altar & the Door - Live. (Reunion : 602341013123
Led by youth pastor Mark Hall and discovered by Steven Curtis Chapman, soft rock band Casting Crowns hail from Florida. Their third album release 'The Altar and the Door' arrived in 2007 and went gold within 10 weeks. Here we have a live cd with 'bonus' dvd based upon that album - although in this case there are only eight songs featured, rather than the twelve from the studio release. The live tour from which the songs are taken was evidently attended by almost 500,000 people. I really enjoyed this release, and rate the dvd in particular to be one of the best live ccm recordings to come my way. No single element makes it special - it's simply that the whole thing is done so well. Lead and backing vocals are excellent, the songwriting strong, the tunes melodic and easily remembered, the music well played and the sound production professional. The dvd adds excellent camera work and picture quality and the usual 'extras'. For me, the best track is probably 'Every Man' - with a strong message about Jesus being the only hope for the people of the world. Other notables include 'The Word is alive' and 'Somewhere in the middle' - but it is quite difficult picking particular tracks out, as it is all so well done. The dvd includes a video for a further song 'Slow Fade', and four short teaching videos by Mark which, again, are excellent - Mark has a gift for opening out a topic and nailing it. My one regret is that only eight performance songs are featured - so 9/10. Dave Deeks. (December 2008, Album of the Month)
CASTING CROWNS : Until the Whole World Hears. (Beachstreet/Reunion : 602341013529)
Casting Crowns have garnered some fantastic awards over the last few years, and have legions of fans all over the world. After what seemed to be never ending re-releases of their last project, 'Until the Whole World Hears' presents 11 brand new songs. On the whole, it's soft rock, with medium paced tempo, and I found that one song melted into the next. The title track is quite enjoyable, the lyrics telling the world to get ready for Jesus' return. The theme of reaching out to God is spelt out in 'If We Ever Needed You', while 'Always Enough' rejoices in knowing our Saviour. And, while I did enjoy these tracks, I just felt that there was something missing, to really catch the listener's ears. I couldn't put my finger on what it was until 'Holy One' burst into life. It's full of great hooks and has real substance about it, musically. Other songs, like 'Jesus, Hold Me Now' and 'Blessed Redeemer' are okay, but I'm not sure what the band were thinking with the retro 60's sounding, bonus track 'Shadow of Your Wings'. No doubt, the fans will be satisfied. 7/10 (April 2010)
CASTING CROWNS : The Acoustic Sessions Volume 1.   (Reunion Records : 02341 0178 2)
This is a fairly enjoyable CD on the whole. As the title suggests it’s a CD containing acoustic recordings of some of their classic tracks, including “Who am I” and “Praise You in this storm”. I liked most of the stuff on here, but of the songs that I’m familiar with, I prefer the originals. I liked the unfamiliar tracks more, I suppose because there was nothing to compare them with. There are two new songs on here too, presumably necessary to entice the fans to buy an album of material that they already own. (Or perhaps I’m being cynical). It was interesting to see how the lighter arrangements sounded, compared to the originals, though I must admit to owning only four of their songs on compilations.  If you don’t own any of their albums, then this is probably a good one to try and get an idea of the kind of material that they play, although on the whole you won’t be hearing the normal sound of this band. On the whole then, not a bad effort.   7/10   Andy Sayner. (April 2013)
CASTING CROWNS : A Live Worship Experience. (Beach Street : 02341020725)
This album was recorded live during summer 2015 at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church, which is Casting Crowns' home church and where frontman, Mark Hall, has remained a full-time youth pastor for more than 20 years. Although I knew very few of these songs, by the end of the album, they meant so much. The live recording really captures the essence of being there, and the music is excellent. The striking “At Calvary” starts things off, and the worshippers love it. “Good Good Father” comes next, closely followed by “Great Are You Lord”, more of a ballad in style. Mark Hall’s vocals are so engaging, and it was “You Are the Only One” that really began to lift my own praise to God. “Here’s My Heart” is a beautiful track, were Mark duets with Melodee DeVeevo. She, then, takes over lead vocals for the driving song that is “No Not One.” I’ve got to admit to been taken aback by the power of some of the songs. “Here’s My Heart” and “Just Be Held” both stood out as tremendous songs of worship. Lyrically, you need to read the inlay for full details but “Let Our hearts be led by mercy, and reach with open hearts,” are just a few of the great words from “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”. I’ve got to say that this recording just blew me away. It’s got to go down as one of the best live worship albums to date. 10/10. (September 2016, Album of the Month)
CASTING CROWNS : The Very Next Thing. (Reunion : B01HKSZJ46)
For more than a decade, Casting Crowns have been making hit record after hit record. Their musical style has slowly evolved over the years, and this new release crosses a few musical genres. The first song is called “Hallelujah.” It’s a big production number that includes thumping drum beats and loud phrases of praise. The title track asks God to show the listener what He would like them to do next in their walk with Him. I can’t say that I was really impressed with the song, but that opinion changed with “One Step Away.” This is the sound that Casting Crowns fans know and love. Pop meets rock, and a smattering of big ballad sound results in a great song. From there, I thought that the album quality seemed to dip a little. As usual, there was nothing wrong with the message of each song, but the portrayal didn’t exactly excite me. However, that all changed with “When the Man of God Passes By.” Think country hoedown, and you’ve got a good idea of how this song sounds. For me, it’s the pick of the album, although “Song That the Angels Can’t Sing” runs it a close second. Ending things is an acoustic praise number called “Loving My Jesus,” which reminds us all of our relationship with Him. On the whole, it’s a good album, and fans will soon be clamouring for more. 8/10. (December 2016, Album of the Month)
CATH FROUD : You've Got A Friend. (www.zephaniah.org.uk)
Regular readers of NFN will, no doubt, be aware of the Zephaniah Trust based in Shipley, UK, and the musical ministry of John Froud. Well, after supporting her Dad in a number of ways on stage over the years, it's the turn of Cath to produce her own album. It's primarily an acoustic recording, with instrumental backing kept to a minimum. Cath jumps straight into the recording with an accapella version of "In the Ghetto", which is a very brave move in my opinion. The fact that she pulls it off, proves the confidence she has in her singing is not false. A lot of the song writing credits go to her Dad, but Cath sings them as if they're her own. "Late and Lonely" features the piano skills of David Wilkinson, and the backing gently caresses, Cath's vocals. "God's Sorrow" tells how God's love is unfailing and no matter what you may do, HE never turns His back on you. "Reason to Believe" is a very pretty little song, while the duet on "I Hear You Calling" didn't work for me at all. If there's one fault I would pick out on the album, it's that almost all the songs are of similar pace. The exception to this is "Burdens" which snaps along quite nicely. Ending, Cath gives a good rendition of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend", and almost goes into southern gospel territory with "His Eye is On the Sparrow". Style-wise, for us older folk, she reminded me a bit of Janis Ian. Her intimate style makes this album ideal for late night listening, and contemplating the lyrics. 7/10 (February 2007)
CATHEDRAL PRAISE : Sing For Joy 3. (ICC : ICCD67730)
The third release in this popular series has been,once again, recorded by the Scottish Festival Singers at St Cuthbert's Church in Ediburgh. Now, when it comes to describing the different vocal parts of a choir, I'm afraid I'm rather lost. Of course, I know what the bass or tenor sounds like but, after that……? However, my limited knowledge doesn't stop me enjoying and appreciating what a fine choir this is, whether we're talking solo parts or full choir participation. The listing includes "Crown Him With Many Crowns", "Love Devine All Loves Excelling", "Jerusalem" and "Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus". Strangely enough, "Onward Christian Soldiers" still manages to bring back childhood memories of the time when school assemblies consisted of at least three hymns every morning, and I listened in awe at the wondrous stories being told. 14 songs in total and quite enjoyable in all. 8/10. (June 2003)
CATHEDRAL PRAISE : Sing For Joy 4. (ICC : ICC0858D)
This fourth album in the series of Cathedral Praise features the Chester Cathedral Choir conducted by David Poulter. The format of the series remains the same, with classic hymns being sung alongside newly arranged versions of popular worship songs. Throughout, the vocal talents are of the highest quality and I especially liked the male solo on "Our God Reigns". There again, there's nothing much you can complain about here. The songs are tried and trusted and will have appeal to a certain type of listener. For instance, despite the wide array of styles I get to listen too, I found that I enjoyed this just as much as the secular rock album that I'd previously been listening too. Favourites like "And Can It Be", "Pierced" and "On the Cross" are presented alongside others like "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful", and the quality never dips. If this is your sort of thing, you're in for a treat. 7/10. (July 2005)
CATHERINE FRANCIS : Inside Story. (NuLife : NU CD 198)
When I interviewed this young lady in 1995, I thought that I had stumbled upon a special ministry in the making. When I saw her in concert last year, my thoughts were confirmed. Now, with this release, Catherine Francis shows that she has been truely blessed with the gift of 'Hope for the Hurting'. Writing from her own experiences, as well as others, she draws the listener into feeling that the music has been written especially for them. Take the first line of 'This Woman Knows'..."She only cries when she's alone." Catherine brings out the hidden hurts of countless years and lays them gently in God's hands. Tracks 8 & 9 run into each other with 'Kiss the Shore' depicting sorrow and 'The Darkest Years' realising that God was in that sorrow but unseen. Piano based songs, with carefully produced programmed backing brings out Catherine's vocals to pure brilliance. Yes, at times she is like an early Kate Bush, but there's more to her than just a copy. I've never heard another CCM artist like her. Somebody should sign her up, quickly. 10/10. (February 1997, Album of the Month)
CATHY BURTON : Burn Out. (Fierce : Fiercd02)
There's been a lot of media hype in the run up to this release, so I was keen to hear just what all the fuss was about. The press release says that the lyrics are like "glancing over a magazine's problem page - but far more enjoyable", and that is certainly the case. The commercial sounding "Take Me Out" is a plea to God to take one out of the material world and the things that can leave you spiritually blind. It's pop, in a Natalie Imbruglia sort of way and very catchy, too. There's also a taste of Sixpence's Leigh Nash at times in songs like the melancholy "The Fuss" as well as the title track - which would make an excellent single. Cathy Burton writes about problems but please don't expect the answers from her. As she says "I'll write the song and God will do the rest". Interesting album and a change form the norm. 7/10. (July 2002)
CATHY BURTON : Burn Out. (Fierce : Fiercd02)
There's been a lot of media hype in the run up to this release, so I was keen to hear just what all the fuss was about. The press release says that the lyrics are like "glancing over a magazine's problem page - but far more enjoyable", and that is certainly the case. The commercial sounding "Take Me Out" is a plea to God to take one out of the material world and the things that can leave you spiritually blind. It's pop, in a Natalie Imbruglia sort of way and very catchy, too. There's also a taste of Sixpence's Leigh Nash at times in songs like the melancholy "The Fuss" as well as the title track - which would make an excellent single. Cathy Burton writes about problems but please don't expect the answers from her. As she says "I'll write the song and God will do the rest". Interesting album and a change form the norm. 7/10. (August 2002)
CATHY BURTON : Speed Your Love. (Fierce : Fiercd05)
Two years after her debut "Burn Out" album, this new release sees Cathy Burton progressing into the realms of rock. What? Yes, that's right rock. "La La Love" begins with a little more aggression than her previous album, and the song soon gets it's hooks into you. "Love Without A Trace" made me feel happy, but the following title track had my spirits sinking. Then, Cathy shakes you by the throat with the song "Home", an attacking sound that is a cross between Kate Bush and Evanescence! The overall theme of the track listing seems to be about life and it's up's, as well as it's downs. The lighter "Down the Road" and "Falling" are lovely songs, while "Right Now" also has the best "outro" of the year so far. It's deifintely a more polished affair than her debut, and this album sees Cathy rise many notches in the UK CCM chart, and more than a match for her transatlantic contemporaries. 9/10. (August 2004, Album of the Month)
CATHY BURTON : Silvertown. (Fierce : FIERCD26)
It's been 2 years since Cathy's "Speed Your Love" gained a 9/10 rating within these hallowed pages, and I was quite keen to hear this latest release. Cathy says that this is her "best album so far" and the press release says that it is a "rawer, more open and acoustic" offering. It starts off well enough with a light pop song called "Everyone's Fool", but that's about as good as it gets. From then on, the listener is treated to some very weak songs that, lyrically and musically, just don't match up to her previous release. I'm not sure where she's been over the last two years, but I couldn't help feeling that there was a certain American influence in some of her songs. "Love's Invited" sounded very much like Susan Ashton, only not as polished, and the wistful "Wintertime Love" followed suit. I really struggled to find a lot to say about this set of songs. Vocally, I know that she can do much more, while lyrically, she seems to have lost the plot at the moment. Very disappointing. 4/10. (November 2006)
CATHY BURTON : Source of Every Hour. (Survivor : KMCD2956)
This is Cathy's first studio album for 4 years, the pre-release blurb stating that over this time the album has been "incubating steadily" leading to a "fresh birth of new songs and revelation". I'm not so sure that it is quite the change those statements may suggest but it is a strong album nonetheless. I'm a particular fan of the heads-down rock'n'roll style "Saved" and the slightly slower but driving rhythm of "The Way" and these songs are punctuated with the more dreamy numbers such as "Cling to the Cross" and "Purify". There is a welcome variety but the album still has a cohesion that prevents it from sounding disjointed. As I said, I don't really detect any thing really new here in terms of concept or execution - it's less folky and more upbeat than "Silvertown" but still firmly in Cathy's style. Existing fans will be more than satisfied I feel. 7/10 Robin Thompson (February 2010)
CATHY BURTON : Live at Spring Harvest.   (Elevation : ELE2088D)
While Spring Harvest is known for exuberant and heartfelt worship – Cathy Burton is known for her musicality and Spirit sensitivity. These recordings have been captured live, to encourage and evoke a faith-filled response of worship. Beginning with ‘At Your Name’ and ‘This is Amazing Grace’, the album stutters its way, rather blandly, into being. The song that every worship event seems to include at the moment, ‘Oceans’, duly arrives, and those gathered aid Cathy in making it into a powerful sound. ‘Cornerstone’ is well sung, and the ethereal ‘Safety in His Arms’ is quite pleasing too. Over the years I’ve, personally, found Cathy Burton’s vocals to be a little inconsistent in their delivery. It may have been the production of this album, but her voice sounds rather lost on ‘God I Look To You’. However, she simply caresses every word of the very moving ‘Adore Him’. It’s a relatively simple song, but Cathy produces her best here. Closing the recording is a pretty song called ‘Beautiful Things’, and a rather touching version of ‘When I Survey’. Perhaps I’m not sensitive enough to appreciate this collection. For me, it’s a mediocre release and, therefore, worth 5/10. (July 2015)
CE CE WINANS : Throne Room. (Epic Records 000768268520)
I didn't really like this CD at all to be honest, it's just incredibly boring from start to finish. It's full of sugary worship songs with choirs and strings, and the obligatory key changes of course, all done in a typical American soul/Gospel music way. The production is very polished and professional but, unfortunately, there is just no variation in tempo or style, despite the songs being divided up into two sets. Songs of Worship and Reflection, and Songs of Praise and Adoration, make up those sets. Indeed I have to say that I found the rendition of "How great thou art", complete with birds singing in the background to be a real fingers down throat moment. There's a bonus DVD with three more songs, some tour footage, and a part about the making of the throne room CD. I had a quick look, but being an American disk it didn't work properly on the DVD player or the PC so I guess that it's not aimed at the UK market really, and to be honest I can't see it appealing to many people here. 4/10 Andy Sayner (December 2003)
CECE WINANS : Purified. (Integrity Gospel)
The dynasty that is the Winans Family of Detroit, Michigan, shows no signs of running out of creative steam. Although beset by sadness and controversy of late (the passing of Ronald, and the rather dubious pop music that has been produced by some of the younger members of the clan), the underlying quality and talent that has been evident since the four Winans boys arrived on the scene in 1981 is still alive and well. BeBe's recent offering 'Dream' was a drop of soulful funky stuff, and his little sister, not to be outdone, has come up with this. The first single 'All That I Need' is getting much airplay on both UCB Europe and UCB Inspirational, and rightly, as it's a good radio-friendly song, but there's some easy listening gospel ('I Promise', a wedding song, and 'Colorful World'), and more radical stuff for those who like their music with a few more teeth, not least the Ken Lewis mix of 'Pray', although the intro is a little on the cheesy side, with nephew Mario introducing his Auntie CeCe in true gospel church chairman style. That minor aberration aside, this is well worth getting hold of. 8/10 Trevor Kirk (November 2005)
CeCe Winans: Gold (Kingsway EMID2718)
CeCe is a highly successful US based Soul/Gospel artist with 8 albums to her name & 6 Grammy awards & has worked with some big name producers in the music business…quite an impressive track record by anyone's standards! The GOLD album is a 2 CD greatest hits type compilation of her pre-1998 material. On the cover, CeCe bears more than a passing resemblance to Whitney Houston & that's not where the similarities end. Her vocals are excellent & polished with her style being barely distinguishable from that of Whitney. However, I found the majority of musical arrangements un-inspiring with little to set it apart from the great mass of similar material of this genre that's out on the market. CD one has a couple re-worked versions of well-known hymns with a "Big Band" version of Blessed Assurance which does work surprisingly well, which is more than can be said for the awfully slow "All to Jesus I Surrender". Others such as "Great is Thy Faithfulness" were highly orchestrated & would have sounded more at home as part of a Disney film score! Some of her more recent material is better, but this isn't one I'd rush out to buy. 4/10 Simon Redfern (September 2006)
CECE WINANS : Songs of Emotional Healing. (EMI : 5099963110821)
Are you hurting, feeling alone, contemplating on giving up or know someone who is? Then, Ce Ce Wnnans says that she has "created this CD full of songs of encouragement, comfort, healing and love to lift those who are feeling down for whatever reason". Well, I've never been a big fan of this lady, but this 8 track CD made me sit up and take note of just how well she can sing. As you would imagine, after those sleeve notes, the songs are all very gentle and the sound does begin to soothe you. The opening 'It's Gonna Get Better' is very smooth and guarantees that no matter what you're going through, it's gonna get better! If you're one of the many who find it hard to be loved, or feels that no-one loves you, then 'What About You' is the song for you. 'You Are Loved' reminds the listener that Jesus loves you no matter what, and that He is your friend too. Ce CE's vocals are just perfect for these type of songs, and it's just a pity that this release only ran to 8 songs. For me, I'm sure that these songs will bring emotional healing. 9/10 (December 2010)
CE CE WINANS : For Always…The Best of… ((EMI : 5099969472527)
Ce Ce Winans is a premier Gospel Artist with 8 Grammy Awards, 21 Dove Awards, multiple Stellar Awards and numerous other awards and recognitions. After several certified platinum and gold selling projects comes a collection of her most popular songs. I’ve got to admit, that I’ve not always been a big fan of Ce Ce’s music, but later releases have made me think again. This collection ranges from the sweet opening ‘More’, to the funky ‘Pray’, as well as some downright, old fashioned gospel, in the guise of ‘Hallelujah Praise’. Her voice is warm and inviting and the listener is lured into her songs with numbers like ‘More Than I Wanted’ and the big production ballad, ‘Alabaster Box’. Of course, there’s scriptural messages within the songs, and she declares war against “the enemy” on ‘Waging War’. It’s another strong song, and there’s some excellent backing too. If you fancy dipping your toe into the back catalogue of Ce Ce, then why not start with this collection? It’s well worth it. 9/10 (April 2011)
CEILI RAIN : No You - No Me. (Cross Driven Records)
Ceili, a Gaelic word meaning "a party with live music and dancing, "kind of like an Irish square dance. There's also a Latin word, "Coeli," that means Heaven. Rain symbolizes that all of this good stuff comes down to us from the Heavens above. With acknowledgement to the band's website, that is what their name means. The album itself is a breath of fresh air to a pair of ears, bombarded with numerous Christmas carols. The sound features loud driven guitar licks mixed with traditional Celtic instruments. Bob Halligigan writes the songs, as well as singing and playing guitar, and his lyrics are little different to the norm. "Everybody Clap For Everybody" gives joyous praise to God and tells everyone to join in and share that love. Similarly, "Ping Pong" declares that there's so much love around, we should make the most of it and pass it around. It's the first time I've come across Ceili Rain, but I hope it's not the last. 9/10. (December 2002, Album of the Month)
The Celebration Choir with the Salvation Army Citadel Band (Sheffield) : 'The Hymn Makers - "Ira D Sankey Just As I Am & Wonderful Words Of Life". (Kingsway : KMCD2985)
Being brought up in an Evangelical Christian home in the '50s, the hymn book 'Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos' was a familiar sight in my early years and evidently continues in print. It features a wide range of hymnwriters and was compiled by the renowned American vocalist and songwriter Ira D Sankey (1840-1908). Hymns from it are the basis for this 2CD set. Sankey was a leading singer of his time who teamed up with fellow American and evangelist D L Moody and travelled extensively - including a massive crusade in the UK from 1873-75 (long before Billy Graham!) with attendances of up to 20,000 a night across the country, and a total of at least 1.5 million in London alone. These are excellent recordings - clear diction, careful mike set-up and mixing and no obvious compression combine to ensure that the words are delivered with crystal clarity. The orchestration is sympathetically done and nicely complements and underpins the choir. There are so many classic and enjoyable hymns here that it seems almost churlish to pick out favourites, but 'Trust and Obey', 'What a Friend we have in Jesus' and 'I need Thee every hour' give a flavour of what is included. A full 48 page booklet is squeezed into the CD case (a bit tightly as it happens!), containing lyrics and detailed background notes. Downsides? A touch more upper bass would have given the male vocals more weight and warmth, there are some clicks and pops and the occasional creaking chair, and I found the timing of the phrase 'Hallelujah what a Saviour' (in 'Man of Sorrows') to be a bit strange. Overall however, if you like your hymns 'traditional', this is an excellent release. 9/10. Dave Deeks (November 2009)
Celebration of Joy: Live Worship from Focusfest 2002 (Kingsway Music KMCD2426)
Focusfest is a major annual event attended by over 3,500 women, and held at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. This musical celebration of their 10th anniversary is, unfortunately, another live worship album that promises something different but only delivers in fits and starts. A strong Celtic/Irish influence is apparent throughout the opening song (possibly the best version of "Come, now is the time" that I have heard) and I had high hopes for the rest of the collection, but that initial excitement quickly disappeared once that song was over. The rest of the first half of the album kind of plods along the same, well-worn path trodden by too many previous contemporary worship albums. However, just when it seems that the first track might be the only high spot, things begin to pick up again. A stirring violin and whistle introduction to "Praise Him you heavens" lifts the album out of the doldrums and, a couple of tracks later, a powerful mandolin and violin led version of "In Christ alone" takes it to new heights. I have never really taken to either of those songs, but the versions on this album have definitely helped me see them in a new light. Sadly the last couple of tracks just don't do the same. As with so many live worship albums the highlights are definitely worthwhile, but the rest is just filler. 6/10 David Cooper (February 2003)
CELTIC : Streams of Praise. (Alliance : 1902732)
15 songs and hymns on show here, all given the Celtic treatment by instrumentalists such as Troy Donockley, Martin Neil and Rachel Bartells. Mind you, as soon as the first notes of "Be Thou My Vision sounded, I thought I'd got hold of an Iona recording by mistake! Soothing pipes and whistles, and I was transported to some peaceful place, far away. Wendy Ritchie provides some nice vocals on songs like "O Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" and "Not By Might", while Joanne Hogg is responsible for the pretty melody on "We Have Sung Our Songs of Victory". Instrumentally, "Here is Love" and "I Will Offer Up My Life" are performed well on, what is, a very pleasant listen. 8/10. (January 2003)
CELTIC HEARTBEAT Vol.2. (Alliance : 1902092)
I've got to admit that the first time I listened to this album, I fell asleep half way through. I think that was because I'd just finished a large meal, following quite a hectic day at work. The peaceful sounds of this Celtic collection was just what I needed to soothe away the stress and accompanying headache. My second listen confirmed that this was, indeed, an album for meditation, rather than sleep. With contemporary worship songs penned by writers such as Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend and Rich Mullins. Matt Redman's "I Will Offer Up My Life" remains a personal favourite and this instrumental version compliments the songs sentiments, completely. "Peace To you", "See Your Saviour Comes", and "Surely Our God" are just 3 more of the tracks included on an album that just gets a little monotonous after 7 or 8 similar sounding numbers. Nevertheless, I think this is a valuable tool in personal worship. 7/10. (October 2000)
CHAOS CURB : Everywhere.   (Risen Records : RR140202CD02)
Chaos Curb was founded in 2011 by a small group of Christians in Bournemouth. One of their intentions is to empower and inspire a generation grow in confidence to express their faith. A ‘ground-breaking’ album of outward looking, different sounding songs was released in 2012, and this new 8 track album has already received critical acclaim. Songwriter, Dave Griffiths tells me that “To open the second album, I wanted a piece of music that showed we were more intentionally going further with the electronic sounds.” ‘Immersion’ is the piece of music in question, which is supposed to “immerse the listener” into an immersive album. I have to admit, it didn’t immerse me. In fact, listening to it, I found myself imagining endless motorway car journeys. That thought, and the accompanying electronic synths sent me back to the sounds of Kraftwerk, and ‘Autobahn’. So different, is the effervescent pop song, ‘Maranatha’, which has the tag line about God making all things new. The title track is quite ambient in style and sound, until it breaks into electropop. It’s a little quirky, but works well.  ‘Atmosphere’ comes over as Duran Duran meets Depeche Mode. There are some of the former’s song qualities to enjoy, while the latter’s more experimental sounds appear in the background. Vocal wise, Griffiths performs well throughout, especially on ‘Connection’. Now, this is the track I did find immersive. Simple lyrics, soothing sounds, and ideal for personal worship. I remember writing my first Christian song on the subject of being “lost and found”, many years ago. That’s the subject of ‘Watch Me Burn’, and it’s a very impressive number. If this review is longer than my usual ones, it’s because there’s so many different things happening, musically and lyrically, on the album. It’s very diverse to your “run of the mill” contemporary worship, and that is its strength.   8/10. (June 2015)
CHARITY VON : Charity Von. (Slanted Records)
Well, right out of the school of rock comes this new lady of attitude called Charity Von. With gritty vocals and some crashing guitar sounds, she's on a mission to rock for God. To be honest, I've heard nothing like this for a few years. Indeed, not since the Alanis Morrisette syndrome kicked in a few years back, have I heard a female rocker with such a gutsy performance. Saying that, the material isn't all that hot, but she doestry and make the best of what she has to work with. Not sure about the writing credits as I've only got a promotional copy of the album, but she desperately needs some stronger stuff. "Weight of the Word" opens things up and it's probably one of the stronger numbers on offer. "I'll BE" is quite good but from then, there's a bit of a nose dive in song quality. Terrific voice, shame about the songs. 3/10. (January 2005)
CHARITY VON : Charity Von. (Authentic : 4210692)
Yet another new artist appears out of the machine known as US CCM and attempts to make her mark, here in the UK. Charity Von has the vocal qualities of, say, Anastasia, with a hard edged pop/rock sound that grated on me for the first four songs. Indeed, none of the opening numbers stirred me at all and I was left hoping that the rest of the album would be an improvement. And, for once, I was pleasantly surprised that, mid-album, things DID get better. The slower "In Your Presence" showing a more mellow vocal and working really very well. "Shine" is a very commercial radio sound, complete with raw guitars and pounding beat - a hit if ever I heard one. And, just to show what she can do, a great ballad in the shape of "You Make It Fine" helps Charity Von's debut release give us hope that there's more to come from this young lady. 6/10. (October 2005)
CHARLES BILLINGSLEY : Between the Now and Then. (Pamplin : PMCD 9911).
Former NewSong man, Charles Billingsley strikes out with this wonderful solo album that is bound to be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His powerful vocals have been likened to those of Michael Bolton, and in the opening "Perfect Peace" you see just why. It's not all just big production ballads though, as Charles seems just as comfortable with the pop sounds of "Journey On" and "All I Need To Know". Indeed, both of these songs had a smattering of Michael W. Smith's trademark within - very catchy. With writing credits on 5 of the 10 tracks, Charles shows that he's not just a good singer. The track of the album just has to be "Within the Veil". It begins with the laid back, velvet tones of Charles' vocals, before exploding into an audio delight of strings, orchestrations, searing guitar, and astounding delivery. Perfect album? Not quite. "Golden Streets" is a slower, more delicate track that just doesn't make the grade but then, nobody's perfect An excellent album. 9/10. (July 1999, Album of the Month)
CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH : Movin' On. (Telstar : TPECD5513)
It was a complete surprise to me when I saw Charlie in concert for the first time last year, to learn of his faith. His blend of easy listening and country music, mixed with his Mersey wit and repartee made such an impact on me. A change of record label hasn't done anything to his winning formula and this new release is filled with typical Landsborough tracks. I could wax lyrical about each song, such is the quality, but "Special" is rather, special. As God knows each hair on our head, each one of us are unique and - no matter who you are - you are special to the Lord. "Leave Me" and "Who Can Blame Him" take Charlie back to his country roots, as does the bouncy "Passin' Through". There's the gentle waltz of "I Wish it Was Me", and the blues shuffle of "Sunshine", then there's the slightly rockier "Long And Heavy Chain". This is another foot tapper that tells of one's craving for material things, drinking, and sex, and how each sin adds another heavy link to the chain we carry round. The joy, pleasure, and love I saw on the audiences faces last year said everything. Charlie Landsborough is a man blessed with a wonderful gift and long may he continue to bring it to those in need. 10/10. (August 2002, Album of the Month)
CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH : Smile. (Telstar : TPECD5516)
Just a year after his previous release, the UK's favourite country artist appears with a new album of 18 easy listening songs. Most are slef penned by the man himself, but of those not, "When You Were Sweet 16" and "Raining in my Heart" stand proud. The album begins with a gentle little number called "Sentimentally Yours", with Charlie's gentle vocals carefully caressing each word. "What Makes Me Happy" is a nice little song that ticks along while the following "After All These Years" is a lovely crafted love song. I'm not sure if Charlie's rushed this release a bit, as the high quality he's set himself over previous releases seems to stall a little mid-way through. But, he picks himself up once again with the charming "Like you Once loved Me", and he's on his way once more. Not his best, but a good album nevertheless. 8/10. (October 2003)
CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH : The Storyteller. (Rosette Records : ROSCD2073)
Anyone who has ever seen Charlie Landsborough in concert, will know that he's always keen to share the stories behind his songs. This collection of songs has the added bonus of Charlie personally introducing each song and it's a lovely idea. When I saw him for the first time, warmth and love just oozed out from the stage and I was hooked by his music and persona. Not one to shout from the rooftops, Charlie just writes from the heart and produces songs that you immediately feel at home with. 'My Heart Would Know' is a touching little love song, and the theme is revisited later with 'How Do You Do Those Things'. One of the new songs featured is 'I'm Growing Old', where Charlie sings about old fashioned moral values, and gives the listener food for thought. If you're ever doubting just how much God loves you, then sit back and listen to 'Special'. Each one of us IS special to God. As I listened to this album, I couldn't help but feel a satisfied and warm glow inside. Songs like the foot tappin' 'Passing Through' and the slow waltz of 'Love You Every Second' are like old friends, and you love each one. And, if you're new to Charlie Landsborough, what better way to begin your collection than with an album that features his signature tune, 'What Colour is the Wind'. Thank you Charlie. 10/10 (October 2007, Album of the Month)
CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH : Destination.   (EDSEL : EDSD2132)
Liverpool’s, loveable country star, Charlie Landsborough returns to the scene with fresh selection of songs, mostly penned by the man himself. I became a fan of his music many years ago at a live concert, and was instantly touched by his warmth and faith. His greatest hits album has become a firm favourite of mine and, while this new release features all new songs, I’m sure that they will hit just the right note with his legions of fans all over the world. There’s a foot tappin’ start to proceedings with ‘Just Getting By’, featuring some nice slide guitar. The wistful ‘That’s What Love Can Do’ made me smile, as Charlie gently caresses each word, with such meaning. He sings about Jesus paying the price on the cross for all of us on ‘Everything Has a Price’, and then sensitively laments the death of someone close on ‘Goodbye My Friend’. Listening to the songs, I just enjoyed the relaxing feeling that Charlie manages to convey, while still giving you food for thought. ‘Let It Rain’ has a real old fashioned feel to it, complete with some fine clarinet playing, while my favourite number has to be ‘Angel of Mercy’. It’s an album that’s growing on me each time I play it, and a welcome addition to my collection.   9/10 (May 2012)
CHARLIE PEACOCK : Kingdom Come. (re:think : 7243 8517072 0)
Inspired by the song "Is the Brightness Still in Me", this release will, no doubt, appease those Peacock fans who have been waiting far too long to see him get out from behind that producer's chair. The title track is typically bright and styled along MOR American guitar pop. However, the song that made this listener sit up and take note was the simplicity of "Cheer Up Church". With it's piano accompaniment and so full of meaningful lyrics, this is a beautiful song that tells how God can use anyone for His glory. "Don't Be Afraid" says just that. Be yourself, don't let others put you down, great song. At times, Peacock seems to take a trip back into the 70's with a sound that reminded me of The Eagles but, somehow, it's so fresh. "What We Do" is a bit of a plodder but so catchy that I've been singing it constantly. "Kingdom Come" is a good album, without being outstanding. 7/10. (September 1999)
CHERI KEAGGY : 'My Faith Will Stay'. (Sparrow)
The title track's chorus says "My faith will grow, sometimes fast and sometimes slow". Well, Cheri Keaggy must have been enjoying one of those 'fast' times when she wrote this inspiring collection of songs. Two excellent opening tracks have great, catchy hooks with a nice and easy style. And things get better! 'Lay It Down' has brought a lump to my throat every time I've played it, the words, the melody, it is superb. Let's face it, this is MOR pop at it's very best, with so many accessible songs that are too many to list. No matter who you are and how you're feeling, I guarantee that there's at least one title written especially for you. Feeling down?, there's 'He Will Look After You'. New parent? Try 'Sarah's Song'. How can she better this? 10/10 Yes, Ten! I've got to lie down. (April 1996, Album of the Month)
CHERI KEAGGY : What Matters Most. (Sparrow/Alliance : SPD1636).
Two years ago, I gave this young lady my first ever 10/10 album rating, so she had a lot to live up to with this follow up release! Penning all 11 numbers herself, Cheri kicks off with a very Beatlesque "What A Privilege", straight from those Magical Mystery Tour days. Carefully, crafted easy listening songs follow, one after another, all with a certain quality. "His Banner..." is a great poppy standard with some real nice guitars carrying the song along. Possibly the best track is the piano based "Not With Jesus", a ballad of some depth both lyrically and musically. Produced by Phil Nash and with more than a helping hand from Dan Huff, Cheri may not have repeated her 10 score, but fans will be more than pleased with this new collection. "Take Me...", "Part of Your Story", and the closing "Glory Be" are super songs from a super lady. 9/10. (March 1998)
CHERI KEAGGY : There Is Joy in the Lord. (Sparrow : 7243 85169427).
Cheri Keaggy is one of my favourite female artists on the CCM scene and I regualarly receive requests to play her music on local radio. She's easily pigeon-holed into the soft pop music genre but that's not to say that the songs are simple throwaways. This album sees her collect some of hervery best praise and worship songs and re-record them to give a whole new feel. If I just gave a full track listing then that would probably suffice as a review. Classics such as "We Have Come to worship Him" , "Reign On Me" and the title track all flow easily to the ear. New numbers like "Pour Out Your Love" don't let the quality slip and the gentle tone of "In Remembrance of Me" is just excuisite. Not quite a classic release but you always get good quality from Miss Keaggy. 8/10. (October 1999)
CHERRI KEAGGY. Let's Fly. (M2/Word : 080688613228)
It's over 5 years since NFN gave it's first 10/10 rating to an album, and that was Miss Keaggy's "Lay It Down". A couple of mediocre albums on, "Let's Fly" sees her using that lovely voice in a range of pop melodies and sweet ballads. Exploring the the paradox of faith and grace, of the gently wooing yet boldly compelling Spirit of God, of the absurd, comprehensible reality of Christ living within us. Let me say that straight away "I Like" is the best song on the album.simple lyrics, simple tune, and a "da da da" bridge that makes you feel on top of the world. "Definitely" would push it a close second though, and I thought that it reminded me of a Sheryl Crow song. Of the others "Say You love Me" is a delicate tune while "Save A Place" plods along but has one of those catchy choruses that I like to sing. A little short on total content but, nevertheless, a good album. 8/10. Judith Wilson. (August 2001)
CHERI KEAGGY : No Longer My Own (Psalm 91 Records)
This is a kickstarter-funded release, showing how many believe in Cheri and her music even prior to release. It kicks off with a pop feel to it in the early Kelly Clarkson mould: tinkly piano, big drums, crashing/chugging guitars, strong vocal without screaming at you, before going more mid-tempo and MoR. Thematically there’s a lot of spiritual wrestling going on (especially about darkness in the world), with affirmation of God’s support and love always there, especially in “You Go Before”, the first ballad on the album. “Be My Sabbath” starts from a position of being completely empty and feeling you’ve failed and just want to give up (“I just can’t do this anymore – I’m empty”, for example). It’s a song that will resonate with many. The ballads (especially the title track) reminded me more of Jamie Owens-Collins whereas the lighter stuff (such as “Lucky to be breathing your air”) seemed a bit more Britney Spears (the early stuff). The recording standards are very high: the mix is very good – you can hear everything without feeling that anything is dominating. Cheri’s voice is very good, wrapping itself around the melodies and conveying the emotion within the lyrics well. The power ballads (“Be My Sabbath” for example) are more restrained than I’d have liked: here she reminded me a bit of Melissa Etheridge and I’d have liked to have heard her “go for it” a bit more (but that might just be so I could be surer of that comparison). Overall I preferred the more up-tempo stuff and didn’t like the cheesy “I Love Your Company” (but then I’m not a parent). The album finishes well, with the Celtic-feeling “The Giving Song” (more about surrendering all to Jesus rather than something to replace “Freely Freely” during the collection) and closes a good solid album leaving you thinking that there’s quite a few tracks you’d really like to hear again. Best track: “Be My Sabbath”. 7/10 Paul Ganney (September 2015)
CHILDREN WORLDWIDE : Why Should the Adults Have All the Goodmusic?. (ICC : ICCD65630)
So, why do the adults have all the good music? Well, because they just wouldn't put up with this kind of third rate rubbish. I've got two children under 6 years old and even they turned their noses up at this collection of songs. The General Directors of Children Worldwide "believe that all work done with children should be Biblical, bang-up-to-date and of the highest quality…" One out of three ain't bad, I suppose. I can't knock the lyrical content although "It's Good to Make Melody" made me want to. "If we stamp our feet or raise our arms, or sit down quietly to read the psalms". It's sung to a rock beat, complete with annoying electric guitar and is so condescending that it's beyond belief. I thought that the first song "Those Who Put Their Hope in the Lord" wasn't too bad but, from thereon, it was downhill all the way. I'm all for children's songs, but give me Doug Horley or Captain Alan anyday. 2/10. Richard Devine. (September 2002)
CHILL CAFÉ - Where You Are. (Integrity : 43222)
This series is supposed to offer "worshipful songs of reflection to help you find quiet spaces of time in today's fast-paced world. 'Where You Are' combines well-known worship songs with Euro-styled jazz, pop and R&B, providing a musical ambience perfect for prayer, meditation and relaxation." Okay, so now you know what the sleeve notes say. The question is, 'does it do what it says on the label? The answer, for me, is a definite "No". The album kicks off with versions of 'Heart of Worship' and 'Above All'. The former does have some nice saxophone sounds within, but the vocals are awful. They sound like someone speaking down the other end of a telephone. I tried chilling in the bath, and I tried chilling, sat with my feet up and my eyes closed, but these sounds didn't work. In all honesty, I found them pretty annoying. Well known songs like 'God of Wonders' and 'The Power of Your Love' have all the glory taken out of them, while 'Jesus Freak' is just horrendous - what ever was someone thinking? Sorry, but this is one album that should be avoided at all costs. 1/10 (May 2008)
CHIP KENDALL : Holy Freaks. (www.chipkendall.com)
This is Chip’s first full length album since the demise of thebandwithnoname. It was originally released in 2012, but has only just turned up at NFN Towers. The style moves on from those band days, and it’s overall sound is one of those which asks me to question whether or not I’m getting too old to appreciate it? Of the song ‘Holy Freaks’, he says; “The message is clear. In a war that is raging for peoples' souls, we are God's freedom fighters, and we know who wins.” On ‘Freak Show’ it took me a few listens to really understand that Chip was talking about a new generation of ‘Jesus Freaks’ that are rising and standing up for their convictions. It’s a very aggressive sounding song, and Chi growls his way through the lyrics. ‘Evolution’ made me smile, because it has a hint of Take That’s hit ‘Kidz’ about it. My favourite song has to be the infectious song that is ‘Answers’. Great electronic sounds, vocally perfect, and a superb chorus that bounces about your head for hours afterwards. There’s an interesting mash-up of ‘Old Rugged Cross’. I wasn’t sure, at first, if it really worked, but the more I listened to it, the more I liked it. The same can’t be said of ‘Underground Army’ though. I’ve never managed find anything enjoyable about Eminem’s musical style, and this copy left me totally cold. Being totally honest, it was a hard album for me to listen to, because I get the feeling that Chip is writing with younger people in mind. However, I could appreciate that he has produced something a little different to the norm, and that may well be its strength. 7/10. (May 2014)
CHLOE REYNOLDS :  Broken Beautiful. (Horus Music Distribution :  B01LWTVA0P)
This is a ten track album, of quite pleasant pop songs, which are quite personal songs about searching, and looking for the right way to go. “Tell me the future” is for me one of the highlights of this collections. It’s a slower track, and shows all the feeling and longing of the singer. These tracks are all well arranged and recorded, and there’s some particularly nice piano playing, throughout this album and I didn’t find a bad track on this album at all. Chloe seems to do a lot of live work, and not only on the Christian circuit. You can find her playing in the local pubs too, which is always a bonus in my book, Having played Christian music in pubs myself, it’s always nice to see others who are prepared to do the same thing. All in all this is an excellent album. You should listen to it. It’s also number one in the UK Christian charts at the moment., and you can find out more at    www.chloereynoldsmusic.com   10/10   Andy Sayner. (October 2016, Album of the Month)
CHLOE REYNOLDS : Broken Beautiful.   (www.chloereynoldsmusic.com)
UK singer/songwriter Chloe Reynolds recently launched her new album, before commencing a tour of churches, theatres, art centres, café’s and homes. She says; “My songs are the expression of my heart and soul. If I remain true to myself, by writing about the things on my heart, then hopefully I will touch the hearts of others.” Her influences include Alicia Keys and Annie Lennox, but I thought that she reminded me of Twila Paris. Of course, the main theme of the album is how God is involved with our everyday lives. “This is Who I Am” is all about being yourself, and not trying to be the person that you think people want you to be. And, of course, God loves you as you are. Indeed, he never leaves your side, and that’s the story behind “I’m On Your Side.” A lot of the songs are piano led, and Chloe’s sweet vocals are pure delight on “Tell Me the Future.” There’s a really lovely addition of a choir backing her on “Still Here”, which possibly lent just a passing nod to Yolanda Adams. “Don’t Look Back” is a bouncy, gospel number, and I thought that Chloe really came into her own on this song. The album has a certain charm to it, that comes over as one of those albums that you’d love to hear played live. So, keep a look out for the name Chloe Reynolds and be enchanted by her songs.   8/10. (October 2016)
CHRIS BOWATER : Sovereign Lord, Reign in Me. (WORD : SPND008).
Chris Bowater has established himself as one of the most well known Worship leaders and songwriters in the UK today. His work at Spring Harvest and other international bible weeks go before him. This new album seeks to uplift Jesus as the Sovereign Lord of our lives. It's easy to fall into the trap of releasing 'another' worship album for the sake of it, but this release does not come over as 'old hat'. It's got an old fashioned worship feel to it but the bouquet is one of sweet freshness. I found it impossible not to get wrapped up in the worship even if, on reflection, not many of the songs are outstanding. "Jesus At Your Name" and "For Unto Us..." are just two of those type of songs that you find yourself singing along to. "You Are Worthy" contains voices together in worship and the piano based "If You Love Me" is another simple melody. Unlike some of the recent p&w albums I've reviewed, this one has life and the Spirit of Jesus is lifted high. 8/10. (December 1997)
CHRIS BOWATER : All About You Jesus. (Word : SPND017).
Here's a man who's music I have only really begun to appreciate in the last twelve months. Chris has been writing praise & worship songs for years and there's a good chance that you'll be singing one in your local church this Sunday. Unlike his previous album, this latest release is very light in style and most suitable for meditational and personal devotion. It took a couple of plays for me to get into it, but I'm glad I stuck with it. "Pleasant", would be my overall opinion of the songs, as long as we don't incl;ude the awful "Creation Is Awaiting". "Living On the Edge of Destiny" is a superb title and a rousing song that lifts your spirit, no matter how deep it may be slumbering. There's a wonderful version of Matt Redman's "When the Music Fades", really peaceful and worshipful, and "As Through A Darkened Glass" runs it a close second for being my favvourite track. I didn't like the gospel tinged "They That Wait..." but then, I'm not a gospel music lover. Good one, Chris. 8/10. (November 1998)
CHRIS BOWATER : Crown of Beauty. (Kingsway : KMCD2640)
Talk about British praise and worship music over the last 10 years or so, and the names of Noel Richards and Graham Kendrick will probably be high on the topics of conversation. Not quite so high on the list might come the name of Chris Bowater who, nonetheless, has quietly and consistently gone about his ministry with some very accomplished songs. This new album features 12 songs, and they are all of the highest quality. From the opening "Magnificent" to the closing "I Want to Tell You…", there's not one mediocre song. I really enjoyed the whole album and Chris' knack of writing catchy, yet thoughtful, songs wins, throughout. Proving that praise and worship is at it's best when simple, comes "Father Your Love", a moving little number. ""Seems like So Long Ago" is quite uptempo, "Show Me Your Ways" just oozes God's love. Quite simply, I could write a eulogy for each song, it really is THAT good. 10/10. (October 2005, Album of the Month)
CHRIS BOWATER : Personal Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2811)
Chris himself says; "This album in the Personal Worship Series truly reflects in words and music my journey of devotion, where Holy desire and the deepening sense of the goodness of God meet in the secret place of worship." The 12 tracks feature Chris accompanied, for the most part, by just his piano - giving that intimate feel to proceedings. Listening to the opening track, 'All the Way My Saviour Leads Me', I was touched by the meaningful worship of the song. The next two numbers started and finished without me really realising, but I didn't get the same feeling of worship. Trusting in God is a basic principal if you want to walk with Him, and that's the theme of 'He Who Dwells in the Shelter of the Most High'. There was no faulting the quality of the lyrics to this song but, by now, each song seemed to be very similar to the next. The pace was slow and gentle but rather than leading me into a closer encounter with my Lord, I was becoming rather drowsy. It was hard to listen to each song as the album progressed. I don't think that it really works, and I've heard much better material from Chris in the past. One to give a miss, I think. 3/10. (January 2008)
CHRIS D'ALFONSO : Blueprints (www.chrisdalfonso.com)
If I asked you to mention a few places where talented Christian musicians were quietly getting on with their outreach ministry, I don't think that Malta would immediately spring to your mind - nevertheless, Chris D'Alfonso is a native of the famous Mediterranean island, and this is his first full CD, and very good it is too. There's a good pop vibe to a lot of the material, particularly track 2, 'The Core' (with appropriately crunchy guitar riffs, it's almost hardcore!), but elsewhere there's piano-driven balladry and gentler pop sounds to maintain interest, and throughout, Chris's faith shines through clearly. Chris has had regular radio play thanks to this album, and he deserves it. 7/10 Trevor Kirk (October 2006)
CHRIS FALSON & JACKY BRIGSTOCK : I Walk By Faith. (Kingsway : KMCD2182)
Recorded live almost 2 years ago in Atlanta, USA, this album offers something a little different to those praise and worship releases that we've come to take for granted by the likes of Hillsongs etc. Here, the emphasis is more on old fashioned rock music, in both ballad and heavier styles. Falson, himself, plays guitar as well as leading the worship, and a fine job he does too. The opening title track sounds like the old Tina Turner number "Nutbush City Limits" and is guaranteed to get you up on your feet. Jacky's voice, however, sounds so like Cher that the result is unbelievable. It's especially true when dueting on the song "What An Awesome God" and "I Will Wake in the Morning". Ever listened to a 15 minute song? No? Well, your ears will be severely tested to stay with "All Honour", a song that will grate on you like finger nails on a teacher's blackboard. "I See the Lord" is a terrific track though. Great worship with a gentle song, building up into a crescendo of exuberant praise. Not a bad album and certainly something to consider. 7/10. (April 2000)
CHRIS LIZOTTE : "Human Kind" (Metro One/Kingsway)
A Californian singer/songwriter who has released 4 albums in his homeland, and now gets to share his music with us Brits. There's lots of Hammond and Wurlitzer organs featured here, which gives a feel of mid-sixties R&B. The cover picture is shadowy and moody, and this could well describe the music too. If the songs depict Chris' mood swings then I would be really worried for his well being. "Human Kind" - the song - opens things up with deep Curtis Stigers style vocals that sound really depressing. But, after a few listens, his approach does begin to grow on you. The first excitement comes on "You Put the Fire in Me" and is followed - in style - by "I'm Gonna Stand By You." Cross Rhythms raved about this release, but I'm not so sure. I think I'll give Mr Lizotte the benefit of the doubt here. 5/10. (October 1996)
CHRIS McCLARNEY : Love Never Fails. (Kingsway : KMCD2941)
Here's a new name to the world of CCM. Chris hails from Nashville and is a singer/songwriter in the modern P&W style. Indeed, his rendition of 'My Beautiful' had me comparing him to Paul Baloche, but Chris does develop his own style as the album progresses. The title track is very appealing. It focuses on the fact that God makes all things work together for my [Chris] good. 'Your Love is Everyting' tells of how and why he found Jesus, and I guess that most of the songs on this album are written from Chris' own experiences. However, he's not afraid to tackle well known songs from other writer's too. He cleverly puts his own twist on 'Hallelujah', and makes it his own, while I found 'I Love the Way You Love' to be very emotional and thought provoking. Nice to hear a new artist presenting something different to the norm'. 7/10. (March 2009)
CHRIS McCLARNEY : Introducing... (Kingsway : KMCD3062)
Tennessee based Chris McClarney has been touted as having "one of the most refreshing voices in this current move of God". And, if I'm being honest, Chris' voice is very good and easy on the ear. This 6 track Cd takes some of his best known songs, re-recorded for this release, and presents them for the new listener. Now, I didn't know most of the songs on the track listing but he has given a more bluesy feel to those which I had had before. 'Your Love Never Fails' is quite straight forward in presentation, while 'Defender' falls into the "ballad" genre, and works quite well. The songs all have a central theme of a personal testimony and that really comes to the fore on 'Your Love Is Everything'. The first four songs are all quite similar, but Chris rocks things up on 'Across the Universe' - a cry for revival. The classic hymn, 'Blessed Assurance' finishes things off, but left me wondering if this really does show Chris off in the best light? 6/10 (May 2010)
CHRIS McCLARNEY : Defender. (Kingsway : KMCD3108(
I'm not really sure what to make of this CD. There are some really good songs on it, in fact there isn't one track on it that I don't like. The music is a fairly laid back rock / pop style that is fairly pleasant to listen to on the whole. There are a couple of songs that are new versions of some old hymns. "Blessed Assurance" and "Immortal Invisible" Both of them are quite good, in fact if I'd heard the latter on the radio I might well have bought this CD on the strength of that song alone. The problem is though, if I listen to the whole album in one go, it gets a bit tedious on the ears. It is quite a long CD running in at just over an hour long, and I found that there is not quite enough variation in style for an album of that length. A few years back this would have been a double album, and most of them were hard work for the same reason. If you listen to it a bit at a time it's an excellent CD, and despite my earlier comments I would recommend it as worth a look. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2011)
CHRIS McCLARNEY : Everything and Nothing Less. (Jesus Culture : B002324502)
Over the years, NFN has reviewed a number of Chris’ albums. Different reviewers have all described them using phrases such as “tedious”, “repetitive” and “lacking variation”. So, it may come as no surprise to you if I tell you that those same opinions describe this latest release succinctly. Chris hasn’t got the purest of voices, and it tends to grate on your ears after a while. It’s a live recording, so there’s a lot of “spontaneous” praise and worship going on in a lot of the songs. Unlike some recordings that capture the spirit of the moment, it falls rather flat on this record. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the God centred lyrics, as a whole. “Our God is an all Consuming Fire” is fine, lyrically, but the song itself seems to be on permanent loop. I was really pleased when it finally ended. “God of Miracles” chugs along like an old car, before some relief is borne by Chris’ duet with Kim Walker Smith, with “On Earth As It Is In Heaven”. The title track and “Beauty For Ashes” is more of the bland, repetitious sounds and there’s not much else I can say. The audience are obviously enjoying themselves, judging by the cheering, but I didn’t like this album at all. 3/10. (January 2016)
CHRIS MEDWAY : All Aboard the Heaven Express. (www.chrismedway.com)
Young children are very lucky to have such artists as Duggie Dug Dug, Dave Godfrey, and Ishmael to point them in the right direction where Jesus is concerned. Well, now, there's a new kid on the block. Say "Hello" to Devon's Chris Medway. This is his debut release and it's quite a corker too! Using the theme of a train journey, Chris uses train announcements, sound effects, and whole box full of whacky sounds to create a musical heaven for young kids. Chris has written all the songs over a number of years and, as well as his own, enlists the voices of adults and children to participate. The title track has easy to pick up words and it's the same all the way through. Title's such as 'Jesus Said I Am the Way' and 'For God So Loved the World' are pretty self explanatory, and musical styles range from the rock n' roll of 'On and On and On...' to the sea shanty lilt of 'Ahoy There'. It's obvious that Chris has spent a lot of time putting this concept together and he can be very proud of the result. The finished product is every bit as good as his aforementioned peers, and certainly better than numerous other children's albums I've heard. Well done, Chris. 8/10 (January 2010)
CHRIS MERCER : Beauty of the Jagged Road. (www.chrismercer.net)
Chris Mercer has slowly been gaining recognition for her music over the last 5 years or so. Indeed, she won New Christian Music's Artist of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008, as well as Roots Artist in 2009 and 2010. Her previous album, 'Whispers of His Grace', obtained Top 10 hits in the USA and the UK and, like this latest release, is destined for the hurting, lost world. Produced by former Electric's frontman, Sammy Horner, there's no surprise that a celtic feel runs throughout the track listing. First up is 'Cold Wind', which features some fine fiddle playing mid-song. Chris' voice clearly shines through as she asks the question "Where have all the good men gone"? The warm sounds of a keyboard, give 'Wrong Side of Town' a Nashville feel about it, but it's Chris' sultry vocals on the laid back 'Never To Far' that I really liked. The more I played the album, the more I enjoyed it. I also found it very easy to listen too. Her personal prayer to God, 'All To You' has a distinct quality about it, and the pretty 'Milestones' - Rodney Cordner song - sits well in proceedings. Other highlights include Chris' declaration of Jesus as King on 'You Are My Rock', and the foot tappin' 'Come Home Weary Traveller'. How lovely it is to hear such a bright British talent. 9/10 (April 2010, Album of the Month)
CHRIS RICE : Deep Enough to Dream. (Rocketown/Word : 7011528-024).
Chris is the debut artist on Michael W Smith's new label. The title track is a cross between Ralph McTell's "Streets of London" and Simon & Garfunkle's "The Boxer", but still stands up high on it's own merits. The sparse accompaniment, throughout, comes as a welcome change and is well produced. The piano based "Welcome to our World" is a song, sung to our Saviour , and "Good News" provides the only dance track is a funky sort of way. Chris has over 10 years of youth & camp ministry experience in the US and hopes that this album will "stir many hearts". It's a nice album that grows on you after several plays. Unfortunately, it only runs around 40 minutes despite the final number "I Need Hero" lasting 5. Here, Chris croons in lounge singer style, and you could easily fall asleep whilst listening. Nevertheless, Mr Rice has got a certain something. 7/10. (October 1997)
CHRIS RICE : Run the Earth and Watch the Sky. (Rocketown Records)
This is one of those "easy listening" type of CD's that you put on in the background and forget about while you're doing something else. It's mainly accoustic guitar led, A couple of the tracks are fairly rocky, but mostly the music is a kind of forgettable middle of the road type thing. One or two songs reminded me of how Randy Stonehill sounded very early in his career, but on a much lighter note. There is a touch of humour some tracks too, but it's the kind of humour that Americans would appreciate rather than us Brits. Apparently Chris has won a Dove award, (although it seems that every artist in America has one of those nowadays) for best male vocalist back in 1999. The publicity material that came with the CD also includes the other apparent prerequisite for success these days, a positive endorsement from Rich Mullins, or am I just being cynical? There's nothing particularly bad about this CD, but there's nothing particularly outstanding about it either, it's not unpleasant music, it won't offend your granny or anything. All the lyrics are on a fairly simple level so there's not much to think about, it's all well played and recorded, it just doesn't seem to go anywhere somehow. Like I said before, if you want some background music it's fine, if you want something to make you think, then this is not for you. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (July 2003)
CHRIS RICE : Short Term Memories. (Rocketown Records : 826872001125)
I've got to admit to being rather disappointed at Chris' recent recordings. I quite liked his debut and, from it, the classic "Deep Enough to Dream" opens things here. It's still a wonderful song and one that lifts me every time I hear it. Similarly, I thought the new song "Go Light YourWorld" showed the same quality. "Smellin' Coffee" is the awful side of Chris that I don't like. Here, he journey's into jazz and the result just doesn't have the same feel. "The Other Side of Radio" sees him rock things up a little and I think that this song would go down well as a radio single. Of the other "greatest hits", then the "Untitled Hymn" must be the shining star. Simply a superb song. 17 songs, and an interesting insight to the works of Chris Rice. 7/10. (September 2004)
CHRIS RICE : Amusing. (Eb&Flo Records : 35902)
I must admit, that Chris' releases since the wonderful "Deep Enough to Dream" album, have left me quite flat. Indeed, with that in mind, I almost passed this album onto one of the other reviewers, but something stopped me. As I listened to the opening "Love Like Crazy", I thought "Oh no, not again". The song was just a cacophony of sounds and vocals that fought against each other and, again, left me quite deflated. But, then came the beautiful song, "Breakfast Table", followed by "The Final move" and "Lemonade". Three songs all with cleverly written lyrics, a simple tune, and the warmest of vocal deliveries. "Sleepyhead Sun" features just vocal and piano, and what a lovely song it is, too. Track 10 called "The Best SongEver"but, no, it isn't. nor is this the best album ever. However, "Amusing" does have it's moments, and enough of them to satisfy the listener. 8/10. (October 2005)
CHRIS RICE : What a Heart is Beating for. (INO : 42152)
One thing that annoys me about an occasional collection of songs is that I find the writer has been too clever for me. What I mean is, instead of the usual straight forward "Jesus" and "God" messages, the writer has disguised the message in an array of words that leave you scratching your head as to their meaning. Chris Rice, I'm afraid, is one such artist who never ceases to amaze me in this category. I love his warm vocals but all too often, I have no idea what he is singing about. Take, for instance, the song 'Lemonade'. It's a very light, happy sounding number, but as to it's meaning, I've not a clue. It's the same with 'Kids Again' and numerous others. Is it me? Now, I know that 'Love is Gonna Break Through' is a song proclaiming the power of love, and that 'Here Come Those Eyes' is also a love song, and I enjoyed those. But, there's far too many songs that are just a little too complicated for your average Joe. 4/10. (November 2007)
CHRIS STEWART : Square One. (www.chrisstewartworship.com)
I always love it when an new artist’s CD pops through my letterbox, as you never know quite what to expect. Here are five tracks from London based worship leader, Chris Stewart – fur penned by the man himself. Using keyboards as the main source of instrument, the opening ‘We Are Free’ has a triumphant message that just oozes out of your speakers. “We are free to live, and free to stand eternally”. What a message, and what a great song. It motors along and is one of those songs that brings instant joy. The second song, ‘God You Save’ is just as good. “Death Has Been Defeated”. Another simple statement, but given superb power through a chorus of voices, just before the middle 8. Chris’ vocals are quality, and he’s obviously spent a lot of time getting the sound just right. For a shoestring budget recording, the production is A1. ‘Your Grace’ and ‘My King’ both work well, with the former being a celebration of God’s grace in our lives. Finally, Chris keeps the original melody but gives an almost ethereal backing to ‘Be Thou My Vision’. Pounding drums add to the overall effect, and end the EP as it began, with real feeling. I hope that we’ve not heard the last of Chris Stewart because I think that this is a first class debut effort. Maybe one or two of the smaller record labels should take note? 9/10. (July 2014)
CHRIS TOMLIN : Arriving. (Sixstep/fierce)
This is a fairly lively accoustic rock worship CD, and there is some good stuff here. The first track "Indescribable is to be released as a single, although presumably not in this country. The lyrics are all pretty straight forward, not too much thinking needed to listen to this album, it's just no nonsense worship songs all the way through, "Your grace is enough" was the standout track for me, but to be honest there was nothing on the CD that I took a dislike to. The vocals reminded me a bit of Bryan Adams in places, which should give some idea of what the sound is like here. If I had to moan
at all my only criticism would be that I found that a lot of the tracks are a bit too alike, and towards the end I found myself wondering when it was going to end. That really is a minor criticism though, it's a good CD and I would recommend it. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2004)
CHRIS WILLIS : Chris Willis. (Starsong/Alliance Music)
"Nobody can take this broken man, lift him up and make him new again.......Nobody but Jesus". So says Chris Willis in his powerful opening track. You like gospel /soul music? This man is for you. In the style of Ron Kenoly - but with a sweeter voice -, this guy sounds as if he's come straight down from heaven. He takes writing credits on 7 of the 11 songs here, one exception being the classy 'Out of My Hands' which was co-written by NFN fave' Scott Krippayne. 'Mighty Love' is more uptempo, compared with most of the songs, but it really is chart material. Musically, this is a very good album and, lyrically, one of the strongest I've heard for some time. 9/10. (November 1996, Album of the Month)
CHRIS TOMLIN : Glory in the Highest. (Survivor :SURCD5179)
Following his success of the last few year's, Chris Tomlin needs no introduction from me to tell you how respected he is as a songwriter and artist. So, I guess it was only a matter of time before he, like many others before him, brought out his own Christmas offering. To his credit, he does mix proceedings with songs old and new and, with the old, he breathes new life into such classics as 'Angels We Have Heard on High', and 'Joy to the World'. Written by Tomlin and Ed Cash, I thought that 'Emmanuel' was a very nice song. Similarly, 'Light of the World' had quite an impact on me. Chris is comfortable with all the songs and the production on 'O Holy Night' is perfection to a tee. It builds gradually with power an awesome might that I had never witnessed before with the song. Audrey Assad lends vocals to the pretty 'Winter Snow', and a fine job she does too. Always nice to hear some new Christmas songs and with this release, Chris seems to have got the mix just right. 8/10 (December 2009)
CHRIS TOMLIN : And If Our God IS For Us. (EMI : 5099969344428)
This album has already won acclaim from various media journalists, so I was expecting great things from Chris. ‘Our God’ starts things off in rather a laid back mode, before it suddenly powers up into an accessible offering. ‘I Lift My Hands’ follows a similar format but I wasn’t really moved it’s delivery. ‘I Lift My Hands’ and ‘Majesty of Heaven’ felt like very ordinary worship songs, but ‘No Chains on Me’ returned to the guitar driven formula that has made Chris so popular in the past. Written along with Matt Redman and Jesse Reeves, it’s a sure fire, radio hit. On some of the songs, I felt as if Chris was holding back a little as they didn’t seem to flow too well. With both Ed Cash and Dan Muckala in the producer’s chair, it’s hard to think that it was a production error. Of the remaining songs, ‘Lovely’ struck the right notes, as did ‘All To Us’. Otherwise, things just didn’t seem as slick as usual Tomlin albums. 7/10 (May 2011)
CHRIST FOR THE NATIONS INSTITUTE : 37.   (Integrity – 70708)
37, so named because this is the 37th album to be released by the Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI). That's quite an achievement in anyone's book, even allowing for the fact that CFNI is an organisation committed to training and teaching individuals for ministry. They ought to know a thing or two about worship then. In many ways this CD/DVD dual offering has much to commend it. It has all the professionalism and polish you would expect, a team of committed worshippers and a sound that resonates with the current worship culture. There's the odd excursion into more folky waters with the rather traditionally titled “Be Thou My Passion”  but for the most part it retains the ubiquitous sub-Delerious-U2 sound strongly evidenced in the opener “Show Me Your Heart”. So far so good – it is clear that any budding worship leader can learn much from this. But there is something missing. If I'm honest, as a cd, as a collection of songs, it lacks a certain spark. There isn't much here that you won't find elsewhere which poses a bit of a problem if you are after something different to listen to. In the end, the formula it adopts lets it down, as it struggles to find an individual identity to commend itself. Moreso, there aren't really any songs on here that stand out, and I don't anticipate that there will be much you may want to use in your own church. In the end it's excellent worship, but a poor cd.   6/10   Robin Thompson. (September 2012)
CHRISTIAN CITY CHURCH : Presence. (Authentic : 8203892)
This package comes in two flavours, either as a standard cd or you can go the whole hog and buy the two disc dvd. Both feature twelve original worship songs (well, eleven and a half as the first is an "overture") recorded at one of their live worship events. Of course, the bonus dvd gives you some extras, such as "Bonus Clips" and "Secrets to the Songs", if that's your sort of thing. The songs themselves are pretty standard contemporary worship numbers, mainly guitar led, which get the job done without really standing out musically or lyrically. For this reason, the dvd works better than the cd - this is very much about the worship experience, which is communicated far better with the additional visual facet and has more impact. The worship is well led, spirit-filled and professionally presented, and you really can't ask for more than that. On the whole, definitely worth a try but take my advice and get the dvd rather than the cd. 7/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2006)
CHRISTIAN CITY CHURCH : Here We Go. (Authentic : 8204402)
The Senior Ministers of the Christian City Church in Oxford Falls, Australia, say that this recording carries the "genetics of what God is doing" in the church and beyond. "The title track says it all. Here We Go...Into all the earth...Living out Your word...Making Your praise heard." Well, I'm sure that this record will be heard, but I'm not sure that I'm entirely happy with it as a tool for worshipping. For me, it's more like a performance album, as there's little opportunity for people to join in with the songs. It's a guitar driven sound throughout and there's lots of energy exuded on songs like the title track and 'But God'. 'Our God Reigns' and 'Show Me Now to Live' are both radio friendly songs, and the female vocalist has got a distinctive voice. 'Take A Hold' is a good rock song but the slower 'Be Exalted' is the nearest you get to having a song of worship that you could join in with. It's difficult to know where to pigeon hole this album. On one hand you have what the ministers are saying, but on the other, as Joe Public, I found it very hard to see it as a worship album. The jury's out I'm afraid. 5/10. (September 2007)
CHRISTINE DENTE : Becoming. (Rocketown Records)
I've had a soft spot for Christine Dente and her husband, Scott, since their early Out of the Grey recordings. Lately, however, I've found their recordings to be rather disappointing, with little sign of those early sparks they used to project through their music. Sadly, this debut solo release from Christine also follows the latter trait. She's got such a sweet voice, yet the songs do nothing for her. "Bigger Story" is a realisation that there is more to life than what she's been accustomed to and is, possibly, the most enjoyable track featured. The acoustic based "Take it From Here" is like so many songs on the album that just don't seem to go anywhere. The album is about her journey as a little girl becoming a woman of God. She traces the Lord's hand in her life from childhood upheavals to grown up struggles. Perhaps, being a man, I just didn't warm to Christine's lyrics but, in all honesty, they left me cold. 2/10. (April 2004)
CHRISTINE GLASS : Human. (WORD/TATTOO : 84418-44512).
Robotic voices, Nirvana type guitars, and Duran Duran melodies are just some of the traits that you will find on this debut release from an exciting new artist. I say exciting because you don't really know just what she'll try next. Not once during the album can you predict the type of song she's going to sing. She's very experimental in a Kate Bush early 80's type of way, and has the touch of Aimme Mann in her delivery. "I Believe" and "Waves" are excellent numbers but Miss Glass really comes into her own on the epic "You Want" - a personal conversation with God. There's even an acoustic number with sparse backing for the delightful "Come Back Down", which is really kinda sweet. All in all it's a bit bizarre and the final "When Worlds Collide" is simply superb, even if it does sound like a certain U2 hit. I, for one, predict great things for Miss Glass. 8/10. (September 1997)
CHRISTOPHER DUFFLEY : Eyes of My Heart (Know Greater Love Ministries, Inc / Christopher Duffley : 884501994859))
On a first listen to the advance MP3s supplied for the review of this 11 track CD, there's no denying the talent of young Christopher Duffley. He came to worldwide notice when, blind and autistic, at the age of ten a video of him singing 'Open the eyes of my heart' gained 3.9 million YouTube views. Two years later we have an '11-song compilation of inspirational, patriotic and sacred songs' produced by '9-time Dove Award-winning producer/songwriter/arranger Steven V. Taylor', with Christopher backed by top Nashville session musicians. The arrangements and production are great, and Christopher's not-yet-broken voice is clear and largely pitch perfect - although on some songs his vocals are pushed too high, to the point of shrillness. The standout for me is a slightly bluesey take on 'Lean on me', whilst the low point comes with 'God bless the USA' - which had my British toes curling! There are two broader points to be made however. Firstly, when a young male singer becomes famous their future career needs careful management as the hormones start to jangle and the inevitable happens to their voice. Secondly, I hesitate when someone's disabilities are used to 'push product'. The opener from the press release reads 'Twelve-year-old YouTube sensation Christopher Duffley, who is blind and has autism, has released his debut CD 'Eyes of My Heart'. Aspects of the release itself are also clearly designed to remind us of Christopher's blindness. The title is the first example - taken from the aforementioned 'Open the eyes of my heart, Lord' - and he also sings 'I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when Your face is before me'. Taking this CD purely on its merits as a musical experience however, what we have here is a largely enjoyable release, well arranged and played, and nicely sung by a young lad with obvious vocal abilities. If that's what your music collection needs, you'll love it. 7/10. Dave Deeks (December 2013)
CHRONICLE : I Believe When He Died. (www.chroniclegospelgroup.com)
Chronicle is from Denham Springs, Louisiana and consist of group members Tim Kinchen and Missy Kinchen. The duo bring great southern and country gospel music along with praise and worship to its audiences. Their mission is to tell all through song and word about this man Jesus! His saving power, His precious cleansing blood, and that He can change their life. This new single is taken from their current album “My God is Faithful.” Tim’s saxophone playing is quite strong throughout this track, but it’s his wonderful tenor vocals that steal the show. Whether he’s singing of Christ’s journey to Calvary, or affirming the title of the song, his voice is excellent. Missy backs him on guitar, but I couldn’t hear her vocals anywhere on the track, which was a pity. It’s what I would call an “old fashioned” southern gospel number, and it’s bound to please fans of this genre. 7/10. (May 2017)
CINDY MORGAN : Listen. (Word 7019909604)
Produced by Brent Bourgeois usually means a top class album but, I suppose, even he can have an off day. This Dove Award singer/songwriter fights through 12 rounds (songs) and loses convincingly. The supposed "acoustically-based composition and performance" fails to appear from the dressing room as Miss Morgan bombards you with sledgehammer blows such as the title track and 'Gravity' - both of which fail to convey any sort of message. Just for a moment I thought that she was going to pull something special out of the bag with the ballad 'The Promise' but, all too often, she returns to her slugging blows. Little style and little promise. I found this album very hard to listen to. 1/10. (March 1997)
CINDY MORGAN : Elementary. (Word : 080688611927)
This established CCM artist has won 5 Dove Awards and had 13 number 1 radio singles yet, all too often, I find her albums full of hit and miss tracks. By that, I mean that there are some real classics, and then there's some quite awful songs. I'm sorry to say that this new release is no different. "Good Thing" sounds like an Abba reunion. It's got that classic Abba feel and sound, with Cindy's vocals making the most of a well produced song. "Love Can" is a typical Morgan ballad about a sinner who has ignored the Lord's calling in the past, but now wants to take His hand. It's a great song, and Cindy Morgan's delivery is outstanding. Then, she turns all jazzy on us and changes the whole style of the album. "New World" is just not my sort of thing and, half a dozen songs later, I'm left wondering just what happened after all the early promise. By the time she gets to the soft shoe "I Love You", I'm ready to switch off. 4/10. (October 2001)
CIRCADIAN RHYTHM : Over Under Everything. (40 Records : 4729782).
Cutting edge rock with more than a nod in the direction of Radiohead and U2. That's one description of this worship band that's come out of Liberty University in Virgina. The name? Well, I don't know where they got it from but I think it's superb. The music, though, is a little tiring. The band start well enough with the guitar thrusting "Beautiful Saviour", which reminded me of an old Split Level number. "We Are Hungry" is quite catchy and contains a nice fiddle sound within it's content. It's all going quite nicely, even when they launch into the big orchestral production sound of "Into You" but the quality starts to decline with "Ever My Love". Can't quite put my finger on it but the album just doesn't sound the same after this one. In fact, as a 6 track EP Circadian Rhythm would score a 9 but for a full album, the score is not so good. 5/10. (June 2001)
CIRCLESIDE : Uncommon Days. (Centricity Records : 8296 1210042)
This is quite a good CD, although it's a bit hard to describe the music. Although this is an American band their music could almost be classed as britpop, it's quite a high energy set of tracks, and there are bits that remind you of other artists. Some of the vocals for example are very much like U2, but there is a kind of acoustic feel to some songs too, which is not unlike Dylan, or Neil Young in places. I don't suppose that there is much chance of us getting to see this lot play live over here, but I for one would like to see them on the strength of this CD. The only thing that I don't like on this CD is the hidden track at the end which takes a while after the last official track has finished. It's a blues track, which is totally different to the rest of the album, and although I don't know if this is true or not I would say that a certain Mr Kaiser had something to do with it's creation, but what's the point of a hidden track, why not just call it track 14, write it's name on the sleeve and have done with it. All in all though this is a good effort I would recommend it. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2007)
CISSA : Connexion.   (www.cissamusic.com)
Senegal born Cissa has been making music since the mid-90’s. However, 2012 is the year that rang out with the arrival of a top-notch album, with his unique style that includes variations of gospel, R&B, Afro Dance Soul and Afro Beat. 3 years later, Cissa’s European tour saw him visit France, Belgium and The Netherlands, This new album is sung almost entirely in French, but the sleeve notes are also written in English. Saying that, I still found it very difficult to make the translated lyrics scan and fit into each song. What I can say is that Cissa’s songs are predominantly very catchy in style. From the opening “Sacrifice” to the closing  “Alleluia”, there’s hardly a tune I didn’t enjoy. “Le Secours” (The Rescue) is a mellow acoustic number that also features some very light percussion. There’s more of a reggae feel to “Alpha-Omega”, were Cissa sings to Jesus “You will come back to bring us to you.” Being freed by the blood of Jesus appears to be the subject of both the title track and “Heritage”. The latter has an uptemo beat while the former sounds Latin in origin. On “Trone De Grace” (Throne of Grace), I thought that the accompanying saxophone was rather intrusive, as it fights with Cissa’s vocals for supremacy. On “Soins Du Couer” (Heart Care), the lyrics give warning about letting things like jealousy, hate and resentment making your heart bitter. Instead, focus on forgiveness and make your heart a loving one instead. Here, the tune races along and I found it almost impossible to keep up, once more, with translation. Judging by his press release, Cissa is a very busy chap and has even released an album dedicated to children centring on education and upbringing. I’d love to hear his songs, sung in English as, for me, I just found reading the lyrics alongside his French tongue a little too much.   6/10. (October 2016)
CITIZEN WAY : Love is the Evidence. (Fair Trade : 3621160609)
Citizen Way are Chicago based bothers, Ben and Josh Calhoun and David and Ben Blascoe. Formed in 2004, the guys have spent years playing at youth camps and groups. This debut album has made the media sit up and take note, as they do sound a lot like current popular, secular band, Lawson. The opening ‘Nothing Ever (Could Separate Us)’ is an open declaration of their faith, and it’s a strong opener, too. ‘Evidence’ would be the one for me to receive the biggest chance of MTV airplay, as it is just so listener friendly. Guitars are at the forefront of the band’s sound but some of the songs are quite bland. ‘Should Have Been Me’ and ‘How Sweet’ are two prime examples of songs that you hardly notice. ‘Lights On’ revisits the old subject of Jesus being the light of the world, while ‘How Sweet the Sound’ pays homage to the classic hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’. Later on in the track listing, the boys almost produce a sixties type of number, with ‘Where Would I Be Without You’. It’s an infectious sound, and well written. Maybe I’m feeling my age this month, but this album sounds that it is specifically for young people. 6/10. (October 2013)
THE CITY HARMONIC : Introducing……. (Kingsway : KWCD3180)
This is a short mini album, consisting of just 6 songs, which are, in the main, medium paced rock worship songs. You could almost describe this as an album of rock ballads. I wasn’t sure if I liked this CD at first, but after playing it a couple of times, I found that it grew on me. There are some interesting harmonies and backing vocals, which do go a long way in defining this band’s sound. Musically, it reminds me a lot of Travis- the singer has a definite Fran Healy style- and is quite pleasant to listen to. If you get a chance to hear this CD, I would recommend giving it a try. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2011)
THE CITY HARMONIC : I Have A Dream (It Feels Like Home). (Kingsway : KWCD3281)
This is the first full length album from this band, the previous release being a six track mini album. One of the songs from that CD, "Manifesto" also appears on this one too, although it's a different edit here. This band are an energetic sounding rock worship outfit from Canada, who remind me a bit of "Kings of Leon" or perhaps a slightly more subtle U2 in places. A lot of these songs are quite anthemic, with multi layered backing vocals in the background adding nicely to the atmosphere of a lot of the songs. The second track "Spark" features a section of Martin Luther King's famous speech, which is quite interesting. This is a good CD all round, indeed it is quite refreshing to hear a worship band with a real spark of individuality and energy about them. Definitely recommend this one. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2012, Album of the Month)
THE CITY HARMONIC : We Are.   (Integrity Music Download)
“We Are” is the third studio album from Canadian Christian Rock band The City Harmonic. Following on from 2013’s “Heart”, a year in which the band won Covenant Awards for Group of the Year and Praise and Worship Song of the Year, this album comes with high expectations. The songs are anthemic in style with boisterous mob backing vocals, an increasingly common feature in worship, with swathes of reverb on the drums and a mid-range emphasis on the production. Personally. I’d prefer to hear a more raw sound with more emphasis on the guitars because, as it stands, I think the energy of the album is somewhat tempered. “Marantha”, probably my favourite song, gets somewhere close but doesn’t quite get make it. The last four songs take the tone of the album down, moving away from big sounding anthems into more reflective territory. There are some little gems here, “Still and Small” and “Confession (Agnus Dei)” offering some interesting melodic phrases and have the ability to stick with you more than other songs on the album. Overall though, whilst this album continues to offer listeners what they expect it doesn’t really make any big waves. If you like your rock like Coldplay and your worship like Hillsong, you’ll lap it up. Otherwise, you might find it doesn’t quite hit the spot.   6/10.   Robin Thompson. (October 2015)
CITY OF PEACE : Instrumentals 2. (City of Peace/Provident : 00522)
Top musicians were assembled for this recording which transcends words to speak directly to the soul. I've always felt that instrumental albums are best listened to whilst relaxing or meditating, and this one is no different. The acoustic guitar works well on 'Rejice in Hope', which is carefully played over a soothing mix of orchestral instruments. I thought I was hearing things during the next song! 'A Thousand Generation's' contains some spoken words, that I really wasn't expecting to hear on an instrumental album. On 'Carol of the Bellz' the piano playing gets rather aggressive towards the end, but is much more enjoyable and relaxed on the following 'Faith & Hope'. Later on in the track listing, the saxophone and electric guitar take the lead on 'Streets of Light', while my favourite track, 'Ma Navu' features a violin. Indeed, it sounds more like a film score than anything else. While it fails to hit the heights of a 10/10 rating, this album does have it's moments and for lover's of instrumentals, it's certainly worth a listen. 7/10. (October 2012)
CITY OF PEACE WORSHIP : iStand with Israel. (City of Peace : 00562)
Whilst the title may indicate that this is an album from a band called “City of Peace” it is actually a compilation of 12 songs from various artists all united by a common purpose to stand with Israel. Now, I'll be honest and say that I struggle to find an emotional connection to the sentiment of this album. The concept of standing with Israel is very much an American idea, for cultural and political reasons, but is something that has less meaning to an English listener. I'm also not Jewish or German so I can't approach it from that angle either. I mention German because one of the tracks features a German pastor praying for forgiveness for their treatment of the Jews during World War II – a fantastic and humble gesture but of course, not being German, I do not carry a sense of guilt for this or a need for forgiveness. Therefore, without an emotional attachment to the sentiment this album then needs to work from a musical perspective. The question is does it do that? Unfortunately not. There are two stand out songs for me, Ted Pearce's anthemic “Forgotten People” and that jazz cafe style “A Thousand Generations” from Sean Spicer and Tilly Cryar. The rest are standard fare which, whilst not bad songs, aren't really particularly significant in terms of style or content. In which case, unless you want to support the purposes of City of Peace and feel that standing with Israel is a noble cause (and I make no claims either way on that!) then this is one to miss I'm afraid. 5/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2013)
CITY ON A HILL : Sing Alleluia. (Essential : MPCD40524)
Following the great success of "Songs of Worship and Praise" the much anticipated follow-up continues that same 'artists in community' approach. As Caedmon Call's Cliff young says "the purpose is to show listeners that we all have one faith in Jesus Christ", and that's just what this album does. From the opening choral prelude of "All Creatures of Our God and King", to it's closure, the Cd is filled with great songs. I simply love Nichole Nordman's voice and, on "You Are Holy", her vocals become very reminiscent of Genie Nilsson. Later on, she returns with FFH on the uptempo "Shine Your Light", another pearl. Mac Powell (3rd Day) and Fernando Ortega duet well on "Our Great God", while members of Caedmon's Call shine throughout. Best track? Well, that's a tough one to call but, in the end, I plumped for FFH's "Hide Me in Your Heart". It's a simple prayer to the Lord but so well delivered, and one that each one of us should echo in our own hearts. 9/10. (May 2002, Album of the Month)
CITY ON A HILL : It's Christmas Time. (Essential : MPCD40533)
Yes, it is Christmastime again and time for all those releases that contain bland versions of all your favourite carols. So, it's really good to be able to say that this one contains some real crackers. The title track is going to take some beating for Christmas Song of the Year (according to me) and features a host of top artists both musically and vocally. Sixpence none the Richer present "Silent Night" in typical Sixpence style and the Paul Colman Trio serve up a heart warming version of "In the Bleak Midwinter". Then, there's the magic of Caedmon's Call's "Babe in the Straw", which tells the story of the virgin birth - that is truly sumptious in every way. Julie Miller's quirky vocals may not be everyones cup of tea, but I've always loved her range. Firstly, she joins Third Day and Derri Daugherty on the excellent "Manger Throne", then it's just her and Daugherty on "Away in a Manger". A nice change of presentation for a Christmas album and a very welcome on at that. 9/10. (December 2002)
CITY ON A HILL : The Gathering. (Essential Records)
Supposedly, the last in the City on a Hill series, where US CCM stars come together to sing God's praises. You know the format by now, there's members from various bands, singer songwriters, as well as individuals, giving everything they've got for the cause. Leigh Nash sings "Beautiful, Scandalous night", while Caedmon's Call, Dan Heseltine, Charlie Lowell, Bebo Norman and Sarah Groves sing sweetly on the title track. The best song, "Jesus Went to the Garden" is well sung, well written and well produced. Jars of Clay have a celtic influenced offering in the shape of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", while Caedmon's Call and Silers Band combine for the acoustic pop ballad "Hallelujah NeverEnding". The album doesn't seem to have the flow of it's predecessors, so maybe it is time this series was put to bed. 6/10. (December 2003)
CLAIRE HAMILTON : Introducing….. (Kingsway : KWCD3181)
Born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 1981, Claire Hamilton is a worship leader, songwriter and music teacher within her local high school. In 2009, she began playing with the Rend Collective, and has recently been signed as a solo artist to Kingsway. This six track EP showcases her talent with a style that reminded me of Michelle Tumes. The opening ‘In View of Your Mercy’ bounces along, while ‘Lend Me your Heart’ slows things down and let’s her silky vocals weave a rich tapestry. ‘Breathe on Me’ has an atmospheric feel to it. This is a song written, whilst praying for a friend who was very ill. Sadly, the friend died at the age of just 29 but Claire had seen the real beauty of relationship with God unfold as he came to terms with, and joyfully expected, meeting Jesus long before he imagined he would. The song itself is delightful, and captures every essence of that relationship. The beauty of ‘Come Satisfy Us’ is in it’s simplicity. Quite repetitive worship, but it works so well and would compliment any church’s repertoire. Finally, comes ‘Look to the Cross’, a radio friendly song if ever there was one! This is an EP really worthy of your time, and I look forward to hearing more of Claire Hamilton. 9/10 (August 2011)
CLAUDETTE : The Hardest of Times. Authentic : 8203562)
One of the first albums I ever reviewed wasby gospel singer Yolanda Adams. As it was the first, it's quality has long stuck in my mind. Listening to Claudette, I felt a lot of similarities in both the vocal style and song presentation. What did differ was the quality of the songs. Whereas Yolanda has years of experience behind her, Claudette is fairly new to the scene, and a lot of the songs here just don't make the grade. Hand on heart, I can't say that I disliked any, but I just realised that each time I played the album, it finished and I couldn't really remember one song that stuck in my mind. The title track almost makes it, and "I'm In Love" comes a close second, but "Stand", "Potter's House" and many more were just very ordinary. On a couple of occasions Claudette uses old hymns like "How Great Thou Art" and "Abide With Me" to flex her undoubtable vocal talents but the production on both are just mediocre. Given the right songs, I think that Claudette would shine but, at the moment, it's just a glimmer. 4/10. (February 2005)
CLAY CROSSE : Stained Glass. (Reunion : CD10005)
Since the release of his debut album, two years ago, there has been great anticipation for this new Clay Crosse album. Saying that I, personally, wasn't greatly impressed so listened to this one hoping for something a little better. "It Must Have Been Your Hands" is one of those songs that tells about the realisation of God's work in your life, even before you acknowledged Him as Lord. It's a good number, and opens the album well. Clay's voice is very strong but doesn't suit the R&B style of "Love One Another Right" or "Somethin's Missin'". However, there are strong numbers, like "Sold Out Believer" and the quite excellent "He Walked A Mile", where Clay truely excels. Working with a new producer, Mark Heimermann, this is a step forward and there's a good re-working of the old Hollies hit "He Ain't Heavy". I hoped for something better, and that's what I got, but there's still some way to go. 7/10. (October 1997)
CLAY CROSSE : I Surrender All. (Reunion : 02341 0008 2)
It was 1995 that I first reviewed Clay's work and from that excellent beginning, I feel that he's produced some rather patchy follow ups. However, the clamour for a "best of" album does prove that many feel that he is, rather good. Indeed, the opening four tracks are all of superb quality. Sharing vocals with Bob Carlisle and Bebe Winans, Clay wins your ear immediately with the song of triumph, "I Will Follow Christ". "He Walked A Mile" is still as powerful as it was a couple of years ago, and is a sign of a good song when it still sounds so fresh. Mid album, clay turns bluesy and marries the sound with some gospel type music. To me, it just doesn't carry the same quality as the previous ones and leaves me cold. "The Rock" provides respite and the acoustic backed "Midnight Cry" continues to prove just how gifted this man is with the right sort of song. 7/10. (November 1999)
CLIFF RICHARD : Rockspel. (Kingsway : KMCD2418)
When I became a Christian I wondered just what other music there might be in store for me? Surely, there was more to Christian music than just Cliff - as he was then? Thankfully, there was, but we mustn't forget just what a musical icon this man has been to fans all over the world. After bursting onto the pop scene in 1958, he's gone on to sell more than 250 million records and, some forty-odd years later, he's still as popular. His gospel albums, for me, have always been a bit patchy in quality - never quite living up to his secular releases. But, this release does capture some of his best known gospel tracks, sandwiched between the big selling "The Only Way Out" and the lump-in-the throat- anthem, "From A Distance". Some tracks a very 80's pop, like "Peace in Our Time" and "the Winner", but classics like "Thief in the Night" and bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses" are also included. Stunning? No, but a good place to start if you're looking for mor UK pop. 7/10. (October 2002)
CLUB j : Spin. (Integrity Music - 33922)
Firstly, I was pleased to see that the sleeve of this compilation indicates the age range of its target audience (7-12 year olds). This makes it much easier both as a parent and a reviewer, and in my capacity as the latter allows me to assess this against the miriad of secular offerings kids are inevitably bombarded with. I am pleased to report that, of all the children's praise stuff I've reviewed over the last few years, this by far stands the best chance of offering our kids a real alternative to the chart. The quality of the songs speak for themselves, "Blessed Be Your Name" and "Undignified" being just two, and because the songs are good, it allows the excellent arrangements to work without being cheesy. It's very professionally put together, and, unlike other children's offerings, you don't feel like the kids are getting second best. Some songs are done in a dance style, others in a more Busted/McFly type vain, but they all work well together. My only gripe lies with the first song "Spin" - It is a great song and well arranged with the exception of the kids voices on the chorus. This does make it sound like the more naff offerings I've heard and may turn off those in the upper end of the age range. However, it is only a small gripe and is probably nit picking! As always, I use my eldest daughter as the judge in these matters and, since I've had to play it in the car on the way to school every day this week, it must be good! 9/10 Robin Thompson. (November 2005)
COLIN & CAROL OWEN : 'You Alone Are God' (Kingsway Music).
This album was actually released last year but has just landed on the NFN desk in time for their visit to Beverley next month. Labelled as 'The Worship Leaders' Colin & Carol are directors of music and lead worship at Kingdom Faith Ministries, Horsham. this release contains 11 songs to help you focus on the Lord. Even though I saw that musicians credited included Terl Bryant and Ben Castle, I still wasn't ready for 'King of Kings'. No happy clappers in earshot, this was good stuff. In fact it was so good that I immediately played the opening track again. There's powerful brass accompanied pieces ('You Alone Are God') as well as more mellow numbers such as 'Mighty Mighty Lord'. Certainly not what I had expected, and well worth a listen. 7/10. (September 1996)
COLLECTIVE VOICES : Vol 1. (https://thecollectiveuk.bandcamp.com)
This is, so the Bandcamp site for this album states, “a compilation of new UK grassroots worship music from a selection of up and coming songwriters.” I like up and coming artists. They’re usually rawer, more earthy and oftentimes more innovative than established and mainstream acts. I also like the title, “Collective Voices” as it evokes a sense of a colourful palette of different tones and characteristics. So that’s the impression it gives me, but does it match up to that? For sure, it starts off well enough. “Christ in Me” from Ian Yates is a guitar/electronica hybrid that moves along at a medium pace. I’m reminded of Mutemath or Haydon Spenceley. Matt Hill’s “Million Words” has a great Stones-like guitar intro with a song that sounds a bit like Bryan Adams. By the time we get to The Bright Expression’s “Gravity” though the main flaw with this album becomes clear. The voices are actually quite similar and therefore the album doesn’t present the variety and colouration I might have hoped, and looked forward to. This is exacerbated by the songs all being pretty mid-paced and similar in feel. So rather than a compilation, it feels like it’s the same band . It’s not until we get to the song “Hope of Glory” that we get a significant change with a female voice. To be fair, these grassroots artist are excellent at what they do, but what they do is all very similar and quite mainstream. So, not really a winner for me. It struggles to stand out in a crowded marketplace. 6/10. Robin Thompson. (December 2014)
THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY : Feels Like Christmas.   (StowTown Records : STR3122)
As I write, I have no internet connection and, therefore, can tell you nothing about the background of the Collingsworth Family. However, after listening to this album, I can say that they area very talented bunch of singers, with Phil and Kim also excelling on trumpet and piano respectively. Indeed, Kim  seems to have arranged most of the vocals throughout the album. There’s a mixture of Christmas standards and American “Holiday” songs, and it all starts with a melody of ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’. From this first song, you can tell that there has been a lot of work put into producing some fine harmonies. Phil and Kim are in their element on the brash instrumental version of ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, while smooth vocals and delightful orchestral backing are the backbone of ‘Overture/Silent Night/What Child is This’. I’d never heard ‘Beautiful Star of Bethlehem’ before, but what a lovely song it is. Similarly, the Troy Keaton/Kim Collingsworth written ‘Peace on Earth’ is sure to bring a lump to the throat. It tells why Jesus was born, as well as why soldiers are trying to keep ‘Peace on Earth’. Some Christmas albums don’t travel too well across the Atlantic, but this is one that I think has made the trip worthwhile.   8/10. (December 2012)
THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY : The Best of…Vol.1. (Stow Town Records : STR3171)
After 17 years on the road in full-time concert ministry, this is the group’s first comprehensive collection of Collingsworth Family classic hits. Many of these songs have long been out of print, but these collections bring them back fresh and better than ever. All new up-to-date vocals have been re-recorded, utilizing the original tracks. The resulting album is delightful and a must buy for southern gospel fans. Great vocals, harmonies and music stand up proud, as the family presents song after song, all of the highest quality. From the opening “God is Faithful” to the closing choral version of “How Great Thou Art”, the quality never dips. The foot tapping “I Know” is a real pleaser. “I Know that Jesus is coming again,” they sing, when all around the world news tells of wars and unrest. “When God Whispers in Our Heart” is reminiscent of a musical style of the 40’s. Terrific harmonies and nice orchestral sounds made this one of my personal favourites. A lot of the songs are M.O.R ballads, such as “God is in the Shadows” and “Shine on Us.” Breaking that mould is the happy number called “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness.” It’s a great message and there’s some really nice banjo playing in the background. If Volume 2 is anything like this album, listeners are in for a real treat! 9/10. (March 2017)
THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY : The Best of…..Volume 2. (Stow Town Records : STR3172)
Following on from last month’s review of Volume 1, here’s the second release collecting the “Best of” this hard working family group. From the off, once again, it’s the strong harmonies that are the trademark of the Collingsworth Family. “Inhabit the Praise” sets the barre high with terrific vocals. “Light from Heaven” is a bright and happy song, while “he Already See the Rainbow” is a big ballad about letting God help you through the storms of life. As with the first release, there’s a few instrumental tracks thrown in, with the piano taking much of the lead. Of these, I found the closing “My Tribute” to be the best. Mid-album, I found my concentration waning a little, as the songs didn’t seem to be anything special. However, the uptempo “Bottom of the Barrel” lifted my spirits, as it simply raced along. I’m not sure which one of the Collingsworth ladies sings the lead on “I Can Trust Jesus”, but she comes out with a top performace, as she sings “I lean on His will because He know what’s best for me.” “Grandpa” is a sweet little song about days gone by, when true love last forever and promises meant more than they do today. It’s poignant theme certainly gives you food for thought. All in all, it’s another good collection but, perhaps, doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor. 7/10. (April 2017)
CONSCIENCE CUBED : Life in 3D. (www.consciencecubed.com)
Now, this takes me back. It takes me back to the early 90's, when there were bands aplenty were releasing demo's of their own songs. In fact, this Hull based trio remind me very much of long lamented names such as Pity the Small Thumbs, and Crossfire. The album has been recorded in a number of studio's over the past year, and the result is a modern rock sound with influences such asU2 and Coldplay never far from the fore. The opening 'First Day' rolls along with a nice edge to it, and Matt Phelps' vocals work very well alongside his musical partners. 'Unlock the Doors' had me thinking that the sound might just be edging towards Snow Patrol territory, but the band soon steered me back on track. Every now and then, the sound suffers with a muffled drum beat but that shouldn't deter from the overall sound. There's good guitar work on 'Human Qualities', while the more melodic 'Authenticity' takes a look at being the "real" person, rather than the one the media would have us fall for. A minor blip comes with the final track, 'Here it Comes'. It starts off well, but seems to fizzle out like a damp firework. The album may have a few rough edges in production but, for me, that is what excited me most. 9/10 (May 2009, Album of the Month)
CONNERSVINE : Connersvine. (INO : 42562)
Connersville are a duo consisting of singer/songwriter Chris Wilson, and pro NFL footballer Hunter Smith. Signed by INO Records in 2006, this is their debut and I'm not sure that the wait was really worth it. The opening' Glory Be' is quite a strong song, and the vocals reminded me of people like Geoff Moore. There again, 'Sacred Mystery' almost runs into Bryan Adams territory. The overall sound of this duo can be styled as adult pop, and pick of the bunch is 'Hero' - a medium paced winner. 'Hungerlove' tells of God's love, that will pick you up in your darkest hour, while the rockier sound of 'Come Alive' deals with the subject of being re-born in Christ. There are some good musical moments on this album, but it's the same as dozen's more that are churned out at an alarming rate. I'm sure their intentions are honourable, I'm just not so sure that a second album would be a good idea. 5/10 (April 2008)
COREY CROWDER : Gold And The Sand. (StageMusic).
Corey's vocal style is reminiscent of Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, albeit less in your face (which is not a bad thing). The songs and arrangements are reminiscent, too. So if that US East-Coast rock sound is your thing, you're going to like this for your more mellow moments (yes, I do know Nickelback are Canadian and Corey Chowder's Southern US but this is music style, not geography). There's some very good bottleneck playing on "Southern Way", nice use of harmonica and some very good instrumental work in the electric guitar and piano departments. He cites his influences as sixties and seventies rock, southern rock and country. They show, but in a good way. Think Eagles meets Nickelback and you're most of the way there. The CD has a very mellow section in the middle (a bit more Melissa Etheridge in feel, albeit wih a male vocal) that seems to suit his playing better, but I preferred the more up-tempo ones, such as the opening "Southern Way" and closing "Lonesome Road". I was glad this CD had 12 tracks on it, as it grew on me more and more as it progressed. If you're interested, there's more on MySpace, where he garners a lot of plays. 7/10 Paul Ganney (March 2009)
CORY DAUBER : Turn Into a Mountain.   (Deeper Well Records)
If you're into 'swampy Americana' in the mould of Ryan Adams (when he's in that mood), or enjoy the angst of Ray Lamontagne, the music of Cory Dauber could well be for you. Although he's evidently been around for some time he has relatively recently signed to the Deeper Well Records family, and this is his first full length solo album. According to the publicity material it was 'recorded in the beautiful, secluded surroundings of Supernatural Sound Studios in Oregon City' and 'channels the classic sounds of Americana', with 'elements of Ryan Adams, Magnolia Electric Company, Damien Jurado, and others'. Although I sometimes found it difficult to hear the words, it became evident that lyrically Cory majors on using verbatim scriptural quotations. Accompanied by a small 'loose but tight' band (if you know what I mean!) and thankfully with nothing audible in terms of sound 'processing', his guitar style alternates between simple strumming and finger picking. Most songs begin with his guitar solo and on early listening sounded somewhat 'samey' - emphasised in the first two tracks which use a virtually identical medium-paced time signature and very similar chord sequence. It became evident however that this is one of those albums that benefit from repeat listening, with 'Branch on the vine', 'Broken man' and particularly 'Ladder of Jacob' becoming standouts for me. 7/10 Dave Deeks (July 2016)
COSMO MOOSE : Cosmic Invasion (www.chrismedway.com)
CosmoMoose is Devon-based Christian composer/producer Chris Medway. Writing music in many genres, as CosmoMoose he “creates timeless electronic music full of catchy melodies and imaginative themes with dramatic, emotional and playful qualities that Jarre & Vangelis fans would instantly love”. A 12 track/59 min CD/download, 'Cosmic Invasion' was originally released in 2013 and is a 'concept' album, with one track running into the next. On listening, I found myself reminded not only of Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, but also Jeff Wayne's 'War of the worlds' and Rick Wakeman's 'Journey to the centre of the earth'. As soon as the orchestral-sounding introduction of 'Galileo's Mission' began, I heard influences of Jeff Lynne's ELO. Being a completely instrumental album, except for one track there is no hint in the titles that it might be considered a 'Christian' work. The exception is the 11 min closer 'Light of this world' - a combination of electronic heavenly choir sounds and disco with a rather meandering centre section and triumphant ending that finally closes with a single 'beep'! Taking the album as a whole, my only concern is a tendency for some melodies to be somewhat simple, emphasised when repeated over and over within arrangements that do not develop much musically. With these provisos however I found this to be quite an enjoyable release and can confirm that Jarre/Vangelis fans may well love it. 7/10 Dave Deeks (July 2015)
COSMO MOOSE : Summer Memories/Hola Havana. (www.cosmomoose.bandcamp.com)
For a number of years, Chris Medway has been producing quality instrumental music under the banner of Cosmo Moose. This latest, free, two track single brings together his blend of electronic music, with synthesizers and loops providing the framework of his sound. “Summer Memories” has a very pleasing rhythm, and a tune that was buzzing around in my head for quite some time after a first listen. “Hola Havana” carries on in pretty much the same style, with the addition of a few spoken salutations, thrown in for good measure. The latter track is, perhaps, the most suitable one for dancing to, although there’s little to pick between the two. Chris has always pointed to Jean Michael-Jarre as one of his influences, and it’s easy to see why. The download is free, so why not support Chris and take advantage of the offer. 7/10. (September 2016)
CPR : In The Business. (https://cpr-sbbr.bandcamp.com)
CPR stands for “Christian Punk Rock” so you know what you’re in for before hitting “play”. The opening track, “Die” sets the scene well: a sneering vocal, 100mph drumming, aggressive distorted guitars (more Sex Pistols than Buzzcocks) and driving bass. Then the lyric: “Die” is more about hope, being “die to yourself” rather than “you might as well…” and this is a band that take the idea that music can point to salvation seriously. All 7 tracks are under 3 minutes and most are under 2, so it’s classic Punk, well played (even with the odd solo) and screaming attitude at you all the way. Even the gaps between tracks are brief and to the point. It reminded me of classic stuff like the Bill Mason Band’s only CD, but without the subtle stuff. This is a CD that won’t let you sleep through it and does so by being good at what it sets out to be, rather than by being annoying. They pace it well, dropping in the (for them) slower “Straight” at exactly the right point. It’s also the longest track on the CD, suggesting that they write the same amount for each song and then choose the speed to play it at. It’s a CD that improves as it goes on: it starts off by hitting you hard and then brings in other elements to keep you listening. It means that the better tracks are towards the end of the CD, but guarantees a great finish. Best track: “Straight”. 8/10   Paul Ganney. (October 2016)
THE CRABB FAMILY : The Walk. (Daywind : 4187133729)
They're the largest family group in Southern Gospel Music (SGM) today, and from singing in small town events, have blossomed into a national ministry. Promoted as "the freshest sound" in SGM in years, I'm afraid I've got to disagree. It is fresh, but it's more Shirley Ceasar, than The Gaithers. Songs like "Great Is He In Me" and "The Walk" are okay but don't exactly fit into the style you expect. There again, the familydo show signs of their roots on numbers like "Travelling On" and "The Storm" - the latter being a truly terrific ballad. There's no denying their vocal prowess but, unlike recent SGM recordings I've reviewed, this one didn't do a lot for me. 4/10. (July 2003)
THE CRABB FAMILY : Drive. (Daywind : 8713832)
Judging by the front cover picture and the fact that the album's been released on Daywind Records, I assumed that this would be pure Southern Gospel. Well, it just goes to show that looks can be deceiving because apart from the opening "Promised Land", there's a more blues feel than anything else. I did like the first song, banjo, fiddles and all, so I felt a little disappointed when the track listing failed to carry on with a similar sound. Most of the songs are written by Gerald Crabb, with the rest of the family given various lead vocals. I found songs like "Sacrifice of Praise" and "Good Day" just a little too messy in production for my liking, and felt that the less cluttered "Forever" and "You Can't Imagine" worked so much better, especially with Kelly's vocals. Donnie McClurkin joins the band for some serious gospel music on "Through the Fire", but I'm afraid that I just wasn't fired up by this one. 4/10. (April 2005)
THE CRABB FAMILY : Blur the Lines. (Clearcoolmusic : 8714772)
From a church in rural Kentucky to an annual concert audience of 800,000, the Crabb Family has managed to break through musical genre barriers to reach people from all walks of life with the message of the gospel. And, while their background is Southern Gospel, there's enough different moves on this album to create interest for a wider audience. "Friend of God" is a high octane declaration that rings out true, while the powerfully delivered "Redeemer" is wonderfully sung. When the group delve into gospel, I wasn't quite so uplifted but the slower "Holding Out Hope to You" brought me back to the Lord once more. The Crabb Family songs ask the simplest of evangelistic questions and. More often than not, they give you the answers too. There's a lovely interpretation of "Shout to the Lord", while "Call On Jesus" gives more simple Bible truths and assurance. The group have some great voices and harmonies, and they are never better than on my favourite song "I Can't Live A Day". This is album is so much better than their previous release, "Driven", and should open the doors to many new fans in the UK. 8/10 (December 2006)
CREATIONS PRAISE : Hymns. (Elevation : ELE2022D)
Back in 1996 American outfit, Rhythm Of Creation, released a self titled album, with the sub-title Mankind's Encounter With The Creator. Included were lots of nature sounds, such as streams of running water, birdsong, and more. I remember it fondly as a terrific album for meditation, and was very disappointed to lose it during a house move. Creation Praise features “peaceful instrumental worship hymns” and include nature recordings such as the ocean, forests, mountains, and whalesong. So, with baited breath, I put on the Cd and hoped for a lovely, relaxing album. ‘May Jesus Christ Be Praised’ is the first hymn on offer. It’s a nice enough piano only tune, proceeded by a whole host of bird noises, but nothing special. Running water greets the opening bars of ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’. The harp playing is delightful, at first, but when the string section is added, all of nature’s sounds are drowned out. Indeed, that happens throughout the album, on various occasions. Perhaps the highlight of the 20 tracks is the rendition of ‘When I Survey The wondrous Cross’. Here, a myriad of pipes take the lead, while forest noises accompany in perfect harmony. Now, if only the perfection of that track could have been repeated, this album would have stood out more. Instead, the listener is treat to some very competent, if a little boring, renditions of hymns, and nature sounds that all too often cannot be heard, past the opening bars of the song. Hat’s off to whoever came up with the idea of producing this album but, sadly, it just doesn’t come up to scratch. The whalesong on ‘Rejoice, The Lord Is King’ just sounds odd, while I was left utterly speechless by the quacking of ducks or geese on ‘Praise to the Lord, The Almighty’. That’s just one combination that shouldn’t have been allowed. Let’s pray that the producers take note for next time. 4/10. (November 2014)
CREATIONS PRAISE : Classical. (Elevation : 2021D)
Just before Christmas, I reviewed another album in this series, Creations Praise – Hymns. I’m afraid that I wasn’t too complimentary about it, as I thought that the music recordings were rather bland, and that the nature sounds rather “got in the way.” With this album, I’m pleased to report that I love it! True, if you had played me a track and asked me to name it, I couldn’t have done it. But, there are so many pieces on this release that you soon recognise. Yes, there are more sounds of the ocean, mountains, playful dophins, and even some annoying sheep, but overall, as the sleeve notes read; “Experience the calming sounds of creation woven with the world’s most tranquil music.” A long time favourite of mine is Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’. It’s been sampled many times for pop hits, but in its natural form, it’s simply beautiful. Music throughout is provided by either Simeon Wood and John Gerighty, or Klaus and Sarah Heidleman. Both pairings perform admirably on traditional arrangements of music such as Bach’s ‘Prelude in C’, Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’, and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. I found the album to be really relaxing and enjoyable. This could well be subtitled “Classical Greatest Hits”. The selection is first class, and this is one that I will be playing again and again. 9/10. (May 2015)
CREATIONS PRAISE : Worship. (Elevation : ELE2023D)
This is the third release in the Creations Praise series, following albums entitled ‘Hymns’ and ‘Classical’. Now, while I disliked the former, I simply loved the latter. Why? Listening back to those albums, the one containing hymns sounded rather cluttered, and the added sounds of dolphins, sheep, and running water just didn’t do anything for me. However, the classical music of the second release proved to be of simpler recording. This time, the nature sounds worked really well, and I have since played the album several times to aid relaxation. Thankfully, this new collection is more of the same. Most of the tracks feature either an acoustic guitar or/and piano, with the usual added sounds of creation. There’s even a cuckoo to be heard at the beginning of ‘Hosanna (Praise is Rising). The soothing piano and rustling leaves are perfect for ‘Change My Heart O God’, while a forest breeze and birdsong greet ‘Here I Am To Worship’. I tried very hard to guess what some of the noises were, but I certainly didn’t get it right when it came to ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’. This time, you can worship to the sound of gentle guitar and “early morning pond life”. It all may sound quite amusing but, believe me, it really does work. Other songs include ‘God of Wonders’, ‘Seek Ye First’, and ‘Shout to the Lord’. As it says on the back cover, Listen..Unwind..Enjoy.. Worship. 9/10. (August 2015)
CREED : Weathered. (Epic : 5049792)
A long time ago, a music fan became a Christian and searched for something more than the Cliff Richard and Graham Kendrick tapes he was given - no offence meant. He found a rock group in the form of Stryper and couldn't belive what he was hearing. 15 years on, I've just come across Creed. Not, a Christian band as such, but all three members talk openly about their faith and how their songs are written. Their debut album has sold more than 6 million units to date, and their follow up "Human Clay" more than 10 million. The music? Well, it's what all the teenagers seem to be listening to at the moment. It's rock in the style of Linkin Park and Papa Roach, only the lyrics are different. Crunching guitars and hammering drums are the accompaniment to Scott Stapp's leering vocals and, somehow, it was just what I needed. If you're looking for evangelistic messages, you won't find them. What you will find are questions about faith in general, as in "One Last Breath" that looks at death. The title track is a little quieter yet looks at life and what/who you love. Is your God an object or a living thing? This type of music won't be for everyone but, there again, I never thought it would be for me. 9/10. (July 2002, Album of the Month)
CROSSBEAM : Live in Jersey.   (www.crossbeam.uk)
For fifteen years, Crossbeam have been writing, recording, playing, gigging and journeying in faith together. Two things have always remained constant: the desire to walk humbly with God, and a commitment to sharing our journey and showing that it’s not about us... it’s about something far greater! This triple pack of 2 CD’s and 1 DVD shows the band in their true colours, playing excellent anthemic songs, as well as more intimate numbers. The CD’s begin with a number of songs that are a cross between After the Fire’s prog’ rock sound, as well as the more commercial Bon Jovi. Crashing cymbals and searing guitar licks are the order of the day on both “Awake” and “Miracle Baby.” On “Everything” there’s a great guitar solo, while distinctive keyboards carry “Still Running.” The audience clap and cheer enthusiastically throughout, even though the chorus of “Everybody Praise the Lord” might be slightly too repetitive. Frontman, Tom Bonnard, has an engaging voice, and after so long together, the musicians alongside him are first class. The addictive tune and  chorus of “Arise” stood out for me, immediately. Out of the whole album, it was the one that I played again as soon as I’d heard it. The slower songs bring a gentle quietness to proceedings, and both “The Best Is Yet To come” and “Jesus, You Are There” bring the band and audience together as one. The DVD is live footage of the whole concert and I really wished that I’d watched it first. For someone new to Crossbeam’s music, it really brought the what I’d heard on CD to a greater meaning. Multi camera angles bring the concert alive and, with terrific sound, shows how the band and those watching are enjoying the music and worshipping God. For an independent band, it’s a brave step to produce such a package. But, they get it just right. For fans old and new, this is an outstanding release.   10/10. (July 2016, Album of the Month)
CROSSFIRE : 'Warriors'. (Private Cassette Recording: £5 from Andy Sayner, 34 Fountayne Street, York, YO3 7HL).
An old name for a new band. The festival may no longer exist, but these 4 lads from York are doing their best to ensure that they do not sink into oblivion. A 6 track release that throws together an interesting collection of songs. The opening title track sounds a little like the old Zager & Evans hit, 'In the Year 2525'. 'Speedbrake' is very Steve Taylorish, with it's clever, yet 'off the wall' lyrics, and driving guitar. The vocals struggle on the piano based 'Will to Win' and 'You Make My Dreams' with the former suffering the most. There's a touch of Pink Floyd in their melodic rock sound and Crossfire's attempt of a longer piece, 'Communion' is bound to capture an interested ear or two. It's a good debut and the recording quality is excellent, but I feel there's better still to come. 6/10. (August 1996)
THE CROSSING : Dochas. (Grrr Records/Nelson Word : GRR44001)
I had high hopes of this one, following the publicity behind it which said "accessible brand of Celtic music". What is actually presented is a hotchpotch of songs and instrumentals of varying quality, which all leads to a rather dis-jointed release. It opens nicely with a jig/reel, closely followed by a folky anti-war song. These make way for the durge 'Dochas', the Indian war dance 'Castle Kelly', and the monotonous 'Someone...'. Thankfully, 'Psalm' brings welcome relief and 'Paddy's Leather Britches' rounds things off on a high. There's pipes, cellos, flutes and more, but it's a very individual taste. Sadly, it's not mine. 4/10. (January 1997)
CRYSTAL LEWIS : Beauty For Ashes. (Myrrh/Nelson Word : 701503656X.
I'd heard the final track of this album on a sampler and was intrigued by the song, 'Healing Oil'. It is so haunting (in a spiritual way) that you really have to listen in the right atmosphere to appreciate it's power. Not that this release is all about one song. This young lady has the power and sweetness of Whitney Houston's vocals and, boy, does she use them well. 'Beauty of the Cross' is simply delicious with a soul sound that just washes over you, and the anthemic 'Jesus is Coming' is nothing short of superb. She duets with Ron Kenoly on the title track and sings the J-word unashamedly. This really is a collection of love songs to Jesus, and one that I will play again and again. It's almost perfection. 9/10. (January 1997, Joint Album of the Month)
CRYSTAL LEWIS : Gold. (Myrrh : 7015041650)
Miss Lewis certainly hit the height with her last album 'Beauty For Ashes', which contained a whole stream of strong songs. This, eagerly awaited, follow up comes, then, as rather a disappointment. Sure, there are some very powerful vocals but these are on some of the most uninspiring songs I've heard in a while. "Tomorrow" is pretty noisy and pretty awful, the least said the better. "What About God" sounds like a Negro spiritual number, with Crystal whaling like a banshee to the piano accompaniment. Thankfully, she does get her act together on sounds like " Lord I Believe..." and " Remember Who You Are" , a ballad containing both strength and meaning for the listener. It is, in fact, the ballads that suit her voice best, leaving the rockier "God & I" floundering. "Why" raises your hopes once more with a medium paced pop song, but all too often you feel let down by what's on offer. I pray that this is a stumble, rather than a fall. 5/10. (June 1998)
CURIOUS FOOLS : Read. (GOTEE : 7013835889)
Cross Rhythms got hold of this before me and whacked a 10 rating on it claiming that it was "quite outstanding." It just proves, once more, how individual tastes differ. There are lot's of tribute bands on the club circuit, and most are better than this lot. Tribute band? Yes, Curious Fools are a poor man's U2, and very poor indeed. I t was hard to pick out one song that stood out from the rest but, if pushed, I'd go for rockin' beat of "Slow". If you're a U2 fan, then give this one a listen, maybe you'll like it. I didn't. 2/10 (October 1997) Forward to the next archive
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