Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive F

4FINGAZ : Ambitions of the Heart. (Vision Records)
4Fingaz aka Mustafa TJ Shiyanbola can count on over one thousand live appearances, both abroad and in the UK. This includes being the opening act for the Diversity Dance Group in 2012. Born with 3 fingers and a thumb on his left hand. 4Fingaz was a name he chose to encourage others that might appear different outwardly or internally that they are beautiful and perfectly made. God makes no mistakes! The music is a bit of a mish-mash of styles, encompassing hip-hop, RnB, Afro beat & gospel. There’s some really good guitar sounds on the introductory “Give Him Praise.” And, a real plus point – the vocal delivery was clear! Whoops, I spoke to soon. The following “Lightning” left me a little cold, as I couldn’t really decide what the song was about. “Love is the Way” features Ruth Andrage sharing the vocals. 4Fingaz mentions slavery, money and power during the song, while Ruth makes reference to Black lives matter. I’m guessing that this is a protest song. If I was looking to compare 4Fingaz style, then artists like Bizzle and Andy Mineo spring to mind. The closing “Fake People” is quite hypnotic, but not in a good way. The chorus of “We don’t want/need fake people ‘round here” is repeated, over and over again. That was certainly a song that I would play in a hurry, again. Otherwise, despite my personal tastes, the EP stands up well, compared to others in this genre. 5/10. (April 2021)
FAITHFUL : This Time I Will Bring Praise. (Integrity Music)
This single features Leslie Jordan, Christy Nockels and Kelly Minter, and is inspired by the story of Leah in the Bible. The theme encourages us when we are not seeing our difficult circumstances change. God sees us in our challenges. When it may not seem like He is near, know that He sees you, know that you are loved and accepted by Him. Bright keyboard sounds greet the listener as the song begins, before the lovely vocals step in. It’s a mid-tempo number, in an engaging pop style. The song’s title is the main thrust of the chorus, and its use in the closing moments is really quite charming. 7/10. (April 2021)
FAITHFUL : We Do Not Labor In Vain. (Integrity Music)
This is Faithful’s 6th single as part of their ground-breaking project released at the end of April. The female-led creative collective has approached the narrative and celebration of women in Scripture by writing about many of them. ‘We Do Not Labor In Vain’ is inspired by the story of Eve; one marked by deception, sin and pain, and yet above all by God’s closeness in women’s suffering. The song is a celebration of the beauty of the bond between God and women. Featuring Christa Wells on lead vocals, the backing music is quite atmospheric. The press release mentions that this is a folk/pop tune, but I’m not sure where that came from. Certainly, the overall feel is that of a high energy number, with a vocal quality that leans, at times, towards Alicia Keyes. The chorus invites all, women and men alike, to join in knowing that whether physical or spiritual, our labor might be painful but it won’t ever be in vain. I’m not sure I really understood the lyrics. But, the song sounds good, overall. 7/10. (May 2021)
FALCONE RISING : Tableturner. (John L. Falcone)
John Falcone wears many hats--mostly a surgeon's cap during the day and a baseball cap at night. While he is a general/vascular/trauma surgeon to some people, he is a husband, a father of three, a brother, a son, an uncle, and a friend to others. Music has been a part of John's personality and essence since he was young. Out of that passion for music and after being saved, Falcone Rising was born. Falcone Rising is a music-based ministry. Its mission is to help fulfill the Great Commission by using music to lead others to Jesus. I mean no disrespect to what Falcone Rising is doing, but my thoughts turned immediately to Stryper comparisons, as soon as I listened to this album. Pounding beats, chugging rhythms, and some searing guitar licks thrown in for good measure, too. The opening two songs were instant favourites, “Heart of Stone” and “I Found My Voice.” John has got some excellent musicians with him, and the voice of Jason Fowler is perfect for the genre. The title track tells of how Jesus will turn your life around. “His light shines true forever.” Songs like “In the Fire” and “3 Arrows” keep the pace racing along, until “The Road to Emmaus” comes along. I’m not sure if it was just the change into tempo, but I thought it lacked a certain something. The more pop orientated “I Am” is another good song. Lyrics include; “I am not defined by yesterday, because I am a forgiven lamb.” It may not be as raucous as earlier tracks, but I really enjoyed it. Closing the album is the acoustic “An Engagement Song.” It’s quite a change in sound but, somehow, it still works. This is a really solid rock album, and well worth an 8/10. (March 2021)
FALLING UP : Exit Lights. (Bec : Bed63561)
Well, this must be the strangest album that I've come across for some time. Is it punk, is it rock, is it urban hip hop, or is it - as I think - an interesting experiment of all musical styles? It all starts off in an Evanesence sort of style, but with a male vocal taking the lead. The opening two tracks are both lengthy but quite good. "Broken Heart" subtitled "Ghosts of Seaside" is a prayer of worship, which is then followed by a short instrumental piece featuring nothing but a few sound effects. Featuring Solomon Olds from Family Force 5, "Moonlit" (neon Predator) falls into the hip hop category and almost into "Jesus Freak" territory. The style changes again with "Bittersweet" (A Jedi Force), as synthesizer sounds come to the fore. The most commercial track has to be "Searchlights". It's a good song and I can see it getting a lot of radio play. In their lighter moments, Falling Up sounded very much like a recent album by Leeland but overall, for me, it's an experiment that doesn't seem to have worked. 5/10 (March 2007)
FALLSTAR : Sunbreather. (Facedown Records)
This Fallstar’s first album in 6 years. For those who don’t know this band, you might be in for a shock. Their music is classed as metalcore, indie rock, & hip hop. So, I guess we’re talking of similar artists such as Limp Biskit or Korn – not the usual stuff I listen to. After the opening attack of “Chroma,” I tired my best to listen, objectively, to “Cloud Chamber.” I scribbled a few notes down, and came up with the view that the lyrics were, possibly, describing what it’s like to live with depression. That feeling was amplified by the next song “Ssri Feel Better Already” and lyrics like “God I’ve got a broken mind.” The vocalists shout their way through each song and, sometimes, I did find it hard to hear the lyrics. Crunching guitars and heavy drum beats, accompany most songs. My listening ears did get a break with the more melodic “Waiting.” Proving that the singer can sing without screaming, it soon became my favourite track on the album. It reminded me, a little, of My Chemical Romance. Then, the songs returned to the metalcore theme, and my hearing struggled once more. “I exist somewhere in between the lion and the lamb,” are a few of the words from “The Prism Glass.” I’m guessing that this song is about finding your way in the Christian life but, try as I might, I couldn’t distinguish a single word of the bass singer. And so, to sum up, this is an album that you won’t find me playing again. It’s not my taste at all. However, comparing it to the likes of Limp Biskit, it stands up well in sound. Hopefully, Fallstar’s music will find the right audience for their message. 7/10. (March 2021)
THE FAMILY TABLE : Conversations Around the Family Table. (
This Norwich based collective are a creative agency that tells “better stories” and collaborates with like-minded creatives to produce excellence. Whether it's through film, music, photography, writing or design – “we connect the right story with your audience.” There are six tracks on offer here, divided into four folk style songs and two spoken word, with musical backing. The latter see the Rev. Ian Mizen recite rhymes, were the theme revolves around the kitchen table. This, he says, is the ideal place to welcome people and share our faith, amongst other things. “Home” is a slow, plodding number, sung by Ben Lawrence. “Come home my tired child, [and] lay your head on my shoulder.” Nice words and nicely sung. Sarah Bullard sings the title track, with some excellent violin and other acoustic instruments. Her vocals are crisp and clear, and she repeats this performance on “Veins of Life.” This song appears to be a reminder to spend time with God, so that your life is enriched by His presence. The tune is good, and the musical backing, once more, is first class. “Hollywood” sees Lawrence return to vocal duty. Here, sings a warning to those who believe that the “Hollywood lifestyle” is the one to aspire to. The recording has quite a raw and honest sound, and I like the feeling it gives. I would compare this release, loosely, with those made by United Pursuit. However, in my humble opinion, The Family Table achieve much more with this recording. 6/10. (July 2019)
FANNY CROSBY : Safe in the Arms of Jesus. (Elevation : ELE2079D)
2015 marks the centenary of the death of Frances Jane Crosby. This much celebrated American mission worker, poet, lyricist and composer is one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8000 hymns and gospel songs. This album features 20 of her best loved hymns that are still used in churches today. Saying that, there were quite a number of hymns that I had never heard before. Of course, favourites like ‘Blessed Assurance’, ‘Safe in the Arms of Jesus’, and ‘To God Be The Glory’, really stood out for me. Of the others, ‘Every Day & Hour’ and ‘Saved By the Grace’ were real highlights. All the hymns are sung in choral style, with organ backing. The organ sound itself is a little quiet at times but at least the quality of the voices can be heard quite clearly. Other tracks include ‘Pass Me Not’, ‘Moments of Prayer’, and ‘Rescue the Perishing’. This collection is a throwback to traditional church music that is rarely heard these days. Fanny Crosby must have been quite a lady. I wonder how many Hillsong and Planetshakers songs, will still be sung in a hundred years time? 7/10. (August 2015)
FANNY CROSBY : Newly Discovered Hymns & Songs. (Stow Town Records : STR3204)
Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby was born March 24, 1820, in Putnam County, New York. Having lost her eyesight at the age of 6 weeks, Fanny grew up learning from her grandmother about nature, animals, and the Bible. She wrote her first hymn at the age of 45 and gained worldwide fame through the distribution of her hymns, poems, books and secular songs. Several of her unpublished writings were discovered in recent years. This album is the result of collaboration of today’s finest songwriters. There are 15 songs on the track listing and some are real beauties. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound are the first o be heard with a song called “Shout Hosanna.” The music is provided by a church style organ, but the vocal harmonies are a wonder to behold. “I Know the Sweet voice of the Shepherd” is a lovely song. Sung by southern gospel stalwarts, Legacy Five, it’s splendour pours out through your speakers. Banjo and mandolin sounds greet Rhonda Vincent, Lizzy Long, & Sally Berry on “Beside the Cross,” while the acappella voices of Triumphant masterfully bring you “The Isles of the Deep.” To be honest, this is a really lovely collection of songs. Fanny Crosby must have been quite a woman, and it’s testament to her writings that her hymns have stood the test of time. Other artists lending their voices to these new songs include The Collingsworth Family, The Erwins, and a whole host of top singing stars. Whoever took the time to put this package together deserves a huge pat on the back. 10/10. (September 2018, Album of the Month)
FEAR GOD : God Bless The World, Not Just America. (Thumper Punk Records)
Doug Jutras decided he needed clarity in his life – Jesus provided it and this CD reflects that. Released on the Thumper Punk label, whose tag line is “Jesus Christ Hard Core (JCHC) is spoken here. Fight like a man, scriptures in hand!” you know you’re not in for an ambient trance CD. It does indeed come out fighting, shouting lines like “Love God” over buzzsaw guitar – subtle it is not. It reminded me a certain amount of the Bill Mason Band, including the slower bits such as the spoken verses of “What Am I Doing Here” and the use of the bass guitar to provide the riff. Other bits are more Sham 69 meets the Sex Pistols (especially “Closer He Gets To You”). If anything I think the vocal was a bit high in the mix, which detracted a touch from the energy of the band. “Can’t U Be There” showed what happens when they do this, allowing the slightly psychedelic guitar figure to come through. Lyrically, for a genre that usually focuses so much on anger and injustice, Fear God focus very much on forgiveness and acceptance by God through Jesus, doing so in simple sound bites and repeated motifs (some of which would be very powerful to hear a whole concert hall chanting). It’s not all 100mph drumming as the acoustic (and powerful) “Kelly Testimony” and somewhat jokey countrified “Happy Birthday Dad” show. But mostly it is. Best track: “What Am I Doing Here” (although “Happy Birthday Dad” will be in your head for a week). 7/10. Paul Ganney. (May 2014)
FEAR NOT : For The Wounded Heart. (Roxx Records)
This 5-track EP from the re-formed and re-energised Melodic/Blues-Rock band comes a mere 25 years after its predecessor. They do have a new lead vocalist (the original, Larry Worley, contributes guitar and backing vocals) and that has changed their sound a bit – it’s more 90s rock and the guitar tones do match that feeling: crunchy, powerful and with screaming solos. It’s incredibly solid (and consistently so) and will certainly appeal to fans of bands such as Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult, Bon Jovi and Poison with its mix of in-your-face rock (“Don’t Want None”), power almost-ballads (“Carry Me” – this song providing the strongest faith-based lyric) and blues-based riffs (“Love Is Alright”). It’s very good and probably shouldn’t be judged against their former work – I just hope it’s not 25 years before their next one. Best track: Don’t Want None. 7/10 Paul Ganney (August 2019)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : The Breaking Of The Dawn. (Myrrh : 701257268).
Fernando who? Well, we won't be asking that question for long, if this release is anything to go by! It's the first time in a long while since I wanted to give an album 11/10. How I missed his debut 'This Bright Hour' is beyond me, and there's no wonder it won him a 1998 Dove Award. This new release is just filled with superb music and lyrics that tell of his life and God's influence in it. Hints of Michael Card cast a magic musical spell on the listener, with songs like 'Creation Song' and 'Lord Of Eternity' being so beautiful. The 'Road Song' is just out of this world and the meditational intrumental 'Don't Take Me...' is breathtaking. Soft and gentle, is the only way that I can describe 'When All Mercies...'and I really think that this album should be a compulsary purchase. 10/10. (November 1998, Album of the Month)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : Home. (Myrrh : 7012685263)
Fernando Ortega is described as a 'veteran pianist and songwriter' but it's only the last couple of years that I've caught up with this talented man. Opening with the simple praise of "This Good Day", Ortega shows that - despite the passing years - he isn't afraid to experiment with more modern, upbeat sounds. His mellow, warm vocals are almost hypnotic, and songs like "Lonely Road" and "Winter Song" are sheer magic. The haunting background vocals of Kelly Willard and Cathy Schreiner only add to the brilliance of the finished product, which should appeal to fans of Michael Card. Classic hymns "Give Me Jesus" and "Pass Me Not" are given bright, new arrangements but new songs such as "on the Line" and "Virgina Rose" should not be forgotten. The former sounds like Simon & Garfunkle, while the latter, complete with superb fiddles, reminded be of Eden Burning. Easy listening? Yes, and it's lovely. 9/10. (May 2000)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : Live - The Home Tour. (Myhrr : 080688610234)
Let's get one thing straight from the start, a Fernando Ortega concert video is never going to be a visual extravaganza of special fx or screaming audiences. What you do get though is a brilliant pianist/songwriter, a tight array of backing musicans, and a video full of worship and love for his Saviour. As you might guess, most of the songs played are taken from his "Home" album, but one or two others do creep in along the way. "This Good Day" is one that I've personally played a lot over the last few months and it was really nice to sit and watch the man actually perform such a great song. The concert takes a little while for both the man himself and the audience to warm to each other but, once they do, there's a great rapport and bond. Between songs, his quiet humour comes out and provides another insight into a man who is not so well know in the UK. If you like his albums, you'll love the video but, if you've not yet caught up with Fernando, try this. Over 90 minutes of video footage with songs that will gently inspire and bring you closer to God. 9/10. (April 2001)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : Storm. (Word : 403610024115)
For his 10th studio album, Fernando Ortega looks at the storms of life that we pass through, and how certain people get through them. Here's a guy who's albums never disappoint me. You know the easy going style, yet each new release is different to the last. I instantly fell in love with the first track called "Traveller". It's mellow and calming sound is a prayer to the Lord for all those who travel or/and go astray. That's followed by an excellent duet with Amy Grant as they sing "Come Ye Sinners, Poor And Needy" - very beautiful indeed. Fernando then up's the tempo for a foot tapper, "Light of Heaven" and follows that with the title track. If you've never come across this brilliant artist then the nearest comparison I can give you is Michael Card. There again, as Card depicts Bible truths, Ortega writes about those truths in everyday situations. "This Time Next Year" is sung about yearly family gatherings and all that can happen during that time. There's an assurance that, although apart, God is always with us and makes us feel together. An album to relax and meditate with, an to share with others in need. 9/10. (March 2002, Album of the Month)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : Hymns of Worship. (Word : WD2A-886247)
I always smile to myself whenever I receive one of Fernando Ortega's records to review. Why? Because, I'm rarely disappointed by the content, and his music never fails to bring a warmth within. This Cd sees him collect the best of his own compositions of hymns and worship songs, together with one or two well known tunes. "Creation Song" is a lovely song and I remember it well from it's original release. "Children of the Living God" is sung in a nursery rhyme style, while "All Creatures of Our God & King" has a distinct marching fell to it. The latter is of highest quality and very uplifting to the soul. Your not going to get any rock n' roll from Fernando, but what he does best is to quietly tell a story such as the gentle "Jesus, King of Angels". He's received two Dove Awards and had six No.1 hit radio singles, yet he remains, in the UK, one of the greatest undiscovered talents. 9/10. (April 2003)
FERNANDO ORTEGA : The Shadow of Your Wings. (Curb : 8789522)
As a great fan of Fernando's music over the years, I have to say that I was a little disappointed by this new release. Previously, he's married intricate tunes with catchy lyrics and choruses to bring together a delightful mix of songs. Here, he concentrates on worship, with quiet songs of meditation and prayer. Perhaps I wasn't in the right mood for this when I reviewed it, but the songs quietly drifted past me. "Grace & Peace" is just that. It's a graceful little number and has peace written right the way through it. "All Flesh is Like the Grass" and Let the Words of My Mouth" float quietly by. "Come, Let Us Worship" is a medium paced number that calls on us to bow down to God, while Fernando then goes on to give a nice version of "All Creatures of Our God and King". His own interpretation of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" comes next, and I'm sure it will meet with approval even by the staunchest supporter of old hymns. I don't think that this is a particularly brilliant album, but these are the words and songs of a man who truly knows what it is to live for God. 7/10 (May 2007)
FEW LEFT STANDING : Wormwood. (Solid State Records)
After hearing this album you can definitely tell why they are named 'Few Left Standing'. Definitely not a band for the feint-hearted as their adrenalin packed music throws everything at you; insane drumming, screaming vocals and amazing guitar riffs that will leave your ears ringing. If you don't listen to the lyrics it is hard to imagine that they are a Christian band, purely because it is not the stereotypical Christian-rock that we have come to know. However when you actually listen to what is being said in the songs, you can tell that they are really trying to get the message across in a way that today's youth can relate to. With more and more young people listening to bands such as 'Slipknot' and 'Linkin Park', it is a perfect time for bands like 'Few Left Standing' to get out there. As I went to look on to see if they had any previous releases I sadly discovered that 'Few Left Standing' has now split up to concentrate on other areas of their ministry. Nevertheless, in spite of this split, Wormwood is definitely worth a listen for those hard-rock fans. 8/10. Richard Howlett. (June 2002)
FEW LEFT STANDING : Regeneration Of Self. (Solid State Records)
I reviewed "Wormwood", the band's previous release, and, being the intrepid reporter that I am, tracked down their website. I did enjoy their last release and so it was to my utter dismay that I found out they had split up! So here I am with their next release… Ok, so somehow I messed up. But at least we get another album and that's all that matters. Now I'm not usually a fan of screamed vocals that you can't really understand, as I usually like the kind of lyrics you can sing along to. However there will be no sitting round the campfire singing the likes of "Blistered Spirit" or "Tears Of A Fallen Man". The offerings from this band may not be to my usual liking but there is just something about them that captivates the ears. What's more the music is not just a backing for these intense vocals from Christopher Stafford, it matches his ferocity beat for beat, you only have to listen to some of the drumming on "Restoration" to discover this. Combined with the impressive guitar and bass work this makes for a very good album. Like I said last time, not for the feint-hearted but an extremely good tool in spreading the good news to the youth of today. 8/10 Rik Howlett. (October 2003)
FFH : I Want to Be Like You. (Essential : 83061-0498-2)
Three guys and a girl make up this Crowded House style band, with a twelve song album that is uncluttered, and very well produced. The songs are based on acoustic guitar, which are then cleverly added to, making a very polished end product. The tracks themselves are quite strong throughout without being spectacular. "One of These Days" starts things off, followed by "Take Me As I Am" - a cry to Jesus - both bouncing along at a steady pace. The title track is in a similar, easy, vein, but "I'm Alright" leans more towards the lbues, andis a turn off as far as this reviewer is concerned. The male vocalist works better than the female and "Wholly To You" shows him in great form, with a beautiful song. As I say, not a spectacular release but certainly one of the better offerings on show this month. With a debut like this, FFH should be around for some time to come. 8/10. (April 1999)
FFH : Still the Cross. (Essential Records)
It's a while since we've heard from FFH, but the wait has really been worthwhile. This is one of the best pop praise albums that I've heard for a long time. There's loads of catchy hooks and the guitar playing just has a certain edge. There's so many potential radio hits on this album it's one glorious song after another. "You'll Drive I'll Ride" would be my pick of the bunch, but it's a hard decision t make, because the songs are just so good all the way through. "Without You" praises God for all He does in our lives, including those things that we take for granted. "Still the Cross" is contemporary praise at it's best while, the knowing that God is with you, every moment of the day, comes to the fore on "In This Moment". There's a theme of personal relationship running throughout the listing, but it's not just God that's praised. A loved one is given praise, too, on the delicious "Another Day With You". Believe me, it will be hard to find a better pop praise album out at the moment. 10/10. (January 2005)
FICTION FACTORY : Fiction Factory. (EMI)
This is a difficult CD to place, Acoustic guitar led rock music probably is the best way to describe it, but it has influences from so many different people in the music. It's actually a really interesting album, the opening track "When She's Near" has some very nice harmonies on it, and there is a definite mid '60's Beatles sound to them. Then the next couple of tracks are very much in the style of "Crowded House" "War in the Blood" is very Simon & Garfunkel, and the final track "Look For My Baby" is pure Bob Dylan, and yet with all this acoustic music there's the occasional sound effect thrown in that Pink Floyd would be proud of. The variation of styles seems to keep this CD fresh, and unlike a lot of acoustic albums, it doesn't run out of steam half way through. You could stick this on just as background music, or you could sit down and listen to it in detail. Certainly one of the best CD's I've heard for a while. You can get it from here. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2009)
FIGHTING INSTINCT : Fighting Instinct. (Gotee Records)
Fighting Instinct are a new American band from the good ol' US of A. Gotee have a good pedigree for finding fresh, innovative talent and providing the world with ear candy, but unfortunately this record is more miss than hit. First though, the positives: T.J. Harris (vocals and guitars) has a searing vocal which, like his apparent idol Eddie Vedder's, will never go out of style. While Fighting Instinct are by no means simply a Pearl Jam/Creed/Lifehouse etc copy cat band, Harris's vocal stylings do, for the most part, give rise to that obvious comparison. However, there is diversity in this record. Beginning with the slightly Eastern sounding rifforama of "I Found Forever", with its Zeppelin-esque overtones to "You Don't Know", the album's standout cut, which sounds closer to grunge, all the way through to closer "Just to Please You", "Fighting Instinct" showcases an obviously talented and tight band, with some top production from the ever-dependable Skidd Mills. Sadly, though, there's virtually nothing which could be called "new" or fresh on this record and it is therefore difficult to see it truly standing out amongst the plethora of Christian rock releases of 2006. Solid, but disappointingly unspectacular. 7/10 Haydon Spenceley. (January 2007)
FIKE : The Moment We've Been Waiting For.  (Integrity :  50572)
This is the debut CD by husband and wife worship leaders Richie and Dana Fike, from Colorado. Slickly produced pop ccm, some tracks feature Dana on lead vocals, others Richie. Both are accomplished, note-perfect vocalists (with no discernible auto-tune present(!) – Richie's voice a typical 'tenor with gravel' and Dana's clear and pure. The overtly 'Christian message' lyrics can be easily followed, and are also included in the CD insert. Opening with the title track, Dana takes lead vocals on what is in effect Fike's equivalent of Phatfish's 'There is a day' – i.e. about Christ's second coming. This is a good album overall, but three tracks stand out for me. I wasn't surprised to discover that the bouncy 'Wait', with Richie on lead, was evidently released as a single – I'm blowed if I can remember the artist/band that this track reminds me of,  but it's very good! Dana's slow, worshipful delivery of 'Glorious You are' is very effective, and the slow and bluesy closer 'That's why I praise' best shows what Richie can do vocals-wise – excellent. Downsides? Only one really – with mostly good sound quality, it is a pity that one or two tracks sound thrashy and compressed. I must mention however that the front cover features a clock ('the moment we've been waiting for – geddit?!) that has its hands out of alignment! Significant, or what? A worthy 8/10. Dave Deeks (November 2012)
FINA OEI : Grace Changes Everything. (
Fina Oei is an Indonesian singer-songwriter who has sung in church since she was 13 years old. She was part of the group Fina Wowor & Rebirth in 2007 which won the Indonesian Gospel Music Awards: New Artist of the Year and Best Group of the Year in 2008. Her passion is to preach the gospel through the medium of music and to promote Christ-centered songs to the church. In the past, Fina has led worship with fellow worship leaders Neli Atiga, Sidney Mohede, Israel Houghton, and Wayne & Libby Huirua. The title track on this EP starts off very gently, with an RnB number that is quite soothing until a male vocal raps mid-song. That spoilt the whole thing for me, personally. ‘Holler Hallelujah’ is more funky number, in the style of Yolanda Adams. Fina sings of being “called for your [God] purpose,” and the song races along, at pace. Based on Psalm 28, Fina delivers a lovely vocal on ‘My Strength.’ Piano led, her voice is joined by some warm backing vocals on, what is, the highlight of the EP, so far. Given the history of this lady, I’m surprised that this was my first taste of her music. The choppy ‘I Lift My Eyes’ is bright and cheerful, while the closing ‘Satisfied’ returns to RnB with a distinct dance vibe running through, too. All in all, this is a commendable recoding from this singer, who I hope to hear more from in the future. 7/10. (May 2022)
FINCHLEY : No Clouds. (ICC : FM0002)
For those of you not up to date with the UK Christian music scene, Ian Finch is currently cutting his teeth as a solo artist after years of being part of the Liverpool outfit Supervision. This son of a Baptist minister has taken a few risks and produced an entertaining, if not spectacular, debut in the adult rock scene. After a solid opening couple of tracks, he gets into the purple patch of the album which begins with the energy of 'This Journey'. There's some good guitar work in this song, and the same can be said later on in proceedings with 'Prodigal'. My favourite track has to be 'Contraflow', a song about growing up as a man. Musically, it reaches into the territory of A-Ha, and the vocals really work well. Of the other songs, 'Sun Spots' is worth a mention, as is the closing 'Struggle On'. It's as if God were crying to one of His lost sheep, struggling with life under their own steam. I found it wistful, yet quite moving at the same time. For a debut album, there's a bright future predicted for Finchley and I'm sure he will only improve with time. 7/10. (June 2008)
FINDING FAVOUR : Finding Favour. (Gottee : 669447004417)
Blake Nee Smith (lead singer,vocals), Dustin Daniels (bass,guitar,vocals), Josh Duckworth (drums) and Allen Dukes (guitar,vocals), make up this South Gerogia based band. The first song, ‘Shake the World’ has a good singalong chorus, which tells us how we should all sing and march for Jesus instead of conforming to the secular world. It’s a good opening song, and probably the best of this 6 song album. ‘Love Stepped In’ tells of how God can change your life. It’s slightly slower in tempo, and seemed to remind me of another song, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The overall sound of the group is quite pop orientated and I thought, at times ,Finding Favour sounded like Philips, Craig & Dean, from a few years back. ‘Hallelujah We Shall Rise’ tells of the day we will meet Jesus face to face, while the case is put forward for Jesus to be our ‘Hero’ on the following number. I found the album to be a bit bland with it’s sound. Smith’s vocals are quite good, but the MOR songs left me a little disappointed. 5/10. (November 2013)
FINE CHINA : You Make Me Hate Music. (Tooth & Nail Records)
Yeah … me too. Cheap joke I know, and probably unfair, but by the time this album reached the end of its first play I was about ready to chew my own foot off!! To be fair to Fine China, there is nothing here that I would describe as "bad", it is just terribly dull and lives, musically, in about 1985. Half the tracks sound just like "The Cure", another couple like "The Smiths" and even one like Hull's "The Housemartins". If you were into those bands (and I never was) you may well like this album but, for me, it doesn't get out of 2nd gear. Subjective tastes aside, the major irritation is one of production. The vocalist "can't sing" in the same way that Robert Smith (of "The Cure") "can't sing" and it suits the backing quite well, but his quiet voice just gets lost in the jangly guitars, and it is impossible to hear what he is singing about - something that is very high up my list of priorities where Christian music is concerned. On the positive side, the middle two tracks ("You were a Saint" and "Boo to the Freaks") are pretty good, and break the general monotony by introducing some nice acoustic guitar playing. Unfortunately, whichever way you look from there it is downhill all the way. 4/10 David Cooper (June 2002)
FIONA CROW : Masterpiece. (
Edinburgh-based worship leader, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Fiona Crow combines music ministry with her job as a Music Therapist. Fiona is the Worship Director at Edinburgh Elim and alongside her bass-playing husband and young family she has served there for over 10 years. This release is the follow up to her 2015 album “Made to Love” and contains 10 tracks. Vocally, Fiona has a touch of Kristene DiMarco about her, while I liken her musical style to that of Manchester’s Krystyna Myles. From the opening “Citizen of Heaven” Fiona’s piano figures prominently throughout the album. “Whole Life Praise” is a touching song about letting your whole life praise the Lord. “All My Love” is quite slow in tempo, but is nicely delivered by Fiona. “Be Moved” and Father Heart” go together quite well, and I particularly enjoyed Scott Macleod’s guitar work on the latter. The title track is, for me, the best song on the album. Production is first class and it really is a “Masterpiece.” Beginning with simple piano phrases, Fiona sings from a deep love in Christ, and celebrates being alive in Him. There’s quite a wealth of good songs here, closing with “Be Still,” a song for soaking in God’s love and presence. Fiona may be a new name to many on the UK scene but this album should see her making positive waves in Christian music. 9/10. (December 2018)
Based in the UK, singer songwriter Fiona Poulson says; “My growing awareness of the main call on my life to write song and my passion for mission led to me step out into the uncertain but exciting world of worship leading wherever asked – increasingly prophetic worship – writing songs whenever I get the opportunity, and finally getting some songs recorded.” Let me say straight away that this is not your ordinary worship album. Listening, I got the impression that this is very much a concept album, with more than just a passing nod to the styles of Florence and the Machine and Gungor. “Liberty” is a strong opening number, with Fiona’s piano playing at the forefront of the song. “I Wait for You” is a quieter song, where she sings of Jesus. Fresh and bouncy are two words that describe “How Infinite”, celebrating God’s love. “Wonderful, this love that rescues us” – how simple, but so true! “Compelled By Love” shows a completely different side to Fiona’s singing. Gone are the sweet poppy sounds and in, come a “gnashing of teeth” vocal, which comes over very alien to the rest of the album. There’s an atmospheric sound to “Stay”, while “Feathers” returns to that more easy listening sound that I think suits her best. “Reigning Now” didn’t quite light the blue touch paper for me, but “Vast Ocean” really does convey that feeling of prophetic and spontaneous worship. It’s well produced and is a highlight of the album. Finally, Fiona ends with a folky rendition of one of my childhood favourite hymns “When A Knight Won His Spurs”. Keeping enough of the original tune, she adds her own twist and breathes into it, new life. Hats off to this lady for not producing just another, run of the mill, worship album. To get the most out of this release, you need time to sit and listen carefully. 8/10. (January 2016)
THE FIONA SIMPSON BAND : Seasoned With Salt. (Private Recording) Details from: Brenda Adams, 15 Foxhall Road, Timperley, Cheshire, WA15 6RW).
By their own admission, The Fiona Simpson Band are not really going to have mass appeal to your run of the mill teenager or person in their early 20's. But, for the last 3 years, the four members of the group have played God's music to countless folk around the UK. The album was made as a result of pressure from concert audiences and part financed by faithful supporters. If you're going to pick a fault, then the overall production is not quite in the same league as, say, Avalon. There again, we're only talking about a budget which is a fraction of that used by our Atlantic brothers & sisters, and that should be taken into account. What you get is 10 tracks that cover such songs as "Champion of the World", Sir Cliff's "From a Distance", and "Come and See". Fiona's vocals are very much in the Marilla Ness style (recorded at the same studio) and are very warming to the ear. I really loved the version of "We Are More Than Conquerors" and will continue to play it over and over again. Graham Kendrick's "Thorns in the Straw" is simply beautiful and the clever delivery of Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise" gives the listener a sense of peace and tranquillity that only God can give. A lovely album. 8/10. (May 1999)
THE FIONA SIMPSON BAND : All About Love. (Private CD £11; Cassette £7 inc p&p from: Tel: England 0161 928 6672. E-mail:
Radio 1 listeners and local IRL Station listeners will, no doubt, turn away from this release. However, for those of us who like the more melodic tones of Radio 2 and BBC Stations, the new FSB album will go down like tea and scones on a June afternoon. Hopefully, that June afternoon will be bright and sunny, because that is just what this release reminds me of. The content is a mixture of cover versions and originals, the latter showing just how the band members, themselves, are beginning to mature. The opening "Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again" is a Kendrick number that immediately shows off the warmth and depth of Fiona's vocals. "Shout For Justice" is the first 'home grown' offering and is, perhaps, the weakest track on offer. Sentiments about N. Ireland and Bosnia are touching but the finished article sounds rather dis-jointed. However, "Why Me?" proves that their songwriting talent is emerging with this gentler sound. Concerts over the last 12 months have only served to improve the musicianship of the FSB and, together, they prove a solid outfit. "I Saw You There" is a catchy little thing that I had never heard of before, and "All You Have To Do", is a lovely song with a simple message on how to accept the Lord in your life. 9/10 (May 2000)
How lovely it is to hear the warm and charming voice of Fiona, accompanied by the band, in fine form once more. Following a nasty bout of pneumonia, Fiona has recovered well to give her best on this new release. To me, the track listing sounds more like a live gig set. It begins with the bouncy "All that You are" which is followed by the Beth Nielsen Chapman/Eric Kaz song "All I Have is All I Need". The band seem to have looked at a few country influences this time as Leanne Womack's wonderful "I Hope you Dance" is also included. Original songwriting continues to improve from the band and Fiona, along with Brian Adams (no, not that Brian Adams) present the teriffic "Resurrection Angel". Likewise, Graham Jackson's "Love Flowed Over Me" has a wonderful quality, as the Lord is praised for all His goodness. The FSB continue to minister to the easy listening audiences up and down the country, but this new album does see them successfully stretch themselves both musically and lyrically. 8/10. (November 2003)
It's good to know that some things in life remain the same. Despite no longer leading a full band, Fiona Simpson, along with her long time musical partner, Brian Adams, returns with a CD, full of warmth and reassurance. The couple's commitment to outreach remains as strong as ever, and this album should see them comfortably reach to many. Forthose of you who have never come across Fiona before, then her voice holds a rich, mellow tone, and it's instantly recognisable on the opening Steven Curtis Chapman song, 'More to This Life'. Accompaniment is well thought out, and I especially liked the acoustic guitars on 'Never Too Late' and 'Pretty Amazing Grace'. While the latter may lack the raw power of Neil Diamond's original version. Fiona and Brian play it well as an easy listening song. Most songs on the album are of similar pace, but the pair show that they can easily move uptempo with fine renditions of Steve Earle's 'Jerusalem' and Diane Warren's 'Love Understanding. There are some uplifting moments during the album, but the word "reassurance" kept forming in my head whilst listening. Welcome back, Fiona and Brian. 8/10 (January 2010)
FIREFLIGHT : Now.   (Essential : 83061-0933-2)
I haven’t heard a rock album like this for some time. It’s raw, it’s powerful, and still manages to put God at the forefront of each song. With lead singer Dawn Michele belting out the lyrics, she’s got fantastic support from the rest of the band. Crunching guitars reminded me of Evanesence, or more recently The Pretty Wreckless. The current single, ‘Stay Close’ starts things off, asking to know more of God. The duet on ‘Escape’ has Dawn’s vocals soaring, while she is more controlled on the lighter ‘He Weeps’. On this song, the lyrics asks where God is, during our trials? ‘Keeping Me Alive’ loses some of the band’s angst, but ‘Stronger Than You Think’ soon puts the band back on track. I must admit that I haven’t listened to a lot of rock over the last few years, but this album has really re-ignited my interest. Fireflight may rock, but they still can put in catchy hooks on songs like ‘Prove Me Wrong’ and the classy ‘Rise Above’. The title track ends the listing at breakneck speed, and it’s worth reflecting on just what the band have given in just over 36 minutes. More of the same please Fireflight!   9/10. (May 2012, Album of the Month)
FIRST CALL : Second Birth. (Elevate Entertainment : B01GUA9AQ8)
I’ve always been a fan of the tight harmonies of vocal group First call so I was delighted to be asked to review this, their reunion album aptly titled Second Birth. The opening track O Sifuni Mungu is a re worked version of a popular song from one of their 80’s albums. It has the tight harmonies you would expect from this vocally gifted group. However there was nothing fresh about this version. There are covers of popular worship songs like Mighty to Save and In Christ Alone as well as an interesting version of the old spiritual Wade in the Water. This was the stand out track for me. I can’t fault the vocals etc but this album felt a bit stale. I would have liked to hear some original songs rather than covers and a fresher, more modern sound. I had great expectations for this album which sad to say weren’t filled and I was somewhat disappointed. 3/10 Angie Lendon. (September 2016)
THE 500 SERIES : Volume 5. (Kingsway : KMCD2432)
My second triple box set review this month, consists of "50 of the most popular praise & worship songs sung in churches today. On these sort of compilations, you usually find the same musicians and singers appearing time after time, and this is no exception. Simon Goodall, Ingrid DuMosch, and Calvin Bottoms all flex their vocal talents, while Andrew Green's keyboard and programming techniques beef up the music. As for the songs, there's nothing to really dislike, it just depends on your preference of church music. There's too many songs to list individually here but I did enjoy hearing the likes of "So Freely", and Be Still and Know" for the first time in ages. Then, there's "I Will Call Upon the Lord" and "Holy Holy", both great songs in their own right. My only other advice would be to check out the full listing before buying and weigh up just how many of the songs you like. 6/10. (July 2003)
FLAME : Our World Redeemed. (CMR : 8-81413-00302-0)
This is the second instalment in Flame's two-part audio novel, and sequel to his album 'Our World : Fallen'. The two-part album captures the story of Flame befriending a non-believer and pointing him to the cross of Christ, while examining the fallen condition of the world. This second part sees Flame teaching and encouraging his friend in Christian life, from ethical values to Biblical principles, and certainly the lyrics are sound. Influenced by the hip hop culture, Flame seems to have gone for the Eminem approach of vocal delivery. I got the feeling of a lot of aggression in songs like 'Who Can Pluck Us' and 'Hold On'. I'm not sure if this type of music is still big time in the States, but listening to the current UK charts, I don't hear a lot of music to compare this too. 'On the Cross' talks about Jesus dying for us, while '2nd Coming' depicts just that and asks if you're ready for Jesus' return. I think I'm right in saying that Flame's delivery is every bit as good as similar artists in the past. I just wonder if it's, now, a bit dated? 6/10. (April 2008)
This album largely sounds pretty much like you’d expect a band called Fleshkiller to sound – it’s metal with a large hatful of riffs (I especially liked ones in “True Image”, “Window Of Time” and “Secret Chambers”), nothing slow, bludgeoning drums and bass, overlaid by a half-shouted, half-grunted lead vocal. And then it throws a curve into the mix: vocal harmony work which shows they’re not music-by-numbers. Some of this reminded me of Yes (the start of “Evil Eclipse” and the second half of “Parallel Kingdom” are great examples), which was a big and pleasant surprise to find something so unexpected – it really makes you sit up and pay attention, wondering what else they have up their collective sleeves. The faith-based lyrics come through well and clear, a band not burying it in odd imagery or hiding behind the wall of noise. Once I’d made the Yes connection on the vocals I could hear some more in some of the rhythmic punches, high-speed runs and solos (such as the title track). I’d probably describe them as Yes meets My Chemical Romance meets Napalm Death. A curious and enjoyable meeting it is too. Best track: Parallel Kingdom. 8/10 Paul Ganney. (April 2019)
FLOW : Sense (ICY/ICC : ICCD21230).
I first bumped into this lot at last year's JAM Festival and filmed a couple of songs, they were quite impressive. This album has now been dusted, polished, and fine tuned by ICC and it is a good debut. Today's music critics will liken them to Sleeper but I, as a mature student of the arts, think they've got the Blondie panache. "I Never Said" has that such style about it, crossed with the Brit feel that I think it's Top 10 material. Nesse Hodges' vocals carry an eerie resemblance to Debbie Harry and this shines out on "Limelighter". "Zion" is another strong song which is only one of many that is driven by purposeful guitars and rhythms. With the right media push, I can sense Flow growing. 8/10. (July 1997)
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY : For Such A Time As This. (Starsong :7243 82021520).
The first album in this series "Renewing the Heart" not only ministered to many, but also won a Dove Award for the best Praise & Worship release. Here, Kim Hill is, once again, the woman at the forefront of things for this second collection. With contributions from writers such as Matt Redman, Martin smith, and Brian Doerksen, we're treated to songs and hymns, old and new. In typical fashion, the album begins with a couple of fine bouncy praises. "Come, Now Is the Time To Worship" sets things off, and "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name" continues the great feeling of what it really means to be a child of God. You know the formula with these live albums and everything is just what you expect. They slow things down for some gentle worship, and then it's back to the joyful sounds of "For Such A Time As This" and, my favourite, "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever". Apart from the dreadful version of "Blessed Assurance", all the old songs are given just respect and delivered well. Another successful release. 9/10. (July 1999)
FOCUSFEST 2000 : Thank You For the Cross. (Kingsway : KMCD2281)
4200 ladies met together from many churches in Ireland and from other parts of the world, to worship and hear God's word at this ecumenical event, Focusfest 2000. Geraldine Latty, once again, skillfully leads worship combining a superb collection of, mostly, modern p&w songs. The album opens with an old favourite "Amazing Grace", and then "All Heaven Declares" (Noel & Tricia Richards). My favourite track comes next, "Lord, I Come", written by Latty herself. This is a beautiful, heartfelt, prayerful song. It is the most recently written song on the album and, therefore, I had not heard it before. There's a good selection of songs, put together well, and well supported by the singing and music. Writers such as Matt Redman, Stuart Townend, and Graham Kendrick, all feature on an album that mixes quiet and reflective times with lively numbers such as "Lord I Lift Your Name". All in all, a very nice, live worship album. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (December 2000)
FOCUSFEST 2001 : The Sound of Grace. (Kingsway : KMCD2349)
When 5000 women join in exuberant praise and intimate worship, it can only be the sound of a live recording from this year's Focusfest Event. Led by Geraldine Latty, there's also contributions by Maire Brennan and Kristyn Lennox. Using Celtic, gospel, traditional and contemporary styles of music, this is an album that the male population will also enjoy. It's a little slow to get started but once you've listened to the medley of "What Can Wash Away My Sin" and "Have You Been to Jesus", you'll be worshipping along with the rest of the album. Brennan sings a lovely version of "O Jesus Friend Unfailing" in that old folk style while "Over All the Earth" will have you singing it for days. Using a good celtic drum beat, there's a new feel to that old favourite "Praise to the Lord God Almighty". "Forgiven" is sung with such feeling by Lennox and accompanied by the gentle piano playing of Jonathan Rea. So, whether you're male or female, this album should fulfill everyone's taste in praise and worship. 9/10.
(November 2001)
FOCUSFEST : Perfect Love. (Kingsway : KMCD2652)
More than 2000 women from Ireland and beyond gathered together in Belfast for the annual Focusfest event to explore themes of identity, intimacy and impacting their communities for Jesus. Under the leadership of Geraldine Latty, this album captures a glimpse of the celebration and awe that was experienced within the worship as the women expressed their thankfulness and praise to the God of perfect love. There's something about an album of pure female voices that results in a freshness in the sound and the album itself seems to gather momentum as the listing proceeds. "Almighty God My Redeemer" and "Everlasting God" are two early highlights but it's "Jesus Hope of the Nations" which really sets this recording alight. From then on, the songs literally jump out at you, embracing you in the Father's love and soaking you with the spirit. The accapella version of "Immortal Invisible" is very moving, while "Faithful One" exudes a warmth of praise. Certainly, this is one recording worth adding to your praise and worship collection. 8/10. (December 2005)
Focusfest 2007 - There is a Higher Throne (Kingsway KMCD2820)
As the title suggests, this CD is a live recording from the annual Focusfest women's event held in Belfast with Bristol based Geraldine Latty leading worship as she has done successfully for a number of years. The tracks are well known CCM with such modern classics as Townend/Getty's "In Christ Alone", "Strength Will Rise (Everlasting God)" and Matt Redman's "Blessed be Your Name". The Irish influence is never far away in most songs, with some great fiddle & penny whistle motives dotted around giving it a bit of a lift from the otherwise quite bland arrangements. Don't get me wrong; the band play well together & vocals are OK, but there's a bit more of a lift needed to appeal more to those listening to the recording. I have no doubt the event itself was fantastic & that the 2000+ women there were greatly blessed by the worship, but it just doesn't translate too well onto CD. Personally I have very mixed feelings about live worship albums; I have heard some real corkers with great & passion where listening is about as close to actually being there. Others however are somehow missing that vital depth element which is the case here, which makes it pretty average as a recording. 5/10 Simon Redfern (January 2008)
Taking musical influences from fellow Irish bands like The Frames, Snow Patrol and Foy Vance, Mochael Peter Ball writes about faith, love, death and everything inbetween. Drawing inspiration from God, Poets and Scholars alike, he is equally at home performing on the stages of music venues around his native Belfast as he isleading worship in his home church. This 5 track EP offers listeners a peak inside Michael’s musical world with songs that will lift your spirits, as well as posing one or two questions. “Fear the night” is the first single to be lifted from the EP, and it’s a comforting song about the love of Jesus. Michael sings; “The safest place I’ll be, is when I’m close to you.” The verses are well put together, and the chorus chugs along melodically. There are some deep toned piano tones on “Noose,” which tends to give the song quite a dark and marose feel. Lyrically, I wasn’t too sure about the story behind the song and, hence, it became my least favourite here. Michael seems to like his piano sounds, and they provide the backbone to each song. “Nehemiah” takes the Bible story and gives Michael the chance to interprate it in song, while “Let My Head Decide” is an open and honest take on how we respond to what life throws up at us. Vocally, Michael has a clean, crisp voice, and it reminded me, at times, of George Michael. Finally, “Rebuild” is pure worship and a cry to God. “Heal this broken heart, heal this mind, heal this fractured world.” It’s the one song that I can imagine being sung by a congregation with shouts of “Hallelujah.” Comparing the release to his secular counterparts, I think that Michael can be well pleased with his efforts. 7/10. (June 2017, Single of the Month)
FOLDINGLIGHTS : Beauty Traded Places. (7Core Music)
Michael Peter Ball is the artist behind Foldinglights. Desperate to add some of his colours to the madness of this world, he writes with vulnerability, and straight from the heart honesty, about faith, love, death and everything in between. He has dedicated himself to crafting music that cuts straight to the centre of the soul. This new single is set on a bed of electronic sounds, blended with electric guitars. The lyrics tell of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and how grateful the singer is for that act. Musically, the verses are quite empty, as Michael tells the story. The chorus explodes with sound, but I found it very difficult to hear the heavily processed, double tracked and ‘lo-fi vocals plainly. (Perhaps that’s just my hearing at fault). An exquisite bridge contains the words; “My heart beats only for you God, “and links the song together, well. Overall, the song structure is good, and certainly not your “run of the mill” listen. With a debut album ‘Subterranean Hum,’ to be released later this year, Foldinglights has already shown an array of sounds to his repertoire. Still, I have a feeling that the best is yet to come. 7/10. (March 2019)
FOLDING LIGHTS : American Jesus. (7core Music)
This single is a fairly atmospheric synth pop track, with loads of rich reverb all over it. It's about someone searching for Jesus, and not finding him in the places that you'd expect to find him. It's actually quite a simple song lyrically beneath the studio production, and the multi layered synth backing track works well to keep the song interesting. Being just a single track, there's not a tremendous amount more to be said really. It's definitely worth a listen in my opinion. 8/10. Andy Sayner. (May 2019)
FOLDING LIGHTS : Roses. (,uk)
This is Folding Lights’ third single from his forthcoming, debut album “Subterranean Hum.” The singer says; ‘The title is a shortened version of Rosebud from Citizen Kane. If you’ve watched this movie then you’ll know it’s about man trying to find love and going about it in all the wrong ways. Everything is meaningless, unless we forfeit life to live. In the upside down world of Gods kingdom, when we give up everything we also gain everything. This is where we find our identity. This is where we find that love we so desperately crave. Your value is seen through Christ crucified. We no longer need to search for life among the dead things of earth. Life and resurrection power flows through our veins because of Jesus sacrifice. This is the story of Roses.” The track is a stripped back acoustic guitar led song, with simple, but crisp, vocals. Mid-song, and closing, a mouthorgan delivers added sound. Very much in the mould of Foy Vance or David Gray, this is a thoughtful, and very different, release to Folding Light’s previous songs. 6/10. (June 2019)
This is Belfast singer songwriter Foldinglights (Michael Peter Ball) latest release from his debut forthcoming album ‘Subterranean Hum.’ Perfect talks honestly of growing up with insecurity, lack of self-confidence, unable to look in the mirror due to acne and eczema and the realization that finally all this will pass away, as all things will be restored and we are made perfect in Christ. It’s promoted as a chilled piano / electro driven track, and contains some very laid back vocals. Only during the last minute does the song really break from its melancholy delivery. Foldinglights continues to experiment, I feel, with sounds, which finds him still searching for the right formula. Once he does, I expect greater things to come. 6/10. (July 2019)
FOLDINGLIGHTS : Subterranean Hum. (
This is the debut album of Belfast singer/songwriter Foldinglights aka Michael Ball (no not that one!) Says Michael, 'This album was created as a complete story. It's a snapshot of my faith from a child to now. This is as honest as I've ever been. I see Subterranean Hum as the natural next step from my EP Exiles. Exiles driven underground. Exiles waiting. Exiles with a voice not yet silenced. It’s a pure sounding set of songs which reflect his journey of faith with honesty and reflection being the key themes. A number of the songs have been previously released as singles so for some they’ll be familiar. Songs like American Jesus with its atmospheric synth production and the well-crafted song Roses. My fave song is the opener Whispers with lyrics like “I’ve seen my friends grow into enemies, I’ve seen grown me, brought down to their knees” and I remember how he left us here.......Michael has a chilled tone to his voice and often reminded me of David Gray. A very pleasant album well put together that will bring out different revelations the more you listen to it. 8/10. Angie Lendon. (August 2019)
FOLENIUS : Think on These Things.   (
Folenius is a Christian music group comprised of gospel music veterans David and Lisa Folenius, Wayne Morphis, and sound engineer, Dakota Cantrell. Based out of Seminole, Oklahoma, Folenius travels throughout the United States and abroad, sharing the Gospel message and encouraging believers through their uplifting music and inspiring testimony. There’s an uptempo start to things, with the song ‘What Can I Do For You.’ The tune bounces along, although I wasn’t keen on the synthesized brass sounds. Indeed, they sounded rather fuzzy. The title track gets a little bit of a blues treatment. Organ and harmonica lead the way, along with some rather tedious guitar playing. I must admit, the first, three tracks left me quite cold. Lisa takes the lead, vocally, on ‘When Life Doesn’t Make Sense’ and produces a sterling performance on this lovely, little ballad. Happily, things continue to improve with ‘Brighter One.’ Foot tappin’ banjo drives the song along as the lyrics tell you not to give up, as there’s brighter days ahead. It’s a similar story with ‘The God That Never Changes.’ This one soon had me tapping my feet along! Certainly, for me, the album improved, the longer it went on. At their best, the group deliver strong lead vocals and harmonies – as on ‘Today is Your Day.’ Overall, the song quality is a bit of a mixture, for me. Saying that, I still rate this release as a solid 6/10.    (March 2022)
FONO : Goes Around Comes Around. (Reunion : 02341 0011 2)
Ever since these guys were picked to play support to Bon Jovi in Milton Keynes, it seemed certain that it was just a matter of time before they made it big, in Christian Music. With all songs written by Guitarist and vocalist, Del Currie, this is the big debut. What's it like? It's like Jars of Clay meets Radiohead, with Therapy overtones. It's loud, and it's quiet. It's brash, and it's bold. "Under My Skin" is an obvious track for a single and would go down well on both sides of the Atlantic. Driving guitars run alongside Currie's raw vocals in a cocophony of radio rock. "Something Must Be Happening" continues in similar vain but "Strangest Thing" slows things down for the first time. It's aplodding number that is very Radiohead, although not an instant favourite. The obligatory acoustic rocker comes in at track 7, "Now She's 24", a number that tells of a girl full of hurt finally giving her life to Jesus. It really is a bout time that another British band took the CCM market by storm and, with the Gig Guy's help, Fono could well be the ones. 8/10. (November 1998)
FONO : Too Broken to Break. (H5D Records H5DCD02. )
It seems to have been ages since I came across a Christian CD with a bit of energy about it, but this one certainly has that in large doses. I know that in the CCM press Fono are being talked about very positively, and this CD shows why. It's non stop Rock and Roll from start to finish, and I enjoyed every track. The final track "January Rose" was the most outstanding song for me, maybe because the intro reminded me a lot of the Beatles "Tomorrow never knows" as it has the same rhythm, and one of the other tracks has a keyboard riff in it which is reminiscent of The Motors "Airport". The words are well thought out, and I would think that most people would be able to identify with something on here. There are some tracks off this CD on Fono's Myspace page so have a listen for yourself, Without a doubt though, this has to be the best CD I've reviewed for a long while. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (July 2008)
4 HIM : Obvious. (Benson : 84418-2205-2).
Four guys, and four superb voices are the main product behind the name 4 Him. Actually, it's the first time that I've come across them and I was expecting a rather dull offering, judging by the cover photograph. But, as the saying goes, never judge a book by it's cover! Some lovely vocal harmonies are backed by the cream of US session musicians to give a good, finished product. I had to look closely at the songwriting credits as on numerous occasions, I could swear it sounded like ex-ELO man, Jeff Lynne. 'Songs and Wonders' being just one of those to instantly make the mark. 'Let the Lion Run Free' is more US pop and a strong number to start. The album tends to fade towards the end, with the funky 'Who's at the Wheel' sounding distinctly odd compared to the rest of the songs. Ballads such as 'Great Awakening' and 'The Hand of God' will make sure that 4 Him have a hit record on their hands. 8/10. (September 1998)
4 HIM : Best Ones. (Benson : 84418-2395-2)
Nine years since their first album, and seven albums to their credit, 4 Him have now produced a collection of greatest hits. I have to admit that when I was asked to review this CD, I had never heard of this band before. I am pleased, however, that I was asked as they are good and have produced a quality recording, with excellent vocals, music, and lyrics. I would compare their sound with some of the boy bands in the charts at the moment. My favourite track is "The Basics of Life", a similar sound to Boyzone - my husband disagrees, he says they are better than Boyzone. I also track 9 "Before the River Came". The words are soul searching and I imagine they would echo the feelings of most Christians. The whole album is good and well worth listening to. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (July 1999)
4 HIM : Walk On. (Word : 080688615321)
As producer Brent Bourgois says on the sleeve notes, 4 Him are "the finest man band in a sea of boy bands". Quite a claim, but one that seems to have stood the test of time. Indeed, time and again, this quartet have come up with polished, God centred pop music that just draws you in to the sincerity and passion of the band. The slick harmonies are on show throughout but shine even brighter on tunes like "Let The Healing Begin" and "The Waiting". "Surrender" is 'pop perfect' - what a brilliant song. I cringed a little on the rocky "I Know you Now" as it felt really out of character to the rest of the track listing but that was soon forgotten as the guys belt out classics such as "One Foot in the Water" and "Eyes of the World". The only other disappointment was the closing "Love Boomerang" which got a bit bluesy and a messy towards the end. Otherwise, another hit for 4 Him. 9/10. (April 2002)
4 HIM : Visible. (Word Records)
4 Him are four good old American boys who have constantly made good pop albums over the last few years, such as the excellent "Walk On". "Visible" continues the success story but relies, somewhat, on a format, perhaps, too similar to the last two releases. "Fill the Earth" is the strongest cut on offer and is very radio friendly. I can see that being a No.1 hit all over the US. There's a happy feel about "the Final Word", as well as the slow stomping "Candle in the Rain". The usual harmonies work well and the musical background is sound without being OTT. The title track and "Let Your Kingdom Come" are rather weak in presentation but, otherwise, it's another polished affair. 7/10 (January 2004)
FOR KING & COUNTRY : What Are We Waiting For?   (Curb/Word Entertainment)
For King & Country’s fourth studio project (What Are We Waiting For?) asks a pivotal question in a pandemic-riddled world.  Brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone provide the answer across 13 original tracks that confront relevant issues and confirm the duo’s commitment to community, diversity and family. The first song ‘Relate’ states the basic fact that we are all the children of God. Why, then, can we not live together in harmony? It’s a catchy little number, with a serious theme. There’s a touch of Maroon 5 meets Owl City in some of their music, while Dante Brown joins the duo for a rather tiresome song entitled ‘Unity.’ By the time I’d got to track 9 ‘Shy’ I found myself quite disappointed by an album who’s big press releases had been bombarding NFN Towers for the last couple of months. Thankfully, the collaboration with Kirk Franklin and Tori Kelly on ‘Together’ really lifted my spirits. It’s a cry for unity and togetherness, and has so much power than most of the other song. In fact, the closing four songs are the album’s ‘Purple Patch.’ With numbers like ‘Seasons’ and the encouraging ‘Cheering You On,’ it made me wonder why the earlier tracks didn’t make me feel the same?   I understand that this album is a little bit different from their previous stuff, so fans may be a little surprised when they hear it. 5/10. (April 2022)
FOR THE SAKE OF THE LOST - Passion and Purpose Worship Series. (ICC Records)
Expectations were high, and I got the distinct impression that this was going to be a Vineyard-like CD, which meant that it was going to have a lot to live up to. Featuring the Worship Leaders from the Detling Summer Conference, (which I must admit to having never heard of before). The album starts well enough, with a meaty guitar intro to the first song "Whatever it Takes", which is a good, strong and well put together, as is the second "My God is Strong", - although it never quite reaches the same level. After that, it all goes a bit downhill I'm afraid, with only one other song, "Everybody, Everywhere" really worthy of mention. Having begun strongly, it loses it's edge, the guitar disappearing well back into the mix to be replaced by piano and keyboard. This means that the whole thing slips into standard worship album mode, and a little too clichéd for my taste, offering nothing in terms of originality. This is a shame, because I feel that with a little more thought and experimentation, some of these songs would really shine. The overall feel is not helped by some of the vocals having a "Cliff Richard" type quality, which doesn't really suit what I think they are trying to achieve, or by a female vocal that suffers from some poor intonation on the higher notes. The vocals, on the whole, are a bit of a let down. However, one of the biggest mistakes they make is in ripping themselves off. The hook lines to both "Mercy" and "Thank You" are practically identical (and they both sound like a Boyzone song) which is a bit unforgivable. So sorry folks, I really wanted to like this album, and its only a few steps away from that, but I couldn't warrant spending my money on this over the latest Vineyard release. 5/10 Robin Thompson (December 2003)
FOREVER JONES : Get Ready. (EMI : 5099969472824)
When doctors told Dewitt and Kim Jones that they couldn't have children, that wasn't what God had planned for them. For, some thirty years later, the happily married couple have released their debut album, along with all five of their children! From Shreveport, Los Angeles come the Jones Family with an album that has already scored them a number 11 hit on the Billboard Gospel Charts. Think Earth, Wind & Fire, and The Jackson's, and you'll get an idea of some of the funky sounds that are used on the songs. I'm afraid that their take on gospel didn't hit the right note for me, as I couldn't hear most of the words on the title track. However, on the delicate 'He Wants It All' and 'Heavenly' one of the female singers does make some really sweet sounds. 'Jubilee' has a touch of "The Way You Make Me Feel" to it, while the summer sound of 'Adoration' is quite catch, too. It's a praise and worship album that all fits together quite well, and I'm sure that we'll be hearing more from the Jones family in the years to come. 7/10 (February 2011)
FOREVERAFTER : Foreverafter. (Word : 080688597825)
Not too sure what to make of Foreverafter. Sometimes they can be quite poppy, sometimes they can be downright morbid. Mind you, on "Holy Spirit" it's dancey, it's club, it's the sort of thing that wouldn't be lost on any WWMT release. "The One For Me", on the other hand, is more industrial in sound and the vocals get a bit lost in the mix. "Oasis" changes things, yet again, and is a lovely relaxing number with great vocals and harmonies. Based on Psalm 23 it tells of hope, peace, and the unconditional love that only God can bring. "You shouldn't worry about what you don't know, rather what you do know and how you live", so says "Who You Are". It's a light pop production but quite effective nonetheless. It's not a brilliant release but it's not bad either. 7/10. (December 1999)
THE FOSTERS : Oh, How I Love Him. (
On their first studio recording, husband and wife team, The Fosters lay down smooth vocals with a top-shelf band of Nashville veterans. The songs testify of the power of a relationship with God that transcends eras, cultures, and genres. The Fosters preserve these songs for another generation and sing with the conviction that comes from faith in God's Word! Kicking of this EP is the recent single “I Know What Prayer Can Do.” With Devi Foster taking the lead vocals, it’s a real throwback to Southern gospel of days gone by. “The Beauty of His Name” is a slow ballad with Andrew at the forefront of the vocals. There’s nothing wrong with either of this duo’s voices, and they slip seamlessly together on the chorus of this song of praise. The next song tells of Jesus conquering death forever, to open Heaven’s gate. “He’ll Find a Way” is a sweet duet, with some nice keyboard sounds providing most of the music. There’s a little bit of blues about “You Must Be Born Again,” while the pedestrian pace of “Down from His Glory” does drag, just a little. Overall, I would have liked a little more variation in the tempo of the songs. But, maybe The Fosters know best. 7/10. (February 2021)
FOUNDATIONS OF THE FAITH - The Holy Spirit. (Kingsway : KMCD2075).
This record is one of three in a new series exploring the great themes of the Christian faith. Reflections, Scripture, quotes and songs help groups or individuals to meditate on the fundamental aspect of the Gospel. The inlay notes with this release include extracts from the best selling book by Dr Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. The songs themselves contain no surprises though with 'Purify My Heart', 'Send Us the Rain, Lord', and 'River of God' being only three of this well known collection. Saying that, the songs are all carefully and soundly arranged, giving a first class result.. If you use daily Bible notes, I think that you will find this album quite helpful but, if not, why not give this a try? 8/10. (December 1998)
FOUR KORNERZ : Soulectric. (UB1 Music :1903212)
Four Kornerz have recently entered into a groundbreaking tie-up with Youth For Christ, which will see this outrageously talented aggregation showcasing their music and faith to the young people of the nation. Right now, there is no band on the UK scene better placed for this work. Soulectric is a funk-filled 72 minutes of great grooves, soulful vocals and songs which are just plain good. Not "as good as what's on the radio", they're good in their own right. This isn't some 'mainstream alternative', this is something fresh and artistic in its own right. They have all the bases covered: "Soul Flower" and "ClapClap" have dancefloor filling choruses; "Gonna Make It" features some top class rapping, while "Conquerers" slows things down to soulful ballad territory, with some delicious guitar licks. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. This band should be huge. Enjoy the music and support the vision. 9/10. Haydon Spenceley. (September 2007)
FOY VANCE : The Wild Swan (
It’s not every day I get a CD to review that I’d just walked past in HMV so I was interested in what this might hold, knowing nothing more than the artist’s name (and clearly being behind the curve on this one). Recorded in Nashville with Tom Waits’ producer, executive produced by Elton John and released on Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label, this CD has pedigree. Quality-wise, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s expertly written, played and recorded. It drips with Southern charm – “Blues” was the best I could find as a category to place it in. It has a sliver of Richard Hawley (especially on the wonderfully-named “Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution”), hints of Dr John (“Upbeat Feelgood”), echoes of Hothouse Flowers (“Fire It Up”), memories of Van Morrison (“Be Like You Belong”) and a nod towards the Eagles (“Unlike Any Other”) [Hothouse Flowers and Van Morrison are the strongest overall]. All this is without losing its own identity: the tracks all feel like they belong together. They are not a set of cultural references gathered together, but a single work of art. It cruises along nicely without really breaking into a full-on sweat and as such I found few tracks leaped out to grab my attention. Foy has a lot of fans so I may well be in the minority there. Best track: “Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution”, for that wonderful shuffle beat. 7/10 Paul Ganney (September 2016)
FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI : Hundred More Years. (Fervent/Curb : 080688808624)
This is Francesca’s second album, following a three year break from her debut release. During that break, she’s found time to get married, and give birth to her first child. Many good things were said about that debut, and the wait for fans has been greatly anticipated. The first single, ‘This is the Stuff’ reminded me of Philippa Hanna’s latest music, with plenty of country influences thrown in. the track’s lyrics tell of all God’s blessings, despite every days distractions that can turn our heads. ‘Angel By Your Side’ is a lovely ballad, and well performed. If I had to pick one song out for airplay, then this would be the one. It flows well, and you’re eagerly waiting for the chorus to start again so that you can enjoy it. The style is pure pop, but it’s a little more grown up than Francesca’s first record. Her voice is warm and I was instantly aware that the style was in the Susan Ashton/ChristineDente mould. ‘Motion of Mercy’ and ‘Emily’ are both good songs, with David Banes duetting on the latter. ‘So long’ has traces of U.S East Coast sounds, as the song tells us of the long wait to find God. It’s an album that I believe shows the beginning of a transitional period for her, as both her singing and songwriting matures. Certainly pop fans will enjoy this outing. 8/10 (August 2011)
FRANK MYERS : God’s Got This. (FJM Productions)
Grammy award winning, country music songwriter and producer, Frank Myers has released his new original song, "God's Got This." Frank co-wrote the song with Richie McDonald (Lonestar). "I was going through some personal things in my life and I realized I was powerless in the situation. I just sat back, closed my eyes, and the words 'God's Got This' came to me," said Myers. "...and now, in listening to the media, reading posts with frantic reactions to current events, my heart felt burdened. I wanted to share this message of faith.” As well as writing for himself, Frank has written for some big country music stars, including Lonestar, and John Michael Montgomery. This song, is very much in the mould of the former. It’s a lovely ballad, and Frank’s delivery suits it well. With a piano and orchestral sounds making most of the music, there’s also a bright guitar adding simple notes. A really nice song, and fine production. 8/10.. (September 2020)
FRANKLIN McKAY : Motley’s Anthem Deluxe. (
Despite a couple of tracks having “Dance” in brackets after their names, this is overall a gentle CD. The beats are there, but very much in the background: more a 3am wind-down than a 10pm wind-up, with occasional pop blasts. Franklin McKay has enjoyed chart success, in the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (4 times, no less). Vocally he’s gentle, too, with a style somewhere between Tears For Fears and Christopher Cross but mostly Robbie Williams / later Take That (“Without Your Love” is so much in this vein that I had to check that the outro vocal wasn’t by Robbie). Lyrically he’s less a commentator on faith and more a commentator on life and relationships (e.g. “Connected”, all about how we are all connected and yet not really so, missing out on the person we might want to sit and watch the world go by with; “What Might Have Been” about how you can’t look back on what might have been). The songs are well crafted (as you’d expect) and executed and are very listenable and the album grows on you the longer it goes on, as though he’s getting more comfortable with his material, dipping slightly at “Someone (Dance)” which may have benefitted from the removal of the keyboard riff. There are three different versions of “Destiny”, a good song, but not the best on the CD. That honour goes to “More Than A Memory”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (June 2016)
FRANKLIN McKay : Solace.   (
Franklin McKay is a Billboard charting singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada. He’s had numerous radio hits on the US Adult Contemporary Billboard Chart, as well as two on the US Billboard Christian AC chart with "Invincible" and "I'll Lift You Up (When You Are Down)". Both of these songs appear on this 6 track mini-album, and like the rest of the songs, they are of excellent quality. The latter song was so powerful and uplifting, that it brought tears to my eyes. “I’ll lift you up, when your world’s crashing down,” just gave me goosebumps every time Franklin sang that line. From the moment “A Gift From Above” began the album, I knew that I was listening to something very special. There’s a great sound and production behind each song. Style wise, Franklin’s music is a cross between classic Michael W. Smith and the more modern sound of someone like Danny Gokey. On “All the Things you Gave Me,” I was singing along with the chorus straight away. The song ‘s theme centre’s around the gifts of God, like “Hopes, dreams, faith, and love,” and it’s a terrific number. Vocally, Franklin’s voice is very pleasing to the ear and I’ve been playing these songs over and over again in the car. There might only be 6 songs here, but they are of such a high standard, that they leave you wanting more. The positivity in each is stirring and my only question is, “Why hasn’t a record label signed him up?   10/10. (September 2017, Album of the Month)
FRANKLIN McKAY : The Message/Breath of Life. (
Franklin McKay is a Billboard charting singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada. He’s had numerous radio hits on the US Adult Contemporary Billboard Chart, as well as two on the US Billboard Christian AC chart with “Invincible” and the wonderful “I’ll Lift You Up (When You Are Down)”. It’s about three years since I first came across Franklin’s music, with the release of his 6 track album, “Solace.” His two latest songs are now available and I was keen to give them a listen. The first is called “The Message,” and opens with just vocals and piano. Franklin’s voice has an unmistakable quality and tone that I always enjoy. The song gains momentum and turns into a mid-paced number that reminded me a little of Danny Gokey, in sound. “We all can find our place, if we live our life through His grace” – even if we stray along the way. Part of the chorus sings; “Send me a message, I’ll spread your message. In hope, in truth, in love.” There’s also a super guitar break, too! The second song, “Breath of Life,” produces a more, mellow tone from Franklin’s voice. I felt that this song had quite a summer sound to it, and imagined listening while lounging in the sun. The note here is to never waste the breath of life, and don’t ever let things keep you down, don’t ever waste the love of people. While this song shows the diversity in Franklin’s sound, I must admit to preferring the first. The great thing is, that this independent artist continues to produce top quality music, on a par with major record label stalwarts. 9/10. (October 2020)
FRANKLIN MCKAY : Christmas Ain’t the Same Without You. (’t-the-same-without-you)
From Toronto, Canada, comes one of my favourite independent artists, Franklin McKay, with his brand new song for Christmas. Beginning with an orchestral sound and piano chords, the song has a slow tempo. As ever, Franklin’s vocals are spot on, as he sings a wistful song, looking back on Christmas’ of the past. “There’s no jingle bell symphony; No yuletide choir rhapsody; Now there ain’t no snow, just rain; Christmas ain’t the same without you.” Sound-wise, the song reminded me of Jeff Lynn’s ELO, at times. I put that down to the excellent production that accompanies this new, festive, number. Franklin has previously had numerous radio hits on the US Adult Contemporary Billboard Chart, as well as two on the US Billboard Christian AC chart. With the right airplay and promotion, I can foresee further success for Franklin with this song. 9/10. (November 2021)
FRANKLIN McKAY : Don’t Forget Love.   (
Here’s the latest single from a guy whose songs always seem to strike a positive chord with me. Co-written with Greg Fitzgerald (Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Hall & Oates) the song was released on Valentine’s Day. Of course, the main theme of the song is love, but there’s also a reminder of power of faith and hope, too. Vocally, as always, Franklin’s delivery is very smooth. I liked the choppy backing, which is uncluttered and catchy at the same time. “When the sky falls down and when your heart gives up; don’t ever forget love. When you’re facing doubt and when there’s no way out; don’t ever forget love.” The mid-song refrain works well, before the track carries on with its joyful sound. And, although Valentine’s Day is  just one day a year, this song helps to remind you that love is just as important each and every day of the year.   8/10. (March 2022)
THE FRANKS : Love Drunk Soul (
Kicking off with a bass line that sounds like it came straight from “You Can’t Hurry Love” this CD gets off to a cracking start with “Nobody Loves You”. It’s very much classic Motown/Early Soul in style (“R&B” is the closest I could get from CR’s genre list). Lyrically they’re mainsteam, singing to/about human love rather than heavenly (plus failed love, as in “Lies” and “Take A Long Look”). Vocally The Franks are very good, sharing lead duties around and the harmonies plus backing are superb (check out “Take A Long Look” for a great example). The brass work (from the Blackjacks Horns) is classic and the guitar nicely understated. I loved the bass rhythms, like on “Lies” and the cover of “The Night”. Sadly the vocals here didn’t have the power such a song requires, a rare exception. Their rock and roll medley “Jenny Takes A Ride” was fun, but not as polished as the earlier stuff. Overall they’re much better at the Motown/Soul styled material with which they really do hold their own and they would be a great band on a summer festival stage. Best track: “Take A Long Look”. 7/10. Paul Ganney (November 2015)
FRED HAMMOND : God, Love & Romance.  (Verity : 88697-80990-2)
As original co-founder of the RnB gospel group Commissioned, Fred Hammond’s career span more than twenty years. This latest 2 CD package contains a mixture of romantic ballads with traditional, worshipful gospel originals. There are also a number of spoken Bible verses that relate to the following song on the track listing. The first disc concentrates on human love and relationships, especially marriage. ‘When I Come home to You’ declares the joy of a husband being so grateful for the love of his wife. It’s a nice song, and a very smooth sound. ‘I’m In Love With You’ needs no description, it’s just a very simple love song, in the Teddy Prendegrass style. I must admit that the dialogue between songs didn’t help the flow of the music but it did show that a lot of thought and prayer had gone into the make up of the album. The second CD is basically praise and worship, and includes the hit single ‘I Feel Good’. Again, the music is smooth RnB and works well on songs like ‘I Will Lift Him Up’ and ‘You’re Gonna Make It’. U.S gospel doesn’t always make the transition to the UK but this one is worth a listen.   7/10. (November 2012)
FRED HAMMOND : United Tenors. (RCA Inspiration : 88765-45597-2)
Gospel star Fred Hammond has joined forces with fellow Gospel artists Dave Hollister, Eric Roberson and Brian Courtney-Wilson for this record. Over in the States, the album has already reached #1 on Billboard's Gospel album chart and #7 on Billboard's 200 pop album chart. As you would expect, the quality of the songs are first class, with the RnB number, ‘Unshakeable’ being an early favourite. The tenors’ voices really come to the fore with the ballad ‘Here in Our Praise’. The harmonies are superb and it’s a lovely song. Similarly, ‘I’m in the Midst’ is smooth gospel at it’s best, were the voices gel together well. I found myself tapping my foot to ‘I’m Reminded’, while ‘Everybody Get Up’ reminded me of the Backstreet Boys in all their pomp. Gospel lovers will lap up this collection of songs, and others may well find a surprisingly good album. 7/10. (October 2013)
FRED HAMMOND : The Best of… (Verity : 190758436029)
Multi Grammy Award winning gospel star, Fred Hammond, has been wowing audiences for over three decades. This compilation features some of his best known hits, plus there’s three brand new songs included. If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it! That can be said of Fred’s style of music, which hasn’t changed much during my time as a Christian. He hollers over sweet backing music and choirs, as if he’s thinking “the louder I sing, the easier it will be for people to understand.” Unfortunately, the result is 12 songs that, for the most part, sound very much alike. “I’m Grateful” declares how he feels about having God in His life. There’s some nice brass backing on this track that really stands out. “The devil is defeated” is the main drive of “We’re Blessed,” with Fred giving his all, vocally. “You Are the Living Word” starts off very smoothly, both musically and vocally. But, just as I was starting to enjoy the sound, Fred’s voice booms it’s way over everything and almost drowns out the backing. Most of you will know the praise song “This is the Day.” This version starts off well enough but diffuses into three tunes, all being sung at the same time. It’s quite bizarre! But, let me repeat myself. Fred’s been doing it this way for over thirty years. And proved by all the awards and popularity, he must be doing something right. If this type of gospel is for you, then introduce yourself to Fred Hammond with this “Best of…” album. 7/10. (October 2018)
FREDDIE BRUNO : The Ballpoint Composer. (Uprock Records: 1708)
Freddie Bruno was one half of a hip hop duo that surfaced in America during 2000. now, he's on his own and this album features 15 songs, still in that style. As I've stated many times before, this is not my favoured style of music but I do try and listen beyond my personal tastes, and get to what the artist is conveying. The songs are very much standard - the sort of things you hear on the radio these days. Nothing seems to really grab your attention especially, but "Miss Bonita" comes close. If I'm right, it tells the story of a lady of the night, and why you should keep away from her. "Rock the Beat Within Your Heart" tells you to keep the faith, and to do what's right in your heart, not your head. So, there's messages there and, if he's preaching to hip hop fans, then Freddie Bruno looks to have got it right. For me, though, it's just another album. 6/10. (September 2002)
FREE CHAPEL LIVE with Ricardo Sanchez : Moving Forward (Integrity Music 42302)
The name Free Chapel conjures up visions of a small town church but in this case we couldn't be further from the truth. This August release comes live from a 14000 strong multi-cultural church in Georgia USA & that's well - pretty huge! Much of the material is written by worship leader Ricardo Sanchez & the award winning Israel Houghton which means at least the recipes are original, not recycled. The international nature of the congregation is evident from the first song 'Great God' through to 'Celebrate' at the end with Spanish lyrics & salsa rhythms. 'Great God' has a cracking 1 minute intro absolutely bursting with flavours including Arabic rhythms, Indian Sitar accompaniment and a thumping drum rhythm. With the song setting off at such a strong pace however, I couldn't help but be slightly let down by the rest of the tune which although it was a very reasonable live pop worship song, didn't follow on smoothly from the intro. The tunes of 'Say So' and 'Awesome God' follow in a similar vein with energetic pop/rock worship, occasionally bordering on Vineyard styles & slowing down nicely mid-album in typical worship album fashion. The musicianship is excellent throughout with some impressive orchestral arrangements in 'Moving Forward' and vocals are polished from the leaders & the enormous list of backing singers, but even so I just couldn't get over-excited by this CD. Impressive ingredients this CD may have, but I think somehow they were just a little overdone to excite the musical taste buds & set it apart. 5/10 Simon Redfern (December 2007)
THE FREE ZONE : Mammon. (
Here's a bit of an unusual one - a recent 15 track remaster of an album first released around 30 years ago, with 3 'bonus tracks' added to the original 12, with a release date of March 15th. The Free Zone evidently "played at a few Christian festivals around the UK" but the album "didn't receive any kind of digital release at the time", and the band "feel it merits not to be entirely forgotten". The Free Zone were Tim Thwaites and Pete Scarlett, citing influences such as U2, The The, The Waterboys, The Bunnymen and Icicle Works. From the evidence here they certainly sound like a capable band/duo, and the remastered sound is very good. It is clear from the recent press release however that they weren't only out to entertain people. The often political messages of the lyrics were an important component of their output, with Mammon said to centre around "... the idea that Mammon (the worship of money) ultimately dehumanises ... ". It is particularly disappointing therefore that much of the time the punkish vocals are set too low in the mix. Perhaps the otherwise good quality remastering was simply done from the original stereo master, making it difficult to sort this? A shame however, as I was unable to follow the lyrics. I also found the vocal style irritating, and for some reason even after two or three listens I didn't find any of the melodies particularly memorable. Overall therefore I cannot mention any 'standout tracks'. Having been producing my own music around the same era, I so wanted to be able to recommend this release by 'fellow Christian artists' of the time. Sadly however, it wasn't to be. Regretfully, 3/10. Dave Deeks. (March 2021)
FREESLAVE : Project Freedom. (CD £5 & £1.50 postage
Regular readers of NFN will know that Haydon Spenceley is a teenager who has cerebral palsy and has been given an award by Whizz Kidz, a national charity who provide mobility aids for disabled children, and the Millennium Commission to record and produce a CD. The 5 track Cd isn't perfect,let's not deny it, but it does have it's moments. The opening two songs "Fly" and "Real Love" are a mix of 70's rock and The Smiths. Indeed, Haydon's vocals, at times, do have that Morrisey inflection. "All I Want is You" on the other hand, doesn't work and Haydon's vocals become quite ragged at times. The music quality needs tightening a bit but there's nothing to suggest that a few more live gigs won't put that right. Haydon says that the band aims "to show the world that whatever ailment or disability a person may have, or think that they have, be it physical, emotional or whatever, it is possible to achieve your dreams," and "to show people the one true way to freedom - through faith in and life with Jesus.". Freeslave have done just that, and now need to build on this promising debut. 6/10. (October 2003)
FREESELAVE : Remember the Day. (CD £6.50 from H. Spenceley, 50 Orchard Hill, LittleBilling, Northampton, UK, NN3 9AG).
Freeslave return after last year's debut EP with another recording featuring 4 tracks. The first is, probably, the strongest, and most likely to get them more airplay. "Hiding Place" has a raw freshness and energy that you only get in a smaller studio, and while the production isn't perfect, it does add a lot to the performance. Haydon Spenceley has an engaging voice which drones just enough to give it a certain quality. As for "Nothing", I just don't like the song itself. The overall sound is good, but the song leaves me cold - just a personal thing. While the opening faster song works best, the slower ones do give a glimpse into the band's armoury to show that Freeslave are more than just a one-trick card. On "Crying Tonight" the song shows just what God might say to the question "What do you think of your world today"? This song highlights Sarah Crays backing vocals and some tasty guitar work. It may not be perfect, but the finished product show what Freeslave are about. Maybe now they can move to a full album and show their true potential. 7/10.
(December 2004)
FREESLAVE : Love Explosion. (
"Love Explosion" is the new single from wheelchair artist Haydon Spenceley, who now wears the Freeslave crown on his own. Through his music ministry, Haydon's main goal is to sing about the hope, suffering, joy and despair that make this life we live, so varied and exciting. The three songs on this single, show a tidier production than previous releases, and the instrumentation has also improved the resulting sound. The title track is the strongest cut and the catchy chorus makes it ideal for radio. Haydon's vocals are complimented by some superb guitar playing by Harun, and the result is more than pleasing. "Road Less Travelled" isn't so strong, yet it still has a certain quality about it. Finally, Ross Gill's guitar work on "Save My Day" ensure that this single is an ideal taster for those wishing to dip their toe into the world of Freeslave. 7/10. (February 2006)
FREESLAVE : Songs for the Dying.
When our very own Geoff Howlett informed me that he had done three earlier Free Slave reviews I was tempted to check them out to see what he thought! - but decided it was fairer to approach this one without any preconceived impressions. So, what do we have here? Well, we have an album full of catchy alt-rock songs, set within a framework of predominantly synthesiser sounds, delivered by heavily processed vocals. Although you may assume Free Slave to be a band, at the time of this album release in May 2006 Free Slave was predominantly the solo project of one Haydon Spenceley, with 'Songs for the dying' evidently taking him three years to complete. With Haydon writing all the songs and contributing keyboards and vocals, he was nevertheless assisted by friends on drums, guitars and backing vocals. Bass guitarist Harun Kotch also gets the production, engineering and mixing credits. Whilst I enjoyed this album from the off, it is one that grows. By the third listening, I was really enjoying it. Harun knows his stuff production-wise - this is smooth and expertly done and he pulls off the trick of all the vocals being easy to hear whilst not overloud within the mix. My only criticism is that I would prefer a slightly less synthetic sound to the vocals - but that's just personal preference. Stand out tracks for me were 'Save my day' (the guitar riff was particularly effective) and the slower tempo 'Not alone'. So, whilst I still have no idea what Mr Howlett thinks of Haydon Spenceley/Free Slave - my view is that he/they are definitely worth a listen. 8/10 Dave Deeks (December 2006)
FREESLAVE : Save My Day.
Formed in the summer of 2006, the full band 'Free Slave' have rushed out this four track EP. The publicity describes them as 'a four piece alt-rock band based on the South Coast, pumping out a full and punchy sound with swirling synths and floating guitar riffs set over grooving bass lines and solid rhythms - a sound that sits comfortably amongst influences and contemporaries including Muse, Radiohead, U2, Coldplay and Lost Prophets'. Quite a build up! I certainly noticed bits of Coldplay and Lost Prophets - and as these happen to be favourite bands of mine, that was no bad thing. The title track is a slightly different version of one of my standout tracks from 'Songs for the dying'. Haydon Spenceley is joined by new members on drums, bass and guitar - Harun Kotch giving up his musical contribution to concentrate on production, with his expert influence being evident. Here we have a more 'live', rocky sound however. Drummer Matt Bromley deserves special mention, but (brothers?) Aaron and Ben Lewis also work well together on guitar and bass, and overall everything is very well sorted indeed. It is pretty obvious that Haydon Spenceley is a talented guy, who surrounds himself with just the right people to help his talents shine. As it happens, Haydon is also a wheelchair user. A very good EP, and for its extra energy over the album, worth an extra point. 9/10. Dave Deeks (December 2006)
FRIENDS OF CEDAR CHURCH BIRMINGHAM : Love is the Heart of Christmas Time. (
Along with his wife Sarah, Andrew Kisumba ministers at the Cedar Church in Birmingham, UK, and is the songwriter behind this festive song. He says; “Christmas can be a sad, lonely, tense and uncertain time for many people around the world. [But] for 2016 years and counting, [God’s] truth has continued to bring hope, joy and freedom to countless souls. Over the ages, a vast array of Christmas traditions have developed around the globe, but if you reach into the season you will find love is the heart of Christmas time.” And there we have the theme of this single release. Sung and produced in the style of Mary Mary, it’s a gospel song that captures the essence of what Christmas should be. The lead female vocalist has a great voice and it’s complimented by an excellent choir. There’s a melodic tune and easy to learn chorus, and numerous traditional carols get a name check. Mind you, I had to smile at the line that says; “Don’t mind Mariah Carey blaring everywhere you go.” The CD version comes with the full version of the song, plus radio, instrumental, and backing track edits. The latter is especially useful if you’d like to sing a new song in church this Christmas. 8/10. (December 2016)
FUNKY FROG : Praise Songs 4 Kidz. (Kingsway : KMCD2886)
Wow, what a wild cover! A vivid green cover with 'Funky Frog' dancing away on the front greets you on this 4 CD kids compilation from Kingsway - certainly grabs your attention! It is pretty obvious from the presentation (plus that cursed "trendy" spelling) that this is squarely aimed at the younger children, so who better to tell me what they think than my own darling offspring? Well, it kept them reasonably occupied on a long car journey which on its own is worth a bundle! For much of the time, both of them (5 & 10 years old) were jigging along & making up actions which was great to see. There were some "oh Dad, turn it off" comments from them (or words to that effect) & after repeated listening I was more than happy to oblige. It is a very odd mix of tracks & styles which has a plus side as kids get bored quickly, but what did let it down mostly were the variations in the quality of the musicians, recording & vocals. This went between extremes with some cracking rhythms on tracks like "Blessed Be The Name of the Lord" which was very different to any version I've heard before - kind of Bad Manners meets St Winifred's & a wonderful tune I didn't know called "Grace Is", which had a very catchy South American rumba beat complete with full band, rhythm section - the works! At the other end of the spectrum, there's a quite a number of grim renditions - prime examples of this being "God Made You" (Casio-tone keyboard sounds, off-key kids vocal & cringey lyrics), the well-known "Not by Might" (over-pronounced vocals & badly executed pseudo-reggae style) & Jump (very formal violin accompanied - a bit '50s Playschool). You certainly get a lot for your money, because as well as the tracks themselves each CD has all the backing tracks so they could used as "karaoke" versions which is an excellent idea. This album has a lot to offer & does a reasonable job for the target audience, but personally I would have put a little more focus on the quality than quantity. 5/10 Simon Redfern (November 2008)
THE FURROWS : I’ve Come too Far. (
The Furrow Family has been known for their ministry through the Word and song for over 100 years. Greg, Paul, and Sarah make up the latest rendition of a legacy that has impacted many lives. This family group brings the best of classic southern gospel with a unbeatable family harmony dynamic. Their latest album is called “Here & Now”, and from it comes this single release. The bright opening piano sound is crisp and clear and soon, Sarah’s voice floats into song, to lead the way. Harmonies are tight, as you would expect from these seasoned professionals and provide the perfect backdrop to the lead vocals. The theme of the song is clear for all to hear. Travelling along God’s road; “I’ve come too far to ever turn back. I’m pressing on, I’m staying on track.” It’s southern gospel at its best, and this song is available as a free download at their website. 7/10. (April 2016)
FUTURE OF FORESTRY : Remember. (Sound Swan Records)
Future of Forestry is a melodic ambient rock alternative band led by multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Eric Owyoung. From Southern California. Eric and his family have plans to soon spend a few years in New Zealand where he will continue to create music. The track begins with atmospheric sounds and piano. Eric’s vocals are crisp and clean, as the track moves along, quite slowly. The theme is a reminder that Jesus is at your side, whatever you may be going through. Eric sings “Just remember who you’ve been while I [Jesus] was standing by your side. Hold on to what you have.” The song closes with ethereal sounds, and I quite enjoyed it. 7/10. (June 2021) Forward to the next archive
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