Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive N

NAMELESSMUSIC : For Your Glory. (namelessmusic : cdnm002)
This worship band from Hove previously enjoyed success with their debut album, "Undone", as well as having songs selected for inclusion on such compilations as Kingsway's "Live 2001". The follow up is a different concept altogether, recorded live at their home base and using material written while the band played and worshipped together in the rehearsal room. Unfortunately, like a lot of live worship albums it suffers from one crippling flaw - the fact that you are not in a hot room surrounded by other Christians who are also there to worship God. The songs themselves are OK, but they never stray too far from standard contemporary worship, either lyrically or musically, and not enough is done with them to really justify three of them running to seven and a half, eight and twelve minutes respectively. Whilst there is no disputing the worshipful atmosphere created by the band, and the Spirit-led spontaneity on some of the tracks, the lack of genuine variety of sound and tempo ultimately makes for a dull experience in your living room, and at just over an hour it is around 15-20 minutes too long. You probably had to be there. 5/10 David Cooper (September 2002)
NAMELESSMUSIC : Truth. (ICC Records)
Now, I was one of the lucky ones who heard this album before it was released. After one listen, I knew that it had something special about it and, with the right backing, could go far. So, I'm really pleased for this lot, that ICC have now taken them on board and have also seen the potential that I did. Namelessmusic are a modern worship band in the mould of Delirious? but with a smattering of U2 sound, as well as their own individual style. "We Will Praise" kicks things off and along with the following "I Believe", it builds in power as it progresses. "Risen Lord" has a feel of U2's "With or Without You" about it, but it's a terrific song of praise in it's own right. The band, as a whole work really well together, and the vocals are impressive too. "Worship You" shows the versatility of the band wit a quieter number while the striking guitar of "Praises" really rocks. "My Everything" is the closest you'll get to a Delirous song without it being the boys themselves but, again, it's another great song that stands up in it's own right. As for Namelessmusic, I think that they can count themselves well on the road to a very worthy ministry. 9/10. (December 2004)
NANCY JACKSON : Relationship. (Harmony :08856179722 5)
To people who question whether you can fit biblical, Christian lyrics into a modern musical genre, I say take a listen to this album. Using modern R&B rhythms and open arrangements, Nancy uses her superb voice almost as another instrument at times and mixes it with tremendous harmony arrangements to create a great sound. As with most modern R&B, the majority of tracks are slow and rhythmic, but the feeling and drama in the voice is apparent. Here is a lady who really loves God and shows it. Tracks that caught my ear particularly: 'Free (Yes, I'm Free) - God Squad Remix', 'Secret Place', and the great ballad 'You Never Change'. But there's a couple worthy of a special mention. If ever Nancy was to release a single, it has to be 'Crazy Praise'. With a great beat, great words and excellent vocals, it has a hook line that catches you and is really much, much better than a lot of stuff that's charting at the moment. The other one to watch out for is 'You Don't Know', an offbeat jazzy number that has Nancy practicing the lost art of scatting! There aren't many tracks that knock me for six, but this one certainly did. The album does have a slight downside, however. There are a few very non-descript tracks that just seem to repeat around a loop, and a very slushy ballad 'Holy Is He' which had me reaching for the tissues - oh, and a totally inaudible and unnecessary rap in 'Don't Turn Your Back'. That apart, if you like the 'Why sing one note when five notes will do' kind of vocals, you'll definitely like this. 7/10 Julie Lord. (December 1999)
NANCY SAWYER : Walk. CD Cassette available from: New Dawn Music, 1 Beech Close, Towcester, Northants, Engalnd, NN12 6BL.
As a teenager Nancy Sawyer went through a period of some rebellion but on leaving college at 17, God's influence on her life grew in strength and she began to feel a deep desire to serve him through music. She found that God had given her the ability to write songs and has been writing ever since. "So Alive" was her first release and, now, "Walk" sees her debut for New Dawn Music. The album starts with a great proclaimation that "God Is In Control" and that nothing can take that away. Nancy's voice really is beautiful and so warm on songs like "Hard To Let Go" and the simplistic "End of the Day". The tracks reminded me of a cross between Judi Tzuke and Fleetwood Mac, especially on "Dancing on the Inside". On "How I Feel" she teams up with Phil Goss (As If) for a duet of such supreme quality that I get goosebumps every time I play it. With this release Nancy Sawyer's music is about to spread it's wings and fly into the hearts of many. 9/10. (October 1999, Album of the Month)
NANCY SAWYER : Lost Without You. (CD £13 plus £1p&p from 1 Chester Way, Chippenham, Wiltshire. SN14 0XR)
4 years after her "Walk" album, Nancy returns with a new collection of, mainly, self-penned songs. "Down to Love" begins the listing with a hook-filled song that swings along nicely. "Love Is…" provides some excellent fiddle sounds to give it a "Celtic" feel, while "Always There" is sung as a reflective and meditative way. There's a simple class about Nancy's vocals and the solo piano on "Sense of Heaven", yet "Close To Me" became quite tiresome the more I heard it. "Free" celebrates that freedom from many chains, that only God can give, and is a quality song overall. Nancy is one of those artists who can consistently show a great talent for both singing and writing, and it would be really interesting to see just what she could produce with record company backing. She, and current producer, Phil Goss, have consolidated her sound perhaps, now, she needs to take the next step. 8/10 (December 2003)
NATALIE GRANT : Natalie Grant. (Benson : 84418-2306-2)
Touted as having one of the most impressive voices around, I was eager to play this CD and hear for myself. Following a three year apprenticeship with the American vocal band Truth, Natalie has made the break and stepped into the solo limelight. She's definitely in the Crystal Lewis mould but some of the songs are just downright weak. "At Your Feet" and "Crosses and Crowns" are two early disappointments. "Heavenly" wakes things up with strong ballad that reminds us that, with God, we're never alone, no matter what we may be going through. The acoustic "I Am Not Alone" is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, with an overall softer sound that Natalie copes with admirably. Maybe, once again, it's me but I'm sure she could do much better than this album. Even the throw-away disco track "Waiting For A Prayer" shows immense versatility in her voice that, when controlled, is a joy to listen to. Produced by those veterans of American CCM Brown Bannister and Brian Tankersley, we can only pray that things will get better. 4/10. (July 1999)
NATALIE GRANT : Relentless. (Curb Records : 8790252)
This is album number 6 from the Dove award winning vocalist and songwriter. I've come across some of her material before on various WOW compilations but this is the first time I've had the chance to sample a full album. I have to say, I'm impressed. She might be considered a Pop artist but I think she's actually a bit of a frustrated rocker! The opener "I Will Not Be Moved" is driven by gritty guitars and an insistent tone befitting of the sentiment. Whilst others aren't quite as in your face there's certainly an edge to the songs as the chorus of "Make it Matter" demonstrates. However, it's the melodic pop songs that had me singing like "Let Go" and "Perfect People" which are probably two of the strongest songs on the album. Do bear in mind though, that it's hard to find a weak song amongst them so that is most definitely a complement. It's not all as resolute as the songs I've mentioned - there are some contemplative moments too which keep it balanced. All in all, one of the best albums I've heard in a while. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2009)
NATE SALLIE : Inside Out. (Curb Records 71518787682)
This is a guitar driven Rock/pop CD and there is certainly a lot of energy going into the music, it's really quite pleasant to listen to. The single "All about you" has been nominated in the Dove awards for Rock song of the year, and if you go to www.natesallie.com there is a video of the title track which gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of music on offer here.
I must admit to being a bit sceptical when I first read the sleeve notes as there was a credit for a hairdresser and someone to take care of the wardrobe, and he does look like a bit of a fashion junkie, but then I guess if you just put the disk into the CD player you don't have to look at the
guy and musically this is very good. Reminds me of Smashmouth a lot. Apparently Nate is a classicaly trained pianist too. Give this one a try. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (August 2004)
NATE SALLIE : Ruined for Ordinary. (Curb : 878872)
Nate Sallie has been likened to Justin Timberlake but, for me, I think his piano led music sounds more akin to that of Maroon 5. It's an album full of songs about being redeemed, and that is never more loudly announced than on the opening track 'Breakthrough'. It's about breaking out of your old self and finding a new life in God. There's some meaty hooks, and it's probably the best song on the CD. 'Let Go Of Me' is a big production number, while 'Holy Spirit' is a very powerful sound. Mid album, Nate seems to bring more of a jazz element into things, and I found these songs to be irritating more than anything else. The big brass sound just didn't work for me at all. What he really excels in, is the big ballad. 'Love Song' results in a great vocal experience on a big song of worship. There's plenty of good ideas from this man and I'm sure he will find his own niche in the CCM market. 6/10. (September 2007)
NATHAN JESS : Tear the Veil. (Integrity Music)
Tear The Veil is the first single from the forthcoming release from Nathan Jess and features Jesus Culture's Chris McClarney. The song is straight in with very little in the way of an introduction. It moves along at a medium pace largely driven by drums and pad keyboards. Guitar joins in for the first chorus and it starts to build through the second verse and into the second chorus but the guitars (in fact most of the backing) seem to sat a fair way back in the mix. The result is a lack of dynamics throughout the song – in fact it seems a little lifeless overall. It then comes to a stop in as sudden a way as it started. This is a radio edit version at 3:23 and it seems much shorter than that – you do get the impression that it has suffered at the hands of some rather over eager and insensitive editing. In short it is a plain song given no help by the backing or arrangement. I’ll be honest, I’m not overly impressed by the single at all, especially as it is the first single release in advance of a new album. Either it’s a bad choice of single, or the best of a bad bunch. Either way, it’s disappointing. 5/10 Robin Thompson. (February 2017)
NATHAN JESS : Phoenix. (Integrity Music)
This is a collection of rock / pop style worship songs, which are fairly easy to listen to. The Album starts off with a song called “Awake My Soul” which kind of sounds to me like a more refined version of early Delirious. There are also some slower more acoustic songs on here too, and also some more powerful atmospheric slower arrangements. I don’t think that this is the kind of album that I’d listen to everyday to be honest, it’s one of those that has lyrics from the more intelligent end of the spectrum, you need to listen to it rather than leaving it on in the background. . Nathan has a quite distinctive vocal style that works well with this kind of music. It also is a well produced album, with some excellent arrangements, and well worth a listen. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2017, Album of the Month)
Nathan Tasker : A look Inside (Cross Word Music/Integrity CWM1006 MCPS)
A Look Inside is Sydney-based Nathan's 6th album recorded in 2003, his 1st being way back in 1995 - this was quite a surprise to me as I'd never come across him previously, although it is highly evident from the quality of the tracks though that Nathan is an accomplished songwriter & artist. The package is delivered as 2 CDs; a studio recording complete with band & an excellent live acoustic set. What struck me initially about the album was not so much the music: where this offering wins is in the depth, accessibility & originality of the lyrical content of the songs. Nathan's seems to have a great way of expressing highs & lows with the feelings & situations so many of us will encounter in our walks with God, which is what struck such a chord with me - I was astounded (which by the way takes some doing)! I particularly enjoyed "I Was There" and the more uplifting "He Has Washed Us". Musical style is light rock, the acoustic numbers working particularly well with some top guitar work from the man himself. The band numbers grew on me the more I listened to them, but didn't give that instant "wow" factor. CD 2 with the live gig was excellent, with the 2nd song being a highly amusing number - absolutely nothing to do with Christianity but a very welcome inclusion! All in all an extremely good album let down only mildly by the lack of "kick" on the musical front on the odd track. 9/10 Simon Redfern (November 2006)
NATHAN TASKER : Must Be More. (Cross Word : CWM1007)
I'm not sure why Nathan's albums take so long in getting released here in the UK. His last offering was delayed, and now 'Must Be More' has taken nearly three years since it's completion. Nathan is an Australian who re-located to Nashville to "give it a shot" - meaning his musical career. He's edgy, at times, but can deliver some well rounded songs with the assistance of ace producer, Charlie Peacock. 'Like You Love Me' is a little off the wall, and has a very original sound to it. It's a catchy number, and one that I immediately tagged for radio play. 'Holy Wonder' is a simple song of thanks, while 'Worthy' is all about love. I liked Nathan's vocal quality and he certainly seems to have gathered some good musicians around him. A couple of songs mid-album didn't quite shine so brightly, but I found 'Hostage' to be quite interesting, and the rocky 'Beautiful Tragedy' pricked my ears up once more. To close, there's an old title with a new song. 'Thief in the Night' is possibly the best song on the album and declares that we should be strong in the Lord, no matter what the world throws at us. All in all, a good listen. 8/10. (September 2008)
NEEDTOBREATHE : Daylight. (Sparrow : SPD48092)
Led by brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart, Needtobreathe has already earned a fervent following throughout the southeast of America. This South Carlolina melodic rock outfit show enough moves on this debut to show that they could well become a force in the years to come, on the CCM scene. "Don't Wait For Daylight" features some excellent harmonies, while "Quit" shows off some heavier guitar moments. "Shine On" sings of "shining" as a beacon for God and, again, the melodic sound works well. Indeed, if I had to pick one song out for the radio, it would be this one. Mid-album, there's a couple of songs that failed to stir me as much as the opening ones, but "Knew It All" really hits you with it's powerful chords and lyrics. "More Than" asks the question just how lost would we be without God in our lives, and the answer is never a doubt. I loved the searing guitars on "Over Now" but felt that the track listing sort of fizzled out towards the end. Saying that, Needtobreathe certainly have what it takes to go further. 7/10 (October 2006)
THE NEVERCLAIM : The Neverclaim. (Essential : 83061-0980-2)
From Portland, Oregon, this is The Neverclaim’s debut release. Stating their musical influences and style of Third Day, Bruce Springstein, and Foo Fighters, fans of Casting Crowns and Needtobreathe, may well like this album. Jeremiah Carlson’s vocals have an engaging quality, and he caresses each word of every song. From the opening ‘Revival’, you know that this is a band who write songs with no hidden meanings. It’s good old praise and worship of our Lord, but in a rock style. ‘One Truth One Life’, tells the old story of Jesus being the only way to God. It’s a great song but even that is put into the shadows by ‘Steal Their Hearts’. I’ve already ear-marked that one for airplay. It’s just an infectious sound and features some excellent guitar work from Josh Anderson. Do you ever hear a song, and just know that you’ve got to turn it up louder to really appreciate it? That’s just how I felt about ‘My Soul Longs’. A simple message, and a song that you just want to singalong with. Sometimes, when I play an album, I’ll play a few songs, and then leave the rest until another time. No fear of that with this release, I played it all the way through, straight away! From the anthemic ‘Mighty Jesus’, through the powerful, melodic ‘Burn’, and to the closing ‘Enthroned on High’, the great songs just kept coming. The latter also mixes in the classic hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, and this work so well. An exciting album that needs to be heard. 10/10. (April 2014, Album of the Month)
NEVILLE RAINE : Heaven to Hollywood. (Private Cassette Recording. £5.75 from Neville Raine, 22 Ibbetson Drive, Churwell, Morley, Leeds, LS27 7TZ.
The chorus from the opening song of this album suggests that Jesus is the 'ultimate movie star' - hence (I guess) the title. The recording, as a whole reminded me of a box of fireworks; some explosive hits, colourful presentations, and a couple of damp squibs. Burning into the night is the rocketing 'Heaven is Here..' complete with it's Gary Moore guitar licks. Cross Rhythms liked the closing ballad 'Perfect Love' but, although pleasant enough, I personally thought it fizzled out too quickly. However, I would like to state that if this guy was American, he would have recording contract tomorrow. Some of his songs ('Better Way', 'Dreams', and 'Alphabet of Love') would come out well, if matched against the likes of Michael W Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick. 'Alphabet' is a clever song that combines Neville's quiet and loud styles, without making the finished article sound dis-jointed. There's a smattering of Queen influence here and there, but Mr Raine shows that he has a wealth of talent and is just waiting for someone to light the blue touch paper. A popping 8/10. (December 1996)
NEWDAY : This Is Life. (Survivor Records)
Recorded live at Uttoxeter racecourse in 2008 featuring artists/worship leaders such as Simon Brading, Lou Fellingham, Phatfish, Paul Oakley, Tree63 and YFriday this CD has the feel you would expect (the U2-esque guitars, the flowing piano, the overt lyrics), not that that's necessarily a bad thing - this is worship, after all, and if it's too unfamiliar you can't really join in easily. The area that it doesn't live up to stereotype in is the choice of material: this is no "best worship ever… done again" but contains almost all new songs (unless you were there, of course). The sound and production qualities are top-notch (in places it's only the crowd that reminds you of the live origins of the recordings), the performances very good. The CD has a fair range of stuff - from the up-tempo here-we-go to more meditative songs and ones that take you on a journey both lyrically and musically. If you're looking for a worship CD for inspiration (either to learn new songs from or for personal devotions) you could do a lot worse than this one. The DVD contains four live tracks, two talks, an interview and some promo material for the 2009 event, but it's the CD that I would play more than once. Standout tracks: "God Of This City" and "We Shine". 7 /10 Paul Ganney (February 2009)
NEWDAY LIVE 2009 : No Shout Too Loud. (Survivor : SURCD5159)
The never ceasing flow of live worship albums appears to show no signs of abating and this offering from Newday continues in the vein of its predecessors. The album features some big-name artists, Matt Redman, Phatfish and Lou Fellingham amongst others, and, presents a clutch of new worship material mixed with some older songs, though, I have to confess that, with the exception of "Mighty to Save" and "How Great Thou Art" I had not previously encountered them. The aggressive guitar work of "Let God Arise" gets the album of to a fine start but I feel this song is let down by an insipid chorus. The second song "In Jesus" is less forceful but likewise doesn't really have enough freshness in it. It is not until the third song, Matt Redman's "You Alone Can Rescue" that I feel the album presents it's first, solid, melodic, worship song. And that is the story of this album. Like many of it's ilk, it just doesn't sound vastly different to other offerings and, by and large, the songs are average and the arrangements predictable. If you like Hillsongs, or Abundant Life worship and you want more of the same, then go for it, otherwise, avoid. 5/10 Robin Thomspon. (March 2010)
NEWWORLDSON : Salvation Station. (Inpop : 804147142223)
Newworldson is made up of Parisien drummer Mark Rogers, bassist Rich More and guitar/vocalists Josh Toal and Joel Paisien. Their musical sound is an eclectic mix of poop, soul, jazz and gospel, and much has been written about this outfit as been "fun". Well, try as I might, I found nothing "fun" about this album. The nearest thing, I guess, was the secret agent spoof on 'Working Man'. The tune sounds as if it's been lifted from some 60's TV show. Talking about being "lifted".......'Empty Heart' contains a whole section of music from the old Bobby Fuller Four hit 'I Fought the Law'. How do they get away with it? The songs themselves are just very boring. There's some RnB gospel for the title track and slow blues on 'Sweet Holy Spirit'. 'Babylon is Gonna Fall' is pretty self explanatory, while the funky guitar on 'Borderline' is quite good. Of all things, the kazoo makes a comeback, playing the instrumental on 'City Bus Love Song', but doesn't raise the standards too much. After reading the press release, I was excited to receive this album. Sadly, it's one big let down. 3/10 (October 2008)
NEW DIRECTION : Rain. (Gospo Centric : 75751-70056-2R)
Since 1994 America's New Direction has been telling the world that God has the power to take you where you've never been before. The New Direction Choir consits of more than 50 16-25 year olds sharing their musical inspiration with fervour and spirit. Rightly or wrongly, when it comes to black gospel music, I use the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir as "the standard to review others by". And, while, this album does have it's moments, I'm afraid it's not in the same league as the Brooklyn Choir. "New Direction" sees a lot of hollering going on and at one stage I had to check my CD player as I thought that the track had got stuck. Then, there's a couple of funky praise numbers, including the tiresome "This is the Day". "I'm in Love With Jesus" and "Fire" come as saving grace. There's some great harmonies and vocals on these gentler numbers, and proves just what a talented bunch these people are. When New Direction are at their best, they're good. When they're not, they're pretty awful. 3/10. (August 2004)
NEWFRONTIERS Live Worship - The Power of the Cross (Kingsway - KMCD2659)
This is a compilation of worship songs recorded live at the Newfrontiers 2005 Leadership conference & comes under the "Worship Experience" banner that encompasses the likes of New Wine & other big worship events. With worship leaders such as Stuart Townend in the line-up with tunes penned by the likes of Matt Redman & Paul Oakley, you may well be wanting that "wow" factor to kick in early on, but unfortunately it doesn't! At least not until around track 8 of the 12 on the CD, Matt Redman's "Your Mercy Taught Us How To Dance (Dancing Generation)" which lifts the otherwise rather bland overall tone. Musically or technically it's hard to fault, but the choice of songs makes it quite missable amongst the many live worship offerings on the market. If you were there, you'll buy it & no doubt get a lot from it but those of us that weren't probably won't have the same uplifting experience. 5/10 Simon Redfern (March 2006)
NEW HAVEN KIDS : A Child’s Gift of Lullabyes. (New Haven Records : 8027-2)
Where this album has been for eleven years, I don’t know? It recently arrived at my house, but was originally released in 2002. Created by J. Aaron Brown, it contains 8 lullabyes, plus instrumental versions for you to sing-a-long to. Song writing credits are given, but there’s no sign of any singer’s names. ‘Playing a Lullabye’ opens proceedings, and the female singer has a very soothing voice, which is carried by a music box sound, and accompanying strings. ‘Tomorrow We’ll Go to the Fair’ is a lovely song. I may be well passed the lullabye stage, but I enjoyed it immensely. It got to track 5 before there was any real mention of God or Jesus. ‘Wings’ tells of the mother wishing that she could give her baby wings to keep him/her safe, and carry them through life’s storms. Following that song, the ‘Appalachian Lullabye’ prays that angels will Also keep the baby safe from harm. The last track is an instrumental called ‘Dream Theme’. It’s pleasant enough as a piece of music, but it doesn’t really fit as a lullabye. It was nice to hear something different, as far as albums go, and it’s content may well soothe and relax mother’s as well as their little ones. 7/10. (January 2014)
NEW HYMNS FOR THE MODERN CHURCH : Still You Speak. (ICC :ICCD77030)
Paul Field is the main man behind this recording, as he takes all or part writing credit on all but two of the twelve songs featured. One of those he didn't turns out to be the strongest cut. Written by Phil Hart and Joanne Hogg, "Pierced" is a tremendously powerful song, sung with feeling and gentleness. Jonathan Viera also adds his weight to some of the writing and also provides his rich vocal tones to lovely numbers such as the title track, and "The Promise of Your Grace." I tried to imagine the hymns being used in my own church but found it difficult to do. Certainly, the worshipful "River of Healing", as well as the celtic sounding "Through Days of Rage and Wonder" may well be used,but I'm not sure about someof the others. In my opinion, tunes like "Crown of Glory", sound too much like a performance, than a congregational hymn. There's some fine musicians and soloists pulled in for this album, but that didn't stop me thinking "does this album do what it's supposed to?". The jury's out. 6/10. (March 2004)
NEW IRISH CHOIR & ORCHESTRA : Worship. (Elevation : ELE2029D)
The New Irish Choir & Orchestra is a vibrant group of Christian musicians who aim to present Christianity through the Arts. Originally founded by modern hymn writer Keith Getty, but now led by Jonathan Rea, they are currently in their 20th year of ministry in Ireland. It’s rare to get the chance to listen to a full orchestra and choir these days, so I really wanted this one to come up to the mark. I shouldn’t have worried though. For, right from the start, you’re aware of some terrific voices, joining together for a festival of great choral music, with their illustrious musician partners. Most of the hymns will be well known to all, such as ‘How Great Is Our God’ and ‘Great in Power’ – where the orchestra really give their all on a vibrant, uptempo number. How many times have I heard ‘O For A Thousand Tongues’ been sung in my lifetime? It must be hundreds, if not thousands, but it never fails to lift my spirits. The male and female vocal parts on this version complement each other beautifully, and the result is pure delight. For the lover of this kind of music, it doesn’t get much better than this. From the full blooded version of ‘Praise to the Lord’ and the joyous sound of ‘God of Wonders’ to the more delicate interpretation of ‘It Is Well’, this is a super album. 9/10. (November 2014, Album of the Month)
NEW IRISH CHOIR & ORCHESTRA : A New Irish Christmas. (Elevation : ELE2015D)
Hot on the heels of their “Worship” release, comes this fine Christmas album form the New Irish Choir & Orchestra. It’s full of well known hymns, plus a few new songs that could well become festive favourites of the future. There’s a sparkling start to the album, with ‘Joy to The World’. It’s just one of many, lovely arrangements that do bring joy to the listener. ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ follows suit, while Jonathan Rea’s ‘Angelsong’ is simply lovely. ‘O Holy Night’ features a wonderful solo from Sylvia Burnside. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever heard this carol sung more beautifully. Two news songs from the Getty’s come next, and I loved ‘Jesus Joy of the Highest Heaven’. I can’t use the word “joy” too often to describe how this album touched me. Dan Patterson’s ‘Jesus is His Name’ is a gentle song with another fine solo, while the strange idea to give a swing feel to ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ does, actually work! ‘Carol of the Bells’, ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ and ‘Silent night’ are all included, while the album closes with a medley of Christmas Carols. All in all, it’s quite a stunning Christmas offering. 9/10. (December 2014)
New Life Church, Failsworth - Here I am to Worship Live Kingsway, KMCD2789
Yes, its another live worship cd and is also one of the increasingly ubiquitous CD & DVD variety. Both the cd and dvd feature the same 15 track listing which consists of songs by Tim Hughes, Brenton Brown, Paul Baloche, Ken Riley and others. As far as I can work out, no original material is included but then the sleeve notes are light on contextual information - it took a lot of effort to find the line that gave me the artist information. The dvd is a good package with visuals consisting of multiple camera angles interspersed with more traditional single shot images. It draws you in nicely and I found the whole thing engaging a conducive to worship. The cd on the other hand tends to get a little lost halfway through and sounds all rather much of a muchness. I don't think this is the fault of the worship band, who are actually excellent at what they do, but more to do with the fact that the songs in the middle of the album are not particularly outstanding in their own right. They work well in context and the dvd visuals help to provide this framework but on their own they are largely lacklustre and typical of so many other contemporary worship songs. In conclusion, if you really want another worship cd there are plenty of reasons while you will love this one, but if you don't, then there is not enough originality on here to consider this a worthwhile purchase. 6/10 Robin Thompson. (August 2008)
NEW LIFE CHURCH : Presence. (£10 from www.newlifehull.org)
Recorded live, this album gives a little insight into the many great things that are happening in this 21st Century church. Unlike a lot of the current worship recordings around, this album brings you entirely new songs to bless you and to worship the Lord. It all starts off with lots of excited voices cheering and shouting, before Angie Lendon leads the congregation in 'Shout to the Lord' - no, not that one! 'Come Bless the Lord' and 'I Can Do All Things' both have an American gospel flavour to them and I thought that these were two of the weaker tracks on show. Then, it's back to exuberant praise with Angie, Paul Hemmingway, Darren Clarkson, and Liezel Goosen sharing the lead on 'The Lord is Mighty'. One minor production moan is that some of the fade-in's and fade out's are literally quite horrible but, I guess, I may have been a little picky. 'My God Does Miracles' is a declaration of a wondrous God, and I particularly liked the easy to pick up chorus. Angie Lendon then gives a great vocal performance on 'O Great God', before Liezel Goosen sings the lovely 'More of You'. The collection of songs certainly work well together, and on the whole this album compares favourably with it's contemporaries. 8/10. (September 2007)
NEW LIFE WORSHIP : My Saviour Lives. (Integrity : 41142)
This album features Ross Parsley and the Desperation Band, recorded live at the New Life Chruch in Clorado Springs. One review has already said that this recording sounds exactly like any other Desperation Band offering, but it's all new to me. Okay, you know the sort of format it's going to take, but is there enough quality in the songs to make it stand out from the crowd? Thankfully, it does and the excitement begins with the opening tracks "My Saviour Lives" and Everyone". Both of these are energetic declarations of a love for an almighty God and instantly stir your spirit. "King of Glory" is a great musical production, and a song of tremendous power. I'd really recommend this one to anyone. Of course, after the energetic stuff, comes a time of quieter worship. "Here in Your Presence", "Hiding Place", and "Everlasting God", all help to take the listener into a stage of deep, reverent, worship. Parsley's voice sounds on top form throughout, and he's really in his element when he sings the Delirious type of songs like "Glorious God" and "Live to Worship". Personally, I would have loved to have been at this event as the album really does give you a full flavour of what you've missed. Well recommended. 9/10. (June 2007)
NEW LIFE WORSHIP, featuring Ross Parsley and the Desperation Band : Counting on God. (Integrity Music, 44572)
This album comes from New Life Church in Colorado Springs which has been through some tough times in recent years - some of you may remember the gunman that opened fire there in 2007 and the controversies surrounding their now ex-pastor. With that in mind, the title "Counting on God" takes on a poignant and personal meaning for these people. In the midst of all that they have held firm to their belief that God is greater than all that. You certainly get a sense of that from this album and as live worship albums go this certainly has a lot to commend it. It's kind of an album of two parts. The first third is lively and vibrant featuring songs that sound like a fusion of Delirious and DC Talk such as the title track and "Solid Rock". After that it shifts focus to become more intimate with songs like "I Will Stand" and "Unfailing God". At that point, it tends to be more formulaic which is a bit disappointing after such an interesting start. However, it has a good overall sound and I suspect this album might need a few more listens to really appreciate it. 6/10 RobinThompson (March 2009)
NEW WINE : Live Worship - The Heartbeat of God. (ICC : ICCD48030)
If you were at the New Wine 2000 conference, then you'll already be familiar with the songs on this album. Led by Neil Bennetts, Tim Hughes, Gareth Robinson, and Scott Underwood, the worship here is of the highest quality. Tim Hughes is going to get sick of me mentioning this but he DOES sound so much like Matt Redman! "Jesus You Alone" is one of his own songs and pumps up the worship with praise. "Name Above All Names" is a brand new song from the pen of Neil Bennetts, and what a song it is too. A very beautiful feel, that peacefully builds into great power and then slowly mellows down again. "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story" is a surprise inclusion and, if I'm honest, it gets rather messy mid way along. From my own point of view, Gareth Robinson gets a little carried away with the lead vocals and clashes horribly with the sweet sound of those gathered. But, never mind, that's one criticism on an otherwise top British worship release. 9/10. (December 2000)
NEW WINE WORSHIP 10 : Let the Power Come Down. (ICC : ICCD27930)
It doesn't take you long as a reviewer to know that a praise and worship album is going to contain, on the whole, a similar format to the last. This one, led by Andy Park and David Ruis, is no different. Let's get people clapping and stomping their feet with "Mercy is Falling" - guaranteed to lift people's hearts and souls. Then, just as everyone is on a high praise level, slow it down with "It's Our Confession Lord" and "Draw Me Close" and let the real worship begin. If all this sounds a little flippant, it's not meant to be but there's no surprises in this offering from New Wine. There again, the second CD of this twin pack does show off a few lesser know songs, which make quite a refreshing change. Throughout, the musicians and leaders take those gathered to a closer time with the Lord and songs like "Shake the Heaven's" and "Blessed Assurance" just continue the journey. Not bad at all. 7/10. (February 1999)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Nothing Is As Wonderful. (ICC:ICCD35030).
There's no getting away from the fact that the New Wine series has proved hugely popular over then years, and this double CD isn't going to change a thing. Using songs written by the worship leaders, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, and Scott Underwood, the list of songs reads like a "greatest Hits" album. "Lord You Never Promised", "Lord, Let your Glory Fall", and "My Jesus, My Lifeline" are all early highlights. CD2 is treat like a bonus recording and, therefore, the only track listing is on the disc itself. However, that shouldn't detract from, what is, another quality album. "Come, Now is the Time to Worship", "Jesus Christ (Once Again) and an endless list of top worship songs. No surprises, just good old fashioned worship. 8/10. (April 2000)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Saving Grace. (Survivor : SURCD5155)
This is the debut studio album from a collective that have released over 10 live albums since the New Wine conference started way back in 1989. Now, although several different musicians take part in this recording, I couldn't get a way from the fact that most of the songs have a Snow Patrol sound to them. Indeed, I'm sure that this collective could well go on to be a Snow Patrol tribute band. On numerous occasions, the songs start or contain musical phrases made famous by their secular counterparts. 'None Like You' and 'All Power' are just two of the early contenders. What I did find annoying through the recording was the lack of songs that really called for collective worship. Perhaps it was the delivery, but I found the songs to be performance orientated throughout. If I had to pick one song to stand out, then I guess that 'The Way You Father Me' offered the most chance to worship. With writers and singers that include Eoghan Heaslip, Neil Bennetts and David Ruis, I expected a lot more from what is a very tepid release. 4/10 (January 2010)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Simple Pursuit. (Integrity : B01M5FMK4W)
Like previous recordings, this live album from New Wine 2016 has a heart firmly rooted in a love of worship, Simple Pursuit refocuses on what everything is, and always has been, about. That worship infused with a deep love of God comes into a new life, and it's this reinvigoration that has led to this year's release being both the most energetic and most reflective. Sam Bailey leads a lot of the worship, and you can hear those gathered joining in, either clapping of singing along. Chris Sayburn’s “The Lion and the Lamb” is a really potent song, and I liked it very much. The title track is a reflective number that centres on the wonder of an awesome God, while three short pieces entitled “Interlude” seem to be rather out of place within the track listing. I thought that “Pocketful of Faith” started quite well but, once the tempo increased, it sounded very much like plenty of other contemporary worship songs, and I was left disappointed. However, Tim Hughes’ “Hope and Glory” is the stand out song of the album. It’s marvellously anthemic, as he sings “Christ, Alone in you we stand.” That leads to “Love Song”, were Tom Eccleshall takes over lead vocals. Delivery is excellent and the song raises voices in worship of our God. Towards the end, we have a rocky “Sing It Out”, before quieter songs brings those gathered back to gently focus on their worship. It’s a bit of a mixed bag really. Hearing many of the songs for the first time, not many immediately caught my imagination. Maybe a few more plays will help. 6/10. (February 2017)
NEW WINE : Only One Name. (Kingsway : KWCD3528)
'Only one Name' is a fifteen track CD of 'key songs for all 2011 New Wine events' and features contemporary worship songs mostly written over the past five years, around half of them during 2011. With so many continuing to be written these days it is almost inevitable that some should sound 'recycled' in terms of words and/or melody. There is little here that could therefore be called original, but the CD is certainly worth a listen. Whilst most of the songs are performed by the writers, for some reason the ones that began to stand out for me tended to be performed by other people! The best track in my view is 'Your love never fails' written by Chris McClarney and Anthony Skinner – an excellent arrangement, particularly well played, and featuring Chris's brilliant voice. Others include the opener – Rich White's 'Far greater' sung by Lauren Keenan and featuring a strong melody and 'hooks', Matt Redman et al's 'Our God' delivered by Sam Bailey, Vicky Beeching/Steve Fee's 'Glory to God forever' with Corrs-like vocals by Lynsey Berry, and Nick and Becky Drake's 'Spirit come' with Nick on lead vocals and possibly (i.e. uncredited) Becky on bvs – a gentle and reflective closer that nevertheless builds nicely. Track 4 'Like incense' plays at a lower perceived volume than the ones before and after, and those who use a nice quality hi-fi should be warned that the sound overall has been mixed/mastered for lesser systems and may sound hard and compressed – a disappointing contrast with the superb sound of the 'Keswick Reflections' release that I reviewed last month. 7/10 Dave Deeks (December 2011)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : My Heart Will Ever Sing. (Essential : ELE1857D)
A while back I reviewed the New Wine CD 'Only One Name' which consisted of key 'New Wine event songs' from the five years up to 2011. Here we have the follow-up, showcasing “new songs, fresh passion and renewed commitment to strengthen the worship life of the local and global church". It is nice to have all songwriters, singers and musicians credited – and lyrics printed, although occasionally verses are not in the order sung. There are some excellent songs here. As with the previous release however, the worst aspect of this album is the general sound quality. The first track is a particularly striking example, but there is the same tendency through much of the album – with a rasping edge to vocals, levels whacked up into distortion, and dynamics compressed to within an inch of their lives. This increasingly common practice really frustrates me as it squanders the talents of the songwriters, singers, musicians and arrangers who have all contributed so much – only to have their efforts mangled. Some tracks are better than others in this respect however, and other ones nevertheless manage to stand out in their own right. Chris Sayburn with 'Line in the sand' is for me the strongest lyrically, melodically, delivery and production-wise – an altogether excellent track. Other strong ones are Chris Jones with 'Come like you promise', 'God I look to you' with lead vocals by Susie Woodbridge, Eoghan Heaslip with 'Grace has come', Nick and Becky Drake's 'God be glorified', and Gareth Robinson's well sung closer 'There will be a day'. Yes, there are some good songs here – but the release as a whole cannot be recommended for those who enjoy listening to music. 5/10. Dave Deeks (January 2013)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Deeper. (Elevation : ELE1981D)
Recorded live at last year’s New Wine event in Shepton Mallet, this recording has one of the best live productions I’ve ever heard. The sound is crisp and clear, and you can actually hear those gathered, singing along, and adding to the overall sound. Chris Lawson Jones starts things off, with a nice, new song (to me) called ‘The Greatest Love’. It’s a typical “thank you” to Jesus for all His love, but the song sounds really different to the countless others of the same theme. Martin smith, then, comesto the fore, with ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’. You can tell by the audience’s response that this song just thrills everyone with God’s Spirit pouring down. An exciting sound, and one that’s followed by a typical “jumping up and down” song by The Rend Collective. ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ is pure magic, and reminded me of long forgotten days, enjoying the sound of Eden Burning. ‘Great Is Your Faithfulness’ sounds like it could have been a Queen song. All that was missing was a Brian May guitar solo. Have a listen, and see what you think. Martin Smith returns with ‘Safe in Your Arms’. Co-written with Chris Tomlin, it’s a song that matches any Delirious? Classic, with pure majesty. There’s one or two songs that I didn’t rate, but a mention must go to the sweet vocals of Becky Drake on ‘Such A Time As This’. It’s a nice song, and closes this recording. Overall, ‘Deeper’ is one of the better live event recordings around. 8/10. (April 2014)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Wildfire. (Integrity : 64542)
Here’s the latest offering form New Wine, and what a welcome addition it is. Lots of new songs on show, and some real crackers included. It didn’t start off too well, as the opening “Lifeline” sounded a little old hat. However, when Susie Woodbridge started to sing “No Reason To Fear”, the quality was there for all to see. It’s a bright, pop sound that reminded me of Ellie Goulding, and that’s no bad thing. “God Almighty” is a strange beast. I kept getting the feeling that the song was about to burst into something great but the chorus just simmers, rather than boils. “This I Believe” is led beautifully by Karen Gillespie and is based on The Creed. I’d like to see this song used in my church, as I felt that it really held great power. “Skies” has a dance feel to it, while “All Consuming Fire” was another one of those songs that left me feeling rather deflated. But, things lift again with “Come to the Waters”. It’s difficult to describe this song, but it’s powerful, yet tender at the same time. It’s Gillespie again that features on “Now Glorious” and it’s a song that I just loved joining in with as it played. “You exchange our brokenness, for the beauty of your holiness.” Simply gorgeous. New songs, yes, but many will soon become familiar and enjoyable in worship. 8/10. (January 2016)
NEW WINE WORSHIP : Live Worship from New Wine: 20 Year Collection. (Integrity : B01I0ZF754)
New Wine Worship have been responsible for many live worship releases over the past 20 years, and this 15 track release seeks to celebrate this by featuring 'some of the best known worship songs out there and ... an array of gifted worship leaders'. With old favourites such as Tim Hughes with 'Light of the world' and Matt Redman's 'The heart of worship', other featured singers are Eoghan Heaslip, Susie Woodbridge, Martin Smith, Sam Bailey, Martin Layzell, David Ruis, Nick Herbert, and Ed Pask. Most CCM fans will know the majority if not all of these songs, although I did discover one or two that were new to me. For those familiar with the New Wine approach it will come as no surprise that most songs benefit from being given time to develop, with most lasting between 5 and 7 minutes. Standouts for me are Martin Smith's rock-pop 'God's great dance floor', and two particularly strong songs well delivered and with excellent arrangements - Sam Bailey with 'Wildfire' and Susie Woodbridge with 'Oceans'. Too many CCM worship releases these days can be 'formulaic' and unoriginal. Whilst there are one or two tracks here that do suffer from this, I enjoyed this distillation of the past 20 years more than I expected (!) - and with better sound quality than is often the case. 9/10. Dave Deeks (August 2016)
NEW WINE KIDS : Stand Together. (Elevation : NWWCD2014A)
“There’s nothing quite like seeing children worship”, so says Mark Griffiths, Head of New Wine Kids Ministry. “Childlike faith producing complete abandonment to the God they have encountered and recognised as creator.” Here is a collection of 12 songs aimed to help children worship. John Murphy starts things off with his own song, ‘Number One’. “Jesus is better than the very best”, he sings, in a Michael Buble sort of way. ‘Stand Together’ is sung by Jemima Woodbridge, and what a song it is. “Stand together, stand forever, we will stand strong”. A wonderful message, a fantastic jig enthused riff, and just a brilliant song, for all ages! There’s a Celtic feel to The Rend Collective’s ‘My Lighthouse’, while ‘Here I Am’ is a slow song that can be best described as a child’s prayer. ‘Guardian’ is a more adult sound, unlike ‘Never Far Away’, that epitomises everything I used to dislike about kids songs. I know that it’s for kids, but I still find the references to “roller-coasters, submarines, and aeroplanes” rather condescending. In the same way ‘Shine Like Stars’ includes “spaceships and the milky way,” as well as telling us to “boldly go where He leads us”, with Star Trek connotations. On the contrary, I thought that ‘You Fond Me’ was a very powerful song. “You’re the rock on which I stand”, sings Chris Sayburn. And, although a little repetitive, there’s a very good production to this song. Despite my reservations on one or two tracks, this is still a good album and resource for people with young children. 7/10. (December 2014)
NEW WINE KIDS : Get Up and Dance. (New Wine Worship : NWWCD2014B)
Aimed at pre-schoolers, this compilation features twelve songs from the New Wine National Gatherings. Mind you, after listening to the album a few times, there’s quite a number of tracks that would appeal to older children too. The title track features a simple chorus and gives the children the chance to incorporate actions, as they worship.’God’s Love is Really Big’ tells children that His love is for everyone, and that there’s more than enough to go round. ‘Trust and Obey’ is almost adult pop and Sam Cox sings it well. There’s a quieter number in the shape of ‘Jesus and Me’. Written by Anna Scott, it focusses on Jesus as a friend. Scott, again, writes my favourite track, ‘No Love is Greater’. Indeed, it would appeal to teens, never mind pre-schoolers. It’s pop worship at its best and sings that “No love is better than the love of Jesus”. So far so good, then, but all changes with ‘I Am Walking’ and ‘God Made My Hands’. Here are two songs that are definitely for the very young. More actions come along, such as jumping, clapping, nodding,dancing and bending, which will all please 3 to 5 year olds. The album ends with a version of ‘Gods’ Great Dance Floor’ that sounds like a Katy Perry and Jesse J mash up. It certainly made me smile. This kids album contains some fine songs and should have great appeal. 7/10. (February 2015)
NEWDAY : We Are Yours. (Kingsway : KWCD3290)
Here’s a live CD recording of the 8th annual festival for teenagers, held at the Norfolk Showground, last summer. With worship leaders Simon Brading, Jordan Dillon, Jules Burt and Sam Cox, the quality of the vocals are first class, as is the backing music. Indeed, put together, they all help those gathered to open their hearts and lift their hands on ‘Here For You’. The obvious response shows that they’ve hit all the right notes. ‘No one Better’ and ‘We Are Yours’ race along enthusiastically with choruses that everyone can join in with. Burt’s ‘Devotion’ is a radio friendly song that contains rather too many piano phrases that sound like a particular Scissor Sisters hit, but that doesn’t stop the enjoyment. Unlike Matt Redman’s version, there’s a passionate version of ’10,000 Reasons’ that I thought was very good. However, I didn’t think that the reported exuberance was sustained passed them first few songs. Certainly, I thought that the songs became rather tiresome once I got through track 5. ‘One Thing Remains’ did lift my spirits until the rap interlude, interrupted. I’m not against rap, but it just doesn’t fit with this particular recording. All in all, a bit of a mixed blessing but definitely onefor your collection if you were there. 6/10 (February 2012)
NEWDAY : Live 2013. (Freedom Sounds : Freedom002)
Here’s the album that was recorded live at the Newday Generations event last summer. It would have been nice to hear an album of original material, instead of half of the songs coming straight out of the songbook of the Bethel Church in California. That said, the band do more than just copy those well known sounds, and those gathered certainly seem to be enjoying the worship. The opening ‘So God’ is a good song, but I didn’t care much for the drawling vocals. I’m not sure if the singer was trying to be American, but it didn’t work. ‘Freedom’ sees one the female singers taking over, to a song that has driving guitars and a strong beat. ‘Move Like This’ moves into a different realm, with looped sounds and vocal effects, over a rock and rap song. What a terrific song it is, with loads of power and excitement built in. ‘Made Alive’ and ‘You Have Won Me’ are more melodic, while the ‘Spontaneous Song’ and ‘Everlasting God’ came over, sounding like Hillsong. For the latter, there’s a more indie sound to the backing, than the one I’m used to singing. It’s an album that does get over the live feel of the event, and I’m sure that those who were there will love this recording. 7/10 (March 2014)
NEWDAY : Homegrown. (Freedom Sounds : Freedom003)
Every year, thousands of worshippers gather for the Newday Festival. The same team who lead worship have taken to the studio for the first time to reimagine and reinvent. These are new arrangements of well-known Newday songs. ‘Sun of Righteousness’ is quite an odd song to start the album with, as it’s quite delicate. It’s pleasant enough, but not one that lingers in your memory for long. On the other hand, ‘So Good’ IS that good! It’s a happy song that tells of God’s goodness, and is well sung by it’s co-writer Anna Brading. There’s a hint of Planetshakers about ‘We Are Yours’. It’s a big sound. Similarly, the big production of ‘You Died For Me’ is a cross between The Remission Flow and Elbow. I particularly liked this song, and immediately played it again. ‘Holding On’, ‘All I Want’ and ‘My Soul is Well’ are three very reflective songs. The latter becomes quite repetitive with its chorus, but I found this to be a very emotional song, personally, and I liked it. Based upon the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Let the Rain Come’ is a brilliant song. It draws you into the act praise and worship, even when you’re not expecting it! Finally, Simon Brading’s ‘You Reign’ (in every circumstance) simply oozes with God’s love. Another wonderful song. Ignoring that these songs come out of the festival, they all stand well in their own right, and it makes for a very good album. 9/10. (October 2014)
NEWSBOYS : 'Take Me to Your Leader'. (Star Song)
With a band member called Jeff Frankenstein and a producer of Steve Taylor's genre, you have a sneaking suspicion that this album could be a little out of the ordinary. Whacky lyrics confirm it; "I'm busy giving blood and shovelling elephant dung" they sing, on the excellent 'Reality'. "When the toast is burned and the milk has turned", is part of the chorus to the song 'Breakfast', which looks (I think) at the passing of a friend. It's early American punk rock crossed with a touch of Split Enz madness. However, the album is let down by it's own quirkiness and becomes quite tedious by the end. If you want something a bit different..........5/10 (April 1996)
NEWSBOYS : Step Up to the Microphone. (Alliance : 7243 82016922).
Oh dear. The Newsboys' previous CD, 'Take Me To Your Leader', was so absolutely, totally, guitar-crunchingly, spine-tinglingly 10-out-of-10 brilliant, that I feared the follow up couldn't be as good. And it isn't. I don't think it's the slight change in line-up (down to a 5 piece now that John James has left). Maybe it's the lack of Steve Taylor as co-producer and co-songwriter- he wrote the lyrics for only 2 songs here. Whatever the reason, this album lacks the bite of the previous one - hey, I get goosebumps just taking that CD out of it's case! This album just starts, goes on and then stops. Occasional weird sound effects can't spice up a lacklustre offering. Take my advice. Rush out now and buy 'Take Me To Your Leader'. As for this one? Let's just forget it ever happened, shall we? 5/10. Geoff Allen. (October 1998)
NEWSBOYS : Love Liberty Disco. (Sparrow : 7243 8517202 1)
Pete Furler and the nutty boys from down under are back with an album full of multi-layered harmonies and orchestrations, but that typical Newsboys touch. The first song to make me sit up and take note was "Forever Man", which sounded uncannily like Robbie Williams' "Millennium". That's really the pick of the opening 5 tracks, while the others just seem to start and finish without anything really happening. However, there's always one song that will kick things into action and, in this case, it's "Say You Need Love". Will physical love feed your needs, or is it the unconditional love of God that you need to know? Simple question, great song. "I Would Give Everything" carries on the upturn in quality but the laid back "Break" is probably even better. On the whole, still nowhere near as good as "Take Me To your Leader" but, not bad. 6/10. (January 2000)
THE NEWSBOYS: Thrive (Sparrow Records)
The maths is simple. Newsboys + Steve Taylor = Brilliance. From the driving, high energy of the first 3 tracks through the worship middle section and out through the clever lyrics of such songs as "The Fad of the Land", this is one magnificent album. The return of Steve Taylor as part-producer and part-songwriter raises the Newsboys sound from good to great. If you like songs that make you think, be inspired and jump up and down (and sometimes all 3 together), this is for you. CDs have gradually got longer and longer so you now have to book a holiday to listen to your hour-plus magnum. But this is short and oh so sweet. 37 minutes of quality pop/rock melodies and sheer joy. (And if you want more, there's a free single including live versions of "Shine" and "Breakfast" if you reserve the album at newsboys.com) It thumps, it jumps. It rocks, it rolls. And I like it. 10/10 Edward Booth (April 2002, Album of the Month)
NEWSBOYS : He Reigns. (Sparrow : SPD 36364)
The Newsboys have certainly moved on since the mad-cap days of "Take Me To Your Leader", back in the 90's. After a series of top selling albums, this is the definitive "Worship collection". For me, the album stats at a very gentle pace with worshipful "It Is You" and the uptempo simple praise song "He Reigns". Then, the album simply explodes with the kind of songs you could only dream of writing. "You Are My King" contains everything that a contemporary praise and worship song should have. It's just absolutely mind blowing. "Presence" is very similar, as is the power of "Strong Tower". I really felt pulled into a sense of God's embrace during "Blessed Be Your Name", although I didn't rate the hit single "Devotion" quite so much. It's one of those things that you just can't put your finger on, but the Newsboys have the knack of creating some of the finest worship music for today's kind of people. 9/10. (May 2006, Album of the Month)
NEWSBOYS : Glo (Inpop : 804147138123)
Here we go, then, with the latest release from the zany crew known to all as the Newsboys. With Paul Colman now firmly in place as a guitarist, the band has settled into it's new format. After the delights of their previous worship albums, I'm afraid that this one doesn't quite hit the same heights, but there are still plenty of great moments to enjoy. "Something Beautiful" has been played on the radio for some time, and it's one that instantly made it's mark on me. Hearing it as part of a full album, it still sounds good. "The Mission" has driving power and passion running all the way through, with excellent guitar sounds coming from the aforementioned Mr Colman. "Your Love is Better Than Life", claims track 7 in a chugging sort of way, while "I Am Free" returns to the faster rhythmic style of earlier numbers. I thought that the album dipped a little mid way, and I've no idea what was in the guys' minds when they recorded the closing "Gonna Be Alright". It's a very strange track and seems ot have no bearing on the rest of the listing. Not their best, but one that will please the fans. 7/10. (April 2007)
NEWSBOYS: Live - Houston We Are GO Inpop/Fierce!
Aussie band The Newsboys have been around since the late 80s & are nowadays a major name on the CCM scene, despite not receiving widespread critical acclaim in their earlier days. They've now developed into a hugely popular group amassing very respectable CD sales indeed & attracting major league crowds to gigs! "Houston We Are Go" was recorded in spring 2007 in front of such a crowd nudging 9000 as part of their 'Go' tour. The CD kicks off with "Shine" which is preceded by a Moby-style intro with sound bites based on Psalm 23 - a great idea when you're live for building up the excitement but for a CD, 2+ minute intros are over-the-top. Although the track itself was musically energetic I can't say I was thrilled as I thought it lacked any distinctive flavour. The 2nd track "Wherever We Go" follows in pretty much the same fashion, but thankfully from here on in things pick up dramatically. "The Mission" was still full of energy, but spiced up with a big dollop of bounce having a great build-up & catchy chorus making it highly infectious - way more palatable than the starters! "Something Beautiful" has to be my absolute favourite with a really funky electro-poppy chorus, simple but effective riffs & a powerful drum beat to build things up. There's the odd familiar ditty included such as a rendition of "Blessed Be Your Name" (Matty Redman) & a refrain of "Amazing Love" - that would have been a great atmospheric thing live but again for a CD it does drag on a bit. One thing that does strike about the whole thing is the amazing studio-quality recording - I would love to feel the full effects at a gig but I think with such energy in the tracks I'd have been thoroughly shattered by the end! The only thing which occasionally marred the CD was a screaming woman stood far too close to the mic - someone shut her up! The CD finishes off with front man Peter Furler's testimony which was a great & powerful way to round off. Ignore the 1st couple of tracks & you have a great live CD you'll be singing along to over & over again. 8/10 Simon Redfern (November 2008)
NEWSBOYS : In the Hands of God. (Inpop : POD14542)
I'm writing this review from a downloaded album, and all the track names are mixed up for some reason, hope the CD is better organized. This is fairly typical no nonsense American rock music, much like you'd expect from this band. There are some really good songs on here, the title track being probably my favourite, although "My friend Jesus" shows a good sense of humour, although Celine Dion might disagree (You'll have to listen to it). "Dance" sounds very much like "Petra". "RSL 1984" is another standout tune. Apparently this album reached number 28 in the billboard chart, and number one in the Christian retail charts so it's obviously quite popular. Definitely worth a listen if you get the chance 9/10 Andy Sayner. (July 2009)
NEWSBOYS : Love Riot. (Fair Trade : 696859309854)
Although released several months ago, this album has only just found its way to NFN Towers. Already a big hit with other media, I was keen to hear this release. The opening “Crazy” sounds so fresh, yet it had me comparing it with Steve Taylor music of the late eighties. Michael Tait proclaims love for God on most tracks, and the anthemic “Hero”, is one such song. Tracks like “Love Riot”, “Guilty”, and “You Hold It All” left me a little disappointed. They sounded too much like contemporary praise and worship, rather than the pop/rock sound fans have come to know. But, with “No Longer Slaves” begins a real purple patch. Tait belts out “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” It’s a medium placed song that builds and builds in sound, with the addition of a full choir backing. That’s followed by “Family of God.” No matter who you are and what you’ve done, you are known to the Father, and we are all family. If that’s not good enough, then, “Committed” simply gallops along at break neck speed. As well as the trusted guitar sound, Newsboys incorporated plenty of synth’s and loops, as on “Earthquake.” Although I enjoyed this album, some of the aforementioned tracks were al ittle disappointing. Saying that, who am I to argue with a band that has sold 8 million units, had 33 #1 radio hits, gained 4 Grammy Nominations, and won multiple Dove Awards? 7/10. (August 2016)
NEWSBOYS : Hallelujah for the Cross. (First Company : 205863801)
“For as long as we can recall, we have loved the very essence of hymns,” say Newsboys. “To this day, the hymns of old still move us like nothing else, and having the opportunity to bring focus back to them today in a modern style, we hope they shall never die.” So, what you get with this album, is the band playing old hymns in Newsboys style. Guitars, keyboards, and synths are at the forefront of most tracks, but they fail to raise much excitement to the listener. “All Creatures of Our God and King” sounds exactly how you’d expect it to sound, performed by the Newsboys. There’s no surprises, and the band sound like they’re just going through the motions of recording. There’s a choppy pop sound to “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” but it’s the title track that raises the bar a little. Some great harmonies and thoughtful production gives the song an edge that most of the others just don’t possess. “Holy, Holy, Holy” is quite good but hymns like “I Surrender All” and “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” become quite monotonous. Basically, avid fans of Newsboys will welcome this addition to their collection but, for me, it’s a very disappointing release. 4/10. (September 2016)
NEWSONG : Love Revolution. (Benson/Word : 84418-4373-2)
I've heard some strange styles put together on album releases over the last 18 months but this takes the biscuit. R&B meets pop! Seriously, it's as if it's two bands sharing one CD. First of all we get the bluesy title track then, "Miracles", complee with infectious hook. It's like this all the way through, ending with the sugary ballad "Heaven is You", a really fine song. In between, we get more r&b - in the shape of "More Fun Than Sin"- and the bubblegum "Start All Over On Mars", a ditty about how the band would recreate the world from scratch. I couldn't really stomach the blues type songs but the rest were quite appealing. Not too sure what Newsong are trying to achieve? 6/10. (May 1997)
NewSong Live Worship 'Faithful'. (Integrity Music : 63272)
It is ten years since NewSong's first Grammy-nominated live worship release 'Rescue'. This latest 13 track high-energy offering was recorded live at the band's home church in Atlanta. Most of the tracks capture well an atmosphere of enthusiasm in the worship. There is a high standard of songwriting here, with excellent lyrics that are often solidly Bible-based. Lead vocals are note-perfect. There isn't really a poor track here, but those worthy of particular mention include 'This I believe', the bouncy title track 'Faithful', 'Yours' with beautiful lead vocals by Riley Engquist (although the male support vocals are a shame!), and 'Wide open' which includes an effective viola part and is one of those tunes that stays with you afterwards. The (heavily modified!) 'Rock of Ages' is however the standout in my book - a great arrangement, including that beautifully played viola again. There is widespread use of repeating 'riffs', often effective but some of which are somewhat forced and don't match the tune too well - an example being the introduction to the opener 'Doxology'. Other downsides? I would have preferred 'This beating heart' without the pre-song sermonette. There is a tendency on slower tracks for the (male) lead vocals to portray a level of sincerity that sounds somewhat 'effected' to my British ears. I feel the track sequencing could have been better - 'Angels' and the following 'Hallelujah', for instance, are an identical tempo. 'Give me faith' however is well chosen as the closer - “I may be weak, your Spirit's strong in me, my flesh may fail, my God You never will” - Amen to that! Sound quality varies from the compressed and distorted to the very reasonable. Add a mark if this doesn't bother you(!), but overall I give it 8/10. David Deeks (October 2015)
NEXT 2 NOTHING : New Today. (www.next-2-nothing.com)
This CD is rock in a gentle sort of sense – more Crowded House than Metallica. In fact, very Crowded House (with a side-salad of Eagles) and as they describe themselves as something for rockers and country fans, I guess it’s a comparison they’d be happy with. It’s very pleasant listening, more something to sway to than jump up and down to. Even the wonderful guitar solo on “All I Want To Be” is more Clapton than Bonamassa. So is it any good? Well, yes, it is. It’s very well written, arranged, recorded and performed. The band grew out of a worship team, which shows in their lyrical clarity and invocations not to give up and probably in the pacing of their material. Even the CD is paced more like a worship concert: building to the rockier stuff rather than kicking straight in, then backing off again rather than going all out for the finish line. When they go up-tempo, particularly in “Shine A Light” it does move well, especially when the organ kicks in at the mid-point and the lead guitar then takes over to complement the mood perfectly. This is a band that feels like it’s been together a long time, comfortable and confident in one another’s playing, allowing each to lead where required and happy to play support when that’s the right thing to do. A good, solid album of which I preferred the rockier stuff. Best track: “Shine A Light”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (May 2014)
NICK DRAKE : All For Christ. (Survivor Records)
I must confess that this is the first time I've come across Nick, but after a bit of research on the web I discovered that he is the worship leader at St Paul's in Hammersmith, and he's been around for a while. There are eight tracks on this album, all of them are straightforward worship songs, and I detect a hint of jazz leanings here and there. In fact there's a definite hint of Jamie Cullen here in places. Despite this though, this is a fairly pleasant album to listen to. The best song for me being "Spirit of God", which could be used in church on Sunday quite easily. "His name shall be honoured" is probably the most upbeat song, supported by some pleasant backing vocals, and would also be of interest to anyone looking for songs to use in worship. Definitely worth listening to if you get the chance. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2010)
NIA : Rain Will Come. (Nia International : NCD971).
Here's a lady who's been ministering with music for ten years or more, yet I don't recall having heard her before. Nia presents a style that has a country rock tinge, married with a dose of The Pretenders. "Revive Me" first got me thinking along these lines and the acoustic based "Wholehearted" was another. These days, women aren't so scared to rock things up a little, and Nia is no exception especially with "Narrow Little Gate". Track 9 "Jesus Christ Is Lord" is a typical example of how lyrics do not need to be complicated to get the message across. Only 2 verses, but what power in those words, plus a singalong chorus that churches throughout the country should be singing. There's a couple of gorgeous ballads included, not least the closing "I'm Not Alone", and this really is a terrific album. 10/10. (August 1997, Album of the Month)
NIA : Christmas Child. (Nia International Activities : NCD981).
If you're a regular reader of NFN you will already know about the 'Christmas Child - Shoebox Appeal' that Nia supports with great time and effort. This Christmas album contains the title track which gives, in music, a small insight into just why this work is so important. It's a beautiful song, sung and written from a deeply caring heart and it alone is worth it's weight in gold. However, there are ten other tracks which include Nia's interpretations of well known carols such as 'The First Noel' and the joyously sounding 'Hark! The Herald'. Mal Pope's song writing has come to the fore this year and his contribution of 'Christmas in My Heart' is a listening pleasure. The involvement of two choirs only add to the quality of this recording as Nia's inimitable style leads us through the tracks. 'King For A Day' asks if we really celebrate Christ's birth only once a year, while 'Child Born King' tells the story of the three wise men. Nia and her team have a real heart for their ministry, the music only confirms this. 9/10. (December 1998)
NIA : Artist's Heart. (Kingsway : NCD991)
So we now turn to one of the most underated CCM artists in the UK today. She doesn't do it for praise like this but I really have to sit in awe at the wonderful ministry both she and her team perform all around the world. No giant backing behind her, just a few dedicated supporters, all with the belief that God is King. This latest conetemporary album returns to the successful formula of "Rain Will Fall" which combines country foot-tappers with pure pop that will appeal to all ages. "Martha" commences proceedings in the former style, while "Reading, Knowing" slows things down with a mellow ballad. "Tomorrow" livens things up again, before the truly brilliant song "Leftovers" wins my vote for "song of the Album". Co-written with producer Mal Pope, it's a song that deals with how God can sift through all the rubbish of your life and bring out the best in everyone. I especially like the guitar in this song and, once you hear it, you'll want to play it again. Working with such a kindred spirit as Pope has helped Nia to record an album full of good songs, including the poignant "I'd Do anything" written especially for her close friends. It's another super release. 9/10. (October 1999, Album of the Month)
NIA : Amazing Grace. (Kingsway : NCD992).
No, you're not seeing things, this is Nia's second new release of the month. This time "Amazing Grace" shows her in praise and worship mode with old favourites such as "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "Jesus, We Celebrate" - the former reminding me of Christmas!. The medley of "Shout to the Lord" and "Awesome God" works really well and the 'join' is almost undetectable. When the Pet Shop Boys released "Go West" a few years ago, many church goers started singing "Give Thanks" to the same tune, now Nia puts things right. The synth' opening immediately made me sing "Go West" , but I played Nia's track again. Amy Grant's "Where Do I Go" was a new song to my ears and it's one of the most appealing on the album. "Amazing Grace" is a safe release without pushing back any new frontiers. However, Nia's inimitable style shines through and lifts the result high above being just "another praise album". 8/10. (October 1999)
NIA : Secrets of Life. (Global Music Ministries : ISD4061)
It doesn't seem long ago that I reviewed Nia's last albums but, nevertheless, here she is with a new collection of pop songs. Bar one, all tracks have been co-written with Mal Pope and this has resulted in slightly more rockier style than her previous releases. Prime example is "Message in A Bottle" where things really motor along. "Why Should I worry" is more like the Nia that we've come to know and love over the years and this track will sure to get the airplay time it deserves. Simple lyrics based on Matthew 6 v25-34, but a great, catchy tune. The title track is a ballad of good standard but the album's purple patch comes halfway through the listing, with "Jesus Christ is Lord". From here on, "Jonah" builds up nicely with driving keyboards, and "Narrow Little Gate" keeps up the pace. Musically, this is a step forward for Nia but not such a giant leap that her loyal fans will disappear. Even after many years in the business, Nia continues to evolve. 8/10. (June 2000)
NIA : A Time to Worship (Global Music Ministries : NCD2001)
NIA : The First 15 Years (Global Music Ministries : NCD1501).
This Autumn Christian singer Nia and United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) will be taking a trip back in time to celebrate a special anniversary. Yes, it's back to the 80's; the days of curly perms and shoulder pads, to remember the birth of two ministries. It was just one month after her 17th birthday, when Nia left her tiny village in Wales and moved to Leeds. With Welsh as her first language, Nia spoke only broken English but had an overwhelming desire to sing for God. She recorded her first album "You & I" in 1986. That year also saw the start of UCB, a pioneering Chrisitan radio ministry, set up with the vision of broadcasting the message of Jesus Christ to every corner of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Well, as part of Nia's celebrations, she's just released two albums. The first is a worship album that takes some well known songs, as well as some not so well known, and let Nia gently caress them in that lovely Welsh voice that we've come to know. "Now Is the Time to worship" is a gr4eat opening track and "Open the Eyes of My Heart" is sung so powerfully that I really had to just sit and listen! "Be Still" is simply beautiful, as is "Be Thou My vision", but "Cry of My Heart" took the plaudit of "best song" for me.

The second release is a look back, as the title suggests, at the 15 years of Nia's ministry and includes a re-recorded version of "Thank You" from that very first album. Some of the earlier songs do sound a little dated now, compared to her recent material, but as someone who hadn't heard her 80's recordings I still found quality peeking through. "Saviour" is a stirring ballad that was co-written with Paul Field and "Matthew 25" is easy listening at it's best from her excellent 1997 album "Rain Will Come". "Artist's Heart" and "Christmas Child" are two of my favourites, and I look forward to listening and supporting Nia's ministry for another 15 years…..at least!

A Time for Worship 9/10

The First 15 Years 7/10 (July 2001)

NIA : All About ... JESUS. (Global Music Ministries : NCD0201)
Another very nice album from Nia, recorded earlier this year. She has a beautiful singing voice consistent throughout the album and sings some great songs. There's a mixture of old and new songs, with superb musical accompaniment provided by Nigel Hopkins on keyboard and Tim Hamill on electric and acoustic guitars. If you are a Nia fan then this album is to be recommended. If you haven't heard Nia before, then it's time you did. Profits from Album Sales support Mission projects around the World. This would be a good album to add to your Christmas present list! Songs include:- "Reign in Me", "Heart of Worship", and "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace". A song I hadn't heard before, and my favourite, "Scandalous Night" was so lovely, as were "Have Mercy Lord" and "Trading my Sorrows". I have thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this album, it makes for good listening from the minute it comes on and right through to the end. 10/10 Pam Robinson. (November 2002, Album of the Month)
NIA : Small Things. (Global Ministries : NCD0202)
Nearly 6 years after hearing my first Nia album, comes "Small Things", a release - and title track - that does say "let's be happy with the small things in life. "You See, I See" is pure pop and, teaming up with Mal Pope, Nia is in her element. Never mind how good you look on the outside, God looks at the whole person.. I, personally, think that Nia records some very good pop songs and "I Will Follow" is another great example. Mind you, she's just at home with the slower numbers too. "Lullaby" is written from the first person perspective of a loving Father and the strong lyrics "The arms that so cruelly stretched out on the tree, are tenderly holding me now". She tells it how it was and, for her, how it is. Nia also shares writing credits with John Pantry and the closing "Guardian of My Soul" prayerfully acknowledges just how big God is in her life. For me, "Fishin'" is a wonderful little tune that borders on the edge of country and may just benefit from a slide guitar here and there. But, what do I know? Nia's made another beautiful album and maintains a strong string of hits. 9/10. (November 2002)
NICK & ANITA HAIGH : Homecoming. (ICC : ICCD54830)
No-one was more surprised, than me, when I listened to their previous album of Celtic-folk songs and gave it a whopping 10/10 score. So, it was hard to stop myself from letting this one jump the review queue, in the hope of more of the same. Indeed, like so often, would I be disappointed by the follow up release? The answer was soon there in front of me. No worries what so ever as Nick & Anita carry on where they left off with a superb collection of music in their own inimitable style. There's the brilliant start of "Come Away With Me" and "Brendan's Prayer", which is soon followed by "Crossing Over". A mention here, too, for the devine backing vocals of Sarah Lacey on this track, as well as throughout the album. There's a reel and jig which is quite enjoyable, and the gentle song "Tender Saviour" - a passionate rendition by Anita for those of broken spirit. There's a little more leaning towards folk this time round, but that only heightened the enjoyment and worship I gained from listening. 10/10. (April 2003, Album of the Month)
NICK & BECKY DRAKE : Unique. (Kingsway : KWCD3298)
Unique is the 4th album released by the Drakes – a husband and wife team responsible for worship leading at St Paul’s Hammersmith as well as New Wine conferences. The album is billed as “worship for everyone” with an aim of having adults and children worshipping God together. Most of us will be painfully aware that it’s difficult to please everyone and my own experience of all-age worship CDs has not been great, so these guys have a high bar set indeed! One of the 1st things I noticed was that the lyrics are kept very simple in most cases which certainly for the younger audience is a huge plus. However I do think that some older listeners may find the repetition a little irksome, but like I say: you can’t please everyone all of the time. Musically, what I found with Unique is that some tracks seem to be clearly aimed at kids, such as the opening “Amazing” and “Take the Plank Out” which come complete with choral backing from children and could well be at home as a CBeebies interlude jingle. Personally, I did find these to have a hint of cheesiness so wasn’t too enthused. Others however seem to be way ahead and are beautifully arranged and performed by the couple and their musos. Particular favourites were “Love” – a beautifully simple ballad-style song where Becky takes the lead on vocals which I have to say are fabulously smooth and “God be Glorified” with Nick leading a more lively number, complete with U2 guitar riffs. It is very clear that the Drakes’ talents complement each other incredibly well in the composition of these self-penned songs across to the musical execution and harmonies. I cannot imagine all songs working as worship for all ages, but there is a mix of songs across the album which will appeal to different age groups as separate offerings, so could well be a good one to play in the car if you have kids on a long journey and like me you’re slightly irritated by a full-blown kids album. On the whole, this is streets ahead of anything I’ve heard of this genre so could recommend it on that basis alone. 8/10 Simon Redfern (April 2013)
NICK FLETCHER & DAVE BAINBRIDGE : The Breaking of the Dawn. (Kingsway : KMCD2801)
This Cd is a celebration of songs written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. With vocals provided by Yvonne Lyon, it's a collection that limps along, rather than flowing. There's a celtic feel to a lot of the numbers, and I get the feeling that Bainbridge had a lot to do with that. Also, the addition of Dave Fitzgerald on pipes and whistles, tended to steer the overall sound to that of Iona, especially on instrumentals like 'See What A Morning' and 'Holy Spirit Living Breath of God'. Indeed, I thought that the instrumentals were the strongest of the tracks, with the reel 'O Church Arise' being my favourite. Of the sung songs, 'In Christ Alone' lacks the power of the original, and 'Speak O Lord' results in something quite weak and watery. As a celebration, I'm sure that the idea of this album was well meant. On the other hand, I'm not so sure that it succeeded. 5/10. (Feburary 2008)
NICK LAW : Christus Victor. www.nick-law.com
Born and based in Sheffield, England, Nick Law is the Worship Co-ordinator for St Thomas Crookes Church. His 2006 debut EP 'Heart on Fire', established his reputation as a skilled songwriter and musician. Nick is responsible for most of the instruments on the album and has worked with producer Andy Barker for this project. There's a fresh, raw sound about the opening 'O Praise Him'. It's a little different to your usual p&w fodder, and lends more than a nod to the style of Matt Redman. 'From Generation to Generation' is a great song, which praises God for all He does and is. The slower, more worshipful 'This Life Laid Down' works well, while I enjoyed the use of a trumpet break in 'Lowest Ebb'. Nick's music includes some catchy choruses and by rubbing shoulders with other members of the New Wine Summer Festival worship team, he's got more than just one idea for his sound. The foot tappin' 'Higher Than I' proclaims Jesus as "the Rock". Meanwhile 'Just As I Am' invites you to come to the Lamb of God, in a very tender way. Although I wasn't so keen on the flow of 'Psalm 51', I did find myself wanting to replay the album again. Nick's hope is that this album wouldn't sound out of place alongside other secular items on your music player. I believe that he's achieved that, and more. 9/10 (November 2010)
NICOL SPONBERG : Resurrection. Curb Records - www.curb.com
The American trio Selah has proved very popular in the UK over the last few years, not least with listeners to UCB Inspirational, but it would be a mistake to assume that their worshipful touch with hymns and praise music is the only string they have to their bow. The three members of the band have all released solo albums recently, and this offering from Nicol Sponberg (nee Smith - her brother Todd and their pal Allan Hall make up the trio) is a real eye-opener. There's nary a Celtic vibe in sight, the Selah trademark African language stuff is totally absent, and instead there's a gritty, bluesy, funky mix of Christian pop in a Margaret Becker/Cindy Morgan/Trace Balin groove. Two songs have already made the UCB Europe playlist - the title track, a plea for divine assistance to revitalise a life that's empty and cold; and 'Anything And Everything', the realisation that everything that anyone could ever need to live life to the max is found in Jesus. Production is in the very capable hands of Nashville CCM veteran Mark Heimermann, guitar legends George Cocchini and Jerry McPherson lend their considerable talents, and the overall result is an excellent package. I'd be disappointed if this doesn't make it over to the UK, this is as good as anything you'd ever want to hear. 8/10 Trevor Kirk. (August 2005)
NICOLE C MULLEN : Talk About It. (Word : 080688612726)
Her debut self titled release produced the Dove Award winning Song of theYear, "Redeemer", and what a song that was! Her follow up album features 11 tracks written or co-written by the lady herself and begins with the dance number, "Talk About It". Then, we get into some funky, urban pop with "Baby Girl". A sucker for the great balled, I instantly fell in love with "Call On Jesus". As good as "Redeemer"? Better! That's what I say. The slower hip-hop style of "Let Me In" didn't do much for me, nor did the Destiny's Child sounding "Witness" - which became far too repetative - but "Come Unto Me" and "Sometimes" get things back on track once more. It's an album that tells stories about life and about people, and about a big God who works through everyday heroes. Well, He's certainly working through this young lady. 8/10. (October 2001)
NICOLE C.MULLEN : Christmas In Black and White. (Word : 080688621322)
Christmas in Black and White is Nicole's latest release following three incredibly successful albums, which sold over 210,00 albums worldwide. Up to date she has won 7 Dove Awards including the 2002 Award for Female Vocalist Of The Year. Listening to the album Nicole is clearly a very gifted and talented singer song-writer which is portrayed throughout the album. She has written many of the songs herself but has also incorporated some of the traditional Christmas carols and songs, such as "Away In A Manger" and "Hark The Herald Angels". Track 4 Nicole is joined by her father Napoleon Coleman jr. singing their version of what I remember to be an old Nat King Cole song,' Chestnuts Roasting By An Open Fire'. This is one of my favourite tracks. Track 8 sounds like they have all got together to have a good jamming session, using voice and percussion you can tell they are having a really good time together and it is very effective. "St.Nick's Groove", a geat note to finish on, a super version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" which rounds the album off. There are also guest appearances by Kirk Whalum and Phil Keaggy. This album should appeal to people with varying tastes in music, as Nicole uses various styles including pop, gospel, calypso.... along with the traditional carols. The album has been put together very professionally, and makes for enjoyable listening.There is a very clear christian message throughout. A really good Christmas Album and good value at £9.99! 9/10 Pam Robinson. (December 2002)
NICOLE C MULLEN : Everyday People. (Word)
This lady has a cracking voice, and when sings full bodied numbers like "I Am", it really shines through. There again, when she drops into her RnB roots, her vocals are totally wasted in second rate Destiny's Child type of songs. "Message For Ya" and "This This" are both shining examples of the latter, and I really didn't enjoy either. "Bye Bye Brianna" is a hoot. Why? Because it sounds so much like Michael Jackson's "Earthsong", and I had visions of Nicole singing this to the MJ video. As the track listing went on, it becomes more tiresome in sound. There's not much to write about really, as the songs just don't rise up to the challenge. 3/10. (December 2004)
NICOLE C MULLEN : Sharecropper's Seed Volume 1. (Curb Records : 8871442)
This CD is a fairly laid back affair on the whole, a mixture of slow songs, with a few slightly more up tempo songs. Personally I preferred the slower tracks, they are simple arrangements consisting of acoustic guitar and vocal, but there are some really nice strings in the background, although the other tracks are quite listenable, although I have to say that the final track is a bit cringe inducing, it's a lullaby called "Baby Love" 'Nuff Said I think. Vocally this reminds me a bit of Katy Melua. I wouldn't listen to it every day, but it's the kind of music that you could put on late at night and leave playing in the background. There's also a link to a website, where you can download Christian ring tones by your favourite Christian artists. I did have a quick look, but fortunately the site doesn't appear to work, proving that The Lord really does move in mysterious ways. Still, the CD is not bad though. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (September 2007)
NICOLE C MULLEN : A Dream to Believe In. Vol 2. (Word : 8874412)
Where Volume 1 of 'A Dream to Believe In' relied on acoustic sounds, this follow up sees Nicole using RnB/Pop music to declare her faith. The theme throughout the tracklisting seems to be relationships, and she kicks things off with a look at skin colour. Why should there be a problem when, underneath, we're all the same. 'Look Like Me" tackles the problem well and is a catchy song. 'Feel Like I'm Falling in Love' is a throwaway love song, but 'Still A Dream' is a nice song about hopes and dreams for everyone. I had to look at the sleeve notes very closely on the next rack as I thought we had a very famous guest playing. 'Treat Her Like A Lady' has a Latin feel about it and is very much in the sound of Santana. 'Forever You Reign' is a simply written pop song but as in so many cases, simple is best. The last four tracks were a bit of a mixed bag, and the closing 'Work With Me' I found to be very tedious. It's repetitive rhythms, samples, and phrases became boring very quickly. Some good sounds on offer, but consistency eludes Nicole on this release. 5/10 (March 2009)
NICHOLE NORDMAN : Wide Eyed. (Star Song: 8202072).
This is a debut album for Nichole. Having won a major US gospel singer/songwriting competition, she secured a contract from Star Song. She might be a new name, but I think we'll be hearing a lot more from her. A kind of Natalie Imbruglia meets Beverley Craven, piano based songs are given the Nashville treatment with some excellent production by Mark Hammond. But,, what makes these songs even better are the lyrics. Matter of fact, Allannis Morrisette type lines, but with a definite Christian element and some deep soul searching. The title track is a good example. There are a couple of almost unplugged songs, showing Nichole's material in it's original form. 'Burnin' is one of those, and I feel that the starkness captures the essence of the song. Maybe some of the others are over produced for this reason. Nevertheless, a great, listenable album with a punch. 8/10. Julie Lord. (December 1998)
NICHOLE NORDERMAN : Woven & Spun. (Sparrow : SPD51934)
First, Nichole won a songwriting contest in L.A, then, she got a record deal and moved to Nashville. Number 1 radio hits have followed, as well as a Dove Award by the GMA for Best Female Vocalist of 2001. Yes, it's been quite a journey for Miss Norderman, but what a welcome addition she is. I missed out on her first album and thought that her follow up, "This Mystery" was quite a poor dish. This time, however, Nichole has served up an appetising delight of songs that range from the pop praise of "Holy" to the gentle flow of worship that is, "I Am". In between, she declares love for her Heavenly Father with the bouncy "Legacy", as well as giving thanks for our healing by His wounds on the delightful "Healed". One magazine has already hailed this release as "a lyrical quilt of poetic beauty" and, while I wouldn't go quite as far as that, they do serve up a healthy offering. 9/10. (November 2002)
NICHOLE NORDEMAN : Brave. (EMI : SPD 63575)
Nichole Nordeman returns to the scene here, with a clever mix of commercial pop and more in depth sounds. The opening title track really stands out as a potential radio hit, and the scene is set. "Deal to Me" is pop orientated and sounds like a classic Corrs meets Belinda Carlisle number. Halfway through, we come across the dirge-like piano accompanied, "Crimson" which I felt really dragged the album down. Then, there's a the pretty little song called "Hold on", before we're back to the poppy sound of "Lay It Down". "No More Chains" is a moody, atmospheric song that tells of one being released from the chains that were holding her live a normal life in the love of Jesus. It works well, and has a nice feel to it, too. Overall, I feel that Nichole has found her niche that will win her many new fans. 8/10. (November 2005)
NICK & ANITA HAIGH : Celtic Roots & Rhythms. (ICC: ICCD47330)
Nick and Anita who? Well, that's exactly what I said before I heard this album. The title led me to expect something in the mould of Eden's Bridge, rather than Iona, but what I didn't expect was something completely different. It's back to basics, and the real roots of Celtic music, uncluttered by synthetic musical layers. For the oldies among us, Nick & Anita, at times, sound like Steeleye Span but, in essence, they have their very own style. From the opening "Captivate Me", I knew that I was listening to something quite special - I especially loved the violin. "Pilgrim" follows in similar vein, while "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" ends with a great reel. Instrumentals like "Strange Land" and "All Around the World" show off Nick and his talented friends' musicianship, while Anita's vocals remain smooth throughout. A brilliant collection of songs and highly recommended. 10/10. (September 2000, Album of the Month)
NICOLE NORDERMAN : This Mystery. (Sparrow : 7243 8517232 8)
Inspired by Madeline L'Engle's book "Walking on Water", Nicole Norderman's "This Mystery" looks at innocence, naivety, and the mystery of faith before it got lost in a land of adult reasoning. Hence, track 4 "Help Me Believe" takes a journey back to childhood when believing came easy and before rational analysis and systematic thinking robs you of a sweet simplicity. Nice idea, but the music is just dull and un-inspiring. Nicole has a sweet voice but all too often I found myself drifting through each song with no recollection of it's sound. Perhaps the exception is "Every Season" a light, piano led song that wouldn't seem out of place in any worship gathering. Sadly, on this album, it does sound out of place - a rose amongst far too many thorns. 2/10. (July 2000)
NICHOLE NORDEMAN : Gold. (Sparrow : EMID2779)
This is a 2CD set, which seems to consist of one album from somewhere around 1998 (at least that's the date on the tracks ) called Wide Eyed. The second CD is called This Mystery, and the tracks on this one date from 2000. There are also the usual collection of bonus tracks to make it last even longer. The first CD is quite enjoyable. Typical late eighties pop really, lots of strings in the background mostly led by piano. All of the tracks are fairly laid back in style, in fact there's nothing on here that's more than medium paced. The lyrics seem quite heartfelt, and are well written. In fact if this was the only disk I'd give it probably 7/10. There are a couple of covers on the second CD, Stevie Wonder's "As" and Cindi Lauper's "Time after time" which I was looking forward to hearing. Unfortunately though, this second CD is one of those enhanced CD's with video on it, and the video is the only bit of it that I can get to work, despite trying it on everything in the house with a disk drive. So, I can't really say anything about the audio tracks which make up the rest of the album, as I can't actually listen to them. The video though, is of a track called "Legacy" which, according to the sleeve notes is "A coneptual journey using images that inspired the lyrics". It also claims that it "Impacts and moves all who listen". Unfortunately though, only to turn it off. It's a video of her singing with still pictures of different people that appear every few seconds. I suppose It might work if we knew who they were and why they were in there. It's a pity the rest of the disk doesn't work though. I would have been interested to listen to the later CD, just to compare the two, and I must say I would be less than impressed if my record company was sending out promo disks that don't work properly. I would probably have given this a higher score if I could have listened to all of it. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2007)
NIGEL & ROWENA : Emmaus Road.   (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
Husband and wife Team Nigel & Rowena Steady have been playing music together since 1982. After around 4 years, they recorded a cassette of songs, and this Cd is a re-master  from that original recording. Music comes from acoustic guitar, piano, and keyboard, and along with Rowena’s vocal delivery, the style is pretty much folky. The songs are unashamedly evangelistic in most cases, such as ‘Hearken’ and ’Seed Packet Song’ which tell of how Jesus can give you a new start, and how you can be born again. After the gentle pace of the first, two songs, ‘Take My Hand’ is more uptempo, but rather short to make a lasting impression. ‘Mary Magdalene’ is a very thoughtful song, looking at how Mary was feeling after seeing Jesus die on the cross. It’s one song that gives the listener time for reflection on the subject. The title track is, perhaps, the strongest cut, and sticks in your head for a while afterwards – always a good sign, I think. Towards the end, the couple sing a Bryn Haworth song called ‘Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness’. I’d never heard it before and, although this version is very well done, I would like to hear Rowena’s sweet vocals with a fuller backing sound. The rise in the use of computer generated music since the original recording has meant that albums like this are few and far between. Perhaps that’s why this collection of songs sounds so fresh. It will be interesting to see how Nigel & Rowena’s new album sounds in a few months time.   7/10.    (November 2012)
NIGEL & ROWENA : Immortal. (www.cherithmusic.co.uk)
It could be said that it has been nearly 25 years since Nigel & Rowena’s last release, which sounds like they’ve not been doing much, musically, in the intervening years. However, nothing is further than the truth, and in between working as a duo they have played in a number of different worship bands, pop bands, as well as the rock/blues outfit, The Connection. This 5 track EP sees the couple offer some olde world Christian music charm, with a sound that is rarely heard these days. Rowena’s vocals are pure and crisp throughout and, on the opening self-penned ‘Israel’, she also offers some lovely guitar work. Horatius Bonar’s ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say’ gets a folk tinged arrangement, complete with splendid recorders adding to the sound. The title track is faithful to its original sound, although a pleasant instrumental break is pleasing on the ear. Track 4 is David Gate’s ‘Be Still’. This has a very meditative feel about it, as Rowena sings “To be still and know that you are God; Just to rest in your arms”. Throughout the recording, Nigel produces some gentle keyboard sounds to accompany his wife’s voice, and they especially caress her tones on the closing ‘The Child’. Again, there’s a hint of folk influences to the overall production, with Rowena’s recorder instrumental sounding pure. The catalyst behind these recordings came from singing in an old people’s home. They all enjoyed singing the old hymns and, in all honesty, I think that it’s with the older generation that this EP will have its main appeal. 7/10. (August 2015)
NIK & EMMA PEARS : People of Faith. (ICC : ICCD85730)
Sub-titled "Songs for worship and ministry", this album sees Nik and Emma sharing the singing but with Emma contributing most of the writing. That latter find came as a bit of a surprise because I felt that there was such a gap between the quality of certain songs. Nik has a voice that compares well with that of Keane or Coldplay, and is predominantly stronger than that of Emma. On songs like the uptempo "Bless the Lord" and "Come Lord Jesus" Nik's vocals are at the forefront of what's happening in the song. On the other hand, Emma's rather weak sound does nothing for the sweetness of "Father Creator". Saying that, she does come into her own towards the end of the album on two rather whistful numbers, "This Thing I Know" and "Love Song". Mid-album I found that things got a bit complicated in sound and the songs suffered. Either side, however, there's enough to say that Nik & Emma have plenty to build on. 6/10. (February 2005)
NIKKI FLETCHER : All Glory. (MP3 single download - Kingsway)
Nikki Fletcher is a worship leader and songwriter on the staff team for Worship Central & Holy Trinity Brompton, London. She and husband Jonathan came over from Sydney, Australia in 2008 where Nikki had been one of the worship pastors at C3 Church Oxford Falls. As well as being mum to baby Jones, Nikki finds time to lead worship, teach and tour with Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon and Al Gordon. She has featured on many worship albums and DVDs as a worship leader and songwriter. Many of her songs have been sung in churches globally, including 'Glorious Redeemer', 'Greater is He' and 'All Glory' - the song featured here, now released as an MP3 download single. Nikki has a great voice and this is a great song - worshipful lyrics, strong tune, and a hook-laden chorus that will have you singing it all day. Check it out at www.kingswayshop.com. 9/10 Dave Deeks (September 2010)
NIKKI FLETCHER : All Glory. (Kingsway : KWCD3299)
Here’s a six track release from Australian worship leader, Nikki Fletcher. As a member of the Worship Central team, she’s been lucky enough to co-write some of the songs with the likes of Tim Hughes and Martin Smith. ‘River Flow’ starts the listing, and I thought that I was going to hear an album of Celtic songs. This sing has that definite sound to it, but with a light rock twist. It’s a good song, and is easily the best track. Nikki loses the Celtic sound for the rest of the songs and on ‘World’s Collide’ it all gets a bit messy, musically. Her voice sounds a little like Cherri Keaggy at times, but she fails to rise above the over produced backing. ‘Draw Me Close’ tells of God being with us every day, no matter what we are going through, and no matter how we are feeling. There’s a sweet sound to ‘You Are What I Need’, while the title track is a pop ballad, declaring that God is mighty. The press release says that these songs are for congregational worship, but I didn’t get that feeling at all. Some nice songs but nothing spectacular. 6/10. (January 2013)
NIKKI LEONTI : Shelter Me. (Pamplin PMCD9829)
With new pop sensation Billie riding high in the British Top 20 singles chart it is, perhaps, a measure to compare her appeal against that of 16 year old Nikki Leonti. For your average teenager there is enough potential chart material here, beginning with the infectious tune and lyrics of "It'll Be Alright". It's poppy, it's got a good beat, and it sounds happy. "Shoelaces" is another song to fit into the same category and is pure sugar pop. Nikki's young voice stands out quite well and is put to the test on ballads such as "Everlasting Place" and "Love One Another", where she duets with co-producer John Elefante. The let down to the album is, after those tracks already mentioned, there's little staying quality. The pop goes out of the upbeat numbers and the fizz is certainly lacking from the rest. As debut's go, it's quite ordinary but worth considering if you have a pop mad teenager in the house. 6/10. (December 1998)
No Boundaries. A Total Worship Experience. IntegrityMusic 36442
This is part of a series of worship CD's apparently, covering things like Christmas and kid's worship etc. Anything that gives yet another chance to drag up the back catalogue again by the sound of it. As worship CD's go this one isn't that bad really. Consisting mainly of Rock/Pop style worship songs, sung by more or less anyone that you've ever heard of. There's the almost compulsory version of Delirious, singing yet another rendition of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever". Other songs are by Robin Mark, Sonic flood, Michael W Smith and Darlene Zschech, (Who is thankfully not singing "Shout to The Lord" for a change) and many others. Altogether there are 33 tracks on this double CD, which to be honest is a bit of a drag to listen all the way through in one go. Like most double CD's you feel that it could have been a really good single CD if they'd cut the track count down. This CD also comes with a DVD of the same songs with some visual multi media presentations that to be honest are a bit pointless unless you really want to see the lyrics on the TV whilst flying across the desert two feet off the ground. So in short, the CD is ok in small doses, but forget about the DVD. 6/10 Andy Sayner (March 2006)
No Ceiling To Hope: Poverty (DVD,Elevation)
Written and presented by Patrick Regan, CEO of the charity XLP, No Ceiling To Hope treads the increasingly well-worn “themed Bible study DVD” pathway forged by Nooma, among others, and focuses on stories of poverty and hope. Filmed in the UK and Ghana, each of the 5 sessions is set in the context of a famous Bible story, and lasts between 5 and 8 minutes, including time to discuss three pertinent questions raised by the passage and the film. There are also a few extras; brief reports from London, Trenchtown and Bolivia as well as a recording of Regan’s presentation at Spring Harvest 2011. The whole package is very well put together, the filming and editing are very good, as is Andy Flannagan’s music, and Regan is an excellent presenter. The passages are well chosen, from both Old and New Testament, and put across in a way that really does bring them to life. If I have a beef (and I do), it is that everything is just too short, and over too quickly, so it never really gets into the issues in any detail. Sad, moving and inspirational, absolutely, but a little more meat on the bones would give greater potential for meaningful discussion within a home group setting. The same goes for the booklet, which offers only the text of the passage, some thoughts from Regan’s book of the same name, and the same questions raised in the video. As an introductory series for home groups, or churches, looking to start praying through these issues it is a brilliant resource but it would have benefitted from some more content to really get Christians thinking, discussing and praying about the issues. The highlight for me was the recording from Spring Harvest which, at 30 minutes long, gives you the chance to hear, think and pray through things in more depth. All in all, excellent for what it is, but it could have gone deeper and been better for it. 7/10 David Cooper (July 2012)
NOEL RICHARDS : Thunder in the Skies & By Your Side. (Kingsway: KMCD2034)
Here's a double CD package of Noel's early 90's material. Not a bad thing, you may think, but that's only if you're new to his music. These days, Mr Richards is renowned for his forceful sounds and gentle praises, built on good tunes and thoughtful lyrics. It's the lack of those gifts that are so apparent on these CD's. Most of the material featured does sound very out of date and "Cast your Burdens" must rate as a ten on the cringe scale. I'm not saying that there aren't any good moments, "My Lips Shall Praise You" starts things of in a very hopeful way, and "Nothing Shall Separate Us" (although not good by today's standards) is the sort of thing that we all know and love from this talented man. If you're replacing an old vinyl or cassette of the original, it's worth your money but the jury's out for the rest of you. 5/10. (April 1999)
NOEL RICHARDS : Calling All Nations. Kingsway : KMCD2165)
The vision is to summon the youth of the world and the young at heart to worship Jesus Christ, the Champion of the World, at the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany, in the summer of 2001. The next step in that vision is the release of this album with songs of anthemic and worship quality. The former style comes in the form of the title track, as well as "What Jesus Would Have Done". Whereas "Calling…" soon becomes a plodding bore of epic proportions, the latter has it all, with the orchestrations adding another dimension to Noel's writing. However, this is Track number 9 and, to be perfectly honest, the previous 8 songs are pretty ordinary. Every time I listened to the album I kept asking, "Has Noel gone mellow? Where has all the excitement of his music gone?". "Come, Now is the Time" is a well known song that I've heard sung much better - and with more conviction - at many a church gathering. "I Believe" almost makes the grade but I still felt that the man himself was holding something back. The album ends with 2 worship numbers, of which I can feel "How I Long For You" becoming a crowd favourite. Otherwise, this is a pretty poor offering. 4/10. (July 1999)
NOEL RICHARDS : Heaven's King. (Kingsway : KMCD2909)
This is album number 17 from the veteran worship leader who brought us such classics as "All Heaven Declares", "By Your Side" and "You Laid Aside Your Majesty". All cracking, classic worship songs and I'm pleased to report that Noel's ability to write simple, singable and engaging worship songs shows no sign of abating. The title track kicks things off and is a wise choice as it sums up the feel of the album nicely - catchy, appealing, guitar driven yet subtle and most importantly, not twee! The second song "This is the Day" is a notable one for me, partly because it starts off with the lines from the Mission Praise oldie but it expresses the sentiment in a much more contemporary manner. I hope this version will sound the overdue death knell of its namesake but I suspect not. I'm still not sure whether any of the songs on here quite reach the heights of the three classics I mentioned but they do offer something that is lacking in a lot of worship stuff at the moment - they have strong melody lines that excite and inspire me. My only criticism is that the songs are named after their first lines, a hymnbook convention I know, but it makes it hard to connect the hooks in my head with the actual songs! Still, beggars can't be choosers. 8/10 Robin Thompson (April 2009)
NOEL RICHARDS BAND : Road to Berlin. (Kingsway : KMCD2446)
So, for the first time, Noel gathers his touring band around him for studio album recording. It's been a while since we've had anything new from this pioneer of UK CCM and the wait is worthwhile. Along with those distinctive Noel Richards' traits are various influences. "There is Only One God" has a great guitar rhythms to it and it sounds very much as if it could be a U2 track. There again, there's a brit-pop feel about "There Are No Secret Places" which sees Noel step out of his normal sound. I had visions of dancing and clapping when I heard "Altogether Now" but got just as much enjoyment from the quieter and poignant song "There Are No Secret Places". As it's become his anthem, "Calling All Nations" appears at the end of the track listing but even this song has been given new life. After so long without him, it's good to hear Noel Richards in fine form. 9/10 (April 2004, Album of the Month)
NOEL ROBINSON : Outrageous Love – Live in London.   (Integrity : 63262)
Recorded at House on the Rock in London in February 2015, ‘Outrageous Love’ is Noel’s new Live Album. It features new songs penned by Noel and a few friends including Israel Houghton and Matt Redman. The release further establishes his passion to pioneer British Gospel/praise & worship music and lead people into the presence of God in a vibrantly colourful new way. Well, with the press release out of the way, I settled down to listen to the “colourful new way.” New? No, the sound is very much of the 80’s, with brass instruments and gospel chorus providing the main thrust behind the songs. As for Noel himself, on many of the tracks you barely hear his voice, as he’s drowned out by the backing singers. The first three tracks (“I See Jesus Lifted High”; “Awesome Power”; “Freedom”) are all very similar in make-up. The title track sees the pace slacken and I was impressed by the first half of this song. Then, the gospel chorus comes in, and it the song suffers with over production. It’s story is akin to “Let the People Say”. It begins with an Afro-Caribbean feel, but degenerates into lots of hollering and whooping, and the backing brass is on overload. The whole album is quite tedious to listen to. I thought that British gospel had moved into the 21st century but this album proves that it’s way behind the likes of artists such as Kirk Franklin. Not one that I’ll be playing again.   4/10. (December 2015)
Noël Tredinnick & All Souls Orchestra : Prom Praise – How Great Thou Art. (Kingsway : KMCD3140)
With a history going back over 30 years, Prom Praise is described on the 'All Souls Orchestra' web site as 'a feast of orchestra, solo and, often, choral music. There is an element of celebration when Noël and the Orchestra invite the audience to stand and join in to sing some favourite hymns and worship songs. Then there is contemplation as they can sit back and ponder the words of a song or the brief 'Pause for Thought'. I am confident that this well recorded latest CD+DVD package will prove extremely popular amongst those who enjoy the whole Prom Praise experience. But I have always struggled to understand what the experience is exactly – I can't understand the rationale. I struggle for instance with how the opening track, Elmer Bernstein's 'The magnificent seven', links with the praise songs that follow. One of the best songs for me is the excellent full-on 'Billy Graham' style rendition of 'Glorious things of You are spoken' – but I am then caught short as it gives way to a (well played) performance of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. Why should the contemporary worship song 'Happy Day' lead into the (beautifully sung) Newley and Bricusse song 'Feeling good'? I worry that this overall approach robs our 'favourite hymns and worship songs' of their true value as praise and worship of our wonderful God, presenting them instead as simply 'a good sing'. Unfortunately, even in this context there are problems. The full orchestra arrangements tend to be overdone, detracting from the spirit of the music – e.g. in 'Awesome God' vocalist Beverley Trotman seems to struggle against the onslaught and complexity behind her. There are also timing problems, particularly in the more contemporary songs with their syncopation e.g. Matt Redman's 'Let everything that has breath'. Whenever the orchestra is required to 'swing', it sounds stiff – 'Awake awake O Zion' is one example that sounds as though it is being played rigidly 'to the dots'. 'In Christ alone' is presented as an 'overture' with its beautiful tune rendered almost unrecognisable. The DVD includes several more tracks than the CD – including what is described as the 'brief Pause for thought' by Hugh Palmer, which is actually a strongly evangelistic message lasting almost 12 mins. A well recorded example of Prom Praise then – but with apologies to those who love it, for me a strange juxtaposition of content, with much of it poorly executed. 3/10. Dave Deeks (April 2011)
THE NORMALS: A Place Where You Belong. (Forefront : DPRO16785)
The haunting vocals on "I'll Be Home Soon" and the jangly feel of "Romeo On The Radio" make for a reasonable start to this album, the band's third. Even on the rockier tracks there's still a laid back feel and the vocal can be treacle-slow. "Less Than Love" was probably my favourite, almost perky in comparison. But the interminable "Happiness" just goes on and on. This is followed by "We Go On". Yes, you do a bit. The album's lyrics hint of spirituality rather than exegesis (just an observation, not a criticism). "Brittle Bone" starts with the feel of Springsteen's "Streets Of Philadelphia" and "Epilogue" has a nice weird keyboard intro. But there's a point where "grand and anthemic" wanders close to "ponderous and plodding". But it did grow on me by the fifth playing. Low on excitement, high on thoughtful atmosphere. 6/10 Edward Booth (March 2002)
NOTE FOR A CHILD : Eternal Curve. (ICC : ICC0878D)
The superlatives that have been thrown around regarding this group are many, from ministers and media alike. Having heard one or two excerpts from their previous album, I was keen to hear what all the fuss was about with this new release. If I say that the feel of the album is ambient, then don't instantly think Mairre Brennan or the like. This group certainly have a sound all of their own. But what does that bring to the listener? Well, to this listener, it washed over me like a fog. I couldn't see where the music was taking me and, when it disappeared, I was relieved. All to often, I found Susie Beattie's vocals to be distracting from the music although I did like the eastern sound of "This River". Daniel Goodman takes over the vocal role for the best offering "Song For Tomorrow", which is more structured than any of the other songs on show. Of the others, "Loving You" left me totally uninspired, and as for the instrumental title track, well, boring would sum it up nicely. With Goodman leaving the group, I'm not sure where that leaves Note For A Child. As for an ambient album, I've still not heard anything to match Troy and Genie Nilsson's 1997 classic "Whisper" 4/10. (February 2006)
NSC : Bramph!. (Private CD Recording. £11.99 + 50p p&p from: NSC, West Down, Cheriton Bishop, Exeter, Devon, England, EX6 6HG).
Is it really 4 years since I first interviewed this band for Cross Rhythms? Since then, they've become festival regulars and turned into one of the tightest indie/rock bands of their kind. Enforced breaks due to marriages, births, and career changes have only served to refresh the band at various times over the last couple of years, and this new release shows their potential to the full. From track 1 ("Your Love") Miriam Pitts' vocals enter your head in such a way that you know it's going to be a good album. Explosive start, kicking guitars and one of those songs which are a moshers delight. "Truth" is a slower song and, perhaps, comes a little early in the track listing but "Show Me the Way" soon picks up the pace again. I can't compare NSC to anyone else this time round, but non-Christian friends tell me that it's a very American sound. "Out of Mind" is a very strong cut based around Psalm 51 and dealing with guilt, while crowd favourite "Breakpedal" didn't quite work for me. Leave the final track running and you'll hear a great acoustic number to round off, what is, a fine album. 8/10. (October 1999)
NU COLOURS :Nu Colours. (Polydor Records : 533217-2).
With their recent chart success in this country, Nu Colours are the biggest CCM cross-over artists since Amy Grant. The hit singles 'Desire' and 'Special Kind of Lover' are both featured, but they are far from the strongest material on offer. That privilege goes to 'I Pray', with it's superb, laid back harmonies. "Whenever I need you, I pray", so simple, so classy. There's a few bland numbers too, and the album ends without you really noticing. It's almost totally programmed music and it does tend to be fairly repetitive. However, why change a winning formula? 6/10. (January 1997)
NU LIFE : Nu Life. (Integrity : 99332)
Nu Life are a trio from Birmingham trio who's album is finally out following a series of lengthy delays. Dionne Williams, Estella Ible and Maryanne Hepburn have been busy promoting the lead single "Woman Like Me" and when comparing the songs to those of a similar genre in the secular world, this one might just do it. RnB praise and worship is what this album is all about and there's a fine start to the running order with ''Don't Know Why'. "24/7" follows, in s lower style, with the girls concentrating on close harmonies and counter melody. There are 17 tracks listed, but some of them last barely 30 seconds. "Everyone Will Know" and "All of My Praise" are two examples of these annoyingly short bursts of praise. I thought that the powerful, shuffling "Teach Me" had a real something about it, but the sure fire radio hit for me was "At Last". Here, the trio really let themselves go and give their all to producing a fine sound. All in all, there's enough here to suggest that Nu Life would fair quite well with their non-Christian counterparts. 7/10. (July 2006)
NUMBER ONE GUN : Celebrate Mistakes. (Floodgate records).
This is a good old fashioned no nonsense rock CD, with lots of energy throughout the whole album. The vocalist reminded me a lot of Joe Jackson, but just not anywhere near as laid back. The album's theme is summed up in the title Celebrate Mistakes. To quote the band "Really it's all about humbling yourself, realizing our humanity, When you make mistakes you just have to face it, learn from it and get on with life. God has given us the resources to deal with any situation we are put in. He gives us hope, and a way out. That's really what the album is all about." That's a good description, you have to listen to the words a few times I think to really get the idea, but it's worth the effort. If I had to pick up on anything, and this is not really a moan, perhaps there could have been one more slower track just have a break from all the fast stuff. But this is not a bad CD at all, if you come across it give it a try. 8/10 Andy Sayner (November 2003) Forward to the next archive
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