Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive I

I COULD SING OF YOUR LOVE FOR EVER. Published by Regalbooks/Fierce!
Subtitled, Stories, Reflections and Devotions, that gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from this 123 page book. If you were expecting a biographical look the UK's most influential CCM band over the last 10 years, you'll be sadly disappointed. This book is an intimate snapshot of the band from their Cutting Edge days, right up to date. Martin Smith and Stu G tell, first hand, how some of the band's most loved songs were written. With total honesty and simplicity, they share their highs and lows, and the inspirations behind some of their most moving worship numbers. I laughed at some of their writings, and then had a tear in my eye as both Martin and Stu shared their grief at the loss of those so dear to them. For fans of Delirious?, especially those who have grown up with them, this is an essential read. By doing so, you may well be inspired and encouraged in your spiritual walk. 8/10. (June 2007)
I AM FUTURE : Love Let Loose.   (Integrity : 505912051657)
I Am Future are the youth worship team from Life Church in Bradford. Last year, they released a single, “Burn” to quite an excited media. Now, here’s their brand new 4 track EP that features three brand new songs that have brought so much life and hope to the church and the young people, plus a remix of the aforementioned single. Now, I may be a little long in the tooth to really appreciate this type of music but, comparing it to current chart music, this is just as good. The title track especially tantalises the listener, with its electro sounds and samples. Vocally exciting, with lyrics that include; “I’ve never seen me so alive, your love makes the best of me”. “Heart” is in similar mode, with great, driving beats and soaring sounds. The third track, “You Reign” is a little more atmospheric. The music builds, drops, and then builds again, worshipping our God as the only one who “Deserves my heart”. Finally, it’s “Burn”. Experimental in sound, I didn’t like this remix as much as the original but, then, I’ve never been a great lover of remixes. Overall, the EP’s sound is Calvin Harris meets the Swedish House Mafia and if that’s your thing, you’ll love this.   8/10. (October 2015)
I WORSHIP : A Total Christmas Worship Experience. (Integrity: 26532)
Talk about a bargain - over two hours of Christmas music on 2 CDs (plus bonus DVD) and no sign of Slade anywhere! This collection is an interesting and eclectic mix of traditional Christmas carols, hymns, modern worship songs and instrumentals - everything from 'The Coventry Carol' to 'Light of the World' finds a place somewhere, and this is both a strength and a weakness of the package. A strength because it does not seek to limit its scope to any particular era of Christmas music, and a weakness because not enough is made of the inherent differences between them. Most tracks are recorded in a beautiful, at times haunting, gentle acoustic or traditional choral style which tends to just wash over you without making any real impact. Ideal for background music, not so good for a "worship experience". With a total of 35 tracks to play with, I would have liked to see greater variety in style and tempo giving the whole thing the lift it deserves. The DVD is nice, but inconsequential, featuring three songs accompanied by images of (respectively) a log fire, candles and cloud formations - you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were watching a screensaver. All in all, as a collection of Christmas music for family get-togethers or other festive gatherings, you can't go far wrong - just don't expect anything more interesting than that. 7/10 David Cooper (December 2003)
I WORSHIP - A Total Worship Experience. (Integrity)
Here's 2 CD's in one package, featuring a host of "powerful songs of the church today". Certainly, there's a lot of the songs that I've been hearing for the first time, and some of them are really very good. Take, for instance, the songs of Paul Baloche. He really knows how to engage the listener and bring out the full meaning of his songs. "Rise Up And Praise Him" and "In That Day" are just two of his special numbers. Caitlin Evanson provides a peaceful version of "I Love You Lord" while Ross Parsley provides a powerful rendition of "Lord Most High". On the second Cd, Delirious? Kick things off, complete with bagpipes and children's choir, and the anthemic "Shout to the North". Eoghan Heaslip, Mercy Me, and Israel Houghton all provide high moments on a creditable release. 7/10 (January 2004)
I Worship - Hymns : The Essential Collection. (Integrity Music : 46182)
Given the title of the CD there's no shock as to the contents. Here we have a collection of 18 hymns comprising both old & new but leaning distinctly towards the former. Don't be put off by that bias though as lovers of more contemporary tunes are kept in the mix with some excellent bang up-to-date arrangements from big names on today's worship circuit such as Paul Baloche, Kathryn Scott, Eoghan Heaslip & Travis Cottrell. Of the older material, we are treated to some of the best renditions I have heard of the classics in quite some time. My personal all-time favourite 'How Great Thou Art' from Paul Baloche is treated to an energetic makeover while still managing to retain all the passion & flavour of the original. We also get a very simple but atmospheric 'When I Survey' from Kathryn Scott & a live medley of 'Take My Life / I am Yours' by Michael Neale plus a slight twist on 'Be Thou My Vision' from Eoghan Heaslip amongst others. Moving on to more recent times, we have anthems such as 'Revelation Song' led by Kari Jobe which comes with orchestral backing as well as soaring guitar riffs! There are a couple, which for me, didn't work too well, both of which were sadly from the same artist Travis Cottrell! 'In Christ Alone' for me was a little flat & lacking feeling - I much prefer Robin Mark's own rendition & there's also 'Crown Him With Many Crowns' which was a bit 1990's cheesy for my liking. 'Worthy is the Lamb' was better though. Overall it's a good CD with just a couple of "blips" in the equation - there's a bit of something in here for the traditionalists & CCM fans alike. Worth the cash if only for the updated classics. 8/10 Simon Redfern (April 2010)
IAIN ARCHER : Crazy Bird. (Sticky Music : GUMCD33).
When I saw Iain Archer about three years ago I remember marvelling at his guitar playing and wondering about the lyrics. Not that the latter were questionable but that they seemed to be very dis-jointed. This album reveals the same qualities as Iain takes you through love stories and his views of the universe. What you see is what you get with Iain, one man and his guitar. Occasionally, there's a little accompaniment and it's these songs which are the strongest. 'Ancient Drums' is quite catchy and tells us that we must get rid of our own prejudices, while 'All That You Are' describes spiritual blindness. On the down side, there is the monotonous 'Flat Earth' and the bland 'Aching Hearted', where - I think - Iain is ministering to himself. My guess would be that he is a poet at heart, and some of the songs just do not carry over onto disc. 4/10. (March 1997)
IAN ESKELIN : Save the Humans. (inpop/Fierce : POD 1286)
As the vocal master of All Star United, Ian Eskelin shot to the forefront of CCM with sharp, infectious lyrics and tunes. Now, on his own, he's back, and it's easy to see just how he's built on that reputation. This time the lyrics are more "in your face" truths like on the title track where he recognizes all of man's failings and that only one can save us. "Shout" is the albums first track, and what a shout it is! It bursts into your ears and leaves you wanting more - a sign of a great song, I think. "Into Your Arms Again" talks of surrendering all to God in a pop style with a catchy hook thrown in, while the single "Taboo" literally screams or your attention. "I Love to Tell the Story" is an acoustic based worship number and has a smattering of Crowded House influences within, but it's another sure fire winner. The down side to this album is that it only lasts for 35 minutes, and I felt a little short changed at the end. But, perhaps, that's a good thing. After all, as any performer may tell you….leave the audience wanting more. 9/10 (December 2004, Album of the Month)
IAN McINTOSH : Awakened. (Bethel Music : 60604134321)
I'm not sure where this album has been, or whether it has just been re-released, but it seems to be three years old, according to the sleeve. If that's the case, then the current chart sensation that is, Owl City, may well have been inspired by Ian McIntosh. His vocals are, sometimes, rather breathy and there's a cross between indie rock and pop, displayed musically. Ian, himself, specialises on the keyboards, and the piano, especially, seems to feature prominently on several songs. The song 'Such Beauty' refers to how beautiful God is to love us. And, by meeting with God, He can make 'Everything Good'. Ian shows his full vocal range on 'Made To Love', which lends a nod to Snow Patrol at their best, in style. I certainly liked the change in sound with the title track. Here, the music is atmospheric, and almost ethereal. Jeremy Edwardson appears to be Ian's right hand man on the album. Not only does he co-produce and engineer, but also provides guitar playing and programming skills. Together, the pair unite in an epic of an instrumental called 'Rejoicing', where instruments dance joyfully in a myriad of pleasure. With the album being three years old, I can't really say that Ian is a bright, new talent but, this album certainly shows him in a positive light. 8/10. (September 2010)
IAN MCINTOSH : Alive. (Bethel Music : 845121010701)
Those of you with good memories will remember that it's only a couple of months ago that I reviewed Ian's 2007 release 'Awakened'. This next release sees Ian continue with his electro pop/guitar rock theme, and he comes up with 11 more great songs. Just like 'Awakened' he begins this release with a short overture. I really like his breathy vocals, but what a range he possesses! Ian declares that God is 'Faithful' on track 2, and his performance is outstanding. There's a very listenable instrumental piece called 'Flight', but it's those fantastic vocals that come to the fore again on 'Come Away'. I thought that 'Beautiful' must be a duet with a female singer but there are no credits given, and I can only assume that Ian sings both parts. Musically, he must be one of the most intriguing artists that I've come across for a very long time. Each song is so different than the last, and you never know just what sound he's going to spring on you next. 'Light of Your Face' is quite an epic number, this time helped out vocally by Melissa How, while 'Open Up the Heavens' is simply worshipful electronica at it's best. Ian McIntosh is a relatively new artist to me, but he's already proving to be a favourite. 9/10 (November 2010, Album of the Month)
IAN ST PATRICK : Faith Times. (www.myspace.com/577094537)
Yorskhire based artist Ian St Patrick has released this 8 track album which is available for download at his myspace site. What it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in pure honesty. It all starts with ‘Amazing Grace’ which Ian sings in the style of gospel Elvis. The piano tempo of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ lacks variation but Ian’s vocals fit perfectly. ‘Morning Has Broken’ is still one of my all time favourite hymns and this version brought back many happy memories. Ian’s voice is quite engaging but the production on ‘The Battle Belongs to the Lord’ just has a bit too much reverb for my liking. ‘I Heard The Voice of Jesus’ and ‘Abide With Me’ are very enjoyable, and the 60’s pop style format of ‘I Will Follow Him’ comes over really well. While not bringing any fresh music to the fore, this collection is well worth a listen and will satisfy the discerning listener. 7/10. (February 2012)
IAN VENTRESS : Mama. (vjartistmanagement@yahoo.com)
Successful Business man Ian Ventress only began writing songs 8 months ago. With no musical background, apart from listening to music, he has now written over 40 compositions. This is his debut single, with singers Lu Ndaka & Matt Kitching taking the lead. Produced by Paul Worthington at Broadwater Studios, Gateshead, the song is a tribute to mothers everywhere. With lyrics that describe the importance of mothers from birth and through your informative years, it’s a really touching song. “Your first step watched by your mama; your first word came from your mama. Your first day at school you were took by your mama; Waiting for you back at home was your mama.” Simple words, but within the lyrics of this song, they’re very effective. Lu Ndaka’s vocals are crisp and clear, and the backing of lively drum rhythms give the track a strong African feel. I’m not usually a fan of rap artists, but Matt Kitchen’s contribution mid-way, fits really well in the finished productions. Some added backing vocals complete, what is, a very catchy debut. 8/10. (November 2016)
IAN WHITE : Psalms - Simply the Best. (Kingsway : KMCD969)
If I hadn't seen the name on the album, I might well have thought that this was the long awaited Cliff Richard gospel album. Ian sounds, uncannily, like Sir Cliff on numerous tracks with the sort of arrangement that was being used 10 years ago. Ian's recordings under the title of the "Psalms" have been condensed into this 'Best of...' release and, for those without the others, it is well worth having. Some people might be disappointed that most of the words have been lifted straight from the Bible, but this is the man's way of making them so accessible. However, Psalm 104 is an example were this idea doesn't work. It's like trying to make the words of an Agatha Christie novel fit the tune of the latest Skunk Anansie single. 17 tracks featured, and I enjoyed most. 8/10. (July 1997)
IAN WHITE : Forgiveness. (Little Misty Music : LMSTAD5D)
A change of style for Ian, as he introduces us to his latest release. Of course, you still know that it's him, but he has to be applauded for, musically, moving on. Saying that, the title track is typical Mr White, one guitar and a folky vocal. Co-produced by Chris Eaton, you can pick out the Eaton-pop influences, particularly on "You Lift Me Up" and "Comet". The former moves along at a singalong pace, while the latter is a reflective song of praise. One of my favourites is "The Prison", written for one of the prisoners Ian regularly visits in Perth and, obviously, from the heart. Oh how I wish he hadn't included the opening track. It contains the most infuriating backing lines I've ever had the mis-fortune to hear. Entitled "Deliverance", why on earth is everyone singing "Deliver- er-ance"? Ian, this is dreadful! However, the album does contain the best Christmas song I've heard this year. A simple ditty that has a ring of freshness to it. A Good album. 8/10. (December 1997)
IAN WHITE : Psalms Revisited. Kingsway : KMCD : 2860)
It was in the early 90's that I briefly met up with Ian White on a recording trip to my home city. Back then, he was including one or two numbers based on the Psalms and, over the years, he's recorded numerous albums dedicated to the book of the Bible, independently. Now, he's got the backing of Kingsway Music behind him, and here's a chance for this quiet mannered Scot to have his songs aired to a larger audience. Occasionally, by keeping the original text of the Psalms, some of the interpretations don't quite run smoothly in their sung form. However, for most of them, Ian negotiates each song quite well. '118' proclaims God's name, and the beat is strong. '126' has some great fiddle playing, that inspired me to plenty of foot tapping. '13' is a song of praise and worship, and Ian's vocals are very strong on this cut. I enjoyed the album most whilst relaxing and able to meditate on each song. Lover's of the Psalms will find this collection very useful, and for those who have struggled with their understanding, the songs provide a different way of teaching. The songs were all re-recorded in Nashville last year, and show Ian White to be one of Scotland's best kept secrets. 8/10. (May 2008)
IAN YATES : The Hope and the Glory. (Survivor Records)
Young Bootle-based worship leader Ian Yates started his musical journey back in the 1996 after hearing Delirious live in concert, inspiring him to start a band Seraphim which ended in 2004. His passion for worship still burned & he had an independent release in 2007 entitled "Desperate to see Your Glory", but it wasn't until 2008 when Ian's brother told him that Soul Survivor were looking for tracks for a new People's Album that a major label picked up on his talent. A couple of his tracks were picked, the A&R man met up with him & the rest is fast becoming history. Ian cites musical influences as Delirious & Matt Redman, but from listening to these tracks there's more than just a subtle hint of Kings of Leon plus even some U2 in the mix. The opening track "Take my Life" is a real prime example - a new take on a classic hymn with the chorus & intros being Kings of Leon slightly manic "Sex on Fire" drums overlaid with U2 'jangly' guitars reminiscent of "Beautiful Day" - a highly effective combo giving bucket loads of energy and bringing out the passion in the lyrics. Unlike a great many worship albums that seem to follow a "loud to start with then go quieter after 2/3 tracks so we can be more worshipful" formula, the energy continues aplenty until midway through the album when things do calm a little when we reach "Broken" where the lyrics pack as much of a punch as the drummer's kick! The band manages to keep the music very much alive in every track which lifts the words right up where they need to be, as they're so full of raw passion. Even the classics such as "Here is Love" get a new lease of life! It is so obvious that God has had a real impact on Ian's writing & there's no sense of performance through any of this whatsoever. It's also fantastic to see someone that isn't from one of the big churches well known for producing worship leaders to make it up to the front. I look forward to hearing much more from Ian in years to come - keep it up! 10/10 Simon Redfern (May 2010)
IAN YATES : With Love. (www.7coremusic.com)
Ian’s first album, ‘The Hope & the Glory’ scored pretty well with NFN upon it’s release in 2010. His follow up is scheduled for release in June this year and as a taster, he has made this single available for free download. It’s an attack minded track, with a lot of energy behind it. The basic theme is to live our lives sharing Christ’s love to the world, and that’s no bad thing. Ian works the lyrics well within the song, and I can see it getting plenty of airplay across Europe. Hopefully, the album will follow suit. 8/10 (April 2012)
IAN YATES : Happy God.   (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
Following on from last month’s free single download from Ian, this is the second song that he’s decided to release, completely free of charge, from the 7coremusic website. At just 2 minutes 57 seconds, it’s rather short, but it does make you feel happy! The verses are rather refrained, but the chorus jumps in with both feet, which will delight mosh pit dancers. The main thrust of the song is that there is a “happy God, it’s a happy day, cos’ all our sin is washed away”. What truth could be simpler than that? I can see the live version having a few more choruses added on to the end, as well as plenty of free downloads being had at www.7coremusic.co.uk   8/10 (May 2012)
IAN YATES : Trusting in You. (www.7coremusic.com)
Following on from the highly positive response 7coremusic have had from Ian’s first 2 single releases, here’s the first track to be taken from his forthcoming album ‘Good News’. On first couple of plays, the track isn’t as instantly memorable as the previous releases. It’s rather pedestrian in pace and seems to lack cohesion in it’s make up. Saying that, it’s a positive sign that Ian isn’t just a one-trick pony, and that he can write songs in differing styles. ‘Trusting in You’ has all the right words but, perhaps, isn’t the strongest of tracks for a single release. 6/10. (June 2012)
IAN YATES : Good News. (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
Ian’s new album contains songs of truth, hope, love and the announcement of the goodness of God. With songs that carry strong biblical truth and the deep presence of God, it’s an album that really could be an evangelistic tool, especially to young people. The sound is modern pop/rock, with just an occasional nod to U2, as on ‘The Father’s Love’. The title track is straight to the point in it’s message, while the guitars on ‘Burning For You’ really drive the song along. The current single, ‘Trusting in You’ works better in the context of the whole album than on it’s own, and ‘The Lord Is Here’ describes how God pours out His love on each of us. At almost 6 minutes long, ‘You Found Me’ is quite repetitive, yet it doesn’t become boring. I like the way that Ian’s overall sound is so fresh, he’s definitely developing his music and the production here is top notch. Another highlight is the slower ‘The Cross Changed Everything’, which fits in well, despite the change in tempo. It’s an exciting album in many ways, and one that looks destined to become a major player in the UK CCM market. 9/10. (July 2012)
IAN YATES : Really Good News (www.7Coremusic.co.uk)
'Really Good News' is the latest from Ian Yates and is his follow-up to 'Good News' (his second album from a few months back). This latest is a 5 track EP available as a free download or CD (the latter with two bonus tracks). It is the first time I have heard Ian's work and it is evident from this listening that he brings a fresh creative edge to the CCM scene, although I soon found myself hearing influences of Jon Foreman of Switchfoot fame – whom I rate highly. Here we have well thought out lyrics, well sung – communicating an excitement and enthusiasm for the Christian faith. Fundamentally, this is studio-based contemporary worship, well done. Only the download was available for review, but of the five tracks provided the best for me were the opener 'Fire' with its repeating chorus “there's a fire in our hearts and it burns for You” and 'Fully satisfied' (“I'm fully satisfied in you”) which is a powerful song based on Colossians 2. Overall production and arrangements are excellent. The recordings are, as is commonplace these days, strongly compressed – but the sound is better than others I have heard/reviewed lately. If he can maintain this standard however, I for one am looking forward to more from Ian Yates. 9/10 Dave Deeks. (April 2013)
IAN YATES : DNA. (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
Over the last 4 years, Ian Yates’ releases have consistently scored high marks from NFN reviewers. His fresh, exciting approach to the CCM scene has been a breath of fresh air, especially here in the UK. This new release features his trademark marriage of enthralling keyboard work, with sparkling guitars, and songs that contain pure and simple messages, all wrapped up in a contemporary style. The opening ‘Freedom Song’ lifted my heart as soon as it began to play. A wonderful intro, leading into a fantastic song about the Spirit of God. It would have been my choice as a single but, for the moment, that honour goes to ‘Fulness’. In itself, it’s a another good song, and reminded me very much of The Killers. ‘Christ in Me’ tells that everything Ian does, is centred on Christ, while ‘Innocent’ is slightly more sedate in pace, as he sings about Jesus dying for us. There are far too many highlights on this album to mention individually, but the slower ‘God I Need You’ does deserve a mention. It’s about falling down at the feet of God in thanks and praise, and Ian’s vocals and guitar work provide real power to the song. “Your love has rescued me, your love has set me free”. Simple words, but well written into the song ‘Rescued Me’. Similarly, ‘Spinning’ contains the lyrics “Your Love is like a tidal wave”. That’s how we should all feel about receiving His love. There’s some of the best guitar work on the album here, and the result is a great pop song. In fact, all the songs combine to make this one, great album! 10/10. (July 2014, Album of the Month)
IAN YATES : High Wire. (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
‘High Wire’ is the first single from Ian’s highly anticipated fourth album ‘Awaken To Love’ Written with Nick Herbert (God’s Great Dance Floor, Jesus Saves) ‘High Wire’ is a song about trusting God in the unknown. Life can throw us challenges. As we go for all that we believe God has called us to it can sometimes feel like we are walking a high wire. Yet we can trust that He will catch us. He is always holding onto us .Blending the intimate and epic ‘High Wire’ is an emotional and passionate response to knowing God will never let us go. The song begins quite quietly before exploding into the charismatic sound that Ian has become renowned for over the last few years. It’s a song that instantly pricks your ears up to listen to the words. How many of us have fallen, only to be caught by God’s unfailing love? Ian’s voice rises, especially on the chorus, and leads the listener in praising and worshipping an all loving Father. Personally, I can’t wait for the album. 9/10. (May 2016)
IAN YATES : Awaken to Love. (www.7coremusic.co.uk)
After releasing two singles from the album, Ian’s new release is finally here. Listening, it’s as if he’s found a new depth to his writing, as he hinted with the single “Dream Again.” A renewed relationship with God sees less of the uptempo tracks and more medium paced songs than previously. “High Wire” is one of the exceptions, as we hear what I like to call the charismatic sound and excitement of multi instruments. “Great is the Lord” is a very simple song, while Ian’s reworking of the Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love” is a very interesting move. On “No Longer I”, it’s a declaration that Christ lives in him, and the chorus becomes almost chant-like. Musically, the song begins quite quietly but towards the end, reaches a great crescendo. I liked the guitar riffs on the Talking Head’s influenced “Coming Home”, while the building rhythms on “My Hope” are equally as enjoyable. God’s promise on “Not Alone” is there for all to hear, as Ian sings; “You are not alone. Even though you’re crushed, you’re not forgotten.” “Deeper” has a very catchy tune, whilst the closing “Safe” has an atmospheric feel about it. Concentrating once more on the theme of a deeper relationship with God and knowing His presence in your life, the songs fit well with the rest of the album. I must admit, that this album took me two or three plays to appreciate, but that time was well worth it. 9/10. (September 2016)
ICF WORSHIP : Valleys and Wonders – Live. (Integrity
Founded in 1996 in Zurich, Switzerland, ICF Zurich 'is a non-denominational church now with over 2,800 weekend attendees spread across five different locations within the city and its surroundings. It is also one of the biggest church movements in the German speaking area, with 36 churches in Switzerland and throughout Europe' delivering the Christian message by focusing on 'exciting music, relevant preachings and the latest technology'. This release kicks off with loud audience applause leading into the upbeat pop/rock first two tracks 'The journey' and 'Brighter', with strong melodies and hooks, good (male) lead vocals, and business-like drum-driven 'pop' arrangements. It is the third track 'Lighthouse (Holding on)' that takes my attention however. This slower-paced song with the repeated message 'I keep holding on to You' is well written, and beautifully delivered including a heartfelt performance by the female lead vocalist. Overall as it happens, it is a further two of the slower tracks that impress here - two other standouts for me are 'Wide open spaces' and 'Radiance'. These three are contemporary worship songs of a very high standard, with melodies and hooks that stay in your head for a long time afterwards. 'King (friend of mine)' and 'Waves of love' are both 8 minute marathons that could usefully have been shortened a bit! My main criticism is that sound quality is compressed 'MP3' style, with a nasty digital edge to male vocals. 7/10. Dave Deeks (June 2016)
ICF WORSHIP featuring Esther McLaren : (Integrity Music.)
ICF Worship has its roots in the ICF Zurich church, founded in 1996 in the largest city in Switzerland. Having started with a passion to reach out across the country to people in a contemporary and modern way, today ICF Zurich is a non-denominational church with over 3,000 weekend attendees spread across seven different locations within the city and its surroundings. As for Esther McLaren, she was born and raised in Tasmania, and has previously attended the Hillsong College in Sydney. This single has an ethereal style to it, and reminded me of Christina Perry’s “Jar of Hearts” single, from a couple of years back. The song is unashamedly praise and worship to Jesus, and begins with the line; “I’m soaking down in your grace, deeper than the ocean.” And, that is the essence of the whole thing. Soak in the grace of Jesus and let this excellent song help to take you there. 9/10. (April 2017, Single of the Month)
ICTHUS PIMLICO : Further. (Kingsway : KMCD2465)
Here's a modern day worship album that takes you on a journey, "to seek His face" and to find "unexplored depths of knowing our glorious Lord". With songs primarily written by Jo Puleston, it's a collection of very gentle and, sometimes, mediocre songs that honestly had me falling asleep. Perhaps I was too tired, perhaps I wasn't in a worshipping frame of mind. There again, perhaps, the songs weren't that good. Of those I did find something in, "O King of love" stands out as the best. There's some excellent guitar work within it, making the vocal of Jo really stand out. However, all too often I found tracks like "At the Foot of the Cross" and "Dreams" being quite pleasant but failing to touch me in any way. The last time I felt like this about an album, the writers invited me to see their youth work first hand. While I don't deny that Icthus Pimilico may be doing a similar fine job, their music rates as bland. 3/10. (May 2003)
THE IDENTITY : Fight For Your Life. (www.theidentitymusic.com)
Cited by Powerplay Magazine as “One of Chester City’s finest bands in a long while”, The Identity’s passionate and energetic brand of rock has been connecting with audiences around the North-West of England and even further afield. With an average age of just 17 years, this debut EP certainly sounds as if they have been around a lot longer. The title track is a storming song. It’s attack minded, and has a great hook for audiences to shout out to. ‘Save My Soul’ carries on in similar vein, but isn’t quite as strong musically. Lead singer, Matt, does an excellent job vocally, and the rest of the band back him well. ‘Sacrifice’ is a slower, more melodic song, and has quite an anthemic chorus, which I can also see going down well live. The band’s overall sound reminded me of The Steels, but I also thought that there was a bit of Red Hot Chilli Peppers influences thrown in as well. There’s some nice distorted guitars on ‘Rescue’ which give a real bite to the overall sound of the song, and the whole mix sits well overall. With Sheffield’s Resound Media behind them, the band look set to become one’s to watch over the coming months. 8/10 (November 2011)
IKOS : Christmas Carols & Songs. (Little Room Recordings : LRMCD05)
This CD features the talents of many musicians but, in particular, the work of David Clifton, Mark Russell, Dudley Phillips, Steve Creese, Terl Bryant, and the Choirs of Peterborough Cathedral. The recording draws from the original roots of many of our Christmas carols, and unites contemporary and traditional instrumentalists. So, as you may gather, it's not just another run of the mill Christmas collection. There's been great thought put into the interpretation of each song and, on the whole, the result is very good. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" kicks things off, and there's some lovely choral backing to David's smooth, engaging vocals. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "Silent Night" are both given the Ikos treatment, before "Bethlehem Down" is done as a straight choral piece. There's lots of whistles and pipes on the instrumental "The Gloucestershire Wassail", and a warming harp sound on "Of the Father's Love Begotten". The London Telefimonic Orchestra add nice string sounds here and there - "For Unto Us A Child is Born" being one of the stronger choices. The strength of this album's overall sound and appeal is highlighted by the fact that high street record shops in the UK are now stocking it. The Ikos team must be congratulated on their efforts, for a splendid album. 8/10. (December 2006)
IKOS : Christmas Carols and Songs.   (Little Room : LRMCD05)
Originally seeing the light of day in 2002, this CD has just come my way for review and so must be out for re-release. I missed it first time around, and being a bit of a 'bah, humbug' when it comes to Christmas music I really didn't expect much after it dropped through my letter box. Finding it described however on Amazon as 'a major work in its field of music', on listening I discovered it to be much better than I originally feared! IKOS main men are David Clifton on lead vocals and guitars and Mark Russell on keyboards and programming, and the group are here supported by orchestra, soloists and the choirs of Peterborough Cathedral. With David and Mark also responsible for production, they have created a notable contemporary re-interpretation of Christmas favourites. Other vocals are provided by Lizzie Dean and also, I was interested to note, by Canadian singer Jane Siberry – her 1989 album 'Bound by the beauty' has long been a favourite in my collection. But I digress! Before hearing these 14 tracks I had given up all hope of ever listening to musically satisfying arrangements of 'O little town of Bethlehem' or 'In the bleak mid-winter'. In the main Mark and David have pulled it off, although even they have struggled with some of the particularly twee tunes(!) – including 'Away in a manger' and 'Rejoice and be merry'. Such down points are however balanced by some really beautiful moments, and it is evident that much thought and creative care have gone into this project. The arrangements are excellent, as are the performances, production and sound quality. Those who particularly enjoy such Christmas favourites are sure to rate this album highly. For me, it's still worth a comfortable 7/10. Dave Deeks (December 2012)
THE IMPOSTER. (Pure Flix Entertainment). www.pureflix.com/imposter
This is the first time I've ever sat and watched a Christian film, I've always imagined that they would make me cringe, and I was not proved wrong by this. It's the story of a Christian rock star who turns out to be somewhat less than he appears to be while onstage. Taking drugs, sleeping around etc. His Father is an evangelist, who also appears to be as bad as his son, although I'm not completely sure whether that is supposed to be the idea or not really. The plot is completely ludicrous, the acting is completely wooden, and the film is filled with characters that very bad things should happen to if there were any justice in this world. The ending just leaves the story hanging, so you don't know if it all worked out or not. (Hope that doesn't mean they are making a sequel). The only saving grace for this film is the video of Kerry Livgren of Kansas, and Kevin Max of DC Talk (Both of them are in the film) performing "Carry on wayward son" in the special features. 3/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2010)
INDIAN SUMMER : Crown of Creation. (Private Cassette Recording. £5.50 from : A Bamforth, 162 Alexandra Road, Peterborough, PE1 3DL, England.
It's a long time since I receieved a pure olde worlde folk album. Performed here by Annie & John Bamforth, we have a colection of 16 songs of varying quality and production. Some, such as "Gaudete" and "Lord of the Dance" are well known but most, I 've heard for the first time. The simple backing of acoustic and bass guitars seem to work the best throughout, although Annie's vocals do not always suit. The opening "Crown of Creation" being an immediate example of this, with her voice being either weak or nervous. The second song contains an excellent 12 string guitar, but the words are difficult to pick out. Again, this was something that ran throughout the album and was more of a production fault. "Christ Receive" raises things a little even though it sounds like a chant. "Tree of Life/Light" is the strongest track although the use of distorted guitar(?) does detract from the basic sound. If this all sounds like a negative review, I'm afraid it's because of the production and recording. When I can hear the lyrics, they sound good and some of the tunes are quite catchy. Perhaps, this pre-release copy is not the finished product but, even if it is, there's still promise from a fledgling ministry trying to break free. 5/10. (April 1998)
Inside Out (DVD, Elevation)
Produced by TearFund, Evangelical Alliance and Livability, Inside Out is a six session Bible Study and Discussion course aimed at Christians/Churches wanting to explore where they fit with God’s mission to restore the world, and how to bring about transformation in their own communities. It features input from well-respected bible teachers such as J. John, Tom Wright and Elaine Storkey, among others, and is designed as a genuine series, with one study leading directly to the next through the use of “Outwork”, simple activities to be carried out between sessions. The sessions themselves are around an hour in length, and the DVD based activities include vox pops, short films, Bible based discussions, prayer and the week’s outwork. Some of the sessions offer a choice of activities, and additional material and support is available from the course website (www.insideoutcourse.com). There are lots of resources around at the moment encouraging churches to think about their role in the local community, and Inside Out covers essentially the same ground, but the way it follows a single coherent narrative, with each study building on the previous ones, is very good, and I am certain that church groups of any size will find it to be of real value in laying the foundation for a change in their community focus. As always with these things, it will not suit everyone and those looking for something that offers more in the way of a personal challenge, or call to action, might be better served considering something like Simon Guillebaud’s More Than Conquerors series, for example. However, Inside Out is an excellent resource, offering a structured approach to what is a big and potentially difficult subject to really get to grips with, and the big advantage of the way it has been put together is that you do not require someone with prior knowledge or experience to lead the group, as everything needed is right there on the DVD. 8/10 David Cooper (March 2012)
INTERNATIONA WORSHIP : Live From Canada. (ICC )
This live worship album is part of series that "… aims to bring the listener a glimpse of worship from churches around the world", and with that in mind I was really looking forward to listening to it. The musicianship throughout is great, the vocalists, both lead and backing, are excellent and the production (by Johnny Markin who also provides lead vocals on 5 of the 13 tracks) is just about right. However, the overall result is a bit flat. There is nothing here that is new or earth-shattering and, while you get the impression that it would have been great to have been there, it left this listener with a feeling of having heard it all before, even with the unfamiliar songs. Having said that it is not without its highlights, the main one for me being a great version of Paul Baloche's "Open the eyes of my heart" as power ballad rather than all-out rocker, and it is always a pleasure to see the occasional traditional hymn - here we have "When I survey" sung to a traditional Scottish folk melody. Unfortunately these are not enough to rate it higher than "not bad, but nothing special". 6/10 David Cooper (April 2002)
INTRODUCING NEW IRISH KIDS : My Lighthouse. (Elevation : ELE2154D)
New Irish Kids is part of New Irish Arts, a Christian organisation which presents Christianity through the arts. Originally founded by modern hymn writer Keith Getty, they have regularly sold out all the main concert halls in Ireland and have established a reputation for passion and quality in worship music. This 14 track Cd can get a little tiresome as you listen to, what sounds like, a typical school choir. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t a few hidden gems along the way. The opening “I Turn to Your Word” is short, sharp and very brightly sung. The title track is extremely catchy and I had to smile as the kids sang “Jesus Doesn’t Live in a Caravan.” There’s a deeper meaning in “Talk to Jesus”, which gives advice when your troubled in any way. Written by Pete James, it’s a definite highlight. “Why Should I Fear” sounded rather maudlin, but the trombone solo on “All Through History” certainly lifts the song. Here, the words concentrate on God’s faithfulness to characters like Moses and Daniel, and we can be sure that He will be faithful to each one of us too. The album is certainly one that gives children something with substance, rather than those throw away, repetitive songs. All in all, a decent release. 7/10. (May 2016)
IONA : Live - Heaven's Bright Sun. (Alliance : ALD092).
Here it is then, the live, double album from Britain's Iona. Taking tracks from their previous studio releases, and breathing new life into them all. Indeed, in some cases, that is just what they do, especially with the enigmatic "Treasure". The content, as a whole, displays many moods, swinging from high's through lows, and then back again. "Irish Day" is still a fine track but the mournful "I Will Give My Love An Apple" is one to avoid. The instrumental depth and quality of the band is highest on numbers like "Columcille" and the title track. People have raved about the 14 minute version of "When I Survey" but I can't see why. It's a dreadful durge and a poor finish to the album. There's nothing further to say about Iona that you don't know except that Mike Haughton and Terl Bryant were the most approachable guys throughout the recent series of concerts in Hull. 7/10. (August 1997)
IONA : Open Sky (Alliance : 1901772)
Now this was a pleasant surprise. I'd expected Iona to be all swirly strings, breathy chorused vocals and so forth. In effect, something from the school of Clannad. The album does start with swirly noises & stuff, but then the drums kick in and the Celtic riffs & rhythms are given a far more rocky treatment than I expected. True, there are the breathy, floaty vocals, there are the Steve Howe-esque guitar noises, there are the gentle songs you'd expect (mostly in the second half of the album). But the guitar is far more Gary Moore/Joe Satriani than Dave Bilborough. Bits of the album reminded me of Horslips at their peak, bits of All About Eve at their best, the best bits of Riverdance and, of course, of Clannad. The opening tracks are especially good, the songs giving Joanne Hogg's vocals something meaty to soar over, the instrumentals showing that this isn't a singer & backing band but a tight unit. Overall, a very strong album (as you'll have noticed from me comparing it to others "at their best"). 9/10. Paul Ganney. (June 2000)
IONA : Iona. (Open Sky Records : Openvp1cd)
I first heard this album when it was newly released back in 1990. This is classy music, combining progressive rock, jazz and folk - all with a Celtic flavour, reflecting 'the haunting, timeless atmosphere of the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne'. Here it is remastered for 2004, with eight of the tracks also remixed. Sound quality is excellent - capable of painting a deep and wide sound picture on a good hi-fi system. I did not have an original copy to hand to compare, but cannot recall being so impressed sound-wise first time around - so either the sound system has got better or the re-work has been worthwhile in this respect! Iona's founding father was multi-instrumentalist David Fitzgerald, whose 'God is love' CD I reviewed in these pages a short while back. With Iona however, instrumental tracks are interspersed with the delicious vocals of Joanne Hogg - and these tend to be the best ones, the standouts being 'The island' and 'Dancing on the wall', closely followed by 'Vision of Naran' and 'Iona'. Playing this album made me sample other Iona albums in my collection, and having dipped in and out of 'The book of Kells'(1992), 'Beyond these shores'(1993) and 'Open Sky'(2000) I was reminded of their similarity, tending to consist of many instrumentals with no obvious form or 'progression', commonly in a minor-key. People who like an album to comprise a succession of 'good tunes' will therefore be disappointed, but I feel that everyone else should own at least one Iona album, with this updated re-issue being as good a place to start as any. Overall … 7/10 Dave Deekes. (January 2005)
IONA : The Book of Kells. (Open Sky : Openvp2cd)
I always remember Iona for two reasons. Firstly, the sound of their music drifting over a festival campsite, half a mile from where I was sitting. And, secondly, stewarding one of their concerts, when the building was literally shaken with their sound, and so many of the audience left at the interval and didn't return. To me, their CCM image and persona seemed to be the equivalent of Pink Floyd in the 70's. During that time, it was obvious to spot a Floyd fan from 50 paces, and so it was with Iona. Certainly at open air events, countless young people would stand and watch the cacophony of sound for one or two numbers and then begin to drift away, leaving the older members of the crowd stood quietly and letting the music just wash over them. I'm afraid that I was one of the former and, consequently, this album reminds me of those times. Skillful and talented musicians they may be, but the end result leaves me with as much enthusiasm as a dose of the flu. Some would argue, why re-release an album of limited appeal but, then, isn't that what they said about "Dark Side of the Moon"? One for the die-hards. 2/10. (March 2005)
IONA : Beyond These Shores. (Open sky : OPENVP3CD)
This is another re-release from Iona, this was the third album that they originally released back in 1993, and although I think that this album is the best one that they made, I can't really see the point of putting it out again. Iona seem to be one of those bands that you, either love or hate, in which case you either won't want this CD, or Like me you already have the original. As far as I can tell there is no musical difference between the two, although I suppose that it's possible that the new one has been "Digitally Remastered" which nowadays seems to be the stock excuse for churning out the old back catalogue once again. I'm not going to listen to both CD's to compare them (The CD runs to just short of 70 minutes). The cover is different, perhaps that's all it is. As for the music itself, well I guess everyone knows what Iona sound like, and this is typical of them, some really atmospheric tracks mixed with some very complex rhythms courtesy of Terl Bryant, lots of Celtic sounding instruments drowned in reverb. It sounds like all their other CD's to be honest, and I can't quite see who this is aimed at. All Iona fans will most likely have the original CD, and I can't see anyone who isn't familiar with them wanting to buy an album that is now twelve years old. If the plan is to expose their music to a new audience surely it would be better to release some new material. So to sum up, not a bad album in itself, but who do they think will buy it? 5/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2005)
IONA : Iona DVD. (Open Sky : Openskydvd1)
I expect this will be the first of many releases of this type over the next few years, as the Christian music industry catches up with its secular counterpart. This DVD is a look back at some of Iona's earliest work, and includes footage of songs from their first album captured on camera at one of their first ever concerts intercut with landscape footage of Mull and Iona itself and brief interviews with band members. I have never been a massive Iona fan, but their early work is certainly worth checking out, even 15 years on. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated well to this format for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the picture quality on the concert footage is not particularly good and secondly, as I discovered for myself at The Blue Lamp in Hull some years ago, Iona's live shows, while aurally superb, are just not that interesting to look at - and the overlong pans of, admittedly beautiful and dramatic, Scottish scenery get a little wearing after a while. The interview segments are also disappointing. I now know a lot more about how Columba brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland than I did before, but I am not much wiser as to what really makes Iona tick. All in all, a missed opportunity. The music is still great, but you would be better served simply buying the remastered CD version. 6/10 David Cooper (May 2005)
IONA (Live): Bright Heaven's Sun (Open Sky Records OPENVP7CD)
This double CD is a re-release of Iona's 1997 recording (live as the title suggests). I was amazed to see there were only 18 tracks on a double CD, but when you realise how long a lot of the tracks are, the reasons are more than clear - they're huge, highlighted by a version of the timeless hymn "When I Survey" lasting just over 14 minutes! What a version it is though...best track on the album. The style is what I'd label "mature Celtic", so don't be expecting anything remotely like Enya as I was. Tracks are largely instrumental which leaves it difficult to tell where 1 song finishes & the next starts unless you intently stare at the CD player's display. Everything is written by Iona with some words lifted from Celtic writings, but as lyrics are sparse you'd be hard-pushed to realise the Christian content. Musically it's superb & I admire their stamina maintaining the quality & energy throughout such long tracks. After listening to this, I certainly wouldn't turn down an invitation to see them live but I doubt I would rush to buy the next release. 6/10 Simon Redfern (April 2006)
IONA : Open Sky. (OPENVP8CD)
There's probably nothing new that I can tell you about Iona, that hasn't already been said over the past few years. I remember buying their debut album, and seeing them live at both a Christian festival, and concert setting. It had been a long time since I had played this album, so I wondered how I would find this re-release. The nine and a half minute "Woven Cord" begins proceedings and, as you would expect, it's full of Celtic rhythms and numerous pipes. Two thirds of the way through, they're joined by some searing guitar sounds, and the scene for the rest of the album is set. "Wave After Wave" sees Joanne Hogg step into the limelight, and her melodic vocals shine through. From then on, I'm afraid that one piece of music seemed to run into the next. I thought that "Song of Ascent (Part One)" was very peaceful in sound but the rest failed to move me at all. Perhaps I've moved on from when this was originally released. There again, perhaps so have others. I guess there must have been enough interest to warrant re-releasing all the Iona back catalogue but, for me, it all sounds very dated. 4/10. (May 2006)
IONA with the All Souls Orchestra : Wovern Cord. (Open Sky : OPENVP6CD)
This album appeared again late last year as part of the re-issue of the Iona back-catalogue. With excellent sound quality, here we have a live concert incorporating a selection of Iona compositions recorded in May 1999 at The Royal Festival Hall London. I have criticised Iona's music for not moving on and usually being based upon a fairly limited range of minor chords, but the excellent orchestral setting somehow puts it into context. I have always loved Joanne Hogg's vocals - even though I often have little idea what the songs mean, especially when Gaelic! The album begins with long instrumental chords that remind me of a mixture of Delius and Debussy, then Joanne sings mystically in... err... Gaelic. Enthusiastic drumming begins the third track, a superb thirteen minute 'symphonic poem' version of 'Man' - marvellous lead guitar set against the orchestra, interspersed by Joanne's vocals (in English). What continues often sounds like a 70's 'concept album' combining progressive rock, jazz and folk. Stand-out tracks for me were 'Murlough Bay' and 'Encircling'. Most accessible of all is the beautifully crafted folk-pop 'Dancing on the wall'. The nature of Iona's music becomes an advantage in this setting as the album has a cohesion that you wouldn't usually expect from a collection of earlier compositions. Getting better with each repeat listen, it has just reached ... 9/10. www.iona.uk. Dave Deeks (May 2006)
THE ISAACS : Heroes. (Gaither : 8425142)
Why is it that most southern gospel groups tend to be made up of family members, rather than friends? Following on in a long list of those are The Isaacs. No information sheet with this album but by the look of the sleeve photograph, it looks like mother and father, with son and daughters in the line up. The songs themselves are not spectacular but, then, they're not to be sneered at either. "Friend 'Til the End" has lots of fiddles and banjo sounds to help make it a catchy tune, as does "Great Is Thy Reward". Knowing god's peace is the subject of "Peace Like A River" and it's a gentle song that soothes and washes over you nicely. My favourite track has to be "In His Hands", a lovely number with a smashing vocal. Lasting just over 36 minutes, the album is short and sweet and does have it's moments. 6/10. (May 2005)
ISHMAEL : Ish in the Box 2. (KMCD2987)
Here's a great resource for parents with young children, or small group leaders within the church. Kingsway have packaged 4 Ishamel albums together and come up with a total of 66 songs for "Tiny Children". The songs are really easy to learn and simple enough for young children to understand. They teach about God and Jesus, as well as subjects such as sleeping and not being afraid of the dark. The first Cd even contains guitar chord sheets in CD-Rom form, as well as backing tracks for 17 songs. Even without the benefit of having tiny children, I was impressed by most of the songs. I'm sure that things like 'The Tummy Button Song' will raise a few giggles, while the jig within 'The Lord Awakes Me Every Morning' will see them dance with delight. Other tracks of note include ''Bedtime Prayer Song', 'I Will Try' and 'Arise Shine For Your Light Has Come'. Ishamel has been churning out these songs for years, and long may he continue. 8/10 (November 2009)
ISHMAEL : Bigger Barn. (Kingsway : KMCD3080)
It's great to see Ishmael, real name Ian Smale, back up and running again after an enforced layoff owing to illness. He's someone who has been writing family oriented music for a long time, his most notable song being "Father God I Wonder", and one of the first Christian songwriters I experienced when I first became a Christian. He is synonmous with a lively, quirky, humorous style and this is evident in abundance on this his latest release. You may recognise overtones of "Wooly Bully" on the song "Wolfy Wolfy", an intentional pastiche and executed quite brilliantly. Then there is the entertaining tongue twister hook of the title track. And of course, no Ishmael album would be complete without a couple of the Hebrew style songs for which he is famous; "Jerusalem to Jericho" and "Bigger Barn" being the providers in this case. Some may call this an album of children's songs but I found this to be a wonderful album, full of excitement and energy and genuine praise for our magnificent God not to mention an album packed to the brim with biblical truth, each song being a musical version of a bible story. I'm left with the feeling that perhaps this is how worship should be and that maybe, as adults, we really should be more childlike in our approach. So, call me a big kid if you like, but this is a top notch album from a man whose faith has seen him through a difficult time and is a welcome antitode to the multitude of turgid offerings that we adults are supposed to listen to. 10/10 RobinThompson. (May 2010)
ISHMAEL : Songs & Hymns. (Elevation : ELE1641D)
As Martin Smith says, Ishmael has “made more albums than U2, played more gigs than Status Quo, inspired more children than Disney. The man is a legend”. After three years of chemotherapy to fight cancer, plus an operation on his throat, Ishmael was a little wary about recording a new album. Indeed, for the last 33 albums he had written and recorded songs to encourage children to worship. This time he needed to encourage himself to worship. So, to share the singing credits, he enlisted some very good friends, and the result is an astonishingly fine album. ‘The Presence of the Lord’ describes that feeling of being sure in the knowledge that God is with you, in everything you do, and is sung by the man himself. Cathy Burton takes the lead vocals on ‘Father You Made Us’, and it’s one of those songs that you can imagine a live audience swaying together in unison as they worship the Lord. I really couldn’t get over ‘Oh the Peace’. A brand new song from Ishmael and sung by Martin Smith. It is so good that it sounds like an original Fanny Crosby or Charles Wesley hymn. Brilliant! Ishmael provides the voice on the foot tapping ‘Disciples of Jesus’, while Aaron Frith takes the lead on ‘Blessed is the King Who Comes’ – a song that races along. I could write positive things about each track, but space won’t allow me. Instead, I’ll just highly recommend this terrific release. 10/10 (August 2011)
ISKRA STRING QUARTET : Sanctuary. (ICC : 0859D)
Don't ever say that religious music doesn't cater for all tastes. The Iskra String Quartet consists of John Smart and James Underwood on violins, Mike Schofield on viola, and Charlotte Eksteen on cello. Played, are various tunes, some of which were instantly recognisable, such as Bach's "Jesu Joy" and "Air", taken from Suite No.3. Of the others, they were much of a muchness to me. Driving across town in mid-day traffic, the soothing sounds certainly took my mind off the yard by yard journey that I was taking. There again, listening to the album in the comfort of my armchair, I found the music perfect to fall asleep to. I guess, in my own way, I'm saying that some people may find this kind of music beneficial when seeking God's peace. Let your mind's wander with each sound, and let them bring you closer to God. 6/10. (June 2005)
ISRAEL & NEW BREED : Real (Integrity Music EK086755)
Just when you think studio worship albums are getting a little stale and "samey", along comes a gem to yank you up by the hair. Israel Houghton is a renowned songwriter and worship leader in the USA, and here he has combined with a collection of talented musicians and Grammy award winning Producer Tommy Sims (who has worked with Amy Grant and Kenny Loggins among others) to produce a powerful follow-up to his Dove award nominated 2001 album New Season. If you like this kind of thing! The album focuses on a style of music that is very heavily influenced by 70s soul, with a bit of R&B and jazz thrown in for good measure, and will leave even the most cynical of hearts feeling a little lighter after just one listen. Lyrically it is wonderfully worshipful and Houghton's voice certainly sets the whole thing off beautifully, but I would give one word of warning. If you like this style (and I do) this is a rare treat, if not, there is nothing here to convert you to it. But then I don't suppose that was really the point. Check it out! 8/10 David Cooper (April 2003)
ISRAEL & NEW BREED : A Deeper Level. (Integrity Music)
On some of the recent worship compilations I have heard, Israel and New Breed have been one of the stand-out groups, mainly because their sound has been different to the other artists featured. It has a strong Gospel root but, as this album demonstrates, is also able to include an eclectic mix of other styles too, such as rock and rap. This is a live recorded album and, as an act of worship, it comes across as extremely strong, sincere and uplifting. Songs like "Say So" and "I know Who I Am" fill me with encouragement and excitement and they are memorable and well written songs. However, the strong gospel tones on this album might not sit well with a British audience, particularly the more syrupy ballad numbers. The first track, "So Come" is one such song and it didn't get the album off to a good start in my opinion. The resultant effect is an album with some great touches and some not so great ones. The bonus dvd was a slight disappointment in that it doesn't feature the whole concert; instead, four of the tracks are featured with the rest of the disc being made up of behind the scenes footage etc. Expect a separate dvd soon methinks… 6/10 Robin Thompson. (January 2008)
ISRAEL HOUGHTON : The Power of One. (Integrity : 45512)
"The Power of One" is Israel Houghton's first solo project outside of the Israel & New Breed for at least 7 years, featuring performances from major CCM names such as Martin Smith (Delirious?) on 'Sing Redemption's Song', Toby Mac on 'You Found Me' and Mary Mary on 'Every Prayer'. The Power of One is quite a departure from the successful if frankly quite predictable gospel style of the worship albums from New Breed, with styles ranging widely from rock to reggae to funk and of course gospel - a bit of something for all tastes. After a very brief (if slightly pointless) intro track, the proceedings get underway with a lively funk style 'Everywhere I Go' then going off at a complete tangent with 'Just Wanna Say' which is an excellent arrangement that's not dissimilar to Outkast in style though I have to say Israel & Co. do a far better job! 'Surely Goodness' continues the musical journey of styles in a reggae number 'Surely Goodness' with lyrics lifted from Psalm 23, reminding me very much of some of the great Bob Marley's material. The variation continues through the rest of the CD with a relaxed quite soulful title track, the more usual funky gospel (Saved by Grace) to the rocky 'You Found Me'. I am sometimes slightly dubious when artists try to vary styles so much but I have to admit Houghton pulls this off extremely well! "The Power of One" does a great job of showcasing his flexibility and vocal talents with some very well chosen collaborations. I was never a great follower of Israel Houghton based on his usual style but this CD gives plenty of variation to ensure this certainly doesn't become one to sit on the shelf & gather dust! 9/10 Simon Redfern (August 2009)
ISRAEL HOUGHTON : Love God, Love People – The London Sessions. (Integrity : 48162)
There’s no getting away from Israel Houghton’s popularity, the world over. Of course, his home country loves him, but more and more people here in the UK are finding his music and loving the soul that he puts into it. This new album was predominantly recorded last year at London’s Abbey Road Studio’s. Indeed, there’s a recorded “Welcome….” At the beginning of track 1. If you’ve not heard of Israel, then he’s a gospel singer, with the modern influences of RnB thrown in. Typical songs from him are the album’s title track, and ‘Love Rev’. He also knows how to chill out as well, and ‘That’s Why I Love You’ and ‘Others’ are particularly good examples. ‘You Hold My World’ is the best of the uptempo numbers. It has a swinging chorus and I found myself joining in quite quickly. Things do take a downward turn late on. The over-long ‘Surprises’ featuring Fred Hammond and ‘Name of Love’ get a little monotonous, but the closing ‘hosanna’ lifts things back up with it’s full blown choir. If you’ve wondered what all the fuss is about, then check out this release, and see for yourself. 7/10 (March 2011)
ISRAEL HOUGHTON & NEW BREED : Decade. (Integrity : 50602)
I first heard Israel Houghton about five years ago on a compilation cd, and I was struck by how different he sounded to all the other worship leaders out there. I think the song was “Not Forgotten”, which features on this collection, which is a compendium of songs from Israel's last ten years. How to describe that sound? It's basically gospel fused with funk and soul. Interestingly, the two cd collection seems to have more of the gospel style songs on the first disc, and the more soul/funk stuff on the second cd. I'm not sure if it was intentional but it works for me. You'll find some of his best works on here, such as “Say So”, Friend of God” and the aforementioned “Not Forgotten”. It's uptempo for the most part with some calmer interludes such as the wonderfully angelic vocal work “Alpha and Omega”. What I really like about this cd is that the songs are also extremely fine pieces of music, so they work on numerous levels. You can worship along, or you can just listen and appreciate some amazing God given talents. No doubt in ten years time there will be a Decade 2. For now we have this fine assemblage to keep us going. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (August 2012) Forward to the next archive
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