Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive O

THE O.C. SUPERTONES : Chase the Sun. (BEC/Alliance : 63776174152 3)
Madness meet DC Talk, meet UB 40, what a mixutre! The question is, "does it work"? Actually, there's no doubt about it, the formula throws up enough different ideas to keep the average listener on his toes throughout. From the opening "One Voice" to the closing "Refuge", it's difficult to guess just what sort of song the next one will be. The lyrics are full of the usual praises to the Lord, and declarations of faith, but the delivery is good, too. The Supertones have added a bigger brass section than on their previous recording, and this really does add body to the songs. "Away From You" is an MOR plodder while "Grounded" is very aggressive, in a DC Talk kind of way, yet still keeping that typical ska feel. It's probabably the best track on show but only just beating the top ranking "Hanani". The Americans love these boys and I think the UK will be joining the fan club after this release. 8/10. (May 1999)
THE O C SUPERTONES : Live Volume 1 (BEC Recordings : BED7470)
There is a nice section in the middle of this CD which consists of three or four worship songs, which are very good, but the rest of the CD is quite forgettable. Most of it consists of the usual manic rhythms that are the hallmark of SKA music. The worst thing is that because everything is played so fast you can't tell what the vocalist is saying at all. I asked several people to listen and they all agreed. Also the audience is way too loud and intrudes over the music, although perhaps this is the way they like it in America. The Brass section plays the usual Ska type riffs, while the guitarist seems to lean more towards rock music, the two don't mix well, you get the impression that the band need to make their minds up which way they want to go. Personally after listening to the worship songs in the middle of the concert I'd ditch the brass section. If the whole CD was like these few tracks it would be a great CD, but I can't see this CD setting the world alight I'm afraid. 5/10. Andy Sayner. (June 2002)
OAK TREE WORSHIP : Eternal. CD from: Innocent Music, 41 Bollo Bridge road, London, W3 8AT.
Tony Willis, Abbie Jones and Carolyn Hope are three worship leaders based at the Oak Tree Anglican Fellowship, and led worship at New Wine last year. 11 of the 12 songs featured here are penned by Willis, who's debut album "Rivers of Grace" scored a healthy mark when reviewed in 2002. This album is completely different in style and features various rock influences. "We Believe", "Only You" and "The Secret Place" are performed in an Evanesance style, but the vocals aren't as strong. "Unfailing Love" and "Your Glory" fall into the Delirious? type of indie pop worship, with the latter being the better of the two songs. My favourite part of the album came during the last three songs. I particularly liked "Eternal Praise" and Willis' vocal, plus the powerful energy of "The Way of the Cross". All in all, it's not quite what you'd expect from a group calling themselves the Oak Tree Worship, and may well make a mark in the British rock scene. 8/10. (November 2005)
OASIS PRAISE : Bring It On. (Word/ Warner Bros)
The Oasis Christian Centre in Los Angeles has been bringing all races, ages and cultures together for dynamic praise and worship since 1984. With all songs written by J.D.Webb, this album tries to show a little of what happens. It's gospel music in the style of Kirk Franklyn, so that means plenty of full blown choir involvement and the obligatory whooping noises in between. The Cd begins with spontaneous cheering, and it's more like a football crowd than a choir. However, they soon launch into "Are You Ready", and away we go. I've been a bit tough on gospel albums of late but I've not really found anything fresh about them. This is very similar to those. There's a nice version of "Fields of Mercy" and a terrific 7 minute version of "To Dwell in Your Presence" but that's about all. What Mr Webb was thinking about when he wrote "Rain Down", I don't know. Awful saxophone and brass sounds wash out the samba feel running below and the result is dreadful. Not encouraging at all in my eyes. 2/10. (August 2003)
OCEANS : Worship Without Borders. (Elevation : ELE2074D)
This 30 song collection “features songs that lead us out of our comfort zones and into the real where trust, faith and wholly relying on the promises of God are paramount.” Now, although a few of these songs were new to me, I found myself jotting positive notes to many of the tracks. A new generation of worshippers have certainly taken ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ to their hearts, and this version by Nick Herbert simply confirms that opinion. I liked ‘Friend of God’ the first time I heard it, on a recent Trent Vineyard album. Listening again, it sounds even better. ‘Oceans’ is another song that has quickly popularity, were it mixes both gentle and powerful sounds. Pete James’ ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ has a triumphant sound about it, while Cathy Burton’s vocals on ‘Emmanuel’ are exquisite. On the downside, ‘Better Is One Day’ comes over rather limply, and ‘Everlasting God’ lacks any real conviction. Pete James comes up trumps again with the fabulous ‘Only One Name’. I was soon singing along to the great chorus and ultra-catchy tune. Of the other songs included ‘Our God’ and ‘Prepare the Way’ deserve a mention, as does the evergreen Graham Kendrick, and ‘Amazing Love’. As compilations go, this is one of the best worship albums I’ve heard. 9/10. (May 2015)
October Baby (DVD, Provident Films)
Hannah (debutant Rachel Hendrix) is an asthmatic, and epileptic, 19 year old student who, after collapsing during her university stage debut, discovers not only that she is adopted but that her illnesses are the result of her birth Mother’s failed attempt to abort her and the twin brother she knows nothing about. The revelations lead Hannah on a literal, emotional and spiritual journey to discover who she is, with best friend Jason (Jason Burkey) providing support along the way. The trail leads to a series of emotional (not necessarily in a positive way) reunions culminating in the tracing of her birth mother and a powerful encounter with a local minister in the Catholic Church. Hendrix gives a solid and convincing performance in the lead role, Hannah’s adoptive parents are well played by Jennifer Price and John Schneider (none other than Bo Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard) and Burkey does well carrying the friend and mentor load but the film as a whole feels like it doesn’t really know what it is. While poignant, regardless of which side of the abortion debate you are on, the central conceit of the story (Hannah’s late second trimester abortion attempt) comes across as an incredibly unlikely turn of events and leaves an uncomfortable feeling that you are watching a clumsy piece of pro-life propaganda dressed up as a movie. In fact, remove the abortion part of the storyline altogether and you still have the same movie about the journey of a teenage girl who discovers that she is adopted. On top of that, the movie is probably 10-15 minutes too long, at around 1 hour and 50 minutes, and suffers from a soundtrack that tries too hard to anticipate what your next emotional response should be. If this is an issue you are interested in, you may find something of value here, but it is only a very average movie in its own right.   David Cooper 5/10 (December 2012)
THE OLD TIME GOSPEL HOUR QUARTET : The Return. (Daywind :4187129128)
Well, here's something a little different! Recorded in Nashville, Wyatt Wilson, Jeff Stanley, Christian Davis, and Robbie Hiner sing regularly in the US on the nationally syndicated tv programme The Old Time Gospel Hour. The first thing I'd like to know is just how baritone Jeff Stanley sings SO low? He provides some amazing backing, as well as leading the rest of the guys on the finger snapping "His Love". The opening title song is a real catchy southern gospel number, and if that doesn't get your feet tapping, then "On My Journey Home" certainly does. Indeed, I found these type of songs more my sort of thing than, say, the old time ballads. There again, I did enjoy the peacefulness of "In the Midst of the Valley", which praises the Lord for walking with us through life. It's a long time since I smiled this much listening to an album and this is one of the best of it's kind. 8/10. (February 2003)
THE OLD-TIMERS : Turn It Up!   www.facebook.com/theoldtimers/
The Old-Timers certainly have an unusual recording technique. Dave (vocals) and Don (guitar and bass) record twelve hours apart in South Africa, and their drummer Phil (also of False Idle) records at the Simpul Studios in Boise, Idaho, in the United States. The music is certainly classic punk, calling to mind the spirit of ‘76 with shouty vocals, powerful guitars (but with a bit of riffing showing that they’re not stuck in the past). Think Sham 69, Buzzcocks, the Damned, X-Ray Spex and you’re not far off. It’s sweaty room-over-a-pub stuff, all jumping up and down together because there’s no room to do anything else (and not safe not to join in). High energy, powerful, guitar-driven punk. It’ll take you more than one listen to work out what the songs are about, but when you do you’ll find a band wanting to glorify God in every song, to reach a desperate world with the Good News of God's grace and love, and to have a ton of fun doing it. And they don’t just talk it: all proceeds from the sale of “Turn It Off” and “Turn It Up!” will be donated to U-Turn Homeless Ministries in Cape Town, South Africa, which makes this the best “charity single” I’ve heard in a long time. Best track: “No Regrets”.   7/10   Paul Ganney (February 2016)
THE OLD-TIMERS : Turn It Off. www.facebook.com/theoldtimers/
Like the other one of this pair of EPs, the music on this EP is classic punk, calling to mind the spirit of ‘76 with the same shouty vocals and powerful guitars (see the review of “Turn It Up!” for more details on the band that I won’t repeat here – aside to say that the songs are all under 2 minutes long). The bass guitar is a bit more to the fore on this EP as are the guitar figures. The feel is if anything better than on “Turn It Up!” and the lyrics more overt (which really suits the genre – “I do not want a crown I just want to be with Jesus” for example) so if you’re only after one of the EPs, I’d go for this one. Two specific points: I loved the false ending on “Televangelist” and the riffing on “Homeless Friends”. Best track: “Televangelist”. 7/10. Paul Ganney. (February 2016)
ON THE ROCK : No Hidden Agenda. (Private Recording. CD £11 Cass £6 & £1 Postage from: Kingsway Christian Fellowship, Church Road, Waterloo, L22 5NA, England).
This year's crop of privately recorded albums has been of consistently high standard, and this offering is no exception. On The Rock hail from the Liverpool area and have been playing plenty of gigs in and around their home area. This debut release contains 8 tracks and starts with the atmospheric "In the Beginning". Using the first verses from the Bible, the words are carefully used over a backdrop clever, manipulative sounds that could certainly be used with dramatic, visual effect. "Jesus, Lovely Jesus" is a superb, rocky praise and worship song that I can see going down a storm live. Simple lyrics but very well used. Just once or twice elsewhere I thought that the lyrics didn't quite fit the music but, overall, Ian Walker proves to be a writer of distinction. The guitar work on "Hold On You" is quite special, while the introduction of a saxophone on "Let the River Run" is exceptional. Joy, happiness, and praise literally oozes out of the speakers. A couple of the songs don't quite match the rest but, with the quality of "My Grace" and it's relaxing mood, it's a very good start. 8/10. (June 1998)
1 GIRL NATION : 1 Girl Nation. (Reunion : 02341-0179-2)
Carmen, Kelsey, Lauryn, Lindsey and Kayli are five young teenage girls who want to have a voice in today’s world, with God firmly with them. Perhaps I was the wrong person to review this album, being of the male sex, and some forty years older than the girls, but I listen with an open mind. ‘While We’re Young’ is an anthemic number that I can see going down well with teens. ‘Vertical’ is a complete rip-off of a Cascada track from a few years ago, and it’s a real pity, because it’s a catchy tune. There’s also more than a passing nod to Nikki Minaj and Lady GaGa on songs like ‘Live For You’ and ‘Count Your Rainbows’. The band Royal Tailor join the girls for ‘Love Like Crazy’. It works well, with the message that we should all follow Jesus’ example and share the love of God. The rest of the songs are pretty run of the mill, but the chart friendly title track certainly could become a radio hit. At times, 1 Girl Nation sound like five angry young girls at times, but perhaps that’s just the opinion of a grumpy old man. There’s a few highlights, but I’m not sure there’s enough there for us to look forward to a second album. 5/10. (October 2013)
ONE REPUBLIC : Oh My My (Deluxe edition) (Interscope Records)
Formed in 2002 this isn’t a new band so have had plenty of time to refine their art and took 3 years to release this follow-up to “Native”. This album has an acoustic pop/rock feel to it which made me think of Coldplay – especially when the piano comes in on “Future” and the vocal “woo-ooo-oo”s didn’t dispel that impression. Otherwise they sound more like a cross between an acoustic Australian teen band (such as 5 Seconds Of Summer), pop-funk (such as Bruno Mars) and 90s electronica (such as Underworld) with sidelong glances towards Labyrinth, John Legend, latter day Take That and (somewhat eclectically) Peter Gabriel, who makes a guest appearance on “A.I.” which also features some nice synth work. Lyrically they’re human relationship centred with a slight exception in “Human” where the protagonist has a conversation with God (in which God asks “how does it feel to be human?”). The songs are well constructed, performed, recorded and produced but did make me feel like I’d heard it all before. That said, none of these tracks would sound out of place on a Now compilation so they are of a decent standard. Overall I preferred the more overtly poppy material such as “Choke” but could see how the other (dance-oriented) material might go down better live. There are 16 tracks on the main album, plus four bonus ones on this edition so no-one can claim they’re not giving value for money, especially as the two alternative versions of songs appearing here are (in my mind) better than the ones on the main album – “Better (String Version)” was so good it almost made my “best of” selection. Best track: “Choke” 7/10 Paul Ganney. (January 2017)
ONE SONIC SOCIETY : One EP. (Essential : 083061092429)
This the first of three EP releases by this new collective that includes, Jason Ingram, Stu Garrard, Paul Mabury, and Jonathan Thatcher. With names like those heading the band, I was expecting great things but, as is often the case, those hopes were dashed my mediocre songs that sound just like any you've heard before. 'Our God Will Come' starts things off and it's a contemporary sound in the style of Brenton Brown. 'Forever Reign' sounds like a Coldplay b-side, and it really drags it's feet as you listen. There are only five tracks, and maybe that was a blessing. The only highlight was the closing 'Meet With Me' which is stripped right back, musically, until a rhythmic reprise livens things up. I certainly wouldn't be hurrying to play this again. 4/10 (February 2011)
ONE SONIC SOCIETY : Forever Reign.
As this CD started up my first thoughts were “Delirious? have a lot to answer for”. But the comparisons fade soon after that – this CD is squarely a worship one. The arrangements may be “performed” (otherwise they’d be dull to listen to) but it’s easy to see how they’d work in a church with just a pianist, for example (despite the band being very guitar-driven). The choruses are very singable, very uplifting, very easy to pick up. The overall sound is one that’ll be familiar to anyone listening to modern guitar-driven worship: a bit Coldplay, a bit Delirious? (Stu G is a member of One Sonic Society, so I suppose it’s to be expected in this case), a bit Matt Redman, a bit Tim Hughes. With a CD like this, though, it’s not the musicianship that determines whether or not the CD is worth buying (even though it is good): it’s the songs, purely and simply. And they do hit the spot: the band say they are aiming for “songs that would be used by the church – new worship anthems that can be embraced by believers all over the world” and they hit this target well. Whether the songs will last is a different question, but I wouldn’t be surprised to be singing at least one of these in five years’ time. Best track: “Beautiful Savior”, an opener that really draws you in and sets the tone for what is to come (although you could equally say that of “Always” or “Forever Reign”, which came a very close joint second). 8/10 Paul Ganney (June 2012)
OUT OF EDEN : No Turning Back. (Gotee : 4728062)
It's taken three years for the three sisters to record this their third album. Urban soul is the game and "No Turning Back" finds the girls in top vocal form. Soft ballads are mixed with dance tunes which explore daily struggles and God's forgiveness and grace. "River" is a real dance club number and "Window" would grace any radio stations playlist this summer. On the ballad front "Here's My Heart" is top notch stuff with The Katinas adding vocal power to the song. Produced by Toby McKeehan and Todd Collins, this album sees the sisters move into a more adult style of music and it's a move not without it's price. Bringing in the Grits for some rapping just doesn't pay off and the bland "If You Really Knew" would fail to make most grass root demo's. however, the overall picture is good and this deserves to be a hit. 8/10. (September 1999)
OUT OF EDEN : This Is Your life. (Gotee : 6694 4728502 1)
Three years ago, I remember enjoying Out of Eden's "No Turning Back" album, complete wit it's mix of soft ballads and dance tunes. I also mentioned the track they did with The Grits, and said how bad it was compared with the rest of the album. Well, if Out of Eden read my review, they obviously decided to take no notice of what I said because that track seems to have been starting point for this new release. Dull just isn't the word to describe this hip hop/garage based work, much in the style of Destiny's Child. Take, for instance, "Different Now". It's not bad, but it's a direct rip-off from one of the said band's albums. Much of the CD's track listing is dire and unimaginative and it was a real struggle to listen more than once. "Praise You" sees some great harmonies on a fine ballad but this is one bright spark in an, otherwise, bland release. Come on girls, you can do much better than this. 2/10. (July 2002)
OUT OF EDEN : The Hits. (Gotee : GTD47739)
After 13 years of churning out one radio hit after another, Out of Eden have decided to call it a day. This release features many of those hits, but not enough - it seems - as fans have been writing to the record company for more. For me, the three girls have never really made it big over here in the UK and I'm not really sure why. Their urban pop sound slides neatly alongside many secular counterparts, and there's a couple of songs that even sound like hit-makers' The Sugarbabes. "Greater Love" and "Window" being great chart material. The truio's version of the Bill Whither's classic "Lovely Day" will always stand out for me as one of their best tracks. Clean vocals and terrific harmonies give the song a real edge. "Different Now" sees the song get a little more aggressive in delivery but there's some real smooth sounds on tracks like "Meditate" and "Mighty Mighty Good". While the fans may not be 100% behind the content of this release, it is a scrapbook of the band's high points. 7/10. (February 2007)
OUT OF THE ASHES : Love Can Be a Bumpy Road. (Resound Media : RMOA1501)
Out of the Ashes is the creation of husband and wife duo Penny Lyon and Kevin Washburn. The duo use their original music as part of their mission to stand for joy, healing and love in the church, after previously honing their craft at the helm of the Beacon Gospel Choir. This is the follow up to their 2012 release The Garden, and it certainly pricked up the ears of this reviewer. The album begins with a boogie woogie number called ‘What Love Can Do’, which looks at all the wonderful things love can do. For ‘Snake Bite’, we move into blues territory and the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Penny’s vocals really suit the songs, and her delivery is spot on. Musically, highlights include some rather nifty guitar work, and sympathetic piano playing. The title track holds no surprises. We all know that love can sometimes be difficult, but we should never give up, and work hard to succeed. Do you find it hard to live as Jesus did? Yes, me too, and on ‘Rebel’, Penny sings through the up’s and down’s we go through. I got the feeling that this collection of songs had a bit of an American influence behind them. Certainly, I’ve not heard any other British artists producing songs like these. ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ has a rhythms that is not unlike ‘Nutbush City Limits’, while ‘Two Step’ has a Latin feel to it. I liked the way the lyrics throughout, were straight forward to understand, and that’s a great strength of this offering. If you’re looking for something a little different, then give Out of the Ashes a try. You won’t be disappointed. 9/10. (April 2015, Album of the Month)
OUT OF THE ASHES : Fear, Secrets and Lies. (Resound Media : RMCD160002)
Following on from their much talked about “Love Can Be a Bumpy Road,” Kevin Washburn and Penny Lyon are back with an album of jazz, gospel and blues numbers. I really like Penny’s vocals, as they always sound so clear and crisp. That formulae is evident throughout and begins with the song “Wake Up.” There’s some bright guitar sounds, as well as brass, on an instantly likeable track. “Tipped Off the Table” gets a funky jazz treatment, while the gospel swing of “Back to you” features a distinctive piano solo. The title track tells how the devil can try to turn your thoughts with “Fears, Secrets and Lies.” It’s a cracking song and well produced. “do That Thing You Do” and “Crazy Love” didn’t quite do it for me, but the bluesy “It’s a Through Road” gets things back on track. It’s a song about the well-worn adage of choosing between living a material or a Godly life, and the message comes across well. The second half of the album is really strong, although the piano and acoustic guitar backed “So Silently” is such a pretty little number. “Pole, Pole” ( Swahili, meaning “take it slow”) is quite infectious, and a I really enjoyed the inclusion of an accordion here. “Blackbird” is one of those songs that stick around in your head for hours after hearing it. There’s an Africana feel to it, as Penny’s singing focuses on revival. Finally, there’s a short Southern Gospel song called “I’ll Go Where You Go.” A mention, here, goes to Charlie Bunting for some rousing violin playing. Continuing from their last release, Out of the Ashes serve up some tasty tracks. 8/10. (December 2016)
OUT OF THE GREY : See Inside. (Sparrow : 1563).
The Dente's last album was full of tuneful melodies and catchy choruses. This release sees them return to their former style of indie based rock, with a touch of Alanis Morrissette thrown in for good measure. The first couple of tracks are nothing special, but "Not A Chance" does give you a bit of hope with it's brighter sounds. I'd call this a pretty uneventful album as it hardly breaks any new ground for this husband and wife team. At it's best, the album raises it's profile halfway through, wit the spectacular "Disappear" and the cool "That's Were I Live". The latter tracks all seem to finish without you really remembering anything about them. Fans of their last album may, like me, be disappointed by this release but maybe their old fans clamoured for the return of this style. 4/10. (August 1997)
OUT OF THE GREY : 6.1 (Rocketown : 080688612627)
As a long time fan of the music of Scott & Christine Dente, it was great to hear that this new album was on the way. Now signed by Michael W Smith's Rocketown Records, it's given Out of the Grey the chance to move on in their music ministry, producing a new sound that old fans, like myself, may found rather alarming. Gone, are a lot of the great harmonies and carefully crafted melodies that this husband and wife duo were noted for, and in comes an edgier sound, that is more experimental and, therefore, less immediate in it's impact to the listener. The single "Smile Like Crazy" is disappointing in that it's lack lustre delivery fades into oblivion quite quickly. "Truth Strikes Through" is a dis-jointed groove thing that fails to ignite any sort of spark and, I'm afraid, it's a bit like that all the way through. "Tell your Story" breaks the albums' mould, with a sweet little number that Christine sings well but "Waiting" finds her warbling in a rock style that was all the craze when Miss Morrisette was hitting her peak. All in all, it's brave move in style but, perhaps, not yet perfected. 4/10. (November 2001)
OVERFLOW : Better Place (Essential Records MPCD40571)
This lot are a five piece rock band from South Carolina. They grew out of a church youth group and are in their mid twenties. Their website describes them as a young "Third Day", which means nothing to me I'm afraid. Still, the music is quite good, they are a fairly energetic sounding band, with
lots of jangly guitar lines, in fact typical of what you'd expect a modern rock/pop band from America to sound like really. Most of the lyrics will appeal to their own age group, but I found them to be quite listenable to. There is a slower worship song called forever that I thought was probably the best song on the CD, but there was no track that stood out as being particularly bad. The only gripe that I have is the asterix after the track list that says that these are unmastered mixes, it seems a bit daft to me sending out a promotional CD of an apparently unfinished CD for review, but I wouldn't have thought that mastering would change the feel of the CD. All in all then it's a good album, and definitely worth a listen. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (February 2005)
OXYGEN : One Step Closer. (ICCD58831).
This is the band that's been put together by YFC a'la the TV show, Popstars. The successful foursome hope to be just as popular as their secular counterparts, and this is their first single. 3 tracks, the first being "One More Reason". It's got a commercial sound that wouldn't be out of place on Top of the Pops. Definitely has a sound with youth appeal, and has flavours of Abba and Steps. "One Step Closer" would be popular in the dance club scene. The lyrics are refreshing and a change from the usual played to death "boy meets girl" stuff. In my view this one is worthy of a wider audience rather than just the Christian scene. "I Belong to You" isn't as strong and I didn't enjoy this as much as the other two. The whole thing just isn't as strong as the previous two, although the message does get across. Two out of three ain't bad (cue for a song) and I wish them well. 8/10. Judith Wilson. (September 2001)
OXYGEN : React. (ICC : ICCD58830)
After enjoying their 3 track single so much, I was really pleased to receive Oxygen's album to review, and looking forward to hearing more of the same high quality. Now I have listened to it (several times), I'm still waiting. "React" starts the ball rolling with a run of the mill dance tune that isn't that strong at all. "More Like You" is a lot better and I like this one very much. "One Step Closer" is the best song featured in my opinion. It's got a good tune, and the words are really easy to understand. It's not too deep and the message of God's love comes across well. Mid album comes a couple of songs written by Zarc Porter and Mark Pennells and, sadly, they are both quite weak and forgettable. "One More Reason" sounds as good as it did when I first heard it and I'm sure that it would do well on the secular market. Porter and Pennells' third track "You Lift Me Up" is so much better than their other contributions. Thumping beats, a robotic backing vocal and a very good song. Vocally, Oxygen are very good but are let down by some poor songs. 6/10. Judith Wilson. (November 2001) Forward to the next archive
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