Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive J

J. BRIAN HILL : Life, Love and Worship (available from http://www.themusicshoppe.citymaker.com) - MD30488
Brian is a singer songwriter and worship leader based in Chicago, Illinois. This is his second of three recording projects all of which are now available in the UK following his recent mini tour. This cd gives you 13 songs, all written by Brian and produced by Mark Pay, who also plays guitar on the album. Brian's first project was recorded in the "Gaither Studios" and influences of that can be heard here - stacked backing vocals and lush keyboards being two examples. But it isn't overdone and the arrangements are very effective at highlighting the strength of the songs. There is quite a variety too, from the heartwarming "Tapestry of Memories", a song about seeing your children grow up, to the guitar driven closer "Walking with Jesus" which leaves you feeling on a high and ready to take on the world! Brian here has managed to achieve what is usually quite difficult to do, that is create an album that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Strong melodies, insightful lyrics, sensitive production and excellent performances are all evident here and the end result is a very good package. 9/10. Robin Thompson. (May 2006)
J. BRIAN HILL. Blessed By Love. (www.jbrianhill.com)
Produced in Nashville at Zod Lounge Studio's, this is J.Brian Hill's latest EP release. Over the last three years, Brian has ministered in the north-east of England, bringing God's word to young and old alike, and many have been touched by his gentle ways. The songs on this CD remind me a lot of Michael W Smith in style, but Brian's warm vocal tones are very individual. The title track features twice - one radio edit and one long version. The production is first class, and Brian's delivery, sincere. 'Breathe on Me' cries for God's soothing touch, while 'Draw A Line' prays that the lord will help us to be the person that we are supposed to be. The songs are medium paced numbers, and each one could be released as singles - they are so strong. My only complaint was that four tracks weren't enough, I wanted more! It's no wonder, then, that Brian continues to bless so many with his music. 9/10 (November 2009)
J. BRIAN HILL, LIVING HOPE & CANDY KLESS.   Christmas With…   (www.nadezhdamusic.com)
Proving that all is well between UK and American relations, Hull based duo, Living Hope have teamed up with US artists J.Brian Hill and Candy Kless, for this 6 song Christmas offering. It contains 4 traditional hymns and a couple of original songs – one of which is superb! It’s the American  twosome that starts things off vocally, with a straight rendition of ‘Silent Night’. Music throughout the track listing is provided by Robin Thompson, while his wife, Squil, leads the singing on ‘Little Drummer Boy’. There’s no real surprises on the opening two songs, but Robin’s rock background sees ‘Joy to the World’ getting a more modern treatment. The real highlight of this mini album is the Thompson written ‘Ring Out The Bells’, which Squil sings admirably. This song alone begs for bigger production, with it’s great verse structure and singalong chorus. I love playing this song! J.Brian Hill co writes ‘Love Was Born’ with his wife Cathy. It’s an old fashioned Christmas sound and lends a nod or two to the great hymn writers of the past. Finally, Squil proves her worth once more, taking the lead vocals on “tongue tripping” ‘Carol of the Bells’. A pity that the song list is short, because this Cd is a real joy to listen to.   8/10. (December 2012)
J MOSS : V4 ... The other Side (Verity 88697-82072-2)
R&B / hip-hop artist J Moss has been making music for more than fifteen years, but this is the first time I've had a cd of his in my player. Debuting at no 1 in the Billboard Gospel Album chart, here we have fourteen tracks (twelve plus two 'bonus') of very American, highly 'stylized', mostly high energy, rap/hip-hop, overtly Christian urban gospel 'personal faith' songs, delivered in a great, note-perfect 'black gospel' voice over drums and bass, with liberal use of hand claps, synth stabs and gospel choir backing vocals – you get the picture! The highly infectious 'God's got it' gets things off to a fine start and other standouts for me include the mid-paced 'Take me' and the great dance groove of 'Keep your head up'. 'Holy is Your Word' particularly demonstrates J Moss's vocal prowess. While other tracks aren't as strong, I enjoyed listening to this album. Sometimes the vocals are obviously processed but appropriately so for the genre (for instance on the upbeat 'The prayers'), and overall production is of a high standard, as is sound quality – refreshing these days. 7/10. Dave Deeks (February 2013)
J J HELLER : Only Love Remains (www.jjheller.com, www.myspace.com/jjhellermusic)
Originally from San Jose, California, now resident in Phoenix, Arizona, JJ Heller is a lady singer/songwriter, who collaborates with her husband Dave to produce thoughtful music that, whilst not mentioning the Saviour's name in every other line, is definitely from a Christian perspective. Let JJ explain: - "This album is all about redemption. Looking back on the songs, there's a lot of struggle written into them because that's life. Everyone has different problems to face, but in the end, the outcome hinges on how you deal with those struggles -- if you allow them to destroy you or make you stronger." JJ claims influences from a variety of people - Alanis Morissette, Jennifer Knapp, U2, Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, Jill Paquette - but she succeeds in being herself, and whilst the album is a tad short at less than 40 minutes, it's a good quality product that deserves to do well. Happy clappy Christian bubblegum this ain't, so if that's your bag, you could do worse than get hold of this. 7/10 Trevor Kirk (October 2006)
JACI VELASQUEZ : Jaci Velasquez. (Myrrh : 080688537821).
With her debut album selling over 500,000 units world wide, the industry has been waiting in awe for this follow up release. I must admit, hearing the first song, I was ready to join the multitude of adoring fans. It's a classic Celine Dion type ballad that has been written by Chris Eaton, and takes some words straight from John 3:16. It's these type of songs were Jaci really excels, rather than the quirky 'Show You love' type where she tries, and fails, to be Alanis Morrisette. Perhaps she wants to move on from her little girl image but, along with 'Child of Mine' the delivery just doesn't hold. If it's not her own idea, then someone is trying to make her into something that she is not. The album ends on a high note with a similar track to the opener, 'al mundo Dios amo' co written by Eaton again. In between, there's a hotch potch of songs of varying quality, including contributions from DC Talk's Toby McKean. All in all, a bit of a let down. 5/10. (September 1998)
JACI VELASQUEZ : Crystal Clear. (Word : 080688603922)
Here she is, then. The darling of female CCM both in America and the UK, who's music is successfully crossing over in the mainstream market. No, it's not meant to be a flippant remark. Jaci IS the 'darling' as she not only does the business for God but actually makes money for the record companies who, after all, do need to eat! So, I unashamedly say, "Thank God for Jaci Velasquez". With this release, she packs in so many musical styles without ever losing control of that great voice. The Latin dance feel of "Listen to Me" and "You Don't Miss A Thing" is just superb. The title track is a song of love and the brilliant "Adore" takes the same feeling and just multiplies the wonderment of God's unfailing love for us. "You're Not There" has a slight darker edge to it, but Jaci carries it off with no problem. The power pop sound of "Every Time I Fall" is a sure fire radio hit and beautiful "Just A Prayer Away" finishes of what is a truly inspirational album. 10/10. (February 2001, Album of the Month)
JACI VELASQUEZ : Love Out Loud. (Apostrophe : 7410042)
There's no mistaking the voice of Jaci Velasquez once the opening song gets into full swing. 'Nothing But Blue Sky' tells the story of her life's journey - from where she's come from, to where she is today. The title track is a real strong contender for radio play and the message is simple. Jaci sings with utmost conviction and the result is superb. We have all fallen short of the glory of God at some point. The side of the story that matters most is the journey back to Him. 'Jesus (The Way) tells that story in a very thoughtful way. The style of the songs are, for the main, pop orientated but there's also the beautiful ballad 'My Alleluia' and the off the wall sound of 'Tango'. On the latter, Jaci sings of marriage being like a dance, and her's is definitely a tango. What's yours? 'Por Escrito' is a Spanish duet, sung with her husband, while 'Into the Light Again' follows that simple message of seeking a closer relationship with God. Jaci will have another hit on her hands with this album, but I still think that she can do better! 7/10. (July 2008)
JACKSON WATERS : Come Undone. (Word : 8068865362)
This is the debut album from Nashville based Jackson Waters, who all got together while at college in Arkansas. They're a 5 piece outfit, who have been likened in sound to Maroon 5 and The Fray. For me, it's a sound that says "guitar driven pop rock", with some country traits mixed in, every now and again. I liked the sound of the opening track called 'Everything', and the single 'Give Me Amazing Grace' - a wise choice. The latter sings about living with a new heart, now that God is in it, and it's a catchy number. Believe in the promise that Jesus IS going to return one day, is the story behind 'One More Day', while 'Ready to Find Love' tells of being ready to accept Jesus into your life. I found the music to be quite well put together, but the album didn't really set my soul alight. Still, there is a cracking song to close the listing called 'Let It Fly', and fly it does. As debut's go, this is good. 8/10. (October 2007)
JACOB LLOYD : Lost And Found. (download single).
On the strength of this single, it seems to me that here we have a young man – 15 yrs old, as it happens – with a certain musical future. I can promise you that one listen of this simple, catchy song will have it buzzing around in your head for hours! There's an acoustic simplicity to the musical accompaniment too, which is very appealing when set against much of the over-produced compressed noise that represents the ccm scene at the moment. His press release mentions Jack Johnson influences, and I agree with that. One difference with Jack Johnson however is the voice – Jacob's does sound very young. I can't decide whether it hasn't broken yet, or it has and is a light tenor! Whatever, certainly worth a listen. Check it out for free at www.jacoblloydmusic.com. 7/10 Dave Deeks (May 2012)
JAKE HAMILTON : Freedom Calling. (Elevation : ELE1675)
Part of the Jesus Culture Music, this is Jake Hamilton's second album, following the previous release of 'Marked By Heaven'. With lots of distorted guitars and vocals that shout and growl there way through songs, the style is hard hitting metal. It's quite some time since I heard an album like this, and for that I'm deeply grateful. Never being a hard metal fan, the older I get, the less I find in it's favour. For 'War Drums', Jake shouts his way through a song that lasts in excess of ten minutes. I'm afraid it was all too much for me, and I reached to turn down the volume half way through. 'New Song' features a long spoken message about finding the Lord, and pushes the track time to thirteen minutes. It got me praying all right, but praying for it to end! Jake is obviously very passionate about his music but, for me, screaming at the top of your voice just alienates the listener. Saying that, this is a live album and those gathered seem to appreciate it. Reading the lyrics (because I could hardly understand the shouts and screams), Jake gives messages of Jesus being the answer to all our questions, as well surrendering all for the love of Him. On the title track, Jake is a little more melodic and I could swear that there was a hint of Kings of Leon hiding in the song. But, that glimmer of light was short lived for this reviewer and a second listen did not open my eyes further. Disappointing, to the say the least. 4/10 (September 2011)
JAKE HAMILTON & THE SOUND : Beautiful Rider. (Elevation : ELE2050D)
Jake will be a new name on the music scene to many, here in the UK. But, to our friends in America, he’s already served his time as part of the Jesus Culture Music stable. Described as an “intense” singer, songwriter, and praise leader, Jake makes Mac Powell’s vocals sound smooth in comparison. On many of the songs, Jake simply roars his way through Biblical truths, almost forcing you to listen harder to the words. For most of the time, it’s hard rock, as on ‘Behold God is Great’ and ‘I Love Your Presence’. ‘Thank You’ is more laid back. Kim Walker-Smith duets with Jake quite beautifully, and Dustin Lau’s keyboards, add a velvet touch the whole thing. It was certainly my favourite track on the album. In stark contrast to the opening songs, ‘The Father’s Song’ features minimal backing, and a warm, gentle vocal form the singer. Then, it’s back to the hard stuff. ‘Never Let Me Down’ lends more than a passing nod to The Who’s ‘My Generation’, although it’s supposedly based on Roman 7. 15-25. ‘My Ballad to the Church of Laodicea’ tests the listener’s hearing to the full. “Wake Up O Sleeper” is the cry, as Jake screams with enough volume to wake the dead, never mind the sleeper! Rock music in this form leaves me quite cold, but I like the more mellow numbers. Lovers of harder music will no doubt enjoy this “intense singer” but, for me, it’s quite a turn off. 5/10. (November 2014)
JAKE SMITH : Real. (Rocketown Records)
Jake Smith has literally crawled up from the wreckage of personal tragedies to release this "no holds barred" collection of songs. Over the last two years, he's seen first hand the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, had his car written off by an accident involving a drunk driver, and witnessed both of his parents being diagnosed with cancer. In his own words, Jake says, He (God) truly gave me things to write about". Style wise, there's more than a passing nod to Maroon 5, although 'What I Plan to Do' sounds like something straight out of Jamaroqui. It's funky, it's brash, and has that chart sound about it. 'This is Certain' rocks along, and it's a song abut trusting in God, no matter what happens - something Jake has really had to do. 'Breakdown' is brutally truthful about life's deepest despair, while 'Crazy' tells of one having a change of heart. Sometimes, Jakes seems to get lost in his own world, and the lyrics aren't as plain as they could be. Maybe his idea is to get you think more about each song, but I found it very difficult, at times, to get onboard what he was putting over. Maybe, given more time, Jake Smith will deliver something more next time. 5/10. (January 2008)
JAMIE GRACE : One Song At A Time. (Gotee Records : 66944700216)
This is quite an uplifting album from start to finish, consisting of acoustic guitar led simple worship songs. By referring to the songs as simple, I’m not criticising them at all that’s just the easiest way to describe them. Straight from the heart uncomplicated worship. The style of music is a kind of pop with a leaning towards country, not unlike Shania Twain in a lot of places. If you were feeling a bit down this is the CD that would have you feeling better in no time. You can stick it on in the background, or sit back and listen to the lyrics, either way this CD works really well. Definitely worth a listen.10/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2013, Album of the Month)
JAMIE GRACE : Ready to Fly. (Gotee Records : 669447004608)
Where on earth has this little gem been hiding? Originally released in 2014, this Jamie Grace’s second album, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Fans of Philippa Hannah will love it, because it’s full of catchy pop songs, with just a hint of country getting in there, every now and again. I’d not heard of Jamie before, but I was hooked on this album from the minute the choppy “Beautiful Day” hit my speakers. She’s got a lovely voice and song after song are just so infectious. “Just a Friend” comes over as a happy song, while “Fighter” tells the story of a single mother raising her kids. “Little Ol’ Me” highlights the comfort and love you receive when knowing Jesus in your life. The quirky banjo adds a little spice, too. Making my notes, I was beginning to run out of superlatives to describe each song. “Do Life Big” describes how you should live your life for Christ, without holding back, while “Every Bit of Lovely” is a song for young girls who are under pressure to look like a model. Both songs just ooze with class, and their quickly followed by more excellent banjo playing on “White Boots.” The whole theme of the album is so uplifting and I can’t find one negative thing to say about it. Absolute magic! 10/10. (August 2016, Album of the Month)
JAMIE HILL : One Day. (ICC Records : ICCD81730)
This is a collection of worship songs that are obviously very heartfelt and personal, mostly delivered in a no nonsense rock style, but also featuring some slower songs. This album makes a refreshing change from all the bland material that seems to come out of the US these days. From the opening track,
"Creator God", right through there is not a bad track on this CD. Also included are the words and music, all laid out ready for printing straight to acetates for projection. To be honest I'm not sure that all of the songs here would work in a general worship meeting, but there are a lot that would. "Faithful God" and "Lord I Receive Your Love" stand out. Jamie will be familiar to anyone who is into "Quench" as he's part of that set up. I would definitely recommend this CD to anyone who likes their worship songs to have a bit of attitude to them, without going over the top. 10/10. Andy Sayner. (November 2004, Album of the Month)
JAIME JAMGOCHIAN : Above The Noise (Centricity CR1046)
Jamie is an accomplished Nashville based worship leader, artist & songwriter who was well on her way to a pop career before God had other ideas & having listened to this I am pretty pleased he did! Above The Noise is her 4th album release on which she has written/co-written half of the tracks, other contributors including Michael Gungor who's also done much work with the likes of Gospel giant Israel Houghton. "Giving it All to You" opens the proceedings starting with a very gentle verse followed by a 'kick in the pants' rocky chorus reminiscent of some earlier Vineyard tracks. Come to think of it, many of the following tracks contain more than a hint of Vineyard style, but this is no bad thing! The first of her co-written tunes "God Unchanging" is a similarly energetic pop/rock praise track lyrics you can't help but feel come from some very real & personal God encounters. The more relaxed tracks work just as well, such as "Heal The Wound" or "Renew" which is a pleasant surprise as I often find artists who excel at rock can sometimes fall a bit flat with ballads, but not here. Jamie's vocals are excellent & very refined with heaps of passion behind everything she sings & she could easily knock spots off anything in the secular charts. This is helped by some polished recording & the use of some quality studio musicians. This release should be a great success at home in the US & the style is not overtly American rock so should appeal here just as much. Definitely one worth adding to the collection. 10/10 Simon Redfern (February 2009)
JANE GIBBS : You Are the Rock. (New Music Enterprises).
'You Are the Rock, 'Lord You Are Everything', and 'Servant's Prayer' are the titles of the first three tracks of this debut, and enough to tell you that this is a praise and worship album. With most of the tracks written by the lady herself and Wes Davis, it's also obvious to see just how firm and important Jane's own faith is. The production of this privately recorded CD is a little weak and both the vocals, and husband's fine saxophone playing, suffer. However, all is not lost and Miss Gibbs' Madonnaesque voice copes admirably with most offerings. 'Blessed Be The Name' gets the calypso treatment while 'Sing Allelujah' is the best of the self-penned songs. My head says a 6 because of the production but my heart says 7/10. (November 1996)
JANIS ENGLISH : God Holds the Key. (Private Recording. CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 including p&p from: Janis English, 164 Barnston Road, Barnston, Wirral, L61 1BZ).
Let me say right now, unashamedly, that the quality of privately recorded British CCM is - on the whole - just so good. Here's another new name to the scene, Janis English. A Scot, who's debut album contains a spoonful of country, a pinch of 70's pop, and a cup of refreshing, home made muse. Surely the title track sounds like....."Oh no", she said, "I don't really listen to any particular artist". Lovely, sugary, enjoyable, singalong....and that's just the first track! If originality is lacking anywhere, then the country sound is rather predictable. However, don't let this put you off, you'll soon find yourself tapping your feet to "Over & Over" or admiring the steel pedal guitar on "Move On This Land". When I first heard "Move Now Holy Spirit", I had to stop what I was doing and play it again. What a beautiful song, and what power it holds within. This track just "blows me away" as it quietly begins and then builds to where I can imagine thousands joining together in praise. God given praise and worship doesn't come much better than this. 9/10. (March 1998)
JANIS ENGLISH : Eyes of A Child". (Private Recording. CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 from: Janis English, c/o 113 Bricknell Avenue, Hull, East yorkshire, England, HU5 4EU).
It's still hard to think that this housewife from The Wirral has only been singing and writing for a few short years. After the release of her previous album "God Holds the Key", Janis received the invitation to sing and record this new album in Nashville, under the watchful eye of Jerry Arhelger. It's with the more mature listener where this is going to be a hit as her Anne Murray/Marilla Ness vocals quietly minister God's word. The title track simply asks for the gift of looking at God's wonder and love, with, the "Eyes of A Child". Here, then, the scene is set for an album of, mainly, country/Irish style music that would fit any easy listening radio show. "I'd Rather Know You" will have you singing along quite quickly, while "It Should Have Been Me" is an olde-time classic hit. The music is of A1 quality and the finished product just oozes professionalism. Mid-album, Janis throws in a couple of Jewish style songs, of which "More Than Broken Dreams" is the better. Then, it's on with the show and, probably the one that will get most attention "O Mary". Crashes of thunder, the sound of rain falling, and a great song. Janis English proves that you don't have to be American to make a quality, country recording. 9/10. (October 1999)
JANIS ENGLISH : Awesome is This Place. (CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 from: Mr E English, c/o Moreton Baptist Church, Moreton, Wirral, CH47 0NX, UK)
Praise the Lord for the independent artists around the world, who tirelessly spread the Good News through music. Janis English is one such artist and, while not playing to arena sized audiences, ministers to many both home and abroad with her blend of country and praise and worship sounds. Her spiritual walk with God, through good and bad times, have resulted in some classy songs over the years, and this new release adds more of the same. Complete with triumphant fanfare, the CD opens with "Psalm 148", closely followed by the Messianic feel of "House of Prayer". I loved the celtic lament reflecting on the life of Christ, "Father's Perfect Plan", but think that the real pearl in the collection is "Sound the Trumpet". Here, Janet's warm vocal talents are joined by the lovely use of both trumpet and drums. "God is Good" seemed to be a dip in quality but "Like A Gentle Breeze" is a wonderful worship number. It may only be 8 lines long but the simplicity works really well. For the closing two songs, Janis eases the tempo down with a gentle, prayerful finish - a smashing end to a smashing album. 9/10. (February 2004, Album of the Month)
JARED ANDERSON : Where to Begin. (Integrity : 36482)
This may be Jared's debut CD but there's a good chance that you've already sung one or more of his worship songs. "Amazed" is one such song, and it deserves to be heard and used more widely. It's a fairly slow number, with a real heart of worship behind it. Most of the songs are about having a personal relationship with God, including the opening "Running Away" which tells of the decision to "run away" with God. Similarly, "I'm Coming Your Way" depicts the same story, and it's a catchy tune too. What I didn't like, however, was the number of songs that sounded like hundreds that I've heard before. The lyric content is fine, but the production is very flat and uninteresting. Produced by platinum-selling producer Pete Kipley (MercyMe), I expected more, but was rather disappointed in the end. 5/10 (April 2007)
JARED ANDERSON : Where Faith Comes From. (Integrity : 42762)
Last year's debut from this chap didn't really push back the frontiers of Christian music. Rather, it just lost itself in mediocrity, along with hundreds of very ordinary albums. However, this new release sees Jared really move on in the song writing stakes, and he's come up with a much more original sound. He rocks away on the opening 'Promises' in a Bryan Adams sort of way, and the following 'All I Want' is really exciting. He then moves into Coldplay territory, where the piano takes a stronger role in the overall sound, before returning to guitar led tunes. 'This is Life' is all about finding the life that God made you for, while 'Hiding Place' tells of being protected from harm. Here, there's some excellent atmospheric backing, which I found to be very nice. Then, there's 'Beauty of the Lord', a song to just soak and wonder in the love of an almighty God. Produced by Brent Milligan, he needs a pat on the back for helping to make so many of these songs stand out. 9/10 (July 2008)
JARED ANDERSON: THE NARROW ROAD (Integrity Music)
The Narrow Road is Jared Anderson’s 5th album for Integrity Music (8th in total) and it gets off to an inauspicious start with the muted cover artwork featuring the artist dressed like an accountant and surrounded by steel girders. However, once the CD is fired up, the music itself goes some way to compensate for this without ever straying from a safe, middle-of-the-road Christian groove. The opening track “Bless The Lord” gets us off to a good, lively and worshipful start and, from there, the album proceeds in a pleasing enough fashion, but while the songs are all pretty good in and of themselves, it never really gets back into third gear until it reaches track 10, the title track, which is an excellent song but I am not sold on taking a whole two minutes for a scripture reading with musical underpinning once the song itself is finished. The final three songs maintain the consistent feel and quality of the album without ever really hitting the heights, or giving us a big, rousing finish. There is nothing wrong with this CD at all; production quality is good, Anderson’s voice and delivery is good and the way the album is put together is spot on, but we have heard it all before. If I say it is a great example of a guitar-led worship album, you will know exactly what it sounds like before you even hit ‘Play’, and while the song quality is consistently good (no clunkers at all), there are no genuinely stand out tracks that make you want to hit the ‘Repeat’ button, even after a few listens. All in all, it is scripturally solid, worshipful Christian music and, if you don’t mind that there is nothing particularly original or exciting here, you could do a lot worse than add it to your collection. David Cooper 7/10 (January 2013)
JARROD COOPER : Days of Wonder. (Jarrod Cooper Ministries: JCM003)
Originally released a couple of years ago, this relatively low budget recording is now in it's third reprint, with sales recorded from all parts of the globe. Jarrod Cooper is a respected worship leader based at the New life Church in Hull, and this recording literally knocks many others for six. It's lyrical content, music, and finished product is one of the finest worship albums that I have ever heard. No, I'm not biased because he's from my home city, I've never even met the guy. "Your Majesty" is said to be one of THE worship songs of last 12 months and I can easily see why. Beautiful, just doesn't describe what I feel about it. "Lost in Your Glory" simply oozes peaceful worship and that feeling runs throughout the whole album. "Clamourously Foolish" is shorter and livelier in style, before "Your Majesty" is reprised in Spanish tongue. And, just when you thought things couldn't get better, Jarrod presents a Celtic version of the great "Be Thou My Vision". There's no wonder this album has sold so well, it's a masterpiece. 10/10. (March 2000, joint Album of the Month)
JARROD COOPER : The Early Years. (JCM005)
This album by a Hull artist - whom I had not heard of before - features songs from his previous albums "deep Calls To Deep" and "Song of the Bow". I have enjoyed listening to and reviewing this album, and there are some quite catchy songs. Indeed, I found myself singing "Thank You" whilst out and about this week. This is my favourite track, a quiet, contemplative and prayerful song, telling of what Jesus has done for each one of us. "Mighty Warrior" is a good praise song wit plenty of beat to it. I was a little disappointed with the CD cover, however, as it contained very little information, and I do like to read the lyrics. 8/10 Pam Robinson. (March 2000)
JARROD COOPER : King of Kings, Majesty. (Authentic : 8203622)
Jarrod Cooper leads the New Life Church and the Days of Wonder Trust, based in Hull. His classic worship song "King of Kings, Majesty", gives this album it's title. It's always great to get off to a good start and this album doesn't let you down. "Overwhelmed" has a summer sound about it, sets the tone for the listing. My wife reckons that Jarrod's vocal delivery is a lot like Cliff Richards' gospel recordings - smooth and rich, with a touch of class. Most tracks are self penned, but Jarrod delivers a great version of Brian Doerksen and Sandra Gage's "Today". Mid album, songs like "I Tremble" and "You Are My Healer" begin to draw you into some personal worship time, and I found myself drifting effortlessly into a closeness with God. The uptemo "He's Alive" compares favourably with anything that the likes of Hillsongs produce, while "Glory in the Land" I found to be very poignant. With this collection, Jarrod proves that he's more than just a one hit wonder, sharing some high quality praise and worship with the listener. 9/10. (July 2005)
JARS OF CLAY : Much Afraid. (Kingsway/Essential : 83061-0405-2)
So much hype about this release that it had to be something special. The band have made the cross-over into mainstream US music but the first UK single failed to dent the Top 40 despite the obvious Brit feel to 'Crazy Times'. The album opens with the simply wonderful 'Overjoyed', displaying the sheer joy of being a child of God. 'Tea & Sympathy' is very Beatlesque, in a 'I Am the Walrus' sort of way, while the ballad 'Frail' oozes a melodic atmosphere that calms you during the full 7 minute performance. However, 'Much Afraid' is another one of those releases that fades in class halfway through. Styles change with each song and I found it very difficult to remain interested. Jars of Clay have much to offer the CCM scene on both sides of the Atlantic, they just need fine tuning. 6/10. (January 1998)
JARS OF CLAY : If I Left the Zoo
I'm no connoisseur of this band, but initial impressions are very favourable. The album opens with an acoustic number 'Goodbye, Goodnight' and then launches into 'Unforgettable You' with its heavily effected vocal and great drum sound. Musically, the four lads cover a wide variety of styles but integrate them well to create a very well recorded and produced product. Lyrically, the album tries to tread a delicate line between cheesy Christian cliché and omitting to mention God. On the whole it succeeds well on this score. There is an emphasis on the loving patient character of God and how we can relate to him personally. The artwork is attractive and well put together, although I've not worked out where the inspiration for the album title comes from as far as the musical content is concerned, but there is plenty of animal imagery in the booklet! 8/10 Geoff Waring. (February 2000)
JARS OF CLAY : The Eleventh Hour. (Essential Records: MPCD40525)
I must admit to never having listened to this band at all before this CD arrived in the post, but this album was a hit with me right from the start. So much so that I will have to check out some more of their material I think. The style of music is a pleasant laid back kind of rock music, with a definitely acoustic sound in some places, but also some more upbeat material too. It puts me in mind of Crowded House, or Soul Asylum. The Lyrics are well written and relevant, with some lovely vocal harmonies in places. I should think that this music will appeal to both Christians and non-Christians, as it makes its point well without resorting to religious clichés at all. In fact, to be honest, I can't find anything bad to say about it. (This is probably a first) In the sleeve notes the band hope that you don't hear "The noisy vocabulary of Religion, but music that is because of faith more than about it". No doubt there will be a few who would criticise this attitude, but I think that it shows that band are prepared to live in the real world rather than the cosy place that Christian music sometimes is. This album works well, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their music straightforward, and unpretentious. Well done, we need CD's like this from more Christian Artists. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2002, Album of the Month)
JARS OF CLAY : Greatest Hits. (Essential Records : ER10880)
I first became aware of Illinois-based band Jars of Clay with the release of their eponymous first album back in 1995, and was happy to add to my collection their blend of grown-up lyrics, excellent lead vocals and harmonies, and acoustic guitar-driven 'soft alt rock'. This was followed by their equally good 1997 release 'Much Afraid'. Losing contact with their progress since those early days, I was glad to receive this CD for review - with 13 tracks in chronological order drawn from most of their 10 albums up to 2006, and an extra track from 2008. As the album progressed however it seemed that with the passing years 'Jars' have lost much of their characteristic sound - it may be significant that the first two albums provide the first 6 of the featured songs, with later ones becoming more rock oriented, more typical of many bands out there. Dan Haseltine's excellent vocals are always present on these later tracks however, and at times the trademark 'Jars' harmonies are still evident. Standouts for me were 'Love song for a Saviour', the reflective 'Worlds apart' - which is all about commitment, and 'Crazy Times' - with an extremely catchy chorus and particularly effective contrasting use of acoustic and electric guitars. There are no really weak tracks here, it's just that 'Jars' began so well and on the evidence of this release have struggled to maintain their early promise. Check out www.jarsofclay.com. 8/10. Dave Deeks (October 2008)
JARS OF CLAY : The Long Fall Back to Earth. (Essential : 08306 1090326)
This album finds Dan Heseltine and the band giving some deep thought about love and relationships. According to a recent press release, the guys have all gone through crisis over the years. Saying that, I did find that theme hard to come across by just listening to the album. It's one of those that has lyrics which are very difficult to decipher. "Weapons" is an engaging song about relationship truce, but I initially thought it was an anti-war protest song. 'Heaven' is a heavier track, but I liked 'Closer' a lot more. 'Headphones', apparently, deals with "our disconnection from others". I just didn't get it at all, but I loved the way that the song was performed. There's a plea to God to save us from our own downfall on 'Hero', while 'Heart' plods along, telling you how to give your heart to God. 14 tracks and almost an hour of music. You certainly get a lot for your money, but quantity doesn't replace quality. 6/10 (September 2009)
JARS OF CLAY : Triple Feature.
Friends of mine have raved about Jars of Clay for years, but somehow I’d never got around to checking them out. This 3-album set seemed too good an opportunity to refuse, therefore. The three albums in question are “Jars of Clay” (1995), “Much Afraid” (1997) and “If I Left the Zoo” (1999) so this can’t be described as a new release, but if you’ve not got them it’s a useful way to get all three at once. Looking back at reviews of the three albums from when they were originally released shows comments like “multiple styles” “well executed” “good songs” which still hold true. “Jars of Clay” still has those annoying “hidden tracks” which on a CD end up being one very long final track (and are pretty dull to listen to), but it’s a good CD none the less. “Much Afraid” is a better, more mature, album and includes the fabulously Beatles’ Walrus-esque “Tea and Sympathy” which even ends on the line “We can work it out”: the more dedicated Fab4-spotter will find even more here to keep them happy. It’s a good album from initial rocker to the closing “Hymn”, which will stay in your head for days. “If I Left the Zoo” is more rocky than the other two, although often more in arrangement than songwriting. There are exceptions, of course: “Sad Clown” with its Shipbuilding-style intro and feel (but a much better vocal than Robert Wyatt’s) and the way the CD generally winds down to the end, but it’s quality all the way. I’d not heard much Jars of Clay before this and I’d recommend this package as a good way to check them out for yourself, especially at this price for three CDs. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (March 2011)
JASON BARE : Love is Alive. (www.jasonbare.com)
This is a crowd funded release, which shows how many people believe in Bare’s music even before he’s stepped into a recording studio. He’s a worship leader first and foremost, which shows through firmly in his music. The lyrics are fairly short sound-bites which really don’t make much sense written down but fit very well when sung. As it’s P&W, there’s not a lot of new ground to be broken (otherwise congregations can’t keep up). I wasn’t overly impressed with the opener – it seemed to be trying too hard to be quirky, shifting rhythms as it went. Much better was the second track, “More Than Enough”, which had far more coherence and singalongability to my ears and one I’d not be afraid to introduce to a congregation. Even more so was the anthemic “Lamb of God”, a real lighters – sorry, hymnals – in the air song. Honourable mentions also to “Light of Your Love”, “Everlasting God”, “He Took My Place” and “Miracle Maker” (on which Jennifer McGill provides a wonderful second lead vocal). A lot of these are towards the end of the CD, so you can see that it finishes strongly. I think my only real minus point on this CD is lyrical: although there’s a lot of “Lord”, “God”, etc. the name “Jesus” never appears (although “Emmanuel” does make one appearance) and “Christ” only 4 times (2 of those in the same song). It’s in keeping with a lot of modern P&W but it’s a trend I’m not a great fan of. Overall this CD isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s very competent. There’s material here for the home worshippers and new stuff for the congregation leaders. However, if you’re not into P&W CDs it won’t change your mind. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (May 2014)
JASON BRELAND : Believe. (Integrity : 27262)
Packaged as Jason Breland - Live with the North Mobile Worship Choir, this is an uptempo US recording that includes those awful moments that remind you of ghastly US Evangelistic TV programmes. Indeed, I wouldn't have been surprised if Jason had made an appeal for money over many of the boring songs here on offer. The album is filled with OTT tracks that sound tired and old fashioned - the sort of stuff that events like Spring Harvest buried 10 years ago. Cringe to the guitar solos on songs like "Let There Be Blessing" - it doesn't come much worse. "Everyday" is a catchy number and saves this album from total drabness but as for the rest? Forget it, there's plenty UK albums that are much better than this. 1/10 (January 2004)
JASON GRAY : All the Lovely Losers. (Centricity : CR1029)
As I began to listen to this album, some of the songs seemed familiar. Well, after a little investigating, I found that some of them, at least, had been released on Jason's independent release from a couple of years ago. These tracks have been re-mixed and polished, while three new tracks have been added to the listing. The opening 'Blessed Be' is a good song. It's where the album title comes from and is all about you losing your life to God. Of course, we all fall short of the Lord's ideal but, nevertheless, He picks us up and dusts us down for another attempt at life. This theme runs through two songs - the stumbling 'Weak' and the bright and cheerful 'Move'. Jason's lyrics are very open and honest and I like the way he writes. 'You Are Mercy' sounds like it could have been a David Gray track and is quite strong. As singer/songwriter's go, this is a competent major debut. 7/10. (November 2007)
JASON GRAY : A Way To See In The Dark. (Centricity Music : CM1159)
I had never heard of Jason Gray before this CD arrived in the post, and so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a very impressive album. The style of music is a fairly up tempo rock/pop, mostly acoustic guitar led. The songs are full of lyrics that most people will be able to relate to, dealing with everyday issues, in an open and honest way. The outstanding song on here is "No Thief Like Fear" the title being fairly self explanatory. In fact the general fear and uncertainty of life in general is the main theme of the whole album, and the subject is dealt with quite sensitively. I liked every song on this CD, and I would recommend it to anyone. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2012)
JASON INGRAM : Jason Ingram (Resonate Records)
Originally from Santa Cruz, California, and now living in Nashville, Jason has previously gained acclaim in the US with his band, the rather unimaginatively titled "Jason Ingram Band". He also co-wrote SONICFLOOd's hit single "Resonate", and has written some good, scriptural songs for this, his first solo album. The album is heavy on acoustic guitar (never a bad thing as far as I am concerned), but with enough interesting stuff happening to stop it becoming just another acoustic Christian album. Three tracks in particular stand out for me: "The Wonder Of Your Grace" is a great song in its own right but, more importantly, because of its position in the track list (5) it brings a distinct, and welcome, change of feel. "I Love You Lord" reminds me of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up", which is one of my fave songs of all time, and "How Deep is Your Love" is simply stunning and should have been the opening track. There are a few small niggles: production on the vocals is disappointing (far too much backing, and the lead is too quiet and over-produced so it tends to get lost); and the first four tracks are too similar to stand being put together at the start of the album, but these cannot detract from what is a fine listen. I can pay it no higher compliment than to say "I wish I had made this". 9/10 David Cooper (July 2002)
JASON MORANT : Abandon. (Vertical Music)
Distributed by Fierce, I think I know why they decided to promote this 22 year old, New Orleans born worshipper. Take the American accent from the songs and replace it with Martin Smith's voice, and you have a typical Delirious album. There's driving guitars, there's bouncy pop numbers, and fully fledged worship songs that lean very much towards the sound that have made the D-boys so popular. Sadly, that's were the resemblance ends, as the quality of each song doesn't stand up quite so well. "Bless the Lord" works well and the re-worked Vineyard classic "I Love You Lord" also got my seal of approval. Apart from that, plus the clever mix of acoustic and electric guitars on "Fashion", it's a rather over-rated release. 4/10. (September 2004)
JASON MORANT : Open. (Vertical : 38702)
When I reviewed Jason's last album in 2004, I gave it a very weak 4/10 and commented on poor lyrics. Two years on, and I've been blown away by the strength and beauty of a superb album. Indeed, I had to re-listen to his previous release to assure myself that I was listening to the same man! Using a pop praise style, Jason has produced some wonderful songs including the delicious "All of Me" and "At Your Feet". But, to the beginning of the track listing, and the title track. It's a medium paced song about the power of God's love and what it can do in our lives. "Come Let Us Return" is pure CCM at it's very best, while "I Will Run" turns more acoustic in style. There's also a couple of instrumental pieces to listen to, and the gentle sound of "Postlude" is quite moving. "Abba" is a cry to the Father, while the acoustic led "Belong" announces the knowledge of knowing God as a personal Saviour. I was genuinely surprised by this album, it's quality shines out like a beacon. 10/10. (November 2006, Album of the Month)
JASON NELSON : Shifting the Atmosphere. (Verity Gospel : 886979701526)
Born in Baltimore, Jason Nelson grew up singing in his dad's church and currently pastors the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church in Maryland USA. Recorded in his home church, Shifting the Atmosphere is a collection of 12 live tracks starting with a big build-up. Billed by his compere as one of this generation's greatest male voices, expectations can be nothing but high. The opening track "God is Good" is pretty much true to the gospel formula many of us probably expect from songs of this genre with fast-paced complex drum rhythms, brass sections & accompanying backing choir. The following 2 tracks "Jubilee" & "Your Favor" follow on in a similar vein. There is no doubt that Jason's vocals are very fine indeed but he does suffer from a dose of what I term as the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey "warbles" where instead of holding a note at the end of a phrase, notes are up & down like a yo-yo. That may engage some listeners but I'm afraid I'm not one of those. The faster numbers seem to come across as very performance led whereas the slower songs such as "No Words" have a much more of a worshipful atmosphere, but even these are interspersed with phrases to whip-up the congregation. Maybe this is a cultural thing but this style really doesn't float my boat. If you're a big gospel fan, you may well get a lot from this as there's nothing to fault with the vocals, production or musicianship but I cannot see this engaging a wider market outside hard core fans of the genre. 5/10 Simon Redfern. (October 2012)
JASON UPTON : Beautiful People. (Integrity : 9857639772)
Here's another one of the new breed of singer/songwriter's that seem to be appearing on the scene with alarming regularity. Jason performs and writes very much in the style of James Morrison…only not as well. As far as the album goes, it's a tale of two halves. The first half is instantly forgettable. Well, perhaps not. The very strange and experimental sounds of 'You Decide What's Beautiful', will long remain in my memory for just how awful it was. Similarly, I found 'I Will Never Leave You Children' to be one of the most depressing sounds that I've come across in a very long time. It's at the start of track 6 that the album does hit it's mini purple patch. 'Lullably for the Petrified Sacred Society' may win song title of the year, but it's more than just a quirky number. Jason's vocals take on a Rod Stewart tone as he plays a delicate tune on the piano. Not instantly a hit, but one that grows on you. Then, 'Into the Sky' really flies off the album with well thought out lyrics and production. Not really sure what to make of Jason this time round, so I'd better stick at a moderate 5/10. (November 2007)
JAVED : Javed. (Crowne Music Group : 785277700128)
I must say that personally I find dance/soul music instantly forgettable. The monotonous drum tracks just bore me rigid, so it would be easy to just dismiss this CD as not very good. However that would be unfair, because I think anyone who likes this sort of music would really enjoy this CD. Andrae Crouch has done a lot of the production work on it, and you can see his influence right through the whole thing. I preferred the slower material myself, I just found it a bit more tuneful than the more upbeat material. The best track for me by far being the final track "I'll be okay". That's not meant to be a criticism of the rest of the tracks, they are all well produced, and a lot of work has gone into the arrangements. I was impressed with the lyrics on nearly all of the tracks, they are on a fairly simple yet positive level that anyone can understand and be encouraged by, also there seems to be a genuine honesty behind the words, you can see that they are written from personal experience, not just religeous cliche which seems to be the case with some artists these days. So if you're into dance/Soul music, then I think I can recommend this CD. You should find it quite uplifting. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2002, Album of the Month)
JAZZ PRAISE : In Your Presence. (ICC : ICCD69630)
Well, if you can have a solo piano playing instrumental praise, as well Celtic pipes, I guess you can have Jazz as well. 12 songs giving "a fresh interpretation…in an easy listening jazz style", so read the sleeve notes. Try as I may, I just can't say that this is a good album. It's the sort of thing that you hear in elevators, large department stores - muzak, I think they call it. Songs such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", "Go,Tell It On the Mountain", and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" are all given the jazz treatment. The musicians are quite accomplished and, I dare say, to some, it will sound quite nice. Not me I'm afraid. Apart from the uplifting "We Want to See Jesus Lifted high" and "These Are the Days of Elijah" I wasn't sad to seethe back of this one. 3/10. (April 2003)
JE’KOB : Faith. Hope, Love. (Save the City : 8 59708 87738 0)
Fans of rap music may well remember Je’Kob as one third of the band Souljahz, who in the mid-2000’s played support for artists such as No Doubt, Nelly, and Counting Crows. Recently, he’s been releasing digital EP’s under the banner Faith Hope Love. This CD is a compilation of those digital releases and features 17 tracks. Yes, you get a lot of music for your money, and a few musical styles too. Je’Kob’s hit single ‘Love Is All’ starts things off in a sort of Kanye West style, rapping all about everlasting love. It’s a good song, and I enjoyed listening to it. On ‘Don’t Let Go’, I couldn’t help but think that some of the backing music was sampled from Nikki Minaj’s ‘Starships’ - the sound is very similar. The singer highlights drug mis-use on ‘Can’t Have My Soul’, while ‘Boom Shaka Laka’ has so much FX on his vocals, that he could well be singing anything. At the other end of the spectrum comes ‘In Your Hands’ It’s a brilliant pop song and reminded me of Pete Furler in style. If you only listen to one song from Je-Kob, that’s the one to choose! ‘John 316 features some annoying rap from Kidd, before we end the album with some re-mixes of earlier tracks. To be honest, I was surprised at how much I liked this album, so hat’s off to Je’kob for that. 7/10. (May 2013)
JEAN SUMMER/DEREK WEST : Angels. (CD £5 from Health Help International, 661 Chepstow Road, Newport, South Wales, NP19 9BY.
As you will read elsewhere in this issue of NFN, this Cd has been recorded, produced and manufactured in someones living room. Why? To show just what can be done by a "one man band" affair, as well as helping to raise funds for a worthwhile charity. This Cd is a mixture of poems and stories that focus on Angles. There is, too, an instrumental theme to open and close the CD. Nothing wrong with the tune, it's just the instrument's quality that rather let's things down. However, the rest of the content is quite enthralling. I particularly liked the story of "The White Cavalry", which tells of an incident that actually happened during the Great war. "The Girl in the Park" is another, well written piece, that made me smile. While this Cd would never win a Dove award for it's release, or Gold status for sales, it would appeal to many who wish to purchase something "a little different" as a gift. Indeed, buying a present for someone, as well as knowing that the money goes straight to charity, seems to be an ideal opportunity.6/10. (April 2003)
JEAN WATSON : Everything Can Change (www.jeanwatson.com)
Jean Watson is a classically trained singer and violinist. She's visited the UK shores on several occasions for short tours and has been awarded Praise and Worship Artist (USA) by the UK's New Christian Music Alliance on no less than 3 occasions. The opening title track features some lovely guitar work, as Jean's vocals soar into a wonderful song. The Celtic -folk style changes for the second track, with more warm vocals working well to a dance beat. On 'Horse Dreams', we move back to celtic inspiration, and the simply beautiful 'Fly Again' has to be played over and over again. I fell in love with this song earlier in the year when I heard it, and it's become a firm favourite. Vocally, I found it difficult to compare her to anyone, but my wife thought there was a definite similarity with the UK's Barbara Dickson. 'The Dance' and 'He Is Here' are both what I would call "pretty" songs, while there's a brilliant version of the classic hymn 'Praise to the Lord', also on offer. Originally released in 2009, this album is a real treasure. 9/10 (July 2011, Album of the Month)
JEAN WATSON : Christmas… Not the Way it Seems. (Shadowlands : 8972)
Blessed with a beautifully pure singing voice as well as being a classically trained violinist, here we have the second Christmas album from Michigan-based Jean Watson. With more 'upbeat' content than the earlier 'Christmas Presence' release, 'Christmas... not the way it seems' again presents the listener with excellent arrangements, nicely played, with Jean's voice appropriately spotlighted, and great sound quality. The mostly traditional songs are largely treated to sympathetic re-workings, many of which incorporate a sort of Celtic / contemporary folk feel (possibly influenced by Jean's numerous trips to Ireland), and pretty well succeed in keeping the songs interesting by bringing sufficient freshness to the well-worn melodies. For me the least successful track is the slightly plodding 'God rest ye merry gentlemen'. A stand-out for me however that especially shows off Jean's voice is probably 'O holy night' (listen to her nail that high note near the end!). The band version closer 'Do you hear what I hear?' is another highlight. The only original song 'Not the way it seems' builds to a great climax, is written by Noel Regney and Jean, and explains the title of this cd/download. An enjoyable listen. 8/10. Dave Deeks (November 2014)
JEAN WATSON : Steady My Gaze. (Shadowlands Music)
This album has a kind of Celtic folky feel about it in general, despite the fact that a lot of the tracks are quite up tempo. The songs on this CD remind me a bit of Maria McKee, so if you are familiar with her music you’ll probably like this CD. The lyrics are well written, and seem to bring an encouraging theme about relationship with God. Phil Keaggy plays guitar on a couple of the tracks, “Speeding Train” has got his unmistakable style running all the way through it, while the final track “Overcome” is an acoustic version of the opening track, featuring some nice violin, and Phil Keaggy again, this time on acoustic guitar. There’s a nice version of “Be Thou My Vision” on this album too. Personally I wouldn’t have bothered with “Lord Of The Dance” though. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the album. However that song aside this is quite a nice CD to listen to. There is enough variation to keep you interested all the way through. Certainly worth a listen if you get the chance. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (September 2015)
JEAN WATSON : 'Wonder. (Shadowlands Music)
My introduction to Jean Watson's music came when I positively reviewed her 'Christmas ... not the way it seems' album for NFN back in 2014. Michigan-based but with strong connections with Ireland, this ten track album finds Jean's lovely voice set against the usual excellent Celtic-influenced contemporary arrangements. Here however her Irish links are more strongly represented in the form of three Irish style folk instrumentals featuring her very capable violin playing. I have to say that this juxtaposition doesn't really work for me – the upbeat 'Cooley's Reel' for instance comes as a bit much of a contrast(!) and the high speed 'Czardas' which follows the beautifully delivered 'It is well' completely jars the senses! It is difficult to select one standout track – I found 'Wonder', 'Blessed be your name', Restless' and (the already mentioned) 'It is well' equally enjoyable. 'Everything can change' from Jean's 2009 album of that name is repeated here in the form of a piano and voice version that suffers from the lack of 'build' of the original. 'Amazing grace' brings nothing new to that well-loved hymn. I listened in CD quality via 'Tidal' and the sound really is very good – including lovely deep bass available for those whose speakers can reproduce it. A bit of a mixed bag, then. 7/10. Dave Deeks (November 2016)
JEFF & SHERI EASTER : My, Oh My!. (Spring Hill)
Jeff & Sheri Easter have won numerous awards, over the years, including a Dove award in 1998 for Country Recorded Album of the Year "A Work in Progress" and just recently accepted a Dove Award for Country Song of the Year for "Goin Away Party". They've also won various individual awards and have even been nominated for a Grammy. So, this husband & wife duo have got quite a pedigree and it's well deserved. This latest album throws up no surprises of what Southern country gospel music should be, as they stick to the tried and trusted sound. Sheri has a vocal quality comparable with Cher, and that's the sound that comes across on the opening "Sing Sister Sing". "John Saw" is a busy little ditty, while "Learn to Love Again" sees Sheri take the lead again on a pleasant ballad. "New Day" is my favourite track as it's one of those songs that just make you glad to be alive - very uplifting. Not sure about the parody of Little Red Riding Hood later on in the track listing, but a must for southern country fans. 7/10. (September 2002)
JEFF ANDERSON : Seamless. (Gotee Records.)
While studying Vocal Performance at Capitol University, Ohio, Jeff Anderson began to attend the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Columbus. He says that this resulted in him soon leading worship at a service for young adults, bearing "a lot of Fruit". This is Anderson's Gotee debut, and it showcases songs of praise tinged songwriting that, somehow, don't always make the grade. "Open My Eyes" begins the listing with a pop sound that the likes of Steven Curtis Chapman might produce. "Paralyzed" bounces along quite nicely and I loved the banjo picking on "All We Have Is Now". Then, comes a clutch of songs that dip in quality somewhat and I felt that these were really quite poor. One that did prick my ears up in the latter listing was "I Will Follow", which sounds like Busted - I kid you not. Some good songs on show here, but rather a lot of poor ones too, hence 5/10. (June 2005)
JENI VARNADEAU : Colours of Truth. (Word/Pamplin : PMCD9604)
Produced by John & Dino Elefante, this debut release sees Jeni paint powerful word pictures that evoke a deeper desire to live by faith and trust in God's word. Nothing at all wrong with the lyrics, but what this release does suffer from is the current overkill of American females all wanting to sound like Alannis Morrisette. 'Stronger Than You' is an okay rock opener but it's followed by some rather poor songs. 'This is Rest' breathes new life into the record by using a mandolin as backing but it's only a brief respite. 'I See You' could well have been Miss Morrisette herself and it's probably the strongest track of the whole album. Sorry Jeni, when you've heard as many as I have.......4/10. (November 1997)
JENN BOSTIC : Faithful.   (www.jennbostic.com)
Nashville based Jenn Bostic was the first international independent artist to have three singles—‘Jealous of the Angels,’ ‘Not Yet’ and ‘Missin’ a Man’ —playlisted  at BBC Radio 2, the most listened-to radio station in Europe. This modern country artist has now released her second album, which is bound to introduce her music to countless others. The title track signifies the idea of keeping faith with yourself. Jenn says, “Faithful’ is a song of integrity. I believe who you are when no one is looking is really who you are.” It’s a rocky sound that instantly grabs your attention. The passion in her voice is there for all to see, and on ‘Kinda Feel Like Fallin’ In Love’ and ‘Fight for Your Life’ the vocals are hypnotic. The current single, ‘Counterfeit’ is a song of deceit, uncovering the true colours of someone or something that has misinterpreted the truth. It reminded me of Christina Perri’s ‘Jar of Hearts’, with its haunting piano and vocal delivery, and it has become a firm favourite with me. ‘If You See Him’ has a certain radio friendly quality about it, while ‘What Love Feels Like’ is simply excellent. Here, Jenn employs some great backing vocalists that lift the song up and extra notch as you listen. At times, Jenn’s vocals reminded me of Kelly Clarkson but the sound is definitely her own. A bright, gifted talent, that deserves to be heard.   9/10. (July 2015, Album of the Month)
JENNIFER KNAPP : Kansas. (Gotee/Word : 701383288X).
Following a long line of new American female artists comes Jennifer Knapp, with a debut album which leaves us in no doubt about her faith. It's a sort of electro-folk mix, you know, Amy Grant with Sheryl Crow's rawness. "Whole Again" talks of being made whole and it's an easily accessible number. "Trinity" uses the same blueprint and the resulting song is very good. Jennifer writes almost all the tracks featured and there's a whole host of new names (to me) providing the backing. Acoustic numbers like "Martyrs & Thieves" and "Refine Me" are refreshing and fit well with the more fuller numbers such as "In the Name". Loved the electric fiddles in "Romans" but I feel that, overall, there's a few 'fillers' on this album. If she concentrates on the more appealing tracks, JK should go a long way. 6/10. (March 1998)
JENNIFER KNAPP : Live. (Gotee Records : GTD46961)
Since 1997, Jennifer Knapp has sold more than 1 million albums. Her recent sabbatical seems to be over, ands she's back on the road with this live album to prove it. I've used this phrase before, but it's a "warts and all" recording, complete with the odd bum guitar note thrown in for good measure. Certainly, the audience seem to be enjoying the music that sees Jennifer vocally drawl her way through 13 songs in an Alanis Morrisette sort of way. My favourite song comes along as early as track 3. 'Whole Again' tells a story about being made whole again, and the winding road that led to it. For me, the whaling vocals she employs on 'The Way I Am' are a complete turn off, and I could barely make myself listen to it second time around. With it being a live album, you even get the obligatory "band Call" during 'His Grace is Sufficient', but it's all rather dull and tedious. Her lyrics are very much honest, heart on her sleeve, and her rock/pop style will please many. 6/10 (June 2006)
JENNY & ALEX LEGG - True Stories (ICC)
I keep telling myself I shouldn't like this album. But I do. It's far too folky for me. The rocky bits aren't rocky enough. And yet... and yet, it works. The whole is so much more than the sum of the parts that no review is ever really going to do it justice. But I'll try. The album consists of tracks sung by Jenny Legg (mostly the gentler ones) and sung by (or just by) Alex Legg (mostly the rockier ones). They mostly take it in turns, which adds to the effect. First impressions of Jenny are good: the chorus to "There is Love and There is This Love" has a gorgeous 1980s Kate Bush-esque feel to it (this impression re-iterates itself throughout the album). Alex takes more time to make an impression, but when he does (with such as "Some People") he has a Peter Gabriel quality to his voice. The album's main fault though, is that it starts well, goes through a (albeit long) good phase and then peters out. "At the End of the Long Hard Day" is a mid-album filler, not a show closer. Sound-wise the Leggs know the 1990s never happened, stuck as they are firmly in the 80s: that though, is no real problem. I hate albums that dot all over the place, trying to catch everyone's attention but really only losing it. This album's more of a winner than a loser. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (September 1999)
JENNY LEGG & DAVID LYLE MORRIS : Sing Scriptures. (ICC: ICCD61130)
"Sing Scriptures" is the 3rd album in Jenny & David's "Sing" Series. Jenny & David say that the motivation behind the series is a desire "to produce good quality music for little people". In "Sing Scriptures" they say they hope to instil some of God's word into little lives in a fun, palatable and effective way. We listened to the album with Sophie, our 3 year old daughter (NFN's youngest ever critic??). Generally, we found that the album is made up of good quality music, well composed lyrics and a wide range of styles. As adults, Melanie & I certainly enjoyed listening to it. Sophie, however, wasn't quite as engaged throughout the whole album. She responded well to the "catchy" songs with simpler lyrics such as "Love the Lord Your God" and "Your Word". She switched off completely, however, for the slower tracks such as "God's Love Will Never End" and for the tracks with more complex lyrics such as "Blessed". These are songs which may appeal to an older age group, but even so the message still may be a little too complex. Having said that, the album is obviously aimed at a very wide age range and, as such, all children are not going to like all songs. Sophie must be at the lower end of the target age range and therefore it was good that some of the songs did engage her. In short, the album is well put together and the wide variety of musical styles should ensure that it makes an excellent resource for churches and Sunday schools. 7/10 Nigel, Melanie (and Sophie) Mills (April 2002)
JENNY LEGG & DAVID LYLE MORRIS :Sing Bible Stories. (ICC: ICCD71830)
When I first got this for review I was sure that I recognised the name David Lyle Morris. I was convinced that he had written something that is really well known but I couldn't think what. As I've now discovered, he's been Graham Kendrick's right hand man for a number of years, having been in his band since 1990 and is now a respected Worship Leader in his own right. The idea of this latest album is to present Bible Stories in song and in so doing to make them accessible to children. Various songwriters have collaborated on this project including Garth Hewitt and Alex Legg (Jenny's husband). Most of the well known "childrens" stories are here: Noah, Jonah, Zacchaeus et al and each one is presented in a different musical style. This works well and, rather than making the album sound disjointed, actually helps to give the whole thing a varied feel which enables the listener to remain interested. This is extremely important given its target audience and it should hold even the shortest and youngest of attention spans. In fact, the overall feel of the album is very Doug Horley. The melodies are simple and catchy, great for young voices and the lyrics are simple yet succinct. There are some great touches of humour too, especially on "Noah's Song" in which God speaks with a broad Yorkshire accent, final proof indeed that Yorkshire is God's own county! I can see many of these songs working well in a worship context and if you are anything like me, you are always looking for fresh good quality childrens songs . More importantly, my three year old daughter, Faith loves it which is why I think it deserves an 8/10. Robin Thompson (May 2003)
JENNY VERANDEAU : Colours of Truth. (Word/Pamplona : PMCD9604)
Produced by John & Dino Elefante, this debut release sees Jeni paint powerful word pictures that evoke a deeper desire to live by faith and trust in God's word. Nothing at all wrong with the lyrics, but what this release does suffer from is the current overkill of American females all wanting to sound like Alannis Morrisette. 'Stronger Than You' is an okay rock opener but it's followed by some rather poor songs. 'This is Rest' breathes new life into the record by using a mandolin as backing but it's only a brief respite. 'I See You' could well have been Miss Morrisette herself and it's probably the strongest track of the whole album. Sorry Jeni, when you've heard as many as I have.......4/10. (December 1997)
JENNY & ALEX LEGG : Granite Stones & Clay. (ICC :ICCD19130).
Alex has a voice that sounds like my old friend Garth Hewitt. The difference between the two guys is that Alex sings well and writes really good songs. Jenny, on the other hand, has a sweet range that fits well to the likes of 'It's A Long Way Down' and 'Under A Nazerath Sky'. Listening to this album, you almost feel that it could be a 60's protest collection, it's that kind of style. However, it isn't filled with doom and gloom, but well crafted lyrics that have been moulded into some foot tappin' numbers. 'The Mighty Fall' comes into this category with it's telling of judgement day. I really liked the track called 'In A Doorway Tonight', which tells of the homeless plight. Again, well written, and well sung. The Legg's are new to me, but I'll be looking out for them in the future. 8/10. (February 1997)
JENNY PEGG : Remain. (www.soundconsultancy.co.uk)
Jenny Pegg is based in Sheffield, and has recently released this EP, containing 5 self-penned songs. She says; “This EP really is inspired by my own journey. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness 12 years ago, and the record is all about coming to terms with having it, and having it for life - unless healed by God.” ‘Cry for Redemption’ is about being trapped in a prison cell (her illness) and being lifted out of it by God’s love. It’s a lovely pop sound and her amazing vocals reminded me instantly of Susan Ashton. It was only when I read her press release that Jenny actually mentions Ashton as an influence during her teenage years! “I believe I will not be shaken, never forsaken”, are just a few of the personal lyrics of the title track. It’s a medium paced number that lends itself to collective praise and worship, unlike the other tracks. Moving, almost, into pop/rock territory, ‘I’ll Overcome’ has a terrific drumbeat, as Jenny’s vocals soar with the victory that comes with God rescuing her through adversity. Part of the success behind this EP are the personal lyrics, written by Jenny, and sung with such feeling, from her heart. The ballad, that is, ‘Lift My Face’ is a calmer sound, while ‘Release to Be’ opens with just a piano backing. The sound builds, without sounding cluttered, and finds Jenny singing about being at peace with who she is, and her life. It’s a poignant song, sung with real honesty, and has an uplifting sound to the chorus. This is quite a stunning EP, and my only disappointment was that there were only five songs. I, for one, can’t wait to hear more. 10/10. (May 2015, Album of the Month)
JENNY SIMMONDS : The Becoming. (Fair Trade : 60429)
Some of you may remember Jenny Simmonds as the lead singer of Texas based band, Addison Road. They were together for ten years, before finally calling it a day. However, Jenny likes to think of their parting as “moving on”, and now she has recorded her debut solo album. The sound is very much in the typical American female, pop mould – such as the likes of the current Taylor Swift album. Jenny says that the songs are about moving forward, taking risks, and giant leaps of faith. The catchy, enticing ‘Where I Belong’ is a strong opening number, all about being in the arms of God, and feeling safe. ‘Heaven Waits For Me’ is the promise that Jenny knows because of her Saviour, and the song really asks the listener if he/she can be sure of their savior? Jesus loves me, “This I Know” is pure happiness, poured out through a song. It’s all about that wonderful, unconditional love we have in God. And so, the first half of the album finishes on a high, whereas the second half becomes a rather tired affair. Gone are the jangling guitars and choruses with memorable hooks, and in come songs that just didn’t match those that had gone before. A mixed bag, I’m afraid. 6/10. (June 2013)
JEREMY CAMP : "Restored". (BEC : BED 98615)
Jeremy Camp may not be such a familiar name to many UK CCM punters, but he's sufficiently talented to have grabbed three Dove Awards at the Gospel Music Association convention this year, as well as being the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year for 2004. The guys he's been touring with, or is about to be touring with, include MercyMe, Bethany Dillon and Tree63, so the man doesn't lack experience, and it shows in this latest offering. 'Restored', following up his last album for BEC Records, 'Carried Me: The Worship Project', carries on where that one left off - hooky pop praise with a dash of rock and a hint of grunge, and 12 songs all his own work. The title track kicks things off in style, the second song 'Take You Back' is a perfect radio song, and with plenty of good vibes going on all the way through, this is ideal summer driving music - play it loud with the windows down!! 8/10 Trevor Kirk. (June 2005)
JEREMY CAMP : Restored. (BEC Recordings : BED45616)
This album is Camp's most personal to date. It deals with his challenging past, and rejoices in his peaceful present. He lost his first wife to cancer nearly 5 years ago, but has since re-married and seen the birth of a baby daughter. His vocal quality reminded me of Third Day, and "Take you Back" sounds very similar to some of the band's recordings. "Even When" sounded a little over produced, with various musical sounds fighting for their own space, but "Lay Down My Pride" sees Jeremy really rock. It's a very personal song, and maybe that's why he sounds so confident delivering it. It's not a new subject, but "Everytime" tells of walking with God, and the song itself is a sure fire hit. Camp says that he tried some "different tones" with his voice on this recording. "It's all coming straight from my heart, so there's passion in every detail." Indeed, that passion is never more on show than in the ballad "This Man", which sees Jesus on the cross, and asks if you could take His place? There's some great songs on this album, and I can see him adding to his 6 number one radio singles. 8/10. (September 2006)
JEREMY CAMP : Beyond Measure. (Bec : 94636372327)
Jeremy Camp is one of those artists who seem to have been around for ages, yet it's only the last couple of year's that he's made real inroads into the UK CCM market. He's predominantly a rock artist, but can produce the odd ballad when he feels like it. Seize the moment and take up your cross tonight, is the story behind the opening track, "Tonight", and quite uplifting it is too. And, if you're still not convinced, "Let It Fade" tells you to let go of your old life and grab the new one being offered to you by Christ. "Feels Like" is a powerful song of praise, while "No Matter What" is a rock tune, full of energy. "Give You Glory" has a decent beat to it, and I did find myself wanting to play the album again. The listing ends with two tracks from his wife's latest album, which I found quite strange, but all in all Jeremy Camp can be well satisfied with this offering. 7/10 (May 2007)
JEREMY CAMP : Live. (BEC Records : BED43923)
This CD was recorded partly in Dallas, and Partly in Los Angeles, and contains several tracks from the latest studio album "Speaking louder than before". There are some of the more well known tracks from the past too, like "Walk by Faith". It is quite an upbeat performance all the way through. All of the songs are worship songs, and most of them are aimed at encouraging people to move out in faith and discover God's power for themselves. I thought that on the whole this was quite an enjoyable album, although I can see that some people might find some of the lyrics a bit challenging to the old comfort zone. The only thing I don't like about this CD, and it's a thing that seems to happen with a lot of American recordings not just this one. Why do American sound engineers always insist on compressing the life out of everything, it might make for better radio play, but every instrument is at the same volume level all the way through, it's tiring on your ears after a while, and I think, it takes the shine off what could have been a really good CD. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2010)
JEREMY HORN : Sound of the Broken. (Ardent Records : ARD2558)
Jeremy who? No, I’d not heard of him before either. So, it was quite a surprise to find that this is his second album – the last being almost 6 years ago. Since then, Jeremy has been working as a full time worship leader, and has had little time to think about releasing this album. The title track is instantly likable and is a song that buzzes around your head, long after it’s finished playing. Similarly, ‘Now is the Time’ is one of those songs that you can’t help but enjoy. I found myself playing it numerous times because it was so good. If you want simple contemporary praise, then ‘Only God Who Saves’ is as good as it gets. Well written, well produced, and a storming song. Mid-album, I found that a few songs weren’t as memorable, but I think that is because the early ones are so good. ‘Faithful’ returns the high quality, with a sound that is almost leaning into modern country territory, while the closing ‘This Reflection’ slows things down with a gentle, yet worshipful finish. A few surprises on the way, and well worth a listen. 8/10. (June 2013)
JEREMY RIDDLE : The Now and Not Yet. Elevation : ICC1420D)
Here's a bit of a mixed bag from a chap called Jeremy Riddle. He writes all but one of the tracks on the album, and plays keyboards and guitars. I liked his voice, too, and was instantly impressed by the opening song of proclamation, 'Christ is Risen'. 'Bless His Name' is also a great song, in a guitar, rock praise style and I was hoping that the rest of the album would follow suit. Sadly, it doesn't, and the quite depressing 'Among the Poor', I found to be lacking in any real power. The song quality certainly takes a large dip mid way through the listing, and it's not until track 10 that things take a turn for the better. Jeremy's own depiction of Christ's crucifixion on 'The One, The Only' is really quite moving. Similarly, 'Joyful Noise' really does lift your spirits, and it's a fine song. It's a pity that the song quality does vary, as I feel Jeremy has a lot to offer. Maybe next time? 5/10 (September 2009)
JEREMY RIDDLE : Furious. (Elevation : ELE1712D)
This is Jeremy Riddle’s 3rd studio album, although listeners may well have heard some of these songs before on the latest Bethel Church release. Riddle himself says “It’s hard to come up with words that depict the magnitude of Christ’s love – the depth and width of it. Furious doesn’t work outside of the context of love; we tend to translate the word as angry, but I see it as a super-powerful force; stronger, deeper, broader than our vocabulary can fully describe." With Dove winning producer, Ed Cash at the helm of most of the songs, the production is first class, and things kick off with the atmospheric ‘Fall Afresh’. There’s a triumphant call for Jesus on ‘Love Came Down’, while ‘One Thing Remains’ claims that no matter what we do, your (Jesus’) love never runs out. ‘Aquitted’ is another good song, and I also liked the chorus and guitar sounds of ‘You Are Good’. Riddle certainly can write easy to digest lyrics, and on the slower ‘One Thirst and Hunger’, he’s at the top of his game. ‘Glory to the Lamb’ is filled with powerful worship, and makes for an enthralling song. If you’ve not heard of Jeremy Riddle before, perhaps now is time to rectify that. 9/10 (April 2012)
JESUS CULTURE ; Come Away. (Elevation : ELE1602D)
There's been a lot of hype surrounding this aggregation but this was the first time that I'd really heard any music from them. Forget the usual Delirious? type of music, this is more Snow Patrol meets Coldplay. Chris Quilala takes a lot of the vocals and he opens with a cry to God on the title number, calling us to let Him into our hearts. That's followed by 'Rooftops' where the message is to take God's welcoming invitation, with arms open wide. The tracks are quite long in length and Chris encourages the packed audience to worship and praise along with him. Unfortunately, I found that some of the songs just seemed to go on and on, just for the sake of it. The same can't be said, however, of 'Let It Reign', which builds with real purpose. Another quality track is 'Freedom Reigns', which I found very engaging. Kim Walker-Smith takes lead vocals on some of the tracks and she has the slightly annoying laugh at the end of certain lines. The accompanying DVD features live versions of the songs and I found that to be better than listening to the Cd alone. 7/10 (July 2011)
JESUS CULTURE : Awakening – Live from Chicago. (Elevation - ELE1741D)
Even if you are not familiar with the California based Jesus Culture church or band, you will likely have heard of Chris Quilala who is one of their worship leaders and songwriters and a significant contributor in both aspects to this cd. In almost all respects, the worship style resembles Hillsong et al so it doesn't really offer anything new stylistically – in fact it's exceedingly formulaic. However, the female vocals are of a quality often not heard in Christian Worship, being deeper and more robust, and reminiscent of secular rock vocalist, Lita Ford in style. This is very evident on songs such as “Break Every Chain” and “Perfect Love” . In my opinion, this makes it more worthy of consideration than a lot of other similar offerings, providing additional quality and allowing the album to be more appreciable musically. It's a double cd, so offers good value and whilst as previously stated, not entirely original in approach does seem to do what it does better than most. 7/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2012)
JESUS CULTURE MUSIC : Emerging Voices.   (Elevation : ELE1814D)
Jesus Culture Music are, according to their official website, “a new breed of emerging revivalists”. There are many artists and worship leaders involved and on this particular collection you will find Derek Johnson, Mary Kat Ehrenzeller, Nate Ward and Justin Jarvis. If I'm honest, I was therefore expecting something with a unique flavour and sound but this live worship cd is pretty much par for the course. The overall sound is pretty much in line with sub-Delerious/U2 style that abounds at the moment. In that respect the appeal of this collection is to a certain generation. The songs are fine in themselves, but nothing particularly outstanding. My favourites are “Who Can Compare” which starts as a slow fingerpicked number before building up to the inevitable crescendo and “Where You Are” which is by contrast up-tempo, heads-down, and give it some welly! Added to that I find the whole recording lacks some punch and definition – at some points it just seems to be a wall of sound. There's also one song where one line is repeated ad-infinitum which probably worked in a worship context but gets tiresome on a cd. So, overall, a album with potential which doesn't really deliver for me. It would probably a good purchase if you like this sort of thing and are happy with more of the same otherwise I find it difficult to recommend.   6/10   Robin Thompson. (December 2012)
JESUS CULTURE with Martin Smith :  Live from New York.   (Elevation : ELE18160)
Jesus Culture have been best known for many years for their anthemic stadium rock worship albums, and this 2 CD offering is no exception. The difference here is we have a couple of well known worship artists joining the regular JC leaders Chris Quilala and Kim Walker-Smith, most notably of course Martin Smith (yes, THE Martin Smith of Delirious fame).  They were also joined by Byran and Katie Torwalt who I have previously reviewed favourably on these very pages!  We begin in true Jesus Culture style with a Smith number "Fire Never Sleeps", complete with a thundering rumble of a drum beat and screaming guitar riffs...love this one to bits I have to admit. I wanted to be there bouncing up and down worshipping with the rest. Really translates well on to CD unlike some live worship but would be a tad out of place on a Sunday morning in most churches...ho hum! Chris Quilala follows on with "Forevermore" which is equally as energetic and powerful, with fine vocals. "Pursuit" changes the pace and style somewhat with a much more relaxed pace but by no means lacking in passion and with some fine vocals from Kim. The one downside I found with this track from a listener's perspective on CD is the repetitive nature of the lyrics at times with "I will pursue you" being belted out again and agin which did leave me thinking "get on and pursue will you?". Sure it went down well at the time though. Despite this, you don't get the feeling that any of this is put on for show...there's some very tangible real worship going on here of the kind that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up which I felt particularly on "Our God Reigns". A few familiar tracks from the Delirious catalogue worm their way on to the recording, most notably "Did you Feel the Mountains Tremble?" and "Majesty" which Smith and the band do a marvellous job with.  I have to say though I wouldn't have been able to distinguish his vocals on the basis of old Delirious tunes I know well...quite refreshing  This is by no means a perfect album but I like it a lot, particularly as you get the feeling that everything offered here is genuine. I have to say also the band are amazing and I am ever so slightly jealous of the drummer's playing skills. Keep it up guys!  10/10. Simon Redfern (February 2013, Album of the Month)
JESUS CULTURE : Reconstructed. Vol.1. (Elevation : ELE2005D)
Remix artist, music producer and songwriter Lucas Hogg, who has served with Jesus Culture since 2007 and plays drums for Kim and Skyler Smith, began producing music under the artist name Oh Snap It's Luke! in 2009. Included on Reconstructed Vol. 1 is Hogg’s re-interpretation of many Jesus Culture songs. With vocals supplied by artists such as Kim Walke-Smith, Chris Quilala, Derek Johnson, and Bryan & Katie Torwalt, a lot of these songs bear little resemblance to their original version. As you would expect, there are lots of vocal and sound loops used, along with electronic and other synth produced sounds. ‘He Is The Light’ stands up really well, in a sort of 80’s Howard Jones sort of way. Similarly, ‘I Belong To You’ is quite listenable, and I really liked this version. On other songs, repetitive sampling on ‘Awaken Me’ and ‘King of All the Earth’ make for an annoying listen, that just become monotonous at the end. One track raised a smile. ‘Your Love Never Fails’ has a sample that sounds just like a barking dog. By this time I reached the end of the album, I needed a laugh. Apart from the couple of tracks I’ve mentioned, I found the rest quite mind numbing. Not one of my favourites at all. 4/10. (July 2014)
JESUS CULTURE : From the Start. (Elevation : ELE2016D)
Since 1999, the Jesus Culture movement has released 7 live praise and worship albums. This release is a “Best of…” collection from those albums. Now, I’ve got to start this review by asking singer Kim Walker Smith for her forgiveness. Why? Because I find her voice to be one of the most irritating that I’ve ever heard. It all began 3 years ago wit the release of ‘Come Away’. On certain lines of a song, she would add a very annoying laugh. Even my minister, at the time, commented on it. Since then, solo albums have come and gone, and I find it very hard to listen to her. So, she pops up on this album too, and although not credited, I’m sure that it she who leads on ‘Oh How We Want You to Come’. The song begins as if it’s spontaneous worship, but it it’s soon apparent that this is nothing but a well-rehearsed piece of showmanship, that leads into a mediocre number. Thankfully, The version of Delirous’ ‘Rain Down’ is a real blessing. It’s more rockier than the original version and comes across really well. Similarly, ‘We Cry Out’ is a rock sound, that carries the message to all the listeners. My love of 80’s music led me to compare ‘Your Love Never Fails’ to the sound of American band, Kansas. Great lead vocals from the male singer, and a radio friendly song. Mid album, the sound gets a little more progressive, and ‘I Was Made to Worship You’ reminded me of Pink Floyd meets The Alan Parsons Project. ‘Burning Ones’ and ‘I Surrender’ both start well but, then, seem to go on and on forever. I was certainly pleased when these songs ended! There’s no doubting what the Jesus Culture is doing over in America in God’s name, but I’ve yet to be converted. 6/10. (July 2014)
JESUS CULTURE : Unstoppable Love. (Elevation : ELE2006D)
Based at Bethel Church of Redding California, since 2006 Jesus Culture has counted among its activities the record label Jesus Culture Music – this being its sixteenth release. Both cd and dvd are provided although two of the songs, i.e. 'Wide open' and 'Born of God', are missing from the cd. Here we have professionally shot perfectly presented rock pop ccm, with note perfect vocals from Chris Quilala and Kim Walker-Smith, and it is obvious from the outset that the whole band are not only well capable but also well produced and rehearsed. There are also some good melodies here, that stay in your head. Chris is probably heard at his best on the slower 'Surrender all' (although it struggles to justify its more than 7 minutes, with the audience participation repeats of 'all to Jesus I surrender' going on a bit long) and Kim's 'We will run' continues with you all day! Almost altogether good, then? It's difficult to say why I hesitate, but somehow what we don't have here is the same spiritual connection, the same originality / reality-of-life lyrics as provided by, for instance, Casting Crowns – a similar band in many respects, but Mark Hall and his crew engage the audience with an authority and connectedness that just doesn't seem to be present here. Jesus Culture’s lyric 'In flesh he walked among us, bore our sins’ is of course true, but such often repeated words tend to pale alongside the contemporary power of Mark Hall delivering Casting Crown's 'Somewhere is the middle'. Eastbourne's Phatfish are another example of a band whose recorded performances can really connect. 'Unstoppable love' is a worthwhile release then, enjoyable musically, well produced, but for me lacking that certain something in terms of spiritual engagement. 8/10. Dave Deeks (September 2014)
JESUS CULTURE : This Is…..featuring Chris Quilala and Kim Walker-Smith. (Jesus Culture Music : B002280102)
“Please make her stop!” I Cried. It was no good, no-one was listening. If I hear Kim Walker-Smith’s awful laughter at the end of another sung line of a song, I promise that I will never listen to her again. It’s just so annoying. Why does she do it? Is it spontaneous? Well, only if you compare it to the onset of hiccups. The lady has such a powerful voice and on songs like “Your Name Is Glorious” and “Rooftops”, she’s at her best. Chris Quilala, on the other hand, concentrates on what he does best, and leads those gathered into worship hysteria, especially on the natural worship of “Angus Dei”. You certainly get your monies worth with this album, as all but one are of more than 5 minutes in length, and the total playing time is close to 80. Forgetting the embarrassing alter call on “How He Loves” (and that awful laughter), this release sounds as if the Holy Spirit was working overtime when this album was recorded. The crowd literally scream in pure joy at the beginning and end of each song, whether it be the epic “Your Love Never Fails” or the everlasting “Show Me Your Glory”. Countless thousands enjoy the Jesus Culture Movement, and this album will bring great delight to them. As for me, please pass on my regards to Kim. 7/10. (November 2015)
JESUS CULTURE : Let It Go. (Jesus Culture : B002287602)
Already a massive hit across the globe, this Jesus Culture release has finally reached NFN Towers. Recorded at the Jesus Culture Church in Sacramento, this is the group’s 9th live album. Now, I’ve never been the biggest Kim Walker-Smith fan but on this album, she is simply superb, vocally. Her soaring voice on the opening “Never Gonna Stop Singing” is one of the best tracks of the year. Chris Quilala takes the lead on “Fierce,” and produces a terrific, contemporary song of worship. The power of the first, four songs is relentless, and Walker-Smith features again on “Alive in You” and “In the River.” Finally, the title track slows things down a bit, with more than eight minutes of a song, perfect for soaking in God’s love. Most of the songs are quite lengthy but I found them excellent in production. “Set Me Ablaze”, sung by Katie Torwalt is another highlight, while Kim Walker-Smith once again shines on the awesome “In Your Presence.” I read one review of this album that really slated it, but my opinion joins the many more that rate this as one the best worship albums of the year. 10/10. (November 2016, Album of the Month)
JESUS CULTURE : Let It Echo Unplugged. (Jesus Culture : 0602547899)
Recorded live at the Underground Lounge in Sacramento, this 7 track release features some of the song from the “Let It Echo” album that has become a worldwide hit. As the name suggests, unplugged means that all the instruments used are acoustic, and this stripped down version does lack a little of the awe its predecessor had. However, Kim Walker Smith is in her element, as she sings “Never Gonna Stop Singing.” Even in this bare all production, the message still comes across with great authority. Again, on “In the River”, Smith caresses each word of the song to make a joyful noise. The title track is sung by Chris Quilala. This version begins with just a few instruments backing his vocals, before everything comes crashing in, accompanied by myriad voices in praise. The Torwalt’s are featured on “God is With Us” and “Set Me Ablaze” and those gathered are certainly enjoying themselves, judging by the reaction to each song. If I’m honest, I prefer the original album in all it’s glory, but this one will also make a welcome addition to Jesus Culture fans. 7/10. (February 2017)
THE JESUS SERIES : Jesus The Headliner (DVD,Big Book Media, www.thejesusseries.co.uk)
Jesus The Headliner is number 2 in a series of 7 short DVDs, to be released through 2011 and 2012, looking at who the person of Jesus is that Christians follow. At just 15 minutes long, and including a short question booklet and a couple of set prayers, this is clearly aimed at small churches and home bible study groups in much the same vein as Rob Bell's Nooma series, although much more firmly founded on straightforward biblical study than Bell's deeper and more thoughtful pieces. Narrated by Andy Frost, and including impressively staged and filmed dramatisations of the scenes being examined, it ultimately makes its point very clearly and with passion. In a fast-moving world where everything, including our faith, can become over-complicated very easily this is a worthwhile examination of the person and character of our Lord and Saviour and well worth checking out for yourself. The downsides to me are: the supporting material - the accompanying question booklet could be more searching and/or challenging; and the price - at £8.99 per volume the whole series runs to over £60 for less than two hours of teaching. That aside, if the other 6 volumes in the series are as good as this one, it should prove an excellent resource for churches, home groups or families. 8/10 David Cooper (September 2011)
JHARDINE : Water & Thunder. (www.jhardine.com)
I first heard this young lady on a media disc, and was so impressed that I asked to hear more. Recorded in Leeds, this is her sophomore release and it compares well with the likes of bigger names such as Ce Ce Winans. Singing from an early age Jhardine, then, began and directed her school’s own gospel choir. After committing herself to Christ, she began turning her award winning poetry into songs. This album starts in confident style with a light gospel number called ‘Admittance’. ‘Forevermore’ is an engaging song and was originally written as Psalm 151. Jhardine’s ‘Praise Medley’ is joyful, while ‘Heavenly Voice’ is simply lovely, and gives a peaceful feeling to the listener. ‘You Are God’ and ‘I Will Gently Rejoice’ are both strong, vocally, and highlight the comparison I feel she has with Miss Winans. And, just when you think you’ve heard it all, Jhardine comes up with ‘Were You There?’, which shows her full vocal range to a simple piano backing. A couple of songs didn’t quite do it for me, but I think that was just from personal taste, rather than a dip in quality. The album ends, as it begins, with a happy and joyful sound that is ‘Deep & Wide Medley’. My only minor moan is that the sleeve notes are almost unreadable as they are written in white on a yellow background. It’s an impressive album, and the production for a small studio is very good. Jhardine certainly has the voice, and now it just needs to be heard by the masses. 9/10 (January 2012, Album of the Month)
THE JIVE ACES : Bolt From the Blue. (Private CD Recording. Information from: Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 4JY.
In a world of shred, dread and grunge come a bolt from the blue....meet the Jive Aces. A six piece band playing a form of jive that is best expressed as rock/jazz. Just a CD in the NFN postbag, with no accompanying literature. 15 songs including some that older listeners will instantly recognise, which have been given a 90's face lift. 'When You're Smilin', 'Blue Moon', and the 30's hit 'Pennies From Heaven' are just three of those with shining pedigree. Of the new songs, perhaps the 'Jive Ace Boogie Woogie' is a bit of self indulgence but the title track is up there with the best. If a little boogie woogie and jive is your cup of tea then the Jive Aces will go down a treat. 7/10. (January 1998)
JILL PAQUETTE : Jill Paquette. (Reunion : 4100312)
Singer/songwriter Jill Paquette has been likened to Sheryl Crowe and the likes but I'm not sure why. Still, if I say that she reminds me of Joan Armatrading, there's bound to be those who ask the same question. Jill's at her best when she takes the simple approach to her songs, like on the delicious "Take My Life". Her vocals are a little "off the wall" in delivery and "Not the Only One" had me thinking that there's a little rocker hiding beneath what's on show here. Difficult to know what she's trying to do with this release as it's very ordinary for a debut. There's plenty of better independent albums around offering much better than this. Perhaps, Jill just needs to find her real self. 3/10. (November 2003)
JILL PARR : Orbit (Christian Records : www.spiritmusic.co.uk)
When a new artist comes along with so many lyrically honest songs about life's struggles to fit-in with the norm, about finding God, and how He can change your life, you might know that SHE'S been there. Yes, Jill Parr admits to all of this, and producer Brian Hardin has put together a fusion of today's alternative and new fashion pop music. For me, this is the album is very much like the debut album form Margaret Becker, some 15 years ago. It's filled with excitement, a freshness, lots of good songs, and a sincerity that struck lots of chords in this heart. Even ballads like "This I Know" takes the promise "Jesus loves me, this I know" and makes a lovely song. "Feel the Scars" tells you to let go and just let Jesus save you by how He suffered on the cross. I personally feel that this is the best song on the album and I've been playing it over Andover again…..very loud! Jill bares more than a passing resemblance to Avril Lavigne and on "County Line" you could almost believe that you were listening to the chart topper herself. There's a fantastic album closer in "Another Revolution" where she just gives everything vocally. In my book, already a main contender for Newcomer of the year. 10/10. (August 2003, Album of the Month)
JILL PHILLIPS : Jill Phillips. (Word : 080688598020)
Melodic folk rock, is how Jill Phillips, herself, describes her own style of music and, she's not far off too. As the jangly guitar led me into "Only One", I immediately thought of Carolyn Arends and Sarah Masen - it's that kind of thing. All the songs are written by Jill, or with her husband, and there's a distinct quality that runs throughout. "Everything" is a lovely little number that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, as she simply praises the Lord for His love in her life. Produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick, the album shows Jill Phillips in good light but, perhaps, still learning her trade. Once or twice the finished product doesn't seem to match with the initial power of the lyrics but, surely, that will come. The closing "Everyday" is another number that does, however, have that power and is one to sit and listen too, over and over again. Good start, but more to come. 6/10. (April 2000)
JILL PHILLIPS : Nobody's Got It All Together. (Alliance : 8204352)
Jill Phillips is one of the artists who promise so much, but leave me feeling a little let down. This album is no different. She kicks things off with a bright, light pop title track, and my hopes are lifted. 'Square Peg', also, is a catchy little tune about not fitting in with what the outside world sees as "the norm", and things are looking good. But, then, Jill treats us to some rather flat, uninspiring songs like 'Daily Bread' and 'Movin' On'. She does have a sweet voice and I really enjoyed the lullaby effect of 'The Middle' and the foot tapping, happy sound of 'Rise Above'. Overall, it's a light pop sound, with some folky elements, but I still feel that the album is a little lightweight. 5/10. (September 2007)
JIM BAILEY : All Over Again. (Kingsway : KMCD2276)
Over the years I've been publishing NFN, the name of Jim Bailey has popped up in the gig guide on more occasions than I can count. But, I've never seen the guy or heard any of his music. So, perhaps, this "best of" release is just the thing for someone like me. Jim travels to churches perfoming Family Roadshows and running training camps for those working with children. This album will give you a glimpse of the sort of thing you can expect, should you attend one of his events. From the opening line dance feel of "O Lord, I Will Sing your Praise", to the closing 60's parody "Will You Love Me All Over Again", there runs a simple message for children, performed in a way that really does appeal. The song "I Am Fearfully And Wonderfully Made" had me cringing as I read the title but I need not have worried, it's a great little pop song that is easy to singalong too, without being crass. Mid-way through the album, there's a couple of Christmas songs including a dance version of "We Three Kings", which just sounded a little lost in the blazing heat of summer. However, "God Was the Colour" produces a celtic folk feel, while the excellent "As For Me & My House" produces great visions of hundreds of kids whooping it up for a hoe-down. If, like me, you've missed the delights of Jim Bailey over the years, perhaps it's time you did something about it. 9/10. (July 2000, Album of the Month)
JIMMY ATKINS. The Pen & the Page. (www.jimyatkinsmusic.com)
Jimmy Atkins hails from western North Carolina, where he makes music in several different facets of life. A worship pastor at a local church, a songwriter at home, and a storyteller abroad, he's gained his following through avenues such as speaking at conferences for the young and old alike, as well as leading the 10-year career of his band, Second Hand City. This new step sees him release a 7 song album as a solo artist, and it makes for some interesting moves, musically. There’s no surprise about the lyrical content overall, and the opening ‘Try’ had me smiling over the many times I’ve fallen short in my Christian walk, but God loves me unconditionally, picks me up and says “Try again”. It’s a catchy song and has hints of Jeremy Camp in style. For an independent recording, the production on “Seasons Changing” is immaculate. I don’t possess the best sound system in the world, yet this track is pure and crystal clear. The theme behind the song is that God knows us through and through, and loves us just as we are. I thought that there was a touch of Crosby, Stills & Nash about “Arise”, especially during the verses. ‘Tense’ came over as a very personal sounding song. Jimmy says that the tension he was feeling came from; “Working in a church with my dad (the pastor), and we were facing severe opposition to all the decisions we were making in order to make the church more of a place for those who had yet to meet Christ”. It’s a very touching song and has Jimmy almost crying to God about what he was going through. The album ends with the title track and “Calls From the Sea”. The former is a poem, set to music and is a celebration of the written word, while the latter is an enjoyable little sea shanty. I’ve not heard any of Jimmy’s previous work, but he has hit just the right note with this collection of songs. 8/10. (September 2015)
JIMMY NEEDHAM : Speak. (Inpop : POD1382)
When I played this CD for the first time there were comments from several family members, none of which I'm afraid were very complimentary, mostly implying that it might be good to turn it off now. I have to say that it is very hard to listen to this CD for long; there are a lot of tempo and style changes in the middle of the songs, so you never quite get the idea of where the music is going, the whole thing sounds a bit disjointed somehow, and before too long it just gets annoying. Some of the vocal lines have so many words crammed into them that by the time you get to the end you've forgotten the beginning. The music is mostly a kind of acoustic pop I suppose, it's actually quite hard to pin it down to any specific genre, but it would possibly appeal to those with a leaning towards jazz, the musicians are all obviously quite talented, but there's just too much going on all the time. The final track "Benediction" is just a short lecture to remind us what awful sinners we are, and although I can see that kind of thing appealing to the Americans, I suspect that most people will find it just a tad patronising. On the plus side there is some nice acoustic guitar work on quite a few of the tracks, but even so I don't think that this is the kind of album that you'd want to play very often. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (January 2007)
JIMMY NEEDHAM : Not Without Love. (inpop : POD1405)
Jimmy Needham lives in Houston, Texas, and follows up his 2006 release, 'Speak', with this new offering. Writing from his own life experiences, he presents his songs in a James Morrison sort of way, but with some jazz elements creeping in from time to time. 'Come Around' draws the listener in, first, with it's choppy sound. 'Hurricane' deals with building following brokenness, but I didn't care much for the song. 'Firefly' is much better, a light, poppy, love song. Jimmy's vocals are quite infectious and I found myself willing him to surprise me with a fabulous song. 'Forgiven and Loved' didn't quite make it, but it's a medium paced number that tells of forgiveness and grace. Those fine vocals are at their best on 'The Author', which gives thanks for God's love, and certainly a track worth playing again and again. After listening, I felt that Jimmy's songs were a little too much like shopping mall music. Few, made much impression, and I felt rather disappointed by the end of the album. 5/10 (June 2009)
JIMMY NEEDHAM : Vice & Virtue.   (Platinum Pop : 2105)
This is Jimmy Needham’s 6th studio album. He says that his  musical influences include Lauryn Hill, Jason Mraz, and particularly Keith Green. Indeed, he goes on to say; “"When I listen to him it's cool because I feel the Lord has given us the same spirit in what we're singing about”. His style is a cross between alternative rock and a little bit of soul, and I feel that, sometimes, the marriage between the two doesn’t quite work. He’s also not scared to shock with his lyrics. On the title track her asks the question “Which is good and which is bad. Crystal Meth or a Bible tract”? That song, along with “Thank You” and “Mama Didn’t Raise a Fool” all have a funky feel about them but none of them really got me hooked. “All We Need is Need” raised my hopes but it was only when I listened to the smooth sound of “Betterman” that I really appreciated Needham’s voice. It’s a slow number, and his silky vocals are golden. The last track, “The Story” is a spoken word, which tells the story of creation, with a modern slant. I can’t say that it appealed to me, but it may prick up the ears of younger listeners.  After a deluge of press releases about this album, listening to it left me rather disappointed. I can’t say that I’ll be rushing to hear it again.   5/10. (October 2015)
JK2 : Jesus 2000. (Alliance : 7243 8202472 9)
To celebrate the millenium, 8 top US gospel artists got together to produce an album of songs personal testimony. The resulting release has contributions from Men of Standard, Dawkins and Dawkins, and Nancey Jackson. By far the most popular, in my book, are Anointed who sing "Help Him Stand". I guess I like it because it's very radio friendly and easy to listen to - unlike Montrell Darrett's awful "Prophetic Millenium 2000" which drones on for more than six minutes! Kim Burrel provides another good song, "Woman", which tells how God can change anyone's life no matter what their past may have been filled with. Gosepl music, of this kind, has never been a big favourite of mine but, I guess, that this ranks as one of the better ones. Perhaps, if you are like me, this would be a good time to try a taste of gospel. 7/10. (July 2000)
JO LE PAGE : The Message of the Cross. (jo@lepage.co.uk)
I’ve been in contact with Jo for many years and, in the past; she’s had a couple of songs included on showcase albums. Now, she’s finally got around to recording this 6 track CD, with the help of Aron Bicksey and Andy Baker. The title track begins with bight guitars, leading into an uptempo praise and worship number. Jo’s vocals are very strong, as she sings “Lord, I Praise you for all you have done.” Track 2 is ‘Take My Hand’ – an absolute stunner of a song. It’s one of those that you feel you’ve heard before, because it is so welcoming. It really has everything that a great song should have – a powerful verse, a middle eight that builds in glory, and a chorus that I was singing for days, afterwards! The slower, ‘Abandoned to You’ was a bit of a let down after the previous excitement, but that may be just down to my perception. The piano of ‘Praise Be To Your Name’ reminded me of Bruce Hornsby’s ‘The Way It Is’, and tells of the Lord being the “everlasting one”. Musically, this Cd is very much pop orientated, and that’s no bad thing. The closing ‘Now I Can See Him’ goes deeper than the other songs, lyrically, as Jo sings “ I Long to be eternally in touch with Christ, who made me free”. It is a touching song, and brings the recording nicely to a close. Yes, one track does stand head and shoulders above the rest, but that shouldn’t detract from, what is, a fine release. 8/10. (October 2014)
JOANNA CARLSON : 'The Light of Home' (Benson).
Here's another new name for you to familiarise yourselves with. A songbird from America, and following in the footsteps of Susan Ashton and Kathy Troccoli. With slick production provided by Brent Bourgeois and Wayne Kirkpatrick, and ten self-penned songs, Miss Carlson has certainly got off to a good start. Her voice has a smooth and silky quality about it but rarely does she push it to the limits. The songs are all very relaxing and easy to listen too but towards the end of the album, one sounds pretty much like the one before. However, at her best, Joanna sings the soulful 'Looking at You' and exquisite 'Belong to Me' - two highlights from a lady who promises more. 6/10. (May 1996)
JOANNE HOGG : Personal. (Kingsway : KMCD : 2883)
Joanne Hogg is, of course, well known as the voice of progressive celtic outfit, Iona. Although not as intense as an Iona album, this release does lend itself to plenty of celtic feeling. She wrote all the tracks during a 6 week period, and hopes that the songs will convey a hunger for God to it's listeners. With Troy Donockly and Terl Bryant named in the list of musicians, it would be hard to completely disassociate herself from the Celtic traits of her past and, perhaps, no-one can blame her. However, I found the opening three tracks all very similar in sound and they all reminded me of the recent Moya Brennan release. 'More' tells of bringing new life through Jesus but as plain the message is, the song disappoints. 'Waiting' is a medium paced worship song that limps along, while 'The Fire When You Delay' is not much better. Apart from 'You Are My Strong Salvation', I found the songs to be rather bland. The track in question has instant appeal due to it's radio friendly sound, and it is the one track that I certainly will be playing. The album closes with the rather wistful 'Where Grace is Hiding' and it splutters to an unconvincing end. Sadly, I didn't enjoy this release. 3/10 (December 2008)
Jocelyn Brown : True Praises (Kingsway : KMCD2993)
Jocelyn Brown has been on the soul music scene for a long time, but I must confess that I had never heard her until this twelve track CD – her first gospel album – dropped through my letter box. From the opening song 'Sunday morning' it is obvious that we have here a seasoned performer with a brilliant 'soul gospel' voice. The majority of the tracks are hugely enjoyable – with the lady herself sharing writing credits on a number of them. The upbeat, sassy opener 'Sunday morning' is followed by the equally effective 'He reigns' and 'True praises', and then two of the three standouts i.e. 'Praise the mighty name of Jesus' and 'My help'. The third comes later in the running order, being the Sam Cooke song 'Jesus I'll never forget' and featuring an insistent and effective close harmony chorus. The weakest tracks are those that feature other singers – I can't understand why a performer of such quality would need to 'share her stage' like this, and for various reasons these don't sit well within the overall context of the album. 'Stand up' features Guvna B, and unbelievably ruins Jocelyns fabulous vocals with autotune! 'Jesus is all the world to me' features a simple guitar accompaniment and Carleen Anderson, whose heavy tremolo voice doesn't blend well with Jocelyn's. There is also a problem with 'The old rugged cross' where Lou Fellingham's more delicate delivery proves too much of a contrast. Finally, the beautiful hymn 'How great thou art' is somewhat spoiled by over-complicated tempo and key changes. So, eight excellent tracks including three real standouts, but four others that spoil what could have been a brilliant album. As sound quality is also excellent, 10/10 for those who can be bothered to programme out the weak tracks, but for those who simply want to press 'play', 7/10. Dave Deeks (May 2011)
JOE BRADY : Awake. (www.joebradymusic.com)
Manchester’s Joe Brady began writing songs since the age of 16, when he first began to lead worship. After a brief time spent in a band, he’s now solo and has released this 5 song EP. He says that he’s, “burning with a passion to see the name of Jesus lifted high through music; burning with a desire to see churches inspired to go further into the things of God in worship; desperate to encourage, empower and equip churches to think about their worship and how they can develop their musical gifts; wanting to create music that can both encourage the church and reach those who do not yet know Jesus." Well, if someone had played me this release and told me that it was from the next big thing in the States, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Very much in the style of Phil Wickham, the glorious sounds that emanate from the speakers are pure delight. The title track is quite stunning. “In His death we have come alive.” A simple truth, but it’s furnished well by the tune itself. Joe doesn’t only write these songs, he’s produced them as well, and it’s obvious that he has a real knack for putting the sounds together without them sounding cluttered. “Holy is Our God” is powerful at times, yet gentle at others. My only disappointment was that the song fades too early. “Made A Way” is a slower song, with lyrics such as “He has brought us in out of the darkness and into His light.” On “One Day” the tune is slightly choppy and reminded me a little of Talking Heads, while the closing “King of Glory” is one of those songs that repeats in your head, long after you’ve listened. UK wise, I guess Ian Yates is the closest comparison we have to Joe’s music and that’s a great compliment. I only wished there were more tracks! 9/10. (Joe can be booked via his website) (March 2016)
JOE ENGLE : I Believe in You. (Spin 360 : MM2971901)
Joe Engle hails from the Dallas/Fort Worth area of the USA. Never having known his father, he lost his mother at the age of 11 and then his grandparents at 14. His subsequent teenage years saw him at a Baptist children's home and then taken in by a Christian couple Dale and Nadine Engle, whose surname he adopted. Beginning to develop as a songwriter and singer, at 16 he became a Christian and went on to study music and theology - meeting his future wife Valerie whilst at university. Joel has played to audiences worldwide, including outreach opportunities with the Billy Graham Association - and his albums have received many positive reviews. 'I believe in you' is his latest, containing 13 mostly medium-paced Christian worship pop/rock songs with all but one written or co-written by Joel. The title track is one of the strongest, other standouts being 'Almighty God', 'Nothing left of me' and 'Your love reigns'. Whilst Joel clearly has much to offer in a live praise and worship environment however, this album is similar to many produced Stateside over the past several years - lacking the originality of artists such as, for instance, Bebo Norman. A final comment is that in common with many CDs these days most of the tracks suffer from over-compression - which spoils it for those with nice music systems. A worthy album then, but not a great one. Check out Joel further at www.joelengle.com and www.myspace.com/joelengle, where you can hear before you buy. 7/10 Dave Deeks. (November 2007)
JOE HARDY : Without Borders. (Tweed Jacket Music)
This album contains several different styles of music, some tracks are straightforward no nonsense rock songs, while some take a somewhat more laid back approach. And the odd track seems to stray towards funk. Most of the songs are worship songs, the lyrics are well written, and the message comes over well. This album doesn’t get boring, probably due to the differing styles, though personally I prefer the rock tracks to the funk, this is just a personal thing though, there isn’t actually anything wrong with the funkier stuff. There’s a high standard of musicianship on display here, and also the recording quality, which is too often not the case with worship music. This is a good album. Definitely worth a listen. It’s available on iTunes, Amazon etc. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2017)
JOE KING : The Harvest Has Begun. (Alliance : 1900972).
You know when Joe King writes a song, that it's something very personal that he wants to share. After the success of his previous release "Next To You", and the theme of God putting strength into all through difficulties, this one is long awaited. With Chris Eaton at the helm of the controls, the result is a more polished affair yet with nothing taken away from Joe's intimate gifts. Beginning with the catchy "When Jesus Comes Again" and continuing with the title track, you hear the professional touch of Mr Eaton adding a certain something to what could have been ordinary songs. The acoustic "Until Our Heart Beats..." is a poignant number of great value and "Father"'s lucidity is just sheer honesty. Pipes, whistles, and more, get you jigging to "Stand Your Ground", and the effective drums on "Let My Power" give Joe's writing yet another angle. Overalll, it's a good album, but I've a deep feeling that the next will be even better. 9/10. (March 1998)
JOE KING : Eye of the Storm. (CD £12.99 plus p&p from: Croft House, Common Lane, South Milford, Yorkshire, England, LS25 5BP)
This worship album reflects Joe's Celtic/Irish roots, with musicians drawn from Iona and Eden's Bridge. However, I think that he's also been listening to some good old 60's & 70's pop, as several songs have that uncluttered, yet still stylish, feel about them. Take, for instance, "The Wonder" and "Still, I'm Trusting". both have been carefully crafted and have that perfect warmth from the finished song. Joe's healing ministry has seen him travel the length and breadth of the country and the song "There Is Healing" is the perfect vehicle to carry the message of God's healing powers. "Lord of All Creation" is uncomplicated, yet draws the listener into the wonderment of God's creation with ease. I loved the sounds of the pipes on "Follow You - a really joyous song with a little Celtic reel thrown in for good measure too. "Eye of the Storm" contains so many songs that had me really thanking God for all the goodness He has poured into my life, despite some sorrow, and not many albums do that so completely. Well done, Joe, this is superb. 10/10. (February 2002, Album of the Month)
JOE KING : When Heaven Comes Down. (www.joekinguk.com)
Gaining and NFN "Album of the Month" award for his last release, Joe was on a hiding to nothing with his follow up. And, while this new release never quite reaches the same dizzy heights of "Eye of the Storm", it's still a good album. Joe says that the central theme of the album is one of yearning for God to touch and change our society with His healing love and power. Certainly, the lyrics of all the songs do convey that feeling. The more progressive opening number told me straight away that this wasn't simply just another album, rather, one that's been prayed about, over and over again. Joe has a great voice and I love it when it's in full flow, like on "This Is What I Love About You". There's a few more quieter songs this time round and mid-album "At the Cross" and "To Be Touched By Jesus" show Joe in meditative thought, while "At the Cross" falls a little flat. "Fresh Fire" asks for a personal renewal, and the 9 minute "God Of Love…" gives a full sense of being one with the Lord. 8/10. (February 2004)
JOE PACE & THE COLORADO MASS CHOIR : Speak Life. (Integrity : 24022)
"Mass Choir" is definitely the right description, here. If you want to know what almost 50 people singing in close harmony sounds like, this album would be a great place to start, with some great solos, the occasional familiar song, some very American spoken Reprises and a great version of "Joy to the World" thrown in for good measure. Co-produced by Don Moen, this CD is everything you might expect from a gospel choir in full flow: simple, worshipful songs brought to life in lengthy, subtly different, repeated passages, wonderful rich harmonies, drums, funky bass riffs and organs combine to make this a truly uplifting experience. If I had to pick a favourite track, it would have to be the "Sing Unto The Lord" medley, 4 minutes capable of leaving a smile on the coldest of hearts. If you have got the impression from these comments that I like a good gospel choir, then you would be absolutely right ... and this is a great album by a great gospel choir. 9/10 David Cooper (November 2003, Album of the Month)
JOHN DeGRAZIO : Revolution. (IMG : WS31573104)
As UK based Spirit Music continues to distribute some of the lesser known artists from all around the world, it's really great to hear some different musicians. John DeGrazio is one such artist, who's acoustic led pop is sometimes reminiscent of the late lamented Crowded House. There again, fans of Chris Rice will, no doubt, appreciate his quieter moments on songs like "Wish I Could Have You". It sounds like a very personal album, as the singer/songwriter takes you through the journey of being a Christian in today's world, where not only others question you but, sometimes, you question God yourself and say "Hey God, I'm not really sure what you want me to be in this life, but I'm trusting my heart to you". "Until You Answer" is one such song, while the catchy chorus of "Somebody Other Than Me" will soon be tapping around your brain for ages. Listening, I could relate a lot to these songs and found the finished article very good indeed. 8/10. (January 2003)
JOHN ELEFANTE : Defying Gravity. (Pamplin : PMCD9952)
John's history as the lead singer wit mega rock band Kansas seeps into a few of the songs on this latest album, but there is so much more to this man's music. Throughout the album I was consistantly impressed by the sheer quality of each song. The title track is a prime example of how God's music can both enthrall and draw into a closer relationship with Him. The song itself tells of John's own desire to fight against the pull of the world and towards his Heavenly Father. "Pass the Flame" is a lighter number that almost passes as country, while "The Way That You Love Me" reminded this reviewer of late 60's Beatles. Brother, Dino, shares most of the writing and production credits on what is, I'm sure, one of the better American rock albums. 10/10. (December 1999, Album of the Month)
JOHN FROUD & THE PKs : Seriously… (Private CD Recording : £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).
John Froud works full time in music ministry, specialising in schools work in his home area. However, his music will appeal to all ages and I think that a live concert would be quite an experience, judging by the humour contained in some of his songs. Prime example on the album is "Stressed" - which lends a lot from an old T.Rex tune - which contains the immortal line "I've had another bad day, and my hair's going grey". It's not all tongue in cheek muzak though, and there's plenty of lyrical depth in "Lost Without You" and the poignant "Seriously Unrehearsed". Perhaps the most appealing, is the folk tinged "21st Century Prophet" and it's sideways look on life and just what the future holds. On the whole, the songs contain a mixture of ingredients with styles varying from blues to rock. "The Spin" reminded me of The Beautiful South while "Face" and "Tell Me", I found less appealing. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, and John Froud certainly provide quite a mixture. 7/10. (June 1999)
JOHN FROUD & the PK'S : Be There. (Private CD Recording : £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).
And so we come to the latest musical offering, recorded on a shoestring budget, from one of the many wonderful artists who play and minister at 'grassroots' level. Recorded over four days at Dan Bowater's studio in Lincoln, John Froud & the PK's present an album of good old fashioned, honest lyrics in a style that sees folk, pop and R'n'B rub shoulders with each other. "Language of Love" starts the ball rolling, as John tries to tell the Lord that he sometimes finds it hard to speak the right words to Him. "Blue Hills" and "Holding On" are pure rhythm & blues, with the latter featuring some heavy saxophone and 60's keyboard. Actually, it's very refreshing to hear some different instruments being used with whistles, flute & mandolin being added to those already mentioned. Mind you, I did find the saxophone rather annoying in the laid back ballad "Be There" which, for me, distracted the listener from the words. John travels all over the UK but is primarily involved in schools work around the Bradford area. Like Brian Houston, last month, his lyrics are simple and will, therefore, appeal to all ages. One day, I'm going to have to catch up with this guy for a live gig. In the meantime, knowing he's out there producing songs like the powerful "Still Dreaming" will do nicely. 8/10. (December 2000)
JOHN FROUD : Angel. (CD Recording, £12 from: Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ.)
One thing that has struck me about John's recording's over the last couple of years is that the finished song production has become more polished. Some of that polish must have been provided by Dan Bowater at his db studios in Lincoln, but "hat's off" to John for his own work too. This collection of Christmas songs features many that have been written by John himself for the famous Wycliffe carol services, and can also be obtained in songbook form (£20) which is written for piano, guitar and vocal, as well as featuring some backing tracks! Musically, John keeps to his tried and trusted styles and after the nice opening title track, the first to prick up your ears too is "Sing With the Angels". This begins with a lovely whistle sound that, then, leads into a gentle celtic number of quality. I always enjoy a good calypso, and "Mary Gave Birth" is no exception - a fine worship song. "I Wish I Could Have Been There" is the top track on show, with nice acoustic guitar and excellent vocals. "Silent night" is sung, predominantly, as a lullaby and the result is very good. I'm never keen on the blues side o things, so I'm afraid "Far Away" and "Born in the Night" didn't go down well with me. Nevertheless, it's great to hear a collection of original Christmas songs instead of just a rehash of old ones. 8/10. (December 2001)
JOHN FROUD : Don't You Know". (CD £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).
Over the years, it's been my pleasure to review a number of albums written and performed by Bradford's John Froud. John works mainly in schools in West Yorkshire taking the gospel of Jesus into the schools in a fun way that the children can understand and enjoy. Last year, he gave all the primary schools that he visits, the opportunity to be part of a new album. The result sees 19 different schools represented on 23 songs on the album. The one thing that eminently stands up throughout the album, is the way that John, his co-workers, and children all radiate a great joy in what they're doing. Some songs, like "When the Spirit of the Lord" and "Be Bold Be Strong", are well known to us all, but others such as "God So Loved the World" and "Though the Grass May Wither" will be new to the listener. The strength of a lot of the songs featured is their simplicity. Sometimes, those repetitive songs just annoy, but I didn't find it the case once here. It was quite a task to undertake, but well worth the effort, for a result that is a little out of the ordinary. Well done guys and gals. 8/10. (February 2003)
JOHN FROUD : Late Nights & Hard Conversations. (CD £12 from Zephaniah music, 2A NorwoodRoad, Shipley, UK, BD18 2AZ).
One of the most successful independent school workers is West Yorkshire's John Froud. Over the last few years, his tireless work has taken him, his family, and friends into countless schools and churches. Album releases have been fairly frequent and as well as being a great resource, have provided some much needed monetary support. This new release sees the songs stripped down somewhat instrument wise, like the super "He Never Said". It just goes to show how a well written and presented song can be just as strong as one with sparse instrumentation. The title track sees John tackle all those times when the struggles of life take your eyes from God, and you ask Him so many questions. I found his story of Jonah, "Nineveh Bound" a little weak but the bluesy feel of "You've Got a Friend" and "Abide With Me" stand at the other end of the scale. John's not the sort of guy to rest on his laurels and, with his ministry, is always trying to further the boundaries. With that in mind, no doubt we'll hear something different next time out but, for now, sit back and enjoy the folky essence and pleasant sounds. 7/10. (December 2003)
JOHN FROUD : Retrospective. (Zephaniah Music ZEPH407)
In 1994 John gave up his full-time work as a teacher and became the founder of Zephaniah Trust, with the mission statement "taking light into dark corners". Now with co-worker Mark Drake, the Trust regularly visits over 45 schools and organises a wide range of events. This album represents "the righteousness remnant of the concert material of the years 1997-2003 - those songs still regularly performed". Disappointingly, the lyrics are printed for only 8 of the 16 featured tracks - and these are not in playing order. John and the band tend to major on a raw, rocky style. The recordings sound as if they are live performances rather than studio productions. There are many good tunes here, and the lyrics reflect John's clearly heart-felt desire to get the gospel message over in a relevant and direct way. '21st prophet', 'Finished', 'Late nights', 'Be there' and 'I cry alone' stand out as a good'uns. 'Too long' features a sudden and not too successful tempo change. A down side of the 'under-produced' approach is that there are occasional balance and 'vocal tuning' problems. Much of the time John's voice sounds a touch high in the mix, and it doesn't really stand up to the extra spotlight of the bluesy gospel 'Face' and minimalist backing of the wry 'Seriously Unrehearsed'. These are picky observations in the overall context of John's ministry however. Comments on the Zephaniah Trust website (www.zeph.org.uk) indicate that he has an enthusiastic following from pastors, parents and children. He is obviously doing exactly what the Lord wants him to, and I wish him every blessing in those dark corners! 7/10 Dave Deeks (April 2008)
JOHN FROUD : Haven't You Heard. (www.johnfroud.com)
Whether it be playing to adults or children, John Froud has a song for all occasions. See him live, and it's just like meeting an old friend - he exudes a lovely, warm glow. This new album is primarily aimed at the younger element and features choirs from a number of schools, mainly in the West Yorkshire area. Hats off to the engineers for masterly putting the whole thing together! John writes the songs that are catchy, yet easy for the children to both sing and understand. So it is with the opening track, 'God Is So Good'. Repetative? Yes, but John and his cast of hundreds give the song a real life and belief. The title track follows similar lines, "Haven't you heard about the good news?" for the most part, the songs are performed in a light pop/folk fashion, but on 'This Little Light of Mine', the muso's give it a ragtime feel, and the children, once again, come up trumps. Once or twice, John performs on his own, and the gentle 'I Will Not Hurry' works well, with some nice flute work thrown in, too. 'The King of Love' and 'I Know' are just two of the remaining songs that will have you smiling as you listen to this collection. It must have been hard work putting this album together but, let me tell you, it's been worth it. 9/10 (August 2009, Album of the Month)
JOHN FROUD : Time Added On. (www.johnfroud.com)
I had the privilege of seeing John Froud live a couple of years ago and I was struck by his gentle yet witty demeanour. It's a great platform for delivering some wonderfully poignant songs that are at times political, othertimes personal but never dull. But how does his live act translate onto a recording. The answer is very well but let me say this – if you're expecting a polished, slick, generic sounding album then prepare to be pleasantly disappointed. This is none of those and thank goodness it isn't! It has a raw, rootsy, live feel, well suited the Dylanesque blues sound that clearly influences John's work. There is a nice mix of original material and some very well interpreted covers. In the latter category you'll find a version of “River's of Babylon” made famous by Boney M – not that there is anything Boney M about it. This version is hauntingly atmospheric and perhaps rather more accurately conveys the meaning of Psalm from which the lyrics are drawn. Of the original pieces I particularly love the opener “You Don't Want to Do That” and the declaratory “Standing in Line”. A honourable mention also goes to the title track, the hook of which still sticks in my mind. There's a couple of places on the album where the instrumentation gets a little overpowering and there's the odd tuning issue, so it isn't perfect, but it is full of character and feeling and these characteristics make it a more than pleasurable listen. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (February 2012)
JOHN FROUD : Together. (www.johnfroud.com)
Just in case you need to know, John Froud is a singer/songwriter& evangelist director for the Zephaniah Trust. This former teacher works by day in schools, in the evenings plays for grown-ups and on Sundays leads worship usually at Shipley Baptist Church. Over this period of more than 20 years, he has penned many songs for worship. This album brings many of them together for the first time. With his band of friendly musicians and singers, the overall sound comes over as a live event. Many have written songs based on John 3:16, and ‘God So Loved’ is John’s attempt. It’s sung as a duet, but no direct credits are listed for each song. There’s a bluesy feel to ‘I Have Not Chosen You’, while ‘Together We Praise You’ reminded me of the early Beatles. It’s a simple, but appealing song, which I instantly liked. ‘Let Me Remember Always’ tells of what God has done in your life, and how His son was sacrificed. The lyrics are worthy of great praise, but I didn’t think that the actual song di them justice. John’s duet with the female vocalist on ‘For Me’ is quite lovely, and the flute on ‘Lord I Worship You’ is well produced. I chuckled a little when I heard the backing to ‘Oh, Sweet Jesus’. Why? Because it sounds uncannily like the theme tune of the TV series Happy Days! (Sorry John). Listening to these songs, you quickly understand why John’s music has been so popular in schools and churches alike. Quietly going about his ministry, this Cd celebrates the music and gives thanks for the countless people, young and old, that have been touched by John. 7/10. (May 2015)
JOHN FROUD & CATH FROUD : Froud and Daughter.   (Zephaniah Music, ZEPH 617.)
As far as I can tell this is John’s first recording since 2011’s excellent Time Added On and, in a departure from his usual solo billing, features his daughter, Cath Froud, as a guest vocalist. It’s as raw and rootsy as his previous offerings but is sparser and more stripped back than “Time Added On”. There’s the occasional electric and bass guitar, some lovely harmony backing vocals and of course, the aforementioned Cath, but for the most part it’s an acoustic guitar led album and is closer to what John produces in a live setting. Cath also gets a solo, vocals only track, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” which works well and is superbly executed thanks to her confident and rich alto voice. As usual, the songs are a combination of John Froud originals and covers that express what is on John’s heart. On here you’ll find songs by Bob Dylan (“Make You Feel My Love”), Billy Bragg (“Between The Wars”), Garth Hewitt (“Tell ‘Em About The Dream”) and a number of others. John’s a good writer, and his influences show through, so his own material holds its own well. My particular favourites from amongst the original material are “Nothing Left Out” and “Worth Every Tear”. Both songs, musically and lyrically, brilliantly capture what John is all about and, if you just had these two songs, you would understand the essence and nature of his ministry. It’s better than “Time Added On” in many respects – I think the simplicity helps in that – and one that I’ll be coming back to again.   9/10.   Robin Thompson. (July 2015)
JOHN HARDWICK : Bible Explosion. (ICC : ICCD655300
John Hardwick is part of the Children Worldwide Ministry and has produced many recordings, videos, and other media especially for young people. "Bible Explosion" concentrates on specific passages from the Bible and some of the songs here even include the verse reference. Take, for instance, "Do You Know" that includes the words "Look up John chapter 3, verse 16 and see", or the calypso sound of "He's a Rock" complete with the chorus "Look up chapter 32, verse 4 of Deuteronomy". I'm afraid it makes me cringe again just remembering listening to it - it's pretty corny to say the least. "Those Who Put Their Hope in God" was an improvement and has a typical kids' singalong chorus, and the celtic "Let the Little Children", does stand up in it's own right as a song. Not a patch on Captain Alan's release last month. 3/10. (December 2002)
JOHN MARK McMILLAN : Live at The Knight. (Jesus Culture : B002373600)
Here’s another artist who has sprung to prominence via the Jesus Culture Music stable, although it’s more than a decade since his debut recording. Jon comes from North Carolina and his most well known song, “How He Loves”, has been covered by a number of Christian artists. This live recording begins with wild, enthusiastic applause. He’s got a really good, engaging voice and one that I really enjoyed listening to. There’s almost a modern country feel about some of the songs, including “Borderland” and “Love At the End.” Both of these songs are fantastic in production with a wall of sound that I simply loved. A number of guest vocalists join John on stage, including Brian Torwalt on the medium paced “Death in His Grave.”. Track listing goes a little haywire as separate songs listed on the sleeve notes, actually combine with others on the CD. But, I think that it’s John’s wife, Sarah, who joins him for a powerful duet called “King of My Heart.” With it being a live recording, there’s room for John to talk in between songs and this helps stitch the different songs together with real meaning. Kim Walker Smith features on “Future/Past” and “How He Loves,” providing a great contrast between voices. It’s an appealing album that has some real high points and should introduce John to many new fans. 8/10. (April 2016)
JOHN MICHAEL TALBOT : Troubador For The Lord. (Sparrow : SPD1545)
This compilation has been put together to celebrate John's 20 years of music and ministry. 19 songs from his previous 16 releases, and I had never heard one of them. JMT presents simple worship songs with no frills. Opening with the gentle 'Come Worship the Lord', it drifts lovingly into the joyous 'Glory to God'. He's got a strong voice and it's one that seems to flow easily into every track. Strings and guitar are the main instruments on show, again , all carefully produced. My favourite track had to be 'Come Holy Spirit' with it's melodic tune and easy to pick up chorus. After listening to this album, I realised that there's been a gap in my music collection that has now been filled. 8/10. (February 1997)
JOHN NUTTALL : Heartsongs. (CD recording from : John Nuttall, 121 Castleton Road, Royton, Oldham, England, OL2 6UP, £10).
The obvious comparison when you first hear a male singer/songwriter of this kind is, of course, Martyn Joseph. There again, comparing john to Martyn Jospeh is a bit like saying that S Club 7 are as good as The Beatles! Who knows? In years to come we may well be eating our words but, for now, lets say that John Nuttall certainly has every chance of becoming as popular as Martyn is today. The songs are all (bar one) carefully crafted in a consistant way that obviously shows he has the right ingredients needed. "Deeper Is your Love" starts off the album and is, indeed, one the strongest tracks. It chugs along quite nicely and I soon found my foot tapping away to the beat. Then, it's basic piano accompaniment to "You Said It All" which, in my view should have come later in the listing. "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" reminded me of Adrian Snell, and I especially liked the love song to Jesus entitled "Hang on To You". There's some simple acoustic worship and then the out of place hymn "The Cross" but, as a grounding, John Nuttall is a name to remember for future. 8/10 (July 2001)
JOHN NUTTALL : Joining With the Angels. (CD: £5 from: 121 Castleton Road, Royston, Oldham, UK, OL2 6UP.)
It's more than 4 years since John's previous album, "Heartsongs", and I just wonder where he's been hiding himself? Since that debut, John's song writing has become smoother and more rounded, with the result that the finished product is well worth £5 of anyone's money. He opens with the African rhythms of "Come Let Us Worship Our God", and follows that with the title track. This song is so lovely and powerful, and reminded me so much of the quality of Fernando Ortega. Indeed, "Sovereign God" could have been written with Fernando in mind, it is just SO him. Rachel Kitchenside takes over the vocals for the summery "Morning Glory", but John's back to his best on "Fairest Lord Jesus". This is a beautifully crafted song, and you really do get the feeling that it's come straight from the heart of the writer. I thought that "You Are My Fortress" has the makings of a great congregational song, and "Come to Me" says everything about resting in the Father's love. The packaging is definitely low budget, but don't let that put you off sampling the delights of Mr Nuttall. 9/10. (December 2005)
JOHN NUTTALL : Father's Love. (john.nuttall3@ntlworld.com
Three years on from his last release, Oldham's John Nuttall returns to the music scene with a seven song offering. For a musician who doesn't play any concerts, God must certainly be at the centre of this Cd which has already sold in excess of 1800 copies in 18 different countries. Things begin with the delightful 'Welcome Home'. What a lovely, heart-warming song about the prodigal son. It's terrific. 'I Love You' sees John marry his acoustic guitar playing with some string sounds, while the song tells of God's unconditional love. Have you ever wondered what God actually sees in little old you? Well, just take a listen to the piano led 'I Delight in You', and let those magnificent wonders soothe and reassure you. There's almost a lullaby sound to the soft tones of 'You Are Beautiful', and John's vocals caress every word. The last track is an instrumental, highlighted by some thoughtful guitar. I've not felt this way about a CD for a long time, but I see it as a boon, especially, to those suffering or in despair. The Cd relays the promises of God's unfailing love through the songs of John Nuttall. 10/10. (November 2008, Album of the Month)
JOHN NUTTALL : Father's Love 2. (john.nuttall3@ntworld.com)
Since the release of Volume 1 of this series last year, John has sold literally thousands of copies of the CD, all over the world. This follow up simply does follow on, with more songs and music that portray the Father's Love for us all. As with the first volume, this one kick's off with a lovely song, 'Walking Together', about knowing God as number one in your life and the relationship that ensues. John, then, takes Matt Redman's 'The Father's Song' and gives it a very gentle, piano led, treatment. 'Wonderfully Made' sees Andy Green take over the vocals before John returns with 'I Love You'. If you've ever doubted just how much God does love you as an individual, then these two songs really say it all. And, if you find yourself going through tough times, there's no better reassurance that He is with you, when you listen to 'Try Running'. Musically, the songs are all very easy to listen to with guitars and keyboard leading the way. To close proceedings, John uses these instruments for two instrumental tracks of meditational music, which brings the CD to a close. With the overwhelming response to his first volume, John had the difficult task of writing to a very high standard. With God's blessing, John has done just that. 9/10 (July 2009)
JOHN NUTTALL : Father’s Love (The Book). (john.nuttall3@ntworld.com)
Following on from his successful privately released CD’s, Father’s Love 1&2, John Nuttall has put pen to paper and come up with a very readable book. Sometimes, we find it hard to accept God as our loving Father, especially when times are hard and our faith is being tested. Indeed, if one has never known a loving earthly father, or has been abused, it’s hard for us to enter a loving relationship with God the Father. John writes; “This book is about Jesus’ Father. When we believe in Jesus, receive Him and submit to Him we are born of God and He becomes our heavenly Father. So this book is a celebration of God as my wonderful Father”. In his own words, John looks at Bible verses and opens them up into simple, understandable words that we can all adhere to. He uses his own songwords and poems as examples of just how much God wants to be close to us, and be that loving Father. Once I picked up the book and began to read it, I found it hard to put down. It made me think hard about my own relationship with God, and how He is always there, even when we forget about Him. ‘Father’s love’ is one of the easiest books to read, yet so valuable. 8/10 (March 2011)
JOHN NUTTALL : Jesus Beautiful Name. (www.john-nuttall.bandcamp.com)
John Nuttall is one of those UK singer/songwriters who quietly ministers to thousands through his music, yet fails to be picked up by the main CCM market. For this new eight track CD, John has gathered some fine musicians around him, including Dan Wheeler and Mike Haughton. Now, on his previous albums, John’s opening tune has always been very catchy, and that’s just the case again, this time. ‘Such Love of Jesus’ is one of those tunes that stays in your head for ages, and focuses on – I suppose – what we all would like to say to God. ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus’ contains some great guitar playing, and the added brass sounds give the song a Latin feel. If you’ve ever wanted a song to encourage someone to seek Jesus, then look no further than ‘Come, See Jesus’. It’s well sung, with John’s warm vocals enticing the listener. For those of you who are not familiar with John’s work, then its predominantly “easy listening”. But, within each tune, John cleverly weaves scriptures and gospel truths with ease and simplicity. ‘Jesus Your Presence’ is what I call a typical John song. It’s especially good, just to soak in the music and let God fill you with his presence. It’s a lovely mini album and should result in many blessings for both John and his listeners. 9/10. (July 2012)
JOHN NUTTALL : Songs of Sons and Daughters. (john.nuttall3@ntlworld.com)
I’ve such a lot of respect for this man’s music ministry. Quietly going about his business, John’s CD’s and books have found their way into homes, all around the world. This new CD/DVD package offers something a little different, in that john has collected a troop of other musicians around him. John says that he; “Felt inspired and led to do an album that was going to be a CD that would be with friends and musicians who would come to my home and do it in day. So this is live recording with one practice.” I reviewed a similar album by United Persuit, a few months ago, and it failed to move me into any sort of worship. This 8 track Cd, on the other hand, had me feeling that I was part of the recording, and worshipping together, through the music. I particularly liked the folky element of ‘We Are Your Sons’, a song that I’ve played a few times on its own. There’s a deep feeling of adoration on ‘Father Let My Arms Be Your Arms’, before the melodic tune evolves into a boogie woogie version of ‘Praise Him’. The songs are all easy listening, in style, and John’s warm vocals are easy on the ear. I wasn’t so keen on ‘Our Father’. Here, John uses the words of the Lord’s Prayer’ and I’m not sure that it really works. On the other hand, the reggae based ‘I Am Your Treasure’ is based around John 3:16, and is cleverly produced. God’s love for His children is the theme for ‘I Can Be a Little Child’. Here, John is backed by little more than a piano, and its simplicity is pure joy. The last two tracks are little more than instrumentals, with a few spoken phrases. ‘I’m Your Favourite Place to Be’ centres around God’s love for us, and the music is perfect for wallowing in that love. Meanwhile, ‘Abba Father’ answers the previous track, with our own response. Only one rehearsal? You’d never know. A lovely recording. 9/10. Editor’s Note: Have a sneak view of the DVD at www.youtube.com/johnnuttallmusic (February 2015)
JOHN PANTRY : God Of The Empty Space (Kingsway : KMCD2986)
John Pantry has been in & around the music business for well over 30 years in various guises, from recording engineer on albums from the likes of the Bee Gees & Manfred Mann to writing & recording his own material beginning in 1978. As if that were not enough, he's also an ordained minister & radio presenter for Premier Christian Radio…where does he find the time?! God Of The Empty Space is his first release for almost 10 years & is billed as "modern day common prayers for congregations & choirs", comprising 17 songs; some original & others giving a more contemporary slant to the traditional Anglican communion liturgy. Contemporary this may well be when you compare it to traditional church music, but cutting edge it certainly is not which can be seen from the outset. The rhythms & refrains accompanied by positively ancient synth sounds in 'Sunrise to Sunset' the opening track sets the musical style back to stuff you would have expected to find in the CCM material of 20+ years ago. The dating is also very noticeable on others such as the title track 'God Of The Empty Space' with guitar sounds from way back making for a slightly "cringey" listening experience. However what this CD does do very well is kick a bit of life into traditional liturgy which is not an easy job, as many of us raised as Anglicans will know all too well! I often used to find that some of the joyful praising content in parts such as the 'Gloria' sounded more like funereal dirges which never sat comfortably with me! The liturgical character is still retained but it is lifted by some more lively arrangements & some very well executed choral vocals including a great mix of harmonies. The liturgical re-workings for me worked far better than the completely original material on the CD. I can see this offering being a great success as a tool for providing alternative worship expressions in more traditional churches rather than an all-out listening experience. 6/10 Simon Redfern (July 2009)
JOHN REUBAN : The Boy vs The Cynic (Gotee Records / Kingsway GTD72947)
Looking into who John Reuben is I discovered this is his 5th Album, although listening to it you wouldn't think so! The CD cover is deceptive & leads you to expect a very deep & soulful "intellectual" rock album, but once you listen it begins to fall apart. John tries to fuse some energetic rock with heavyweight rap vocals which is a very difficult concept to pull off. I've only ever heard "Band With No Name" do this & they were excellent: this on the other hand is appalling. The music is very poor in terms of composition & production is low quality. Unfortunately, I cannot even say the lyrics were the saving grace - not inspired. One song claims the "Good 'ol US of A" is Jesus' favourite place on earth…the jury's still out there. If you like rap, buy Band With No Name or WW Message Tribe - don't waste your cash on this, even as a coffee mat. 0/10 - dreadful. Simon Redfern (November 2005)
JOHN SCHLITT : The Christmas Project. (www.schlittshop.com)
So, take some well-known Christmas songs, let an equally renowned Christian rock singer loose on them and what do you get? You get this – a unique, superbly crafted and thoroughly enjoyable Christmas album and more than that, a thoroughly enjoyable rock album. Here, John Schlitt, formally of the very successful Christian rock outfit, Petra subverts the Christmas album genre and produces 10 tracks of sublime quality and exuberance. The opener, “Hallelujah Chorus” is a no holds barred, full-on, heavy rock take on the Handel classic and features some truly amazing vocal work from Schlitt. This is followed up by the bluesy guitar driven “Do You Hear What I hear?” It must be said that these songs are more than just the standard songs with a few overdriven guitars added, they are original arrangements full of rock overtones, chordal structures and harmonics. Credit for these goes to Dan Needham who also plays drums on the album. There is also a song written by Schlitt himself, “What Christmas Needs To Be”, a ballad but not remotely cloying, instead well-crafted with a strong melody and a good sentiment. This is the Christmas album I’ve been waiting for. More than that it’s the Christian album I’ve been waiting for. With this, Schlitt joins the likes of Jars of Clay and the Paul Poulton Project by being both bold and creative with their Christmas offerings. This is a truly original, musically brilliant and totally inspirational album from a Christian rock veteran who hasn’t lost it one bit. A must have. 10/10 Robin Thompson. (December 2013, Album of the Month)
JOHN SCLITT : The Christmas Project. (Elevate Entertainment: www.schlittshop.com)
When this album was released in digital form last year, NFN reviewer, Robin Thompson called it a “unique, superbly crafted and thoroughly enjoyable Christmas album”. He gave it a massive 10/10 rating, as it became our album of the month. One year on, and the album has now been released in CD format, so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. In typical Schlitt style, the singer opens with the rock orientated ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. How on earth he manages to hit those high notes, is beyond me! It’s a taste of things to come, as the singer rocks his way through well known Christmas classics. ‘Little Drummer Boy’ has been sung by many big stars but, here, John Schlitt makes it his own, with soaring vocals and excellent orchestration. ‘O Holy Night’ is about as sweet as Schlitt gets with, again, some lovely orchestral production. Despite me knowing most of the songs so well, Schlitt manages to make them sound new, whilst keeping the magic of the festive season. ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ is so different to the version we all know, but somehow, it just seems right! I dare anyone, not to find themselves joining in with ‘Good Christian Men Rejoice’. It just grabs you, and makes you want to sing along. I wasn’t so keen on ‘We Three Kings’ but if you want a new original song to sing this festive season, then look no further than ‘What Christmas Needs’. It’s not full blown rock but, it’s a great song and one that needs to be heard across radio stations this December. If you didn’t get this album last year, make sure you do now. 10/10. (December 2014)
JOHN WALLER : The Blessing. (Reunion : 02341-0118-2)
Some of you may remember the band According to John, who released a couple of albums either side of the millennium. Well, fronting the group was none other than John Waller who, after the group's demise, found himself working as the worship pastor of a church in Colorado. A few years on, and he's back on the record scene with a debut album lending much to the style of Jeremy Camp's adult rock music. Listening, it really took me a few plays before some of the song began to stick in my mind. I think that most of the listing is quite ordinary, but the album does have it's purple patch mid-way. "Calling For A Flood" and "Identity" have their moments, and there's a great telling of the story between God, the Father and one of His children on "Still Calls Me Son". "Breathe on Me" is a song that builds with real power while "Love To Say Your Name" just marvels at the many names that God is known as throughout the world. John certainly has a good voice but I feel that the best is yet to come as far as his song writing goes. 6/10. (July 2007)
JOHNNY CASH : My Mother's Hymn Book. American Recordings : FIERCD08
Born in 1932, Johnny Cash's massive influence upon country and popular music began with his first release in 1954, and continues to this day. His fourth chart single 'I Walk the Line' went to the top of the Billboard charts, remained on that chart for 43 weeks and ultimately sold over 2 million copies. By the mid-sixties his life had been marred by personal troubles and drug addiction, but he emerged from this and went on to marry his singing partner June Carter. His last three albums gained Grammy awards. The album we have here was recorded shortly after June died in May 2003 and only weeks before he himself passed away, in the September of that year. It consists of Johnny delivering fifteen hymns that he recalls his mother singing, accompanied only by his guitar. I have to say that I have never quite understood Johnny's appeal, and this album does nothing to change my mind. The fifteen songs are delivered in the usual slightly tuneless world-weary Cash voice, particularly exposed in such a stripped-down setting. The singing voices of 71 year olds tend to be past their peak of course(!) and it is to his credit that Johnny's sounds much like it always has. Given titles such as 'I shall not be moved', 'When the roll is called is called up yonder' and 'In the sweet by and by', you will know what to expect. If pushed for a 'stand out' track I'd probably go for 'Softly and Tenderly'. As a poignant keepsake for family, friends and die-hard fans then, a nice closing chapter to a tumultuous life. For the rest of us, 4/10 Dave Deeks. (October 2006)
JOHNNY MARKIN : See With Your Eyes. (ICC : 17730).
"This is an attempt to capture the natural and simple atmosphere of worship", so says Johnny in the sleeve notes. Indeed, this is exactly what he does. This is a brave step forward from his previous rockin' release of a year or so ago. From the moment he opens with the 'up and at 'em' 'I'll Stand', you know that you are in the company of someone with worship at his heart. His vocals are strong and, when needed, also sweet - especially on duets with Jo Holland. 'Make My Heart' is a highlight on the album, as is the closing 'Jesus, You Are My Only Destiny'. Didn't enjoy the 'Deep Calls to Deep', nor the sudden ends to some of the songs but, if you like the Noel Richards' type of music, you'll like this. 8/10. (January 1997)
JON BAMFORTH & MIKE KIRK : Refiner's Fire. (Private Recording.:CD £11.30 / Cass £8.30 from : Promit Ltd, 40 Ringwood, Peterborough, PE3 9SH.)
This album took me quite some time to appreciate and I literally had to ask the Lord to open my eyes to it's power. Refiner's Fire is a musical meditation on Hebrews Chapter 12, for the thoughtful individual to truly worship God. Jon, Mike and friends use over 25 different songs to aid impact of the message. The music itself has it's good and bad moments - the latter is shown on the rendition of "Be Bold" with some very weak guitar playing. At it's best, there's some very reflective keyboard on the "Prayer of Response" and the overall craft on "Prayer of Adoration" only makes you wonder why the aforementioned guitar was so poor! Great calypso feel to "When I Remember" and more meditational keyboards to "Here I Am". It's not an album that you would put on to simply enjoy, but for personal worship, anointing, and meditation, Refiner's Fire will inspire many. 8/10. (August 1997)
JON FOREMAN : Fall and Winter. (Credential Recordings : 5699951615125)
This is a double album, the first disk being entitled "Fall", and the other one "Winter". I wonder if we can expect Spring and Summer next then. Despite being a double CD there are only six tracks on each disk so it's not really any longer than a single CD. I really can't make my mind up about this CD at all. I can't decide whether I like it or not, it's not exactly what you'd call easy listening. It's very much an acoustic guitar led album, with only a few tracks featuring any more instruments. It has a kind off jazz feel to it I guess, but it's quite difficult deciding where to place it. There is a strong hint of Coldplay about a lot of the songs on here, mainly due to the vocals I think. The lyrics are quite dark in places, and I'm not sure that many of the songs will be appreciated by anyone who is not familiar with the issues contained within them, the words are obviously written from the heart though. Personally found it a bit depressing in places, but there are a couple of more straightforward worship songs towards the end which were a bit lighter. I should add that Jon Foreman is the singer from Switchfoot, so this will appeal to fans of theirs I should think, but I think it's a bit of a mixed bag, and I'm not sure exactly what mood I would find myself in before I'd want to listen to it. 6/10 Andy Sayner (June 2008)
JON FOREMAN : Spring & Summer. (Credential : 305925)
It was a few months back, when John Foreman released his 'Fall/Winter' project - two six-track EP's reflecting on the quieter side of Switchfoot's front-man. This is the concluding part, carrying on his simple approach, said to contain lyrics of personal revelation and alarming honesty. Well, it all may have seemed like a good idea, but this collection of songs flounder like a beached whale. On the whole I found the songs to be very depressing - more in the style of Leonard Cohen. At times, they sound like poetry put to music, rather than songs. 'Love Isn't Made' is just plain dreary, while 'In My Arms' shuffles along with John's whispering vocals becoming irritatingly hard to hear. 'Resurrect Me' is the best song by miles. It has all the makings of being really something specials, with the right production. Arrangements take on an international flavour at times, lie the mariachi horns on 'A Mirror is Harder to Hold' and the Japanese koto on 'Again'. What John Foreman was trying to accomplish with this release is anyone's guess. If it was an experiment, it's failed miserably. 2/10. (October 2008)
JON FOREMAN : Limbs and Branches : (lowercase people : 5099922651723)
As many readers will know, San Diego-based Jon Foreman is the frontman and songwriter for alt rock band Switchfoot. In 2007 and 2008 he issued four solo cd eps entitled 'Spring', 'Summer', 'Fall' and 'Winter'. 'Limbs and branches' is his first full-length album, consisting of tracks from the four eps. In solo mode Jon delivers singer-songwriter folk rock tunes that gave me glimpses of artists such as Scott Matthews, Nick Drake, Marc Cohn, and Jeff Black. He is still very much his own man however, and with the considerable benefit of Charlie Peacock in the producer's chair here we have individual and original music featuring excellent 'rough-edged' vocals, good melodies, strong hooks, and well-written grown-up lyrics. The only Switchfoot member whose name appears on the credits is Jerome Fontamillas (on piano and synth strings) but Jon is supported by a wide range of other musicians on instruments such as cello, brass and woodwind - and also the instantly recognisable vocals of Sarah Masen on 'House of God, Forever' (Jon's take on Psalm 23). It is difficult to select stand-out tracks because the quality is consistently high - but if pushed I would go for 'Your love is strong' (based upon the Lord's prayer) and 'Instead of a show' (a powerful cry against hypocrisy amongst Christians). It is a pity that printed lyrics are not included - although they are available at www.jonforeman.com. Altogether, this is a first-class cd that bears repeated playings and is the best ccm release to come my way in a while. 10/10. Dave Deeks (June 2009, Album of the Month)
JONATHAN BUTLER : Surrender. (Warner Bros)
This is one of the most exquisite jazz albums I have ever heard; kind of Stevie Wonder meets Robert Cray with God right through the centre and a touch of R n B in the middle.I f you think jazz is for old men and not your scene, get into this! The production by the man himself ably assisted by Paul Brown is so polished the CD could slip out of the tray. Do yourself a favour, get into this album and find a new meaning to Christianity at the same time. There is one track called 'take me back' - we've all strayed and yearned for the love of God to enfold us and welcome us back - buy it - you won't regret it! Graham Taylor. 8/10. (December 2002)
JONATHAN SHELTON : Provision of Heaven. (CD from )jonathanshelton78@hotmail.com
Jonathan Shelton is a new name to the world of Christian music, and this debut album has been released independently. All songs feature the piano playing of Seth Partridge Underwood and very little else in the way of backing. That said, there is an annoying guitar that appears every now and again such as on the song "Amazing". With that in mind, the limited backing does tend to make the songs sound a tad similar to each other despite Jonathan's best vocal efforts. It's an album of simple praise and worship but there are quite a few highpoints on the journey. "More Than words Can Say" and "Breathless" are just two of the fine songs on display, while "Thankful Heart" is another. Indeed, the latter contains some really nice harmonies. On the downside, weaker songs like "I Stand" and the repetitive "Without You" detract somewhat from the potential of the rest of the album. It would nice to hear what Jonathan and co writer Seth could do with their songs given a larger budget and full band to work with. Certainly, there's a lot to build on here. 7/10. (October 2005)
JONATHAN SHELTON : The Secret Is Jesus. (jonathansheltonmusic@gmail.com)
I remember hearing Jonathan sing at an event a couple of years ago, and was impressed with his vocal range. He’d certainly improved on his 2005 debut release ‘Provision of Heaven’. Now, he has released this 12 track CD of original songs with the help of Mickey Simmonds, who provides arrangements and production. The opening song, ‘Listen’, starts with a church organ sound, that leads into a beautiful verse and a magnificent pop chorus, in a Phil Whickham sort of way. Next, comes the rocky beat if ‘Let Your Presence Fall’, complete with excellent orchestral sounds and anthemic chorus. And, just when you think that it can’t get any better, Jonathan becomes Michael W Smith on a medium paced, OTT production called ‘As Long As You Are Here’. It’s a brilliant vocal performance and one that Smitty himself would have been proud of. After these terrific songs, the pace slows down, as praise and worship becomes the theme of the remaining tracks. ‘Unbroken Love’, ‘I Long to See Jesus’ and ‘River’ are just three of the highlights. On ‘Revere Him’, Jonathan duets with Temi Ayeni. It’s a song about never letting God go from your life, and sounds very much like a film score. My only minor moan, was that the later track listing didn’t have another faster paced song. But, that may just be a personal thing. On the whole, Jonathan should be well pleased with this album, and should see many doors open for his ministry. 9/10. (January 2013, Album of the Month)
JONATHAN SHELTON : Arrival. (N2K Records : N2K9680)
The UK Christian music scene may not have the number of big household names as the US, but we do have so many excellent independent artists, making some inspiring music. As a follow up to his 2013 release, Jonathan Shelton provides enough moves on this new album to make you wonder just what he would do with major record company backing and a professional producer? That’s not taking away anything from Mickey Simmonds, who’s produced this release, but there lies limitations in having a small budget to work with. I previously likened Jonathan’s style to that of Michael W.Smith, and I see no reason to change that view now. He shows all the vocal traits of a class performer, and opens things up with the title track. It doesn’t possess the strongest of verses, but the chorus really lifts it in quality. There’s some great chorale backing on “Holy Almighty”, while “And You Will Be Our God” is simply joyous. I had to smile at “Nothing Compares” as it sounds like a typical boyband hit. It’s well written and has a catchy tune, too. Lyrically, everything is fine and the expected focus on God and Jesus comes as no surprise. If I had to choose a favourite song, it would be “Mirror”. As a standalone track, it’s a fine pop song and should get plenty of airplay. Jonathan obviously has a passion and a great gift for writing these type of songs and they really deserve to be heard by a wider audience. Proving what great music can be produced independently, this is a great album. 9/10. (January 2016)
JONATHAN VEIRA : Rhythms of the Heart. (ICC : ICCD72730)
Internationally acclaimed as a bass baritone opera singer, Jonathan Veira has proved just as popular as he tours his one man show around the world. Once you hear his voice, you're instantly aware of it's sheer quality and power. However, he also has the technique to make it as gentle as a soft breeze, floating through a summer's day - it's so smooth. The songs on this album are of high's and lows. "Touch the Flame" and "The Father's Song" are both very pleasant and calming. The bluesy "Wayfaring Stranger" sounds too much like a cheap lounge singer and really does this man no favours at all. "Empty Page" is a nice ballad, and I especially liked the simply written "Lord HaveMercy". It's one of those albums to relax to and, possibly, meditate. Very nice. 8/10. (July 2003)
JONATHAN VEIRA : An Audience with.... (ICC : ICC0889A)
Recorded in January of this year, in front of a sell out audience, this DVD gives the viewer a taste of that evening. Acclaimed internationally as a bass baritone singer, Jonathan has released several albums of Christian songs, and is a regular guest on BBC Songs of Praise. This one man show, gives Jonathan the chance not only to flex those baritone muscles, but also to weave his humourous stories within. The songs feature various operatic numbers such as "Me Voglio Fa'Na Casa" but there's also plenty of more well known tunes such as "Mona Lisa", "Old Man River" and "My Funny Valentine". Jonathan takes other songs like Elton John's "Your Song" and Billy Joel's "Piano Man", and gives them his own treatment, not merely being content of a straight copy. I found the whole "evening" to be well produced and it was obvious that the audience loved every minute of it. It's nice to see ICC promoting such a show in this way, and I hope it finds it's niche in the UK market place. 7/10. (November 2005)
JONATHAN VEIRA : Pilgrim. (ICC : ICC1167D)
Some of you may be more familiar with Jonathan's altar ego, as a bass-baritone famed for his comic operatic roles. Others may have seen his one-man show at Spring Harvest but both represent a snapshot of his amazing versatility. This album, is not opera, but a collection of more contemporary style material, not entirely dissimilar in feel to Tom Jones. It's a collection of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual songs ranging from Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" to the traditional "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me". The latter song has a blues/country feel, due in part to the slide dobro from Bryn Howarth although I would say that the overall feel of the album is soul. There are a number of opera artists that venture into pop music (remember Russell Watson's Enterprise theme tune?) and Jonathan does it no less successfully. At the end of the day, Jonathan is an all round entertainer - just view the video clips on his website - and his desire to cross genres is refreshing. 8/10 (May 2008)
JONATHAN VEIRA : Travelling Songs. Elevation : ELE1593D)
Over the last few years, I’ve become quite a fan of Jonathan’s albums. His easy listening style and wonderfully warm tenor vocals have always brought a freshness to the songs he has performed. For this new release, he turns to gospel songs, and I’m not sure that they really work. In Ron Kenoly style, Jonathan kicks off with the Dottie Rambo number ‘I Go to theRock’. He tries his best but, somehow, Jonathan sounds as if he’s not really at ease with the upbeat tempo of the song. The format is also repeated on ‘Oh Happy Day’ and I was left wondering what must he of been thinking of to record something so different to his previous albums? The slower pace of ‘Swing Low’ does see his warmth shine through, and I enjoyed the sax break on the bluesy ‘How Sweet It Is’. Van Morrison’s ‘Whenever God Shines His Light’ is a catchy song, but it’s on ‘O Sinner Man’ and ‘Do Lord’, when Jonathan’s vocal prowess really comes to the fore. It was maybe a good idea to try something a little different, but I’m not sure it’s worked. 5/10 (December 2011)
JONATHAN VEIRA : The Early Years. (Elevation : ELE2004D)
This 4 CD collection is tribute to the popularity of Jonathan Veira, that has risen sharply over the last few years. It covers his album releases from 2001’s “Life & Soul” through to “Pilgrim”, which was released in 2008. I first heard of him with the release of “Rhythms of The Heart”, and was instantly hooked by his was operatic bass tenor vocals. Hearing it again, I still wasn’t too keen on the blues gospel sound of ‘Wayfairing’, but songs like ‘Child’ and the gentle ‘The Day Thou Gavest’, are superb. From the ‘Life & Soul’ album there’s a song called ‘You Put This Love’ which is a dead ringer for Elton john and Kiki Dee’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. Give it a play and you’ll instantly see what I mean. There’s also a nice and slow version of ‘Jesus Loves Me’, with the added bonus of some nice saxophone playing. From ‘All That Matters’, my favourite track has to be ‘Only A Dream’. It’s a great song and contains some guitar playing that sounds like Brian May, but belongs to Neil Costello. Perhaps listening to all four albums, one after the other was a bit over the top, but I can’t help but enjoy Jonathan’s delivery. From the most recent album, ‘Pilgrim’, perhaps his version of “What A Wonderful World’ shines out from the crowd, as something rather special. If you’ve already got these albums, you’ll know exactly what I’ve been saying. On the other hand, if you’re a relatively new fan of Jonathan’s, why not take the chance to catch up on some classic fayre, at a great price. 8/10. (July 2014)
JONATHAN VEIRA : It Is Well.   (Elevation : ELE2107D)
Can it really be some 13 years since I first reviewed a Jonathan Veira album? Since then, he’s become a firm favourite of mine, as well as countless others. As soon as you hear his unmistakable, warm, tenor vocals, you feel as if you’re in the company of an old friend. From the opening “In Christ Alone” to the closing “Take My Life”, Jonathan takes you on an easy listening ride of some fabulous songs. Many artists have covered “Wind Beneath My Wings” but very few match the richness of this version. There’s a simple acoustic guitar led backing to “It Is Well With My Soul”, while Jonathan gently caresses each word on “Stars.” The Carol King classic “You’ve Got A Friend” gets a loving outing, as does one of the most popular praise and worship songs of the last 18 months, “Oceans.” It’s a lovely album that captures the smoothness of Jonathan’s delivery and the reason why his live show continue to prove so popular.   8/10. (February 2016)
Jools Holland and Ruby Turner and the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. : Jools and Ruby. (EastWest : 825646862993)
I’m writing this just a few days shy of New Year and of course, it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without Jools Holland’s legendary Hootenanny. Regular viewers of the programme and/or “Later…with Jools Holland” will be familiar with his regular performances with Ruby Turner, one of Britain’s best, if not the best, female black gospel and soul singers. Jools and Ruby have been performing together for some time but this is their first collaborative recording and the expected elements are there, from Jools famous boogie-woogie piano playing to Ruby’s lush and rich vocals. Ruby takes American Black Gospel and re-invents it in a British style – less flamboyant and more disciplined and as a result, to my English ears at least, far more listenable and enjoyable. There are some strong gospel elements, from the opening track “Peace in the Valley” to the closer “Precious Lord”, but there are some plain blues numbers too, such as “Role out of this Hole” and “My Country Man”. I’m a particular fan of “This Train” both lyrically and musically, and the arrangement is particularly suited to the song (it sounds like a train speeding up and slowing down - not completely original but done very effectively in this instance). In short this is two excellent musicians at the top of their game producing some excellent music and that is always a good recipe for a winning album. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (January 2016)
JOSH BATES : Perfect Day. (Reunion : 02341-0097-2)
Well, what can I tell you about Josh Bates? Absolutely nothing is the answer. No press release, and a website that seems to be offline each time I try and reach it. So, what about his music? Well, it's an album that my wife said was "cheerful and modern". He's not as delicate a singer as say, Chris Rice, but more in the mould of Clay Cross, and to that end he has a strong, powerful voice. The opening three or four songs were fairly ordinary, as Josh sung about the return of Jesus, and eternal life. Then comes the purple patch of the album. "Never Give Up on Me" is a great, thoughtfully sung song that I'll certainly be playing on radio. "There is None Like You" and Walking Through the Fire" are almost as good and by this time, you really get the feeling that Josh has real belief in his songs. Another top song is "You Say Come", which sings about God giving you strength when you feel all is lost. It's one of those albums that seems to grow on you and therefore, at the moment, its an 8/10. (March 2006)
JOSH GROBAN : Illuminations. (Reprise Records : 093624964964)
Los Angeles born Josh Groban is without doubt a hugely successful artist, with his 1st 4 solo albums going at least multi-platinum & having sold over 24 million albums worldwide. Not bad going for someone who's even younger than me! For those unfamiliar with Groban's work outside the US, you may have heard his voice featuring in a number of film soundtracks including Troy (Remember Me) & Polar Express (Believe), has been a stand in for Andrea Bocelli as well as having appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks - a personal favorite of mine. As you may have gathered from the mention of Bocelli's name, Groban's style certainly leans more towards the classical genre but not so much so that it could put off a mass audience. Illuminations is his latest release featuring songs which (as he puts it) are about "specific situations where love has existed & ultimately failed". His vocal tones are refined & can be reminiscent of Bocelli or even Michael Ball…depends on which song you're listening to at the time. The CD kicks of with an instrumental prelude called "The Wandering Kind" which wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Enya album with its Celtic overtones. "The Bells of New York City" has a slightly Christmassy air to it - you could just imagine a video to this with falling snow, empty streets, etc. Other songs such as "Love Only Knows" could have jumped straight out of a major musical (albeit a rather serious one) akin to Les Miserables - a quality song but not one for just casual listening as the lyrics need to be taken in to grasp the song as a whole. There's the odd slightly more lively track - "Voce Existe Em Mim" is one rather good example, although don't ask me what it's about! If you're looking for direct spiritual content in a CD, this one maybe isn't for you…more a few light inferences than anything. However if you like a classical bias & like to take in lyrics (made all the easier by the top-notch musical production & superb vocals from the man himself), this could be just the thing to light your fire. Also a good one to play quietly in the background to 'enhance the romance' as it were! All said a CD that's hard to fault musically but one you'd really have to be in the mood to listen to. 9/10 Simon Redfern (September 2011)
JOSH JACKSON : Challenge Point. (Josh Jackson-Sponge Productions, 4432 Sears Road, Pegram, TN 37143, USA)
Challenge Point is a ministry focused on helping individuals and groups discover the potential God has placed within them. Josh Jackson's musical gift is one example of the talent that can be used to the glory of God when individuals take courage and walk in faith. "Oh wow, is that Matchbox 20?", asked a passing work colleague, obviously impressed. "No", I replied. "Quite good though, isn't it?". The songs are all acoustic guitar driven, with Josh's endearing vocals shining through each one. "Till Tomorrow", "Road Called Life", and "One More Day" are all bright, choppy numbers that make an instant impression on the listener. "I Still remember" is quieter and a more reflective number, focussing on days gone by. "My Father's House" and "You Gotta" are just two more catchy songs that had me tapping my feet and wishing that there was more than just the mere 35 minutes. There is a dip in musically quality when "Rhythm Sine"'s retro rock - complete with overdriven guitar & keyboards - just doesn't work. Likewise, "Take Me Along", but that doesn't stop this album from being a refreshing change from all the usual radio fodder. 8/10. (August 2000)
THE JOY BRIGADE : Counting Days. (www.7coremusic.com)
The band formed in 2001, shortly after Adrian Thompson’s previous band, Split Level, had decided to call it a day. Over the next two years, they played various shows in the UK, Germany and Sweden before disappearing. Originally recorded live onto two inch tape, these tracks have now been released by former band member, Trevor Michael, on his 7Coremusic label. Now, as a great fan of the late Split Level, I found these tracks to be very reminiscent of the iconic band. Thompson’s vocals still ring out with all the passion that I remember, and The Joy Brigade’s demise is a sad loss. The title track is pure guitar driven pop/rock, and would make a sure fire hit single. ‘Salt Water’ and ‘Talk Show’ are more medium paced, but the quality of the band still remains. The closing track, ‘Simpler’ tells us to “stand where the light shines brighter than the sun”. It’s another rocky affair, and one that I played instantly again. The sound is raw. There have been no overdubs, no fixes, but that’s what makes it so good. 9/10 (April 2012)
JOY ELECTRIC : Robot Rock. (BEC/Alliance : BEC84).
Imagine that you were placed in a time capsule during the mid - 70's, when PC's were practically unheard of, and Moog synthesizers were THE toy of the day. Well, I think that's just what happened to Jeff Cloud and Ronnie Marrtin, aka Joy Electric. No samplers, no computers, and no drum machines as they release an album of 10, sometimes, strange songs that, in total, last a little over thirty minutes. The opening number is called "Sugar Rush" and I sat in disbelief, staring at what was coming out of my stereo. "I Get a sugar rush, thinking of you too much", sang to the sounds I'd long since forgotten. I couldn't believe it, this was brilliant. It was as if Kraftwerk & Gary Numan had been re-born. "Joy Electric Land" is another chirpy number that sounds like the backing has been provided by a Space Invaders game. Put a drum machine to "The Berry Patch" and it sounds similar to a Pet Shop Boys single, and "Strawberry Heart" is just plain infectious. A couple of droning numbers lowered the tone and I just wonder how long the appeal of the album will be. At the moment, however, I'll play it again. 8/10. (April 1998)
JOY WILLIAMS : Every Moment - The Best of... (Reunion : 602341011426)
This album covers Joy's 7 year recording history and gives a chance for new fans to find out all about her music. There's even a new song to open things up called "Any More Sure". It's a very attack minded vocal delivery and instantly reminded me of a Rebecca St James number. Indeed,, I thought the same with the track "We", also. "Hide" is a good song. It says that no matter what life throws your way, you don't have to face it alone. The message is, "Don't Hide". Mid-album, things go a little flat and her vocals are quite weak on the ballad "I Believe in You". There again, the next song has Joy at her best. "Here With Us" is strongly sung and remains my favourite track on the album. Not the best compilation album but it does have it's moments. 6/10. (March 2007)
JOYCE, KAREN & SHERI : Best of Friends. (Spring Hill)
Joyce Martin, Karen Peck and Sheri Easter have many things in common. Their careers as vocalists, their roles as wives and mothers, and their gospel music heritage being just three. Did I mention that they're also the best of friends? This album brings these friends together for the first time, and the wait has well been worthwhile. The quality of the songs, the music, and most importantly, the lyrics is just of the finest order. Take the foot stompin' "Chains Gone, Set Free". It's a great celebration of the time when the angels in heaven party at the announcement of another soul set free from sin. Then there's the piano ballad of "You Give", praising a Lord that never stops giving. I really enjoyed listening to this album and couldn't wait to play it again. "I'm A Mom" , "It's All About You" and "High Road" would stand out on any album. They are so good. Of course, I didn't reckon the closing "If She Could" and "I'll Leave the Light On". The former tells of an old lady in her final years, maybe not as sharpe as she once was, but still sure in the Lord. The second is the most moving song I've heard this year. If you want to know what a real friend should be like, listen to this. As much as I love the country music of Faith Hill and Shania Twain, this Cd is just so much better. 10/10. (June 2003, Album of the Month)
JR : Life By Stereo. (Provident/Integrity : 8-81413-00312-9)
One thing that struck me about this album on it's first listen was just how "pro-life" the lyrics were. Compared to those in the secular marketplace of a similar genre, these were inspiring. The sounds fuse urban gospel, contemporary R&B and pop by this artist who is the familiar voice behind numerous hooks on Cross Movement Records projects. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of songs on the album that I actually liked. After all, I'm not known for my love of this type of music! But, comparing them to UK chart material of a similar sound, I'd say that this stands up very well. At times, I thought that JR's sound was reminiscent of DC Talk from their glory days - especially on songs like 'Intro' and 'We Need You'. "Jesus Saves" is the message behind 'Not a Slave', and looking at how Jesus can change your life is the story behind 'OK'. The album also features guest appearances by Da T.R.U.T.H and Flame, and I can highly recommend this for lovers of this genre. 8/10. (March 2008)
JUDY BAILEY : Misdemeanours After Midnight. (Pila : 272322).
Working with the likes of Steve Thompson in the London area, Judy was a well known singer who had already made quite a splash in both Europe and her native Barbados. This release was supposed to launch her British career, with a sound that was somewhere between Joan Armatrading and Sade. The Caribbean roots can be heard on the calypso inspired "Can't Take It Anymore", while there's a touch of reggae on "Hidden". Judy, herself, has deep, dusky vocals and they fit well on all the tracks. Most of these are quite lightweight but are still very attractive. However, on "Vertigo", she really lets her hair down and comes up with a good rocker. There's great guitar work here and it's, probably, the best track. Judy attempts to tackle various social issues in her lyrics and, on the whole, it works. Five years on, the album still sounds fresh but, where is she now? 7/10. (July 1998, Released 1993)
JUDY BAILEY : Run To You. (www.judybailey.com)
In the years since I last heard from Judy Bailey, she's been working very hard with her music in the rest of Europe. This album was actually released last year but is only just finding it's way over here. In those intervening years, Judy seems to have found her own style of pop and/or reggae and put some fine polish to the resulting songs. "Jesus First" is a terrific opener and I found it totally uplifting. "Out of the Natural" follows in similar vein, but "Fill Me With Fire" shows just what Judy can do with a funky number that concentrates on learning the secret of having a burning heart for God. "Don't You Know" has that reggae feel to it, while the pleasantly sounding "Extra Eyes" is a real smoothy. To me, Judy Bailey sounds as though she's an artist who knows exactly what she wants her music to do, and is firm in her belief that it is a gift from God. If I needed that confirming then listening to "Jesus in My House" removed any lingering doubts. Written originally for a big youth event in Germany, this song is fantastic, and the live recording brings out the very best in it. With a new album on the way, I sincerely hope that Judy gives us more of the same. 9/10 (October 2003, Album of the Month)
JULIA GRACE : Julia Grace. (Parachute : PMD032)
This is the debut from the former singer of New Zealand's electro-pop band, Elevator. She doesn't appear to get any writing credits for the songs but, instead, relies on two or three writers for the whole album. "Tin Cars" is a medium paced pop song that sounds pretty good until it's interrupted halfway through, by a rapper. I liked her vocals on the song "Carry Me Away". Here, the tones are strong and sweeping. "Beautiful One" is beautifully produced, centering it's theme about never been alone while God is with you. "Why Is She Crying" stutters it's through about prostitution, before Julia's former electro sounds come back to the fore. Both "Reflection" and "Electrical" are quite ordinary and certainly failed to leap out at me. I thought that Julia's vocals were at their best on the slower songs, and they really excel on "Stars", late on in the track listing. She's already gained some rave reviews about this album, and I think that there's plenty of talent that just needs some better songs, overall. 7/10. (October 2006)
JULIA PLAUT : God's Wonderful World. (Kingsway : KMCD939)
When I was given this CD to review my initial response was to recount the previous children's praise recordings I had experienced. Past criticisms had included: embarrassing, overloud, repetitive, unintelligible, and kitsch. In contrast, this CD is delightful. It captured my children's interest immediately, and they have been singing 'Mr Cow', 'My God Is So Big',, and others since they first heard it. There were songs that were new to us , as well as old favourites. A lyric sheet with actions is also provided. Many of the songs are performed by children, and the arrangements are creative and intelligent, therefore appealing to children and adults alike. The only track which did not work for me was a jazz version of 'The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock', where the style was so laid back that I could imagine the wise man falling off the rock with boredom. However, this is a small criticism of an album which I shall definately buy for my pre-schoolers. 9/10. Gill Laird. (January 1999)
JULIA PLAUT : Thank You God For Snails. (Kingsway : KMCD2209)
Following the marvellous "God's Wonderful World", Julia Plaut and friends present another selection of old and new songs, arranged for classical instruments, and with 0-5 year olds in mind. It's a long time since I was a 5 year old but the first listen had me taking a trip down memory lane to when my own children where that age. The recipe for success is the same as before, easy to learn, repetitive lyrics, simple tunes, and a whole host of actions to use by the frantic Sunday School leader. "Clap Your Hands" is as good example of any, with lyrics that encourage the children to "Clap your hands…wave your arms…God is good". Praising God for animals is sung to an old nursery rhyme tune and there's even a version of "O Come Let Us Adore Him". It's difficult to say which songs are the best but, all in all, this is truly a God send to group leaders of the said age group. 8/10. (May 2000)
JULIAN DRIVE : My Coming Day. (Inpop : POD1348)
Since winning a talent search in 2004, beating over 2000 other contestants, Julian Drive have certainly come a long way. Their blend of pop/rock is of the modern ilk, and their live shows have more than satisfied their audiences. This debut album, produced by Lynn Nichols, is what I'd call a slow burner. On first listen, I wasn't too impressed. But, give it a couple of more spins and I started to pick out some catchy sounds. The guitar work on "Always There" and "Not My Fight" helped them to become my favourite tracks. Much has been written about their lack of using the name of "Jesus" in their songs, but there's certainly no doubt who they're singing about. "In You" is about your old self dieing and living a new one in Jesus, and it's well thought out." Unplug" is another good song, a medium paced number about God only being one step away, wherever you may be. Lead singer, Shane Bowers has a good voice and the band plays well. What I would like to see, however, is more consistency in the song writing which, for me, is sometimes rather weak. 6/10 (August 2009)
JULIE JACKSON : Finding Sanctuary. (www.juliejacksonmusic.co.uk)
Julie Jackson has been involved in musical worship for a number of years now across different churches. Living in Cumbria for the past 9 years, she has been blessed with writing songs inspired by the Lord that have touched people in the local churches. Recorded at the Linden Studios in Tebay by Guy Forrester, the album showcases this new artist with a collection of delightful songs that are very pleasing to the ear. There’s a summer, Latin feel to ‘I Will Choose’ and ‘Lord You Satisfy’, and Julie’s vocals are very warm. The vocals are often layered, and the result is very good. On ‘If I Don’t Cry Out’, there’s also some nice electric guitar phrases, as well as good harmonies. ‘Here In Your Presence’ didn’t quite do it for me. Supposedly a song of praise and worship, the overall sound is surprisingly quite sombre. ‘I Will Say’ was my favourite track. Based around the simple truth that Jesus died and rose again, it’s a really enjoyable song that would be my pick for a single. Of the remaining tracks, ‘I Cry Aloud’ and ‘When I Look to You Lord’ deserve a mention. Overall, it’s a tidy and well produced debut from yet another talented independent artist. 8/10. (May 2013)
JULIE LORD : Diamond Nights. (Private Cassette Recording : £4.99 from 15 Glenhurst Drive, Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne,NE16 5SH).
Here's a first for me, a CCM artist presenting an album of well known secular hits. The former evangelistic singer with Crossfire and Heart & Soul has now turned her talents to entertainment , but is suitabley 'at home' in either church or club environments. "Pearl's A Singer" would not have been my choice for an opener as Julie doesn't really seem at ease with this song. However, her impressive renditions of "Crazy" and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" soon make you realise why she is such a popular artist. The musical backing is the same that she uses for live gigs and the quality is very good. Julie's vocals seem to suit certain types of song better than others and chart toppers like "Walk on By" and "Smooth Operator" produce far better results than, say, Michelle Gayle's "Sweetness". What this album lacks in original content, is made up by freshness of Julie Lord's approach. 7/10. (October 1997)
JULIE LORD : Lifetime. (CD Only £13.99 from: New Dawn Music, 1 Beech Close, Towcester, Northampton, England, NN12 6BL).
It might seem like a lifetime since Julie recorded the first notes for this album but the wait has, truly, been worthwhile. If we've questioned production quality on a limited budget recently, then this is the album that sets the standard, and hats off to all those behind the scenes. From the moment the title track's saxophone hits the speakers, you know that you are listening to something special. With a sultry vocal that reminds me a lot of Sade and, at times, Annie Lennox, Julie simply caresses each number to bring out the best. The lyrics are strong too, like "Forbidden Fruit" that warns how fickle the temptation of an extra-marital affair can be. Featured in two different mixes, Andy Curtis' keyboard skills shine and add real texture to an already well crafted song. If you've ever watched those b&w movies who's background features the 'lounge singer', then "Even Now" is purpose built. Lovely piano, super sax break and a great bluesy guitar. It's hard to try and pigeon-hole Julie's style but if you take a large helping of Blues, mix it with some Jazz and R&B and you may be getting near. Just once or twice I felt that a song didn't quite reach it's potential but, maybe I'm just being a little picky. Closing with the exquisite "Peace of Mind" this is a fine debut release. 9/10. (June 1999, Album of the Month)
JULIET TUNER : Let's Hear It For the Pizza. (Sticky Music : GUMCD34).
Yes, I had to look twice at the title too! I didn't know quite what to expect so I treat this meal like a hot curry - with care. Instant favourite was the opening track 'Dr Fell' which, I think, is about falling in love with Mr Right, who then turns into Mr Wrong. Wow, the lyrics are tough to get my teeth into. 'Greedy Mouth', is it rape? Juliet is a new Irish songstress who appeared at both Greenbelt and the Edinburgh Fringe last year. The music behind each song is quite simple and, on quite a few of the tracks, barely more than just an acoustic guitar. 'Pizza and Wine' tells a love story, while the durge-like 'Purely Platonic' follows yet another relationship. Juliet's voice has the typical Irish traits to it and she's obviously quite a talented writer, even if can't quite understand all the lyrics. It's no wonder she's building up a strong reputation on the folk circuit. Juliet Turner is certainly a name to watch out for in the future, a sort of Mary Black with attitude. 7/10. (February 1997)
JUST WORSHIP : Jesus the Start of It all. (ICC : ICCD65730)
Just Worship is one of a range of resource materials produced by Causeway Prospects to promote Bible teaching and worship among people with learning difficulties. The man behind this album is Tony Phelps-Jones, who writes all the songs on this 17 track album. The songs themselves are built around short, catchy tunes, with easy to remember words. Take, for instance, the opening "We Are Here Together". It's only 4 lines long, but works really well. Similarly, "The Father Himself Loves you" and "God Loves You Just the Way You Are" follow that same path. I think that this album will have limited appeal but it's great to see that this very important void is being filled. "God's Love is Great" had me singing along and I also liked the tropical feel of "I Will Sing & Dance For You" If you'd like to know more about Causeway, visit the web site at www.prospects.org.uk 7/10. (September 2002)
JUSTIN JARVIS : Atmosphere. (Elevation : ELE2068D)
Justin's debut full-length album, Atmospheres, was recorded live on tour with the Jesus Culture band in March of 2014 and captures 9 original anthems. His vocals have been likened to Coldplay’s Chris Martin but I wasn’t so sure. He certainly has a distinctive voice and it sometimes sounds out of tune, but maybe that was due to the live recording. The opening ‘Take Heart’ sounds a lot like The Killers. ‘Taste’ becomes rather repetitive, while ‘Atmospheres’ offers uplifting praise which says that nothing is beyond the reach of God. The driving guitars of ‘Be My Love’ suffers from some awful production work. The vocals get lost in the overall mix and it was only by reading the sleeve notes that I could understand the lyrics. One annoying thing about this album is the amount of spontaneous worship that Justin produces. It may be fine at the actual event, but it just sounds odd when listening to the album for the first time. Saying that, I found ‘Have Your Way’ to be the most compelling song to worship with. Subtitled ‘Spontaneous’, it lifts Jesus as the one sacrifice who died for our sins. Of the other songs, ‘Here We Are’ is quite a glorious song, too, and well worth its inclusion. The album continues the march of the Jesus Culture, although I’m not sure I’ll be playing it again too often. 5/10. (February 2015) Forward to the next archive
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