Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive P
P.O.D. : Testify. (Atlantic Records. 83857-2)
I should explain that P.O.D stands for payable on death, and as you can see they are releasing CD's on a secular label rather than a Christian one, so I am assuming that quite a few people will have heard of this band. I must admit that I'm not sure what to make of this CD though, I like the style of the music, as in the instruments, which produce that well known heavy American rock sound with lots of power chords and detuned guitars etc but the lyrics are delivered in a kind of rap style that to me doesn't seem to fit in with the music. A couple of the tracks I could only describe as a kind of "heavy reggae". Personally I found the slower tracks to be better. "Goodbye for now" being the best track for me. However the CD is well produced, definitely better quality than a lot of CCM labels turn out, but then I suppose that comes down to budget. Although I wouldn't buy this for myself, it wasn't too painful listening to it all the way through like some CD's are, and I could quite happily have it on in the background, and as my son has already claimed it as soon as this review is done I guess that it must be ok. The band do have a website www.payableondemand.com Although this wasn't working when I looked for it. So to sum up. This is probably worth a listen, though the band seem to have a foot in two camps musically speaking, and personally I would prefer them to pick one or the other. 6/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2006)
THE PADDLERS : Love Many, Trust Few. (CD recording: £3 from: 35 Underwood Road, Paisley, Scotland, PA3 1TQ).
It's quite some time since I heard some funky fusion music as
good as this. In fact, I had to go back to look at my record collection
and pick out the sadly missed outfits, Beehive and Capitaan, to
come anywhere close. As you will read elsewhere in this issue
of NFN, The Paddlers can appear in various guises, numbering from
just 4 members, right up to 30! This three track offering was
recorded last year at the Brill Building in Glasgow and includes
writing credits for former Curam singer John Cassie. "Homeless
in Christian City" is a sensitive ballad about being homeless
in, what is supposed to be, a Christian city. There's a great
warmth about the vocals and a nice fiddle solo in the middle.
"Escape From Christian City" and "Love Machine"
are both uptempo numbers with some great brass accompaniments
to the excellent vocal array of talents. If The Paddlers can offer
more like this, then they are a band to watch out for. 9/10. (February 2001)
PAIGE : Paige (Word : 080688611828)
Here's a 16 year old girl from the USA, who writes all her own
songs and has a message to the teenagers of the world, "Jesus
is Lord". The way she's trying to get the message across
is by putting together an album of songs in a style that teenagers
(and pre-teenagers) can relate to. As you might imagine, for one
so young, there are a few moments when the more adult listener
(like myself) will find a song that actually grates on you like
fingernails on a chalk board. But, on the other hand, there's
enough quality to fill you with hope for Paige's future songwriting.
"Hide Myself in You" attacks from the start, while "Heart
of Hearts" slows things down a little but, nevertheless,
carries her thoughts of living God's word in her life. "Jonah",
I found, is quite infectious, complete with a machine-gun like
delivery of the chorus. I disliked the brass mixture on "So
Not About Me" and the harmonica of "Here in the Light"
but, all in all, not bad for a first outing. 7/10. (August 2001)
PALISADE : Palisade. (Fervant Records)
This trio are each offspring of church ministers and have been
touring together since 1999. This first, full release sees writing
credits go to the likes of Scott Krippayne and Mark Schultz, as
well as themselves. What I found, listening to this album, was
a mish-mash of styles covering some very mediocre songs. "The
Closer I Get to the Cross" reminded me of a watered down
version of pop band Avalon, while I'll swear there are some Stryper-type
harmonies on "Famous"! But, again, for me there's just
not enough quality in this release for me to get my teeth into.
Disappointing, to say the least. 2/10. (August 2004)
PAM RHODES : Hearts & Hymns. (Kingsway : KWCD3297)
Pam Rhodes needs no introduction to those regular viewers of BBC TV’s Songs of Praise, or listeners of Premier Christian Radio. Asked to put together a collection of hymns both ancient and modern, Pam says that these hymns will “warm your heart and lift your soul.” There are two cd’s here, containing thirty songs, all sung by church or cathedral choirs – although none of them are listed. For lovers of the more traditional style of Christian music, then this collection will be well worth a listen. Classics such as ‘Praise My Soul he King of Heaven’, ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ’Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ all appear early in the track listing. All the great hymn writers are included, like John Newton (Amazing Grace), Charles Wesley, (O For A Thousand Tongues), and Fanny Crosby (To God Be the Glory). Of the modern hymns included, Matt & Beth Redman’s ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ stands head and shoulders above some of the others, but is complimented by the inclusion of ‘Here I Am to Worship’, and ‘How Deep, the Father’s Love’. This is one of the better compilations around, and should prove popular with the “thirty plus” brigade. 8/10. (June 2012)
PAM RHODES : Love So Amazing. (Elevation : ELE2059D)
“Hymns are prayers in our pockets”, writes Pam Rhodes, expressing how hymns help us to respond to God. Pam brings together 40 recordings of her favourite hymns. Drawing on her experience of presenting Songs of Praise, these recordings encourage us to express our joys and sorrows to God, and ultimately find a hope and inspiration within their poetic verse. Lovers of traditional church music will welcome this collection with open arms. All the classics are hear, such as ‘What A friend We Have in Jesus’, ‘There is a Green Hill’, ‘Take My Life and Let It Be’, and ‘To God Be the Glory’. There’s no real surprises in the production, apart from the rather refrained version of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’. But, that’s a personal feeling, as I like it sung with gusto. The Organ is the prime instrument used, although there are moments of pure choral music. ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘O For a Thousand Tongues’ were my personal favourites but, really, there’s plenty of great hymns for everyone. 8/10. (April 2015)
PAM RHODES : Then Sings My Soul. (Elevation : ELE2164D)
As a follow up to the successful “Love So Amazing,” TV presenter Pam Rhodes brings together another 40 of her favourite hymns. A companion book containing reflections and stories behind the hymns is also available. For lovers of traditional, chorale and church organ sounds, this collection will be a delight. There’s not a lot that I can say about the individual tracks, except that they all sound well sung and recorded. Favourites of mine include “All Creatures of Our God and King, Breathe on Me Breath of God, O Worship the King, and We Plough the Fields.” Of those that I didn’t know so well, I thought that “All My Hope On God is Founded, and Now the Day is Over” were quite special too. Although the album provides nothing new, musically, it is one that will please many. 7/10. (November 2016)
PAM THUMB : 'Feel the Healing'. (Nelson Word).
This is Pam's third album and I was really hoping that it would
show a big improvement on the previous two. A popular visitor
to Britain over the last couple of years, this collection of songs
are written about personal experiences in her life. Unfortunately,
the first seven tracks are a mixture of very ordinary ballads
and out of date funky dance songs. But, just when you're thoroughly
bored by proceedings, Pam whacks you with a couple of classics,
"In the Middle of It All" and "Goodbye...Hello".
If this is her "move to adult pop", then she'd better
think again. Pam Thumb desperately needs a good producer. 4/10.
THE PARACHUTE BAND : Adore. (Kingsway : KMCD2207)
New Zealand's biggest CCM export are The Parachute Band. Perhaps,
not quite so well known as their Australian counterparts - Hillsongs
- nevertheless, they certainly know how to praise and worship
with style. I'll be honest and say that it's not really my style
of thing at all. However, I'm also honest enough to acknowledge
the use of their home country's young writers on an album that
stands up well with others of similar genre. "Lord of The
Heaven's" is written by Shaun & Mel Griffiths and wouldn't
be out of place on any Delirious? Album. It's indie, it's poppy,
it's infectious, and it's full of joy. "Deeper" (not
the Delirious song) is a sweet, easy listening number while "Holy
One" simply asks the Lord to "breathe new life into
me". The 6 minute "Let Your Glory
too hot, and the diversity of the songwriting creates an album
that stops and starts, rather than flowing well. Altogether, a
good album and one worth investigating. 7/10. (November 1999)
THE PARACHUTE BAND : Amazing. (Parachute : PMD016)
With the international success of their previous albums, the Parachute
Band is changing the face of worship music around the planet.
Only four years after their debut release the band is already
well known worldwide and songs from the albums are being used
in churches all over the globe. A Parachute Band concert is described
as somewhere between a stadium rock concert and a church worship
meeting. The album itself starts with one of the strongest title
tracks I've heard for some time. It builds into a wall of sound
that is worship and praise in its finest form. Libby Huirua is
a great vocalist and her gravely voice on "All My Life"
is classic. You want that stadium rock thing? Then "Jesus"
is the ticket. Love and adoration to our Lord just oozes out from
this track, it's brilliant. Here's a band who are at home whether
they're rocking it up or slowing things down. Great album. 9/10. (August 2002 & September 2002, Album of the Month)
PARACHUTE BAND : Glorious. (Fierce! : PMD0017)
The Parachute Band is part of the ministry of Parachute Music
in New Zealand. Their mission is to take Christian music in New
Zealand to unprecedented levels, and to use music both locally
and globally to move people closer to Jesus Christ. This new album
kicks off with a rousing opener. "Almighty" has a great
rhythm and really gets "stuck in" to worship & praise.
"Forgiven" full of praise and the moving worship of
"Consume Me" is just awesome. The people behind the
album are committed to resourcing churches with fresh new worship
songs, and these are just some of those available. Even just listening
to the album, brings you a fresh sense of hope and love that comes
from that close relationship with Jesus. Parachute have a mission
and with this album, they're certainly on the right road. 8/10. (March 2004)
PARACHUTE BAND : Roadmaps & Revelations. (Integrity : 42662)
This is the first release by the new line up of New Zealand's Parachute Band, which promises a fresh sound. Unlike, say, Hillsongs, this is performance praise and worship, with little chance for those gathered to join in. Then, there's the U2 style guitarist who's solo's seem to come straight out of the Edge's songbook. It's a mixture of pop/rock ballads with the occasional faster song thrown in every now and again. Songs like 'The Way' and 'I Belong to You' motor their way along but 'Surrender All' puts the brakes on, and the pace never really picks up. 'Surrender All' is an 80's rock ballad and 'Fill Me' plods away until it gets lost in it's own monotony. I quite liked the use of the Lord's Prayer in 'Thine Is the Kingdom' and a lot of thought seemed to have been put into it's production. However, overall, I felt this release is poor in comparison to previous albums such as 'Glorious' and 'Amazed'. 4/10. (Feburary 2008)
PARAMORE : After Laughter. (Atlantic : B07228RKVS)
I had a feeling I’d come across Paramore before and found them on “Now That’s What I Call Music 85” and “Kerrang! The Album 09” which seemed a bit diverse (but they are the same band, showing that their past was more riff-driven power-pop than at present). There is a very strong 80s influence at work on this album, with a Duran Duran/Curiosity Killed The Cat/Haircut 100/No Doubt type of vibe, from the style of backing vocals, little lightly-chorussed guitar riffs, drum patterns, choppy chords and so on. The opening track (“Hard Times”) is very well positioned in that it does give a very clear indication as to the rest of the album. It’s very well done and superbly recorded and produced, the songwriting is very strong and the performances spot on. Lyrically betrayal, disappointment and failure seem to be strong themes on this album whereas musically they’re far more up-beat and summery. It’s well paced, with the full-on dance/pop letting up after 4 tracks into the far more acoustic and downbeat intro to “Fake Happy” (which then moves to a more Avril Lavigne-style with the arrival of possibly the most rocky chord section on the album). It’s a good album but just about every track reminded me of another one (mostly from the 80s and 90s) so it does rather wear its influences proudly (even the very different “No Friend” had me reaching for my Eminem list). If that was your era, then you’ll probably love this. If not, then I suspect it’ll rather wash over you. Best track: “Hard Times” (with a nod towards the more straight-ahead “Grudges”).7/10. Paul Ganney (September 2017)
PASSION : Our Love Is Loud. (Sparrow)
Featuring Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, and The Dave Crowder Band,
this album showcases the highlights from the recent Passion Experience
tour in America. The Passion Experience is billed as more than
a concert, it's a journey to the heart of God. Tomlin features
on 6 of the tracks and his band show some neat guitar work on
"Enough" and the infectious "Our Love Is Loud".
Meanwhile, Hall's "Prepare the Way" sounds very Delirious?,
musically, and "Madly" motors along at some pace. As
for the Dave Crowder Band, a little like a recent review of his,
I found their music a bit frantic and a little irritating in it's
delivery. Mind you, I did find myself singing along with "Wonderful
King" so, perhaps, all is not lost for me. 7/10.
PASSION : Here For You Now. (EMI : 5099960717924)
Recorded in Atlanta, earlier this year, Passion saw over 22,000 people "rocked to the core and united for the world, through the banner www.dosomethingnow.com. From freeing sex slaves in the Phillipines to providing clean water for villages in India, this event led to real results. Chris Tomlin starts things off on the album, with a rousing call to Jesus. Christy nockles provides the vocals on the uplifting 'Waiting Here For You', while Tomlin again leads on 'All My Fountains'. It's modern contemporary praise and worship, and the crowd seem to love every minute. Matt Redman joins Tomlin on 'Set Free' - a song that will energize any religious gathering. But, perhaps, the most powerful songs are left until the end. 'Always', 'Carry your Name' and 'Sprit Fall' are the real highpoint of the album. Sung with such passion, these songs are perfect for a time of collective worship. Saying that, 'Carry Your Name' also gets my vote for airplay potential, too. Visit the website to find out more, and buy the album too. You won't be disappointed. 9/10 (September 2011)
PASSION : Follow You Anywhere – Live! (Capitol Christian Music Group)
The collection of music is perennially created for the thousands of 18 to 25 year-olds that unite for the Passion gathering, but the intention of each song is to empower worshippers around the world. Follow You Anywhere marks the first time a Passion record has been recorded at the conference's home base, Passion City Church in Atlanta. My first listen to the album didn’t really thrill me, but subsequent plays excited me more. Sean Curran sings with refrain on “Welcome the Healer,” which is met by the occasional power chords. The song, which lasts for over six minutes, quietens down towards the end, before building with great power. I especially liked “Lift Up Jesus.” The lyrics and production is very simple, but I soon found myself joining in praise. The title track is led by Kristian Stanfill, It swings along at medium pace and is quite glorious to hear. On a sour note, I found both “Hundred Miles” and “Yet I Will Praise You” to be my least favourites on offer. Both songs are sung by Crowder. The first came over as being quite abrasive, while the latter just sort of meanders into oblivion. However, despite that, I still found this album to be a very pleasing listen. 8/10. (February 2019)
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST - Original Soundtrack. (Sony/Integrity: SK 92046)
Well, I've got to admit that I have not seen the film, so maybe
that accounts for the reason why this soundtrack means absolutely
nothing to me. Written by John Debney, it's the most irritating
and miserable collection of instrumental pieces that I've ever
had the mis-fortune to listen to. They all sound like extended
versions of links within a film, and by that I mean any film.
I guess if you've seen the film you may remember the odd sequence,
prompted by the track listing, otherwise forget it. 1/10 (June 2004)
PATTI BOULAYE : In His Kingdom. (Kingsway : KMCD2547)
Patti Boulaye has been around the music scene for years, or at
least it seems like it. I can remember her appearing on various
TV shows over the years but have never been that impressed by
her performances. Sadly, the same can be said of this album. Most
of the writing credits go to solely to Patti but that's not saying
a lot. The highlights of the album come mid way through the tack
listing, with "Sing to The Lord" and" Rejoice".
The former has a happy sound to it, while the latter is a definite
foot-tapper. The opening "Viva Africa" celebrates the
country of her birth and, indeed, my wife said it sounded more
like a holiday advert. Patti says that the songs reflect her "spiritual
journey, thoughts, emotions and experiences", and cover her
childhood to present day. I would have expected a more African
flavoured album than the one produced, although songs like "Glorify
Lord Jesus" and "Hallelujah Hosanna" do lean that
way. Patti's vocals are very soft, too soft at times, and she
often gets lost in the accompanying choir's overall sound. I needed
a lift while listening to this album, but I'm still waiting. 4/10. (August 2004)
For secular guitar aficionados, there's the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and a host of other top notch players worthy of praise. In Christian circles, we have Phil Keaggy and…….er…well, no-one else sprang to mind. Enter, Paul A Davies, a man who freely admits to being attracted to the unknown and the often unknowable. His latest CD kicks off with an intro that sounds like some Hollywood fanfare, called "1.98 x 1014". I'm not sure that I liked the title track but I did find myself warming to "Nephelokokkygia", possibly the nearest you could get to a Satriani track without it being played by the man himself. Layers of guitar sounds smoothly melt together, to give a delicious concoction. "Pink Cottage" was written almost entirely on the Chapman stik, and it sees Paul venture into an ambient jazz sound. For those who like the more acoustic sound, "Lil Lil" has a chugging rhythm to accompany the dance loops. It puzzled me for a while, and then came to me in an instant. The style of "Something to Hold Dear" and "In My Dreams" reminded me more of Bill Nelson (Be-Bop Deluxe) in his 'Red Noise' era. The vocals on the former track also sounded fresh. "Down the Line" tells of life not working out the way you thought it would, this time with Paul using vocal FX well. "Teardrops in the Rain" is a catchy but rather short number, while "The Buzzing of Bees" conjured up images of ancient Egypt and a time long gone. Paul says that making this album meant that he could "start with a blank canvas and just do what sounded right" in his head. It sounds right to me too. 8/10. (August 2006, Album of the month)
Paul is a very accomplished guitarist who you may have seen with Ascent, Eve & the Garden, Enygmartyr, Helen Turner or even playing solo. If so, then you'll know how talented he is. The question when approaching a solo CD by a talented guitarist is: Vai or Satriani? Clapton or Malmsteen? In other words, will it be impressive playing or impressive music or (hopefully) both. I'm pleased to be able to report that this CD veers very definitely towards the latter territory. I'd seen some of these tracks performed live and been impressed - on CD they're even better. There's the soaring Gilmore-esque moments, there's the slightly-further-back-in-the-mix vocals that you'd expect from someone who expresses himself better through a guitar than through vocals, but it's always in context and always highly listenable. There's also some Lemon Jelly-style "vocal sample and riff" stuff which I rather liked. Overall, a very enjoyable album. Standout tracks: Just this side of joy, Dignity and Contact. 8/10. Paul Ganney. (August 2006)
PAUL BALOCHE : Offering of Worship. (Integrity)
There's been a number of occasions over the last couple of years,
when the highlights of certain praise & worship compilation
albums have been the performance of Paul Baloche. So, I was really
pleased when his album turned up for review, and looked forward
to a recording full of powerful music. It starts of well enough
with great excitement pouring from both "Arise" and
"All the Earth Will Sing your Praises". Then, there's
quite a dry spell, where some very ordinary songs pass quite quickly.
"My Reward" drives, once more and gives quite a lift
to proceedings but it's track 11, "You Are the One"
before that feeling comes round again. Maybe the other compilations
have been so bad that Paul's songs stood out? I'm not sure, I
guess this live recording just lacks the conviction that I had
assumed would be there. 5/10 (March 2004)
PAUL BALOCHE : Our God Saves. (Integrity : 42212)
Paul Baloche is one of the world's leading worship songwriters. This is his follow up to the multiple award-winning 'A Greater Song' and it kicks off in fine style with three songs of strong declaration that our God is great. The title track is quickly followed by 'The Kingdom of God' and 'Rock of Ages You Will Stand'. All three move along at a good pace and the draw the listener into worship. Kathryn Scott is one of a number of guests on the album, and she duets with Paul on the song 'Only True God'. 'Hallelujah to My King' features Brenton Brown and consists of a refrained verse, with a triumphant chorus. It's a compelling song. Paul has the knack of writing catchy choruses and that's never more in evidence than on the rousing call of 'I Cling to the Cross'. This is the first time, I think, thatI have personally heard a Paul Baloche album in full, and I have been mightily impressed. 9/10 (January 2008)
PAUL BALOCHE : Glorious. (Integrity : 47292)
This live recording is Paul's 8th collection of worship songs, and also marks 20 years of service as the Worship Pastor at the Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, Texas. He co-writes with such greats as Brenton Brown, Jason Ingram, and Michael W Smith, and comes up with an album that will please his many fans. The title track plods along, without raising the temperature, but 'Just to Be With You' heats things up a bit with good lyrics and singalong chorus. Paul really gets into full flow with songs like 'Wonderful God', 'How Great Is the love', and 'To the Cross'. Each song flows well and is just full of worship. The best song, though, has to be 'We Will Hold On'….to your love. I guess it means a lot to me in my life and I found it very encouraging. One for fans old and new, I think. 8/10 (May 2010)
PAUL BALOCHE : The Same Love. (Integrity : 00076850742)
Respected singer/songwriter Paul Baloche returns with his 7th album for Integrity. With songs co-written with friends like Jason Ingram, Lincoln Brewster and Kari Jobe, this 13 track collection has been eagerly anticipated by Christian music fans. The opening title track is everything you come to expect from such a seasoned songwriter, and it tells of the love that died for our sins. ‘We Are Saved’ sings of the blood of Jesus that washes us clean. ‘King of Heaven’ includes some delightful banjo playing. Leslie Jordan joins Paul, vocally, on this track for a catchy tune that I immediately enjoyed. The same subject is the focus of ‘Your Blood Ran Down’, a poignant song that could well reduce the listener to tears of joy. The stirring ‘My Hope’, with Kathryn Scott, leads the listener to prayer, while ‘Reign In Me’ is celebration of Christ. Paul’s music has proved popular in the modern church for a number of years now and ‘Loved By You’ could well be the next one that we all find ourselves singing. It has few words, yet the repeated phrases are just full of worship at it’s best. After more than 23 years of leading worship at his home church in Texas, Paul Baloche continues to impress with his faith and music. 8/10. (September 2012)
PAUL BALOCHE : He is Risen. (Download Single)
From the title, it won't be a surprise that this is an Easter release(!) – and follows Paul Baloche's similarly seasonal 'Christmas worship (Live)' album from the end of last year. Paul has been on the CCM scene for over twenty years now, and this latest offering is being released as a single as well as being the first track of his new album, also live, and entitled simply 'Live'. There is nothing new here – fans of Paul will find this track to be typical Baloche, but none the worse for that. With unavoidably predictable lyrics, but well sung, well produced for a live performance and with a catchy chorus that stays with you, this is a worthwhile release that suggests the full album is going to be worth a punt. 7/10 Dave Deeks (April 2014)
PAUL BALOCHE : Your Mercy. (Integrity : B01L7FW8N8)
This new release from Paul Baloche finds him in full worship mode. Almost all the songs seem to be aimed at congregational worship, with some corkers and one or two songs that fall quite flat. “Psalm 92” opens things up, and shuffles along as Paul sings “It is good to praise you Lord and make music to your name most high.” “Once for All” is destined to become a song that will be sung across the nations. It might have the cliché line of “You Died so I could live” but the whole song cries out to be sung loudly. The same could be said of “Found in You.” It’s contemporary worship at its best, comlete with easy singalong chorus and verses full of God’s truth. The title track is one that grows on you, as it builds, musically. I really liked the addition of orchestral sounds to this track. Mid-album, things seem to get a little samey, and I found myself losing interest in songs like “Songs of the People” and “We Come to You Jesus.” Baloche adds the sounds of All Sons and Daughters on “To the Cross I Come”, and there’s a touching prayer for “Peace on Earth” as a closing song. Yes, there are some really good songs here, but perhaps the variety of style lets it down a little. 7/10. (December 2016)
PAUL BALOCHE : Christmas Worship Vol. 1 (Integrity : B00FPO611S)
This album was actually released back in 2013 and has since seen the release of a follow up, Christmas Worship 2 in 2015. Most of the songs are written by Paul, with homages to Christmas classics contained within. For instance, “Angels We have Heard on High (Deo)” features the Gloria chorus from “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. However there are also contributions from other artists such as Kathryn Scott, who co-wrote “This is Love” and also sings it with Paul as a duet. There are also some “Christmas Versions” of previously released songs such as “Your Name” and “What Can I Do”. These work well enough, although I’m not sure I entirely like the idea of re-writing existing songs just for Christmas. My favourite is “Follow that Star” as it has an edge to it that I would normally associate with an artist like Paul. There’s also a good rendition of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, a song that’s always ripe for experimentation and creativity. There is some great acoustic guitar work on the album and some clever integration of old and new however, the album is a little bit flat for me. The songs mentioned aside, the remainder do sound a little generic and feel like they are fitting a stereotype of what a Christmas song should sound like rather than aiming for something creatively different. It’s that “edge” I mentioned earlier. I kind of hoped it would present itself more frequently, but it doesn’t, so I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of an opportunity missed. 6/10 Robin Thompson. (December 2016)
PAUL BALOCHE : Christmas Worship Vol.2. (Absolute : B00ZGJ85V6)
This second volume of Christmas songs sees Paul Baloche sing various festive tunes, and marries some of them up with more modern hymns. The acoustic “Joy to the World” is a fine opening song. “For Unto Us a Child is Born” gets the ‘marriage’ treatment, paring it with “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord.” Later on “The First Noel” is matched up with a favourite song of mine “Above All.” Despite this, it still did sound rather strange listening to the two songs linked together. There’s a nice duet on “O Holy Night”, while “Gloria” is a typical modern praise song that praises God in the highest. For me, a little like Paul’s other recent recordings, his singing style is rather lethargic, and I found myself getting rather bored by the middle of the album. However, “Silent Night” features some nice guitar phrases, and there’s a wistful female vocal of the closing “When Love Crossed Over.” If you want a modern take on traditional carols, you may well enjoy this release. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed. 5/10. (December 2016)
I’ve not heard of Paul before, but this is apparently his fourth album. The music is pretty much all straightforward acoustic rock/pop, and there is a general laid back feel to the whole album, which is quite pleasant. The lyrics deal with lots of everyday issues, like love, the general state of the world, and the everyday angst that life throws at us, and they do so in a very thoughtful and well written way. There is an excellent track called “Four”, in which the singer looks back and wishes for the simpler life when he was a child. It’s done with a wry sense of humour, but it does make the point quite well. In fact all of the songs show a quality of song writing that seems to be sadly lacking in a lot of the music that comes out these days. You can get hold of this album from his website for £10, and, if you drop Paul a line you can get him to sign it for you. It also comes with several download options too. You can hear the songs before you buy anything too, so give it a listen at least, I’m pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2015, Album of the Month)
I remember seeing Paul Bell live in Cottingham a few years ago and can remember being impressed with a fantastic fusion of skill, talent, poignant songwriting and humour. I’m glad to discover that on hearing this album, he hasn’t lost any of that. The style is very akin to Martin Joseph – acoustic driven with folk overtones the latter being evident most strongly in the second song “Down the Middle”. It’s a sprightly number with a skiffle edge and some great lyrics – “I was broken from the start, Everyone’s a broken work of art” just one of the sublime lines that pervade the song. Mostly though it’s pretty chilled and laid back – even the opening number “Beautiful and Brave”, a song about changing the world with acts of kindness, is mid-tempo, though it manages to maintain an upbeat tone nonetheless. Laid back doesn’t have to mean uninteresting, as Paul proves. I was expecting some humour along the way and the album doesn’t disappoint with the witty “Things No-One Knows”. What other song asks all important questions such as the destination of tupperware lids or the point of Jar-Jar Binks? Paul’s songs are an abundant microcosm of life and its unavoidable challenges, suffusing sadness loss and grief with hope, grace and humour. That’s why they work. You do need skill and talent too, and Paul has those in spades. This is definitely one to get hold of. 9/10. Robin Thompson. (September 2018)
THE PAUL COLMAN TRIO : New Map of the World. (Essential : MPCD40531)
The Paul Colman Trio are the most successful independent artists
in Australian history. Now re-located to the United States, the
band have signed a major recording deal with Essential records
and this is the result. I didn't find it easy trying to compare
them to anyone but, after listening a few times, I thought, maybe
Travis? Certainly on the track "Love Me More" that was
the distinct impression I came away with. The vocals are strong
and Colman's voice is quite hypnotic after a while. "Sun-Stars-Moon"
is one of those songs that you instantly know you like but you
can't quite put your finger on why. There's no great guitar solo,
there's no catchy chorus, but you can't help thinking "that
was good". Worship wise, "Fill My Cup" is a joyous
sound and the prayer for "Africa" is full of tremendous
lyrics. "Angels" and "Your Sweet Voice" are
just two more great songs on an album that show the PC3 are going
to be a force to be reckoned with. 9/10. (August 2002)
PAUL COLMAN TRIO : One. (Essential Records)
Depending where in the world you're reading this, I may, or may
not be reviewing the album available to you. What? Well, it seems
that the US release contains tracks that the Australian/NZ version
doesn't, and vice-versa. So, consequently, the running order differs
too - most frustrating! A lot was expected from this outfit after
the runaway success of their "New Map of the World"
album last year. Then, there was a fresh excitement about this
band and their sound. Maybe it's because they've put another album
out too quickly, but this sounds like a collection of tired, non-descript
songs that border just above the ordinary. "I'll Be With
You" is a very pleasant sounding number telling of God's
promise but, like many of the songs, it sounds like the heart
of the band is completely missing. "Love This Life"
is my favourite track, which also is a song of thanks to God.
Here, the mid-paced beat, slowly engages your listening ears and
a warm sound resonates all around. There you have it, really,
a disappointing release from a band that promise so much. 4/10 (December 2003)
PAUL COLMAN : History. (inpop : POD1427)
I must admit that I was quite surprised a couple of years ago, when Paul Colman decided to join the Newsboys. As a performer/worship leader in his own right, it seemed a strange thing to do. Happily, after that brief sojourn, he's back with a brand new solo album, and making quite a noise with it, too. Now, not many people would be brave enough to write the opening track. 'If I Was Jesus' is a terrific number and written with great humility and passion. 'History Maker' is a rockier sound, as is 'Turn' - a song about turning your life around. The phrase "fill my cup" has been used on many songs, but Paul's song makes it sound so new. He has a great voice and the enthusiasm of his love for Jesus comes over very strongly. 'Gloria' (All God's Children) is a super song of praise, and I loved the 60's sound of 'Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation' Just before the album closes, Paul sings 'All I Need' which, if I'm honest, sums up life completely. Welcome back Paul. 9/10. (June 2009)
PAUL DOUGLAS BAND : Free Some Day. (Brother Records : 5089665).
Here's a chap whom I recently interviewed for Cross Rhythms. After
years of plying his trade around Europe, he was offered a record
deal with a secular German company. 'Free Some Day' gives you
12 tracks that have been so far described as Howard Jones or Hall
& Oates pop. It's an album with a dancy feel throughout with,
perhaps, 'I Believe in You' the most obvious single material.
Loved the French accordion feel to 'We Are Together', as well
as the rather tongue in cheek Christmas special 'Give Us Love',
which lists the man made disasters of the world with a chorus
of "Give us love, give us peace, give us perfect harmony..."
If Bob Geldof was writing a Band Aid song this year, he'd write
this one. Paul, we're really praying for you. 9/10. (January 1997, Album of the Month)
PAUL FIELD : Empty Page. (ICC : ICCD21430).
This guy's been around for such a long time that I feel he should
be held in similar esteem to Larry Norman. He's written classic
tracks over the years but mostly for other people. However, I've
caught up wit a little more of his music over the last 18 months,
including his musical of the early 80's, "Daybreak".
This album sees him dispense with most of the usual backing as
he tries to give a "real representation of the way I write
songs and play them in concert". "Make of Me" is
an early highlight, closely followed by "As Long As You Believe
in Me". My only complaint is that too few instruments tend
to make some songs sound the same as the previous one. But, perhaps,
this IS the concert sound Paul wanted - intimate. The timeless
classic "Thief in the Night" makes an appearance, and,
this time, there is clever use of instrumentation. "Saviour"
is co-written by Nia and tells of a prostitute and a homeless
youth. The song gives the answer that they need a Saviour but
then asks the question "Who's gonna tell " them? Empty
Page improves as it plays. 8/10. (August 1997)
PAUL FIELD : In the Long Run. (Nearfield Records : ICCD51630).
I have to admit that when I was asked to review this CD,
I had never heard of Paul Field. His singing style seems to be
very similar to that of Kevin Prosch and, after listening to the
album several times, his music has grown on me. Paul has been
involved in the writing of all the songs here, and also in the
production and mixing of the album. He seems to be quite talented,
has a nice voice, and is a very good musician, playing acoustic
& electric guitars, keyboards, and piano. My favourite songs
include: "God of the Moon and Stars", "Have You
Ever Felt Like This?", and "Go Peaceful". They
all have a profound Christian message in the lyrics and are put
to some catchy melodies. This is an album well worth listening
to and I, personally, hope to hear more of his music in the future.
7/10. Pam Robinson. (March 2001)
PAUL FIELD : Here & Now. (Kingsway : KMCD2423)
Veteran British songwriter Paul Field re-surfaces here, with a
musical based on the Sermon on the Mount. As you'd expect from
this accomplished musician, as well as writing credits, Paul provides
much of the vocals and instruments. However, he's assisted by
other leading UK lights such as Bryn Haworth, Mike Haughton, and
Esther Alexander. Each song depicts one specific part of the Sermon
on the Mount. "Time Will Tell", then, is based on the
verse "You are like light for the whole world". "Forgiveness"
talks of just that but the production is just so old it's beyond
belief. It's a mid-80's dance tune that has overtones of Sir Cliff's
"Wired For Sound" - not good at all. Remember "Ernie
- the fastest milkman in the west"? Well, here we have "The
Ballad of Gold Tooth Joe and Black Eye Pete". Based on "Love
your enemies" it tells the story of two cowboys in a saloon
bar, playing cards. One accuses the other of cheating, they go
for their guns, and they kill each other. Paul then asks, what
if they'd just "turned the other cheek"? If "Here
& Now" is a musical, perhaps I should see the stage show
itself. As far as hearing the songs blind, it's difficult to really
follow proceedings. 5/10. (January 2003)
PAUL FIELD : Let There Be Peace. (ICC : ICCD77130)
Subtitled "New Carols for a New Generation" this album
has a mixed standard of songs, with Paul field at the helm. Thankfully,
it's of much better quality than his "Here & Now"
album of a year ago. I thought Gary Glitter was going to sing
as the first song began. "Christmas, It's Christmas"
opens with the same riff as "Another Rock n' Roll Christmas"
but it does settle down into its own right, as a typical, jolly
singalong. "I Love the Lights on the Christmas Trees"
lends a little to "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and,
indeed, some of my work colleagues showed early festive delight
in demonstrating this. Christmas must be one of the most difficult
subjects to write a song about these days because, "hasn't
it all been said"? There again, Garth Hewitt's "Shine
On", shines because of it's simplicity. Sadly, "Give
Your Granny A Kiss For Christmas" should never have seen
the light of day. However, Paul does redeem himself with the prayer
for the lonely called "Katy's Christmas". Just above
average, I think. 6/10. (December 2003)
PAUL FIELD : Make a Joyful Noise. (ICC ICCD76930)
Here's a cd that looks like it means business. Subtitled, "Psalms
for a New Generation" suitable for "children and all
age worship", its packaged in a nice, appealing, contemporary
style. There's some nice artistic photowork, a clean, simple design
and a real sense that this will really encourage and empower the
youngsters in your church. Sadly, it is let down by the most important
constituent - the songs. Some aren't bad, with "You are the
Lord" being the best of the bunch, but on the whole, they
sound rather dated. The arrangements don't sound as professional
as I expected, and feel more like they were recorded in Paul's
front room rather than a professional recording studio. I know
that these will just not work in our church, lacking the punch
and vitality that childrens worship really needs in this generation.
I would suggest that the Vineyard "Great Big God" collection
would be a better purchase, or anything from Capt Alan Price,
both of which tap into, very successfully, what childrens and
all age worship should be about. This is a disappointment, especially
as it from an artist of the calibre of Paul Field. In spite of
the fact that it comes with all the music score and lyric files
on the cd, which is a great help, I cannot recommend this as a
useful tool. 3/10 Robin Thompson. (April 2004)
PAUL FIELD : Without the Song and the Dance.
(ICC Records : ICC0815D)
I must admit that I was not quite sure what to expect from this CD when I first saw it, most of my experience of Paul Field has been kid's worship albums, and a fairly cheesy musical by Roger Jones. However I have to say that I was impressed by this CD right from the start. Most of the tracks are
fairly upbeat acoustic rock with a couple of slower numbers too. The lyrics are very direct, and even a bit controversial in a couple of places, more than I expected to be honest. Certainly there are no punches pulled. The track "Jesus Do You Watch the News" being the standout track for me, but I
wouldn't really say that there is a bad track on this CD. It's a welcome breath of fresh air from a lot of the stuff that's around at the moment, especially from across the Atlantic. I would recommend it. 10/10. Andy Sayner. (July 2005, Album of the Month)
PAUL FIELD & DAN WHEELER. Rites of Passage. (Elevation : ICC1281D)
This is the second time that these guys have written together, and the collaboration seems to work very well. The songs are written and inspired by the significant times in our lives, from a spiritual perspective and will touch all in some way or other. Their sound, on the whole, is a gentle folk style, and the vocals work really well together. 'This is Love' was my favourite track. It's quite uptempo, Paul and Dan share the vocals, and there's even some Mark Knopfler type guitar playing for good measure. 'Joel's Song' is quite sweet. It's a father's prayer for his son, and a very moving piece it is too. You can 'Rest in Me' says medium paced track seven. Nice harmonies, and the promise from God, that He's there for you always. It's not a fantastic album by any means, but it is a recording to chill out to and reflect. A recent sell out concert in my neck of the woods had the punters lapping up every song, and who can ask for more? 8/10 (July 2009)
Kicking off with the first single from the album, “Money Train”, the album settles into a very pleasant country groove with bluesy overtones. With licks that wouldn’t be out of place from Mark Knopfler (courtesy of lead guitarist Mick McCarney) this track leaps from the speakers and makes you want to listen to the rest of the album – a great choice of opener, therefore. Lyrically, Paul Murphy is very gospel infused without being chunks of scripture set to music. He tackles loss, redemption, relationships, deceit and worship all through a filter of God’s promises to us. It’s gentle overall, with the title track a good example and does showcase Murphy’s vocals well. He has chosen well for the other musicians on this recording too – although I wasn’t caught up in the vocals of “So Close, So Far”, for example, the guitar work (this time by Dave Molloy – who also shines on “The Kingdom”) did grab my attention. It’s all very solid and very well produced, with a good range of pacing despite not really getting far beyond mid-tempo and floats well from the more bluesy “Money Train” to the definite country “Unconditional”. U2 are cited as influences, which does rather show on “Let The Truth Cry Out”, which would have sat well on “Rattle and Hum”. The album does just come to an end though and I felt the rock-out of “The Kingdom” would have closed things better that “Watching Over You”, although the lyrical content was probably a better closer. A solid album that does things well without breaking much new ground. Best track: “The Kingdom”. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (August 2017)
PAUL OAKLEY : When Deep Calls To Deep. (Survivor : SURCD007).
Without meaning to sound disrespectful, for every Matt Redman,
there are 7 or 8 Paul Oakley's. Working just as hard as their
illustrious counterpart, and writing some brilliant songs, they
just don't get the same kind of recognition. Here, Paul releases
an album of songs that range from the very good, down to the rather
mediocre. Early on, there's some very catchy praise numbers, while
towards the end, 6 minute epics tend to wander aimlessly and fizzle
out. Paul's influences are many, with touches of The Verve surfacing
in 'Happy On My Way' and Neil Young rising on the excellent 'House
of Gold'. 'Here I Am' is a number that I'm sure congregations
will soon be singing up and down the country, simply oozing in
class and worship. His back catalogue must be considerable and
I feel that there must be some more gems tucked away inside. He
just needs to sort out the 24 carat from the glass. 7/10. (October 1998)
PAUL OAKLEY : Kiss the River. (Survivor : SURCD043)
Here's a guy who usually appears on worship compilations and live
festival releases. Paul Oakley brings a collection of his own
songs that, as the press release says, includes the "definitive
version of "Jesus, Friend of Mine". Unfortunately, it's
probably the worst version I've ever heard, as Paul tries to rock
it into Delirious? Proportions, and fails. To be perfectly honest,
I've never heard Paul in quite such an aggressive mood. "I
Have Come to Love You" has some fine lyrics but the delivery
is forced and not easy to listen to. "High Wire" is
very U2 from the "Joshua Tree" days and has a lot to
admire. In similar vein, "Cover Me" is full of driving
guitars and is, possibly, the best track. For me, the trouble
with this album is it's consistency. Some tracks are just too
rough in feel, whereas others have full production and are, consequently,
of great quality. Like the closing "In the Stillness",
everything's together and you can really believe in just what
Paul is saying. Good on the whole but could be so much better.7/10. (December 2000)
PAUL POULTON PROJECT : Dumb Dogs. (Temporary Music)
I have to confess to have been looking forward to the release of this cd, this being the first that Paul has released with his current band and particularly the superb Joe Blanks on drums. Paul's desire is that this album is a closer representation of their live sound and, having heard them live earlier this year, I think he has managed to achieve that. It has more energy than 2005's "Affected" and coupled with a batch of great songs, it is an excellent album all round. Paul's unique and bold lyrical approach is finely represented on songs such as "Take the Rubbish Out" - the immortal line "my wife is busy looking in the Argos catalogue" makes me chuckle every time - and one has to admire his ability to attempt things lyrically that in the hands of the less experienced would just sound naff. The songs really groove well too, a nice mix of rock, blues and funk topped with Paul's inimitable vocal style. Overall, I have a sense that Paul shows no sign of slowing down and continues to produce music of a quality that we have come to expect. In a market swamped by a lack of imagination and constant regurgitation, the Paul Poulton Project is a refreshing change. 9/10 Warren Harry. (October 2007)
PAUL POULTON : Fishing for Praise. (Resource Publications - ISBN 13:978-1-55635-495-3)
Best known for his music and with nine CDs to his credit, this is Paul Poulton's first book. It is written in simple, clear language and is littered with a whole range of illustrations aimed to link everyday life to our need and responsibility to praise God. Paul clearly has a 'heart' for the subject. On the cover he describes praise as 'a hidden doorway in the
world that enables us to see things outside of the universe' but says that it is 'a doorway that is easily missed; people walk past it, thinking nothing of it, not realizing the value of it' and that 'God has placed it there for us to walk through and see where He lives'. Despite the clear language and frequent illustrations however, I found it a strangely demanding read. Firstly, it was sometimes difficult to link the content of
the chapters to the chapter headings. Secondly, I often struggled to relate the illustrations to the points being made. Thirdly, I found little cohesion or development of these points - the writing didn't seem to 'tell a story', the chapters often not appearing to have a definable beginning or end.
Anyone who has heard Paul's music will know that as well as being an excellent guitarist with a brilliant band that can really groove, his uniqueness comes from a gift for cleverly constructed, thought provoking lyrics that really hit the spot (if you haven't sampled Paul in action, I would definitely recommend a visit to www.paul.poulton.com). The book reflects this gift for the short, sharp message, but suggests that Paul needs to develop a talent for expanding these into a longer, unfolding 'whole'. I am sure the content is there, but in my view it really needs revisiting/reordering/restructuring to become a cohesive, understandable book.
5/10 David Deeks (March 2008)
PAUL POULTON PROJECT : Looking For Someone to Blame. (Temporary Music : www.paulpoulton.com)
It's more than 20 years since God first spoke to Paul and told him to pick up his guitar for Him. His debut album, 'I Think I'm Being Followed' made it's mark in the British CCM market, and his 1999 US Radio Hit 'Flaky People' raised his profile across the pond. I remember the first time I saw Paul play live, you had to really think about his lyrics because he cleverly wrote some deep meanings with them. Listening to this new album, it's still the same. You need to sit down with it for a few listens before you really get the meaning behind each song. The opening track, 'She Sees Other Men' has Paul almost speaking the words to a rock/blues backing. 'Don't Blame Me' looks at the material world and the dissatisfaction it can bring, while 'Ain't It A Shame' takes a sideways look on why we shouldn't keep God just for Sunday's. Paul's got an engaging vocal quality but just once or twice it seems to get lost in the mix. For those of us old enough to remember the original, there's a great version of Larry Norman's 'Rock the Flock' included. Paul's songs also include a look at marriage on 'Married People', while the shuffling sound of 'I've Seen Too Much' is very much a personal take on faith and God's love, growing, despite all the happening's of today's world. Difficult to pigeon hole the Paul Poulton Project. I guess that's just one of the thing's I like about it. 8/10. (December 2008)
It's two years since Paul's last album, 'Looking For Someone to Blame', scored a creditable 8 out of 10 in these hallowed pages. Various tours later, he and the project are back with this new offering. The musical style still has blues influences, but has a very modern sound. The theme of 'Too Twitchy' is "relationships", and Paul works his lyrical magic into some very good songs. He says; "The humour used in 'Coffee And Cake' is a warning firstly about addictions, which are stronger than we think. When life isn't going the way we want, comfort eating is a problem for some people. But of course there are far worse addictions, the addict in the song is a "substance user" and his addiction is spoiling his chances of getting the girl he wants." The band are very tight in their playing, and the opening 'Why' proves that from the very start. 'Lonely' looks at why so many people are lonely, when really, it's so easy get along. Paul, himself, provides some excellent blues guitar on 'I Like You', and this song alone should gain him guaranteed airplay. 'Why Are People Like That?' is the title of a great foot tapper, and again shows Paul's keen observations on life. The Paul Poulton Project never fail to deliver, and this album is first class. 9/10 (October 2010)
THE PAUL POULTON PROJECT : Some People Believe Anything. (www.paulpoulton.com)
Less than a year since 'Too Twitchy' was released, Paul and the band are back with an album of songs that have something to say about the past, present, and future. You can always guarantee that Paul will come up with some rather interesting subjects to sing about, and this album begins with people telling us what we should want in life, and how having more will make us happy. 'Anything' even includes a dig at TV Quiz shows and telephone sales people to get the point across. There's an R'n'B shuffle sound to 'Bad Things People Do', and I smiled as Paul sang about getting used to the fact that people do bad things, but we should learn to forgive them rather than get mad ourselves. Marriage break up's are commonplace in today's society, but 'Don't Break Up' is a message of hope, to couples who may be going through a bad time in their relationship. Musically, the band are as tight as ever with Ross Lander, Aron Bicskey, Nic Burrows and Chris Smith adding to Paul's vocals and guitar playing. 'Here in Heaven' got me thinking 'Pink Floyd' in a 'Dark Side of the Moon' way. The sound really differs from the rest of the album. All songs, but one, have been written by Paul. The exception is a very good 60's beat version of Larry Norman's 'Reader's Digest'. Paul has the knack of writing songs that tell a story, and those stories are all food for thought. 9/10 (September 2011)
With every new Paul Poulton Project album it is always interesting to see what direction Paul has decided to take with it. I know he likes each album to have its own distinct sound and he normally manages to achieve that – this collection is no exception. Helping him out is a change to the line-up of the band with Leroy Johnson undertaking bass and backing vocal duties and Denise J Thompson playing drums whilst also contributing vocally. This provides the intended gospel and funk influences which, although subtle, take the album in a different direction to previous releases. However, Paul’s trademarks are still evident and this remains very much in keeping with the overall Paul Poulton Project sound that we have come to know and love. Three of the songs on here have featured on previous albums though two of these, “Swing Low” and “Get in the Spirit” are entirely new recordings to take advantage of the revised lineup. The third, “Too Many Things To Worry About” is the edited video version which has proven popular. The album is no less richer for including these. The stand out song though is “Wade in the Water”, a song that has been a staple of the live set for years and I am so pleased that this has finally been committed to a recording. This version is absolutely sublime and the price of the album is worth it for that song alone. Elsewhere there are some 60’s psychedelic overtones on songs like “What’s Big” and “Long Gone” but I also love the quirky and clipped “Scorn of Fools”. It would be easy to mention every song in this review as they all have something to offer to this excellent album but I am unfortunately limited by space! All in all, a splendid, accomplished and distinctive album that showcases the bands deserved reputation as one of the most original groups in Christian music at the present time. Long may that continue. 10/10 Robin Thompson. (April 2013, Album of the Month)
PAUL POULTON : Genesis for Ordinary People. (Resource Publications : ISBN 9781625649300)
Genesis for Ordinary People is the second book from singer-songwriter and guitarist, Paul Poulton, following on from his debut publication in 2008, Fishing For Praise. The first book represented a more obvious subject matter the author – it seemed fitting that a Christian musician should write a book about praise – but this volume seems to be a less obvious choice. However, it reveals that there is more to Paul than just music. Those who have been regular readers of his regular Crossrhythms’ column or have heard him speak will understand that Paul is more than just a one trick pony when it comes to communicating the Christian message. Tackling Genesis is good yet bold choice. It has come under fire in recent years from non-believers who have used it to undermine Christianity and even the existence of God. Paul however, using a mix of apologetics, hermeneutics and a knack for communicating complex ideas in an accessible way, manages to cut through some of the misinformation and, dare I say, misinterpretation, the latter of which has not been confined to secular circles. No book on Genesis could perhaps be complete without touching on the Science v Religion debate and whilst Paul does devote a chapter to it, it thankfully does not dominate and the reader is allowed to appreciate Genesis for what it is without being distracted by an argument that oftentimes is not relevant or helpful. Paul is at pains to explain Genesis in the context of God’s salvation plan and therefore in the context of all of scripture rather than treating it as a standalone work to be critiqued in isolation. Thus we are able to see how Adam and Eve are set apart as bearers of the seeds of God’s salvation and how this seed is carried through the generations of Noah, Abraham and Jacob. In short, we see Christ in Genesis. Paul tackles some tough questions along the way so if you want to answer questions like “Who did Cain marry if there was supposed to be-one else around?” then you can find answers here. It’s a well-researched book, but being a non-academic work doesn’t swamp you with references. There’s a good balance and it is easy to read. In short it does what it says on the cover – it is Genesis for ordinary people. 9/10. Robin Thompson. (February 2015)
PAUL POULTON : Exodus for Ordinary People. (Resource Publications : ISBN 9781498288927)
Exodus for Ordinary People follows on from where Paul’s previous book, the not-unexpectedly entitled Genesis for Ordinary People left off. In that previous work Paul challenged us to rethink the book of Genesis and encouraged us to see the Seed of God’s salvation, i.e. Jesus, running throughout the book. In this follow up work, Paul continues to challenge and excite us, with a scholarly yet accessible work designed to restore the historical credibility of the book of Exodus. From his detailed analysis of the relevant dates of key events to comparisons with other historical sources, particularly in respect of Egypt, Paul builds up a picture of the book of Exodus as a reliable historical account and not, as some people would have us believe, a fantastic work of fiction. As Paul says early on in the book “People sometimes look for reasons to distrust the Bible…We believe the bible because God has breathed on it, not because every small point can be proved. Faith must come first, but once faith is in place we begin to find that historical accuracy is also there when we look from the correct angle”. That is a succinct a summary of how we should approach the bible as any I’ve come across and underpins how Paul then goes onto to elucidate Exodus for us. Whilst as easy to follow as its predecessor it is, in my opinion, a superior work, slightly shorter with shorter chapters (and shorter overall) but with excellent depth and plenty of content. The book reaches a wonderful peak in Chapter 26 “God Speaks” in which Paul sets out the context of each of the Ten Commandments to help us understand why God needs to give such commands to the Israelites and, indeed, to us. The author has found his style, clearly has the proverbial bit between his teeth and I am sure it won’t be long before he follows up with a similar work on Leviticus. An excellent and highly recommended book. Only 64 more to go…. 10/10 Robin Thompson. (October 2016)
PAUL POULTON : Genesis for Ordinary People – Second Edition. (Resource Publications) - BOOK REVIEW
Long-time Christian blues musician, speaker and author, Paul Poulton, returns with a second edition of his excellent commentary on the first book of the bible. Paul has included various additions and reworkings to the text – 17 in all - to provide updates and clarity which increases the number of pages from 189 to 199. This is a balanced amount of revision that ensures the flow is maintained whilst at the same time managing to bring a clearer understanding of some of the arguments and points made.
This is a book that acknowledges that there has been a serious lack of understanding regarding the book of Genesis from both sides of the debate. Scientists and atheists have been quick to dismiss it as unscientific, irrelevant and erroneous, whereas Christians have failed to understand its main truths, interpreting things either too literally or through a modern day lens, rather than understanding the cultural, intellectual and spiritual climate in which it was written. For example, as Paul is wont to point out, nowhere does the bible or Genesis make reference to a literal seven days, nor does it mention a global or worldwide flood. At the same time it has an authority and certainty and when we look at the timelines and the evidence from archaeology and other contemporary writings we see just how accurate the book of Genesis really is.
Paul’s mission is to strip away our preconceptions and misunderstandings of this important yet controversial book. As we begin to look at it as we should, we start to see that there really is no controversy at all. Rather there is much that God has told us if only we take the time to seek it out. Many times in the book Paul reminds us that “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search them out” – Proverbs 25:2, cited by the author.
Paul has done an excellent job of revising what was already a superb and accessible commentary on the first book of the bible. Whatever your beliefs or feelings on the matter, I would implore you to read it and allow yourself to be challenged by it. For sure, no single work will ever answer every question or fully discover exactly what has been concealed, but a work like this can only serve to positively advance our knowledge and hopefully, go beyond that to increase our wisdom and understanding. 10/10. Robin Thompson. (August 2017)
PAUL POULTON : God and Primordial People. (Resource Publications : ISBN 9781532640230)
This is Paul’s fourth published book, and it explores further some of the themes discussed in his earlier work “Genesis for Ordinary People” (and to a lesser extent its sequel “Exodus for Ordinary People”). Here Paul explores the origins of man by looking at evidence from primarily the bible but also from other reliable historical and archaeological stories. It is important to note that Paul is keen to consider what the bible actually says, not what we think it says, removing the layers of dogma and preconception that may have accumulated over many years of belief, or even unbelief. As the author himself points out in Chapter 24, Bone and Flesh, “We have to take care that current popular doctrines don’t infiltrate the truth of the Bible and ‘death entering the world after the disobedience of Adam in the garden’ is dogma that has entered some quarters of the church. Even Bible translators can be pulled into interpreting, and consequently translating, the Bible in the light of their church’s doctrine rather than what is actually written”. To that end this is not a book to read if you want confirmation of your own preconceptions; Instead, prepare to be challenged and unravelled by this thoughtful, insightful and erudite piece of work. Once again Paul explores our pre-held notions of who Adam and Eve where, the nature of sin and death, and the very origins of the fall of mankind. Were Adam and Eve the first humans? Paul’s answer is an emphatic no and as you follow the logic of the argument and the evidence presented you are able to arrive at that conclusion for yourself, to see that Bible never makes that claim and that the original readers of the Biblical texts would never have drawn that conclusion either! It’s not just about Adam and Eve though. We are shown how the Bible cleverly uses the word Adam to mean both a man and all mankind and in doing so it is revealing a picture of who we are – spotting the correct usage when reading the Bible makes all the difference to your understanding of it. And beyond this, as readers we are taken on a journey through Sumerian culture, the possible relationships between homo sapiens and other homo species (such as Neanderthals) and how God has been with us from the beginning, providing and caring for us and how we turned our back on that to go and our way and how we sought to become self-sufficient in more ways than one. This is another excellent book from Paul and is highly recommended if you want to be able to find answers to some core questions about our origins and the Biblical accounts of them. 10/10. Robin Thompson. (September 2018)
Bolton based Paul Saxon says of this new release; “ It took me three years from start to finish and it is my best attempt at celebrating just how big God is whilst encouraging others to keep trusting His goodness even during the pain and sorrow of life.” It’s quite easy to listen to, with each song based on Bible verses. After a short, opening number, Zechariah1 and Psalm 4 are depicted in “A Call to Return.” It’s a simple, acoustic led song that Paul sings with great feeling. On the other hand, “From the Shadows” reminded me of 80’s synth pop band A Flock of Seagulls. Based on Hebrews 12, it includes the great words; “Your glory reaches far to the edges of the sky and in the depths of my heart.” There’s a typical celebration of God’s great wonder on “God Shine forth”, while I thought that the album’s title track came over as sounding rather melancholy. It’s hard to find fault with the lyrics when they’re based on Bible verses and I think that Paul interprets them very well throughout. On “Highway of Holiness” there’s an almost ethereal feel to the backing, while “Never Run Away” finds Paul in reflective mood, centring on Jesus’ sacrifice for us all. The closing “Lead Me Home” is a fuller production than most tracks and, for me, it doesn’t quite come over as well as others. In all honesty, I preferred Paul’s simpler musical backing, where his voice sits much better in the mix. All in all though, I think that he can consider this recording a success and a great platform for future recordings. 7/10. (April 2016)
PAUL POULTON PROJECT with JEANNIE : Heaven. (www.paulpoulton.com)
This is Paul’s 15th album and contains 11 cover songs that have an air of 50s & 60s music about them but enough groove and ideas to let the listener know that these are present arrangements of past songs that speak of the future. For this recoding, Paul is joined by Nic Burrows on drums, Chris Smith on keyboard and bass, Jeannie sings harmonies and lead, while Paul gels everything together by playing guitars, bass, percussion, organ, lead vocals and harmonies. When I read the press release, I wondered how the album was going to pan out. However, after one listen, I knew that these songs were perfect, given their new arrangements. “Milky White Way” was a million seller, back in 1947. Here, Paul produces a shuffling, gospel number, with a sympathetic guitar solo, thrown in for good measure. “I Say A Little Prayer” is probably my favourite Bacharach and David composition and Jeannie’s lead vocals are spot on. Paul joins her for harmonies and this makes for an excellent sound. There’s a change of sound for “I Stand Amazed.” It’s undeniably got a reggae feel and really brings new life to this classic hymn. I challenge anyone not to smile when listening to “I Believe in the Man in the Sky.” There’s a hypnotising melody and clever use of an organ to carry the song along. Other songs include Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” Stuart Townend’s “You Are My Anchor,” and George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity.” I’ve been playing the album for a couple of days now, and it’s giving me a real warmth, even in this cooler weather. Paul rarely disappoints with his releases and this is another musical success. 9/10. (October 2018, Album of the Month)
PAUL WHEATER : Rock of Ages. (Alliance Music).
Well, here's a turn up for the book. The man from Whitby who,
a few years ago, hired the London Palladium to put on his own
show, and bussed all his friends there to watch him! Indeed, the
same man who, after a 9 minute interview on Radio 2, received
over 7,000 orders for his album! Since then, Paul Wheater has
become a Christian, and here is his first audio offering. Those
of us who are old enough to remember the late Jim Reeves will
instantly draw comparisons and, if I may be so bold, there's nothing
wrong with that. Classics such as 'Lead ME Home Gently', 'What
A Friend We Have in Jesus', and 'Old Time Religion' are given
the Wheater treatment with the greatest respect. If you're wondering
what to buy your older relations for Christmas...wonder, no more.
Highly recommended. 8/10. (December 1996)
Paul Whitfield hails from South Yorkshire and has been interested and fascinated by music for as long as he can remember. Throughout his teens I played keyboards in various local bands. For the past 10 years he has been involved in leading worship at his local church, and has now released this album of original songs. The title track starts off the album and it’s all about getting into a deeper relationship with God. It begins with just a guitar backing but builds, musically, as it progresses, and results in a fine song. ‘Supernatural Majesty’ is a totally different sound – more 80’s rock – but it comes across well. Most of the songs are easy listening pop, but the foot tapping ‘There’ll Be Joy’ edges on country. Here, Paul is joined by Philippa Hanna for a delightful duet. Paul’s vocals are very good. On the ballad, ‘The Church I See’ he looks at the make-up and the workings of the church, and how he sees it. His own testimony is the thrust of ‘I Will Not Run, I Will Not Hide’ I’d tried to think of who some of the songs reminded me of, and it was this one that made it clear. There’s a definite touch of Take That within, as well as a smattering of Michael W. Smith, especially on ‘Lord of All My Life’. Saying that, I’m not sure that ‘Saviour of My Life’ really works. It has a 90’s techno backing that sounds dated, and Paul’s vocals just doesn’t suit it. To end the album, there are a few instrumental tracks including a saxophone version of the title track, and a gentle piano piece called ‘Broken Heart’. The production and recording teams must get a big thumbs up, as the finished product is so crisp and clean. This all helps make this the best independent release of the year, so far. 9/10. (May 2014)
Let me say straight away that this is not a worship song, it’s a love song. South Yorkshire based singer, Paul Whitfield, wrote this for his wife Andrea to play on their wedding day. He says, the song is called “My Phenomenal” for the following reason. “I had been single for a long time and whenever someone would say “When are you going to get yourself a woman Paul? I would reply with “It would take someone pretty phenomenal for me to get married!” And Andrea is that phenomenal person. So in effect she is “My Phenomenal.” It’s a mid-tempo ballad, were the opening piano is quite sumptuous to the ear. Obviously sung from the heart, Paul’s vocals are excellent throughout, as he describes how he met his wife. There’s a great, fuller, orchestral sound as the song moves to the chorus, followed by seamless move into a particularly moving bridge. Listening, I couldn’t help thinking that the overall sound reminded me of a Barry Manilow epic, and I mean that as a compliment. A really good song that will appeal to many listeners. 9/10. (November 2018)
PAUL WILBUR : Forever Good. (Integrity Music)
Paul Wilbur has been a worshiper for 38 years. After he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour, he experienced a radical change. The very next day Paul wrote his first worship song, and he has never turned back to secular music. He has recorded some 20 projects with Integrity in four languages, and his ministry has been seen in over 90 nations worldwide. So why have I never heard any of his music before? That will remain a mystery. This new album is surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because I expected the songs to be very strict in their sound. Instead, the listener is treat to quite an array of musical styles. Opening proceedings is the very engaging “Where Could I Go,” which tells that God’s love will find you anywhere. “King of Glory” reminded me of a Third Day rock song, as Paul’s voice calls on God to “Fill this place today.” There’s a more traditional Jewish sound to “Lechu Neranenhah Adonai”, while “The Shadow of El Shaddai” sounds as if it should be part of a stage musical. It’s quite grand in arrangement. Paul’s voice is easy to listen to and his lyrics similarly easy to understand. “Blessed is He Who Comes” and the title track of the album are relaxing numbers, both with excellent guitar accompaniment. Perhaps the best track for collective worship is “How Great is Your Faithfulness.” It has a nice singalong chorus and is really simple to pick up. Better late than never, I’m really pleased to hear some of Paul’s music, and you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate it. 9/10. (June 2016)
PAUL WRIGHT : Sunrise Sunset. (Gotee : 669447301028)
Paul's debut album apparently "spawned" two Top 5 singles in the U.S. He says that "These new songs are about my heart's desire. A desire that my walk with God would become more practical every day - from sunrise to sunset, not just on Sunday's and Wednesday nights". Listening to the opening track, "Heaven", you can easily get a taste of just what Paul is all about. It's a strong pop song, praising Jesus and recognizing the fact that He is Lord. Paul mixes hip-hop with pop and rock sounds, and the results are very listenable. I'm not usually a fan of hip-hop but I found this mixture very easy on the ear. "Come Around", I believe, is a sure fire radio hit, as is the similar "I Can Feel Your Love". "Burrito boy" verges on reggae, but I simply loved the throw away "Walking on Water". Wright says that he became a Christian when he was 12, and was excited to know about heaven". "Acoustic Rhythms" takes that feeling of excitement and anticipation, and blends it into a mid-paced, enjoyable number. All in all, a commendable effort from a relatively unknown artist to the UK. 7/10. (February 2006)
PAX217 : Engage. (Forefront).
Originally formed some 9 years ago, Los Angeles based Pax217 follow
up their successful debut "Twoseventeen" with "Engage".
And, despite it's gritty hip hop, reggae, and rock overtones,
it's an album that promotes positive attitudes to change, rather
than a hail of grievances. "Tonight" is all about making
the commitment to God, right now, never mind just thinking about
it. Do it, tonight. "I'll See you" is a dedicated prayer
of thanksgiving to the Lord for all the great things that He bestows
on us. It may not be the same style of praise and worship that
most of us know and love, but it's every bit as sincere and from
within. That reggae feel comes out on "Move on This"
and it works quite well. "Countin' Down the Days" also
shows that the band can change things around, with a melodic song
that has a tinge of PFR about it. Definitely an album that you
can listen to, even a 40 something like me. 7/10. (September 2002)
PECULIAR PEOPLE BAND : Not Ashamed. (Maranatha! : 738597400629)
Here's something new from three guys who have ministering in their home country of South Africa, and have now re-located to Southern California. Nominated for a South African Music Award in 2002, the band have impacted lives through their music and message of hope. So, all power to the Peculiar People Band! But, what of their recording? Well, they reminded me a lot of PFR, in the way they sound. There's some competent guitar work and layered harmonies, which work best on "Son of God". "Today" is a strong starter, and a demonstration of just what good pop songs the band can write. Sadly, though, the same cannot be said of most of the other songs. "Can I Leave My Head" sees the band get quite heavy in style, while "You're With Us" copies the earlier pop sound. Either side of these highlights are songs that don't come up to the same quality, and you're left with the feeling that you've been short changed somewhere. Pleasant enough album, but nothing special. 5/10. (January 2006)
Perry Lahaie works with Frontiers, with a well-established outreach ministry in the Muslim world and, according to the PR blurb, this follow up to his 2008 debut album ‘Endless Fields’ furthers his foray into “guitar-driven, radio-friendly roots rock”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. It also marks the singer’s first project collaborating with other songwriters rather than tackling all the writing himself but, being unfamiliar with his earlier work, I can’t really judge what difference that has made. As for the album itself, I still believe a good opener is essential (even when so much music is played on shuffle nowadays) and we get one here in the shape of “The End Will Come” which is driven along splendidly by a solid rhythm section and some nice layered guitars and voices, and sets the tone for the rest of the album which maintains its quality throughout. For me, the slower tracks are the real stand-outs, especially “American Dream” and “Help Me Find My Way”, and these also seem to have the most personal lyrics on the album. The latter song also makes great use of strings and provides some welcome variation in sound and tone. To round things off, we have an excellent version of the classic hymn “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name” and a surprisingly low-key finale in the shape of “Come Lord”, another highly effective slower song that could easily be used in a congregational setting. All in all, an excellent album. David Cooper 9/10 (April 2013)
THE PERRYS : Testament. (Stow Town Records : STR3191)
Southern Gospel Group The Perrys can be traced back to 1970 when Libbi Perry Stuffle began their journey. Today, she is the mainstay of the group and provides lead vocals on various tracks upon this album. Songs such as “I Will Pray” and “Find Me Faithful” see Libbi in full flight with excellent vocals. In fact, the vocals of the five members are pretty faultless throughout. Only the lead on “Who Could I Have Been” fails to maintain the high standard. As with most gospel groups, harmonies are so important to the music, and The Perrys fill that responsibility so well. “It’s Not Here to Stay” is all about the temporary world that we live in today, and it’s comparison to the glory of eternal life, that’s waiting for us. The song is well delivered and has a catchy hook. I’m always a sucker for the sound of a banjo and on “Moses and Elijah”, it gives almost the feel of a hoe-down to proceedings. Ballads are few but the big production number has to be “It Carried Him.” The vocals are full blooded and carry great power. This group are stalwarts of the US scene, and it’s about time that the UK heard what all the fuss is about. 8/10. (October 2017)
PETE JAMES : My Heart Is Singing Loud. (Elevation : ELE1742D)
As well as leading worship at the UK’s top festivals, Pete James can still be found regularly at his home church of St Thomas’ in Sheffield. His gifts have led him to play and teach in Europe, Canada and America, and he’s touted as being one of the most exciting, new songwriters. Now, most albums begin with a strong track, and this one is no exception. It’s the title track of the album, has some great guitar work, and a catchy chorus too. And, while I’m mentioning the guitar work, it’s evident throughout that Johnny Bird’s playing is simply superb. ‘Heaven’ is a choppy song that really grew on me, the more I played it. I also liked the pop/rock sound of ‘Ready’, and the excellent ‘’Let This Be the Time’. I kept wondering why this album sounded different in sound, and my only suggestion is that it sounds very American in production. With the guitar being a major force in the songs, there’s an edge to most of them that isn’t there on, say, albums from Matt Redman. ‘Where Would I Be’ considers a life without his Saviour, while you just can’t help singing along with ‘Saviour of the World’. The latter is a must for church worship and festivals – if, indeed, it isn’t already. I really liked this album and can see Pete James becoming even more popular in the months to come. 9/10. (August 2012)
PETE JAMES : Live at Spring Harvest. (Elevation : ELE1910D)
Recorded at the event’s Big Top in 2012, this collection for popular songs, showcase everything that is good about praise and worship in the UK at the moment. Sheffield’s Pete James is the man leading from the front, and the album features three of his own songs, including the fabulous ‘Only One Name’. Either side of that, come super versions of ‘You Are Good’ and ‘Everlasting God’, and all three are well received by those gathered. ‘Amazing Grace’ pops up again for a timer of worship, while ‘Jesus Loves Me’ fades out, rather annoyingly, leaving the listener in worship limbo. There follows a rather pedestrian version of ’10,000’ Reasons’, but things are back on track with ‘Our God’ and perhaps the best version of ‘Majesty’ that I have heard since the Delirious original. The good thing about this album, for me, was that I found myself instantly singing along with most of the songs. What the album lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with a crisp recording, and a worship band that are obviously playing for God. 9/10. (August 2013)
PETE JAMES : All Or Nothing. (Elevation : ELE1996D)
While many of us have grown accustom to top UK contemporary worship leaders like Matt Redman and Tim Hughes, Pete James has been quietly making ripples as the “new kid on the block”. Following his 2012 release, ‘My Heart Is Singing Loud’ this new collection is more than a match in quality. Other press media have already likened the opening ‘Prepare the Way’ to Martin Smith’s ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’, but that shouldn’t take away anything fom this great song. Synth sounds and exciting chorus make it one that worshippers will lap up. Pete slows things down on ‘God, You Are My God’. I can see it going down well in a live setting but, for me, it doesn’t quite sit right as an album track. Now, everyone knows the famous old song ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’. Here, Pete takes those famous lyrics and puts his own tune and melody to them, for a really accessible, audience participation number. There have been many songs written about Jesus being the rock of personal salvation, yet Pete’s ‘Upon This Rock’ stands up as one of the best. It’s a beautiful song that asks for continued strength and help in today’s world, when there are so many distractions. ‘Standing At The Cross’ is a choppy pop song, but it was ‘We’re Coming Home’ that made me smile and who’s chorus I keep singing. It’s a cross between Baddiel & Skinner’s epic scoccer anthem “Three Lions”, and Phil Whickham’s ‘Your Arrival’. The synth sounds are driving it along, whilst Pete leads what is bound to become a live favourite. Nice one Pete. 9/10. (June 2014)
After becoming a Christian, Pete compares time in his life, like that of the story of Jonah. Not believing in himself and never thinking that God could use him, Pete struggled and felt like running away. This acoustic song tells of being “lost in the night” and then “coming home to you [God].” It’s quite a raw recording, and Pete’s vocals are quite forceful at times. It will be interesting to hear more of Pete in the future. 7/10. (March 2018)
PETER FURLER : On Fire. (EMI : 5099994767728)
One time Newsboy, Peter Furler brings his modern take on music to the fore, with this brand new release. Right from the opening bars of ‘I’m Alive’, Furler’s sound is instantly recognizable. It’s a punchy, pop, rock sound with a terrific chorus, all about being saved. If the first two songs weren’t exciting enough, ‘Glory to the King’ has my vote for “Song of the Year”, so far. It has a refrained verse, but what a glorious chorus that gives glory to Jesus. It’s just a brilliant song! There’s more pop on his love song to Jesus, called ‘Never Ending love Song’, while ‘All In Your Head’ keeps those exciting levels at 100%. Many have sung Psalm 23 over the years, but I’ve never heard it put to a dance beat. It might sound a strange idea, but it works well and isn’t the slightest bit tacky. ‘Greater Is He’ rounds up the album, and it’s just another super song. Lots of driven guitars, and a full band sound give this album top marks. 10/10 (November 2011)
PETRA : We Need Jesus - Praise 2. (Word : 7019929605).
A rock band singing praise songs? Well, with one such successful
album behind them, why not release another? For most of the track
listings, Petra keep to the solid music formula that has endeared
them to countless thousands over the years. Guitar based songs
like "Lord, I Lift Your Name" and "Be of Good Cheer"
motor along in style. John Schlitt's vocals are as powerful as
ever and there's an excellent keyboard sound to the inspirational
"The Holiest Name". One or two sickly sweet numbers
do appear, such as "Let Our Voices...", are instantly
forgetable but that's just my opinion. One good point here for
musicians is that both the words AND music to all the songs are
included! Nice touch. 7/10. (May 1997)
PETRA : God Fixation. (Word : 7019967604).
I picked up my first Petra album in a second hand shop for £2.
Since then, I've bought each release but none of them have matched
the quality of the first. Petra are the best selling CCM rock
outfit in Europe and, last year, notched up 25 years on the scene.
Although three new members are debuting on this release, the sound
is the same as ever. Crunching guitars and Jesus centred lyrics,
all being the platform for John Schlitt's expressive vocals. "If
I Had to Die For Someone" puts you in Jesus' place and asks
"Could you do for someone, what He did for you?". It's
light rock with simple hooks in the tried and tested Petra style.
The same formula is used on "A Matter of Time" and "Falling
Up", instantly recognisable sound. The album does deteriorate
in the middle with the plodding "Over the Horizon" and
the uninspiring title track. Neither of these, or "The Invitation"
, have the drive of the previous tracks, leaving the result as
a stuttering offering. Petra fans will lap it up but, for me,
the band are stuck in a rut. 6/10. (June 1998)
PETRA : Double Take. (Word : 701266326X)
Petra are back with their 13th studio album, albeit with a stripped
down to acoustic sound. Produced by the Elefante brothers, the
album revisits many of the band's well known hits, including my
favourite "Beyond Belief". If you didn't know that Petra
were a rock band, you'd never guess from the excellent delivery
of this 'un-plugged' offering. The orchestral sounds add a touch
of class to proceedings and each track falls neatly into place..
John Schlitt's vocals are as good as ever but, what will old fans
think of this release? Well, for me, I feel rather let down. I
used to love the tight, American rock that made Petra stand up
against the secular likes of Bon Jovi. Here, although competent,
there's something missing. "He Came, He Saw" motors
well, while "Beat the System" works well, too. Petra
have survived many changes over the year, as have their fans,
so I guess they'll survive this as well. 8/10. (May 2000)
PETRA : Revival. (Inpop : POD1245)
The legend, that is, Petra are back to their best with their third
contemporary worship album. Their first, two have sold half a
million copies each and this looks certain to do likewise. Mind
you, when I heard the opening track, "Send Revival",
I wasn't so sure. To me, it seemed rather wimpish, and not like
the Petra I've come to love over the years. But, I shouldn't have
worried. "The Noise We Make" is a storming number, with
John Schlitt's expressive vocals and Bob Hartman's guitar playing
going great. "Oasis" is a slower number but, nevertheless,
one amazing song. The laid back style of "The Prodigal's
Song" is pure class, while the acoustic "Satisfy"
is just superb. It's an album that's filled with worship for a
Great God and I found, practically, all the songs so refreshing.
"Meet With Me" - what a song. all I can say is "Isn't
this brilliant?". This album is for more than just for old
Petra fans, there's a whole host of new ones just waiting to hear
it. 10/10. (February 2002, Album of the Month)
PFR : Disappear. (Squint : 080688615628)
It was only as I played this album that I realised just how much
I'd missed PFR. After a 4 year break, the three guys from Minneapolis
are back with a power packed release of guitar led songs. The
instantly recognisable guitar traits soar from the opening two
songs "Amsterdam" and "Gone". Then, it's the
acoustic sound of "All Ready" and the belief that the
singer IS in a living relationship with God. Mark Nash, Joel Hanson
and Patrick Andrew, together, write some really powerful stuff
and their overall sound is such a relief from the grunge guitar
playing of such acts as Linkin Park and Alien Ant Farm. For me,
it's back to a good old fashioned, solid, guitar band, with a
great gift for making good records. If I had to pick a favourite
track then, it would be, "Even A Whisper" but, this
album has lots of good tracks. 9/10. (November 2001)
PHATFISH : We Know the Story. (Survivor : SURCD010).
In a review zone dominated by British releases, here's another.
Phatfish open in a funky style with a 7 minute 20 funky number
called 'Extravagant Praise'. Sadly, it's quite weak and an unpolished
affair, despite the excellent sax' work of Ben Castle. To be honest,
the album goes through a few songs before it really warms up.
'Guessing Game' sounds like Sade, but 'Wake Up O Sleeper' has
everything. Superb instruments, Louise Hunt's vocals at their
best, and a true feeling of belief running through. What the first
half of the album lacks, the second makes up for. More accessible
music and stronger lyrics pull Phatfish out of a sinking feeling.
'Here Is the Risen God' sounds good, and the choral interlude
stands up really well. Pink Floyd, Abba, Madonna, were just three
more of the styles I picked out whilst listening to this "could
try harder" release. 5/10. (November 1997)
PHATFISH : Purple Through the Phatfish. (Pamplin : PMCD2057).
Over the last couple of years, Phatfish have moved on from their
'just another praise and worship band' tag, to 'indie popsters'.
With an American record deal behind them, the band release their
alternative sound with sounds reminiscent of Garbage and The Cardigans.
Mind you, there's some very serious 80's Bon Jovi guitar in "Kingdom
Coming", so the influences vary somewhat! "Help You"
asks what sort of things you put your trust in, and the song itself
drives along with Louise Fellingham's vocals thrusting through.
"What Would I do?" reminds me of Jacko's "Earth
Song" and comes complete with symphonic background and choral
sounds. Not a favourite of mine but extremely powerful, nonetheless.
Phatfish are a different kettle of fish to Delirious? And I believe
that one or two of their numbers would have the same, if not bigger,
impact in the charts. There again, I also think that the band
are still finding their feet and, with that in mind, who knows
where they might be in another 12 months. 7/10. (April 2000)
PHATFISH : Faithful - The Worship Songs. (Authentic : 1903062)
It's only when you get an album of songs like this together, that
you realised just what effect the songwriting talents of Phatfish
have had on your life. There's plenty on show here, that I hadn't
realised had been written by them, and there's some real good
ones. Pick of the bunch has to be, "You Are the Lord".
It just flows effortlessly from start to finish, covering you
with it's warm embrace. There's a laid back version of "Holy
Holy Holy", and then a more upbeat one to "Here is the
Risen Son". As I was listening, I couldn't get over the feeling
that this version of "There is a Day" sounded a lot
like current chart favourites Snow Patrol. There again, maybe
it's Snow Patrol sounding a lot like Phatfish. I thought that
"Come Let Us Worship" was very uplifting, but couldn't
say the same for the funk of "O God of Love". For me,
this is the best Phatfish album there's been. 8/10 (February 2005)
PHATFISH : There Is A Day - The Video Collection. (Authentic : 8204219)
Brighton-based Phatfish have been around since 1994 and have built quite a reputation for intelligently written, professionally performed adult CCM. The albums released over the years have shown variances in musical direction for this 'Fellingham-family' band, from rocky guitar-based to a more atmospheric '10,000 Maniacs' type of sound. As a (barely adequate!) keyboard player myself, I love the jazz-funk and minor chord piano riffs that get sprinkled around, emphasising that Phatfish are far above the ordinary - 'Heaven bound' and 'Walk on by' include good examples of these and are probably my favourite tracks. And then there are the lyrics - overtly Christian, often thought-provoking mini-sermons - and delivered by the gorgeous vocals of Louise (Lou) Fellingham. This DVD features the 'Hope' unplugged concert given for the benefit of AIDS orphans in Africa and includes lead vocal contributions from Australia-based worship leader Kate Simmonds and our very own Stuart Townend - who attends the same church as the Phatfish crew, so they are certainly a blessed congregation there! The DVD also includes music videos, interviews with the band (that show the depth of their faith and commitment to what they do), and a selection of short films. Also included in the pack is a copy of the 2002 'unplugged' CD containing two more tracks than the DVD concert. Overall, an excellent release by a quality band and highly recommended. Check them out further at www.phatfish.net where, apart from anything else, you can discover the origin of the 'Phatfish' name! 10/10 Dave Deeks (March 2007, Album of the Month)
PHATFISH : Anthems for Worship. (Kingsway : KWCD3230)
Regular readers will know that I have long been an admirer of Phatfish. Somehow, this Fellingham-family-based God-centred band, featuring Lou Fellingham's superb vocals, always seem to bring a special kind of integrity to the world of CCM in their writing, arranging and performing. Here we have fourteen well known Phatfish songs, many of which can loosely be described as 'anthems'. As it says on the insert 'It's been our privilege to serve you with these songs - these anthems. Thanks for singing them'. Some are live versions, the rest studio recordings and there really isn't a bad track here - all are good, some very good, and there are one or two standouts. The excellent 'There is a day' is one of these - a tremendously uplifting song that I decided a while back should be heard at my funeral! 'Awake awake O Zion (our God reigns)' and 'Pouring out' are other particularly strong ones - both in versions that feature nicely inventive drumming. To be picky I feel that whilst 'The cross' is a beautiful song it is let down by a minor key arrangement that doesn't develop much, and the heavier rock treatment of 'To You King Jesus' doesn't quite seem to work - but these are minor criticisms, and overall this is a first-rate release worth a comfortable 9/10. Dave Deeks (July 2011)
PHATFISH : Live. (Phatmusic : 0702811594036)
For 20 years, Phatfish have taken the good news of the gospel to audiences far and wide. Maybe not on the same scale as Delirious?, but their impact on the British Christian music scene has been great. This double CD release was recorded earlier this year at their final concert at the Wessex Christian Centre. Once I could finally read the track listing (blue print on black just doesn’t work), I was able to note that the verse to ‘In Jesus’ had an uncanny resemblance to ZZ Top’s ‘Sharp Dressed Man. ‘Ressurection Life’ is built around some nice instrumental phrases, as the band slip effortlessly into their trademark funky sound. Of course, having a singer like Lou Fellingham does help lift some of the songs, but even she can’t stop ‘The Cross’ from become musically very messy. Even the stalwart fans seemed notice this, judging by the lukewarm applause it receives, on ending. One of the band’s most well known songs is ‘Amazing love’. It begins with just a piano backing, and I almost fell asleep waiting for something to happen. Eventually, the song does spring to life, with the rest of the band joining in, but it was too late, in my opinion. One recent review claimed that the band’s version of the classic Wesley hymn ‘And Can It Be’ had made it their own. It just shows how much opinions can differ. I thought that this version totally ruined it. The best song, for me, is ‘Every Knee Shall Bow’. “Come fill us with your glory, come fill us with your fire”. Stirring words, and the band at their best. The second disc follows in similar vein to the first. If you like the funky style of the band, then you’ll be pleased with the fodder. Apart from the Blodie-esque ‘Extravagant Praise’, I wasn’t impressed. So, not a release that excited me. But, there’s no denying their fanbase, and they will probably love this memento. 6/10. (September 2014)
PHIL & JOHN : Gnomes and Other Assorted Love Songs. (Kingsway : KMCD2623)
During the 80's and 90's, I attended number of Phil & John concerts, and always left, feeling well entertained by a duo who's music was likened to that of Simon and Garfunkle, and who's mirth was akin to that of Morcambe and Wise. This latest Kingsway release in the "simply" series, captures Phil and John both live and in the studio. The former is on disc one of this three CD collection, and features a live concert, recorded on tour in America. And, if you thought that the pure English humour wouldn't cross over, think again, there's plenty of laughter contained within. I can't count how many times I saw them over play "Homeward Bound", but it still makes me chuckle, even after all these years. Of the studio tracks, it shows that there was a serious side to the guys, with some very talented writing featuring on great songs like "Redemption Song", "Carnival of Clowns" and "You Made My Heart Sing Once Again". As I said earlier, these guys were entertainers rather than evangelists but, in their own way, their ministry is sadly missed. 8/10. (September 2005)
PHIL & JOHN AND THE WOODTHIEVES : Providence. (Alliance: ALCD115)
Backed by a full band, Phil & John find themselves with an
album of songs that continue their fine tradition of neat harmonies
and simple melodies. I've usually found their albums to be a bit
of a let down after seeing them live but, following their recent
appearance in Hull, Providence renewed my faith in them. IT opens
well , with a foot-tapping song called "New People of Love"
and is closely followed by the catchy "Hello Sister Moonshine".
Dave Clifton's mandolin sounds make "Stillwaters" into
a slow Eden Burning type of affair, but it is quite appealing.
The single of a couple of years back "Valentine" is
featured and, if "Cotton Eyed Joe" got to No.1 in the
charts, this certainly deserved to be up there too - complete
with it's manic hoe-down ending. It's a formula that's repeated
on "Happy Land" but, in this case, the song becomes
tedious. Nevertheless, it's quite a good album. 7/10. (August 1997)
PHIL HART : :Love's Vast Ocean. (Authentic : 8203242)
Phil Hart originally released his debut album, "Love's Vast
Ocean", locally in Northern Ireland, in 2001. Since then,
he has received feedback and interest from far beyond these shores.
Not least of these was an invitation to re-release the album in
a different format, on a larger scale. So, Phil has gathered the
talents of singers like Joanne Hogg and Brent Miller to re-shape
the finish product. It's Robbie Groves who thoughtfully sings
"The Love of Christ", while a favourite song of mine
"Pierced" is sung by Hogg. "Draw Me Close"
is sung by Kim McEvitt and it's piano backing makes it sound like
an old Irish lullaby. Things are broken up a little midway by
the reading of extracts from the book of Job, and the acoustic
version of "Amazing Grace", I found to be a little weary
too. But, things soon swing for the better again and I especially
liked the "chill-out" version of "Come & Worship"
as well as the title track. "New Irish Hymns" it is
not but, if you're a fan of that series, this would be an ideal
companion. 8/10. (August 2004)
PHIL KEAGGY : Inseparable. Word: 080688609122.
I know what you're going to say, "how can you have
reviewed CCM albums for all these years, without ever hearing
one by Phil Keaggy"? Don't ask me, our paths have just never
crossed. I do, however, remember an old friend of mine once remarking
that his sound was very much in the mould of The Beatles and this
outing certainly holds that thought firm. Indeed, as I listened
to "Motor of Love", a colleague asked "Is that
Paul McCartney"? Incredibly enough, I looked at the sleeve
notes a little more closely, only to discover that the song had
been penned by Sir Paul himself! The style doesn't end there either,
as the title track is very much in the mould of the Liverpool
lads' "Sergeant Pepper" album. Hey, but hang on a minute,
there are other styles too. "Chalice" tells that God
offers us His chalice of peace and love. Sometimes, we accept
it with every good intention of holding on to it, and then we
fall again. Great song, and some excellent guitar work by Phil.
To show off his expertise on the guitar, he also throws in a couple
of instrumental tracks, of which "Headlines" is the
best. Although, musically, it's a compact, tidy sounding album,
it does sound a little dated. Fans of Mr Keaggy will probably
love it but I can't see it winning him any new ones unless it's
lovers of the fab four. 6/10. (March 2001)
PHIL KEAGGY : Cinemascopes. (Word Artisan : 080688617325)
On listening to the opening track "Sketchings", I realized
that Phil Keaggy is a very gifted and talented musician. I hare
to confess that this was the first time I had heard his music.
I would compare the opening track with Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross"
- and as good! Phil is a veteran guitarist of some 39 years and
has a huge following and, to his credit, many of his previous
albums have been nominated for various awards. If you're a fan
of people like Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, and Mark Knopfler, then
you will like this album. He uses a range of guitars, complimented
by sounds of keyboard, wind and percussion instruments. To really
appreciate this album you do need to take time out and just sit
and listen to it. IT is very well put together and, all in all,
an excellent album. It has not been easy to pick out a favourite
track but I very much like "Old Man" which has a waltz
style to it. "Lighthouse" is haunting, with impressive
sound effects, and "Acadania" is more of a beat sound,
with a great trumpet accompaniment. For those who are already
fans of Keaggy, "Cinemascopes" is a mixture of both
old and new tracks. for me, a good album. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (February 2002)
PHIL KEAGGY : In the Quiet Hours. (Word : 08068861742)
No, this isn't the same review as last month. This instrumental
release is completely different to "Cinemascopes". Saying
that, it's still Phil Keaggy and his guitar but, this time, there's
no words. The idea is to depict a theme that provides solace amidst
the chaotic happenings of daily life, and I think that is achieved.
Playing the album as background music, I found it relaxing. Keaggy's
guitar skills are, without doubt, unquestionable and the acoustic
style of this album shows those skills off well. On the title
track, he provides backing to the saxophone lead, whilst on "Vermillion
Strands" his playing is at the fore on a gentle sound. There's
not a lot else to say really. Each tune is different from the
last but I couldn't say that any one of them really stood out.
Perhaps "Spencer's Dream" came close but, then again,
maybe not. 6/10. (March 2002)
PHIL KEAGGY : Hymnsongs. (Word : 080688617622)
Phil's been around much longer than I can remember, and he's a
darn fine guitarist. Many of his previous albums show a distinct
and comprehensive ability to liven up the most ordinary of songs.
However, why he felt called to make an instrumental recording
of hymns is, probably, best known only to himself. "In the
Bleak Midwinter" gives a seasonal opening to proceedings
and it's quite pleasant to listen to. Whenever I hear "Jerusalam",
my mind goes back almost 30 years to the time when Emerson, Lake
And Palmer included it on their "Brain Salad Surgery"
album. Keaggy's version is a gentler play, with a mix of both
acoustic and electric guitar. But, with each play, I found the
album a little too tedious and pigeon-holed under the word "muzak".
Yes, it's the sort of stuff you hear as background music in shopping
malls, hotel lifts, and - sometimes - public toilets. Sadly, one
great artist deosn't automatically make one great album. 3/10. (December 2002)
PHIL KEAGGY : The Song Within. Autumn Records : 6 89081 02122 9)
Despite a prolific career that has spanned more than 30 years and produced more than 50 albums, this is Phil Keaggy's debut for Autumn Records. For this record, Phil says that he "wanted to create music that would please people", whilst staying true to himself. Recorded exclusively with a McPherson acoustic guitar, Phil leads us through what I can only describe as a soothing collection of instrumental tunes. None of them really excited me, yet I found them gently relaxing while I contemplated many things. 'Water Day' is where it all starts, and this tune is pleasant with a light, jazz feel. Phil's intricate playing skills are, of course, prominent throughout but 'Secure' and 'Seems Like Yesterday' are two of the best tracks. 'Duet' was an interesting piece of music. It reminded me of merry olde England, which is often portrayed by the times of Henry VIII and the like. The press release says that this album is "an acoustic amalgam of both cheerful and contemplative moods" and it should please the artists considerable fan base. 6/10. (December 2007)
PHIL KEAGGY : Welcome Inn. (Kingsway : KMCD3103)
This is an album of Christmas music, mostly played on acoustic guitar, but with a few nice solos on the electric thrown in. I much prefer to hear Phil playing electric myself, but whatever your personal choice, this CD is filled with the usual high standard of guitar playing that you would expect.
There are a couple of traditional songs, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and an instrumental version of "In The Bleak Mid Winter" played on the acoustic. There's a kind of instrumental medley of other well known songs too called "Shades Of Green and Red" so if you like to hear the familiar Christmas stuff you'll be happy with this. There is a song on here called
"And On That Day" which is a new recording of a song that was on the "True Believers" CD that came out a few years ago, and is the only other Keaggy album that I own as it happens.
This CD is pretty much as you'd expect really, if you know Phil Keaggy's music then you'll have a pretty good idea what this will sound like, I found it a bit slow, and somewhat on the tedious side when I first listened to it, but after a couple of plays it seemed to grow on me, and now I find that I quite like it. I can never quite make my mind up about Phil Keaggy's music, I wouldn't listen to him everyday, but every now and then is ok. Being a festive offering I suppose this CD won't get listened to everyday anyway, but it is the kind of thing you could stick on in the background while eating Christmas dinner without offending anyone. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2011)
PHIL LAWSON JOHNSTON : Home For Eternity. (Kingsway : KMCD2070).
Phil's been a worship leader and writer since 1972 , and is best
known for writing "We Will Magnify" and "Jesus
is the Name We Honour". This is his fourth solo album and
, supposedly, breaks new ground, musically. Personally, the only
track that I hear doing this is "Lament For Wasted Lives",
which is so different from anything else on the album. It certainly
wouldn't be out of place on most indie/rock albums, and stands
out on it's own merit. This isn't to say that the rest of the
album isn't good, it is, in the tried and trusted method that
Phil has used successfully over the years. Using scripture based
lyrics, he guides you through inspiring songs like "High
King of Heaven" and "Well Watered Garden". "Win
My Heart" is a
quiet, yet powerful, number which asks God to "melt the steel"
in your heart. An extra point for the album is due to the guitar
chords being included as w ell as the lyrics. You'll enjoy this
one. 8/10. (August 1998)
PHIL LEWIS : Better. (Private cassette recording. £3.50 from Phil Lewis, 4 Bramble Rise, Cowslip Estate, Penarth, S.Glamorgan, CF64 2RE.)
This is the third tape from Phil that I've had the pleasure of
reviewing this year, although the first with a full backing band.
The opening 'Fantasy Reality' has some interesting lyrics and
a guitar sound that sounds like my old 'deathwish' distortion
pedal! Influences are plentyfold here with a little bit of Pink
Floyd and Oasis rolling into the psychodelia number 'Stream of
Consciousness'. Previously, Phil's slower numbers have always
worked the best but this time round, the roles are reversed -
'Fade Away' being the weak link. I did cringe a little when I
saw the title of the last track because it had already appeared
in three different guises on his other tapes. However, 'Set Your Sights' - I believe - has
reached new heights. Apart from the rather strangled guitar sound, it's a good six track tape. It's not going to break new
ground in the music business but it does prove that Phil can,
on the whole, continually write strong material. 7/10. (November 1996)
PHIL LEWIS : Fidei Defensor. (Private Cassette Recording £3.00 from: Phil Lewis, 4 Bramble Rise, Cowslip Estate, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, CF64 2RE).
This 'best of....' release opens with the track which Cross Rhythms
culled for their tape. "Fantasy Reality", like all the
tracks, has been re-mixed and has added an impressive violin sound
to the backing. I can't get away from the thought that Phil is
a secret 60's freak with some of the sounds he produces. "Tumbling
Down" is one such song and works well. "Stream of Consciousness"
is another which could almost be The Beatles in their Magical
Mystery Tour phase. By combining these sounds with today's indie
rock music, Phil Lewis produces some very accessible songs that
really stand up with his secular counterparts. "Man Behind
the Mask" is a slight change of style with it's piano base
but the vocals, throughout, remain tight and endearing. "Set
Your Sights" (Version 5) is my pick this time round and it
should only be time before a record company produces the impressive
Mr Lewis. 8/10. (March 1997)
PHIL LEWIS : Generation Ecstasy. (Private Cassette Recording: £3.50 from 4 Bramble Rise, Cowslip Estate, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 2RE).
This is the 5th offering from Wales' finest unsigned writer, that
I've reviewed in the last couple of years. Once again, Phil doesn't
just stick to his previous successful formula, and the depth of
his work continues to evolve. The early U2 influences are there
in "Coming to You" and his 60's jangly guitars are highlighted
with "Your Tune" and "Dark Days". Just as
Martin Smith's vocals are instantly recognisable, Phil's voice
has the same quality that gives him individuality rather than
being just another singer. "In Heaven" is a poignant
song, sung to a dying loved one, the words being those we have
often been unable to say previously. "Child", I feel,
is the one weak spot of the 6 tracks but "Come Running"
is a simple song, with the obligatory 'throw away' chorus that
buzzes around your head for days. Just how long can the industry
ignore this man? 9/10 (October 1997)
PHIL LEWIS : Full Circle. (Private Recording. CD £5.50; Cassette £3.50 from: 4 Bramble Rise, Cowslip Estate, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, CF64 2RE).
It would be wrong of me to compare this mini album with his previous
two releases because of the nature of it's style. Swirling 60's
guitars and keyboards have been replaced by, mainly, acoustic
instruments for what Phil calls " a more personal" collection
of songs. This means that the lyrical content, and songs as a
whole, need to be really strong to stop them being too samey.
The opening 'Damaged' is good, without being brilliant, but 'New
Star' sets the ball rolling with it's singalong phrases and a
superb backing vocal that compliments Phil's individual vocals
very well. 'Over You' is well structured, while 'Little Boy lost'
- a song about life's disappointments versus God's promises -
grows stronger as it unwinds. The bear minimum backing is used
on 'Perfect Moment' and, perhaps, it's no wonder that this seemed
to be the weakest track on offer. 'Feel the Fire' is more in the
rockier tone of his previous releases, if a little short in length.
Personally, I'm a Phil Lewis fan. His music always seems to offer
something different for the listener in both musical and lyrical
content. Despite some media interest, that elusive big time call
is yet to come. Maybe, God has other ideas. 8/10. (September 1998, Album of the Month)
In the latter half of the 90's, I reviewed several CD's from this
Welsh based singer songwriter. His raw talent gave rise to some
pretty good pop songs but despite this Phil disappeared from view.
5 years later, he's back, complete with a more polished sound,
and a few of those rough edges finely honed. Previously, Phil
did, sometimes, try and fit too many words into a song but with
songs like "Hey Sha La La" and "Fragile",
he's learnt to simplify things well. The former, especially, is
really catchy. On "Eyes of God", he gives it a Latin
feel with some mellow guitar work, and this song, I'm sure, would
make a decent radio hit if given the right production. I've always
felt that Phil's vocals were more suited to the uptempo beats,
and "Come Running" does nothing to change my mind. Certainly
on the laid back songs like the title track and "Back to
Life", I felt that there was a little conviction lacking.
When you get a title like "Life Feels Good", you need
a good delivery, as well as a good song. In Phil's case, he does
the job and succeeds admirably with a nice foot tapping number.
I think that Phil is still experimenting with some of his songs
and style, but the world of grassroots CCM is richer for his return.
7/10. (January 2005, February 2005)
PHIL LEWIS : Ancient Light (£8 from Philip.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Phil has received some very positive reviews from his previous offerings, and I feel certain that this, his second full length album, will follow suit. Phil weaves a complex tapestry with his songs and arrangements and this isn't the sort of cd that will grab you on first listen, but the resultant effect is an album that will continue to be on your must listen list long after many others have been resigned to the cd rack. This is largely due to Phil's sound being quite unlike anything else available on the market, but also due to some great songs. My favourite, "No Accident" expresses an oft used theme in a different way. The uptempo number "Beautiful" demonstrates some of Phil's sixties influences whilst "Run to Win" is unmistakeably REM in their "Out of Time" days. On the negative side, a couple of solos didn't sit quite as well in the mix as they could have, particularly the guitar solo on the first track, "Is Anybody Home", which isn't quite in tune in one very noticeable place. As this is the first track, it might have paid Phil to sit it further back in the mix and move the track to a later point in the album. For everything else the musicianship is excellent with tight arrangements and exquisite harmonies. This could be an early contender for best independent release of 2007. Don't believe me? Visit www.myspace.com/phillewis1971 to check out a small sample. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (February 2007)
It's 12 years since I first lent an ear to the music of Phil Lewis and, in that time, he's created some terrific songs. For this new release, Phil takes a back seat with the instruments and programming and calls on the talented Ben Haynes to turn his ideas into music. It's hard to pigeon hole Phil's sound as it's a little bit indie, a little bit rock, and a big chunk of experimental. But, it all comes together well and 'Burn Burn Burn' contains an excellent repetitive guitar phrase that was in my head for days. 'S.A.D' is an intriguing song, but the adult rock of 'Shine' has radio potential. I liked the track 'High Flyer' very much, with it's cleverly written look at the self made man, taking no prisoners as he tries to rise to the top of the professional tree. Later on, there's a slower, almost latin feel to 'Now That the Lights Are Out', while Phil creates another sound with some accapella vocals on 'One Step at a Time'. He's got the voice, the sound, and the songwriting ability so why hasn't someone signed him up? If Phil lived in America, it would be no problem, he'd sit well with the likes of Joy Electric. Here in the UK, however, perhaps he's just not mainstream Christian enough for the record company's to take a chance. 9/10 (June 2008)
PHIL LEWIS : Dumb & Stupid. (phillewisuk.co.uk)
Phil has been writing and recording songs for more than ten years. His last album, the warmly received 'Ancient Light' was recorded during 2006 with the Incredible String Band keyboard player, Lawson Dando. This single sees Phil concentrate on a guitar driven sound, the first rack of which was "in part, inspired by a rapidly rising anti-Christian sentiment in the country which has gained momentum since Stephen Dawkins "The God Illusion" book was published. The song itself is pretty self explanatory, and contains a "who, oh, oh" chorus that is quite catchy. The second song follows in similar musical style, only this time it looks breaking free from the everyday hum-drum life of the material world. Phil's vocals are quite engaging, and after a couple of plays. Both tracks are difficult to leave alone! 8/10 (August 2009)
PHIL LEWIS : Movement in Space. (LPW Records : 010210)
This CD starts with a short 20 second track called "Intro" which is a synth track that Pink Floyd would be proud of, then we are into the album proper, which is made up of fairly straightforward pop songs, I say pop rather than rock, but it's not at all like the bland drivel served up on the radio by Cowell and his ilk. The songs on here all feature catchy guitar licks and nice keyboards. Phil's voice is quite an individual one, The only person I can think of to compare it to is Lloyd Cole. There's a certain amount of dry humour in the lyrics too, both the music and the lyrics reminded me of "James".
There's not really a bad track on this album, and it will be available to download from Feb 1st from all the usual places. There's a list of these, plus some tracks from the CD that you can hear at www.phillewisuk.co.uk The only thing that lets this down, and I know it's only a minor point, but
the track listing is in black lettering on a dark grey background, and it's just about impossible to read through a shiny CD jewel case. 9/10 Andy Sayner (February 2010)
Phil Lewis has been consistently making good Christian albums for more than 15 years. His sound isn't praise and worship and that, in my opinion, is the only reason that he hasn't been approached by one of the major UK record companies. The writing for this album was bookened by two significant events in Phil's life - the death of his father, and then being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, himself. The album itself has 11 tracks, and kicks off with the atmospheric overture called 'I Think It's Time'. From then, we're treated to 'Everything Just As It Should Be' - a pop song that deserves radio play. I must admit, that after reviewing a lot of his music over the years, I found the lyrics, this time round, more difficult to get my head round. Saying that, Phil still provides plenty of hooks, whether they be lyrically or musically, to catch your ear. Julian Wiggins provides some excellent saxophone playing on 'I Live in Hope', while Ben Haynes' thoughtful acoustic guitar playing on 'Dripping Away', brings out the best in Phil's vocal range. The album's purple patch begins at track 8, 'Everybody's Happy' raises the old chestnut about wanting material things, but Phil's delivery is bright and well prodiced. 'He gives an insight into his own personal faith on 'Faith', while 'New Page' is all about stepping out in Christ for the first time. Phil cites influences as being Crowded House and R.E.M but, over the years, he has developed his own style. I said earlier that Phil has consistently produced good albums over the years, and this one continues that rend. 8/10 (October 2011)
I cannot believe that I’ve been following Phil’s musical career for nearly 18 years. Numerous releases have seen him produce some really good songs, and gain him a record contract for his “Movements In Space” album. If that’s not enough, he’s also gained a semi finalist place in the UK Songwriting Contest. This latest release finds him collaborating, musically, with long time friend Ben Hayes, who provides some interesting sounds for Phil’s distinctive vocals. ‘Imprisoned’ is the mini-album’s first track and, from the great drum sounds, right through to the excellent guitar work, the result is perfect for Phil’s voice. With many influences over the years, there’s possibly a nod in the direction of The Killers with this song, and that’s no bad thing. It’s a a fantastic realisation in anyone’s life that they are prepared to accept God into their lives, and ‘Ready’ describes that feeling of excitement. It’s another engaging song and, lyrically, spot on. There’s an almost 80’s sound to the title track. I’m not sure that I’ve got this right, but it sounds as if Phil’s singing about a mid-life crisis! It’s more electro-pop than the previous tracks, but I liked it a lot. However, I can’t say the same about ‘Devil Comes to Dance’. Here, it’s mainly distorted guitar for accompaniment, as Phil warns about letting Satan get a hold in your life. Follow his ways, and he will be dancing. The lyrics are fine, but I found that the guitar sound just didn’t provide the menace that I believe the song required. Of the last two songs, ‘Calling Me’ is the stronger. When all is said and done, it’s your destiny to walk with God, and he’s just waiting for you to answer His call. Phil’s never been afraid to experiment with his sound, and I think that’s why I look forward to hearing his music. He always seems to come up with something different to his last collection, and this is no different. Who knows where the future will lead him? But I, for one, will be listening. 7/10. (January 2014)
It’s getting on for 20 years since I first came across Phil’s music, and I’ve found his development of style and sound really interesting. In the past, he’s been likened to U2 and Miles Cain, but he kicks off this new offering with an indie sound that comes straight out of the Franz Ferdinand mould. Great guitar work from long time music partner, Ben Haynes, drives the “Tumbling Down” along. “Right on Time” seems to tell the story of finding God in your life, and the song itself has a great chorus. Haynes’ echoing guitar on “Healing Hands” is another highlight of this slower number, while his jangly sounds on “I Believe” stand out again. As for Phil, his vocals are so crisp that songs like “Sunshine in the Night” and “Be A Hero” just glide along. Phil says that this new album “picks through some of the tougher times” that he’s been through in recent years, and declares them as “probably my most personal set of lyrics”. The good thing is that he’s still managed, on the whole, to put these words into very listenable songs. “Smile” has a very happy sound about it, while “Fantasy Reality” looks at someone’s life, battling with drug abuse. Phil is one of those independent songwriters whom I’ve been privileged to follow through my own involvement with Christian music. Once, again, I’ve yet to be disappointed by his releases. 8/10. (November 2015)
If you’ve been intrigued by the review of Phil’s album “Patchwork Heart”, then this free 8 track album is included when you purchase the former. It’s a “Best of..” collection, from Phil’s previous releases, and gives a great insight to just how he’s musically progressed over the years. The Killers are the main influence to the sound of “Let’s Play”, while his delightful “Age of Nothing” also gets an outing – the title track of his 2013 release. The best song, for me, is S.A.D. I just found it to be a really classy piece of work, and I’m not sure how I’ve not given it radio airplay before! Of the other tracks “Dripping Away” deserves a mention, while “Just One Kiss” isn’t far behind. As far as freebies go, this is a great assembly of Phil’s work. 7/10. (November 2015)
What's in the Bible? - Episode 1 - In the Beginning Phil Vischer. (Kingsway/Tyndale Kids : DVD)
"What's in the Bible" is the latest offering from Phil Vischer, the man that brought us the legendary "Veggietales". It's a good premise - a series of episodes designed to introduce children to the bible and let them know what it's all about. Of course, it works on two levels and adults will also find it immensely entertaining, being extremely well written, very funny, slickly produced and an enormous joy to watch. The songs, as with "Veggietales", are first rate and varied in style. From the music hall style themetune to Chuck Wagon's country crooning the songs help to support the purpose of each episode and are extremely effective at communicating important truths. Theologically it is very sound and is not afraid to ask tough questions and give balanced, honest answers. Phil has opted to use Jim Henson style puppets for this project and, coupled with some first-rate animation and live action the visuals are excellent - fast paced and well edited. This is just episode one and if there rest of the series is as good as this then it promises to be an excellent resource for both teaching and entertainment. 10/10 Robin Thompson (August 2010)
PHIL VISCHER : What's in the Bible 3 - Wanderin' in the Desert. (Tyndale Kids/Kingsway : DVD)
I reviewed the first one in this series and was mightily impressed with it. More importantly, so were my kids, and they're not an easy audience to please. Everything I said about that one applies to this too, in fact, it's hard to know what else to add. What I love about this series though, is that it doesn't shy away from the more difficult bits of the bible. This particular dvd is delving into Leviticus, something which even us adults don't relish doing. But, they tackle it with aplomb and even I learned stuff through watching this. It's educational, but also very entertaining and really is suitable for the whole family, not just kids. Watch this with your children, learn together, have fun together, and have some quality time together. Superb. 10/10 Robin Thompson. (December 2010)
PHIL VISCHER – WHAT’S IN THE BIBLE 4 – Battle for the Promised Land. (Tyndale Kids/Kingsway)
I have been following this series of children’s DVDs with interest and they just seem to get better and better. Created by Phil Vischer, the man behind the enormously successful “Veggietales” these films tell the story of the bible through songs, sketches, skits and silliness, utilising live action, animation and Jim Henson style puppetry. It’s all exceedingly well written, very polished and an absolute joy to watch. Each DVD tackles a series of books – this one features Joshua, Judges and Ruth – and the best thing about them is they don’t shirk from the hard questions. In this one they ask “Why is there so much fighting in the Old Testament?” and “Did God want people to die?” These are questions that even as adults we struggle with and the answers are not trite or trivial – they are informative, biblical and practical. If you haven’t seen any of these DVDs, you really must, even if you don’t have kids. I guarantee you will laugh but you will also end up knowing a lot more about the bible! 10/10 Robin Thompson. (April 2011)
PHIL WHICKHAM : Phil Whickham. INO Records : 390032)
Phil Whickham's self titled album brings a sound that can be classed as melodic pop/rock. He sings and writes from the heart, and the songs listed all seem to speak of his personal walk with Christ. Mind you, you sometimes have to listen very carefully to the words to try and understand what he is singing about! "Grace" is a song about giving yourself to God and accepting His grace. It's quite a nice song but doesn't exactly set the world on fire. "Mystery" is pleasant, too, but again, I failed to get too excited by it. On "Divine Romance", Phil gives a more acoustic sound, and it's a foot tappin' little number about love for God. What I did find off putting was Phil's vocal delivery and his, occasional, complex lyrics. He has a tendency to whine with nasal undertones, and it makes it very difficult to understand what he singing. Then, some of his lyrics have to be dissected under a microscope to get at the meaning of them. Some may think that is very clever, but I'm sure that many others will find it infuriating. 5/10. (November 2006)
PHIL WICKHAM : Heaven & Earth. INO : 46892)
Oooh, this is good! Maybe I should stop there. But, then, I wouldn't be able to wax lyrical about all the great songs on this superb album. From San Diego, Phil releases his 5th album, and what a brilliant one it is, too. There are twelve songs, beginning with the wall of sound that is 'Eden'. That was so good that I had to play it immediately again. Things continue in the same vain with songs like 'Coming Alive' and the guitar driven' Heaven & Earth'. If you're finding things in your life to be tough, then 'Hold On' is the perfect song to help you through. Following in on, 'Safe' is all about being safe in God arms. And, just as you think that things can't get any better, the real purple patch of the album comes to light. 'In Your City' has some terrific sounds to it, but 'Your Arrival', a celebration, knocked me off my feet. It almost has tones of The Killers at their finest, and has been repeatedly played by me ever since. Musically and lyrically, Phil Wickham hits just the right notes on one of the best albums of the year so far. 10/10 (May 2010, Album of the Month)
PHIL WICKHAM : The Ascension. (Fair Trade – Adavance Release)
Disappointing. Yes, that’s my opinion. As much as I loved Phil’s last release, this one falls fairly flat, on the scale of excitement. The title track is simply glorious, while ‘Wonderful’ rolls along with a stunning chorus. But, in between those two songs, only occasionally do the songs rise above mediocrity. ‘This is Amazing Grace’ is a medium paced electro rocker. Hard to tell where the influences come from on that one but it shows that Phil isn’t afraid to experiment with his sound. There’s a big production on ‘When My Heart is Torn Mercy’ and I believe that his long time collaborator Pete Kipley may be behind that. I found it to be a very powerful song, focusing on the blood of Christ. Sadly, unlike his previous album, I felt that this one lacked cohesion, as well as consistency. For me, yes, disappointing. 5/10. (October 2013)
PHIL WICKHAM : Living Hope. (Fair Trade : 736211851093)
This album sees a change style in Phil’s music, as he fills the track listing with numbers that could all be sung in churches. The impact of some of the songs is immediate. The title track, for instance, has already been covered by numerous artists. It sounds like it could almost be Wesleyan hymn of epic proportions. Listening to “Great Things” the sound and delivery reminded me of a live concert I saw in the 90’s where Michael W.Smith led the whole audience in worship – very powerful stuff. As anthems go, “How Great is your Love” is simply amazing. Closing my eyes and listening, I could visualize just how deep and personal this, nd other, songs must be to Phil. His duet with Hollyn, “Song in My Soul” follows suit, while “Wild River” is another that begs to be sung by myriad voices. “Tethered” wasn’t one of my favourites, but that maybe just personal taste. Certainly, Phil Wickham has pushed the quality bar of worship songs higher than ever with this release. 9/10. (September 2018)
PHILIPPA HANNA : Taste. (Resound Media)
Here's a young lady, I'm afraid to say, I'd never heard of, when the CD came through my letter box. I immediately thought "here comes another American artist that we'll never hear of again". WRONG! Philippa is, in fact, from Sheffield, and has already had critical acclaim for her previous independent release "Watching Me". This album sees Philippa write or co-write practically all of the songs, so she's certainly no "dumb blonde". The songs look at relationships, in the main, and she sounds a little like Kim Boyce used to, back in the late 80's. 'He'll Love Me' is one of the strongest tracks, with it's slick, light pop arrangement. She warns of the dangers that can come in a romance without substance on 'Summer Bride', while 'Work in Progress' is a realisation that none of us are perfect, and while we may fall, God will pick us up, dust us down, and let us try again. I thought that the sound got a bit a bit messy, production wise, mid-album, but things pick up again with radio friendly songs like 'Changing My Mind' and 'Predictable'. Philippa has a great voice and I can see her music going down well with a wide age range. 7/10 (October 2009)
PHILIPPA HANNA : Out of the Blue. (www.philippahanna.co.uk)
Following a hard working year of winning fans with her pop sounds, Sheffield’s Philippa Hanna returns with a live, studio recording of country numbers that lend more than a passing nod to the style of Alison Krauss. Spoken count-in’s add to a spontaneous feel for most of the songs, and there’s a slight quirkiness in Philippa’s delivery too. The opening ‘Happy in My Skin’ describes the feeling of being happy in just the way that God made us, and the song carries the message well. My favourite track is ‘Reggedy Doll’, even though I’m not sure that I completely understand the lyrics. Telling us that her “Raggedy Doll” has always been there and has always been loved is quite sweet, but is there an underlying message about Jesus in there too? Instrument wise, there’s a lot of acoustic guitar, banjo and even a good helping of harmonica, especially on ‘Higher’. There’s also a stripped back version of her popular ‘I Am Amazing’, and it still sounds good. What Philippa’s pop served fans will make of this release I’m not sure but it’s quite a brave move overall. 7/10 (May 2011)
I must admit that following Philippa’s live ‘Out of the Blue’ offering a couple of years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this release. However, since that recording, she has toured relentlessly and honed her writing and singing skills to produce a really enjoyable album. Her recent single, ‘Lighthouse’ opens the listing. It’s a catchy tune, with a galloping banjo sound to drive it along. There’s a Celtic feel to ‘Stars Will Fall’, but the quirkiness of ‘The Daffodil Song’ gets my top mark for Song of the album. Focusing on self- worth, it’s really well written and production of the song is top notch. I’ve said it before, but there’s a touch of Alison Krauss lurking in Philippa’s delivery, and that sound rises again on ‘Apples’. It’s a happy sounding song and one that will make you smile. The country tinged pop style certainly suits this young lady, although there’s a more mature sound to ‘Fire’. On this song, Philippa looks at our relationship with God, and the mystery that can sometimes surround it. There’s no credits listed for the musicans but there’s some lovely piano playing on ‘Just a Song’. Similarly, that successful sound is repeated on ‘New For Old’, where Philippa looks at the power of God’s love. It is so wonderful to hear yet another British artist produce such a listener friendly collection of songs, with so many being perfect for the radio too. 9/10. (September 2013, Album of the Month)
PHILIPPA HANNA : Following the Breadcrumbs. (Authentic : ISBN978-1-78078-087-0)
Well, not only does this young lady have the accolade of our Album of the Month, she has also put pen to paper and has published this blog style book! Basically, it’s Philippa’s testimony on how she struggled with so many things in life, until God came into her life. Through the people she met and the little coincidences that kept popping up, she gradually came to find her Saviour. As, I say, the book is written blog style. That is, there’s no long chapters, just short, sharp stories that will inspire you, make you laugh, and make you cry. Philippa doesn’t hold back. She bares her soul and tells you plain and simply how God changed her. Of course, there are still struggles and challenges, but Philippa comes out fighting, with God on her side. From visiting the poor of Haiti, to vocal coaching X factor style in Hong Kong, I found the book an engaging read, and highly recommend it to people young and old. (September 2013)
PHILIPPA HANNA : Speed of Light. (Resound Media)
So, after her recent tour supporting mega star, Leona Lewis. Philippa returns with her 4th album release. And, unlike her last two recordings, she returns to a more pop style, which I liken to Ellie Goulding and Pixie Lott. “Let Me Lead” is a strong opening song, that shows a lot more maturity in production than her 2009 release, “Taste.” Philippa’s voice really sounds at home with all the songs and on “Perfectly” she gets the hook just right as she leads into a great chorus. The two recent single releases “Arrow” and the title track are both bouncy, happy numbers, with modern, sequenced assembly. Meanwhile, on “Something Better”, a simple piano lends itself as the main instrument on backing. “Even Now” and “It is Well” set the focus on keeping God at the centre of your life, no matter what troubles you may be going through, with messages of trust and love. As for the closing “Run To You”, I think that this song is perfect chart material and stands shoulder to shoulder with anything Philippa’s contemporaries have done recently. As she moves out to Nashville in the near future, it will be interesting to see how her music progresses. As for this release, it’s one, tasty, pop, album. 9/10. (May 2016, Album of the Month)
PHILIPPA HANNA : Come Back Fighting. (Resound Media)
With much of this new album written in Nashville, Philippa has brought together a range of pop, country and gospel influences for this recording. Amongst the great stars that she’s toured with is Anastacia, and I get the feeling that a little of her style has rubbed off on Philippa. On both the title track and “Do the Unthinkable” the Sheffield starlet displays a more aggressive vocal delivery, which works well. The much played single, “Off the Wagon” is a pure delight. Already described as “Dolly-esque,” it’s a joyful country ditty describing the old adage of each time you fall, get right back up and try again. “The Hero” is a good pop song but, for me, a real highlight of the album is the poignant “Getting on With Life.” Sometimes, we get so busy in our lives that one thing we forget to do is to forgive others. As I’ve said in previous album reviews from Philippa, her vocal delivery is very much like that of Alison Krauss. Her take on the classic Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” is excellent. Great rhythms and excellent backing really makes the song stand out. On “Million Flowers” and “Always on My Mind” the backing music is stripped down to simple acoustic sounds, and Philippa’s voice is pure gold. The album topped the iTunes Country Chart on the day of its release, and it’s wonderful to hear of a UK Christian artist making such waves. 9/10. (December 2017)
PHILLIPS, CRAIG & DEAN : Repeat the Sounding Joy. (Star Song/Alliance).
As opposed to Steve Green's collection of festive songs, Phillips,
Craig & Dean give the likes of 'Go Tell It On the Mountain'
and Angels We Have Heard' a terrific, if somewhat over the top,
treatment. Such new arrangements are a credit to these guys, but
I'm not sure what purists wills think. Big productions, gospel
choirs, and superb harmonies are all gathered for this 12 track
album. 'Call His Name Jesus' is the one I picked out here as something
rather special. PCD however do go from one extreme to another
and the thin 'O Sactissimo' is so bland compared to the others
here. I'm sure that they had fun doing this and it's also to their
credit that they finish the album, not in a blaze of glory but,
with the 'The Chipmunk Song', which sounds like Donald Duck. Interesting,
this one. 7/10. (December 1996)
PHILLIPS, CRAIG & DEAN : The Ultimate Collection. (Sparrow Records.)
The fact that this is a collection implies that this trio have made several albums already, and that this is possibly a re-hash of all the best bits of said albums. Well I have to say that if this is the best then I will be hoping to avoid the rest. Firstly it's a double CD, and with thirty one tracks to wade through it does get just a little bit tedious, especially as most of the tracks sound much the same as one another. The first disk contains mostly the usual sugary worship songs that have all vestiges of
life processed out of them, and a lot of the songs are a bit cringe worthy. Take "Midnight Oil" for example. "Mamma always got up early, & never went to bed 'till late, And I never heard her complaining...." Well it's mostly that kind of stuff set in a typically bland American Pop style. Some of the
harmonies between the three of them sound quite nice, possibly a bit "Crosby Stills and Nash" though. Apart from that there's not much else that stands out at all to be honest. The second disk to be fair is a lot better, containing some worship songs that are better known, "Come, now is the time
to worship" and "When the Music Fades" to name a couple. The production seems to be a lot better on this disk too. In fact if this were the only disk to this album it would be quite listenable to in a "leave on in the background" sort of way but as a double CD there's not enough variation in style to keep you interested long enough to get as far as the second disk.
Although I imagine it will probably be more popular in America than this country, I wouldn't rush out and buy it myself. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (August 2006)
PIANO : Moods. (Elevation : ELE1703D)
The piano is the featured instrument on this latest release in elevation’s “Moods” series. It features ten classic worship songs, all played and produced by Mark Edwards. I must admit that I enjoyed the lone piano interpretations the most. The reflective version of ‘The Power of the Cross’ being especially good, while ‘Above All’ soars with pure delight. Certainly, Mark’s playing can be very good. The problem I found with some of the recording’s were the electronic percussion. All too often, I found them to be too robotic. On ‘Be Thou My Vision’, a bass line follows the piano, but the light drumming is rather off putting. The same can be said of ‘Amazing Grace’. Here, the repetitive brushed drum and cymbal loops are just so annoying. There are other highlights though, and the version of ‘Breathe’ is mellow and peaceful, and ideal for meditation. A relaxing compilation with more high’s than low’s. 6/10. (February 2013)
PIANO CHRISTMAS : Fifteen Classic Piano Carols. (Kingsway : KMCD3077)
It's always hard, listening to Christmas albums at the beginning of November. Somehow, try as you mighty, you're just not in the mood. This album of fifteen classic piano carols offers lover's of the piano, the chance to hear some well known Christmas songs. The problem for me was that I wanted to singalong to the tracks but, due to the interpretation of the songs, it was virtually impossible. Tom Howard is the man responsible for playing this collection, and I found his "twiddly bits" just a tad too much for my liking. In fact on some tracks, I wondered just what I was listening to, as I didn't recognise the song at all. But, I stand to be shot down by lover's of the virtuoso piano player, who may well enjoy this festive album. Songs include 'O Come All Ye Faithful', 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear', 'The First Noel', and 'What Child Is This', as well as most of the usual suspects. Sadly, not a release I shall be rushing to play again. 5/10 (December 2009)
PILLAR : Fireproof. (Flicker Records)
The winners of the Dove Awards 2001 Hard Music Album of the Year
and the 2002 Hard Music Recorded Song of the Year continue their
mission with their 2nd album "Fireproof". This could
well be a chart contender with similarities to mainstream acts
such as Linkin Park and Papa Roach. It was recently thought that
the likes of Creed or POD were the biggest mainstream Christian
acts, but Pillar could definitely take their crown with this release.
The versatile lead vocals of Rob Beckley show off all his talents,
from the fast-rap and screamed lyrics of "Hindsight"
to the smooth Incubus style of "Light At My Feet". Accompanied
by fast-paced drumbeats and catchy hooks this is a fantastic album
suitable for a wide audience. 8/10 Richard Howlett. (July 2002)
PIP & THE POLAR BEARS : One Foot in Sea and One on Shore.
The CD has a real acoustic feel to it: no drums, stand-up bass (although its actually an electric, it sounds like a stand-up), violin and a country-jazz lead vocal. It reminded me of Fairground Attraction meets Joni Mitchell. Even when the drums and trumpet arrive it still has that low-key feel to it. They describe themselves as “kooky folk with a political edge” and I heard nothing on the CD to disagree with that. It’s all very pleasant – it would be ideal summer fayre entertainment. The CD grows and the best track is certainly saved for last: “Trumpet Call At The Southbank Flower Market” has an infectious rhythm, very singable chorus and is wonderfully executed. I enjoyed this CD and would love to hear a full album to see if they can keep it up for an hour: the only complaint about this CD is therefore that it’s too short! 8/10 Paul Ganney (December 2011)
PLANETSHAKERS : Never Stop, (Authentic : 8204492)
Never stop is only the 5th studio album from Planetshakers, whose discography consists of a whopping 19 CDs since 2000 which by anyone's book is some record (no pun intended)! The remaining 14 have been live worship recordings from their hugely popular conferences and events. The last time I'd experienced Planetshakers was their 2001 live CD Phenomena which had a slightly fake rap feel to it and to be perfectly honest I was not impressed, but this was so different you would hardly think the 2 bore any relation to each other. The title track Never Stop is packed with rocky energy from the off & doesn't let up to the very last note, with Everywhere I Go following on with an equal measure of drive - the style is almost akin to a lighter version of US grunge-meisters Switchfoot. Things do relax a little when we get to Call Your Name and continue being relatively chilled for the next 3 tracks, with vocals ranging from a passionate Enrique Iglesias style to some silky smooth female vocals taking the lead on Great Is The Lord. Whether energetic or chilled out, the six piece band remain very tight, with some catchy rhythms which get added spice from some of the excellent driving rhythms from drummer Mike Webber. I often find with studio albums that the performance element drowns out the act of worship, but somehow Planetshakers manage to keep it real which has a great positive effect on the listening experience. A DVD also comes with the CD containing a selection of live tracks from their Pick It Up CD along with some teaching, all of which is highly enjoyable but the CD can easily carry itself - the DVD is a bonus. Well worth a listen - best played at volume! 10/10 Simon Redfern (June 2008, Album of the Month)
PLANETSHAKERS : Heal Our Land. (Integrity/Columbia : 00076850772)
Ever since the first Planet Shakers conference in Australia in 1997, the band leading worship there have produced no less than 25 albums and in the process have gained quite a following across the globe. Of these releases, over half have been live recordings and this one joins that throng, bringing the expected mix of incredibly catchy rock anthems, bouncy pop numbers and atmospheric ballads. "Supernatural" opens up for us with a high octane rock anthem complete with thumping drum rhythms, catchy riffs and synths. The 2nd track "Good to Me" is more synth led and had a distinct 80s Euro flavour to it which brought back many memories of my mis-spent youth! If you have any energy left, the pace continues with "Do It Again" until the title track "Heal Our Land" allows you to catch your breath and relax a little with a more worshipful ballad with some Psalm like poetic words of worship. In addition to the CD, you also get an accompanying DVD of the live tracks, including "Nothing is Impossible" which features no less than giant of the Gospel scene Israel Houghton I sometimes find such DVDs a bit of a damp squib but this one is well shot and does help convey something of the event's atmosphere. As a listening experience, it is hard to fault this package: great production, a sharp set of musicians plus some memorable tunes and riffs. However if I do have to find a possible flaw, it would be that it does tend to feel like a bit of a holy disco at times as opposed to an out-and-out offering of worship. That said though, this could work in its favour in appealing to a more secular audience which is no bad thing. I cannot help but like this album and there's little chance of it sitting gathering dust here! 9/10 Simon Redfern (November 2012)
PLANETSHAKERS : Limitless. (Integrity : 51402)
Here’s the latest album form Australia’s Planetshakers. I think it’s right to say that, in the past, they have “Shaken” listeners to wake, to their brand of music. The press release says that the album contains, “creative and contagious modern worship music”, but is that true? Certainly, the opening three tracks have a definite electro dance feel to them. Indeed, ‘Put Your Hands Up’ sounds just too much like Taio Cruz’s hit ‘Dynamite’ at times. The album starts with a loud roar from an expectant crowd, before the energy packed music kicks in. ‘Let Praise Awaken’ declares that our God is awesome, and who am I to disagree? Things become more like a Hillsong album after the initial songs, although ‘Your Name Brings Healing to Me’ sounds a little like an anthem, made famous by Elbow. ‘Great is Our Love’ is rather lengthy, but it slowly builds as worship increases. I couldn’t get over why the first three songs sounded so different to the remainder of the album and, for me, that was a disappointment. Not that there aren’t any more highlights. ‘This is the Day’ is a bouncy, happy number, but ‘You Are Stronger’ and ‘Rain’ seem to go on forever and become rather tedious to listen to. I couldn’t see more than a couple of these songs being sung in my home church, although I’d love to see those dance numbers put to good use! 7/10. (September 2013)
PLANETSHAKERS : Outback Worship. (Integrity : 64402)
This new studio album started as a project to re-craft Planetshakers’ most-loved worship anthems into a form accessible to worship teams representing the wider church body and grew into an 11-track studio recording that also features three brand new songs. After one listen, I was completely blown away by the songs. The quality is just so fantastically high! Don’t bother looking for any hidden meanings in the lyrics because, throughout, it’s pure praise and worship of our God and His son, Jesus Christ. Joth Hunt’s “Like a Fire” is a song that I felt was perfect for personal devotions. There’s great vocals and guitar work on “Spirit of God”. The delivery reminded me of The Script, while “Leave Me Astounded” features a lovely female vocal on a song that envelops you with God’s love. “My Soul Longs For Jesus” sounds as if it should have been a 19th century hymn, but this contemporary ballad by Ed Cash flows majestically in 2015. I kept waiting for a song that I didn’t like, but there wasn’t one. “Endless Praise” sounds a little like Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”. It’s a catchy dance tune that I’m sure will be enjoyed by thousands. The listing moves from the slow paced “Nothing is Impossible” to the dance floor sounds of “This is the Day”. In-between, there’s the quite glorious “Made for Worship”. The album ends with “This is Our Time” – another bouncy, uptempo number, were the chorus begins; “This will be the best time of our lives, as we encounter your love again”. Simply put, this is one brilliant, contemporary worship album. 10/10. (August 2015, Album of the Month)
PLANETSHAKERS : Let’s Go. (Integrity Music).
This is a CD of live worship, recorded in Melbourne. My first impression of this CD was that it appeared to be a very well rehearsed worship event, without much in the way of spontaneity. The music is very much high energy dance music, and the arrangements are very “ In your face” There isn’t much let up in pace throughout the whole thing. Given the style of music it’s no surprise to find that all the life has been compressed out of every track, everything is at the same level, and personally I found it hard work. There is a lot going on in the songs. I looked at a video clip of them playing, and there seemed to be about fifteen of them onstage, so no quiet contemplative songs here. The lyrics to the songs are all quite straightforward and simple, and do indeed get their message over fairly well. This CD is aimed at a younger audience than me to be fair, and I would imagine it would be much more popular with younger Christians than it is with me, so I don’t want to sound as though I’m just giving it a bad review. Indeed there are a large body of people in the congregation, who are obviously worshipping God quite happily to these songs. So In summary, this would probably be a popular CD with the youth of the church, probably not going to do much for their parents though. Some excellent musicianship on display, although I’m not convinced by the actual production. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (October 2015)
PLANETSHAKERS : Momentum. (Integrity)'
This 5 track 'ep' release represents my introduction to the Planetshakers adult and youth movement based in Melbourne, Australia - rock and worship band 'The Planetshakers' being a central part of the ministry. A bit of googling (?!) reveals that lead vocals are evidently shared by Joth Hunt and senior pastor Samantha Evans. The first two tracks get us off to a rousing start with high energy live performances from Manila, accompanied by a very appreciative audience. The remaining three tracks are studio productions. Joth kicks off with the mid tempo 'I know who you are', delivering a note perfect sterling performance. The next track 'Face to face' has Sam and Joth sharing lead vocals in a worshipful prayer featuring the line 'I'm drawing closer than ever before'. Beautifully sung, this is the standout for me. The final track is ok but compared with the others probably the weakest, delivered in a pseudo 'house' style that doesn't really seem to suit the lyrics. Overall however it is evident that Planetshakers is a powerful ministry, with a very capable 'melodic pop rock' worship band at its core. 8/10. Dave Deeks (June 2016)
PLANETSHAKERS : Overflow. (Integrity : B01I03J8CO)
Recorded at the annual Planetshakers Conference in Melbourne, Australia, Overflow captures the worship of 12,000 people from around the world. Now, it may be that I’m getting to be a grumpy old man, but many of the tracks on this album seem to be aimed directly at “Club 18-30” types, who party into the night to the latest dance tunes of Amicii and David Guetta. The opening 3 tracks fall into this category. “Come Right Now” is a call to the Holy Spirit, while the title track is all about asking Jesus to let His love flow. “I Know Who You Are” finally sees some more general praise, with some excellent female vocals. The song lasts for over 8 minutes, but it doesn’t come across as being overly long. There’s more worship with “I Come For You” and “I’m Free”, before we turn back to the dance driven beats of “Give My All.” There’s a strong vocal performance on the pian led “Join With The Angels”, and a lovely duet on “My Father’s Child.” And, just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes the uptempo gospel feel of “Gotta Give Him Glory.” On the whole, I found the mish-mash of musical styles to be rather off putting. But, then again, maybe I am a grumpy old man. 6/10. (January 2017)
PLANKTON RECORDS : Forty Years 1978-2018. (Plankton Records : Plank0140)
Celebrate the history and musical journey of Plankton Records, the UK’s oldest surviving Christian independent record label, as they mark their 40th anniversary with this extensive collection of 41 hand-picked tracks that highlight the artists and the range of musical styles and genres that Plankton Records have released since 1978. And, wow, what a collection it is! It certainly took me some time to get through all the songs a few times. The band, Sea Stone, start things off with a couple of tracks. One tells about Jesus’ life, whilst the other depicts unemployment. The sound is somewhat dated but, after 40 years, what do you expect? Catch 22’s “Freeway to Paradise” had me thinking that it could have been the follow up to “Stairway to Heaven.” There were certainly some similarities in the sound. Fresh Claim feature prominently on both CD’s. Firstly, with their prog’ rock songs, and then by featuring some lighter pop/worship numbers. I chuckled a few times at the 80’s sounds that feature. For instance, Medals’ “Blue Blood” had an ABC feel about it, while Instransit’s “Bare Face to Face” had early Spandau Ballet written all over it! From the more modern era, the wistful vocals of Vivienne Neville are a highlight, as she sings praise to Jesus on “Veiled in Mystery.” Another good song is the Disciplemaker’s self-titled 2015 ditty. The melody is very simple but from the first time I heard it, I thought “How catchy” it was. Soul outfit, Echo have a couple of tracks included, while The Darn Funk Orchestra make a welcome appearance with “Salvation Shoes.” This review would have been much longer, but I just how far should I go? This release is a potted history of independent UK Christian music over the last 40 years. It’s a wonderful achievement and both Keith Dixon & Simon Laws should be thanked for, not only, this brilliant compilation, but their tireless work for God. It goes without saying, that this is a super double album. 10/10. (December 2018)
PLEADING GUILTY : Defacto. (Thumperpunk Records)
This band have a bit of a crossover sound - the vocals are punk, the drums and bass punk/thrash metal and the guitar is more metal, with some very nice melodic riffs in the style of Helloween or Theocracy (e.g. “Search And Rescue”) There are some very well executed pauses and rhythm shifts, too (such as the end of “Breaking Out”). These are clearly no "three chords as fast as I can" merchants. They describe themselves as "melodic skate punk" which I'd concur with. It's a relentless slice of boundless energy: even the pauses before the next solo/chorus/slab of musicality have something still running, be it bass drum or guitar in some form. After 7 of the 11 tracks I was worn out, which is my only criticism (and a minor one) in that something a little gentler, even if only an intro, would have been nice. Lyrically they're well within their genre and consist more of quick sound bites than long essays, e.g. "Breaking out - you are forgiven". They're catchy sound bites too, which must make their gigs great crowd-pleasers. Best track: “Away From Here.” 7/10. Paul Ganney. (May 2017)
PLUMB : Plumb. (Essential : CD700008).
Suffering, forgiveness, healing, and depression, are just some
of the subjects covered by Plumb on this release that has grabbed
a lot of media attention over the last few months. Led by the
vocals of Tiffany Arbuckle, the bands sound is instantly recognisable
akin to No Doubt. On 'Who Am I?', she controls her vocals within
the boundaries of the song but on 'Sobering' she's let loose,
and the results are almost over powering. There's lots of chunky
guitar sounds over most songs, with 'Crazy' being one of the most
instantly likeable tunes. The obligatory quiet number comes in
the shape of 'Pennyless', which tells of a young girl on the streets.
Plumb are good and I'd like to say that it's a peach of an album,
but it isn't. It's okay. 6/10. (July 1998)
PLUMB : Candycoatedwaterdrops. (Essential : 83061-0469-2)
Plumb's self titled debut announced noisily to the world that
they had arrived. A mix of American indie rock and punk, it was
aggressive and straight to the point. This follow up sees the
band mellow somewhat, as singer Tiffany Arbuckle turns into a
Natalie Imbruglia soundalike. Mind you, on the opening track there's
no sign of the change to come. "Late Great Planet Earth"
sounds like the track that they didn't quite have room for on
the debut and it's powerful delivery is tremendous. So we come
to "Stranded" a whole lot lighter and more radio friendly.
"Here With Me" builds with great orchestrations wile
the infectious "Lie Low" would me my pick for a single.
"God Shaped Hole" tells the listener that everyone has
a piece missing in their life, a piece that is God-shaped and
can only be filled by Him. The style may have changed, but Plumb
have ripened into a fruitful outfit. 9/10. (October 1999)
POCKET FULL OF ROCKS : Song to the King. (Curb Records)
There's always something odd about reviewing a Praise & Worship album: you're listening to it in three ways at once. Is it singable (i.e. could you use it in worship)? Is it listenable (would you ever play it again)? Is it any good (where does it stand on the naffness scale - zero being ubernaff)? Well, I'm very pleased to say that his album scores very highly on all three counts - it's very well written, performed and recorded. Being P&W it's never going to be ground-breaking in style or structure, but then it never sets out to be. The opener, "The Welcome Song" sets the tone clearly for what will follow. It sounds so much like so many other things, from the big drum intro, celtic-esque guitars and football-chantable chorus but it's a very good blend of all the influences. The CD comes complete with chord charts for three of the songs, and a bonus DVD featuring instructional videos to teach you how to play some of the songs, so it's clear that they want these songs to be used in worship beyond their concerts. If you're looking for a very good P&W album that's not full of songs you already own (I doubt you'll have any of these), then I'd recommend this one. 8/10 - Paul Ganney (December 2006)
POETIC JUSTICE : 'Mark of Cain?' (Private Recording. CD £10 Cass £6.50. - cheques to POETIC JUSTICE - from David Casswell, HM Prison Wolds, Everthorpe, Brough, E.Yorkshire, HU15 2JZ.)
There's no change to Dave's instantly recognisable Van Morrison
type vocals but what has happened is that the band, as a whole,
have clearly defined their individual strengths. This, along with
fine production, has brought out a sharper, cutting edge to the
fore. Songs such as 'Banged Up' and 'Twenty Twenty Vision' are
just two of the collection that tell of the prisoner's plight.
Sharon Winfield's vocals have improved no end and her powerful,
haunting rendition on 'This Time' would give Iona's Joanne Hogg
a run for her money. Influences are many, 60's, 70's 80's music
are all there, but it's the lyrics that are so out of the ordinary
and make the album special. The best is kept until last, where
the least number of words make the most powerful song. The music
is slowly and cleverly built up as both vocalists ask for 'Your
Peace'. 9/10. (September 1996, Album of the Month)
POINT OF GRACE : Life, Love & Other Mysteries. (Word 7019694608).
Their previous two albums have produced 11 number one CCM singles
in the States, which just gives some indication on how popular
these four girls are. Sweet vocals and, almost, perfect harmonies
sweep you along the road of heaven. Strong lyrics are shown throughout
the album including help from Scott Krippayne on the track 'Jesus
Doesn't Care'. Simple message here, no matter what you've done
- Jesus is waiting for you. Other highs are the title track and
'Any Road, Any Cost' - another song about following the Lord.
Indeed, the messages are simple so why complicate things? These
girls are pure pop and well worth your time. 9/10. (March 1997, Album of the Month)
POINT OF GRACE : Steady On. (Word : 080688544423).
These girls have really been setting America alight over the last
two or three years with their superb songs and wholehearted commitment
to their ministry. Following on from their highly successful debut,
"Steady On" is packed with songs containing down to
earth, plain and simple lyrics, filled with in your face facts.
For me, the title track is the worst cut on show and I wondered
just what the rest were going to be like. I needn't have worried
though because the girl soon launch into those delicious harmonies
that make Point of Grace so special. "My God" and "Amazing"
set your pulse racing but "Jesus Is" moves things into
a different gear, with a clear declaration that Jesus IS Lord.
Listening to it, you're just taken by the whole production of
the album, it's that good. "Drawing Me Closer" starts
of with those brilliant harmonies again before launching into
a spectacular, Belinda Carlisle type song. Yes, there's a couple
of hot ballads for good measure. Pity about the title track.
9/10. (December 1998, Album of the Month)
POINT OF GRACE : Free to Fly. (Word : 403611224115)
It's 10 years since the Christian music world first heard of the
band Point of Grace and in that time, their career has seen them
gain multi million album sales, as well as 5 Gold and Platinum
albums. Shelley Breen, Denise Jones, Heather Payne and Terry Jones
have now released a new album entitled "Free To Fly".
It's always a good sign when an album starts with a strong song
and this one is no exception. "By Heart" is very much
in the mould of Steps and should prove a winner with Christian
radio. "He Sends His Love" is a medium paced number
but the quality really hits you, with exceptional vocals and instrumentation.
Picking out a low point of the album would be hard but, perhaps,
"Praise Forevermore" fails to reach the heights of the
other tracks. "Blue Skies", "Begin With Me",
and "Something So Good" are just three of the many potential
radio hit singles from a band who never fail to deliver the goods.
9/10. (July 2001)
POINT OF GRACE : I Choose You. (Word Records : UK8863242)
This was a CD I was looking forward to listening to as I had actually "won" a Point of Grace CD a few years ago & had quite enjoyed a couple of the tracks. The music on this album has moved on since the 1998 one I am familiar with, which is not an altogether bad thing. This is one of those albums which on first hearing doesn't make a lasting impression of "wow" or "glad I bought that one", but over time some of the tracks may grow on you. The title track "I Choose You" starts off very relaxed & just as you're about to drift off, it wakes you up with a rousing rocky chorus containing some familiar sounding riffs and some very polished vocals - I like that one! The promising start however doesn't continue throughout the rest of the album. A large number of tracks are bland & uninspiring either in musical or lyrical content…heard it / fast-forwarded it all before, but they are interspersed with the odd one which you'll want to listen to again. The style tends to stick to the American pop-rock formula which works well, but then you find the styles on some on some tracks e.g. "Make it Real" (track 7) veering off towards Country & Western and this really does not work. Had they stuck to the original formula, this may have been better. I also found that the lyrics appear to have come from some very personal experiences, which for me didn't press the "on" switch but must have deep meaning for those who penned the songs which I can respect. Track 11 is a reading by Adrian Plass from the book Pilgrim's Progress followed by "This is Your Land" which together are excellent, providing a final lift at the end of the album. This is one of those CD's I'll probably drag out once every so often & 3 or 4 of the tracks & miss the rest...a bit like buying some compilation albums! 4/10 Simon Redfern (April 2005)
PORTLAND : These Broken Hands. (The Stereo Tree : 8204782)
This is the Midlands based trio who have made a splash in the mainstream, with regular airplay on radio stations such as BBC Radio 2. Husband and wife, Rory and Sarah Thompson are joined by Paul Meadows with a style that can best be described as Folk/Pop. I've got to admit, that the first listen left me wondering what all the fuss was about, as I Found it very bland and non-descript. However, I persevered, and found the songs becoming more pleasant on subsequent hearing. Sarah has a voice that, sometimes, sounds like Joss Stone, and she's at her best on the song 'The Letter', which tells of the crucifixion. The single, 'Tonight' is quite good but the stand out track for me is the war tinged 'Talk to Me'. Despite the subject matter, it was the first song that I wanted to "play again". Instrumentation is very simple and un-cluttered throughout and this works especially well on 'Believe in You'. I'm still not blown away by this release, but it's growing on me. 6/10. (October 2009)
POUND HOUND : Massive Grooves from the Electric church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music. (Metal Blade Records).
Doug Pinnick's (Kings X) solo project depends, I would say, in
what you expect. Musicianship
meaty, uplifting lyrics
vocals? For the first and last I would sat - yes! Lyrics - maybe
Doug has some things to express or work out in his life. I'm not
saying that he's self-centred or anything - and I'm sure there's
gotta be some stories behind most of his songs to justify the
- but to me, some seem to have words because they needed something.
Am I wanting too much from an artist of his caliber? Lyrics aside,
I like the album. Yes, the Kings X sound is there. Any of these
songs could havew come from a Kings album. If you're into Kings
X, you'll like it and if you're curious
Dennis Preston, courtesy of The Cutting Edge Magazine, http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/venue/1006/118pound.html
THE POWER OF PRAISE : Thanks. (Integrity : 25332)
Urban praise is something I've struggled with, as a listener over
the last few years. Gospel singers like Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda
Adams seem more accessible with their music. But, forever open
to all types of music, I gave this one a listen in the knowledge
that Fred Hammond and Steven Ford were the producers. Sadly, this
album took a lot of perseverance because I didn't enjoy it at
all. I would have loved to have written this review after one
listen, but that's not being fair to the artist, or the record
company. "Jesus is Alive" can only be described as a
lot of "whooping and hollering", to a beat that I found
just plain annoying. "Ancient of Days" and "Worthy
You Are Worthy" were passable MOR gospel, but I found very
little solice in either. Mid way through the album, the well known
hymns "Jesus We Enthrone You" and "Give Thanks"
are sung, but I found the interpretation rather clumsy and dis-jointed.
In fact, the word "tacky" came to mind, they were that
bad. Not one that I'll be personally playing much more. 2/10. (June 2003)
THE POWER OF PRAISE : Harmony. (Integrity Gospel : 25362)
I was set a real challenge with this one - a Black Gospel/Soul
cd. I can't claim to be an expert in this style of music, nor
do I have any in my collection (which I thought was pretty eclectic!)
nor is it a style which I particularly like. I think this is a
difficult style of music to make work in a worship context. I
think it suffers from a lack of a strong melody which is imperative
in corporate worship, and is probably one of the reasons why I
struggle to get on with soul music. I do find most songs sound
the same and there is an element of that here. The first two songs
"More of Your Glory" and "You Alone are My Rock"
are done as a medley but you wouldn't know that they were two
separate songs without glancing at the album sleeve. Not a good
start! It is also not clear from the sleeve what this album is
actually about. The cover is laid out in such a way as to indicate
that this is a duo called "Harmony". What you actually
get is a selection of "the finest vocalists and choirs"
delivering "urban praise at an affordable price". Maybe
I just don't get it, but I'm sure it's more to do with poor packaging.
Having said all that, the content is well delivered with good,
strong vocal and instrumental performances and I'm sure that if
this is your thing, you will enjoy it. The production too is of
commercial quality and coupled with some good tunes in the middle
of the album I found I actually warmed to it to a certain extent.
I do work with a church that has members that would absolutely
love this cd and it does demonstrate the diversity of Christian
Worship Music available. So overall, this album gets a muted thumbs
up even though it is not to my taste. If you want soul for the
soul, I'm sure you could do worse. 5/10 (for poor packaging)
Robin Thompson (February 2004)
THE POWER OF PRIASE - Healing. (Integrity : 25372)
Here's a mid-price album that promotes urban praise, produced
by Fred Hammond and Steven ford. With some great choirs and vocalists
featured, you're sure to enjoy this album. Right? Well, not really
enjoy. It has it's moments but they are few and far between. Lyrically,
superb, with the theme of "healing" running throughout.
However, too many songs failed to deliver and I found most of them quite bland. Okay, so there's some lively praise
going on, but do they really have to OTT? "Healing Grace"
and "Come Let Us Return" stop this from becoming a totally
dire release, while the likes of "Bu His Wounds" held
that certain cringe factor for me. Enjoy it? No. Endured it? Yes.
3/10. (February 2004)
POWERSCOURT : Live Worship 2000.
There do seem to be rather a lot of these "live worship"
CD's around, so I tend to ask myself why this should be. Do they
A) provide a quick way of distributing new songs; B) capture the
spirit of worship that was present at the recording, thus enabling
the listener to use the CD in their own worship; C) assist the
local worship leader by providing hints on arrangement that no
score ever seems to; D) provide a definite market (those who were
there) in which to sell the CD? Leaving aside the (somewhat cynical)
option D, how does this CD measure up in terms of A, B and C?
This CD is very strong on A, having only one song I'd heard before
("I Will Worship") and are all quite good without really
hitting true magnificence - ("Wide Wide World" is probably
the best track). However, B&C are not really that strong;
the atmosphere definitely lacking and the arrangements & styles
I was hoping for (having enjoyed many Irish/Celtic arrangements
of songs) was not really present - although "St. Patrick's
Breastplate" is rather good. A great shame, really, as I've
been quite impressed with co-leader David Ruis in the past. A
CD for those constantly seeking new songs or those who were there
(record execs have to eat too, you know). 4/10. Paul Ganney. (September 2000)
PRAGUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : Symphony of Praise. (Kingsway : KMCD3068)
This 3D collection covers just about every major song on which the history f church worship has been built. The music is split into nine titles, such as Creation, The Cross, and The Comforter, each containing a medley of tunes. Conducted by Paul Terracini, the Emmy Award Winning Prague Symphony Orchestra perform each number with care and precision, resulting in a sheer delight for lover's of this genre. There are too many individual tunes to mention all, but the opening 'All Creatures of Our God and King' stood out for me. Later on, under the banner of The Incarnation, 'The Servant King' and 'Meekness and Majesty' flow effortlessly together. Songs old and new are featured throughout, and all played, with the greatest respect. 8/10 (May 2010)
PRAIRIE BIBLE COLLEGE : God Above, God Below. ($19.95 Canadian: from www.pbi.ab.ca)
One of two new Celtic Christian albums released by the Prairie
Bible College of Alberta, Canada, is "God Above, God Below".
20 tracks featuring some whose words are more than 400 years old.
Irish singer Fiona O'Leary is at the forefront of much of the
singing, but she's abley assisted by the musicians and singers
of the college's Fine Arts Department. In sound, it's all very
traditional and if you're expecting something like Iona, forget
it, this album is back to basics and that's no bad thing. As the
bagpipes and whistles of "Hail the King" unfurled, I
knew that I was beginning a listening journey of distinct quality
and depth. "O For A Thousand Tongues" is one of my all
time favourite hymns and, therefore, it was quite strange to hear
it sang to the tune of "Star of County Down", a gentle
Irish melody. Nevertheless, I still found it a pleasurable listen,
and it was at this point I started to take more note of the intricate
re-workings of many well know songs. "Be Thou My Vision"
is another track that gets a similar treatment, as does "Ancient
of Days". There's also a couple of instrumental jigs to highlight
the excellent musicianship, using instruments such as harp, bodhran,
accordion, dulcimer, and many more. For those who love Celtic
music, this is a must. 9/10. (September 2001)
PRAISE BAND 9 : Forever. (Maranatha : 080688594121)
At last, something from the States to compare with the constant
stream of stuff we get from Hillsongs Australia! Not that I'm
against Hillsongs, I just feel that a new Australian praise album
every month (well, that's what it feels like) is rather too much
to digest. The Praise Band are very similar in content, but the
opening "You Are the One" stands out because of it's
difference to the rest of the album. Here, it's US guitar rock,
and a stomping chorus that is, actually, worthy of being a chart
hit. What happens next is a mystery, as the rest of the album
becomes a little 'run of the mill'. "I Will Rise Up"
sounds like a Matt Redman number and "You're Worthy of My
Praise" is quite good, too. Hard to pick out any others as
outstanding but, there again, there's nothing horrific either.
6/10. (May 2000)
PREACHA : Geography of a Journey. (Movation/Alliance Moved806).
The news that ex-Bizzare Inc. frontman Cameron Dante had become
a Christian was big music media news. From a life of sex, drugs
and rock n'roll, he was saved and began his new life with the
support of the World Wide Message Tribe. This solo album is a
musical journey of his change, beginning with 'Tormential Pain'
and ending with 'We Lift Our Voices'. It's dance club music through
and through, and I found it very hard to listen to. Perhaps I'm
too old? I gave it to my teenage daughter and 12 year old son.
"It's awful", said one. "One bit's alright, but
I didn't like the singing", said the other. I tried playing
it loud, I tried playing it quietly. I tried playing it in the
car, I had to turn it off. The only track I felt I would like
to listen to again was 'Reachin', perhaps because it only lasts
for three minutes. I love the sleeve notes by Cameron himself,
and I love what has happened to him. I just pray that this will
go down well in the clubs. For me, it didn't. 4/10. (February 1997)
'Precious Moments 5'. (Elevation : ELE1610A)
Back in 2005 I gave a largely favourable review in these pages to the first 'Precious Moments' dvd, which linked live worship from the Keswick Convention with beautifully filmed scenes around Keswick. As the series has progressed the scenery has moved to different parts of Britain, although the original link is still there as the music is taken from 'Keswick' Bible weeks. The video has also progressed from 4:3 format, to 16:9. As with the original release, no worship leaders etc are credited – a shame I think, and it also remains a disappointment that there is no way of identifying the scenes. It is possible however, ‘Songs of Praise’ style, to select the captions for the words being sung – although such is the clarity of the voices that much of the time this will be unnecessary unless you want to sing along. For those familiar with the whole Keswick experience there are no surprises in terms of choice of material, ranging from the traditional ('Praise my soul the King of heaven') to the more modern ('Indescribable'). There are some 'congregational' mixes, others with the worship leader prominent. The stand-out track for me is 'Amazing God' – always a beautiful hymn, here nicely arranged and particularly well delivered. Sound quality is very good. So is picture quality, except for a slight jerkiness on zooming/panning/movement. Overall however, a pleasant DVD. Check out the 'Precious Moments' titles on www.essentialchristian.com. 7/10 Dave Deeks(May 2012)
Precious Moments 6: How Great Thou Art (DVD,Elevation)
This DVD is described on the front cover as being “Inspirational worship alongside breathtaking scenery from Scotland” and that is exactly what you get when you fire up the disc – 10 hymns recorded live at Keswick Bible Week and played over video footage of various Scottish locations, including Glen Coe, Edinburgh and Loch Lomond among others. There are no surprises here, which I imagine will satisfy fans of the previous 5 discs in the series, but, for me, it wastes the opportunities offered by the format. DVD has matured immensely over the last several years and, for want of a better term, this is really nothing more than a sing-along screensaver as many music DVDs were in the format’s infancy. The music is pleasing enough, though not as inspirational as the blurb thinks it is, and looking over the track listing for this offering compared with the previous volumes, I wonder whether they are running out of good ideas for songs to use. There is a mixture of traditional with modern(ish), but heavy on the traditional, and everything is well recorded but very samey, which only reinforces the “screensaver” feeling I described earlier. As for the accompanying video, again it is very well shot and presented but nothing that would fit the blurb’s claim of “breath-taking”. In fact, you could probably find more breath-taking, and certainly more dramatic, Scottish scenery with a quick YouTube search. You can opt to turn on subtitles, which displays the words of the hymns on screen, allowing you to sing along, but this only seems to work if you opt to “Play All” rather than selecting an individual song. On the whole, I found the whole thing to be pleasant and inoffensive which, in my eyes at least, is not really a compliment.
5/10 David Cooper (August 2012)
PRECIOUS MOMENTS 3&4 : Love Divine/In Christ Alone. (Elevation : ELE1998D)
Here’s the latest collection of “best-loved” Christian worship songs, recorded at various Keswick Conventions. Sung, I presume, in the big top surroundings, it’s really good to hear those gathered in full voice. You can’t really complain at the quality or the content of these recording, as they are just pure and simple. “Wow”, I thought, “this is like stepping back in time”, as I listened to ‘How Lovely On the Mountains’ and ‘Lord, Reign in Me’. I’d not heard either song for a long time, and had forgotten just how good they were. ‘Jesus is King’ is sung with great joy, while the congregation up the stakes with marvellous renditions of both ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Shout to the Lord’. The trait follows throughout this Cd, it’s just so good to listen to. Other songs featured include ‘Love Devine, All Loves Excelling’, ‘I Stand in Awe’ and ‘There is a Hope’. If you’d like a change to electric guitar driven, modern worship, then this is an album for you. It’s traditional, in some respects, it’s old fashioned, but it’s lovely. 8/10. (September 2014)
PRECIOUS MOMENTS 5&6 : Amazing God/How Great Thou Art. (Elevation : ELE1999D)
I’m not sure what I can say about this album, that I haven’t already said, whilst reviewing all the previous volumes of this series? Recorded at the Keswick Convention, once again, it features many, well-known songs, with the congregation singing at the tops of their voices, in praise and worship. ‘O For a Thousand Tongues’, ‘Indescribable’, and ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ all get an outing, mid-album, and I thought that these were some of the best versions that I’ve heard, recorded live. I didn’t recognise ‘Every Promise of Your Word’ but the Celtic feel of it, should have pointed me straight away for it being written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. ‘Jesus is the Name We Honour’ is simply wonderful, whilst I also loved the powerful rendition of ‘Rock of Ages’. Other favourites include ‘How Great Thou Art’, and ‘Praise to the Lord’, as well as the rousing ‘Creation Sings’. The Precious Moments series consistently produces fine albums, and this one is no different. 7/10. (January 2015)
PRELUDE : Learn to Fly. (Track Star : 8 81534 40232 0)
The three girls who make up Prelude have, apparently, been friends for a very long time. They all have parents who have been involved in religious music circles and, I guess, it was just a matter of time before they put out a record. Who's it aimed at? Well, the front cover shows the girls in very pretty dresses that were fashionable here in the UK around 30 years ago. There again, perhaps the trend has come around full circle and I just haven't noticed. So, I don't believe this record is aimed at the teens. Their opening re-working of the Beatles classic "We Can Work It Out" was quite an eye opener but, work it does, with fine harmonies shining. "You Call Me Yours" is a pleasant enough song but, then, things go a little downhill. The girls have writing credits on most of the songs but they just don't stand out from hundreds of other songs I've heard this year. Producer Michael O'Martian seems to play too many instruments and it all becomes rather messy. There's nothing wrong with the sentiments behind this album but there's a lot to sort out before a follow up. 3/10. (August 2008)
PRESTONWOOD WORSHIP : Songs of the People. (Integrity : B01M3WDWD0)
The Prestonwood Church in Dallas has more than 42,000 members, and 500 of their ministry team gathered on stage for this live recording. Also featured are Michael W Smith and Paul Baloche, led by Michael Neale. Listening to the album, I got the feeling that this church produces music more akin to Hillsong, rather than Bethel Music. There are lots of big production numbers, and the title track is just one of them. From the off, it’s obvious that the congregation are singing along as one body. The uplifting “Your Love is Our Favourite Song” is very powerful. The vocalist sings of chains being broken and of “Freedom in your name,” For “Still My Soul sings” you can instantly imagine the hands of everyone being raised heavenwards in worship. The song that I found myself singing along to was “Our Story, Our Song.” Infectious and enriching, it certainly moved me in praise. Most of the songs are quite lengthy, and “Here is the Holy” comes in at 7 minutes – a tad too long in my opinion. There’s a nice orchestral intro to “Grace So Marvellous”, and I liked the way that both the vocals and music built up in power. There are thirteen tracks in total, and that results in over 70 minutes of music. Of course, quantity doesn’t always result in quality but for lovers of Hillsong music, it’s the perfect addition to your collection. 8/10. (January 2017)
Following the success of their 2012 release “Martyrs Prayers”, Indianapolis based duo Michael Bell and Duane Arnold have returned with a 9 track independently recorded album. They say; “Travel with us, but find a journey to make your own, for the Mystic Chapel is not a place that you can find on a map, it is an encounter that takes place in the soul. It is an encounter that may, for each of us, bring an answer to the question, “What if we still believed?” Opening with the crashing of thunder and the sound of rain, “Prelude” is instrumental, and predominantly led by an acoustic guitar. On “Come Let Us Worship”, the guitar chugs along quite nicely, and is joined by some good keyboard sounds. The song as a whole reminded me of 60’s band Buffalo Springfield, and the formula is repeated later in the track listing by the raise filled “From On high.” I thought that the production quality waned on “Joyous Light”, were the acoustic guitar made a rather scratchy noise. “Hypachoi” is a strange addition to the album, as it is totally different to anything else on show. A rhythmic bass is joined by distorted guitar as the vocals describe finding Jesus’ empty tomb. There’s almost a Simon & Garfunkle feel to “We Sing With Angels”, while the pedestrian folk song “Holy Father” is taken to great heights by the excellent vocal work. Indeed, the real strength to this album are the vocals of Michael and Duane. Obviously, some deep prayers have gone into the writing of this album, as it’s not your “run of the mill” release. A little polish when it comes to production, and their next album could be even better. 7/10. (July 2016)
PROM PRAISE : 40th Anniversary of All Souls Orchestra. (Integrity : KWCD3332)
This live cd was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall and features, in addition to the All Souls Orchestra mentioned in the title, The Prom Praise Massed Choir, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Graham Kendrick, Jonathan Veira and several others. It is actually a very interesting mix of music featuring on the one hand modern worship songs such as “In Christ Alone” and on the other traditional classical pieces such as “Zadok the Priest”. Sandwiched in between are more traditional hymns like “Jesus the Name High Over All”. I always feel it needs a full orchestra and choir to do justice to traditional hymns and therefore the ones on this cd are a joy to listen to. It would be a stretch to say this is a worship album despite the Prom Praise title as numbers such as Beethoven's Rondo Allegro are really instrumental performance pieces. However, if you take this album for what it is it is actually a wonderfully varied mix of music with a classical slant. The said piano concerto is wonderfully performed by Grace Yeo with superb technique and expression. One for the traditionalists I think, but excellent nonetheless. 8/10. Robin Thompson. (February 2013)
PROXY : The Call. (Integrity : SARCD147)
Proxy is a ministry arm of the Assembly of God Church in Table View, USA. A visit to their website tells you very little, and after a couple of listens, I was about to disregard the album as "just another rock worship" release. But, then, I viewed the accompanying DVD and being able to see just what the songs were doing added so much. Surrender to Jesus, is the call on the infectious "Hands Up". Upon viewing, it's obvious to see a very lively church, full of God's love. 'Lasting Treasure' and 'Changed' keep up the pace before the quieter 'Worthy' gives you a well earned breather. The band really get the worshippers jumping about with the All Star United style of 'Wake Up' - full of energy. Towards the end of the album there's a couple of more traditional worship numbers, and they work really well too. The piano backed 'Atonement Song' and Jesus focussed 'Look Upon the Cross'. Certainly one of the best DVD's I've come across. 8/10 (November 2009)
PSALMISTRY : Armchair Rebellion. (Word : WMD005).
Not knowing much about the dance/club scene I asked a few people
"in the know" for their opinion of this release from
this British outfit. "It sound's American in a sort of Beastie
Boys way" said one. "They wouldn't play anything like
this on the radio or in the clubs around here", said another.
Further opinions weren't too helpful or encouraging so I decided
to go it alone, after all. Track 4 "Hectic", that ,must
be the one like the Beatie Boys! Quite hectic, lots of 90's rap/hip-hop
and loud "pump up the volume" beat. From there, we move
to "Didgereborn" which actually seems to feature a didgeredoo
throughout. The two 'tunes' I did pick up on though both featured
the vocals of Helen, "Frontline2" and the slower "Jesus
Armchair". To me, they seemed to be in a different league
to most of the other tracks and the former gave me visions of
a motion picture theme. Remember the band Therapy, complete with
100 miles an hour attacking thrash but still having a catchy hook?
Fans of that sort of music will love "Paul Daniels",
- I can see the moshpit going wild right now. I don't think that
Psalmistry would ever convert me but then, would Psalmistry fans
enjoy Stryper? 7/10. (May 1999)
The Psalms Project Vol 2 (CD/DVD): Elevation ELE16800
Volume 1 of composer Stephen Faux's 'Psalms project' was issued as a CD, and covered some of the first 40 of the Psalms. Described on his website as 'a contemporary journey through the vivid landscape of Psalms, told in the musical language of feature films', this choral/orchestral CD + DVD release goes on to feature ten Psalms (although the dvd only six) selected from nos 42-67. The aim is that 'we are drawn into a world of joy and praise, danger and abandonment, and, finally, restoration and affirmation'. Orchestral parts are performed by the Chamber Orchestra of London ('COOL'), orchestrated and conducted by Alastair King (known for the music on British TV's Downton Abbey). Beautifully written, performed and produced and with superb sound quality on both formats, this is altogether a high quality release. The music is a creative combination of classical and contemporary styles, some of it best described as 'soundscape', with each track including spoken or sung lyrics based upon that Psalm. I found it difficult to select any 'standout' tracks, preferring to treat it 'as a whole'. The dvd variously features images of space and seashores (Psalm 46), city life (Psalm 49), African children dancing (Psalm 67) - and sometimes (less successfully in my view - Psalms 52, 57) simply abstract images, patterns, on-screen lyrics. Downsides? The story featuring the young girl (Psalm 55) was, I am sorry to say, lost on me (even after reading the explanation in the sleeve notes) and despite the deeper stated aims of the project I enjoyed the whole thing much more musically than I understood it intellectually or emotionally. Finally, I am not sure whether the sudden change in aspect ratio in Psalms 49 and 67 is deliberate(?) - I found this a bit irritating but a quick change to 14:9 on these occasions sorted it out! Despite these criticisms, an interesting and very enjoyable release. 9/10 Dave Deeks. (October 2012)
PureNRG : reNRGized. (Curb Records : 8878152)
PureNRG are a three piece Christian Teen Band from America and this is their 4th studio album in two years. They've certainly been a busy bunch, having performed frequently over that time including appearances on the same bill as bands such as Mercy Me, Barlow Girl and, unbelievably, Christian rockers Skillet. There is certainly great strength in teens ministering to teens and this seems to be the main reason why pureNRG do what they do. However, I do find that at times the immaturity in their voices can make them sound one step short of a school choir which may also have the opposite effect. The opener on this album, "Are You Ready" is a great song that I enjoyed immensely but the rest is very mainstream and a little bland. Perhaps their strength lies in their live show and testimonies but on the basis of this cd, my kids remain unconvinced. 5/10 Robin Thompson (September 2009)
This is the debut Push Community album, written by a multi-denominational collective of worship leaders and songwriters, made for worshippers and music lovers. Having so many different song writers and leaders on the album results in a multitude of influences and song styles, and that’s it’s strength. Have you ever heard one of those voices that gives you Goosebumps? Well, that happened to me, listening to the opening track from Sophia Jenkins. ‘God You Are Good’ is a smashing song, but what a voice. Fantastic! Neil Wilson gives a fine performance with the guitar pop of ‘Everyone’, while Olly Knight shines brightly on both ‘Jesus’ Name’ and ‘The Father’s Love’. I thought that both of these songs reminded me of The Parachute Band in style, and the former is a must for live worship at a large gathering. All the songs featured, centre on God and His son, giving the listener the chance to focus on their own relationship with the Father. The Push Community explain that the “general consensus is that we are growing, excited and ready to serve God.” This collection of songs are exciting, and other highlights include the great, driving beat of Wilson’s ‘The Rescue’ and the wistful voice of Ciara Titchener’s ‘You Alone’. For some fresh sounds, you need to listen to this album. 9/10. (May 2013)
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