Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive V

V*ENNA : Where I Wanna Be. (Alliance : 1908272)
Lucy Britten and Sharnessa Shelton are the two girls who make up V*enna and practically take all the writing credits on this debut release. In the background, however, is that gifted guy Zarc Porter. Together with a few friends, he and the girls have produced one of the best British pop/dance albums for some time. To say that it matches anything that the likes of Britney Spears, Steps and the like have brought out, would be an understatement. The power pop sound of the title track immediately makes you sit up and take note of just what V*enna are all about. "Make That Noize", too, has the same flavour but "Why Did I Let You Go" oozes with that 'something' extra. Slower mixes like "Sometimes" still hold your attention but my favourite track had to be "Don't Stop". It would be my pick for a single release but, in all honesty, there's not a bad track on show. 10/10. (November 2000, Album of the Month)
V12 - Transitions. (www.v-12music.co.uk)
The whispering voice of Daniel Wilcock starts up the first track, 'Disconnected', and the most intelligent comment you can make is "Well it's interesting…" However the whispering doesn't last long and the song changes into the harshly melodic sound similar to that of mainstream bands such as KoRn or System Of A Down. Don't get me wrong though, this is not just yet another band trying to imitate the mainstream bands in order to gain the popularity of the youth; this a very individual and distinct sounding band. Although I'm not a fan of the whispering intro, track one has swiftly become a well-played song in my stereo. The next three tracks in my opinion are not up to the same standard as track one, but this does not make them anything below standard as the memorable drumbeats and uniquely sounding guitars that can cause anyone to nod their head along. Track five is purely a short, instrumental finale to the CD which is a great shame as four songs is not even enough for an EP. Sadly I can only give this CD a 7/10 but that is purely because of its very brief nature; this is definitely a band to look out for in the future. Rik Howlett. (April 2003)
V3 : V3. (EMI : EGD71822)
With a pastor father and a professional singer mother, V3 are three sisters LaToya, Sacha and Shelly Vinson (i.e. three whose surname starts with 'V' = V3!). They grew up "singing under their mother's careful tutelage, guided by the spiritual teachings and example set for them by their dad". Here we have a well performed and produced r&b / hip-hop / gospel ballad album with excellent sound quality that sounds good on first listen and includes a number of songs that grow with repeated plays - my favourites being 'Have you ever' and 'Let's take it'. The sisters share a number of the songwriting credits. A number of producers are listed, yet the whole album sounds seamless - possibly as a result of the oversight of 'executive producers' Brandon Egerton and Ken Pennel (respectively A& R manager and President of EMI Gospel). As I listened I found myself reminded of some of the 'smoother' songs on the 'Mary Mary' album I reviewed back in 2005, but that included others with more energy, variety and 'personal stamp' about them. This aspect highlights the main failing of V3's offering - the fact that there are many albums of this ilk, and this one doesn't really stand out. If it's your favourite genre however, you'll probably love it. For more info and to have a listen to V3, try www.v3place.com. 7/10 Dave Deeks. (January 2007)
VALMA MERRICK : Precious Treasure. (www.reverbnation.com/valmamerrick)
This debut Cd from Valma Merrick really excited me. Why? Because it really has the feel of those demo albums from years ago. The recording isn’t as polished as it could be, and Valma sometimes doesn’t quite hit the right note vocally but, it is still glorious. Recorded by Colin Owen, he also takes writing credits on a number of songs, including the opening ‘Show Mercy’. Not the strongest of songs, it does improve as it builds. ‘See His Love’ is a heavier, rock song about Jesus dying on the cross for us. Valma’s vocals aren’t the best here, but its rawness carries it through. On ‘Love Came Down’ the production is rather over-bearing and threatens to drown the vocals, but on ‘Oh Saviour, Oh My Lord’, Valma finally shows what she’s made of, with some fine singing. Possibly the best track is Darlene Zschech’s ‘The Potter’s Hand’. Valma’s voice really shines on this track and you can feel her confidence growing. The album is not perfect by a long chalk, but you can tell just what passion this lady has to sing for God. How wonderful that she can celebrate her love for the Lord so freely, and with such feeling. Perhaps Valma is one to watch for the future? 7/10 (March 2011)
VARIOUS : 51 Must Have Modern Worship Hits. (Integrity : 41322)
Ouch! Another one of those awful titles. Why do the record companies do this? This is a 3 Cd collection of songs that feature a lot of unknown singers giving us their renditions of worship songs. To be fair, there's a lot of well produced numbers featured, but there's also a few real stinkers. For instance, don't expect all those songs to be played in the same style that you know and love. "Come, Now is the Time to Worship" gets an early heavy rock treatment with out of tune guitars thrown in for good measure. The result is just plain horrible. The same can be said of the RnB versions of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", and "Forever". On the plus side, however, there are some very good songs. "The Heart of Worship" has lots of feeling put into it, while "Everyday" sounds very much like an early Backstreet Boys number. Stand out track has to be "Your Grace is Enough", while the classy anthemic worship of Amazed" runs it a close second. There's a surprising dance version of "Blessed Be Your Name" that I particularly liked, and a rousing version of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" too. Out of 51songs, there's certainly more good songs than bad, but listening to all three CD's proved I was worshipped out!. 6/10 (August 2008)
VARIOUS : 100 Favourite Instrumental Worship Songs. (Kingsway : KWCD3198)
Here's one to test the resolve of any reviewer. 5 CD's and 100 instrumental tracks, many of which seem to blend seamlessly into one another that you don't realise that the previous track has ended. Lots of whistles and pipes amongst the sounds used, but it all gets a bit monotonous after a while. The track listing produces new and old songs in a 50-50 mixture, but begins with the classic 'Amazing Grace'. This time, the cello takes up the melody, with a nice accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. On 'Come and See', I think that an oboe takes the lead on this very gentle version. There's some very pretty harp playing on 'We Magnify Your Name', and the same sound scores well later on 'Overwhelmed By Love'. I was hoping that some of these tracks might be useful as backing tracks in a small group environment but, sadly, the arrangements do not cater for this. 'As the Deer' is another relaxing sound on CD 3, while 'All heaven Declares' is of similar stature. There must be a market for this type of collection, otherwise the record companies would not keep releasing them but, on this occasion, I found things just rather lack lustre in quality. 6/10 (July 2011)
VARIOUS : 17 Christian Rock Hits 2007. (bed71749 : EMI)
This is probably one of the daftest named CD's ever. For a start off, there are 21 tracks not 17. (Yes we have the good old bonus track marketing con yet again). Presumably there must be another version of this CD out there somewhere, which is four tracks lighter, otherwise, in what way are these bonus tracks? Secondly, most of the tracks are from 2006 not 2007, and, in fact one track is from 1983, and also happens to be the best track on the CD by far, it's Audio Adrenaline's "Blaze of Glory". So what we have here seems to be just another attempt to flog the back catalogue. I can't help thinking that EMI haven't quite grasped the idea when it comes to Christian music sometimes. Anyway, onto the music itself. As you would expect a lot of it is quite heavy, loads of de-tuned guitars, screaming vocals etc, as you would expect from a rock collection. There are a few tracks that are worth a mention. Audio Adrenaline as have already been mentioned is the best track, and there is a track by David Crowder called "Do Not Move" which is quite good. "Invisible hook" by House of Heroes stands out too. In fact most of the tracks are ok taken on their on their own. However, I wouldn't say that this is a CD that I'd play everyday. There are a lot of songs on it and you'd be amazed how many of them sound almost exactly the same. By it's very nature this is not the kind of music that you can leave playing quietly in the background while you get on with something else, yet I found that If I tried to sit and listen to it I got bored with it by about half way through, 21 tracks is a bit too long. If it had been exactly what it said on the box it might actually have been a better CD. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2007)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : 25 Songs That Changed the Way We Worship. (Integrity : 50626)
Here we have an unusual 'index card style' package containing two CDs and a dvd 'celebrating 25 years of Integrity Music', being selected from previous Integrity releases. Despite the title and obvious link between twenty-five songs and twenty-five years, whilst the cds do cover twenty-five songs the dvd contains several of these but adds a further six - plus 3 'Latin worship' ones as well as a short video of several artists explaining what Integrity is all about. The index cards cover only the songs on the cds and are double-sided. Each side covers one song and details the artist and songwriter, the background to the song, and the lyrics. So, what about the music? Integrity has of course made a massive contribution to recorded contemporary Christian worship, so it was no surprise that all tracks proved familiar. There are some real gems here. Ones that stood out for me included Lenny LeBlanc with his own 'There is none like You' and also 'Above all' (co-written with Paul Baloche), Darlene Zschech's 'Shout to the Lord', Paul Baloche with 'Hosanna' and 'Your name' (co-written with Brenton Brown and Glenn Packiam respectively), Eoghan Haslip with Steve Merkel's 'Lord have mercy', and Kari Jobe with 'Healer' (written by Mike Gugliemucci). The best one for me was Kari Jobe and Gateway Worship with Jennie Lee Riddle's 'Revelation Song' - almost six minutes delivering a great song, with a brilliant arrangement and production, and Kari's usual note-perfect delivery. Any gripes? Track numbers are not shown on the index cards - making sure the sequence is right must be a nightmare for whoever packs these into the box, but keeping them in order after that? - aaagh!! Be aware that the dvd is 4:3 aspect ratio - so if images of artificially portly people irritate you be ready to adjust your set! Sound quality varies a bit between tracks but overall is pretty good. A worthwhile package. 8/10. Dave Deeks. (May 2013)
VARIOUS : 2013 Ultimate Worship (Integrity : 51562)
The latest in Integrity's 'ultimate' series, here we have a double CD compilation of mainly familar songs/recordings from 2004 to 2012 - so, as with 'Worship Anthems 2013' that I reviewed recently, '2013' must refer simply to the year of issue. Printed lyrics are provided, and artists, original albums and songwriters identified - all good. I found this to be a release of two halves however. Firstly, as I listened it became evident that CD1 consists largely of live tracks whereas all the ones on CD2 sound as though they are studio recordings. More importantly however, with few exceptions I found little to engage me on CD1 whilst CD2 was almost entirely very enjoyable. On CD1, my favourite is Gateway Worship's 'Revelation Song' - although this live recording is compromised somewhat by a repeatedly ringing microphone, a weakness that surely shouldn't have made it to final production. Worship Central's 'Spirit break out' and Elim Sound's 'Trust in the Lord' are both potentially strong tracks spoiled by spoken sections - a rap in the former and a mini-sermon in the latter. On CD2 however there is barely a weak track. My standouts are Chris Clarney's 'Your love never fails' - great song, great production, brilliant voice, and Aaron Keyes with 'Sovereign over us' - again great song and voice, and with superb production incorporating a gorgeous repeating piano riff. Nikki Fletcher's 'Draw me close' is also worth special mention, beautifully sung and ending with a repeating "You are with me always, even now You are here" - a lovely reminder of God's constant presence with us. As with most compilations, sound quality varies - CD2's predominance of studio recordings making it understandably better than CD1 in this respect. Overall? I can happily recommend CD2 as an excellent ccm worship sampler, CD1 less so. Worth an average of 7/10. Dave Deeks. (September 2013)
VARIOUS : 60 Big Worship Songs 4 Little Ones. (Kingsway KMCD2872)
Kids Worship compilations seem to be getting bigger these days - this is a 3cd set with a whopping 60 songs. This could make one shiver at the prospect of 3 ½ hours of torturous naffness but wait - this is actually rather good. Actually, I do children's worship an injustice because the quality has improved so much in recent years. This cd demonstrates why. Worship leaders such as Doug Horley, who not surprisingly features quite heavily on here ("He's the Gaffa", "Have we Made our God Too Small" to name but a couple) seem to understand children's psyche and so this is filled with wondrously insane yet theology sound songs. It also continues the trend of including "adult" songs because we forget that kids can love these too - though they're probably less forgiving and often see through your average novice guitarist's attempts to play anything more complex than a C major. Songs like "Jesus Christ (Once Again)" are a welcome addition and there is a wonderful version of "Hosanna". I was going to cringe at first when the kids started singing it but then I heard the wonderful staccato string arrangement and though "Wow! Now there IS something different"! The acid test is always whether my kids love it and they do, so, full marks Kingsway! 10/10 Robin Thompson. (October 2008, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : A Christmas Blessing (Kingsway : KMCD2819)
The songs on this album have been put together in a bid to remind us why we celebrate Christmas and, while it may lack the collective originality of, say, Graham Kendrick's current release, there are enough quality recordings on this release to make it a jolly good buy. Sadly, there are no artist credits, but those who take part give a good showing throughout. Offering something a little different for Christmas, is the opening, celtic song 'Deep Peace of the Gentle Christ' written by Nick Fletcher. 'Holy Child' is a pretty, acoustic number, while there's an instrumental that gives us 'On Christmas night'. Indeed, that rendition led me back to the 70's when Steeleye Span could rattle of a good tune in a folk/pop style. I'd not heard of 'Joy Has Dawned' before but, written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, I thought this was extremely enjoyable and well sung, too. A plus point of this album has to be the variety of songs used and, at a budget price, this album is well worth adding to your Christmas collection. 7/10. (December 2007)
Various : A Celtic Prayer. (Kingsway : KMCD2739)
Here we have fifteen tracks presenting 'an instrumental tapestry of Celtic worship based on the prayer of St Patrick'. To further quote the sleeve notes: 'St Patrick's Lorica is today still widely used as a prayer seeking God's protection and on this beautifully crafted CD, the indigenous sound of the Celts helps us focus on the call for Christ to be at the kernel of everything we do'. No performers are credited - although the production team John Hartley and Stephen Doherty get a mention. Musicians and producers have done a good job. The music is indeed beautifully crafted and also beautifully recorded, in a natural-sounding acoustic. Piano and strings predominate, but there are also percussion, guitar, harp, brass and keyboard - and 'voices' that are probably synthesized but still effective. Some of the tracks tend to be somewhat 'meandering' and I prefer the ones with more structure - including 'Christ with me', 'Christ in me', 'Christ in every ear that hears me' and the almost Enya-esque 'Christ above me'. I cannot honestly say that any of the track titles give a clue as to what that track may sound like, each one being a product of the inspiration of whoever wrote it - but overall this is a very nicely produced CD that makes for pleasant background listening, as well as music to reflect to. It's only a shame that the performers don't get a mention - and I couldn't find any reference to it on the Kingsway web site, or by a Google search. 8/10 Dave Deeks (March 2007)
VARIOUS : A New Day of Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2761)
Here's a super collection of worship songs that will enhance anyone's collection. They're mostly new songs, but with a couple of tried and trusted favourites given new life for good measure. Matt Redman starts proceedings with 'Joy Is the Theme of My Song' - a number that you just can't resist joining in with. Godfrey Birtill's 'The Die Has Been Cast' is another infectious song, with a great chorus. I really enjoyed the opening songs and even when things mellowed down a little, I was still worshipping my God. 'Be Thou My Vision' is given a stirring rendition by Andy Bromley, and it builds into a crescendo of noise. Top of the songs has to be 'Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above'. Led by Kelly Minter, it is just oozing with quality. The sound is awesome and the production, breath-taking. The album rarely runs out of steam, and it's a credit to Kingsway for producing such a terrific album. 9/10 (August 2008, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : A Harvest of Hymns. (Kingsway : KMCD2476)
Just another collection of hymns I thought. Wrong! There's some well known ones here, sure, but even they've been given a fresh sound by producer John Hartley. There's also a few new tunes to my ears and they were very pleasing to the ear. "On Christ the Solid Rock" was really good to listen to, and I found myself immediately playing the track again. In similar tones, "What A Faithful God" hit the right note with me. Other tracks include "How Deep the Father's love" and "O The Deep Deep love", while the closing "We Have An Anchor" also rates highly. This album is definitely one of the better hymn collections and the new arrangements work very well. 8/10 (January 2004)
VARIOUS : A Ton of Worship 2. (Kingsway : KMCD3104)
Well, this review was a labour of love! 100 worship tracks, contained on 5 CD's, and all for less than £10. I know what you're thinking, "Not another worship compilation!" But, before you cast this album aside, let me tell you just how good it is. Yes, there are a smattering of songs you hear all the time, but there's also some classics from days gone by, as well as plenty of new tunes. There are no performance credits to any of the songs, but I'm sure that original artists do appear from time to time. Noel Richards is there, and so are Delirious?, Matt Redman and Graham Kendrick. From CD 1 'Send Revival, Start With Me' is a great song, While 'Lord For the Years' is performed with church organ and full church congregation. On CD 2 there's a live version of 'History Maker', while CD3 contains an absolute peach of a song, 'Jesus My Friend'. Written by Stuart Barbour in 2003, I've got to admit that I've never heard it before. As for the older songs, it was lovely to hear things like 'Jesus Stand Among Us', 'God Is Good' and 'Rejoice Rejoice' - all Kendrick classics. I think that this collection is worth it's weight in gold as a resource for small groups, and I can even see some churches using it during services. Well worth your investment. 9/10 (October 2010)
VARIOUS : A Voice for Stella. (180 Records : CD18013000)
This compilation album features some of the best Christian artists in the UK, and also showcases some new artists, too. The album supports the work of Stella’s Voice, an anti-trafficking charity and has been released by 180 Records in association with Authentic Media. First up are new band Royal Foundlings. What an energetic and great track ‘Run’ is! It’s pop/rock at it’s best an must be a sure winner when played live. I’ve never been a big fan of Superhero but ‘O.M.G’ is the best thing I’ve heard from them over the years. Sounding a little like The Killers, it’s a much more mature sound than previous albums. My favourite track on the album comes from Hailey Dawn. I’ve not heard of her before, but in a Taylor Swift sort of way, she delivers an almost perfect pop/country song with ‘True Love’. The most original sound on the album comes from Goose Possee. Impossible to pigeon hole ‘Hold On’ but a song that has that something special about it. Other highlights include the piano and strings back Rebecca Proffitt on ‘Through the Night’, and Philippa Hanna’s ‘I Am Amazing – a song about being happy and at peace with the person she is, just as God made her. On the downside, neither Guvna B or Chip Kendall did anything for me, but that may be personal taste. Certainly, I can see the latter going down well with young people, more than someone of my age. As compilations go, this is a very good release. 9/10. (December 2013)
VARIOUS : Absolute Modern Worship for Kids 4. (Fervent/Curb/Warner Bros : 8874442)
There are quite a few reasons to hate this album. Firstly, it's sung by kids (though thankfully not played by them) secondly the singers are at times heavily accented and thirdly, some of the solo pieces are a bit sickly sweet. There's a good choice of songs though and as the title suggests, they are pretty modern. So contemporary stalwarts such as "Come now is the time to Worship", "Better is One Day" and "How Deep the Fathers Love for Us" demonstrate the range of songs available; these are not kids songs per se, they are worship songs sung by kids. The best for me though, is "Everlasting God" which is a good song anyway and holds up well here. However, whatever I may think, it's really a matter of whether it works with it's target audience. I put this on the car stereo the other day and the kids wouldn't let me take it out! So, I guess it's job done! 7/10 Robin Thompson. (May 2009)
VARIOUS : "Absolute Smash Hits" (Fervant Records).
This is another of those compilation CD's that seem to make up so much of the market nowadays, I must confess that I have never heard of most of the people on this, but there are no prizes for guessing that this is an American CD. There are eleven tracks per CD, plus three bonus cuts which for some bizarre reason are not named on the sleeve. There is also a free DVD with the retail version, although from past experience most of these don't seem to work too well on DVD players over here. The music is mostly what you'd expect from the title, American Rock/Pop with all the life produced out of it, which makes it all seem to sound the same after a while. Most of the songs are quite good on their own, possibly a double CD is a bit much though. There is a good version of "More Love, More Power" by Jeff Deyo, this was the best track for me anyway. "Broken" by 12 Stones is quite good too. I found it went better if I put it on in the background whilst doing something else rather than sitting down and listening to it, which is what you'd do with the radio I suppose. So in that respect It does "Exactly what it says on the tin". 6/10 Andy Sayner. (August 2004)
VARIOUS: Absolute Smash Hits (Fervent Records 4300502)
And so the rise and rise of the Double CD compilation continues to gather speed on the Christian music scene. Unusually, however, this one is not a praise and worship album - instead it is a collection of 25 "smash radio hits". What "radio" they might be talking about is not specified, but I'll let that one pass! Disc 1 contains 13 tracks ranging in style from some highly contemporary hip-hop to some hard rock (complete with 'screech' vocals) and stopping off at all points in between. Unashamedly rocky, the pace never lets up from start to finish with Todd Agnew's "This Fragile Breath", 12 Stones' "Broken" and Jeff Deyo's version of "More Love, More Power" particularly standing out. Disc 2 is (a little) more laidback, with the electric guitars taking more of a back seat overall, and even dropping in a couple of worship ballads for good measure - Natalie Grant's "I Will Be" is a superb example of this, Overall disc 1 is pretty adventurous while disc 2 is almost typical CCM in style, and my only criticism would be a feeling that the whole collection might have benefited from swapping some of the disc 1 and 2 tracks around to create a more eclectic experience rather than having all the songs of a similar style coming together. However that would be to carp. This is an excellent collection of songs that grabs you on first listen and gets better as you go. 9/10 David Cooper (February 2005)
VARIOUS : Acoustic Moods. (Elevation : ELE1720D)
This is the latest release in the “Moods” series, released by Elevation. This time, it’s the acoustic guitar that takes the lead, with some precise playing from Dan Wheeler, and sympathetic keyboard accompaniment courtesy of Julian Kindred. There’s no real surprise with the content of the release. It’s all very peaceful and laid back – just right for chill time, or meditation. As with the previous albums in this series, I found the music to be pleasing, and probably just what the doctor ordered to accompany a warm, soothing bath, after a stressful day. Well known songs like ‘Nothing But the Blood’, ‘Amazing Love’ and ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ are all treated with the greatest of respect, but I found ‘God Of Wonders’ to particularly stand out. Somehow, there was a real warmth about that one. Other songs include ‘Communion Song’ and ‘This is My Desire’. A very welcome release. 7/10. (April 2013)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : All Creation Sing. (Kingsway : KMCD2437)
Well, this one tested my ears, as I tried to identify the singers on this pre-release copy. No prizes though for identifying Graham Kendrick on the title track, co written by Keith Getty - the press release DID tell me that much. Then we go all celtic-like, on "Hear All Creation" before a really exhilarating version of "Song of the Kingdom". This is the fourth album in the series featuring themed songs dedicated to a specific attribute of the Lord and celebrates the Creator and Creation. "Maker of All Things" does just that with a guitar band sound, and carries the flavour through on "Praise Him You Heavens". It's then I found myself recognizing the unmistakable sound of Maire Brennan, Margaret Becker and Joanne Hogg on "Hear All Creation", quickly followed by Sue Rinaldi(?) on "Sing to the Lord". Another classy compilation of praise and worship that's worthy of your ears. 8/10. (November 2002)
VARIOUS : All For Jesus. (ICC : ICCD81130)
There seems to be an increasing tendency for these double CD collections to go beyond worship songs and include other complementary materials, and this is one of the better ones I have heard. The first CD in the set is a collection of 17 songs, covering quite an eclectic mixture of musical styles including Rock, Country(ish), Pop ballad and all points in between. There are some very familiar ones, such as "Here I am to Worship" and "Jesus, all for Jesus" and some less well known and the whole thing works very nicely as background music rather than something you would sit and actively listen to. Having said that, a few tracks do grab you by the ears, including the rocky "Take the World But Give Me Jesus" and the beautiful ballad "Lord, What I Wouldn't Give", which closes the disc. Overall it is a good collection of songs that work well together and many people will find something of value, and something they can worship to, here whatever their musical preferences. Disc 2 contains a collection of short inspirational extracts from longer works of teaching by such luminaries as Tony Campolo, Rich Nathan and Anne Graham-Lotz. Of the ten extracts, six last for less than two minutes, and the longest is only just over six, and all provide some excellent bite-size pieces of spiritual insight and encouragement. A good and simple idea, done very well. All in all, this is a great package that offers something a little different and, for a change, it is all the better for it. 8/10 David Cooper (September 2004)
VARIOUS : All That is Within Me (Collector's edition) Integrity Music 43042
This CD contains some very powerful arrangements, guitar led rock music at it's best. I didn't find anything that I disliked at all in the main part of the album, It was really enjoyable to listen to it. There's a song on here called "Grace Tells Another Story" which for me was the outstanding track, but all the lyrics are well thought out. And the whole thing works well. Being a collector's edition of course there are the usual bonus tracks stuck on the end, three in this case. All of them are acoustic versions of tracks that appear earlier, and to be honest after hearing the original versions these acoustic tracks sound a bit lame. Personally I wouldn't have included them, they do nothing to improve the CD at all. There's also a DVD included, which contains some live stuff, and a documentary about making the CD. Plus a press pack. So apart from the last three tracks this is an excellent album. Definitely worth a look if you come across it. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2008)
VARIOUS : Amazing Grace. (EMI : SPD73848)
Living in the city where William Wilberforce lived, I've been aware of so many celebratory events regarding the abolition of slavery. I've not seen the motion picture, but I understand that it's gained mixed reviews. This album contains period hymns, sung by top CCM and country artists, and there's quite a range of styles included. Indeed, unlike a lot of compilation albums, this one suffers from being rather dis-jointed in presentation. Multi-Dove Award winner, Chris Tomlin sings a gentle version of the title track, while Jeremy and Adie Camp give a passable performance on a rock orientated "It Is Well". I thought that a lot of the songs were very mediocre in quality and the artists interpretations of classic hymns, rather ordinary. "I Need Thee Every Hour" by Jars of Clay starts off well, but it gets so repetitive towards the end that I was glad when it finished. Dave Crowder sounds rather like any street busker that you can see on any street corner on "Rock Of Ages", but Bart Millard lifts things out of the mire with an earthy, warm vocal on "My Jesus I Love Thee". Country star Martina McBride has a beautiful voice but even her version of "How Great Thou Art" didn't raise my spirits. If this IS the music inspired by the motion picture (as advertised) then I'm glad I haven't seen the film. 4/10. (June 2007)
Various : Apostles Creed (Kingsway : KMCD2460)
Apostles Creed is a compilation of contemporary hymns from the Stuart Townend / Keith Getty partnership which has been on the go since 2001 - notable contributions also on this CD from Kirstyn (Keith's wife) on both songwriting & vocals . With both being major forces in the CCM songwriting world, this was bound to be of a consistently high standard…and so it was! The most well known inclusion is probably "In Christ Alone" - sung in almost every modern church across the land. Despite the familiarity, this version is refreshing & excellent with a light Celtic air & refined vocals from Susan Ashton. Musical styles across the album vary, with each artist bringing their own distinctive flavour to the songs; this is no bad thing as there's always the danger with a compilation made entirely from deeply meaningful hymns that your mind can wander elsewhere unless you're really focused at the time. Two great examples are "You're The Word of God the Father" sung by Brenton Brown (Vineyard) & Tim Hughes' rendition of "O Church Arise" - songs great in their own right but with added zest from 2 accomplished CCM artists. Another plus point of this is that they are all highly useable in a congregational setting, with Keith Getty's website having an excellent resource for worship leaders - www.gettymusic.com - well worth a look. A very listenable & usable compilation worth adding to your collection. 8/10 Simon Redfern (October 2006)
VARIOUS : Awakening. (Sixstepsrecords : SURCD5192)
The sleeve notes declare, "On our own we each can make a difference in the world, but collectively we are a force for good that exponentially surpasses what we can do alone. Visit onemillioncan.com and Do Something Now." Well, like a lot of these albums, put together with the best of intentions, there's a mixture of good and not so good songs. Krisitan Stanfill's 'Say, Say' is a striking, guitar rock number, with a shouting chorus that declares, "Jesus is king". Nothing wrong with that, and the song works well. Chris Tomlin features four times on the album and his song, 'Our God', plods away quite nicely. Of his other contributions, they are rather tepid. Christy Nockels' gives a really strong performance with 'Healing is in Your Hands', while Charlie Hall's 'King of Heaven' has that special quality of drawing you in to worship. The UK's Matt Redman provides a majestic version of 'you Alone Can Rescue', and Fee's 'Rise and Sing' is performed with much enthusiasm. Not an outstanding collection by any means, but still one to consider adding to your collection. 7/10 (October 2010)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Awesome God - A Tribute to Rich Mullins. (Reunion : 0234100092).
Regular reader's will know that I am one of the few people who had never heard any of Rich's music prior to his untimely death in 1997. Therefore, I can't tell you if any of this collection of songs are better or worse than the originals. What I can say is, for me, they are a mixed bag of songs that have been lovingly put together as a tribute to the man and his music. Jars of Clay provide the best track "If I Stand" where it's the simplicity of the song as a whole that beams through. Indeed, the second half of the album is much brighter than the first with flashes of inspiration from the likes of Billy Sprague ("A Place to Stand") and Ashley Cleveland's "I See You". Earlier on, Amy Grant provides what is, arguably, the best ballad "Hold Me Jesus", her sweet vocals singing as pure and true as ever. An album for Rich's fans primarily, but others may want to catch up on the music that lives on. 7/10. (February 1999)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Beautiful Saviour - Stoneleigh Live Worship 1998. (Kingsway : KMCD2057).
Here's another worship release that tries to capture the essence of a live event with just over 60 minutes of music. Led by Stuart Townsend, Kate Simmonds, and Jonathan LeTocq, the record shares well known songs with one or two that were new to me. The power of the album comes from songs like 'Let Everything That Has Breath' and 'Let There Be Joy', while 'All My Days' really gives you time to worship along with those gathered. This track lasts for over 7 minutes and really does draw you closer to the Lord's presence. 'When the Music Fades', 'We Sing Your Mercies' and 'Before the Throne of God Above' are just three more quality songs to enjoy on this better than average worship album. 7/10. (December 1998)
VARIOUS : Beautiful Saviour. (Kingsway : KMCD2950)
This is a collection of 12 instrumental versions of songs, written by Stuart Townend. The sleeve notes call them "Classic Towned songs…", but I've got to admit that I didn't know most of them. The problem with an instrumental package from the same artist, is the similarity between each piece. Both the title track and 'The King of Love' are fairly pleasant, but they do have an amazing likeness in this form. Flutes, whistles, trumpets and the like, all take turns in leading the music, but they all got me wondering just what the point of the release was? Well, I guess that if you knew the original songs, then, you could singalong. Saying that, I just wonder how many of the songs Joe Public would know? Other songs featured include 'My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness', 'Jesus is Lord' and 'How Deep the Father's Love'. I didn't dislike any of them but I wouldn't bother playing this one again. 3/10 (May 2009)
VARIOUS : The Beginnings Concert.
Billed as 'The Jesus Music Reunion', this 2DVD + 2CD boxed set features a concert performed by artists who were in at the beginnings of the 'Jesus Music Revolution'. The DVDs and CDs cover the same performances, DVD2 also covering additional material including clips from rehearsals and artist intros from the concert. Sound and video quality are excellent, and overall production spot-on. Even though I am venerable enough to have been around in the era represented here, some of the artists were unfamiliar to me. Exceptions include Chuck Girard, Don Francisco, Barry McGuire and Leon Patillo. Leon is the only artist who gets to deliver just one song - regrettably, as I would pick the infectious J-E-S-U-S - as my stand-out performance. Others worth special mention include Janny Grein's 'More than conquerors', Dallas Holm's trad-jazz-style 'Heaven' and Barry McGuire (of 'Eve Of Destruction' fame) with 'Bullfrogs and Butterflies' - the catchy chorus had me humming it for ages! Particular downsides? Firstly, with apologies to his many fans I must confess I have never understood the musical appeal of Don Francisco, who writes great lyrics but seems to have only two tunes, both of which we hear. Secondly, whilst the whole concert is very 'American', to my British ears Barry McGuire's 7min 30sec 'Cosmic Cowboy' monologue is toe-curlingly so. Finally, the passing of time has brought painfully excessive vibrato to some voices. Overall however I watched and listened with interest, and this concert was obviously a great success for all involved. CCM owes a huge debt to performers such as these, who were in at the 'beginnings'. Check out www.thebeginningsconcert.com. 7/10. Dave Deeks (September 2008)
VARIOUS : The Best Celtic Worship Album in the World…Ever!   (Kingsway : KWCD3295)
From the vast vaults of Kingsway, comes this 50 song collection for lover’s of Celtic music. Mind you, is a song classed as being Celtic in style, just because it has a short fiddle break in the middle? Certainly, there are one or two songs included here that I never thought as having any Celtic origin. Putting those thoughts aside, it’s a really enjoyable three CD compilation with all the usual suspects on show. I must be a bit of a sucker for the combined vocals of Joanne Hogg, Moya Brennan, and Margaret Becker, because I really enjoyed their contributions, ‘Your Hand O God’ and ‘With the Early Morning’. Stuart Townend provides a lively sound with ‘O My Soul’, while Kate Simmonds hits just the right notes on ‘Deep Peace of the Gentle Christ To You’. The second Cd begins with the glorious ‘See What A Morning’, but the song that still makes me tingle is Robin Mark’s version of ‘The Lion of Judah’. Even after all these years, there’s just something very special about singing along loudly. Other highlights include ‘Come People of the Risen King’, ‘Come Let Us Sing’ and ‘Breathe’. A really enjoyable album.   8/10.(May 2012)
Various: The Best Gospel Album In The World...Ever! (Virgin EMI VTDCD742)
Most of us will probably have at least one "Best...Album in The World...Ever" title in our CD library & we buy them for much the same reason as we'd buy Ronseal to paint the shed with…It does exactly what it says on the tin! This is no exception to the rule with a double CD containing 30 highly polished Gospel style songs ranging from renditions of contemporary favourites such as Tim Hughes' "Here I am to Worship" & Matt Redman's "Blessed Be Your Name" to those you might traditionally associate with Gospel such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" & "Oh Happy Day". Vocals are delivered with passion & the music is top quality, which on the whole makes the album very listenable, but I feel that Gospel styles don't apply as well in the Redman/Hughes context. That said it is interesting to hear how someone else interprets something you hear on a regular basis! If Gospel is your regular flavour then this will make a good choice for your collection. Even if it's not, it's can be good to try something else occasionally & this is unlikely to offend many taste buds. 6/10 Simon Redfern (June 2006)
VARIOUS : The Best Instrumental Worship Album.....Ever! (Kingsway : KMCD3119)
The title of this album makes a very bold statement, but the question is, “Is this the best instrumental worship album ever?” Fifty songs on three CD’s are collected here, and you’ll know most of them to sing a long to. All the lyrics are included, so that’s a bonus. On the whole, the music is very gentle and smooth, giving a feeling of relaxation and meditation for the listener. There are a few songs that you could use as backing music for collective worship but you’d have to be careful as some of them contain “twiddly bits” between verses! For me, favourites included ‘All Heaven Declares’, ‘Isn’t He Beautiful’ and ‘The Father’s Song’. I also enjoyed the extremely pretty guitar work on ‘Overwhelmed By Love’ and the flute on ‘Purify My Heart’. The closing version of ‘Amazing Grace’ has bagpipes taking the melody, with the song developing into a Scottish reel halfway through. I’m not sure that I’d really rate this as the ‘Best’ instrumental worship album, ever, but it must be near. 8/10 (January 2011)
Various - The Best Modern Hymns Album...Ever! Kingsway KMCD2848
Another of the "Best Album...Ever" series but with hymns as the theme this time around. I can almost hear the stampede of modern CCM fans running for the hills already, but hold on just a mo! It really isn't quite as bad as you may imagine. In common with previous collections, you get a compilation of 50 songs on a theme, but the title in this case is ever-so-slightly misleading. Despite being billed as modern hymns, there's a fair old proportion of golden oldie classics in there with the likes of Charles Wesley & John Newton having penned a few of these along with the modern greats such as Brenton Brown & Stuart Townend. That said however the classics have been given a CCM workout with guitars, drums, bands as well as in some cases a bit of a re-write...makes me think that earlier rumbling sound is more likely to be protesting traditionalists! The album holds no great surprises with a real mish-mash of mostly well-known tunes (O Church Arise, Here Is Love, Jesus Lover of my Soul) from the current big names on the worship scene (Tim Hughes, Paul Oakley, Andy Bromley). The vast majority are of a typically high standard but I have to say O Lord My God (How Great Thou Art) was slaughtered - a very grim representation of my personal favourite hymn. That said, overall a good album presenting excellent value appealing more to fans of CCM worship that followers of the traditional. 8/10 Simon Redfern (October 2008)
Various: The Best New Worship Songs...Ever! (Virgin EMI KMCD2712)
The last couple of compilations in this series have been good, so this should be no exception. My first thought however on studying the track listing was "they're stretching the NEW theme a bit" as I was familiar with the vast majority of tracks! The oldest is from around 2000, so hardly hot off the presses! That said though, the tracks are varied with the big names you expect being ever present; Delirious, Matt Redman & Tim Hughes make several appearances. As is often the case, the live tracks have the edge giving a much better ambience for worship, but sadly they are relatively few in number. Delirious' "Here I Am" was rather refreshing though as it tends to be one of those songs that's flogged to within an inch of its life on Sunday mornings, but this had plenty of zip left! Other noteworthy tracks are Gareth Robinson's "I Love You Lord" (live), I Will Never Be The Same sung by Susan Ashton & Tim Hughes' "Whole World In His Hands", which along with a number of others are good to listen to but are also very useable in a congregational setting. There's the odd cringe-worthy number, but on the whole, a good album but not exceptional by any stretch of the imagination. If you prefer your music on the more energetic side like myself, this is probably not the best mix for you though. 7/10 Simon Redfern. (July 2006)
VARIOUS : 'The best new praise and worship songs ... ever! (Kingsway : KMCD3063)
The latest in the Kingsway 'best ... ever' series, this is a 3CD set containing '50 of the most popular new worship songs', and features live and studio recordings of songs copyrighted from 2005 to 2009. Unlike many such compilations, it is nice to see both composers and performers credited against each song, and full lyrics printed. I found a number of tracks to be worth particular mention. It is my view that the Fellinghams (of Phatfish fame) have made some of the most moving and musically satisfying contributions to ccm in recent years (I have actually requested their 'There is a day' to be played at my funeral!), and Nathan's 'This is my worship' is the first strong song in the running order. Whilst featuring golden-voiced wife Lou however, it seems not to be a Phatfish performance as it lacks their usual arrangement inventiveness. Chris McLarney is a particularly able singer who can always be depended on for note-perfect delivery, and songs of his that stand out are the beautifully arranged 'Your love never fails', and 'God of yesterdays'. I find Cathy Burton to be a similarly good performer, and her self-penned 'Redeemer' is particularly strong. Casting Crowns' 'Praise you in the storm' may well be familiar - well written, well arranged, delivered with panache and high production quality. Aaron Keyes' own 'Not guilty anymore' is brilliantly written and well delivered, as is Ben Cantelon's prodigal story 'Coming back to you'. Hillsong's 'Lead me to the cross' features excellent lyrics and a strong arrangement, and Yfriday's 'Saviour and friend' builds nicely and ends CD3 effectively. Amongst the remainder however there are many forgettable tunes, and compression/distortion is much in evidence. Rather than buy this compilation then, I would recommend checking out the artists referred to above - who I would tend to score at 8-10/10. With their help, this compilation probably averages out at a more lowly 6/10. David Deeks (February 2010)
VARIOUS : The Best Soul Survivor Worship Album ... ever! (Kingsway : KMCD2933)
Most Christians these days will be familiar with Soul Survivor (www.soulsurvivor.com), an outreach for teenagers originating in 1993 out of the 'New Wine' movement. A number of Soul Survivor events are now held in the UK each year - with attendances totalling 28,000 in 2008. There are also six international Soul Survivor Centres. This 'live rock worship group' 3 CD set contains '50 of the most popular Soul Survivor worship songs'. Bearing in mind the target age group, it is hardly surprising that an oldie like me finds much of the pace fairly relentless - but this is made worse by many of the tracks featuring unimaginative arrangements in 'belt it out' style. As is so often the case in such instances I would imagine 'you had to be there' to fully appreciate them. There are also variations in 'perceived volume' so the remote came in handy, and my hi-fi system revealed much of the sound quality to be poorish. Having said all of that however, some tracks stood out as good-uns. These included the excellently arranged and sung 'You call us first to love your name' by Lex Buckley (watch out for this lady - she has an excellent 8 track cd available), 'When I call on your name' by Ben Cantelon, 'You chose the cross' and 'Who can know' by Martyn Lazell, 'See His love', 'Blessed be your name', 'Saviour' (featuring an effective rap), 'God of justice' and 'When all around is fading' by Tim Hughes, an excellent funk gospel arrangement of 'Lord I lift your name on high' by Mark Beswick, 'O sacred King' by Matt Redman, and the brilliantly delivered 'I stand amazed' by Sam Parker. A mixed bag then, worth an average 6/10 Dave Deeks (August 2009)
VARIOUS : The Best Taize Album in the World…Ever! (Kingsway : KMCD3147)
After recently attending a Taize service, and struggling to stay awake, I decided to give this album a chance myself, instead of passing it on to another reviewer. Perhaps, I wasn’t in the mood for, when I first played the first CD (there are three in total), I had just received some rather bad news and, maybe, I wasn’t at all receptive. First up was ‘O Lord Hear My Prayer’. That brought back bad memories of the recently attended service, where we sang the few lines of the song repeatedly over the space of 6 or 7 minutes. Hearing it again, did nothing to lighten my mood. The thing is, all the songs tend to be the same format. Someone sings a line or two, and then the congregation repeats a couple of lines, over and over again. I’m told that it’s supposed to help with prayer and meditation but I really did struggle with these 50m tracks. I can’t say that there were any that I remembered but included are ‘Prepare the Way’, ‘God Can Only Give Faithful Love’, and ‘Jubilate Deo’. In summing up, I guess that this is one for lovers of Taize. It certainly did nothing to improve my understanding or love of it, and it will be a long while before I involve myself in anything remotely similar. 4/10 (April 2011)
VARIOUS : The Best Worship Songs...Ever! (Virgin 2004 VTDCD 593)
When I first got my mits on this I had to blink hard & look twice...a mainstream compilation album with CHRISTIAN worship song on it? NO, surely not? But yes it is true. Reading through the track list, I knew the huge majority of the songs which made me feel rather good & quite positive that I was going to like this. Many of these tunes will be given a good airing on a weekly basis in any church that doesn't swing burning handbags & the variety of styles on this album should be wide-ranging enough to please most people. I think it's great to hear them done by people other than your regular worship band as it can give you a fresh perspective & a renewed enthusiasm for some songs which were staring to get a little tiresome. There's also a decent mix of live worship & studio album tracks from artists such as Delirious, Matt Redman Tim Hughes & Vineyard. It would be nigh on impossible to review every track, but a few do stand out. One is the excellent rendition of "Come, now is the time! sung in a live worship setting by Vineyard's Brian Doersken & Wendy O'Connel. It builds the vocals & instruments gradually making a really powerful rendition, which made the hairs on my neck stand to attention, had me joining in belting out the lyrics at the traffic lights. It's not all energetic full-on worship with the presence of my all-time favourite "Jesus be the Centre" in there, as well as other reflective tracks including "The Heart of Worship" and "Here I Am to Worship". Overall, an excellent compilation with wide appeal. Hopefully being on a mainstream label it will reach a wider audience & show that Christian music is no longer stuck in 1662. 9/10 Simon Redfern (August 2004)
VARIOUS : THE BEST WORSHIP SONGS FOR THE CHURCH…EVER! (Kingsway : KWCD3237)
These "best" series of albums never cease to amaze me with their choice of content, but, I guess it just goes to show how hard it is to find something to suit everyone. This 3 CD box set features 50 tracks but has the Encounter Worship Band appearing on 13 of them. Probably the best of their offerings is the bright female vocalist on 'Come, Now Is the Time to Worship'. There's a live version of 'Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?' by Delirious, as well as the full version of 'History Maker' - just in case you're one of the few people who don't already own a copy. Susan Ashton shines on 'In Christ Alone', while Matt Redman joins the London Community Gospel Choir for a cool version of 'Blessed Be Your Name'. Graham Kendrick is featured a couple of times, singing the classic 'Shine Jesus Shine' and 'Knowing You', and Christine Dente gives real feeling to 'Once Again'.Sure, there are one or two weaker tracks but my skin still tingles when I hear the opening bars of 'I Could Sing of Your love Forever' by Martin Smith and the boys. There's bit of mystery surrounding the brilliant version of 'I Am a New Creation'. The credits name Steve Garrett as the singer, but it's most definitely a beautiful female vocal. (Or is Steve a woman?). All in all, I can honestly say that Kingsway have brought together a wonderful collection of songs. 8/10 (October 2011)
VARIOUS : The Best Worship Songs in the World. (Integrity - 41732)
Ooh look, another album claiming to contain "the best worship songs in the world"! Really? That's quite a bold claim and one which it, not surprisingly, does not live up to. The songs on here are not new and include such classics as "Ancient of Days", "Days of Elijah" and "Here I am to Worship" which is a good start. In fact, I recognised a lot of the songs on here. However, there are many that are not so well known and I found them to be, quite frankly, ordinary! Even some of my favourites just don't work particularly well. Those that do work are generally more original in their approach and have strong vocal leads, such as those by the Oslo Gospel Choir. This contrasts starkly with those who have adopted the increasingly tiresome yet currently fashionable worship "sound" (chord bashing guitars fronted by harsh, limited vocals). On the whole, I think it makes for a really disappointing album which, far from giving me "an incredible experience of worshipping God through song" as the sleeve promises, leaves me wondering where all this worship stuff is heading. 5/10 Robin Thompson. (September 2007)
VARIOUS : Billy Graham Crusades Through the Years. (Authentic: 8203422)
I was brought up in a family that held the Billy Graham Crusades in high regard. My mum, now 80 yrs old, sang in the choir and later became a counsellor. She tells how her closest friend was converted at one of the services, and another dear friend is a lady she counselled. Billy Graham's evangelist team first visited the UK in 1954 for a crusade at London's Harringay Arena. This album features best loved songs from the crusades between 1967 and 1991, including Mission England, Mission London and Mission Scotland. Recording quality varies - some is excellent, some less so. There is something uniquely attractive about the way the songs are presented. Arrangements are traditional, stirring, and mostly delivered by large choirs under the crisp and professional directorship of Cliff Barrows, with some songs featuring George Beverley Shea and other soloists. The tremendous 'How great thou art' must surely be the song made most famous by these crusades. Rare low points to my ears are provided by a wobbly Ethel Walters singing 'His eye is on the sparrow' and the medley 'Oh how I love Jesus / To me it is so wonderful'. Mum's favourites were 'There is a redeemer', 'Majesty' and 'Shine, Jesus, Shine' - and interestingly, even she felt that there was an overall 'old fashioned' feel to the album. I agree, but feel that this is part of its charm. I also support mum's choices as it happens - but would add 'Give Thanks' to her list. A pity we aren't given the date and venue of each song. Overall however, I am happy to add this CD to my collection. 8/10 Dave Deekes (December 2004)
Various: Born To Worship (Kingsway - KMCD2657)
Born to Worship is the 1st in the series & comes as a triple CD album with a whopping 50 modern worship tracks. Coming from the Kingsway stable, many of the big names you'd expect to be there are present, with the likes of Tim Hughes, Matt Redman & Gareth Robinson as well as old favourites such as Graham Kendrick & Dave Bilborough. The styles of music are as varied as the artist list, ranging through energetic modern rock to laid-back acoustic, jazz & gospel! One good thing this CD does is present some interesting reworks of songs we probably hear week-in-week-out such as "To be in Your Presence" & "Jesus is the Name we Honour", which can help with approaching them with a renewed passion. It does represent great value for money as the average selling price is around the £12 mark, but you'd be more than likely be picking out individual tracks than listening the full length of each CD. 7/10 - Simon Redfern (January 2006)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Breath of Life - Celtic Expressions of Worship Vol. 3. (Kingsway : KMCD2017).
Featuring hymns both old and new 'Breath of life' is performed using traditional Celtic instruments. Indeed, it is the sparse, yet cleverly used accompaniment that mould gently around Joanne Hoggs' lovely vocals on the opening track "The Lord is My Shepherd". There's lots of whistles, pipes and fiddles featured on the uptempo instrumental "Praise to the Lord...", while in comparison the sweet sounds of "O Breath of life" and "O Come O Come Immanuel" reflects a quieter mode. Terl Bryant's excellent percussion work on "All Creatures of Our God & King", added to Troy Donockley's Uileann pipes, brings a superb sound that is only complimented by the rest of the backing. I can't say that I am a real lover of this type of music but I did find this album enjoyable. On the whole, lovely renditions of hymns in a different style to those you're used to hearing. Well worth a purchase. 8/10. (June 1998)
VARIOUS : Bridges. (Authentic : 8203827)
The sleeve notes say that this release is a response to a "need expressed by worship leaders for music that brings forth the foundational theology expressed in our greatest hymns with a more modern musical approach". The result is a bit hit and miss, as some of the new arrangements work quite well, while others miss the mark completely. Michael Tait's opening "How Great Thou Art" is sung with a great sense of feeling while Leeland Mooring's "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" has a gentler, yet appealing, approach. Paul Colman absolutely murder's "Amazing Grace" but does well with the jangly guitars on "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross". Christiane Byrd offers a folk version of "Come Thou Font", and I particularly liked Jason Ingram's energetic, yet thoughtful, version of "It is Well With My Soul". It's a bit of a mixed bag overall, and I'm not sure whether the initial idea of the album has really worked. 6/10. (December 2005)
VARIOUS : Build Your Kingdom Here – Best of British Live Worship. (Elevation : ELE2173D)
If you haven’t been able to attend any of the big live worship events recently, and wonder which songs are proving most popular, fear not, this release will bring you up to date. Containing 30 songs on two Cd’s, there’s a mix of well known songs, and brand new ones to whet your appetite. There’s a number of top worship leaders on show and one of my favourites, Pete James, starts things off with a rousing version of “Build Your Kingdom Here.” The tempo remains high with Tim Hughes and “Let It Be Known”, making for an enjoyable song of worship. Sadly, I can’t say the same for “Waiting Here For You.”. It’s quite a lengthy number and I found it quite tiresome to listen to. Kathryn Scott gives a really strong vocal performance on “Sing on the Battlefield,” while Sound of Wales also triumph with “Wide Open Spaces.” I smiled at the comforting tones of Graham Kendrick on “Holy Overshadowing.”, while the unmistakable voice of Cathy Burton also proved favourable on the joyous “This is Amazing Grace.” Dana Masters sounds uncannily like Anastacia on her rendition of “Glorious,” and Kate Simmons presents a sweet version of “In Christ Alone.” Other artists include Sue Rinaldi on “All Around Your Throne” and Jamie Hill singing “Jesus, the One Who Saves.” Pick your favourites out of this album, and say hello to one or two new songs that are bound to become mainstays of worship in the future. 8/10. (May 2016)
VARIOUS : Cathedral Carols. (Elevation : ELE1654D)
I must admit, that when I received this CD for review I did wonder just how many more times can the same traditional carols be churned out? The first Christmas Carol Cd I ever bought was one that was originally recorded in 1958, and it sounds very much like this one!. But, for those of you who are looking for the first time, then this collection brings together most of the yuletide favourites. Featured, are choirs from St John’s College, Cambridge; Salisbury Cathedral, The Welsh Chorus, and Kansas City Chorale. There’s no surprises in the way that these carols are sung, and each one is quite pleasing to the ear, if you’re a traditionalist. ‘Gabriel’s Message’ is the only track that I had not heard before, and therefore it took a few listens to appreciate. But, I quite happily sang along to ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Once In Royal David’s City’, and ‘Silent Night’. Also included are ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘Hark The Herald Angels sing’, and ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. These timeless classics help to make this a well produced collection. 7/10 (December 2011)
VARIOUS : Celtic Hymns Vol.2. (Elevation : ELE1970D)
For those of you who enjoy hymns and music in the Celtic style, then this is for you. No top artists on show, but the musicians are more than competent. I really liked the opening ‘Power in the Blood’. It got my fingers tapping on my chair arm, and I started singing along, enjoying the sounds of guitar, pipes, and accordion. The pace was quite uptempo but, sadly, that was the only song of this beat. The superb ‘O For A Thousand Tongues’ gets close, but the rest can be categorized as gentle in sound and pace. The songs are of high quality, and would be best used for personal worship. ‘What A Friend We Have in Jesus’ and ‘How Deep the Father’s Love’ spring no surprises, but Dan Wheeler’s lovely guitar work on ‘Here is Love’ is very welcome. There’s a new tune to ‘The King of Love’, and that will take some getting used to, but other hymns like ‘I Will Sing His Wondrous Story’ and ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ remain the same. Without uprooting any great trees, this is still a nice album. 6/10. (June 2014)
VARIOUS : Celtic Hymns Vol.3. (Elevation : ELE1971D)
Much like Volume 2 of this series, this new release continues the procession of well known hymns and songs, given a Celtic style treatment. The question is, does playing a tune and adding a whistle or pipe make it a Celtic hymn? ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ starts with whistles and pounding drums, before settling into the tune and melody that we know so well. The rhythm of ‘Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus’ rather hurries the song at break neck speed, whilst the vocals sound rather awkward as they try to keep up. There’s a delightful version of ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ on show. With a backing of whistles and acoustic guitar, the vocals are simply delicious. Similarly, ‘Praise My Soul the King of Heaven’ features a female vocalist who, this time, is accompanied by piano and strings. I thought that the version of ‘Nearer to God, to Thee’ was rather pedestrian in presentation and the result, quite mournful. The album on the whole is quite enjoyable, without being outstanding. However, both ‘Before the Throne of God Above’ and ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ are really good, and help to finish the album on a high. 7/10. (August 2014)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Celtic Source - Worship on Ancient Soil. (Alliance : 1901572).
Soothing, relaxing, and resting were just three words that immediately sprung to mind when describing the music contained on this album. Although both Joanne Hogg and Troy Donockley are the most well known artists featuring in this celtic collective, nothing should be taken away from the rest of the musicians. "Be Thou My Vision" is the first track, beautifully delivered with the solo provided by Sarah Lacy. Donockley's array of talents come to the fore during "Not By Might" when his soothing pipes really do drift right through you. However, the light-weight version of Robin Mark's "Lion of Judah" doesn't quite mix in with the rest of the album. Maybe it's because I know the song so well, but it sounds decidedly odd. That would be my one moan of what is a delightful album to either meditate or relax to. 9/10. (February 1999)
VARIOUS : Celtic Worship - Live from Ireland. (Integrity : 41512)
I'm a little confused after listening to this album. Previously, I had it clear in my mind just what celtic music was, but now? The only thing that varies from any other live worship album is that every now and again, someone decides to throw in a few whistles and fiddles to the mix. Led by internationally known and award winning artists Brian Doerksen, Eoghan Heaslip, Robin Mark, and Kathryn Scott, this two Cd collection does stand up well with other live worship albums available. Mark's distinctive vocals are prominent form the start with the song 'Garments of Praise'. Doerksen sings 'Hope of All Nations' and 'Your Love is Amazing', while Scott stands out on "Heaven is Our Home'. There's no surprise whn Robin Mark takes the lead again on a passionate version of 'Revival', and it's he, again, who really lifts the roof with 'Days of Elijah' and 'Shout to the North'. One or two numbers seem to be a little tired in sound, but overall the album does deliver. 8/10 (September 2007)
VARIOUS : Celtic Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2946)
I've got to admit that a 3 CD collection of Celtic worship wouldn't be first on my list of albums to listen too. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this release of just how much I did enjoy it! 50 songs, old and new, that have been given the Celtic treatment, and sung by numerous vocalists such as John Nuttall, David Lyle Morris and Liz Fitzgibbon. I've got to say that each time I listened to this album, I listened in "instalments". I found the songs very relaxing and ideal for meditation. There's a nice version of Sammy Horner's 'May Your Life in This World', as well as the lovely sounding 'I Will Never Be the Same', written by Ian Hannah. Marie Barnett's 'This is the Air That I Breathe' is simply breathtaking - a song that I had never heard before. 'My Times Are in Your Hands' is performed with just a piano accompaniment, while also on offer is a sweet version of 'I Will Offer Up My Life'. On the whole, then, plenty of songs for you to dip in and out of, when the mood takes you, and the ideal tool for some personal worship. 9/10 (October 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Champion of the World - Wembley Arena Event. (Kingsway : KMCD976)
I've already heard two excuses as to why this album is so poor. 1. You had to be there, the music was only secondary to the atmosphere. 2. It was a very difficult event to record and reproduce. The likes of Noel Richards, The Wades, Sue Rinaldi, & Delirious, all appear on this sub-standard album that has failed to even send a flicker to my heart, never mind Miss Rinaldi's call to 'Carry the Fire'. The production is dull and the outlook cloudy. Unless you were there and want a momento, forget it. 2/10 (January 1997)
VARIOUS: Christ Is Risen: Worship Compilation, (Benson Records 84418-O911-2)
I’m not really a big fan of worship compilations on the whole. Unfortunately they often seem to be just another way to recycle the same old songs, by the same old bands once again. This particular compilation is actually a bit different to the normal offerings. No Hillsongs, no Matt Redman, and no Delirious, which makes a refreshing change. There are tracks from Casting Crowns (“O Glorious Day” which is by far the best track), Third Day, and Tenth Avenue North among others. Probably the biggest name on this CD is Michael W Smith who contributes “The Wonderful Cross” The songs follow the theme of the Passion, and there is an Easter feel about this CD in general. I enjoyed this CD more because of the different line up of bands, there were a couple of people I haven’t really heard much of until now. The music is fairly straight up Rock / Pop, which most people will find quite accessible, definitely worth a listen if you come across a copy. 8/10. Andy Sayner. (September 2013)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Classical Gold Volume 3. (Kingsway : KMCD2229)
Now, I'm not the biggest classical music fan you'll ever find. In fact, it's very rare that I even contemplate listening to any. But, there's always certain surprises in life, and "Classical Gold" is one. A triple CD package that features 37 tracks of worship played by the piano, harp, and strings. In all honesty, I found the piano too thin on a lot of the tracks, although "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" will always be a favourite of mine. As for the harp, I found all the tracks very peaceful and, therefore, more listenable. "The Servant King" and "As the Deer" just two of the many excellent numbers. "I Will Sing His Wondrous Story" and "He Was Pierced" kick off the the final CD, and the string arrangements did work best. All in all, quite a feast for classical fans, as well as people like me. 8/10. (September 2000)
VARIOUS : Come Let Us Adore Him. (Essential Records : 830610760 2)
Sub-titled "A Christmas Worship Experience", this album must get some brownie points for not just churning out the same carols and hymns that we hear each year. Even the appearance of "O Come All Ye Faithful" has been given a new melody line, albeit quite short in length. Indeed, there's two short laments that kick off proceedings, sung by Ana Laura, and Bebo Norman. Neither of these inspire, but Joy Williams' "Here With Us" has a distinct quality and shines well. "Hail Almighty King" is quite a good folk/pop song, but the celebratory song of Jesus' birth, "Messiah Has Come", by Cindy Morgan is the top ditty on show." Silver Starlight", by Caedmon's Call is another good pop song, but then comes an amazing offering by Jars of Clay. Don't expect to hear their full rock sound here, it's sweet and sickly, and sounds like a tacky music box, yet somehow, it works well. Over songs include the warming "Manger Throne" by Third Day and Krystal Meyers' "King of Angels". It's a bit of a mixed bag really and I'm not sure whether it will appeal to fans of the respective artists. 6/10. (December 2005)
VARIOUS : Come People of the Risen King : (Kingsway : KWCD3294)
This Kingsway 2 cd, 28 track compilation is released as one of their 'Mission Worship' series. With one exception these are studio recordings, mostly from the last ten years. I am happy to say that full lyrics are included, and songwriters and artists properly acknowledged – unlike with many compilations that come my may. I have really enjoyed listening to this release. As well as most of the songs being strong lyrically and musically, the performances / varied arrangements / production are also largely excellent – and so too is sound quality. The best two tracks in my book are Robin Mark's 'Every day', and the Marc Cohn-ish gospel piano underpinned 'Coming my way' by The City Harmonic. Chris McClarney's voice makes 'Defender' another particularly strong one for me, and Marc James with 'I am' is also a top contender. 'To behold You' by Elim Sound is a more-than-7min tour de force that builds twice through a couple of climaxes then drops back to a powerfully reflective end. Other strong contributions are made by Lou Fellingham ('To Him who is able'), Callre Hamilton ('Lend Me your heart'), Susan Ashton ('I believe in You'), Edwin Brown ('Just the very thought of Thee'), and Jocelyn Brown ('True praises'). Downsides? The very strange and long synthetic strings/choir intro to 'Counting on Your Name' by Tim Hughes, the fact that some of the written lyrics do not quite match what is sung, and the typo in Stuart Townend's name on the CD insert! Overall however, worth a comfortable 9/10. Dave Deeks (July 2012)
VARIOUS : Courageous - Motion Picture Soundtrack. (Authentic/Provident : 02341-0167-2)
There's hardly a film produced without an accompanying soundtrack but even with the big films, the CDs can be slightly iffy quality. Happily though Courageous does not fall into this trap and works extremely well as a standalone. With the likes of Casting Crowns producing the rocky title track plus "Sound of Your Voice" & "Revelation" from Third Day and the excellent challenging "Lead Me" from Sanctus Real you can be assured of some top quality offerings. Indeed the above are likely to be very familiar to listeners of UCB or other Christian radio stations as they've all had a fair bit of air play in recent months. The CD has the quality of artists to sustain it & enough variety to set it apart from the plethora of compilations in the market. The only thing that just didn't work at all for me were the final 2 bonus tracks from the film score which were plain dull and we're completely alien to the rest of the songs, so not what I'd really call a bonus but never mind...the others make up for it & there's always the skip button! Don't let those put you off though...certainly worth a listen. 9/10 Simon Redfern (July 2012)
Various : Cover the Earth. (Integrity)
Described on the sleeve as '25 powerful songs from churches around the world', this 2-CD Integrity Music collection features recordings made in locations as farflung as Zimbabwe, London and Singapore - although the USA predominates. It is disappointing that there is little evidence of location when it comes to the music. This is largely of the standard CCM worship-leader variety, lacking for instance the originality of the Springhill Worship collection that I reviewed recently for NFN. Some tracks do stand out however. Two of these are recorded at Bethany World Prayer Centre Los Angeles, and feature Jonathan Stockstill. His voice has oodles of emotion and power - I find him to be an unusually effective communicator of the Christian message. 'Let the Church Rise' has a good melody and is well produced. 'Chasing after you' is also excellent and I could happily listen to more than the almost 7 minutes! Other tracks worth a mention include 'Not unto us'. Delivered by the Christ Fellowship Church Choir of Florida, this is a simple but classy piece that builds beautifully, and features a very able but unnamed female lead vocalist. 'Jesus is' comes from Hillsong Church London and features an effective repeating chorus within a carefully arranged setting, well delivered and fading to a reflective ending. The Sonic Edge Band's 'The song that I sing' from the Church of our Saviour Singapore, features a standard guitar, bass and drums lineup but with good lyrics thoughtfully delivered and with effective harmonies. Check out www.globalworshipnow.com, or www.worshipmusic.com for more on Jonathan Stockstill, including music samples. Some good stuff here, then, but insufficient to boost the score above an overall 6/10. Dave Deeks (June 2007)
VARIOUS : Dad’s 50 Favourite Worship Songs. (Kingsway : KWCD3303)
I guess that this is a marketing ploy aimed at Father’s Day in the UK. Otherwise, I’m not sure why any of these songs should be directed at just the male population! But, with that observation out of the way, I settled down to listen to this 3 cd collection. After a couple of plays, and making notes, I realised that the songs I had highlighted were all familiar ones. That raised the question, how bland were the others? ‘Happy Day’ is one song that I always turn up the volume to, and this time was no exception. It really lifts my spirits. ‘Friend of God’ and ‘God of Wonders’ sounded good too, but I thought that Stuart Townend’s ‘The Perfect Wisdom of God’ was a bit of a dirge. Delirous? are included with ‘Majesty’, ‘History Maker’ and ‘Deeper’, while I also liked the version of ‘Counting on Your Name’. Artists aren’t credited, which I always find pity, so you have to guess at some of them. Of the new songs, ‘Song of Moses’ appealed to me, but that was the only one. Plenty to choose from, and I would have been surprised if all fifty songs had got my approval. However, I think that this album shows what a gap in quality there is between those songs readily used in church, and the others. 7/10. (June 2012)
VARIOUS : DAVID - Ordinary Man…Extraordinary God. (www.spiritmusic.co.uk)
This project celebrates the life of David, described as a gifted musician, a brave man, and a warrior. The songs were first performed live in St Paul, Minnesota on the night of June 26 by Bob Carlisle, Russ Lee, Clay Crosse, Greg Long, Scott Krippayne, and Steve Camp. The songs range from the Jewish sounding "the Heart of You" to the big production sound of "Satisfied in You", based around Psalm 63. On this, Russ Lee's voice is pure gold. And talking of great voices, Scott Krippayne's "The Lord is my Rock" shows just what this artist can achieve when he puts his mind to it. A DVD comes in the package and it shows all the songs being performed in the vastness that is, the Nevada Desert. All in all, something a little different, and worthy of it's place in anyone's collection. 8/10. (October 2003)
VARIOUS : Declare His Glory! (Jarrod Cooper Ministries : JCM006)
This brand new release features, not only, Jarrod Cooper, but singer/songwriter Paul Hemingway, and vocal worship group Shekinah. With almost all the writing credits falling to the two solo artists, it's a mixture of songs that lacks a little continuity but has many highlights. The mixture of live and studio recordings work well and it's in the former style that "He's Alive" begins the listing. A typical opener, with lots of clapping & praising, it would grace any gathering. "I Rejoice…" is rather too short in length and finishes before it really has chance to shine. Indeed, this was my disappointment with many of Paul's songs. "I Surrender" is a lovely acoustic number and Felicity Cooper's "A Ti Sea La Gloria" provides the listener with a great sense of God's peace. On the whole, another winner from this fine ministry. 8/10. (March 2000)
VARIOUS : Deeper. (Integrity Music : 44552)
I must admit that my heart sank somewhat as I found this CD in the post, I expected it to be just another tedious compilation of recycled songs from the usual crowd, and although it is a compilation of songs from the usual crowd, it's actually quite good. The CD is subtitled "Two hours of deep worship for prayer and intercession". If you were to listen to the whole thing at once it would be a bit of a drag after a while, there are a few of the usual cringe inducing comments littered through it here and there, although not as many as some CD's seem to have, also some of the "spontaneous" worship sounds very well rehearsed, and a lot of the congregations seem to consist of large choirs. One outstanding example, in one song the leader exhorts the congregation to sing louder, and you can tell that the huge increase in volume is not because people are singing louder, but because the sound engineer has pushed the fader up. (Or perhaps I'm being cynical) Despite that though there are some really good tracks on here. "Glory" by Klaus is excellent, as is "Make way for the King" by Lenny Leblanc. The outstanding tracks for me thought were "All creation worships you" by Tony Melendez, and "Open up the sky" by Deluge. There are songs by Hillsong, Gateway and New Life on here among others, providing different styles of worship. A double CD of live worship that actually makes it onto my MP3 player has to have something going for it. Definitely worth a listen this one. 8/10 Andy Sayner. (September 2009)
VARIOUS : Discover Vineyard. (Elevation : ELE1515D)
This CD is a reflection of some of the best worship songs that Vineyard Music has ever seen. Songs, that are impacting the church right now, and a statement that this God-inspired musical journey is relevant and real. So, much for the sleeve notes, then. The trouble with a lot of these "up to the minute" worship songs is, that I find them most difficult to worship with! Take, for instance, the opening 'Sing your Praise'. It's a rocky number, in the mould of the Desperation Band, and sung by Sheri Carr. Don't get me wrong, it stands well as a song but, where's the chance to join in and worship? There's a whole clutch of well known artists featured on this album but the lesser known 1000 Generations make the first interesting move with a poppy duet called 'Fail Us Not'. Tracks 4 through to 8 were a bit non-descript but, then, 'Not of our Hands' left me completely cold. It's a strange style of music and I'm not sure, again, how this can be called worship. Trent's live recording of 'Unfailing Love' is well received and Matt Chalk's 'Forever You' deserves a honourable mention. Pick of the bunch, has to be Marie Barnett and Ryan Delmore's 'Call Upon Your Name'. It's got a country feel to it, in a similar style to the music produced in recent year's by Robert Plant and Alison Kraus. Some good music here, but calling it worship is another thing. 6/10 (August 2010)
VARIOUS : Discover Worship. (Elevation : ICC1285D)
Here's a novel idea from Elevation. A selection of 16 worship songs from 4 emerging writers, Leigh Barnard, Luke Finch, John Mongan and Wayne Sanders. Three of them have previously released albums of their music, but this idea is the chance to bring the new writer's to your attention. First up is ' Fall' by Luke Finch. It's a good song, and worthy of opening any time of worship, but the following songs lack any real punch. 'Let Your Mercy', Highest Praise', 'Glorify the King', and 'Glory Streams From Your Throne' are all pretty much the same and nothing different to hundreds of songs I've heard before. 'Countless Are the Mercies' briefly turn things round with a catchy tune and I found myself singing along to this one quite quickly. 'See Your Glory' is a prayer for revival, while 'Your Love Has lifted Me High' wasn't a bad song, but it's heavy feel made it difficult for me to see it as a song for collective worship. Leigh Barnard's 'Faithful God' reminded me of an old James Taylor song from long ago, while 'Shout to You' is an uplifting rock tune. As a brief look at four song writers, I guess Luke Finch was the one to impress me the most. As for the others, well, they offered little different to what's already out there. 5/10 (September 2009)
VARIOUS : Do You Hear What I Hear.   (Benson : 84418-0902-2)
Here’s a brand new Christmas collection featuring some of the top US artists, around today. The unmistakable voice of Mac Powell is the first to be heard, with Third Day’s contribution of ‘Joy To The World’. It’s well sung, as you would expect, and makes for an intriguing listen. Matt Maher produces a nice version of ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’, before Kerrie Roberts gives a beautiful rendition of ‘O Holy Night’. It’s all sounding good so far, but then we hit the buffers. Top marks to Anthem Lights for trying their own arrangement of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ but it just doesn’t do the song justice. Similarly, ‘Deck the Halls’ by Tenth Avenue North sounds more like a pub singalong. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, The Rhett Walker Band deliver the gloomiest version of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ that I have ever heard. Tobe perfectly honest, this Christmas album did not “float my boat”, and I can’t see me returning it to my CD player in the near future.   5/10. (December 2012)
VARIOUS : Dove Hits 2004. (Word : 0806 8863131 1)
Subtitled "15 of the year's best Dove Award nominated artists and songs", this release should give you some idea of just what's happening in US Christian music. Like a lot of compilations, I guess personal taste counts for how many of the songs really appeal. Mercy Me give it a good pop start with "The Change Inside of Me", before Mark Schultz performs the brilliant tear-jerker "Letters From War". What's happened to the Newsboys over the years I just don't know. From the quirky days of "Take Me To Your Leader", they seem to have mellowed into just another praise and worship band. However, their contribution, "He Reigns" is a good song. The album also features a No.1 country hit, that being Randy Travis' "Three Wooden Crosses", while Casting Crowns sound remarkably like Nickleback on "American Dreams". Jaci Velasquez gives a polished performance of "Jesus Is", and Christiandoms latest pop sensation, Stacie Orrico delivers a tepid little number called "Strong Enough". Good in parts, but that personal taste means this is only a 6/10. (September 2004)
VARIOUS : Drive Time Worship. (Elevation : ELE1614D)
This is an interesting concept. To make worship cds "cool" and appeal more to the male half of the population, Elevation, in the style of the secular music industry, have a produced a compilation of songs considered suitable to drive to. The tag line for this cd is "High-Octane Praise Songs". It's a great idea, if they can pull it off. Have they? I'm not so sure. The issue is always going to be one of choice and availability. I have a number of the cd's secular counterparts and they work very well, but they use some ubiquitous and very "high octane" rock standards to accomplish their mission. I'm not convinced that the current crop of commercially available worship songs are up to the same task. There are certainly some on this cd that work very well, "Jesus Saves", "Dance, Dance" and "Lead Me to the Rock" are the best examples. More of this type and you have a concept that works. However there are too many that don't cut the mustard, either because the songs in themselves don't really lend themselves to the whole idea or their execution falls short. Examples of the latter include "Be Thou My Vision" and "I am Free" - I have other versions of the same arrangements of these songs in my collection that would work far better. So, overall, it almost works and it's a good collection of uptempo praise songs, but in my opinion it's not quite high-octane enough to effectively fulfil its mission. I'm still going to find myself reaching for my secular equivalent for my next car journey I think. However, the project idea should be applauded and I hope that volume 2 will build upon what this has started. 7/10 RobinThompson (September 2011)
VARIOUS : Drive Time Worship 2.   (Elevation : ELE1727D)
This album is sub-titled “14 High Octane Praise Songs”, and has been put together by Team Elevation and Team CVM (Christian Vision for Men). CVM is a movement of thousands of men who inspire evangelism in the family, workplace, pub, football match and beyond in a bloke-friendly way. (www.cvm.org.uk). On the positive side of this album, there are lots of songs that I had never heard of before, so that was quite refreshing. On a negative note, after three plays, only one song really stuck in my head. Most songs are live recordings, including the opening ‘I Worship You Now, sung by Marc James and James Hellings. ‘Come Everybody’ has an almost 60’s beat to it, but the song that really got to me was Jamie Pearson’s ‘Fall Upon Me’. Great guitars, and an excellent chorus. Songs on the album date back to 2003, so, some of them may well be familiar to others. ‘Because of Your Love’ is quite catchy, but I thought that ‘Wonder of the Cross’ was simply awful. Some off key singing doesn’t help, but it did nothing for me. As for the whole concept of the album, I can’t see me reaching for this collection again, whether it be drive time or not. On the whole, most of the songs failed to live up to expectations.   5/10.(May 2012)
VARIOUS : Electric Moods. (Elevation : ELE1704D)
This CD is part of a range of instrumental worship albums, each featuring a different instrument. This particular offering showcasing the electric guitar, backed by lots of synth loops. There are some well known songs on here, including "Rain Down" and Michael W Smith's "Healing Rain". All these tracks are very well played and recorded, but with a couple of exceptions "One Thing Remains" for example being for me the stand out track, I found it a bit on the boring side. It's very "Nice" if you know what I mean, but I found it to be more Elevator than Elevation personally. I'd imagine that it's probably quite difficult to pull off an instrumental album of worship songs, after all the idea of most of them is that they have words. I do appreciate the talents of the guitarist who is playing, but to me this just sounds too much like what you'd get if Hank Marvin were to record a worship CD. If you really do like The Shadows, then you'll probably like this, but it doesn't quite work for me. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (June 2012)
VARIOUS : Encounter Worship Vol.3. (Fierce : Fiercd41)
Here's another worship album with a host of new songs for you to enjoy. The lead vocals are shared by four leaders, but the only one you can definitely name to a song is Cathy Burton, as she is the sole female. Indeed, she gives a great individual vocal to 'Hosanna'. It's a beautiful song, and Cathy is on top form. Before that comes the song that should have been a huge hit last Christmas, Tim Hughes' 'Happy Day'. 9 months on, it's still a great song. Song wise, I thought there was a great variation in quality. Some, like 'Glorious' and 'I've Found a love' just didn't hit the right spots for me. However, Cathy Burton comes to the fore again on 'Great and Glorious', lifting things once more. Of the remainder, 'Mighty To Save' is praise song of real quality, and I think that 'The Highest and the Greatest' has all the ingredients to become a classic song around the world. A bit of a hit and miss overall, but certainly has it's moments. 6/10. (September 2008)
VARIOUS : Epithany - 11 New Songs for Christmas. (Elevation : ELE1559D)
Epithany celebrates a Holy God becoming flesh and revealing salvation to the world through the birth of a Saviour. This album of, mostly, new songs have been written to inject a fresh burst of thankfulness and praise into the Christmas season. It all starts off very well with Owen Ringrose's 'Emmanuel'. It's a really catchy number, and one that will stay in your head for some time. I got a similar feeling with Leigh Barnard's 'A Better Day Has Come' and my hopes of a terrific Christmas album was high. I liked the ballad written by Becky Frith, called 'The Heaven's Sang', and the female singer has a really good voice. Things, then, go downhill rather. I got to the end of the album without really remembering many of the other songs. 'Bethlehem Baby' is a moderately pleasant duet, while 'Glory to God' is very much in the style of Garth Hewitt, although written by Stuart Barbour. Even the inclusion of Paul Field's 'The Christ in Christmastime', sung by Jonathan Veira could raise my overall feeling, that this album brings little new to the Christmas table. 5/10 (December 2010)
VARIOUS : Essential Christian Songs - God of Wonders. (ICC : ICCD72530)
When the title includes the words "best of.." or, as in this case, "Essential", I often wonder on what, criteria the songs are chosen, and by who? There's certainly no complaints from me about the contents of the lyrics of any of the songs here. They're all full of praise, worship, prayers, and hopes, written by a number of well respected writers. "God of Wonders" reminds me a lot of a Fernando Ortega song but is, in fact, penned by Steve Hindalong. "Testify to Love" is co-written by Paul Field, Henk Pool, Ralph VanManen, and Robert Riekerk, and the combined influences result in an 80's sounding pop/rocker that has somehow survived the test of time. Other songs included are Michael Card's "El Shaddai" and John De Jong's beautiful "All I Can Bring". I also liked the edgy worship of "I Want to Hear Your Voice" - very fresh sounding. Essential Christian songs? It's your choice. 7/10. (July 2003)
VARIOUS : Essential Worship Workout Mix. (Elevation : ELE16050)
“Whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner or an experienced athlete…..”, Elevation reckon that this Workout Mix is “the perfect companion for a healthier lifestyle.” They’ve really put a great effort to this release because as well as investing in the mixes themselves, the sleeve notes include Key Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle, a recipe for a “Go Faster” smoothie, spiritual inspiration, and general keep fit tips. The mixes are split into three, twenty minute sections, each one featuring samples of well known worship songs. Mix 1 begins with a typical beat and electro music. I particularly liked this mix, which uses songs such as ‘Unfailing Love’ and ‘All Over the World’ to inspire you. Exercising, it seemed to work well, and even had a warm down end to the track. Mix 2 lowers the rate of the beat a little and I found it difficult to get a proper rhythm going. By the time I used the final mix, I found it rather bland and difficult to imagine anyone of immediate fitness levels getting much help. Songs included here were ‘Jesus Saves’, ‘Round the Earth’ and ‘Because of Your Love’. Perhaps it was just my type of exercise that didn’t really fit the music. Perhaps it was aimed more at the beginner than a seasoned pro? 10/10 for Elevation’s initiative but the mark’s aren’t so high overall. 6/10 (May 2011)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Eurochrist Sampler 1. (CD £10 from: NSC, West Down, Cheriton Bishop, Exeter, England, EX6 6HG).
Over in Norway, two small record labels have come together to produce a fine sampler of tracks from European CCM bands. Sarepta and 1340 Records have taken tracks from As If…,NSC, Skellig, and many more to feature an insight into 18 different bands/artists. If there's one thing that's constant throughout the album it's the driving guitar. From the Wheatus sounding Maybe June and through the bonus American contribution Wonderboys, it's the stringed instrument that's to the fore. Mind you, As If's experimental "Full Bloom" doesn't mean to say that they've changed their style, perhaps just continuing to grow? Debby Barnes' "Three in One" is Garbage, and I mean that in the sense that the finished product sounds like the band! Target's "Perseverance" features their bright pop style that was so evident in their Cd release of last year, while Ascension's "Goats" is another track lifted from a successful album. Of those I'd heard before, it was good to hear NSC's "Breakpedal" again and, while not a personal favourite of mine, it's very popular live. For something completely different, Nancy Sawyer's "Dancing on the Inside" is a welcome relief, with her lighter, folk/pop and sweet voice. There again, if moshing's your sort of thing, check out the German band Woodencross. "Ghandi" is wonderful. Starting with a terrific brass section, it's then head's down for some music. Interesting collection and one that does show what unearthed talent lies across Europe. 7/10. (June 2001)
VARIOUS : Everlasting God - Live Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2893)
Everlasting God is the latest in what appears to be a never-ending stream of worship compilations that are doing the rounds at the moment. That aside however, it is one of good quality as you would expect from such a huge label in the CCM business, featuring 10 tracks from many of today's big names with the likes of Brenton Brown, Tim Hughes, Stuart Townend & Andy Bromley making appearances on here. To kick the CD off, we have "The Greatest Day In History (Happy Day)" a Tim Hughes/Ben Cantelon collaboration which has plenty of bounce to it & is full of great praise to get things off to a good start - one I have heard at a number of summer conferences & I have to say this is a great rendition, capturing a lot of the live atmosphere. Others also fare well in this area - "Lord I'm Grateful (Grace)" & the ever-present Gareth Robinson classic "Good & Gracious" are classic examples with bucket loads of feeling & great musicianship. "Strength Will Rise (Everlasting God)" also does a particularly good job despite if not being one of my personal live favourites. Not all capture the essence of the events quite so well, as "Clothed With Splendour (Awesome God)" by Andy Bromley/Chris Donohue demonstrates; a track which I found a somewhat flat & lacking punch in what I thought would be energetic with bags of flavour. The massive majority are however very well executed. As with many compilations, there's no real order to the tracks that would suggest a natural progression to worship, but it is certainly worthy of consideration for the content of familiar & atmospheric live worship from the major names. 8/10 Simon Redfern (December 2008)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Everybody Praise - All Age Worship. (ICC : ICCD20130).
I've got to get it off my chest right now...this is pretty awful. My most humble apologies to everyone involved with this record but it contains some of the worst praise and worship songs that I've ever heard. Writers such as Paul Field, Noel Richards and Judy Mackenzie Dunn all contribute but of little consequence. "Wake Up My Body" made my children cringe, complete with it's Sesame Street type chorus. "Fruit of the Spirit" is worse still and sounds as if it's come straight from one of those awful 1960's variety shows. If there is a highlight to the album, it could be the way that the acoustic guitar playing on "Father God I Come To You" lifts an ordinary song out of mediocrity. 1 don't think that I've ever felt so bad about reviewing an album . 1/10. (September 1997)
VARIOUS : Experience His Presence. (Integrity : 42642)
Here's another one of those compilation albums that you wonder from the moment you see it, is it just going to be the same old songs been churned out once again. Well, thankfully, this one isn't and it has plenty of bright new songs for the listener. Paul Baloche starts proceedings with a typically, empowering rendition of 'Hosanna'. In similar style, New Life Worship's Ross Parsley delivers a rousing and uplifting 'My Saviour Lives'. The Gateway Worship come up next, and deliver a medium paced song called 'Come Thou Font, Come Thou King'. It's a really good song and has a celtic feel about it. Other artists featured include Don Moen, Bethany Worship and Brian Doerksen - the latter contributing well with 'Holy God'. Probably not one for the radio, but I'm sure the epic 'Revelation Song' will go down well with listeners. This version really raises the roof and the sound is bound to lift your spirits. All in all, a nice collection of new music. 8/10. (January 2008)
VARIOUS : Face to Face. (Kingsway : KMCD2915)
This worship Cd is subtitled "Songs For Women", but as I don't have a female reviewer on the team, I took the plunge and listened while I did some ironing! There are 10 songs on offer featuring artists such as Joanne Hogg, Lou Fellingham, Margaret Becker, Geraldine Latty, Kelly Minter, Kristyn Getty and more. I guess, from the Celtic sound and writing credits that 'From the Breaking of the Dawn' is Kristyn Getty singing. There's no track listing for each artist, but the song itself is very nice, and proclaims how we should stand firm in our love for God. Matt Redman's 'Jesus Christ' gets a fantastic treatment from Margaret Becker. Indeed, this is Becker at her very best, and the version is very deep and meaningful. The next song of note is Kelly Minter's 'Fallen From A Perfect Place'. This gentle song really draws the listener in for some peaceful worship. It's not all heavenly though in sound. Mid album, there are some rather ordinary tracks, before the closing 'When the Music Fades' brings back the quality. So, is it a women only album? Not really, but the sentiment is quite good. 6/10 (April 2009)
VARIOUS : Favourite Carols. (Alliance : 50285 1902782 5)
Performed by the Scottish Festival Singers, and recorded at St Cuthbert's Church Edinburgh, this releases features exactly what it says. Twenty Favourite Carols, sung by a seasoned choir and soloists, that gives you an old fashioned Christmas feeling. There's no surprises, no frills, and no techno wizardry involved (recording apart), it's just plain, simple carols, sung in a way that the older members of any family will appreciate. Tracks include "On Christmas Night", "We Three Kings", "O Come All Ye Faithful", and "Joy to the World". A very healthy Christmas serving. 7/10. (December 2002)
VARIOUS : Favourite Hymns Vol.3 & 4. (Alliance : 505285 19020222 & 50285 19020321)
What new words can be said about two collections of hymns that have, already, stood the test of time? Two albums that contain 40 of the best loved hymns, from classic writers such as Charles Wesley and William Henry Parker, as well as the relatively new school of Graham Kendrick and Melody Green. Recorded at St Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh, and featuring The Scottish Festival Singers, songs old and new bring old fashioned church worship alive once more. "O For A Thousand Tongues" is acknowledged as one of Wesley's greatest pieces, and it's always been one of my personal favourites. I was soon singing along, much to my work colleagues mystification. "Low in the Grave" is presented with great gusto, while the gentleness of "Spirit of the Living God" flows easily into the listener's spirit. "The Old Rugged Cross", "The Lord is My Shepherd", and "Immortal Invisible" are just three more excellent pieces on these wonderfully produced albums. 9/10. (August 2002)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Feel It - New Country. (Pila/Nelson Word).
Get me my ten gallon hat and rhinestone jacket.....Sorry, country music has this effect on me. Twenty-one tracks on show with this release featuring the top artists of the new country age. To be fair, there's five easy going tracks before the real classy stuff is let loose. Michael James gives us track 6, a ballad, called 'With Every Turn of the World'. Excellent numbers include Kate Taylor's 'Satellite Sky', Mid South's guitar driven 'Love Comes Through', and Jackson Finch's thought provoking 'It's A Hard Life'. Add to this, songs by Carolyn Arrends, Andy Landis (both NFN fave's) and Steve Grace and you'll realise what quality is on offer. Two interesting songs require a special mention. Lost Dogs' 'Bad Indigestion' - referring to the fact that we take in so much junk from the world, it gives us...- and the simply superb 'Elvis has Left the Building, Jesus is Coming Soon' by Mercy River. If it wasn't for those first few songs, this would be almost a ten. Instead... 8/10 (December 1996)
Various: Fireproof (Motion Picture Soundtrack) Integrity/Provident : 602341014328
The film Fireproof hit the screens in the US late last year attracting over 4 million viewers and catapulting 6 artists featured in the soundtrack into the top 100 chart on i-Tunes. It is not a film I have seen so far, but from what I have read & heard on this CD, Fireproof is one I certainly wouldn't mind hunting down. The film is a love story (please don't switch off just yet) about a firefighter , his wife and a marriage worth saving. What sets this apart from the usual Hollywood "mush" are the genuine reflections of living a life including a relationship with God, portraying marriage positively without getting soppy or glossing over the gritty reality and the unapologetic conveyance of Christian values in a way that can be related to - no cringe factor by the look of it! The soundtrack CD is mainly orchestral based film score, which on its own wouldn't excite many (although my wife thinks they're nice and relaxing) but the inclusion of 6 tracks from the likes of Third Day and Casting Crowns is a welcome dash of spice to the mix. As you would expect from a film of this genre, we're talking mainly rocky ballads with some punch-packing lyrics all of which are excellent. I particularly liked Casting Crowns with "Slow Fade" and "While I'm Waiting" from John Waller, the latter of which also has a remix interspersed with sound bites from the film which gives a great flavour of what to expect. As a stand-alone CD, this wouldn't normally be at the top of my shopping list but as an accompaniment to the film, it is one of the better ones I have sampled. 6/10 Simon Redfern (November 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : First Love. (KINGSWAY : KMCD2181).
In early 1997, an historic gathering of music pioneers of the Jesus Movement took place at a mountain retreat in South California. More than 25 years after those initial times, the likes of Love Song, Barry McGuire, 2nd Chapter of Acts, and many others, share their music from those early beginning of Jesus Music to the present. It's a double CD, and one that really takes some listening too, for a relative youngster of CCM. In fact, all but two of the artists featured were brand new to me and I found it difficult to listen to the old fashioned music. However, let's not take away just what is on offer here and, also, remember that without these people CCM might not have got to where it is today. For all you historians, there's plenty to get your teeth into, including a brand new Keith Green song that has only recently been found. Randy Stonehill sounds as good as he does today and Darrell Mansfiled's "Million Dollar Feeling" stands up well. Also available is a two video set of the performances with extra interview footage that really does give you the feel of what it was to be involved in the Jesus Movement. Too many artists to list, but an album for those with a real love for early 70's musicas well as those who just want to find out more. 7/10 for the CD and 8/10 for the video. (November 1999)
VARIOUS : Focus on Intimacy. Kingsway : KMCD2653)
Here are 15 songs that, according to the CD sleeve, will help us to "come close to the Lord and know that you are safe in His arms of love." The first thing that struck me about this compilation of songs was just how many were brand new to me. Credit Kingsway for not just collecting the better known songs. It starts off with a gentle rendition of Matt Redman's "One Thing My Heart is Set Upon", and is followed by a breathy male vocal on "I Sing a Simple Song of Love". By track 3, "I Will Be yours", I'd already found the songs soothing and relaxing, bringing a peace to my surroundings. By the time "I Just Want to Be Where You Are" appeared, I was experiencing a new awakening of my closeness with God. That song, alone, really said it all for me. I've rarely found an album like this to really soak in God's love, but tis one really did do it for me. Other highlights included "My Times Are in Your Hands" and "Welcomed Into the Courts", both refreshing and God filled. 9/10. (February 2006)
Various : For God So Loved the World. (EMI CMG)
This is an EMI CMG-released compilation seeking to draw the listener again into meditation upon the cross. Collections which contain exclusively songs which have already been released are always a bit of a difficult one for me. Take this one for example: the songs are great, particularly the contributions from two underrated artists, Charlie Hall and Nichole Nordemann (both two songs each) while rousing contributions from Brits Matt Redman (a duet of "The Wonderful Cross" with Chris Tomlin) and Martyn Layzell with his classic "Lost in Wonder" have this fair isle well represented. There's even an outing for the quite brilliant "Son of God" by Starfield, taken from an album that anyone who likes modern worship (Delirious, Matt Redman et al) really should be checking out), and on and on. Simply put, there's not a dud here. Listening, I found myself being transported into an attitude of worship, so I suppose you might say that the compilation achieves its aim. I can't help but feel though a small sense of disquiet that labels in the Christian "market" continue to re-package previously released material and ask fans to buy it more than once. 7/10. Haydon Spenceley. (April 2007)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : For the One I Love. (Kingsway KMCD2049).
Primarily released for Valentine's Day, "For the One I Love" is a collection of songs, to "celebrate the love that you cherish". Twelve tracks, given the instrumental treatment of soft and gentle, piano and saxophone sounds. Imagine a candlelight dinner for two, a warm fire, and this album playing in the background. Got the mood? Mike Haughton's saxophone work is quite outstanding throughout, married to the keyboards and piano of Pete Haslam and others. Needless to say, all the songs are either medium paced or slow ballads. There's a lovely version of Michael W. Smith's "I Will Be Here For You", as well as Lionel Ritchie's "Hello". The downside to this album, for me, was the unfamiliarity with most of the tracks. Despite Haughton's skills, by mid-way the whole thing was beginning to tire. 5/10. (April 1998)
VARIOUS : Forever Reign. (Benson Records : 84418-0910-2)
Here’s another one of those American manufactured compilation albums that has a rather grand sub-title “Today’s Best Known Worship Songs”. Sorry, but here in the UK, most of the ten tracks will be new to listener’s ears. From 1994, the unmistakable Michael W Smith whips up the audience with a typical, grand rendition of ‘You Are Holy’. Somehow, you feel safe whilst listening to Michael’s version, as you know, there’s a man who really carries the Lord’s message in every song he sings. Casting Crowns drive ‘Holy One’, with lots of guitars, whilst the title track is a glorious number by One Sonic Society, that should have everyone singing along. Other top tunes come from Third Day, and ‘King of Glory’ and Elevation Worship’s ‘For the Honor’ [US Spelling]. The former has a big production, complete with a choir joining Mac Powell for later choruses. Tenth Avenue North and Andy Cherry are also featured, before The Royal Royal close the album with ‘Praise Him’ – a sound that sounds uncannily like Coldplay. So, more good songs than bad, and easily worth 7/10. (October 2013)
Various: Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk's "Jesus Freak" (Gotee GTD 39233)
No surprise from the title as this is indeed a collection of re-worked tracks in tribute to dcTalk's original album. Well, the title of this one certainly had more than a little bearing on my initial reaction to this CD…I was indeed freaked! Don't get me wrong, a great collection of mostly palatable songs indeed but what a peculiar mix of styles…I mean the opening "So Help me God" by The Showdown is very Nickelback in style but is followed by a track named "Colored People" which is something more akin to Gabrielle (remember her from the 90's)? Weird choice, but it gets even odder. Interspersed between the mainly rocky numbers are a few short musical interludes which defy all rhyme & reason, especially track 9, the "Jesus Freak Reprise" which sounds like a group of drunks at the end of a long night - did make me chuckle & guffaw even if it wasn't a major musical triumph. That said though, if you can ignore the interludes the album is highly listenable with mainstream rock, grunge & something a bit heavier for the hardcore amongst us - all best played at high volume for added effect! One of my favourites was the "Jesus Freak" done by 4th Avenue Jones which combines Nirvana-style music backing with rap & female vocals - sounds bizarre but it works. "Like it, Love it Need it" from Fighting Instinct is also worthy of a mention - great nodding dog song. Overall a good listen but let down by the weird combination of styles & the strange interludes. 6/10 Simon Redfern (December 2006)
VARIOUS : Fresh – New Songs for the Church. (Elevation : ELE1730D)
Here’s a resource of 22 songs from the 2012 Spring Harvest songbook, split onto two CD’s. There are some songs that are already well known, but also some brand new numbers that hit the right notes. Without looking at the sleeve notes, I thought that ‘Hear the Sound’ might well be a Matt Redman song. But no, it’s in his style, and written by John Grange and Nigel Briggs. Matt’s not far behind though, and there are versions of both ‘We Are The Free’ and ’10,000 Reasons’ to please his fans. I certainly liked the vocal quality on ‘Furious’. Not individually credited, but the lovely voice belongs to either Cathy Burton or Nikki Rogers. ‘You Are God’ is an energetic and joyful sound, from the pen of Jeremy Riddle, while ‘I Will Say My God is Glorious’ features a very strong male vocal on, what is, a glorious song. The second Cd is a stripped down acoustic one, and is rather tedious throughout. Most songs sound very similar, and the lack of variety put me off. Fran Pratt’s ‘Bringing the World to Life’ is short and sweet, while some thoughtful guitar playing on ‘Hosanna’ lifts this song. 4/5 for Cd1 and just 2/5 for CD2 gives a reasonable 7/10. (August 2012)
VARIOUS : Glimpses of Worship. (Kingsway : SURCD5149)
This CD features four worship leaders, each doing three songs. Two of their own and one cover. Ben Cantelon, Martyn Layzell, Chris McClarney and Aaron Keyes providing the music. This is a fairly middle of the road affair, nothing to get upset about, but then nothing to get excited about either really. It's billed as "Simple and accessible arrangements" which is record company speak for "Slightly on the tedious side". There is a DVD included with all the lyrics subtitled, so that you can sing along to it at small worship events etc. Personally I thought it was one of those CD's that you stick on in the background and get on with something else while it's playing. Don't get me wrong, it's a pleasant enough disk to listen to, but there's nothing here that stands out as a song that I'd consider using anywhere. It's a collection of songs with all the key words and phrases that you'd expect to find in worship music, but not much else going on. The DVD is a bit better, I suppose because of the added bonus of seeing what's going on, and there are a few bonus bits where the songwriters explain their songs. So if you want a bit of background music this is probably ok, if you're looking for inspiration, well, I'd try something else. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2009)
VARIOUS : Global Gathering. (Kingsway : KMCD2466)
When 40,000 gathered at Wembley Stadium in 1997 to praise and worship God, it was the culmination of a vision that had been in the heart of Noel Richard's for nearly 10 years. But, that gathering wasn't the end of the vision and in the year 2000 66,000 people attended the Millenium Stadium in Wales for another gathering. More stadium events have since been played and now a Cd has been released featuring some of the best moments from those concerts. "Global Gathering" is the title of this new CD and includes artists such as Matt Redman, Robin Mark, and of course Noel Richards. The former gives renditions of songs such as "Lord Let Your Glory Fall" and "Let Everthing That Has Breath", while the Richards' himself chips in with the storming "Calling All Nations" and the excellent "Dreamers of Your Dreams". Some of the songs seems to have been recorded to death over the last few years but new ones like Chris Tomlin's "You Are the Lord" and 100 Hours' "You Are Holy" stop this from becoming just "another worship album". 7/10. (February 2003)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : 'Global Warming'. (Sparrow/Alliance).
Another one of those compilations that let you sample artists that you may not have heard of before. Five artists here, from five different countries, each performing three songs. What About? are from Norway and sound like their secular hero's A-ha. There pop songs are the best, if a little short. Holland's Ralph Van Manen plays the best version of Martyn Joseph's 'I Will Follow' for some time and he looks like a man to watch out for. Sweden's Edward Negussie has a laid back style which is quite bland, while Ireland's Split Level bounce things up again with the terrific 'Why'. Rounding up the collection is England Message Tribe and the pick of their offering being 'The Year of The Lord's Favour'. It's a full price album, and I just wonder whether you'd want to part with your well-earned cash for this? If you've got a few quid, you could do a lot worse than giving this a try. 7/10. (August 1996)
VARIOUS : Gloria. (Rockettown : 826872003327)
Produced by those leading lights, Charlie Peacock and Scott Dente, here's something fresh for the Festive period. When I say, fresh, I mean that it's not just a collection of well known artists singing the same old carols and Christmas songs as usual. It begins with Peacock's rendition of his own song, "Gloria", sung in a duet with Ginny Owens. From that moment on, you know that this album has something going for it. Wayne Kirkpatrick's "God is With Us" is sung by Amy Grant, and that's closely followed by Kirkpatrick's rendition of a Chris Rice song, "Welcome to Our World". "O Come All Ye Faithful" IS one well known carol that makes the listing, but Shaun Groves and George Rowe's version makes it a worthwhile inclusion. My favourite track came from Christine Dente, and co-written with Peacock. Here, she sounds just full of Christmas in an olde world type number. A nice collection from some great artists. 8/10. (December 2004)
VARIOUS : Glory to You ... New Wine Worship. (Kingsway : SURCD5199)
This is a studio worship album rather than a live worship album and, whilst there are pros and cons of both types, this manages to retain a raw, live feel rather than going for big the production often witnessed in the former. There's a welcome edge to the sound, and it manages to feel fresh without being radically different. This is probably because they have managed to put together a strong catalogue of songs which have a corporate worship feel to them and are for the most part uplifting, reserving the more individual, intimate worship songs for later in the album. The result is a worship journey that works in the context of a cd, so full marks to the team for that. The opening song “Answer for this World” is a genuine worship song and is a great start to the album. It's hard to find a weak song on here but “You Reign” and “Our God is Mercy” are two other stand out tracks for me and ones that will probably be heard in my church very soon. To me, this is a worship album that “gets it right” and there aren't too many of those around at the moment. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2011)
VARIOUS : Good Good Father. (Elevation : ELE2212D)
This 2 Cd collection features 30 contemporary worship songs that are inspiring and building the church today. Maybe I’m missing something, but around two thirds of these songs were brand new to my ears. “Good Good Father,” “At Your Name,” and “Friend of God” lead proceedings, and they’re all pretty good versions. “Wide Open Spaces” has become a firm favourite with me. Meanwhile, people may moan, but I still think that “Once Again” and “10,000 Reasons” are smashing songs to worship with. Indeed, I led the former at my own church only a few days ago. “Guardian” was one of the new songs to grab my attention, with the theme of God, our great defender. Sung by Nick Herbert, it soon had me reaching for the lyric booklet so that I could join in. Mark Tedder sings “Above All” very well, while Martyn Layzell kicks off the second CD with “Happy Day.” The next few songs fialed to ignite my passion. In fact, “I found the song “Canons” to be quite torturous to listen too. However, the tide turns with “The Same Power” and “Here is Jesus.” Both songs are quite beautiful, yet powerful at the same time. To end, there’s a rousing, contemorary version of “How Great Thou Art,” led by Pete James. There have been a number of worship collections of late and, although not the best, this one does have the added bonus if those new songs. 7/10. (June 2017)
VARIOUS : Going the Distance – Live Worship from the Keswick Convention. (Elevation : ELE1806D)
I’ve had an interesting relationship with Keswick worship albums over the years. Some have been good, some have been awful and the only consistent factor is you are never sure quite what you are going to get. Thankfully, in this instance, we find ourselves with a better example of Keswick worship and, possibly, the best so far. Featuring worship leaders Peter Gunstone, Stuart Townend and Colin Webster there is the usual variety of traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs. The hymns are well arranged, with a contemporary feel and the opener “And Can it Be” is probably the best example. However there is a welcome variety amongst the more modern songs too – this version of Chris Tomlin’s “Great is Your Faithfulness” is a super interpretation of an excellent song, driven solidly by the guitar backing yet this contrasts with, for example, the more laid back “Kyrie Eleison”, a modern twist on an old theme by Keith Getty and the aforementioned Stuart Townend. It is fair to say that Keswick worship is a little more conservative than some worship styles currently in vogue so it is likely to appeal to a specific audience but, even as someone who perhaps prefers more spontaneity, I find the variety and quality of songs something that these other worship albums often fail to match up to. On that basis, I rate this as a pretty solid affair and am happy to commend it. Robin Thompson. 8/10. (July 2013)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Grapevine 96 The Power of Your Love. (ICC)
I wasn't there, but I do like this live worship album. Featuring Chris Bowater, Johnny Markin, and Trish Morgan - amongst others - there are 14 songs to keep your eyes and hearts firmly fixed on God. Kicking off with 'He's the Lord of Hosts', the music slowly leads you into worship rather than expecting an immediate response. It's always difficult to imagine the event as it happened, unless you were actually there, but the leaders do seem to have a gentle way of encouraging. 'Lord We Come to You', 'Ready For the Rain' , and 'Heartbeat' are just three more titles that Grapevine 'fans' can hear on this album. 7/10. (December 1996)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Grapevine Celebrations - The Best of... (Word : SPND009)
Not another compilation? There seems to be rather too many of these being released at the moment instead of spending the money to promote new talent. "What next?", I ask myself, "The Best of the 'Best of' album?". This one, for what it's worth, is fairly mediocre in quality. The opening two tracks had me cringing as I visualised Alvin Stardust on those quirky Rock Gospel Shows of the 80's. The first high point comes from Trish Morgan and the beautifully crafted 'You Are Lord'. Martin Smith then brings acoustic worship to it's peak with his own 'Thank You For Saving Me'. Listening to the response of those gathered at the event, there is no doubt that, at the time, worship was special. However, after listening to so many similar albums over the last couple of months, I found this - despite Noel Richard's 'Behold the Lord' - just uninspiring. 4/10. (November 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Greenbelt 25. (ICC ICCD27630)
Although I have never been a great Greenbelt fan myself, this album is undoubtedly going to stir a lot of happy memories in people. In fact, the opening track from River City People prompted me to buy their album many moons ago. There's some really good sounds here, like, Michael W. Smith's "Secret Ambition", Eden Burning's "Deep Blue Sea", and "Bright Red Carpet" from All Star United. For me, there's also some poor material included but, there again, I've never been a fan of Ricky Ross or Martyn Joseph. Some of these songs you won't of heard for years and Steve Taylor's "We Don't Need No Colour Code" will remind everyone of his outrageous stage shows. Vigilantes of Love provide something different with the acoustic-folk "The Opposite's True" and, for once, I even enjoyed Garth Hewitt! 8/10. (February 1999)
VARIOUS : Hallelujahs. (Rocketown Records : 826872000326)
After the success of Michael W Smith's worship albums it is, perhaps, no surprise that his record label puts out a similar collection from the company's artists. Chris Rice, Watermark, Shaun Groves, etc, they're all here. The former sings the title track nicely, even if it is a little dull in content, while Ginny Owens chips in with two good songs "All I Want to Do" and the pretty "I Am Nothing". Alathea contribute, perhaps, the best track from their debut album, "Emmanuel". I liked it on release, and I still get the same tingling feeling listening to it now. Ronnie Freeman and Out of the Grey are also featured on an album that doesn't really lead anywhere. As a promo, it's passable. 5/10. (October 2003)
VARIOUS : Healer. (Integrity Music : 47532)
Here we have a 15 track compilation of contemporary praise and worship songs from the Integrity Music back catalogue 1993-2009. Unlike many such compilations issued these days it is nice to see the main artists credited - and details of the original albums are also given, so I am sure that that this release will encourage listeners to investigate the artists further (although note that it is Terry White, not Christy Nockels as stated, who delivers Steve Merkel's 'The Lord is your keeper'!). Another way in which this release differs from other such compilations is that instead of an upbeat opener it begins with Paul Baloche's 'Your name' - a reflective song, nicely delivered, and one of the stand-outs in my opinion. Other strong ones include New Life Worship with Jared Anderson's beautiful 'Hear us from Heaven' that builds nicely, Don Poythress's recent one 'The faithful love of Jesus' - mainly set to the chords of 'People get ready'(!) and featuring Ricky Scaggs, Ben Fielding's 'Mighty to save' delivered by Laura Story and set to a particularly strong arrangement, and Mike Gugliemucci's 'Healer' sympathetically sung by Kari Jobe. The best of all musically is probably Christy Nockels with Nancy Gordon's 'Be still and know' - particularly well recorded, beautifully arranged, beautifully sung. Regular readers will be aware that poor sound quality is one of my pet hates(!) - I can happily report that this is rarely a problem here. Much to enjoy then, and worth 9/10. Dave Deeks (November 2010)
VARIOUS : Heart of Worship Vol 5. (Authentic : 8203352)
For those not familiar with this series, this album consists of studio recordings of well known worship songs performed by an independent group of musicians and worship leaders. So what you are not getting is a repackaging of something you may already have or a snapshot of a particular worship event. My initial impression of this particular two disc set was that it is an album of two halves, disc one being far stronger overall than disc two (although two of the best songs, excellent renditions of "Beautiful" and "May the Words of My Mouth" are found on the second cd). I think this rests mainly in a poor choice of track ordering for disc two which does not allow the worship to flow naturally and seems not to make musical sense either. The musicianship however, is excellent and there is a strong sense of worship from the band although the production, particularly on the opening tracks, sounds rather "boomy". The big let down though is the addition of a congregation on a large proportion of the songs. This is completely contrived and makes no sense to me at all. If you want a congregation to be involved to enhance the worship feel then surely it is best record it live in a worship setting. If you want a studio album, make it that. What you end up with here is a worship mess which works against the best intentions of the band and completely spoils some of the more initmate numbers. Another niggle is that the track listing for disc one is wrong. Overall then, a little disappointing, which is a shame because there really is some excellent stuff on here. The songs work better in isolation rather than as a whole package and that is probably how I would use an album like this. 6/10 Robin Thompson (May 2005)
VARIOUS : Heart of Worship. Vol.8. (Authentic : 8204952)
The first thing I liked about this two CD package was the sleeve notes. The use of a slightly larger typeface meant that I could actually read them without reaching for a magnifying glass! You know the formula here, a mixture of live and studio recorded tracks, with some well known songs, and a few new ones thrown in too. CD1 has an uplifting and inspiring start with "Enough" and "Because of Your Love". "Hosanna" is a great song and the female vocalist really gives everything. "Refuge" is sung about an unchanging God, and that is another top number. There are no references to the actual singers of each song but the male on "Send Me" does a remarkable impression of Enrique Iglesias. The regularity of good songs throughout the album is a massive plus and although I preferred the first Cd, the second does have it's moments, such as "Holding Nothing Back", "I Am Yours" and "Worthy is the Lamb". Whether luck comes into it I don't know, but this seems to be a well thought out collection for worship. 8/10. (August 2009)
VARIOUS : Here I Am to Worship 3. (EMI : WTD 45993)
As the title suggests, this is the third in the series of 'Here I Am to Worship' which looks to bring the listener the best in modern worship sung in churches across the country. And, after listening to the album, I'd certainly be very pleased to see some of these songs used in my church. Jeremy Camp starts things off with a good version of Tim Hughes' 'Beautiful One". That's followed by a powerful, guitar driven 'Father, Spirit, Jesus' from Casting Crowns, which was new to me. Vicky Beeching provides the reflective "Above All Else" while Chris Tomlin continues to impress with the radio friendly 'Not to Us'. The Robbie Seay Band is a new name to me, but with distinctive vocals, provide the attractive 'Hallelujah God Is near'. By now, we're at mid-album, and the quality doesn't drop, with further offerings from Rebecca St James, and Kutless. Matt Redman sings a spirit filled version of 'Once Again' and there's a punchy rock number from Audio Adrenaline. This is certainly one of the better compilation albums around. 8/10 (June 2006)
VARIOUS : Heritage Hymns. (Kingsway : KMCD2823)
For those of you who just love the old fashioned hymns, here's a super collection of 50 such pieces of music. Some are sang accappella, whilst others have either organ or orchestral backing. All are sang with the utmost care and attention. It might be a bit much to expect you to listen to all 50 hymns one after another, but I enjoyed hearing some long forgotten tunes in short doses. The list is endless, but classics include 'Thine Be the Glory', 'Love Divine All Loves Excelling', 'Morning Has Broken', 'Great is Thy Faithfulness', and 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross'. From those I wasn't too familiar with, 'From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable' and 'Lord I Come Before Your Throne of Grace', were both worthy of a mention. This collection will probably not appeal to those used to a lively, modern church, but for us oldies, it's a reminder of something special. 7/10 (Feburary 2008)
Various : Hip Hope Hits 2007 (Gotee : GT047744)
This is a compilation of the best Christian Hip Hop Hits of the last year and features artists such as DJ Maj, John Reuben and Toby Mac. Grits kick the cd off with "Changes", an honest appraisal of the change that takes place in the life of a believer. This is a rather laid back number, which contrasts with the more aggressive second track, "Stepped On" from Pettidee. There are a number of stand out tracks on this album, my favourites being Mars iLL's "More", the brass driven "Crazy" from Liquid and the frank honesty of "Plain White Rapper" from KJ-52. Many of these artists have very clever and subtle ways of expressing their intentions and emotions and many of the strengths of these songs lie in their lyrics which are often underpinned with humour. There are far too many good examples of this to quote here, and I suggest you try them out for yourself. Rap often has dark suggestive overtones but these are not present here. Far from it, this is an album bubbling with hope and optimism amidst the angst and troubles of life. If this cd can't speak to a troubled generation, what can? 9/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2007)
VARIOUS : Hip Hope 2008. (Gotee : 67090118)
This is the fourth album in the series of Hip Hope hits, and gives a selection of today's music scene in the hip hop genre. I'm always keen to listen to all types of music, so I thought that I'd give this one a go myself. Toby Mac starts things off with a song called 'Boomin'. Now, this really sounded like rock music, and I was a bit cofused. The second track is 'Whatcha Gonna Do With It' by Family Force 5, and this, too, is more rock orientated than hip hop. I'm afraid that a lot of the songs made no impression on me and I found Christian messages rather thin on the ground when it came to the lyrics. However, 'Hear My Cry' by Soul P talks about being led to God and I quite liked this one. The track that did stand out for me was Diverse Citizens' 'Party'. Let's all celebrate being part of God's family and do it like the band, with a fusion of rock and hip hop, and some great, blazing vocals. It's a tired old cliché I know, but if this is the best that hip hop has to offer, I'd rather not bother with another album. 3/10 (April 2008)
VARIOUS : Hymn Anthems. (Elevation : ELE1603D)
This is a collection of contemporary celebrations of classic hymns. Recorded at Detling, Keswick, Spring Harvest, and other events, you get a feeling of the live event in most of the songs. Although there are no credits for the worship leader’s, I think that I may have spotted Graham Kendrick’s stirring vocals on the opening ‘All Hail the power of Jesus Name’ and the closing ‘O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing’. ‘Praise to the Lord’ also lifts the soul, and the version of ‘Be Thou My vision’ has a good rhythm and beat to it. A strange inclusion is the acappela version of ‘Amazing Grace’. Nice though it is, it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the recordings. Other hymns included are ‘How Great Thou Art’, When I Survey’ and ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’. Towards the end, there’s some nice guitar work on ‘Here Is love’, which really brightens the song. Not the most outstanding of compilations, but a worthy addition to your collection if this type of celebration is your cup of tea. 6/10 (June 2011)
VARIOUS : I AM Free. (Inpop : POD1388)
This collection of contemporary worship songs opens with the latest radio hit from the Newsboys. Called " I Am Free". It's a corker of a track, and one of those that you could listen to loudly, whilst you're driving down an open road. Israel Houghton performs "Friend of God" in his own inimitable, gospel style, while Tree 63 give a good account of themselves on "Blessed Be Your Name". A new song to me was "Yearn", performed by Shane and Shane. I found it to be very passionate and it really hits home about how we should "yearn" for God. What would a collection be without a Delirious track? It's not the best version I've ever heard, but there's a lot of power in "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever". Other acts featured include Jimmy Needham, Foolish Things, and Superchick who give us a timely reminder just how and why we should worship an all powerful, loving God. As compilations go, this is quite a good collection of songs. 8/10. (February 2007)
Various: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever Vols 1&2. (Sparrow/EMI EMID2705)
This is a compilation of two previously released compilations and contains 50 tracks, split conveniently into two studio discs and two live discs. Some of the recordings on here are excellent, Ten Shekel Shirt"s "Meet with Me" and Noel Richards version of "Come Now is the Time" being my notable favourites but I also found some of the material to be much less engaging. I have to say that, on the whole, the live discs capture the essence of worship much better than their studio counterparts. They are far more vibrant and passionate whereas, and this is a worrying trend in CCM at the moment, the arrangements in some of the studio songs are so at odds with the songs themselves that their meaning and sentiment is swamped. You only have to listen to Matt Redman's "Heart of Worship " to see what I mean. I know that this is not the fault of the compilers of this collection but it has an effect of the overall ambience and feel nonetheless. I'm always sceptical of compilations to be honest, often finding it hard to find a ministry basis for them - this is yet another that seeks to showcase "songs that are having a major impact in worship around the world". However, this is better than some others and is probably worth it for the live discs alone. 7/10 Robin Thompson. (June 2006)
VARIOUS : 'i-Sing Worship'. (Kingsway : KMCD2871)
This double CD set is intended as a contemporary worship resource. CD1 includes lead vocals, CD2 does not. Printed lyrics are included, and sheet music is said to be available via www.kingswaysongs.com, although I couldn't find any reference to the album when I tried - hopefully the review copy was an 'advance' one and all details will be available by the time you read this. Seven vocalists are featured on CD1 - Susan Ashton, Andrew Mitchell, Steve Garrett, Andy Bromley, Christine Dente, Paul Oakley and Godfrey Birtill. Unfortunately they are not identified track by track, although intelligent guesswork(!) can identify some of them from the songwriting credits. My favourite was Paul Oakley's update of Frances R Havergal's 'Take my life and let it be', which features a nice repeating piano riff that carries the melody along and beautifully underpins the strong lyrics. Other standouts for me were 'All glory to the King of Ages', a good melody, well performed, written by Paul Oakley and Chris Spring - and 'In Christ Alone', which seems to have become such a 'standard' that I can barely believe that Keith Getty and Chris Townend wrote it as recently as 2001! Whilst production quality overall ranges from good to adequate, the sound quality ranges from adequate to poor- the opener 'Clothed with splendour' being particularly distorted and compressed. The backing tracks on CD2 are exactly what they say. In common with other 'performance-style' worship tracks however, groups intending singing to these for 'small meeting' worship may struggle with the lack of musical 'cues'. Overall, 7/10. Dave Deeks (August 2008)
VARIOUS : In Christ Alone: Songs of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. (Integrity)
Here we have a 16 track compilation of Townend and Getty songs made famous over the past 25 years. As expected, these recordings mostly feature either Stuart or Kristyn on lead vocals, but also include one with Tim Hughes and a couple with Joanne Hogg. Those delivered by Kristyn and Joanne are the ones that shine performance-wise, as both have a special ability to make a song come to life spiritually. The complex and interesting instrumentation of Joanne's 'Across the lands' and 'Benediction' make them particularly attractive musically, with the latter sharing standout status with Kristyn's beautifully delivered 'Speak O Lord'. Stuart's songs are in the main less successful. His 'Creation sings' is a particular example, where his somewhat matter-of-fact delivery and the twee and 'poppy' arrangement do not suit the lyrics. His 'Come people of the risen King' is a similar disappointment, worthy of an altogether more imaginative approach. Although these tracks were obviously recorded over a period of time in a variety of situations, sound quality throughout is consistently good. Averaging everything out then, 7/10. David Deeks (April 2016)
VARIOUS : IN The Name of Love. (EMI : Spd 83552R)
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this album goes directly to World Vision (UK) to help their HIV/Aids work in Zambia and other Southern African countries. Kingsway Communications will also donate 30p for each full price copy sold. So, it's all in a good cause, but is that a good enough reason to buy the album? Imagine going to see 13 U2 tribute bands and artists at your local pub. Then, on your way out, buy the CD of the night's highlights. That, in a nutshell,is what you get here. Some you will like, others you will not. Pillar start things off with a passable version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", which is quickly followed by a better than average "Beautiful Day" performed by Sanctus Real. Sixpence none the Richer and Delirious? perform weak versions of "Love is Blindness" and "Pride", respectively, while Tait covers "One" quite well. Best by far comes the Grits featuring Jadyn Maria, and their hip-hop take of "With or Without You". It keeps just enough of the original feeling of the song, yet they really make it their own. For the money it raises, this album must be worth your while. For the music content, let's just say, it could be better. 6/10. (March 2005)
VARIOUS : Irish Christmas. (Spring Hill : 7890 4210502 6)
Sub-titled "Tradtional Christmas carols featuring authentic Celtic instruments", the first thing that struck a chord with me was the fact that this album was recorded and produced in Nashville and, not, Ireland. Still, the list of musicians seemed to capture the spirit quite well, and we're treated to some jigs, ballads, and haunting music. The "I Saw Three Ships" medley is, indeed, a jig, and it works well, adding a certain spice to those well known songs. "The First Noel" is also played well, but I did start to tire by the time "The Wexford Carol" came along. There's over 50 minutes of music here featuring well known classics such as "Good Christian Men Rejoice" and "Deck the Halls" but I lost interest very early in proceedings. One tune slips anonymously into the next and an album that started so brightly dims to a flicker by the end. A good idea, but not one that lasts the course. 4/10. (December 2004)
VARIOUS : It’s Your Love. (Elevation : ELE1609D)
Each song on this album has been carefully chosen to inspire a renewed sense of awe and wonder at what God has done for us in Grace through Jesus Christ. The overall theme of love remains central throughout, with songs written by well known, and not so well known songwriters. ‘This is How I Know What Love Is’ starts things off in dynamic style. It’s arousing number, written by Al Gordon and Hanif Williams. Two acoustic numbers stand out early in proceedings, ‘How He Loves us’ and ‘This Is Love’. The latter, written by Dan Wheeler and Paul Field, reminded me of early Dire Straits material. We’re then treat to some more rockier numbers in the form of ‘Living to Love’ and ‘Your Love Has Lifted Me High’. Both stand up very well, in a sort of Casting Crowns sort of way. Leigh Barnard’s ‘No Greater Love’ has a chirpy feel about it, while ‘His Love’ deserves plenty of radio play. Just before the end an unnamed female vocalist takes centre stage for ‘His Love’. Written by Phil Barlow, Steve Barlow and Ray Goudie, it’s one of those songs that builds in power as it plays, and inspires. There’s one or two songs that I felt were a little ordinary but, on the whole, this is quite a good collection. 8/10 (June 2011)
VARIOUS : iWORSHIP 24:7 - Expreience. (Integrity 44542)
The latest in the top-selling iWORSHIP series is a 2 disc package comprising a 16-track CD plus a DVD of live worship videos, song movies, a couple of videos plus a few bits of extras thrown in for good measure. For this alone, it can't be criticised for value! The CD pulls together songs from a variety of well known bands & artists with the likes of The Newsboys, Paul Baloche, & Hillsong making appearances with what have become very well known recent classics in churches everywhere such as "Hosanna" (Hillsong) & "Mighty to Save" as well as Lincoln Brewster's variation on the old clappy favourite "This is the Day" (Today is the Day). This is indeed a successful recipe, but it means there's little variety in the style (i.e. quieter verses building to loud rocky choruses of praise) which has become what seems to be the current popular formula. There is some variation however in the form of Israel Houghton's "I Will Search" & the wonderful ballad-style "You Are Good" from Gateway Worship. Personally I love this stuff & I know it'll be a hit with the target audience, but I am becoming ever more conscious of a growing yearning for something a bit different in the P&W arena. The DVD presents us with 5 live worship songs, including "Mighty to Save" from the CD - all the renditions are excellent but some of the camera work is frustrating as the images dart very quickly from one place to another which does become a slight annoyance. 5 Song Movies follow on which are in essence songs with lyrics set to moving images which again are OK but some of the backgrounds can make reading them difficult. Ignore the promotion for iWORSHIP Flexx software & there are a couple of bonus music videos & downloads plus a snippet from Paul Baloche talking through his song "Rising". An excellent value compilation with some great current material but a bit of variety would be a bonus for some. 9/10 Simon Redfern (April 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Jesus - The Epic Mini Series. (Sparrow :7243 85111129)
Boasting a list of brilliant artists, this album was bound to be something special. Leann Rimes makes full use of her precocious talent on "I Need You", a great ballad, and DC Talk present a re-vamped version of the classic 60's hit "Spirit in the Sky". Avalon show off their pop pedigree on "Fly To You" and Sarah Brightman reprises her hit "Pie Jesu". And, if those are not enough, the icing on the cake is provided by two superb ballads. Top American country act, Lonestar follow up their world wide hit "Amazed" with "Love Can Change Your Mind" - a song that brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it. Magnificent, just doesn't do the song justice, it really is incredible. Jaci Velasquez then follows with a track "When You Walked Into My Life". Her smooth, rich vocals, melt into your heart and produce one, very classy, love song. Often, these compilations fail to deliver the promise but, on this occasion, you won't be disappointed. 9/10. (June 2000)
VARIOUS : Jesus Firm Foundation – Hymns of Worship. (Provident : 02341-0180-2)
This collection of timeless hymns have been “re-imagined” by today’s most respected Christian artists. The sad thing for me, listening to this album, was that I didn’t know a lot of the hymns. I guess, by the artists featured, that most of these tunes are American. I enjoyed the title track, even though I didn’t know the song. This one is sung by Mike Donehey (Tenth Avenue North), Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall (Casting Crows) and Mandisa. I smiled to myself as I listened to ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’. The big voice, the over the top production, it just had to be Michael W. Smith. Matt Maher sings a nice version of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, while Kari Jobe gives a pretty rendition of ‘Be Still My Soul’. For lover’s of Celtic music, both the Newsboys and Matthew West give tremendous versions of ‘Jesus Paid It All’ and ‘Blessed Assurance’, respectively. This, I feel is the album’s purple patch and it’s a strong finish to the track listing. It’s an album that throws up a few different sounds for the listener, and despite the unfamiliarity of some of the hymns, it’s well worth a listen. 8/10. (July 2013, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : Jesus Lover of My Soul. (Kingsway : KMCD3105)
This 14 track CD is a curious one in some ways. The insert features no artist credits, but squinting at the small print indicates that all tracks are Paul Oakley compositions written between 1994 and 2007 - one of them jointly with Nathan Fellingham. It needed a look at the web site www.kingsway.co.uk to reveal that Paul himself covers some of the vocals, with others featuring Lou Fellingham, Stuart Townend and Kate Simmonds. This is an enjoyable release that serves to emphasize Paul's strong contribution to contemporary praise and worship over recent years - it would have been nice if this fact had been made more obvious, as otherwise there appears little rationale behind the selection of tracks, which all appear to be reissues from the Kingsway back catalogue. The web site says they are a blend of live and studio recordings, but the studio ones feature 'audience participation' so all are presented in 'join in praise and worship' style. Whilst some suffer from over-heavy rock guitar arrangements that seem to detract from the beauty of the words, there are real standouts here. My favourites happen to be the last two on the album i.e. 'Amazing God' which I am pretty sure is sung by Kate Simmonds (whose voice always seems to simply ooze worship) and the title track, which I think is sung by Paul. Other strong ones (and my guesses as to the artists) are 'I stand amazed' (Kate Simmonds), 'Who is there like you?' (Stuart Townend - a beautiful arrangement I have heard before), and 'Father me' (Lou Fellingham). I am also glad to report that the sound quality is good! Overall, a worthy 8/10. Dave Deeks (September 2010)
VARIOUS : Joy to the World. (INO Records : 40462)
Sub-titled "The Ultimate Christmas Collection", this album had a lot to live up to before it had even reached my CD player. It begins with Mercy Me and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". Production hasn't been spared on this track and the intstrumentation and choral backing are of epic proportions. Phil Whickham's droning vocals, on the other hand, a real turn off for the song "Messiah". Phillips, Craig & Dean, Mark Harris, and Todd Agnew provide pleasurable listening with their contributions but I'm not sure what Sonicflood were thinking of when it came to their interpretation of "Angels We Have Heard on High". On the plus side, it's not just a straight copy of the ancient tune, and some thought must have gone into it, but this version does absolutely nothing for such a classic carol. Of the rest, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong provide the pick with "Hallelujah", while 4Him runs a close second. The Ultimate Christmas Collection? No, not really. 6/10. (December 2006)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Jumping in the House of God III. (Alliance:1908122).
Featuring the Tribe, Delirious?, Raze, Matt Redman, and many more, this release moves on from it's predecessor. It starts well enough, with the Tribe giving it all with 'Lift It' but it's track 3 that really makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Ex-HOG man, Justin Thomas raps his way - Coolio style - with the super excellent 'Thank You For the Rain'. Believe me, this number is just soooooo good! Things go rather downhill after this with bland efforts from Minds of Men and Storm. Delirious? go disco? 'Revival Town' has been been turned into a monster, while Matt Redman's 'Be in My Life' has become nothing more than a dirge. There are other highlights, including Lucy Britten's pumping 'Nothing Compares' and both contributions from Raze. On the whole, I guess I disllike this album as much as I cringe when my daughter has left the car stereo tuned in to the dance music radio station. I suppose, therefore, it's not too bad but it's not patch on God II. 5/10. (October 1998)
VARIOUS : Jumping..The Highest. (Alliance : 50285 19082220).
An upbeat album not to be missed. A mixture of the previous "Jumping in the House of God" albums. There's something for everyone, if you like dance music. From very 'jumping' tracks to rap, and to old songs given the dance treatment, this is an album for the youth generation. There are quite a few WWMT songs featured on this compilation so, if you're not a fan, this may not be the album for you. I was most surprised to see an old hymn "Be Still" had made it onto the album but, I liked it's new dance style backing - far better than the traditional tune! As I said, it's a good dance album which also features Cameron Dante, Delirious, and Raze. 7/10. Annabel Wray. (June 2000)
VARIOUS : Just Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2861)
Sub-titled '50 Must Have Worship Songs', this is another collection of songs, put together on 3 CD's. However, the brilliant thing about this collection is that I don't think that I had heard of any of the songs before! Certainly, they aren't the usual crop of well known tunes that get churned out several times each year. There are no credits for the singers or musicians featured, but they all do a sterling job. First song of note was Paul Oakley's 'We Have Prayed' sung memorably, for me, by a female vocalist. What a good song it is. Then, comes Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche's 'Praise is Rising' - an exhilarating number. A song I enjoyed singing along to was 'I Have No-one in Heaven', written by Gareth Robinson, while songs like 'You Never Cease to Amaze Me', 'So This is Love' and 'How Can I Become' all take worship to another level. It really was a pleasure to listen to these songs and latterly, I thought that 'You Give Rest to the Weary' was very beautiful. If you tired of hearing the same worship songs over Andover again, this collection will brighten your day. 9/10 (June 2008)
VARIOUS : Keswick Praise 17. (ICC : ICCD69830)
As always, hundreds gathered for the annual Keswick Convention last summer and, from it, comes the album "Keswick Praise 17". Led by John Risbridger and Colin Webster, the congregation are accompanied by some talented musicians. It begins with some Celtic worship that builds from a quiet, reflective piece, to a strong middle piece, before slowly, closing quite gently. "My Lips Shall Praise You" is a joyous song but the recording is hampered somewhat by what sounds like a chirping bird throughout! "Above All" is delivered with all the majesty that it deserves, while "When I Was Lost" gathers everyone together in full praise. I'd never heard of "Awake, Awake O Zion" but, I really enjoyed listening to it here. The mood changes towards the end for some old fashioned hymns and worship, that includes the lovely "Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting" and "Thank You For Saving Me". Not outstanding, but a worthy addition to your collection. 7/10. (February 2003)
VARIOUS : Keswick Praise 20. (ICC : ICCD0888D)
There's nothing really new about the format of a Keswick praise album, only the songs change, so you know basically what to expect. However, saying that, I've been pleased to receive and review copies of this series over the years, mostly resulting in pleasant experiences. But, on this occasion, I have to say that I found the whole thing sounding very tired. Worship leaders such as Steve James and John Risbridger, fail to liven things up and the musicianship is very ordinary. Indeed, I'm not sure whether it was a poor recording or just that some over zealous musicians in the brass section often seemed to want to take over proceedings. Songs include "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship", "Let Everything That Has Breath", and "Your Name Is Holy", but they sound very bland. The only song to really catch my imagination was the version of Stuart Townend's "Psalm 23". For once, it sounded as if the congregation and musicians really were praising as one. Not one I'd really recommend. 3/10. (March 2006)
VARIOUS : Keswick Live. (Elevation : ELE1563D)
I've reviewed several of the Keswick praise albums over the years and the quality of these has varied considerably. As a result, you can never be sure exactly what you are going to get. This particular release features a number of well known names, Stuart Townend and Phatfish, Dan Wheeler and Lou Fellingham being the artists in question. This gives the suggestion that this is going to be one of the better ones. And it is, indeed, a rather decent worship album. Gone are the of times twee arrangements and the questionable production. This album is far more sophisticated in both respects, with a harder edge and more contemporary feel. "To God be the Glory" personifies this and I even like the 4/4 arrangement of "Be Thou My Vision" (am I the only person who prefers that song in 3/4?). There's energy where it is needed and the mix is about right - not too much of the congregation but enough so that you know it's live and it's worship. Finally, I'm impressed. 8/10 RobinThompson. (December 2010)
VARIOUS : Kill The Ill. (https://shawnbrowningfundraiser.bandcamp.com/album/kill-the-ill-a-benefit-compilation-for-shawn-browning)
Opening with a prayer (and not one set to music either) the purpose of this CD is set from the off - a benefit for Shawn Browning, a leading light in the punk/metal/hardcore scene who has done so much to support the Christian hard music scenes. This compilation features songs donated by 80 bands from these genres to raise money for medical expenses for the owner of Rottweiler Records and lead singer of the band Grave Robber. Shawn only asked for prayers, but this fundraiser reflects an outpouring of love and support for him. With 91 tracks, you are getting both value for money and a clear view of the respect in which Browning is held. These aren't throwaway live tracks either, but are top-class studio ones (it includes "Breaking Out" from Pleading Guilty, who I reviewed just before this album, "Vivente" by Aggelos that I made special mention of on "Meltdown" and "Teeth" by A Broken Line that I thought the best track on their recent album). There's a shedload of styles here and my best attempt at illustrating this is to say (illustrating each with only one example - there are loads of each) that there's the metal (Hand Of Fire), classic punk (The Kings Kids), skater punk (Pleading Guilty), thrash/speed (The Hoax with a classic 39 second song), non-English (Soldados De Deus), hardcore (Doomsday Hymn), pop punk guitar riffs (Dismissed), doom (Skald In Veum), opera (Aggelos), electronica (Blindfold Execution), ambient (Kneel), acoustic (Abby Nicole), worship (Johnnyboy), pop metal (Vamoosery), "power worship" (Peter118 feat. Lisa Cox), pop punk reggae (No Lost Cause), Ramones-style USA punk (The Plank Eyed Saints), Sex pistols rifferama (October Bird Of Death), spoken word (Ospreyshire) and rockabilly (The Altar Billies). Listing the bands that I was reminded of would take even longer. There's a stronger emphasis to the punk end of this particular musical spectrum and all the genres mentioned above should be interpreted in the punk/metal context (even some of the acoustic stuff). Naturally there's not going to be an overall theme on such an album, but I would like to mention the lyrics to "Drive Thru America" which I thought very good, especially the middle section. And if you've ever wanted to hear "Jesus is the King of kings and we will praise his holy name" screamed over a death metal backing, then Abednego won't disappoint. If you've ever heard music on the Thumperpunk label then you know the lyrics won't be subtle – “I AM That I AM” is essentially a sermon and altar call over music (but a lot better than that makes it sound). Four hours of music for ten dollars (or more if you feel so led) is certainly value for money. Personally I found the continuous onslaught of guttural vocals in some sections a bit wearing, longing for someone who'd just sing for a change - just to lighten up before hitting you again. Maybe this is an album to play on shuffle, especially as generally tracks have been grouped together by genre in the playlist. There were some superb guitar riffs (“Awaken The Warrior”, the ending of “Trust In You”, “Bloodlust”), keyboard work (“The End Of Emnity”), interplay of the two (“Awaken The Warrior”), a fabulous introduction on “O Plano” and so on. I was more attracted to the metal end of the overdrive guitar spectrum on display here, but if you like your guitars loud and drums pounding then there'll be more than one track here for you. I certainly enjoyed the variety and the sheer number of new bands it introduced me to. At about 10p per track, what's to lose (apart from your hearing)? It took me a long time to settle on my “best track”, because there were just too many to choose from! So, with honourable mentions to “Loud And Proud” by True Liberty, “Andar De Skate” by Soldados De Deus, “Hard Day” by Dismissed, “Burning Of The Last Bible” by Forfeit Thee Untrue, “The Vision” by Eleos, “Vivente” by Aggelos, “Awaken The Warrior” by O Wretched Man, “The Trail In The Snow” by Immortal Souls, “Smile” by Kneel, “Follow Me” by Abby Nicole, “BRKN” by Light The Way, “Trust In You” by Vamoosery, “Keeping Up Appearances” by The Plank Eyed Saints, “I Wanna Kill You” by The Ben Aldrich Project, “I AM That I AM” by Blindfold Execution, “Long Long Road” by The Altar Billies, I finally settled on this one. Best track: (and this certainly reflects my musical taste): “Great I Am” by Peter118 feat. Lisa Cox. 8/10. Paul Ganney. (May 2017)
VARIOUS : The King of All of Me. (Maranatha : 1280722)
This album of new worship from Maranatha! And Vineyard UK uniquely features new worship songs collected from churches in North America and the UK. Indeed, there's quite a variety of styles and I particularly liked the first track, "All From You". Sam Lanes provides excellent vocals to a song that although recorded in a studio, looks certain to become a favourite at live events. "How Very Great You Are" acknowledges Jesus as Saviour, while I found "Forever You" to be very anointing. "Unfailing Love" is a nice pop song and Carly Orpen sings beautifully on "How Could I Live Without You". There's some quiet worship to be found with "All That I Can Say", while there's a Delirious sound to "King Forever". I'd enjoyed most of the song by this time, so I was somewhat surprised by sombre renditions, "All Hail Jesus" and "Thirst". Neither song inspired me to worship or praise the Lord, and I found them both to be rather tedious. But, that's just a minor moan on an album that boasts some very good songs, otherwise. 7/10. (October 2006)
VARIOUS : Kids Praise Party DVD. (Spring Harvest/Elevation : ELE1732A)
The songs on this DVD may well be familiar, having no doubt featured on their respective artists own albums previously. The artists in question are Doug Horley (aka Duggie Dug Dug!), Pete James, Becky Drake, Damian Herbert, Steve Squires and Frank Lee Rox. So there will be no critique of the songs here suffice to say that they are largely uptempo in keeping with the praise party theme. Each song accompanies a computer generated cartoon, with animation that reminds me of the old TV game show “Catchphrase”. Thankfully the graphics are superior by quite some margin if still rather stylised. I have to say, the whole thing is quite fun and you have various choices which turn this into a rather useful resource. For instance you can choose to have the song words displayed on screen if you wish, or you can just have the backing tracks and can sing along Karaoke style. There's even the option to have each song in sign language. However, it really doesn't matter what I think – it has to engage the attention of the children it is aimed at. So here are the thoughts of my 7 year old daughter - “It was really good. I like the bit when Percy Penguin's crazy. He was singing fast”. This is in reference to the Doug Horley Song ”God Can Do Anything” where the song gets faster and faster until it's almost unsingable (and unsignable!) with the gauntlet laid down at the end to see who can do better! So, overall, an excellent DVD which is a lot of fun but also a fantastic gateway to praise. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (July 2012)
VARIOUS : King of Nations. (KWCD3177)
Every now and then, a worship album stands out from the crowd, and this is one! Recorded live at the King of Nations event in Norfolk, hats off must go to the sound and recording crew who’s skills have captured the very essence of this live gathering. Jordan Dillon’s ‘Righteousness of God’ is a very engaging start and a new one to my ears. That’s followed by another good song, Matt Redman, and ‘The Glory of Our King’. Although played in a modern, contemporary way, this rendition is so much more than just a performance orientated song. Jules Burt lends her lovely voice to ‘You Are Good’, while Dillon’s ‘Psalm 40 just hurtles along. The great thing is with this recording is that you can still hear the audience joining in with each song and that adds to a fantastic mix. There are some really good songs here and many that I’ve never heard before. Redman’s ‘We Shall Not Be Shaken’ has some excellent rhythms and a super chorus, while I defy anyone not to join in with his version of ‘Great Is Your Faithfulness/How He Loves’. If those songs aren’t enough, there’s also Lou Fellingham and Phatfish, who are at their best on ‘To God Be The Glory’. This really is one exceptional album of live worship. 10/10 (May 2011)
VARIOUS : King of Wonders - Songs of Revelation and Response. (Kingsway : KMCD3096)
Kingsway have a wealth of material to call upon when putting a worship compilation together, and this 2CD set is another one. Here we have 30 tracks ranging from 1994 to 2009, with the intended theme indicated by the title. Sadly, as with other Kingsway compilations of late, whilst writers are credited artists are not. It was good however to see a full set of lyrics printed, helping to emphasise the largely high quality of the written content. Many songs were already familiar to me but others had so far passed me by and I found one or two pleasant surprises here. The two standouts for me were 'Too much' with beautiful words, strong melody, excellent female vocal, and 'Whole world in His hands' an altogether particularly strong song, beautifully arranged and delivered by a male vocalist. Other standouts included the title track 'King of wonders', the excellently arranged 'Everlasting God' (often known as 'Strength will rise'!), 'Creator King' with a strong hook in the chorus and an excellent repeating guitar riff, and the strongly melodic and nicely arranged 'Redeemer' with particularly good melody and female vocals. Most of the songs are delivered in 'studio performance' mode, with no 'congregation' in the background although many would nevertheless be appropriate for 'small meeting' worship sessions. Complaints about the overall listening experience? the volume varies a bit from track to track and, as is all too common, the sound suffers from distortion due to over-compression.7/10. Dave Deeks (October 2010)
VARIOUS : Kingdom Come. (Gospo Centric: 5751700352).
Adapted for film from the hit stage play "Dearly Departed", Kingdom come is a collection of stories about a family that has experienced the death of the figurehead, Woodrow "Bud" Slocumb. Although tension run high during the funeral, the family finds that Bud has a valuable lesson to teach them before they lower him into the ground. With all tracks written by Kirk Franklin, you know that the standard of music is going to be good. With artists such as the man himself, plus Crystal Lewis, and Mary Mary all taking part, the result should be exceptional. Shouldn't it? The 11 songs are a mix of Urban and Gospel music. The title track is okay and the soulful "Daddy's Song" met with nodding approval from those I played it too. "Thank You" features Franklin and Mary Mary, in a hip hop number that Destiny's Child wouldn't be out of place performing. "Thy Will Be Done" features some top female harmonies, with the lead being taken by Deborah Cox. The movie features Whoopie Goldberg, amongst others, and that should ensure that the soundtrack sells in bucketloads. For me, I'd like to see the film before decididng. 6/10. (August 2001)
VARIOUS : Let’s All Worship. (Kingsway : KWCD3276)
Part of Kingsway’s strength is in it’s mountain of back catalogue that it can pick and choose from, when putting together a compilation like this. Sub titled “The Very Best Worship Songs of All Time”, it must have been tough call to make it onto the two Cd’s. Despite a rather bland version of ‘Here I Am To Worship’, Tim Hughes features strongly, with both ‘Counting on Your Name’ and ‘Happy Day’ enjoying their place. Matt Redman delivers a powerful rendition of ‘Blessed Be Your Name’, as does Stuart Townend on ‘In Christ Alone’. I found ‘Manifesto’ by The City Harmonic to be more performance orientated and, indeed I scribbled down the phrase “Awful noise”, when I initially listened to it. As a personal favourite, Delirious? Treat listeners to the classic, ‘I Could Sing of Your Love Forever’. Of the girls featured, Cathy Burton’s ‘Mighty to Save’ is great, while Susan Ashton’s ‘The Heart of Worship’ is simply beautiful. I thought this when I first heard the version last year, and my opinion hasn’t changed one bit. Of the songs I didn’t know so well, then The Rend Collective’s ‘Exalt’ contains some wonderful brass sounds. 30 songs in all, and I’m sure there’s something for everyone within. 7/10. (March 2012)
VARIOUS : Light of the World. (Kingsway : KMCD2859)
One thing I've noticed about this year's praise and worship compilations is the number of new songs included. Gone, are the days when the record companies released the same dozen or so songs, sung by different artists. Instead, we have fresh arrangements and joyful sounds, like this 3 CD collection from Kingsway. The songs are all live recordings and are led by worship leaders, Chris Bowater, Godfrey Birtill, Andy Bromley, Howard Williams, Gareth Clark, and Geraldine Latty. One of the early exciting songs just happens to be a well known number. 'Your Mercy Taught Us How To Dance' just leaps from your speakers and you're soon singing along. 'There's A Song' has a funky, brass accompaniment, while 'God So Loved This Whole World' is cleverly based around the words of John 3:16. I could list many highlights of this recording, but there just isn't room within this review. One minor moan is that certain songs fade out just when you're in full voice, but on the whole this is a great collection. 9/10 (September 2008, Album of the month)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Little Worshippers - Just For Kids. (Integrity: 97204).
With my family taking their turn at running the Summer Sunday School at our church, it was a gift from God when this tape turned up to review. What better way to gauge it's use than in a live situation? This is a collection aimed at little people (we used to call them children) that teach, praise, and help them learn about coming into the presence of God. Such well known songs as "From the Rising of the Sun", "He's Got the Whole World", and "This is the Day" went down really well and even the slightly differing arrangement failed to throw our group. Out of the new songs, most of them were a little difficult to learn in one session but I think that - with practice - numbers like "The B.I.B.L.E." and "If You're Saved" are going to be winners. For an age range of 4-8 year olds, the songs are fine but our 9 year old certainly wanted the Spice Girls! 7/10. (September 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Live '98 - A Classic Year of live Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2159)
1998 saw 20,000 people gather at Stoneleigh. The largest gathering of Christian women in the UK, for decades, came together at Focusfest, followed by Mandate and a huge assembly of Christian men. Soul Survivor & Re.vive @ Stoneleigh saw young people pouring out their love for the Lord, and the same generation in Canada did the same at Salvation Singing. If that's not enough, a worship team who's average age was just 21, led more than 12,000 worshippers at the Easter People event. This release captures some of these moments with many of the big names in worship appearing on this double CD - including Matt Redman, Paul Oakley, Stuart Towned, Ian White, and others. My favourite tracks are "Take Us to the River" by Robin Mark, and "Great Is He" with leader, Kate Simmonds. Wayne Drain's version of "Be Thou My Vision" is really good and the instrumental at the end rounds it off nicely. Overall, this CD is a good mixture of worship from the year's successful events. We do like these compilation records as they give you the opportunity to listen to musicians you would not normally get the chance to hear. A sound collection of live worship. 8/10. Pam & Tim Robinson. (May 1999)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Live 2002. (Kingsway : KMCD2363)
Featuring worship leaders like David Ruis, Robin Mark, Matt Redman, Brian Doerksen, Kate Simmonds, and a host of others, this double album celebrates the best of the years events from around the world. I'll get it off my chest straight away, so here goes. Why do so many modern worship leaders sound like Redman or Martin Smith? Of the 32 tracks on offer, quite a number fall into this category and I find them all quite tedious to listen to. However, there's a lot of good stuff, so let's focus on that shall we? Kate Simmonds and Redman, himself, begin things with "In Every Day That Dawns" and "I'm Making Melody" respectively. Andy Park's "I Will Praise You Lord My God" is a simple love song to the Lord, while Noel Richards' "When We Turn Our Hearts To Heaven" is a song of great power. Robin Mark's "Men Of Faith" is a rousing number of epic proportion, and always a favourite at live events. Of the other highlights, Tim Sherrington's "I Will Come To the Waters" stands out, as does Rhys Scott's "Almighty God". Both are quality songs from relatively new writers. Not an original release but pretty good for your money. 7/10. (May 2002)
VARIOUS : Live 2008 - Reviewing a Great Year of Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD 2839)
Do we need yet another worship compilation? Apparently so but at least with this one it is clear in its mission. i.e. to provide the best of the worship from 2007's various Christian events. Hang on - 2007 events yet this is Live 2008? Yup, I can't work that one out either - maybe 2007 is just too old hat. Two things strike me about this double cd. Firstly, for the most part it's your typical worship fayre - usual sound, usual suspects so it's solid but not exciting. Secondly, it actually hangs together rather well for a compilation that has taken its source material from different events. Stuart Townend, Andy Bromley, Matt Redman and Godfrey Birtill are some of the many worship leaders represented. It's great to hear Godfrey's stuff on here as it has a certain edge to it and this lifts the whole cd. There's a couple of gospel moments too from Mark Beswick and Smokie Norful which are obviously noticeable by their very different style. So, overall, its not a bad worship cd and will appeal to those that buy these sort of albums. For me though, I'm still searching for something a little different... 6/10 Robin Thompson (June 2008)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Live From Wembley Stadium. Kingsway : KMCD2004)
So now the British 'Event of the Year' has made it onto CD. While the video boasts Delirious?, they are noticeably absent from the album. The man behind it all, Noel Richards, kicks of proceedings with the powerful 'Let Your Love Come Down' and returns later with the excellent 'We Want to See Jesus Lifted High'. Is it me or is Sue Rinaldi still singing the same songs as she did 10 years ago? The Wades? Well, thankfully they only make a brief appearance, but that was more than enough for me. I've never heard of Chris Flason before, but his quite exceptional 'I See the Lord' is a stomping good foot tapper. Matt Redman's the other man with an eye for a good song and there's no doubt that his 'I Will Dance' went down a storm. It's not a brilliant listen, as a whole, but you can't help being captured by the vision and the bravery of the event and the people. 7/10. (November 1997)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship. (Fierce Distribution - FIERCD15)
Here is another double cd compilation, which seem very popular with the record companies at the moment. Twenty-eight songs feature on this one, taken from the artists' own albums. It starts with the Matt Redman number "Praise Awaits You" getting the whole thing off to a rousing start, and this continues with "Salvation is Here" from Hillsong United. By this point you begin to get a feel for what the album is about. Pretty much all the key artists from the new generation of worship leaders are here, Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin, Delirious? et al. It claims to be a "collection of worship songs for a generation of people living their faith out loud" and I can't really argue with that. Indeed, such are these songs that you cannot help but feel suitably inspired to do the same. Included too, is one of my all time favourites, "Surrender" by Marc James from the Vineyard album of the same name. And for those of you that were around in 1978, an excellent version of "I Love You, Lord" which was a Mission Praise stalwart I seem to recall! All in all, nothing new in the sense that these have all been released before, but a great summary of what has been new in worship circles over the last few years. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (October 2005)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship 2. (Fierce! : Fiercd27)
"Live to worship and live for better or worse in the gaze of the King: Live to Worship and live to the full." Those notes are taken from the Cd's sleeve, and really says what this album is all about. There's 30 tracks on 2 CD's, and the songs range from glorious numbers like Delirious?' "Our God Reigns" to the diabolical prog' rock sound of Marc James and "Nothing in This World". Perhaps that's been a bit cruel, as there are other great songs to choose from. Take, for instance, the Simon Parkin Band. On "You Give Hope", they sound very much like The Who in all of their early 60's pomp. Hillsong's "Tell the World" is full of excitement, while there's just pure energy from the Dave Crowder Band ("Undignifed") and Matt Redman ("Dancing Generation"). Then, there's the terrific sound of praise from the Newsboys and "Presence". The collection really tries to give a wide array of contemporary styles and there's lot more plus points to it than minus. Third Day, RPM, and Tim Hughes all produce great moments, but it's Michael W Smith who steals the show with a wholesome version of "Healing Rain". Plenty, here, to get your teeth into. 8/10. (February 2007)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship Vol 3. (Fierce Distribution. FIERCD35)
This is yet another compilation of worship songs that we've all heard hundreds of times before. All the usual suspects are on here. Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Michael W Smith, various Hillsong groups, and of course, the track that nobody in the world can live without, if all the worship CD's for the last fifteen years are anything to go by. "My Glorious" by Delirious? The newest songs on this CD are from 2006 so there's probably nothing here that you haven't heard before. "Indescribable" and "Open the eyes of my heart" are on here to name a couple, oh and there's another Delirious song too "Miracle Maker". It's also very noticeable, that many of the artists on here sound exactly the same. I found that I had to keep looking at the sleeve to see who was singing what, because half the time there was no way of telling them apart just by listening. If this were a collection of new songs it would be a good album to listen to, as the music is quite rocky and up tempo, but you could go into any Christian bookshop and pick up another dozen CD's with virtually the same songs on them. I found myself asking the question. What's the point? 5/10 Andy Sayner. (Feburary 2008)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship 4. (Fierce! : FIERCD45)
So, we come to number four of this series and, once again, a double CD package. Matt Redman rarely disappoints, and he's well up to his usual high quality standard with 'Beautiful News'. Leeland's 'Yes, You Have', has a sound of Snow Patrol about it, but it has a brilliant chorus to get your teeth into. From then on, disc one goes rather flat, despite the presence of Tim Hughes, Delirious? and Hillsong United. The second Cd has Ben Cantelon and Vineyard UK presenting 'Celebrate' and 'Holy'. Both are highly charged renditions and full of praise. Cathy Burton seems to improve all the time and her inclusion with 'Great & Glorious' is inspirational. For an "old timer", Graham Kendrick shows that he can still rub shoulders with the best on 'Creation's King', but these a just a few highlights in a rather mediocre release. 6/10 (December 2008)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship 4. (Fierce! : FIERCD45)
So, we come to number four of this series and, once again, a double CD package. Matt Redman rarely disappoints, and he's well up to his usual high quality standard with 'Beautiful News'. Leeland's 'Yes, You Have', has a sound of Snow Patrol about it, but it has a brilliant chorus to get your teeth into. From then on, disc one goes rather flat, despite the presence of Tim Hughes, Delirious? and Hillsong United. The second Cd has Ben Cantelon and Vineyard UK presenting 'Celebrate' and 'Holy'. Both are highly charged renditions and full of praise. Cathy Burton seems to improve all the time and her inclusion with 'Great & Glorious' is inspirational. For an "old timer", Graham Kendrick shows that he can still rub shoulders with the best on 'Creation's King', but these a just a few highlights in a rather mediocre release. 6/10 (February 2009)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship 5. (Kingsway : KMCD3051)
They say that these are "vintage days" for worship. With a whole host of new songwriters around, there's quite a wealth of songs to choose from. 28 tracks are squeezed onto the package and it all kicks off with the triumphant sound of Hillsong and 'Your Name High'. Delirious? offer the guitar driven 'God is Smiling' while I especially liked the individual sound of Brenton Brown's 'Because of Your Love'. Written by a host of writer's. Quintin Delport offers the best track of CD1 with the Newsboyesque 'Song of Hope'. Also worth a mention is the country feel to Lou Fellingham's 'Promised Land'. Sadly, the second CD doesn't really add much. It starts off well with rousing songs from Kelly Minter and Cathy Burton but, after that, it's all pretty standard stuff. There may be plenty of new worship songs around but quantity can't replace quality. 6/10 (December 2009)
VARIOUS : Live to Worship 6. (Kingsway : KMCD3127)
This 28 track double CD from Kingsway represents yet another trawl through their praise and worship back catalogue and features familiar names including Brenton Brown, Hillsong, Stuart Towend et al. I was pleased to see that for each track the insert gives full details of the artist and the album from which the track is taken, and full lyrics. Unlike some 'compilation' releases, there is no attempt to link the songs musically or in terms of overall 'message'. They are also a mixed bag with regard sound quality – and even perceived volume levels, so it's best to keep the remote handy. Many of the tracks are 'formulaic', lacking originality, but there are some really good ones – almost all by female vocalists as it happens, who simply seem to sound more worshipful and sincere than some of the guys. Joint top spot goes to Miriam Webster's 'Made me glad' and Lou Fellingham's rendition of the superb 'Christ in me'. Another standout for me is Chris McClarney's 'Your love never fails' – brilliant voice, great song, and the only bloke on my list. The overall star however is Cathy Burton who contributes three excellent songs, beautifully sung, that really draw you in i.e. 'This is how we know', 'Refuge' and the closing track 'You alone can rescue'. As is usual with compilations then, some high points but overall a bit variable. And incidentally, identifying which track is playing on CD2 is a bit tricky – they display as track nos 1-14 on the player as you would expect, but are numbered 15-28 on the insert! Worth an average 6/10. Dave Deeks (March 2011)
VARIOUS : Live Worship from Vertical Church (Essential Worship 02341 0165-2)
On receiving this thirteen track CD for review I checked out 'Vertical Church' and discovered that it is a movement created under the leadership of James MacDonald, the Founding and Senior Pastor of the US 'mega church' Harvest Bible Chapel. Its main thrust seems to be an emphasis upon biblical principles and the truth and completeness of the scriptures – so, can't argue with that! First impressions of this release were not good, with track 1 'Open up the heavens' being typical thrashy and distorted contemporary worship fare. 'Let your light shine in' was better, but with track 3 everything changed – my comment against 'Not for a moment' says “a breath of fresh air” – and it was. Describing God's faithfulness and with the repeating line “Not for a moment will You forsake me”, this is a beautiful song lyrically and melodically, nicely arranged, and beautifully sung by Meredith Andrews. And so it continued through tracks 4 and 5 with 'The greatness of our God' (“there is nothing that could ever separate us”) delivered by Kyle Fredricks and Lindsay McCaul, and then Heather Headley with 'All glory' – a particularly effective arrangement, very well delivered. The only criticism here was that the tempo remained almost identical for these three tracks, everything then suddenly changing with the uptempo and enthusiastic track 6! I had to wait for track 8 for another strong one – Heather Headley with 'How great is your love' (“Thank you for the way that You love us”) and then track 10 'Thank You for the cross', ably delivered by Seth McConkey – although I found myself needing to turn up the volume on this one until near the end. The two real standouts for me however were about to follow – tracks 11 and 12 are simply superb. 'Who will rise up' cries out for believers to “help the church” and is a great song, brilliantly arranged, and beautifully delivered by Lindsay McCaul. With 'God you are my God' we're back with Meredith Andrews and a powerful song about God's greatness – another excellent arrangement that climaxes then drops back to close with the repeating title line. Best to ignore track 13 – it's a prayer and reprise of track 1, and for me simply spoils the end of the album. 9/10. Dave Deeks. (April 2013)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Look What Love Has Done. (Myrrh : 080688601621)
Primarily released for Valentine's Day, I'm afraid that this one was over a month late in dropping through my letter box. However, let that not detract from the fact that this is, possibly, the best collection of Christian love songs that I've come across. The obvious contribution, of course, is Sixpence's "Kiss Me", but it's far from being a 'one-track' album. Jaci Velasquez sings the title track as well as Grammy nominated "Llegar A Ti", a very beautiful Latin number. Burlap to Cashmere present "Eileen's Song" and, one of my personal favourites, Fernando Ortega sings "Margee Ann" in his quiet way. Other tracks come from Amy Grant, Russ Taff, and Phil Keaggy, while Annointed's "Ooh Baby" was the only obvious filler. So, Valentine's day may have passed for another year but, loved ones should be loved, everyday of the year. 8/10. (April 2000)
VARIOUS : Lord I Lift Your Name on High. (M? Communications: 080688620325)
I'm always worried that 'budget' releases are no more than re-releases of old albums or, as in this case, another excuse to put a collection of well known songs together. There's no credits to the vocal artists featured but it's all been put together in Nashville with top producer Dan Huff at the helm. So, is it good or bad? Funnily enough, after all that, it's quite good. It's easy listening stuff for the - dare I say it - over 40's. There's nothing exciting about the songs, yet nothing to dislike. "You're Love Olord" is a nice opener and that's followed by "Shout to the lord" and "Be Glorified". There's some good acoustic guitar playing in the title track, and a smashing lead vocal on "You Are My All in All". Other tracks include "Did you Feel the Mountains Tremble" and "I Could Sing of Your love Forever". So, while not exactly setting the world alight, this is does have a pleasing feel. 6/10. (July 2002)
VARIOUS : Love Divine. (Kingsway : KMCD3093)
'Love Divine puts new tunes to some of Wesley's greatest hymns, uniting this great father of worship with some of his descendants, showing that while 250 years have passed since Wesley's songs were first shared, they remain as powerful as ever today'. So read the notes on the insert of this CD release, featuring Wesley's lyrics set to 13 new tunes, arranged by Chris Eaton and John Hartley. In my experience, such a project runs a risk of 'falling between two stools' – traditionalists who love these old hymns can struggle hearing them to unfamiliar tunes and 'rock' arrangements, whilst those who prefer contemporary worship may find the old fashioned language somewhat unapproachable. So, how successful is it on this occasion? Only partly. As always, for me the tracks that stand out are the ones that feature particularly strong melodies/arrangements. The best one here is 'Jesus lover of my soul', with brilliant lead vocals by Chris Eaton himself. Other good ones include Mac Powell's 'And can it be', Kim Walker-Smith's 'Jesus we look to thee' and Brenton Brown's 'Oh for a heart to praise my God'. Even Chris McClarney's great voice can't rescue 'Oh for a thousand tongues to sing', and the rather ordinary tune of Mark Roach's 'Christ whose glory fills the skies' would have been presented more effectively had the repeating piano riff at the beginning been given more prominence throughout the track. Overall then, 5/10. Dave Deeks (June 2011)
VARIOUS : Love Mercy - Songs of Worship and Justice. Kingsway KMCD2856
This album features Andreana Arganda, Lou Fellingham, and Cathy Burton, performing 11 of their own songs, to aid the charity "Ray of Hope" who are helping the people who live along the Amazon in Brazil. I'm afraid that this is a fairly bland CD, with no stand out tracks at all. "What shall I bring" (Extravagant sacrifice) and "Jesus you are worthy" being probably the best known songs, all of which are all fairly laid back mainly acoustic guitar led songs, and basically, if you've heard one you've heard them all. "Eva Cassidy does worship" sums it up really. I suppose you could give this to your granny without causing offence, but aside from using it as a cure for insomnia I wouldn't bother. Someone should have had a word with the designer of the sleeve too. There is a list of tracks on the back which are written in very small and pale pink letters on a white background, and they are next to impossible to read, which should be basic stuff for someone of Kingsway's ilk. If I'd picked this up in a shop I would simply have put it straight back down again and moved on to the next CD. 4/10 Andy Sayner. (December 2008)
VARIOUS : Love Never Fails. (Benson Records : 84418-0908-2)
Love is the universal theme that inspires, unites, and holds us all together. This collection of songs are about God’s love toward us, how we should love others, and the beauty of romantic love. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned kind of guy, but I thought that this is one of the best compilations albums I’ve listened to for a long time. After Tenth Avenue North’s storming start, new comer Kerrie Roberts sings brightly of how we should trust and love God, no matter what. I’ve not heard the band Red before, but ‘Not Alone’ is a fine, light rock ballad. There’s a strong chorus, lovely orchestral sounds, and great vocals. Building 429 are at their very best with ‘Right Beside You’, before Third Day lift the quality of the album even higher, with the truly magnificent ‘I Will Always BeTrue’. If that’s not enough for you, then add contributions from Casting Crowns and NFN favourite Moriah Peters, before Royal Tailor close the listing with the catchy ‘Hold Me Together’. It’s not often a compilation gets full marks, but this album is just so good. 10/10. (March 2013, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : Love Songs From Heaven. (Kingsway : KMCD : 2855)
Noel Richards' songs have spanned over 25 years, and this collection celebrates that feat. Various well known singers portray 13 of Noel's best loved worship songs. Now, although I'm aware of Noel's pedigree, I must admit that there were a few on this album that I had never heard before, and that includes the title track. However, that can't be said of 'All Heaven Declares'. The beauty of this song is, in my opinion, it's simplicity but Darlene Zschech changes it's delivery out of all recognition and, as a result, it loses a lot of it's power. Tim Hughes thoughtfully sings 'Overwhelmed By Love' and Matt Redman brings the old standard 'You Laid Aside Your Majesty' back to life. Indeed, I'd really forgotten just what a brilliant song this was. 'Great is the Darkness' has a majestic feel about it and 'When I Worship You' (Stuart Townend) gives a feeling of being in the presence of God. The album has some classic moments, but the use of various artists interrupts the flow of things, making the result a little dis-jointed. 7/10 (December 2008)
VARIOUS : Majesty in A Manger. (Integrity : B01LWJIGY8)
I always get excited when a new Christmas album arrives on the scene that is packed with brand new songs. This one, I’m pleased to say, does not disappoint. Beginning with Dustin Smith’s infectious take on the song “Joy,” this album has some tracks that are destined to become yuletide classics of the future. Greg Sykes sings the title track well, but Darlene Zschech’s vocals on “Gloria” is pure joy. With a piano and strings backing, it’s a lovely ballad. Similarly, Christine DiMarco performs “Will Ever Be” with such gentleness and power, on a song that pays homage to the birth of Christ in a manger. Then comes the stand out track. Seth & Nirva’s “Fill the Silent Night” really moved me. It’s a terrific song and the pounding drums on the chorus are spot on. After listening to it, I just had to play it again. Michael Farran provides a big ballad on “Let My Soul Sing”, while Michael Neale’s “Forever Amen” swings along majestically. I wasn’t so keen on the rather lethargic sounding “King of All the Earth”. To me, Paul Baloche’s delivery didn’t seem too enthusiastic as what the song title might suggest. Finally, Lincoln Brewster plays a guitar instrumental to the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” If you’re tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs, this one guarantees some fine, new tracks. 8/10. (December 2016)
VARIOUS : Meltdown – Echoes of Eternity. (Meltdown Music : B01GF1DZ04)
One of the highlights of the Greenbelt festival in its Cheltenham days was the Meltdown showcase, consisting of about four young metal bands all crammed into one high-energy sweaty rapid fire set. Even better when there were two of them in the same weekend. This album comes from the same people, who believe that Metal is not only not the devil’s music but that it can be used to glorify God and build faith in young Christians. It’s got all you’d want: riffs, powerchords, soaring vocals, riffs, heavy drumming (how many double bass drum pedals does it take to make a great album?), screamed vocals, strummed bass lines, riffs, guttural vocals and more riffs. Lyrically it reflects the ethos of Meltdown described earlier. As with most samplers it doesn’t have one overall style (despite being solidly Metal) but does showcase the genre well and actually holds together better than most. I’d normally list bands the album reminded me of, but the list here would just be far too long (and be different lists for each track). Just assume that if you have a favourite metal band, there’ll be someone here who’ll play something that reminds you of them, without being too directly derivative. Oskord even bring a flute to the party. It’s very well written, played, performed and recorded – there’s not a duff track here. My only criticism would be that there’s no let-up as you’d find on a “normal” album, where you draw breath before piling back in again, but it’s a minor quibble really. Standout tracks for me were “The Rose” by Fades Away (for ), “Vivente” by Aggelos (for the simple but infectious keyboard line and Nightwish-esque chorus), “The Change” by As We Are (more American pop-rock than metal but holds its own), “Pounded” by Ancient Prophecy (which reminded me of Amaranthe with a lovely Moore-era Thin Lizzie styled middle 8 that was an unexpected delight), “Salvation Ark” by Oskord (for the celtic influences), “LD50” by Saving Strike (for the jangly guitars which gave it an indie metal feel) and “Refresh” by Final Surrender (for definitely the best intro on the album – a hummed tune that made you sit up and listen, wondering what was coming next: Helloween-style speed metal is the answer). Suffice to say that I will be checking more of these bands out, which is the point of a sampler really. Best track: “Pounded” by Ancient Prophecy (with “Vivente” by Aggelos a very close second). 8/10. Paul Ganney. (April 2017)
VARIOUS : Men of Gospel Our Father. (RCA Inspiration 88875-10257-2)
This 11 track CD comprises a mixture of live and studio recordings dating from 1996 to 2012, being a 'compilation of hits performed by the premiere male vocalists that have shaped the Gospel music genre'. The first two tracks are live and get things off to a rousing start, accompanied by clearly appreciative audiences! The mood then changes with Jason Nelson's studio-recorded 'Nothing without you', building from quietly to exuberantly worshipful. The next track 'Help me believe' is probably the standout for me - well written, beautifully sung, with Kirk Franklin credited as lead vocalist, although most of the vocals are carried by a female harmony group. In typical black gospel fashion, this approach is used in several of the tracks. The particularly heavily featured gospel choir in Hezekiah Walker's 'Faithful is our God' is especially effective - and just as well, as Hezekiah's voice is beginning to sound strained and a bit off-tune by the end of the track. Kurt Carr's 'In the sanctuary' maintains a solid groove throughout and effectively builds through several key changes. Richard Smallwood's 'Total Praise' is a brilliant choice as the closer - it builds and builds, and then when you think it is finished, it builds again, drops, then builds to a worshipful 'Amen' conclusion. This is overall an excellent release and criticisms are minor. Whilst several tracks are around six minutes long, some are nevertheless faded out rather suddenly - I can appreciate of course that, again in typical black gospel fashion, they originally continued for a considerable time! Also, there is some variation in perceived levels between tracks. Altogether however, a worthy 9/10. David Deeks (November 2015, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : The Mercy Project. (Word : 080688607128.
Since 1983 Mercy Ministries of America has successfully restored the hopes and futures of thousands of troubled young women, unwed mothers and their children through it's residential programs and adoption agencies. The counselling skills and love are God centred and provided totally free of charge to these women. This album will not only raise funds but awareness, too, that the project exists. Gathered together for this album are female singers such as Darlene Zschech, Amy Grant, and Christine Dente, but there's more. Michelle Tumes' "Sanctuary" fits in 100% with the theme and sounds as fresh as it did upon it's release a year ago. Martina McBride (one of my favourite country singers) adds her velvet vocals to "You'll Get Through This" - a song of hope and the promise of God. Kim Hill's "New Eyes" is another strong track with some fine harmonica playing in the background. It bounces along at a good pace and is quite infectious. You can tell the quality of the song collection as a whole when I say that Amy Grant's "Irresistible Love" is, perhaps, the weakest on show! 9/10. (March 2001, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Mighty Warrior - Powerpack. (ICC : 25120)
The more I listened to this tape, the more I enjoyed it. All of the tracks are good, and some VERY good. I was very impressed with the biblical content. My favourite track is 'I Am The Vine', a lively calypso style, putting across the message of John Ch15:5 to young people. I took this tape into Sunday School to ascertain the children's opinion (Ages 3-11). The reaction was very favourable, with most of the children giving it a 9 or 10 out of 10 score. In conclusion, the tape is good for both use in the Sunday School and at home with a young family. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (October 1998)
VARIOUS : Mission Worship. (Kingsway KWCD 2678)
When you see the names of the four worship leaders who were involved in this event (Stuart Townend, Paul Oakley, Andy Bromley and Mark Tedder), you expect something special and spirit filled. In my experience though, this doesn't always follow but thankfully, the dynamics of the occasion have been captured extremely well on this recording. The choice of songs is excellent too and it is hard to find a weak song on here. There are well known numbers such as "Who Is There Like You?" and "In Christ Alone" but my favourite has to be the riff driven "Become What You Believe". It's also interesting to hear the composers re-interpret their own songs and the arrangement for "How Deep The Father's Love For Us" is definitely worth a mention. It's quite up-tempo with a funk feel in places - it is not what I would have attempted but on here it is delivered with aplomb. My one criticism, and I've mentioned this countless times before on other worship albums, is the congregation are too loud in the mix, dwarfing some of the wonderful harmonies. A shame really, because without that this would have been given top marks. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (September 2006)
VARIOUS : Modern Hymnal Vol.2 (Kingsway : KMCD3146)
This is the second in a series of albums that take the lyrics of well known hymns, and tries to bring them up to date with a modern arrangement. Vocal credits are given to all for the 16 songs except on the very first, and that happens to be the best track on the album! The female singer gives a really fine make over to Fanny Crosby’s classic ‘Blessed Redeemer, and the treatment is a great result. ‘Jesus Is Lord’ is pleasantly sung by Sarah Sadler, and Aaron Keyes makes a joyful sound on ‘Psalm 63’. I must admit to not knowing quite a few of these hymns in their original format, but Chris McClarney’s version of ‘I Know That My Redeemer Lives’ works well. The vocals are fine, the arrangement is first class, and I really loved the chorus and guitar work. Andy Bromley’s ‘Wonderful Saviour’ (J.M Marris) is also a good listen. Of the rest, well, I found that one or two of the songs seemed to struggle for any real consistency, and production was fairly bland. I must admit, that this album is probably not going light many people’s heart’s on fie, but it’s a novel idea. 6/10 (April 2011)
VARIOUS : Modern Hymns of Revival. (Elevation : ELE2087D)
I’ve got to say that this album really took me by surprise. The tracks are all performed by various American churches, and most of the songs were new to me. I wasn’t expecting much but, then, God is full of surprises. Subtitled “Classic Worship for a Modern Generation” it all begins with Clayton Brooks leading the Celtic themed “Before the Throne of God Above”. It features some lovely banjo and guitar sounds, and lifts the worship high. Alexandra De Jesus puts her whole heart into “It is Well Inside My Soul”. The simple message is “Trust in the God, who’s love never fails”. “In Christ Alone” gets an outing with a rather different treatment to that which UK audiences know, with an intense and powerful backing. Fans of Sixpence Nonethe Richer will enjoy “Love, You Never Let Go”, where Ashley Lindor sounds uncannily like Leigh Nash. In fact, Nash appears on the excellent “Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us”. These are two highights in their own right. The album ends as it started, with banjo giving a foot tapping feel to “The Comforter Has Come”. If you thought that you’d heard everything that the American church could offer, think again. 9/10. (September 2015)
VARIOUS : Moments of Wonder. (Elevation : ELE1474D)
Sub-titled "12 Classic Christmas Instrumentals", I must admit to be being very apprehensive about listening to this album. The cynic in me said "not another boring Christmas release?" But, I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely arrangements of each song, and will be playing the album regularly over the festive season. It's not karaoke, but I'm sure you'll find yourself singing along with most of the songs. The 'Sussex Carol' starts things off brightly, with the saxophone of Mike Haughton playing the melody. There's a good beat to 'Angels From the Realms of Glory', and very enjoyable harp and whistle sounds on 'Ding Dong Merrily on High'. The sound of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' reminded me of medieval times but with an added modern rhythm, and it worked very well. I might be repeating myself here, but I couldn't get over how fresh each song sounded. There's real feeling in all the songs, but 'The First Noel' and 'Once in Royal David's City' are gently caressed by each instrument. A lovely album too add to your Christmas collection. 8/10 (December 2010)
VARIOUS : My First Bible Story Songs. (Elevation : ELE2094D)
There’s quite a variation in styles on this album, ranging from the calypso version of “Noah’s Song”, to the adult, country rock sound of “Mud on My Eyes”. As well as those, there’s also a cringing classic in the shape of “Yo Ho Ho”, which tells the story of Jonah coming from the belly of a whale, and therefore he must have been very smelly. I did try to remember that these songs were for kids and, on the whole, I think that they work quite well. “Five Loaves and Two Small Fish” is suitably sung by a young child, while “David’s Song” gets a M.O.R pop praise treatment. The ragtime style of “Rocky Wocky Song” didn’t do much for me and, to be honest, I wasn’t too sure what the Bible story was that linked to it. Other stories featured include The Good Samaritan, and the birth of Jesus, as on “Long Ago in Bethlehem”. Both songs are simple to listen to and, while this album isn’t a classic, it should make its way into homes and church groups alike as a valuable resource. 6/10. (November 2015)
VARIOUS : My First Lullaby Album : (Elevation : ELE2084D)
Well, with two, less than a year old, granddaughters in the family, and the subsequent babysitting, I thought that I was just the person to test drive this album. The first disappointment came on noting that practically all the songs were at least 15 years old. The second, came from the fact that although most of the music is quite soothing, a lot of the songs contain words that young children will not have a clue what they mean. Even when my own children were young, it was the simple, calming sounds that were most successful. I’m not saying that these songs don’t have their use but, I would question the decision to market this album as a “First Lullaby Album”. So, if you have a toddler of, say, 4 to 6 years, this collection may suit you best. There’s a lovely duet on ‘Jesus You’re the Morning Star’, which is sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle little Star. ‘We Love You So’ celebrates and gives thanks for the rain and the sunshine – again, sung as a duet. I found the steam organ style backing of ‘Wide, Wide As the Ocean’ to be the opposite of calming, but ‘Safe in the Father’s Hands’ is very nice. Those of you who still shudder at the thought of Cliff Richard’s attempt to put the Lord’s Prayer to song, will be pleased to hear Jenny Legg’s version. Thankfully, it is so much better! Mind you, the truly awful award goes to ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’. This traditional Sunday School song from yesteryear is given the kiss of death by one of the worst vocal performances I’ve ever heard. On sharing the track with my wife, I think she summed it up perfectly, saying; “Are they serious”? Marketing mistake aside, it isn’t a bad collection, but it will be a few years before my grandkids get to hear it.   6/10. (June 2015)
VARIOUS : New Frontiers - Live 2002 (Kingsway Music KMCD2424)
Live contemporary worship albums seem to be everywhere these days, and this particular offering from the team behind the Stoneleigh Bible Week worship albums is the follow up to the popular "In Christ Alone" and, in itself, isn't half bad with some good new songs from the likes of Stuart Townend, Paul Oakley and various Fellinghams! Production quality and musicality is excellent throughout, with some good variations of sound and pace and a strong worshipful atmosphere which doesn't leave you feeling that you had to be there to appreciate it. The strongest songs, for me, are Nathan Fellingham's "To You King Jesus" and Paul Oakley's "And After All", both of which have a more rocky edge to them than the others, which are fairly standard Christian pop/rock. On the downside, there is nothing here that really made me sit up and pay attention. As usual, some of Stuart Townend's lyrics stand out as a little different from the norm but musically we have been here so many times that you do start to wonder how many of these albums the CCM market can handle. The biggest problem though is that there isn't a single, simple hook to get you singing along on the first couple of listens - in my opinion a necessity when faced with 13 new worship songs. You could definitely do a lot worse than to check out this album, just don't expect anything earth-shattering. 7/10 David Cooper (January 2003)
VARIOUS : New Songs 2004/5 - Vol 1&2. (Kingsway : SFCD358/359)
Each of these CDs contains 20 tracks and some are really rather good. Stand outs on Volume 1 are "Your Love O Lord", "No Longer in Chains" and "Come Unto Me" whilst the best one on Volume 2 is the opener "I Know That You Have Waited". Others worth a mention are "Jesus You Humbled Yourself", "When the Sunlight is Shining" (an excellent live recording), "God of Grace", "You are Righteous", "How Easy we Forget" and "Like a Mighty River". There are some really effective vocal performances here (particularly female) and it's a shame that no artists are credited. There are too few good tracks however to make the whole two volumes worthwhile. The contrast between best and worst is very marked. The opener on Volume 1 "I Have a Promise" starts things off rather badly, sounding as though it was recorded on a home keyboard, with an unimaginative arrangement and a vocal that is too far back in the mix to hear properly - and we have to wait until track 8 ("Your Love O Lord") for a song that is well produced and (very) well sung. "In Heaven and Earth"and "Dance Dance Everybody Dance" are particular low points. A pity that more selectivity had not been applied to the 'New Songs' that are out there! Overall then, four excellent tracks and six good ones filled out with thirty err… others. Regrettably, 4/10 Dave Deekes. (November 2004)
Various - New Songs 2005/6 Vol 1 (Kingsway SFC0363)
As always with a mixture like this, you get quite a variety both in terms of style and quality and this album is no exception. There are a number of tracks that caught my ear, namely "From the Highest of Heights" and "Indescribable" and I can imagine these being used by a variety of congregations. Surprisingly, I found the offerings from the emerging generation writers to be a bit disappointing; they shone on in 2002, my first introduction to this worship series, but seem more laboured in 2005. Whilst the execution of them is first class, the actual songs seem to cover the same ground as countless others and are not as well crafted as what we have heard before. This album also suffers from a very irritating habit of swiftly fading out a number of the songs, which I can only assume is done to cut the length of them in order to fit 20 songs on the cd. Unfortunately, it is very obvious and spoils the listening pleasure of the album. It is not a problem if you are a worship leader using this as a resource for learning new material but for the average worshipper this is a bit unfair. I would rather have 16 full songs than 20 with edits. That said, this still represents good value for money and you will find plenty of songs to like, even if they don't quite stand out as exceptional. Previous editions featured quite a number of songs that have now become worship stalwarts, Tim Hughes' "Light of the World" being one example. Whether any from the current assortment will reach such heights remains to be seen but my gut reaction is that they will struggle to do so. 6/10 Robin Thompson(September 2005)
Various - New Songs 2005/6 Vol 2 (Kingsway SFC0364)
With songwriters of the calibre of Matt Redman, Johnny Parks, Nathan Fellingham, and Kate Simmonds on show, you'd expect some strong songs, and that's exactly what you have here......SOME strong songs. Redman's "Your Mercy Taught Us How To Dance" is one of them, and it starts of the listing. However, just as you're really starting to enjoy the song, it fades out. The same happens with Parks' "God You Are My God", and a number of other tracks too, its most annoying. Fellingham's "Wonderful Lord" is a wonderful song, but the female vocals are so way down in the mix that it's hard to pick out the words unless you're following them with the sleeve notes.Paul Oakley's "A Father to the Fatherless" is a well structured song while Redman's second contribtution, Praise Awaits You…" has lots of energy.So, some good songs on show, but also some that don't quite cut it. There again, it's only one man's opinion. 7/10.(September 2005)
VARIOUS : New Songs 08/09'. (Kingsway : KMCD2888)
This latest compilation of worship songs from the Kingsway stable consists of 3 CDs covering 50 songs in all, and a CD rom providing piano scores and lead sheets plus words for projection purposes. Overall then, a thoroughly prepared worship resource. There are some very good songs here. I particularly enjoyed the funk gospel 'Come on lift your voice in praise', the worshipful 'Elohim Creator God' (nice melody, well sung), the classy and beautifully delivered Lou Fellingham numbers 'God immortal' and 'You've granted perfect merit', and the almost 7 minute long 'Oh Lord you've searched me' from Darlene Zschech. There is also variety - including funk, heavy rock, latino, straight rock n' roll and 'lounge crooner' style. Inevitably perhaps with so many tracks however, there are many that are standard, run-of-the mill contemporary praise and worship of the type that we have heard many times before - leaving probably 15 or so that I would wish to play again. Also understandable with such a compilation is the fact that the sound quality varies - but further smoothing out of levels and frequency balance at final mastering would have made for easier listening. Such aspects should not of course matter when picking out individual tracks for 'small group' worship. A compilation of contrasts then, worth checking out at www.kingsway.co.uk, and averaging 7/10. Dave Deeks (November 2008)
VARIOUS : New Songs. (Elevation : ELE1558D)
The album features, as the title suggests, a selection of new songs from four Elevation artists, Ben Jones, John Mongan, Stuart Barbour and Luke Finch. For the most part, the album doesn't deviate from the accepted pseudo-Delirious worship sound we have come to expect with the exception of the offerings from Stuart Barbour, which are more retro in nature, reminding me more a late 80's/early 90s worship sound. For that reason they tend to stand out but they are also some of the strongest songs on here. "Search My Heart" is an instant winner, a bright, vibrant number which could be learned by a congregation in no time at all. Similarly, Stuart's "Get up on Your Feet" provides an uptempo feel and these are two songs that would work well in most churches. By contrast, John Mongan's songs seem to be the weakest, melodically at least, and I think they will have a more limited appeal. Of the remainder, "Your Cross is Still Speaking Today" is an absolute belter, a haunting and atmospheric number with a poignant message. I also like Luke Finch's "It's Your Love" with its anthemic chorus and simple structure. Overall, a good album 8/10 Robin Thompson. (June 2011)
VARIOUS : Not Ashamed - Soul Survivor & Momentum Live Worship 09'. (Survivor : SURCD5158)
The second Soul Survivor album to come my way in the past few months, this is a 2CD set of tracks recorded at this year's Soul Survivor (CD1) and Momentum (CD2) events. Many will recall that Soul Survivor is an outreach for teenagers that began in 1993 and originated out of the 'New Wine' movement, now with six international Soul Survivor Centres. A number of Soul Survivor events are held annually in the UK - attendances totalling almost 30,000. Very popular then, but I did criticise the last release - a 'best of' compilation - for lack of variation and unimaginative arrangements. I am pleased to say that this set is better in this respect, with more variety and an overall better standard musically. For me, the best tracks on CD1 are the powerful medium paced 'Adoration' by Sam Parker (excellent singer), and 'Hosanna' by Beth Croft. 'Coming back' by Ben Cantelon is also particularly strong, with lyrics on the theme of a prodigal's return. My standout track on the (6 track only) CD2 is Tim Hughes' 'Remember' - with altogether excellent lyrics, melody and arrangement. Downsides? CD1 in particular has some lyrics that suffer from well-worn contemporary worship phrases, and an overall criticism in common with the previous release is that sound quality is poor - over-use of compression at the mastering stage (frustratingly common these days) mangling what were quite possibly good recordings! With these provisos however, a worthwhile addition to the CCM worship catalogue. As usual of course, listen before you buy - go to www.kingsway.co.uk 7/10 Dave Deeks (January 2010)
VARIOUS : Nothin' But Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2809)
"50 Massive Worship Songs" is the tag on the front cover, but does it deliver exactly what it says on the tin? With the presentation of the overall package, the target is obviously the younger end of the market & it does indeed bring forward a collection of some very well known contemporary favourites. Tim Hughes' "Here I am to Worship", "Hungry" (Kathryn Scott - Vineyard) & "Blessed be Your Name" (Matt Redman) are amongst those present but into the mix are thrown some modern renditions of classics like "How Great Thou Art" & "When I Survey", so could therefore appeal to a wider audience. It is difficult to fault the pedigrees of the songs featured or indeed the quality of the artists featured (that's if you ignore the occasional irksome pronunciation of the largely American artists featured). Nearly all tracks are live which do give it that much more authentic feel than studio produced material, but that said I feel as though I have to level the odd critique in its direction. Great though it can be to see a collection of wonderfully well known tunes together on a triple CD compilation, no one track stands out & there's a plethora of this type of product out there with many like myself finding the contents a little too familiar. It's also a tad annoying on this & many other such products that labelling is poor - you can never tell who is leading worship & it would occasionally be good to know. Overall not a bad introduction for those unfamiliar with CCM, but for those of us that are we've heard it all before & could do with a refreshing change now & again. 7/10 Simon Redfern (September 2007)
VARIOUS : Now Hear This. (Authentic : 5060256821083)
You can, apparently, purchase this 10 track compilation CD very cheaply, if you buy a regular priced album from the same record company. Artists featured include new artists such as Tim Timmons, and The Neverclaim. Both the former’s ‘Starts With Me’ and the latter’s ‘One Truth, One Life’ are good songs, and I’d like to hear more from both artists. 1 Girl Nation sing, possibly, their strongest cut from their debut self-titled album. ‘While We’re Young’ declares that the girls are going to make a lot of noise about sharing Jesus’ love in the world. It’s well written, and I’ve already aired it on local radio. The Browns produce a catchy southern gospel sound with ‘Rock & Redeemer’, while the most original sound must go to The Digital Age, with their song, ‘Captured’. Philippa Hanna’s ‘Stars Would Fall’ showcases this very talented young lady, at her best. I love the way that the song changes pace. Very clever. Other artists include Davin McGalmmery, Daughters of Davis, and Wayne Haun. If you’d like to sound out some new music, then this is the ideal solution. 8/10. (January 2014, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : O Worship the King - Instrumental Hymns. (Brentwood Records : 83061-0576-2)
Produced and arranged by Don Marsh this collection of instrumental hymns contains contemporary arrangements of many favourites, all with a unique combination of solo instruments. Flute, saxophone, oboe, violin, cello, and many more wonderful sounds light up, what is, a very good album. Some hymns, like "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" and "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" weren't so well known to me, but I still found them very listenable. Of course, you can't stop yourself singing along with those you do know, such as the title track and "Rock of Ages", and I really enjoyed that. The only downside is that the 15 tracks only last for 35 minutes in total but, that aside, this album really helped me meditate through a quite stressful time. 9/10. (November 2000)
VARIOUS : Oh Happy Day. (EMI : 5099951282622)
We all know that Gospel music has, in some way, influenced much of the music we listen to today. As a way of celebrating those influences, EMI Gospel have paired up an array of contemporary artists with some of today's leading gospel voices and legendary choirs. First up comes Jonny Lang wit the Fisk Jubilee Singers. (No, I'd not heard of them either). The song, 'I Belive' is nothingspecial. It's traditional gospel with a dance beat. 3 Doors Down with Soul Children of Chicago present a very listenable rock/pop affair entitled 'Presence of the Lord', but the best track has to be Al Green and Heather Headley's rendition of the classic, 'People Get Ready'. One listen to this, and you realise how bad some of the other songs really are. Robert Randolph whales incessantly in the company of The Clark Sisters, while Michael McDonald could be singing his shopping list for all I know, on 'Storm Before the Calm'. He may be a Motown legend, but there's no way I could interpret most of his singing. I guess, that Queen Latifah and Jubilation present a passable version of the title track, but most of this listing is just dire. 3/10 (April 2010)
VARIOUS : Old Hymns New Hearts. (Elevation : ELE2185D)
Sound theology, imaginative poetry and a stirring melody are three essential elements that make a hymn great and enduring. This album delivers 12 hymns, old and new, recorded with fresh arrangments to inspire faith, offer comfort and courage and enrich your Christ-centred life. I must admit, that I found it very difficult to hear the lyrics of traditional hymns, sung to new tunes. For instance, Chris McClarney’s take on “Immortal Invisible” left me totally cold. I just didn’t like it. Neither did Chris Weninangar’s delivery of “And Can It Be” soothe my soul. However, showing a great deal of sympathy to Wesley’s original lyrics, Chris Lawson Jones gives a stomping tune to “Come, Thou long Expected Jesus.” Quite a number of the tracks a produced in a folk/pop sort of way, akin to the sound of popular UK band, Speak Brother. Songs in this genre include “The Glory Hymn” and “Alleluia He Has Loved Us.” The gravel toned vocals of Anthony Skinner open the album on “The Sound That Saved Us All.” Meanwhile, my favourite track had to be “Love, You Never Let Me Go.” Here, the wistful vocals of Savannah Ellis are pire delight, accompanied by some nice mandolin playing. Another track I enjoyed was the duet between Weninagar and Katie Gustafson on the country tinged “This I Know.” Without being outstanding, this is an fascinating concept with more positive results than negative. 7/10. (January 2017)
VARIOUS : One Body, One Spirit, One Reason to Worship. (ICC: ICMKCD002)
Recroded in both the UK and the US, this album has been "crafted out of a desire to bring songs that glorify God".With singers like Krissy Nordhoff amongst those featured, you'd expect a quality of album that would reach new heights of worship, or at least match some old ones. What you actually get is a collection of tepid songs that do none of the singers any justice and fail, for me, to move one to worship in any way. The songs are so typically bland that it was difficult for me to pick any one of them out for special mention. Perhaps, if I'm pushed, "He Knows My Name" has the edge as the best on show. There's also a version of "Here I Am to Worship" which surely must go down as the worst presentation of such a good song. Try as I may, I just couldn't get passed the feeling of being let down, big time, by this recording. 2/10 (February 2005)
VARIOUS : 'One Voice' : (Survivor)
Due out on CD for early September but provided for review as a download, this release caused me some confusion regarding track sequence and song titles - the website lists 13 tracks whereas only 12 were provided for review, and the titles don't quite match! Having finally created a CD that (hopefully) approximates to the final product, I settled down to listen to this release that has evidently been 4 years in the making and features a 'dazzling array of talents' including Erica Campbell, Brenton Brown, Tim Hughes, Lou Fellingham and 'many others' - 150 in all, including 'to be confirmed' Steven Curtis Chapman and Paul Carrack. The project represents the culmination of an idea by London Community Gospel Choir co-founder Lawrence Johnson, to create a charity record in response to the Christmas 2004 Tsunami. With Les Moir in the chair and recorded at Abbey Road Studios, sales of the single 'One voice, one heart' generated £30,000 which helped rebuild a devastated fishing village in South India. So, what about the album? If professionally delivered and produced pop soul gospel is your thing, this one's for you. First track according to the web site is the excellent, loping along minor key 'Angels' followed by a similarly slow tempo 'Somebody please'. Things then get going with the upbeat 'Nothing is impossible' with clearly autotuned lead vocal, but effective none the less. To be honest, it is difficult to pick a bad track here - standouts for me were the aforementioned 'Angels', 'Let the people' with its 'Paul Simon Graceland groove', the beautifully delivered ballad 'Anywhere' and the single that started it all - the drum'n'bass underpinned 'One voice one heart', with everyone singing their hearts out. Visit www.kingsway.co.uk/shop. 9/10 Dave Deeks (September 2009)
VARIOUS : Outrageous Praise. (Kingsway : KMCD2416)
This double CD features Chris Bowater with his friends/worship leaders including Trish Morgan, Johnny Markin, Paul Simpson Parry, Dave Middleton and Hannah Middleton & Worshippers from Grapevine, which is held at Lincolnshire Showground. There is a really good selection of praise songs on these two C.D.'s, many I had heard before, and some were already my favourites eg. When the music fades, Jesus all for Jesus, Here I am once again and O Sacred King. Some, however, I had not heard before. This album, I would say, is definately worth listening to, and is one of the best I have heard for some time. The selection of songs, music and singing are all exceptionally good. My favourite tracks? Well, as I have already said there are a few. Songs I particularly liked, but either didn't know or didn't know so well:- "I Believe in Angels", "There's a Lot of Pain", "O God of Burning Cleansing Flame"; "All of Me", and "Here I Am Waiting". There are also a couple of traditional songs including When I Survey The Wondrous Cross led by Paul Simpson Parry and a rousing adaptation of William Booth's, O God of burning cleansing flame. The whole album is good from beginning to end. 9/10 Pam Robinson (October 2002)
VARIOUS : The Passion of the Christ - Songs Inspired by…(Universal South : Fiercd06)
This really is a most unusual CD and seeks to capitalise on the massive success of Mel Gibson's film. It contains songs by a variety of artists (and I do mean variety - how about Elvis Presley, Nick Cave and a spoken intro to one track by Dr Billy Graham?!) with these being selected / sanctioned by Mr Gibson himself, continuing the inspiration behind the film. The whole rationale for the album is therefore to give a 'message', so it is surprising that no lyrics are printed. Much of the album has a dark, morose feel to it - which of course does reflect the film itself. I obviously acknowledge the seriousness of the Christian gospel as represented by Jesus' death - but I also revel in the joy of the salvation I gained when He rose again, and this album doesn't reflect much of the latter! If your bag is mostly stripped-down, stark arrangements with heavy lyrics and minimal accompaniment, then this is for you. The best tracks for me however were those that tended to lift the proceedings a bit - not in lyrical terms necessarily, but at least musically. These included the closer, Bob Dylan's magnificent 'Not dark yet' from his 1997 'Time out of mind' album, and Leonard Cohen's 'By the rivers dark'. Such sparks of brilliance are all too rare however, so worth a rather modest …. 4/10. Dave Deeks. (August 2004)
VARIOUS : Passport to Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2717)
As it seems to be the season for praise and worship albums, I wasn't surprised to receive yet another. It contains 15 songs, written by some of the top writers of our time. Mark Tedder's "Can't Understand the Cost of Grace" is a foot tapping opener, and one that I hadn't heard of before. In fact, it was very pleasing on the ear. "Clothed With Splendour" aka "Awesome God" really lifted the praise with a number full of excitement. I must admit that I thought the next highlight was another new song. However, when I looked at the details I found that it was actually written by J M Harris, who died in 1934! But, I wasn't totally wrong, as this track had been given a new lease of life by Andy Bromley, and it really works well. Stuart Townend, Matt Redman, and Lou Fellingham all have songs included on the listing before Paul Oakley's "You Have Loved Me" rounds things off rather nicely. Good to hear a few songs that aren't usually put on worship collections and that must be a plus point for this one. 7/10 (August 2008)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : The People's Album. (Soul Survivor : SURCD009).
This is one of the bravest releases of the year. An album of songs, written by relatively unknown writers but given the expert musicianship of Matt Redman and co. Thirteen songs of differing styles and quality that have you dancing and praising with joy, and reaching for the fast forward button. If you had played me "Now" without knowing which record it was from I would have guessed at the latest Delirious? single. In fact, it is Martin Smith singing in that oh so well known manner. "Lord I've Found You" is a bouncy and infectious little number while the jazzy funk affair "Higher" is one of those I'd rather forget. Paul Oakley provides the voice to one of the other high points "I've Fallen in Love" while the worshipful "Search Me O God" has been thoughtfully put together. Matt Redman's best is on the 'Hey Jude-esque' "Father God" and, all in all, it's well worth your time. 7/10. (October 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : People Get Ready. (Forefront : 7243 82521525)
"People get ready, Jesus is coming", so sings Crystal Lewis on the opening track of this retrospective kind of album. Retrospective in the way that most of the tracks are 'blasts from the past'. For instance Barry McGuire's 1965 "Eve of Destruction" is included, as is Al Green's "Jesus Is Waiting" from '72. As a thought provoking album, I guess the songs do make you think about certain things in your life. DC Talk's "Wish We'd All Been Ready" pulls no punches as it asks if you met face to face with God today, would you be ready? Big Tent Revival always seem to come up with catchy pop/rock tunes, and "Thief in the Night" is another excellent example. What the compilation lacks in originality it makes up for in its wide range of artists and song styles. All in all, a good album. 7/10. (September 1999)
VARIOUS : Perfect Sacrifice. (Spring Harvest : ICC1260D)
This double Cd package heralds "20 New Songs for the Church" all recorded at Spring Harvest. The first Cd begins with the Tim Hughes and Eoghan Heaslip song proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, with the bouncy song, 'Round the Earth'. There's some smooth vocals on 'Amazing God', but the song to make the hairs on my neck stand up was Steve Fortunato's 'Would You Restore'. Andreana Aganda has a voice like an angel, and I'm sure that this song is set to become a classic. There's more uptempo praise with 'Sing, Sing, Sing', while the pure worship of 'Adoration' is very well performed. The second Cd sees all the songs stripped down to acoustic sounds, and these would be perfect for an intimate setting. None of the song blew my socks off, but 'More of You' and Forth in Your Name' deserve a mention. Certainly, there's a few new songs here that I would like to use in church. 6/10 (August 2009)
VARIOUS : Platinum Worship. (Integrity : 40772)
This 2 CD collection contains platinum and gold selling award-winning artists, presenting 22 top worship songs in various musical styles. If I'm pushed, I'd say that I enjoyed disc 1 the most. There's a passionate start with the sound of Hillsong United and "Everyday", while The Newsboys provide energy with the fabulous "I Am Free". Todd Agnew's "My Jesus" has the same monotone vocals as the Crash Test Dummies hit song a few years ago - I didn't like that one either! The title track from Brian Littrell's solo album makes the cut and months on from it's release, it's still a very strong number. One of my favourite worship leaders is Robin Mark, and his contribution is a terrific version of "Blessed Be Your Name" Disc 2 starts well enough with the joyful sound of "Days of Elijah" sung by Twila Paris, while - for me - the deifintive version of "Above All" is sung in all it's glory by Michael W.Smith. Don Moen's "Arise" will raise your spirits, but the best is left until last. The song is medium paced but "Your Name" is so beautifully delivered by Paul Baloche and Kathryn Scott. Overall, quite a good and varied collection. 8/10. (April 2007)
VARIOUS : Precious Moments 1 & 2. (Elevation : ELE1997D)
Here’s a collection of songs from the live Keswick Convention. Whereas some worship albums are recorded with a lead singer, these songs focus on the great sound of thousands of voices, gathered in the name of Jesus. Indeed, the power of those voices really comes to the fore on ‘Be Thou My Vision’. Always a favourite, you get a feeling that everyone was singing as one. ‘Tell Out My Soul’ is anpther powerful number, while ‘The Power of Your Love’ gently washes over you. Jarrod Cooper’s ‘King of Kings, Majesty’ is sung with deep reverence, as is Graham Kendrick’s ‘Such Love’. Meanwhile, you must admire the gusto and pure joyfulness of those gathered, as they sing ‘To God Be the Glory’ and ‘See What a Morning’. There’s no thrills to this recording, apart from the clarity that captures this live event. Songs like ‘’My Lord, What Love Is This’ and ‘Jesus, All For Jesus’ bring deeper worship and make this an album well worth owning. 7/10. (June 2014)
VARIOUS : Praise is Rising. (Elevation : ELE2119D)
Celebrating 140 years of Keswick Praise, this 2CD package is filled with 30 tracks that will have something for every listener. If you’ve attended the event over the years, then you’ll know the format is pretty straight forward. In some respects, the sound is a little old fashioned in its production, but I think that is part of its charm. There’s powerful and joyful renditions of “Hosanna”, “How Great is Our God”, Be Thou My Vision” and “10,000 Reasons,” The recording capturers the togetherness of the worship band and the congregation throughout, but possibly the best on “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “How Great Thou Art.”. Although there are no singing credits given, I’m pretty sure that Stuart Townend features on various song. Of the others, the musicians and worship leaders do a fine job on the touching version of “Here I Am To Worship”. Less so on, the modern version of “To God Be the Glory”. The new tune takes a lot of the pomp from the original version, and that’s shame. Nevertheless, this is a really collection that I shall be playing again. 8/10. (January 2016)
VARIOUS : Pure Worship 3 - Jesus Precious Blood (Kingsway Music KMCD2542)
This is a double cd, the first featuring studio recordings whilst the second features a different set of songs but in a live setting. I was neither impressed by the majority of the songs - although there one or two exceptions - and even less so by their interpretation. There doesn't appear to be much passion or feeling in the vocals on these tracks; they sound very laboured and mechanical, as if the singers are just "going through the motions". One of my favourites songs on here, "You Pour Out Grace" is killed stone dead on this album, falling way short of the live version released on the New Wine live cd a few years ago. It is hard to believe that it is the composer performing on this version, and it sums up the whole studio disc for me. I was hoping the live cd would redeem this album, but alas it does not. It remains as insipid and uninspiring as the first disc which is a shame as there are some good well known worship songs here, "Over the Mountains and the Sea" and "Hungry" to name just two. I think the problem is that the album doesn't really have any direction. Every song reflects the same mood as the previous, which is not really how worship works. Honestly and truly, looking at this, I should like this album. It is billed as "featuring many of the finest songs from worship leaders the world over" that will "stir the hearts of passionate worshippers". The truth is, I don't, and I refuse to accept that this is because I am an unpassionate worshipper! 2/10 Robin Thompson (August 2004)
VARIOUS : r:age 98 - Spring Harvest. (ICC : ICCD24430).
After listening to this I really am starting to wonder about collecting my old age pension this month. The sleeve notes say that that this is "new life...young people, living people, bringing the Christian faith new energy." What I found was a trail of uninspiring music that led to few glimmers of light on a very dark trail. Those glimmers did, however, include the dancey 'And Death Shall Have No Dominion', very current club culture, and no worse that anything you'll hear on Radio 1. 'Waiting For the Healing' is a funky number that has it's moments, while the closing 'Waiting Heart' is more ambient and quiet. In between those two, there's not a lot to say. Maybe you had to be there? 4/10. (July 1998)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Raise It (Alliance Music 1908322)
They say the test of a good piece of music is that it can work equally well in a number of different and diverse styles - the theme from "The Simpsons" being a good example! Here that theory is put to the test as this compilation from "Re: Source 2000 & 2001" and "Jumping in the House of God I & II" gives 18 well known worship songs a very contemporary Pop/Dance/R&B treatment. Sadly, the end result is a bit hit and miss. When it works, such as with "Heart Of Worship", "Hosanna" and "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High", it is very effective, but when it doesn't it just comes off as annoying and by the time you reach the end of track 18 the incessant drums and bass have started to grate and you yearn for a change of pace, of which this album has too little. There are some really good ideas here, and some obviously talented musicians, but the lack of variation in sound and tempo ultimately lets it down. Overall production quality, and the aforementioned high watermarks, make it worth the effort. The rest I could happily live without. 7/10 David Cooper (December 2002)
VARIOUS : Really Worship. (Elevation : ELE2025D)
Recorded live at the Keswick Convention, this album is a must for those of you who aren’t so keen on today’s glut of guitar led, contemporary worship. Indeed, listening to this album is like stepping back 20 years, in the capable hands of leaders Stuart Townend, Colin Webster and Lewis Green. There’s no mistaking Townend’s contributions, because his trademark, Celtic sound is there for all to hear. Like, on ‘Hosanna, :Praise is Rising’, a lovely rendition. ‘There is Power in the Blood’ has everyone singing at the top of their voices, and the power of those voices really lifts you. ‘Jesus Paid It All’ has some great mandolin and accordion sounds, added to what comes over as a folk song. ‘Cornerstone’ is full of feeling, but the sudden guitar solo sounds a little out of place in this context. For those who like something gentler, there’s nothing better than what has become a modern, worship classic, ‘How Deep the Father’s Love’. Other songs featured include ‘You Give Rest to the Weary’, ‘There is Grace for Me’ and ‘O Great God’. I, sometimes, find the sound of modern worship a little abrasive. Here, things are simpler, and totally refreshing. 8/10. (March 2015)
VARIOUS : Redeemer - Live Worship. (Survivor : KMCD2959)
This live album was recorded live at the Grace Church, Chichester and, although I didn't enjoy the first track, the album gets stronger with each song. 'Great Is Our God' sounded a little dated to me - a sort of 70's prog' rock throwback, in fact. Martin Cooper, then, leads some solid contemporary praise with his song, 'Hallelujah'. Jo Petch and Cathy Burton continue the trend on 'Great and Glorious' and 'Redeemer', and I enjoyed the light, poppy praise of 'This is Your Grace'. The three vocalists all have good voices although Martin Cooper really shines on 'My God Reigns'. It's a terrific song, well written, and has lots of energy. Some good new songs on show here, and well worth your time. 8/10 (December 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Reflections Guitar - Light Jazz to Soothe the Spirit. (Fairhope : 12862).
"Each record in the Reflections series is designed to move your spirit into a place of peace and relaxation. Virtuosity and the complementative merge to provide sounds that will soothe the troubled spirit". Well, that's what the sleeve notes say, but does it happen? Not for me I'm afraid. I tried listening as background music, and as a relaxation tool but found it all rather bland and meaningless. Sure, there's some good guitar playing on tracks like 'Ancient of Days' and 'Firm Foundation' but I've heard better private recordings than this. For me,, there's nothing you would say was really outstanding or memorable about the album. It's part of a budget priced series but that doesn't excuse the finished product. 3/10. (October 1998)
VARIOUS : Released - 7. (www.db-studios.co.uk)
This is the first album that I've received from Lincoln's db studios, where they release a compilation album of tracks from unknown/unsigned artists. Each artist pays towards the costs of producing the Cd, and then receives copies to sell. Sounds a good idea, but what's the musical quality like? Well, everything starts off well enough, with the sound of Jo Le Page and the triumphant intro to her song, 'Take My Hand'. She sings well and the song marches along nicely. Matt McChlery is next up and his uptempo praise on 'Ten Thousand, Thousand' really suits his voice. The quality remains high for the first half dozen songs, even though 'Your Mercy' sounds very much like an old Sammy Horner number. Daniel Caldwell's 'Broken For Me' contains a rather annoying piano phrase that gets rather repetitive. There are more good contributions from the quirky Katherine Davison, and the Fernando Ortega soundalike, David Buckley, which all help to make this release a sound investment for all. 7/10. (May 2009)
VARIOUS : Released 8. (www.db-studios.co.uk)
Here's the latest in the "released" series of albums from Lincoln's dB Studios, featuring new and unsigned artists. Steve Mews kicks things off, with the pleasant sounding 'We Lift Our Eyes'. He's not got a particularly strong voice but it's okay. On the other hand, Chris Wilkins sounds like he's been singing for years, and gives a good Matt Redman impersonation with the medium paced 'I Surrender'. Jersey's Jo Le Page gets two songs on this release with 'Praise Be to Your Name' and the musically pleasing 'Candlelight'. Jo's vocals are really coming to the fore and she reminds me, a little, of Cathy Burton. Diane Devine's 'Worship Our God' is one track that grew on me, the more I played it. As in a lot of cases over the years, the simple songs are the best. Another good song is 'Now I've Seen the King'. Sam Reid has an endearing vocal quality and it's really well sung. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Alan Darley. The blues background is fairly passable but his voice struggles to remain in tune and wins this month's cringe factor. 12 tracks in all, and a good collection from the UK's grassroots artists. 8/10 (March 2010)
VARIOUS : Revive - Live Worship. (Kingsway : KMCD2912)
This album was recorded at Mission Worship, Eastbourne, and what a corker it is too. It features some new arrangements of timeless songs, hymns and Psalms. Lou Fellingham is on top form, leading those gathered on the triumphant sound of 'Once I Was Dead to You' and 'Praise My Soul the King of Heaven'. It's great to hear some contemporary versions of some of these sacred hymns, and Stuart Townend delivers 'And Can It Be' as if it had just been discovered for the first time. It's an incredible take. 'I Know That My Redeemer Lives' and 'Elohim Creator God' are both full of loving praise, sung by Chris McClarney and Aaron Keys respectively. Singing modern hymns each week in church sometimes makes you forget just how good traditional hymns are. Godfrey Birtill lifts the roof with 'O For A Thousand Tongues' and Geraldine Latty's version of 'Great Is Your Faithfulness' ends a truly, first class recording. 9/10 (August 2009)
VARIOUS : Rise Run Reign :Live Worship from Detling 2010. (Elevation : ELE1564D)
This 11 track CD features live recordings of 'new songs of worship combined with familiar anthems of praise' delivered by worship leaders Helen Gallagher and Leigh Barnard, plus 'special guest' Graham Kendrick. Full lyrics are provided on the inlay – always a nice touch. Sadly however, I have to report that this release largely did nothing for me. The majority of the content consists of predictable melodies delivered via uninventive arrangements, and much of the lead vocals sound tired and strained – I found myself skipping tracks hoping to find something enjoyable. Musically then, a big disappointment – all the more frustrating as some of the new songs are nice lyrically. My pet hates – 'compression' and 'digital distortion' – are also there in abundance. Two songs stood out as I listened however – 'All will be well' has a catchy tune, sounds as though some thought has gone into the arrangement, shows that Leigh Barnard has an enjoyable voice when it hasn't been overworked, and has reasonable sound quality. So does 'Revelation song', which is well sung by Helen Gallagher and builds nicely, with a simple but nicely done arrangement. Two worthwhile tracks don't make a whole CD however, and as a package I have to say that there are far better worship albums out there. 3/10. Dave Deeks (January 2011)
VARIOUS : Rockettown Records. (Rockettown Records : 08068861932)
Celebrating 5 years of Michael W Smith's record label, this release chronicles some of the highlights of that period. Is it really 5 years, I hear you ask? Yes, it certainly is - how time flies. The first artist ever to release on this label - if my memory serves me well - was Chris Rice, and he has two tracks included. "Deep Enough to Dream" was my favourite track then, and it still rates just as high. Sounding like Simon & Garfunkle in their prime, he delivers this song to perfection. Later on in the listing, he also sings the lovely piano led "Welcome to Our World". Ginny Owens is another singer to be featured twice on her own, as well as with Apt.Core. "If You Want Me To" is a really beautiful, ethereal sounding song that I enjoyed over and over again. Watermark's contributions surprised me as I've never been a big fan of there's. The ountryesque "More Than You'll Ever Know" is excellent, while the closing "Gloria" is just too short - I wanted it to go on forever. Listening to the whole thing, you realize just how talented the Rockettown label artists are. 8/10. (February 2002)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : 'Romantic Rock Vol 5&6'. (Pila/Alliance).
A double album release that contains 32 tracks and over 2 hours of real listening pleasure. Here's a collection of the cream of CCM plus a few newcomers too, like Paul Janz and his superb 'You're Never Alone'. Ballads are presented in numerous styles, but there's also some classy pop tunes on offer . Bryan Duncan opens proceedings, sounding very much like Peter Cetera, and Laila Dahl's 'He's the Man of Her Life' suggests that we'll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. Clay Crosse, Ashley Cleveland, and Charlie Peacock are all featured, as well as Christine Dente with her poppy 'Taking My Time'. Britain's Helen Jayne has one track culled from her 'Safe' album while American's Margaret Becker and Sandi Patti offer two excellent ballads from recent releases. What more can I say, there's just so much on offer here, not least the superb vocals of Michael W.Smith. Wonderful. 9/10. (June 1996, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : Say the Word.   (Elevation : ELE1752D)
This album has been produced for those who can’t read, or English is their second or third language. It contains easy to remember songs that enable people of all sorts, ages and abilities to express their worship to God. I’m really pleased I read this, because otherwise, I would have been greatly disappointed by this collection songs, written and performed by a host of unknown artists. Both ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’ and ‘Send Your Light’ sound as if they are aimed at very young children. We then move onto some more adult worship with ‘Jewel in the Crown’ and ‘We Trust in You Jesus’. Chas Spradbury’s ‘Praise God For He Is Mighty’ is one of the few tracks that I can see being used in collective worship, and stands head and shoulders above anything else. There’s also a disc containing backing tracks of all the songs, but I certainly won’t be using them. I’m not sure that the album really hits the mark.   4/10. (November 2012)
VARIOUS : Seasons of Life. (Kingsway : KMCD2887)
Well, I really wasn't looking forward to this one. 80 instrumental tracks, on 4 CD's, and over 4 hours of music. But, I took the plunge, and I was very much surprised how much I enjoyed the collection. Now, it's not going to be easy to listen to the whole album in one listen, but taking a few songs or a CD at a time is a real boon to meditation or just plain relaxation. There's plenty of songs that you know so well, that you'll soon find yourself either singing out loud with, or in your head. The melody is provided by a whole host of individual instruments, and the backing is first class. Not a lot more you can say really. Tracks include 'In Christ Alone', 'How Deep the Father's Love', 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' and so many more favourites. Well done Kingsway. 7/10. (December 2008)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Secrets of the Vine. (Forefront : FFD36241)
This EP contains 6 original songs, all inspired by the book "Secrets of the Vine" The book is written by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, who explores John 15 to show readers how to make maximum impact for God. Dr. Wilkinson demonstrates how Jesus is the Vine of life, discusses four levels of "fruit bearing" (doing the good work of God), and reveals three life-changing truths that will lead readers to new joy and effectiveness in His kingdom. The CD features Margaret Becker, Chris Tomlin, Janna long, The Katinas, Kim Hill, and a duet by Adrienne Liesching and Geoff Moore. The songs are supposed to follow the theme of the book and Becker starts the ball rolling with an average sort of title track. "Satisfied" sees Tomlin praying to ask God as ruler of his life. The guitar led song has some great piano playing too, and this makes for a good song. Long's "Awakening" is a nice MOR pop song and the closing duet, "In Christ Alone" is well done. Why an EP? Not sure, but I would have liked to have heard more. 6/10. (June 2002)
VARIOUS : Seriously Hot Worship. (Kingsway - KMCD2901)
The release of this cd shows that the current trend of recycling and repackaging worship songs continues apace with yet another mammoth compilation for our listening pleasure. This contains 50 songs split over 2 cds and is, as expected, a variable mix. When I started listening to the first cd I though that perhaps this album might live up to it's name and really be seriously hot. But about half way through the songs turn into a more Coldplay-esqe style of worship - you know the type I mean. The songs are weaker melodically and lyrically. This particular worship sound - once new and exciting - seems to have stagnated and that really shows on here. I know it's a "fashionable" worship style, but I'm hoping the fashion changes soon! The second cd is the best of the three, the highlights being songs from Godfrey Birtill and Stuart Townend - in fact, these are the stand out worship leaders from all 3 cds really. Godfrey's Clash inspired "Lift up Your Heads" is a real corker and is wonderfully refreshing. This cd isn't all bad, but like most of them I really find that it's too much like hard work to skip the dross to find the stuff that's good. A shorter compilation would be more effective or even, no compilation at all. Let's face it, those who buy worship cds are likely to already have the songs on here that they like anyway. Seriously hot? Not really - just lukewarm. 6/10 RobinThompson. (November 2008)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Shipwrecks & Islands. (Word : GRCD003)
"From the creators of 'City of Gold' says the sticker on the front. Never having heard 'City of Gold', I just have to hope it's better than this. It's a collection of songs & poems on a theme. The poems are by Adrian Plass (with & without backing), a man noted for his humour, yet his poems are serious (as you'll know if you've seen him live). "It is finished" is very good. The rest are average, I'm afraid. The songs are by Phil Baggaley (of Phil & John), Dave Clifton & Ian Blythe and wouldn't be out of place on a late 80s Chris de Burgh album. It's all washy synths, ripply guitars and ponderous vocals. Well recorded, well played, well past their sell-by date. It's well executed, just like synchronised swimming (although "What Jesus Would Have Done" is OK). I have no doubts about the sincerity of those involved in the project, or how well the concept may work live, where you can give it your full attention. But in my study, with its bright light and occasional telephone calls, it needs something better than this to grab my attention. Some may say that this is a prophetic work that speaks to the heart: you'll have gathered by now that I'm not one of them. (Actually, it does seem to get better as the album goes on: or maybe I was just getting used to it). Two good tracks don't make an album: best wait for the "best of"... 3/10. Paul Ganney. (July 1999)
VARIOUS : Silent Night Carols. (Integrity : B00OEK6826)
First released back in 2014 but re-submitted for review in time for Christmas 2016, here we have a 12 track compilation of 'brought up to date' carols, delivered by a wide range of ccm artists. The standout for me is undoubtedly the opening track 'Silent night (Christ the Saviour is born)' with its almost six minutes of excellent arrangement and production, very capably delivered by Faye Streek. Starfield's 'What child is this' (to the tune of 'Greenfields') is also enjoyable - as is Lincoln Brewster's 'O holy night (Another hallelujah)' which builds well and incorporates the famous Leonard Cohen chorus! Lenny LeBlanc's 'O little town of Bethlehem' features an excellent backing vocal arrangement, including an acapella verse. As with many such releases however, the simple melodies characteristic of Christmas carols mean that arrangers tend to add 'counter melodies' in an attempt to add interest, with varying results. One example is 'Joy to the world (with Miss Eliza's reel)’, which struggles because the 'reel' doesn't sit well with the 'Joy to the world' tune. As a contrast, Kelly Willard beautifully delivers uncluttered but effective arrangements of ‘O come all ye faithful’ and ’The first Noel’. If carols are your thing, worth a listen. 7/10. Dave Deeks (December 2016)
VARIOUS : The Simply Xcellent Sampler. (Allliance : 8207172).
Costing just £1.49 for 18 tracks, this has got to be the bargain of the year! Featuring 15 different artists, this really does give you a sample of a wide range of new music from Alliance. New bands that I've never come across before include Seven Day Jesus - good Brit pop - , ELI and The Waiting - both giving guitar rock -, and the inspirational The Echoing Green with their brilliant 'Hide'. Bleach weigh in with two classic cuts from their new album 'Reality Check' and there's Sarah Masen's infectious '75 Grains of Sand'. There's a m touch of ska from The Dingees, which I didn't like and even some 40's swing, courtesy of The W's. The question is, can you afford not to sample this delight? 9/10 for music. 10/10 for value. (October 1998)
VARIOUS : Sing For Joy. (Hosanna! Music : 21372)
In September 2001 during a time of great turmoil and worldwide uncertainty, nearly 1000 believers joined key worship leaders from around the world to celebrate God's greatness. Recorded live in the World Prayer Centre in Colorado Springs USA, this album is a reminder of the joy and strength that can be found when we praise our Lord. And, indeed, that is exactly what this album does. In all honesty, this is one of the best worship albums that I've heard for some time. "Sing For Joy" is the title, and that joy really does roll out of your speakers. Live event recordings can sometimes fall a bit flat, but this one drew me as if I'd been at the actually gathering. "Your Love is Deep" has a lovely female vocal leading the way, and "For the Lord Our God Reigns" is just full of joy and praise. "We turn Our Eyes To You" is a slower number but it has such power, and what a great ending in "We Speak to the Nations". A must for all p&w fans. 10/10. (January 2003, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : Sing Over Me. (Sparrow : SPD57114)
This project is aimed at parents who love to sing to their children. Reading in between the lines, I guessed that to mean children at the younger end of the spectrum, say 3-10 years. It's a mixture of songs old and new with the likes of Bethany Dillon, Erin O'Donnell, Christy Nockels, Nichole Nordeman and Janna Long providing the vocals. "How Great is Our God" is a nice start, while the whistful "Here I am to worship" reminded me of Genie Nilsson. Nordeman's version of "How Deep the Father's Love For Us" was the first song that I thought "yes, that's a lullaby" as, pretty as some of the songs were, they just didn't fall into that category. "Whole World in His Hands" is beautifully sung by Christy Nockels and the O'Donnell/Long duet of "Hold on to Jesus is very gentle. For me, I'm not convinced that the idea of the project has worked. There are certainly some nice songs here but I think that older people will embrace them rather than children. 7/10. (January 2007)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : 'Sisters....The Story Goes On'. (Alliance).
This is the second of the series in which the album is made by women, for women, in an effort to bond them closer together as SISTERS! It features a number of top artists and begins with the ever popular Winans, and 'Always Sisters', one of the strongest tracks. Unfortunately, there are too many forgettable numbers to make this release an epic. The country rock title track is sung by Ashley Cleveland, Kathy Troccoli, and Beth Nielsen Chapman and, is the best cut available. There's a touch of soul, there's smattering of piano based ballads but, all in all, there's just not enough class. Mind you, that's a man's view. Perhaps I'm missing something? 5/10. (June 1996)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Sisters With Soul. (Word : MYRCD!£!$).
Despite the title of this compilation album, not all the tracks featured are by soul artists. 'Sisters' such as Yolanda Adams and Ashley Cleveland do what they do best, and there's contributions from Point of Grace and Out of Eden. Jaci Valasquez has had a lot of media attention over the last 18 months and "On My Knees" is a track that shows why. I've heard a lot of the songs before but, perhaps, Pam Thum's "Innocence of the Heart" is the best of the new ones. However, 3 tracks did stand out from, the rest even though they are a few years old. Carolyn Arends' "Love is All Around" and Helen Jayne's "To Do Your Will" both sound as fresh as ever, while Julie Miller's "River Where Mercy Flows" got me reaching in my collection for her "Orphans & Angels" album. This compilation is a good start if you want to check out some of the female artists in CCM. 6/10. (September 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Solid Rock. (Word : Rockcd01).
Here's the latest compilation of 14 rock songs by the supposed cream of CCM. Petra and Guardian lead the way with guitar standards before Michael Sweet brings things to a summit with the magnificent 'All This and Heaven Too'. This track is three years old, yet still sounds as fresh as the day I first heard it. Bride provide a Gun's & Roses type belter called 'Only Hurts...', while Three Crosses rendition of 'Calvary' is just a tad too close to Alice Cooper's 'Poison'. Nouveaux are a new name to me and deliver a medium paced rocker called 'Red, White, Black & Blue' but there's far too much run of the mill fodder to make this a brilliant release. Take, for instance, Jars of Clay - supposedly big in the U.S - who are very disappointing. 6/10 (June 1997)
VARIOUS : Songs For Luca. (Open Sky : Open VP999CD)
All proceeds from this album will go towards helping Iona's Dave Bainbridge and wife Debbie's autistic son Luca through his Son-Rise program run by the Autism Treatment Centre of America. The two Cd package features cuts from many artists, dating as far back as 1990 for Iona's "Beijing - The Widescreen Remix". There's a lot of progressive rock on show here, such as The Flower Kings' "A King's Prayer" and Terl Bryant's "My Song is Love Unknown", and they're really a bit dated in sound. Rick Wakeman provides a pleasant piano solo version of "Morning Has Broken", and Troy Donockley's instrumental, "Sights" is quite nice. The biggest laugh raised by an album so far this year came when I listened to the Peter Fairclough Group and "Shepherd Wheel". All I can say is, imagine trying to sing the contents of a car manual to the noise made by a group of 5 year olds, given a host of musical instruments for the first time. The result is simply awful. If you'd like to dip into the back catalogue of artists like Mairre Brenna, Joanne Hogg, Eden's Bridge, and the like, then this may be for you. It's all been put together for a good cause and it's up to you to decide whether the album's good enough. 4/10. (April 2005)
VARIOUS : Songs 4 Worship. (Integrity : TL WSR/07 19942)
Here's a double CD that seems to split itself between America on one disc, and the rest of the world on the other.The first features well known names like Andy Park, Darlene Zschech and The Stoneleigh Band. Delirious? Provide, perhaps, the best moment with a rousing version of "Shout to the North". I hadn't heard "Hosanna" for ages, and Carl Tuttle's rendition had me singing at the top of my voice. The second disc is rather tepid by comparison, with the Maranatha Singers contributing 4 songs in that muzak sort of way. Joey Holder's "Unto the King" is quite majestic in it's delivery, and Kent Henry's "All Consuming Fire" is not far behind in the ratings. 22 songs in all, and I enjoyed just over half of them. I guess that means that it's an above average release and, therefore, rates as 6/10. (January 2003)
VARIOUS : Songs 4 Worship - The Greatest P&W Songs of All Time. (Time Life Music : TL WSR/09)
This is a bit of a mixed bag, some of the songs are very good while others are just dire. Although I'm not really sure that any of the songs on this double CD would be what most people would consider to be the greatest worship songs of all time. The highlights are Matt Redman's "Better is one day" and "What a friend I've found" by Delirious. There's a fairly good version of "Faithful one" by Andy Park, but the other nineteen songs are nothing special. The Bill Gaither Trio's version of "There's Something About That Name" with it's sugary "Ad lib" section in the middle was particularly awful. I don't know who this CD is supposed to appeal to really, it seems to be just another of those aimless compilation albums that Christian labels like to churn out endlessly. I guess it wouldn't offend your Granny, but that's about the best I can say for it. 4/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2003)
VARIOUS : Songs for Worship - Christmas Joy. (Integrity : 42942)
Sub-titled "the Greatest Christmas Worship Songs of All Time", this two CD package features a whole host of top CCM artists. I didn't like the start of the album, particularly, Newsong's 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year'. It's a dreadful rendition of a well known festive song. That was followed by an equally bad version of 'Silent Night' by Hillsong. The vocals weren't too bad, but the backing music sounded like something out of a cheap cabaret lounge. Thankfully, things do start to pick up after this and Israel & New Breed, breath life into 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. The Integrity Singers give a splendid show with 'Holy Lamb of God', while Paul Baloche shines on 'Offering'. The second disc provides pleasant listening, with the highlights being Hillsong's versions of 'Angels We Have Heard on High' and 'The First Noel'. Featuring the vocal talents of Darlene Zschech, the former has some great guitar sounds on an unptempo tune, while the latter is really very sweet. In summing up, there's nothing earth shattering about this collection but if you want something new this Christmas to celebrate the season, this could be for you. 6/10 (December 2007)
VARIOUS : Songs of Comfort. (Elevation : ELE15790)
Songs of Comfort as you may well have guessed from the giveaway title is a collection of songs aimed squarely at uplifting those who are going through tough times at the moment. The song lyrics therefore focus on God's faithfulness, His power to overcome all circumstances we find ourselves in and the hope we have in Him that will never fade, so certainly from that perspective we're heading in the right direction! In amongst the songwriters, we have some well known names with the likes of Matt Redman & Paul Field featuring. We also have a number of tracks penned by the artists leading worship on the CD such as Andy Smith & Becky Frith. Although the CD sleeve gives scant info about the worship leaders themselves, the afforementioned have their own websites and social networking pages so they could be worth checking out if you like what you hear. Upbeat tracks are not the order of the day here & given the CD theme, that's really a foregone conclusion, but that's not to say the tracks lack energy or don't pack a punch of a deeper kind. There's a mixture of mid to slow-paced worship tunes which are well produced & musically very sound but by no means revolutionary in their composition so don't be expecting anything radically different. One or two didn't do a great deal for me such as the opening How Great is Your Faithfulness which I found a tad bland overall. However the ones which I picked up on more than anything were the tracks by Andy (Arise Shine) & Becky (All Who Are Weary & Lifter of my Head) which I would say were relaxed chill-out numbers. For me this is an unusual choice but it's like all the tracks on here - you need to home in on the lyrics to reap the benefit. This may be no musical revolution but for those looking for a boost in troubled times, this is a sound choice. 8/10 Simon Redfern (October 2011)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Songs of Fellowship 'New Songs 96/97 Vol 1 & 2. (Kingsway).
Particularly welcome for praise and worship group leaders, here's Kingway's latest collection of modern P&W songs. 40 songs here, which are accompanied by a music book, as well as a set of acetate masters. The problem is, so I'm reliably told by a P&W leader, is that you'll only find half of them suitable for your church. So, I listened and picked out those that I thought to be personally appealing. Would you believe it, almost half? Great songs such as 'Bells Are Ringing' and 'Be Still and Know' show the writing talents of Jim Bailey and Lex Loizides, but there's also the likes of Dave Bilbrough and Matt Redman on show too. One of the children's songs is just too awful, containing the chorus line of "Bright colours like daisies, more fruit than Sainsbury's". All in all though, it was refreshing to hear some new songs and, even though I only picked out half of them..... 7/10. (September 1996)
VARIOUS : Songs of Fellowship Collection Vol.7. (Kingsway: SFCD328)
The songs on this album are all taken from the Songs of Fellowship songbook. They are mostly well known traditional hymns and songs, plus one or two I had not heard before. This is a nice compilation, put together well with good music and vocals. The traditional hymns include "To God Be the Glory" and "Love Divine". There is also a fine adaptation of "Breathe On Me, Breath of God", by Dave Fellingham. More recent songs include "Filled With Compassion" by Noel & Tricia Richards, "They That Wait On the Lord" by Kevin Prosch, "Father God" by Ian Smale, and "Majesty" by Jack W Hayford. My favourite songs include "Who's Lips Will Plead" (Alex Moir) - a quiet song with very powerful words - and "So Freely" (Dave Bilborough) a personal favourite of mine. The album contains a good mixture of traditional hymns and renewal songs, as well as praise and quieter prayerful numbers. It's also an enjoyable listen. 8/10. Pam Robinson. (January 2001)
VARIOUS : Songs of Taize. (Kingsway : KMCD2210)
I've never quite got the hang of Taize music, so this was quite a challenge. The music itself is "contemplative in nature, with simple, repeated chorale-like refrains". And, as much as I'd like to understand them, I found song after song just running into one another. I tried listening at work, I tired listening at home. I tried listening in the car, and I even tried listening in the bath. Peaceful? Yes, I've got to agree. But that was all. A 2 Cd package with plenty of songs or chants and, probably good if you get on with this sort of thing. For me, Taize is still a mystery. 2/10. (July 2003)
Various : Songs of Taize Volume 5. (Kingsway : KMCD2783)
Taize became popular in the UK as a form of worship in the late 80s and judging by the fact that this collection is now on volume 5, it still is! Twenty five tracks spread over 2 cds, although to be honest, the track lengths are so short that they could all have fitted on one cd. It seems that double albums are popular at the moment, so that's what we've got. Content wise its pretty much what you would expect - sixty minutes of relaxing and refreshing choral worship. There is some instrumentation here and there, but it is not allowed to get in the way of the voices. It's superbly sung and sympathetically handled by producer Christopher Norton. Overall, not one to win converts (to Taize that is!) but if Taize is your thing it's an album definitely worth having. 7/10 Robin Thompson. (September 2007)
VARIOUS : Soul Inspired by the Epic Film Ben-Hur. (Provident : 83061-1064-2)
As the title suggests, this album is billed as a compilation of “remarkable, soulful music of redemption and faith.” Many of gospel’s biggest and brightest talents have been gathered, including the reunion of multi platinum selling and multi Grammy award-winning duo Mary, Mary. The song they perform is called “Back To You,” and it’s one of those songs where you think you’ve heard it before. Indeed, that happened to me. Eventually, I realised that the melody bears a notable resemblance to Rhinaana’s 2007 hit “Umbrella.” Deitrick Haddon produces a decent chart sound with “Perfect Storm.” It’s a suave song that includes the rap “Let the winds blow, let the thunder roll. I’ll ride that storm like a rodeo.” With God at your side, He will guide you through the storm. Personally, I don’t find gospel songs that enthralling when the lead singer begins to yell and holler. That being the case, both “Send Judah First” by Judith McAllister, and Smokie Norful’s “Justified” did nothing for me. In between those songs, Tasha Cobbs and a full gospel choir deliver a strong song that celebrates living with Christ in you, on “Happy.” And, in ballad style Brian Courtney Wilson’s warm vocals embrace each word on “Already Here.” It’s quite a collection, and one that will please lovers of this genre. 7/10. (March 2017)
VARIOUS : Southern Gospel 2012 Top 12.   (New Haven Records : 8099-2)
The Singing News Magazine is the encyclopaedia of Southern Gospel Music. And, along with the combined efforts of record companies and artists, they produce a yearly compilation of their beloved genre. Now, I’ve heard a few of these artists before but, on the whole, the UK seems to shy away from this type of music. First up is Karen Peck & New River. They certainly don’t get the recognition over here that they deserve. Karen has a great voice and ‘On The Banks of the Promised Land’ is a terrific song. The Booth Brothers are next on the track listing, and it took me a few listens to understand what they were actually singing about. ‘She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name’ is about an older family member who, in her twilight years, is beginning to suffer memory loss. Gold City present the foot tapping ‘Peter, James  and John’, while the vocal hamonies of Brian Free & Assurance, reminded me of country stars, Rascal Flatts. I have a lot of time for artists that you don’t hear too often, and the likes of Legacy 5, and Perrys can hold their head’s high on this showing. An unexpected chuckle was caused by the Triumphant Quartet’s ‘Saved By Grace’. The singing is fine, but the tune bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain US detective TV theme from the 80’s! If you’re looking for something a little different, you should give this a whirl.   7/10. (February 2013)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Spirit of Praise - New Songs. (Word : SPND011)
Here's a collection of praise songs that bring to light a host of lesser known, yet very talented, musicians. With them, comes a fresher approach than, say, the more recognised names in CCM and the result is very good. Peacefully praise the Lord with the Matt Chart written 'Draw Near' - yes, he's a new name to me too. 'For Every Worry...' is a catchy song that will, no doubt, be prominent all over the country in the months ahead. Lovely vocals and an excellent song. The only down side to the album is the use of songs dating back to 1993 on a release entitled 'New Songs'. Suffering badly from overkill, in this instance, is Matt Redman's 'Jesus Christ', were even fine guitar work fails to make it 'new'. Produced by Johnny Markin and Chris Bowater, they have put together a promising album that just dips into oblivion now and again. However, rising from the mire comes other worthy mentions such as 'He Can Make...' and the simple, yet effective, 'You Turn My Night'. 7/10. (February 1998)
VARIOUS : Stoneleigh Praise. (Kingsway : KMCD2558)
Regular NFN readers may recall that this particular reviewer is wary of Praise and Worship albums, as many second rate ones have been 'churned out'. This three CD compilation sounds less like a 'production line' job than many however and on the whole, arrangements are good and performances too, although occasionally the adrenaline of a live performance causes lead singers to waver off the notes a bit. Production and mixing is of a high standard for such recordings - with sound quality good and surprisingly consistent, as the 50 songs (some familiar, some less so) are 'taken from eleven years of Stoneleigh Bible weeks'. One standout is "Lord I Come to You" (one of my favourites to sing, as it happens) which has a reflective, nice beginning and builds very effectively - as does "Light of the World". "We Have Sung Our Songs" is simple but very effective. Others worth a mention include "Jesus Loves the Church", "My First Love" (which uses a Corrs-like riff to good effect), "I Stand Amazed" and "You Are My Anchor"' (that girl can really sing!). The sleeve announces that 'Stoneleigh Praise 2' is due May 2005, so a series may have been born. If these tracks represent the pick of the eleven years, the follow-up may not maintain the same standard. This first one however provides an enjoyable way to do the ironing - and in the 3-CD player, all the other housework as well! Overall, 7/10 Dave Deeks. (September 2004)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Streams. (Word : 7012578262).
Add the cream of CCM with a sprinkling of top secular artists. Bring together with some of the finest songwriters and mix it all together. The result should be perfect, but is it? Pair up Maire Brennan and Michael McDonald for Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" and the result is Clannad through and through. It's not a bad rendition but there's little surprise in the outcome. The same can be said for Cindy Morgan on "Job". You know, the piano led ballad, the emotional vocals, it can only be Miss Morgan at her best. In fact, most of the album could come under the same banner. As a showcase for the featured artists it's a good release, showing the likes of Sixpence Non the Richer and Jaci Velasquez at just what they are good at. Michelle Tumes' "Hold On" is simply excellent (I love this lady's voice) and the Delirious?/Amy Grant version of "Find Me in the River" would melt the hardest of hearts. Why end the album with an orchestral suite, I'm not sure? It doesn't match up with the songs and I didn't like it at all. 7/10.
(October 1999)
VARIOUS : Sufficient. (ICC : ICCD81830)
From the Passion and Purpose Worship Series comes this offering with songs almost totally written by Russ Hughes. "Sufficient" is the title, but sufficient for what, is the question I'd like to ask. I can't honestly remember a worship album that made me feel quite so miserable. The first track is called "Glory, Glory Hallelujah". Doesn't that sound like it should be uplifting? Here, the song sounds like the singer is bored by the whole affair and is just going through the motions. The same can be said of the next two songs, before "King of Kings" raises hopes with something a little more uplifting. "Our Father in Heaven" is a total "downer". "Come Lord Jesus, come and bring your healing to this land" are words sung - He should start with this album. The droning of "Holy Spirit" left me quite cold but the closing "Your Blood is Enough" is so sweet, it sticks out like a single rose between many thorns. Sufficent? No, not for me. 2/10. (January 2005)
VARIOUS : Summer’s Not Over. (Free Sampler from www.becrecordings.com)
Free – what’s not to like? And the music’s actually good enough that if you’d paid quite a bit for it you’d not feel ripped off. Kicking off with the very summery “Beautiful Life” by Among The Thirsty and the Take That-esque David Dunn’s “Have Everything” the tone is set: it’s got a lot of modern boy-band feel to it with every chorus fixing itself into your head (you could image 5SOS, 1D or Little Mix doing most of these, with Take That or Robbie Williams picking off the rest). Exceptions are Citizens And Saints who are more 80s electronica, Kutless who are more 00s rock and Aaron Gillespie who is more Praise & Worship – all stand well in the album, though and there isn’t a duff track on it. Lyrically the sampler covers a lot of ground (as you’d expect) but is firmly in the faith camp. The sampler is free to download, but they are encouraging charitable giving to CURE in response – it’s well worth doing both. Best track (it’s almost unfair doing this with so many great artists on show): “Diamonds (feat Trevor From TFK)” by Manafest. 8/10. Paul Ganney (January 2016)
VARIOUS : Taize - The Best of.... (Kingsway : KMCD2951)
Wikipedia states that "the Taize community, though Western European in origin, seeks to welcome people and traditions from across the globe. This is reflected in the music and prayers where songs are sung in many languages, and increasingly include chants and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The music emphasises simple phrases, usually lines from Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, repeated and sometimes also sung in canon. The repetition is intended to aid meditation and prayer." Here, then are 50 such arrangements that, for me, did nothing to aid my prayer and meditation. I found most of the tracks to be similar to each other, and the tendency was for one to run straight into the other. For aficionados, tracks include 'Surrex Christus', 'Jubilate, Servite', 'Gloria Et In Terra Pax' and 'Crucem Tuam'. Lyrics are included within the sleeve notes but unless you are a multi-linguist, few will have any real meaning for you. For followers of Taize, I guess that this recording will be a welcome addition, but for others, it might be best to give it a wide birth. 4/10. (May 2009)
VARIOUS : TheName. (Springhill Worship : 4211152)
The Spring Hill Worship website www.springhillworship.com proclaims "New songs today for the Church tomorrow". 'The Name' contains 16 tracks of contemporary CCM pop praise, including ones from artists with their own albums on the Springhill label. A nice touch is that via a PC the CD includes printable lyrics, chord charts, bio information etc. I found it an enjoyable listen that largely succeeds in treading that difficult line for compilations - i.e. enough consistency to make it sound like a product in its own right, with enough variation and originality to keep the listener engaged. There are some excellent tracks here. As I listened however, I was reminded of Jesus' first reported miracle when he turned the water into wine and guests commented that the best had been kept until last! The opening track is simple formulaic pop and in my view one of the weakest, whereas I found the closer 'Song of my surrender' (Anadara) to be one of those 'I wish I had written that' songs - an absolute corker, very well sung. The title track 'The Name' was also a favourite, sung by the same talented lady - and whose first solo CD is featured heavily on the Springhill website. Other stand outs for me were Caleb Rowden's 'Falling', 'King of my World' featuring an effective anthemic chorus and sung by Rick Cua and Charity Von, and 'Adoration' sung by The Booth Brothers with Lydia Gott and including some particularly tight and well played drumming. With more space I could happily mention others. Overall, worth a comfortable 8/10. Dave Deeks (February 2007)
VARIOUS : The Big Start. (Elevation : ELE1733D)
This is a collection of songs from Spring Harvest’s All Age Family Worship, and features songs from writers such as Vicky Beeching, Judy Bailey, and Ishmael. ‘Everybody’s Welcome’ starts things off, with it’s sugary, electro pop sound. Idneed, it reminded me of 90’s duo dba. ‘Friend of God’ gets a similar treatment before you’re treated to the “cheesiest” song I’ve heard in a long time. If I remember rightly, I recall hearing this song in it’s original form in the early 90’s, and it sounded nothing like this. It’s an action song with the usual “jump up and down” and “turn around” phrases that make anyone over the age of 12 cringe. Although the songs are supposed to be for “all-age” worship, I found most of them suitable for the 8-14 year age group. Words are sung in very simplistic form, and are perfect for this age. For adults? No, they just don’t work. ‘God Is Here’ is quite catchy but, once again, it’s presented in a child orientated way. Worst lyric award? It must go to Vicky Beeching’s ‘Brand New Day’. “If God had a mobile phone…..” and “If God Sent you an e-mail…..” Sorry Vicky, I usually love your music, but not this time. For parents of youngsters or group leaders, this will be a worthy purchase. 7/10. (August 2012)
VARIOUS : The Big Worship Box Set 5 (Kingsway : KMCD2822)
This is the latest in the series of budget priced box set compilation CDs from Kingsway, with 3 CDs containing 50 full-length worship songs for the bargain basement price of £7.99. Despite it's price, it does bring forward tunes from well known worship leaders, including Chris Bowater, Paul Oakley, Robin Mark, Andy Bromley & Gareth Robinson. Don't however be expecting every track to be from the big names - certainly not for less than £8! The music included is mostly contemporary with a few older numbers from the vast Kingsway back catalogue, so there's something in here that should appeal to most tastes with studio & live recordings. However as with pretty much every compilation I have ever come across, it is for dipping into as you feel the need rather than listening to from beginning to end. You wouldn't tend to use it "as is" as an all out worship CD as there is no real pattern in terms of content or tempo. There are a few noteworthy tracks such as "O God The God Of Blessing" from Gareth Robinson with plenty of bounce and the rocky "We Worship You (This Side of Heaven)" from Nick Herbert but other than that I got a sense of deja vu - nothing really jumped out to grab me. If you're after good value this is a great option but if you want something a little different, this is not the place to be looking. 6/10 Simon Redfern (April 2008)
VARIOUS : The Greatest Gift of All. (Elevation : ELE2187D)
This Cd is marketed as “Twelve new songs for Christmas ideal for singing in schools, churches, seasonal productions and to raise awareness of the amazing project Operation Christmas Child which sends shoeboxes to children all over the world”. With all that in mind, I’ve got to say that some of the songs are a little too complicated for younger children. I would say that early teens would benefit from this album that features a multiple of styles. “All the Angels Sing” is one of those bouncy children’s songs that you’ve heard dozens of times before. A simple tune makes the song sound very happy, so I guess it does the job well. There’s a more contemporary sound to “Star Bright”, while I really enjoyed the ballad that is the title track. Doug Horley and Mark Read provide the songwriting credits for “No Ordinary Baby” – again, with a happy singalong chorus. Christmas bells are chiming during “Can You Imagine”, alongside a simple banjo sound, while Becky Frith’s “Christmas Time” tries to get everyone dancing, with uptempo beats and loud synth’ phrases. Backing tracks are available for all the songs, and that will obviously prove useful for those who do want to use new songs this festive time. 6/10. (December 2016)
VARIOUS : The Hymns Collective – Session 1. (Integrity : 51352)
The idea to record an acoustic hymns album is not exactly rocket science, but this finished product is of very high quality. A lot of thought and time must have gone into production, and it’s been really worth the effort. I don’t know any of the singers featured, but they all must be congratulated on their prowess. ‘Love Lifted Me’ is a pop/country number and reminded me of Susan Ashton. However, a look at the credits revealed that the singer is, in fact, Katelyn Clampett. The ukulele of Kyle Aaron is sumptuous on ‘Love, You Never Let Me Go’ and sung delightfully by Savannah Ellis. There aren’t many words to ‘O How I Love Jesus’, but what a beautiful song it is. The chorus just repeats the title, but that is more than enough to make this number, a worship classic. Although I was hearing a lot of the songs for the first time, I felt really at home with them all. There were so many high points for me, but the duet of Katie Gustafson and Chris Weningar on ‘This I Know’, also deserves a mention. It’s a truly enjoyable album, and one that I shall be playing again. 9/10. (August 2013)
VARIOUS : The Identical – Original Soundtrack.
(Capitol Christian Music Group : B00M8B893E) The Identical is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father's desire for him to join the ministry and instead embarks on a career as a rock singer. As he struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success and failure, and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really is. Elvis Presley impersonator, Blake Rayne takes on the leads roles in the film, and I was absolutely blown away by his songs, on this double CD. His delivery is eerily close to the king of rock n roll, and these new songs actually had me thinking that I was listening to Elvis! ‘Gypsy Man’ has a modern country sound, while ‘Boogie Woogie Rock n’ Roll’ has a great tempo. ‘City Lights’ is simply superb, while ‘Be Boppin’ Baby’ and ‘Building My World’ stand alone as classics in their own right. Other artists featured include The Morph Kings, The Ricky Reece Band, and Darcey & Mo. I’m not sure what to make of the Morph Kings. On ‘Strange Love’, it’s almost back to 60’s Psychedelia. Then, with ‘I’m Gonna Die Tryin’, they sound like Def Leppard! I enjoyed the hoe-down ‘Burning Rubber’ by The Ricky Reece Band, but thought that Darcey & Mo were a throwback to 70’s disco. I’ve yet to see the film, but I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more of Blake Rayne. 8/10. (April 2015)
VARIOUS : The New Sound of Worship. (Integrity : 99732)
This album features Mark Beswick, Roger Samuels, Ian Pitter, Faye Simpson, and Raymond & Co. From the sleeve notes, I think that most, if not all, of these worship leaders are British but, for whatever reason, the resulting album is very American in style. Also, there's a lot of emphasis put on the performance of each song, rather than letting God "in the house". For instance, I liked the female harmonies on 'Grateful Heart', but Mark Beswick's "Oh Lord" and "Yes, Lord" contributions sound rather staged than spontaneous. Meanwhile, Samuels' big voice on 'Seeking Your Face' shines out from the muddy waters, and it's a good song too. Sadly, by track 6, I was getting tired of this transatlantic muzak, that just doesn't travel well. It's all a little too over the top, and the grisly, gospel of 'Rejoice' was just too much. If this is the new sound of worship, give me the old stuff please. 3/10. (December 2008)
VARIOUS : The Peace Of God. (Kingsway : KMCD2920)
With the wealth of so many great Celtic albums in the vaults, it comes, perhaps, as no surprise that Kingsway have put together this collection. It's a 3 CD release featuring writing credits from the likes of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, as well as Joanne Hogg and Margaret Becker. There are no artists credits included in the sleeve notes, but I'm sure both Hogg and Becker feature on tracks like 'I Did Something Today' and 'Oh For A Heart'. On the whole, the songs and instrumentals are very pleasing to the ear. 'Deep Peace of the Gentle Christ' is an instant highlight, while 'My Soul Finds Rest' is sung with great grandeur. A lot of the songs were new to my ears, but Sammy Horner's 'May Your Life in This World' brought back lots of memories for me from when I first heard it many years ago. 'Your Hand O God Has Guided' is a very strong track, and I smiled at the "reel" feel of 'Sound the Trumpet'. While listening to all 3 CD's in one go might be a little taxing on the brain, it's a fine collection to dip in and out of. 8/10 (March 2009)
VARIOUS : The Singer Songwriters 2 (Essential Music : ELE1557D)
This 2CD, 24 track release is the follow-up to 2008's 'Singer Songwriters' and follows the same pattern - i.e. tracks selected from a variety of previously issued 'singer-songwriter pop' albums, this time from 1998-2010. It's good to see that the inlay contains lyrics for most songs together with details of the artist and the album title. In effect then, it acts as a 'sampler' for the previous releases. Most of the song lyrics are not Christian - or are, at the most, ambiguous. CD1 kicks off with Dan Wheeler & Paul Field with 'This is love' - a simple song, but nicely done and featuring some really effective vocal harmonies. Others that I enjoyed on this CD included two with clearly biblical/Christian references i.e. Becky Frith's 'Lifter of my head' and 'You are greater' by Ben Jones, plus Cathy Burton's 'Love Invited' and the rocky 'Sink to the bottom' by Steve Parsons - the first real stand-out, strong lyrics and arrangement, powerfully sung. CD 2 begins with the excellent 'You loved me' by Nicki Rogers (whose piano and vocals always remind me of Nicole Nordeman). This is followed by another goodie, Rob Halligan's 'Dungeon Ghyl', and CD 2 ends with the second standout which happens to be another by Steve Parsons - 'Prodigal', much slower tempo than his other offering but brilliant lyrics, melody and arrangement. The only downside really is the poor editing of some of the lyrics on the inlay! - e.g. 'looses (loses) his life', 'did you open you're (your) soul and 'your (you're) out there on your own'. I could go on ... (!) but none of this affects the music, much of which is very good - and I'm about to check out Steve Parsons further! 8/10. Dave Deeks (December 2010)
VARIOUS : The Stand. (Kingsway : KMCD2997)
This latest triple worship CD from Kingsway features the usual roster of artists including Brenton Brown, Lou Fellingham, Stuart Towend et al, and many of the 50 songs will be familiar to regular worshippers. This release appears to be simply a new compilation of old Kingsway recordings, so anyone looking for something original is likely to be disappointed. For any who have recently become Christians however and are beginning a worship CD collection, these discs represent the current 'state of the game' in contemporary Christian worship music here in the UK and so are as good a place to start as any. With little to link them musically or in terms of overall 'message' however, the songs are a bit of a mixed bag with regard to style and delivery. Like many releases of this type the individual artists are not credited against each track. Unlike some releases however, it was good to note that full lyrics are provided. My favourite of the whole compilation is Lou Fellingham's 'Amazing love'. Other standouts for me include Stuart Townend's 'Oh to see the dawn', 'What a sacred fountain' complete with Enya-esque/Corrs-ish harmonies, 'And can it be' sung to a beautiful Chris Eaton arrangement, 'My soul finds rest' and 'You stood before creation'. Recording quality is fine in the main, although I did find some variations in perceived 'levels' that made it necessary to adjust the volume several times between tracks - a pity this passed unnoticed at the mastering stage. 5/10. Dave Deeks (December 2009)
VARIOUS : The UK’s Top 30 Worship Songs. (Kingsway : KMCD3141)
With many original artists featured, this 2 Cd collection offers listeners the chance to have the Top 30 Worship songs in the UK. You will know practically all the songs, as they span the last three decades. Stuart Townend starts things off with ‘In Christ Alone’, before we’re treated to a rather refrained version of ‘Shout to the Lord’ – more like “keep your voice down”. ‘Be Still’ is prayerfully performed, while the live take of ‘How Great Thou Art’ is something quite special. It sounds like an all male vocal and could well be taken from one of the Mandate Conference’s of recent times. Roll back the years and we find two Graham Kendrick tunes on offer, ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ and ‘The Servant King’ - both stirring songs. Matt Redman begins the second Cd with one of my personal favourites, ‘I Will Offer Up My Life’. He then leads us in a powerful and uplifting version of ‘Once Again’, which will make any believer’s heart glow. There’s a rocky version of ‘The Heart of Worship’ and then a gentle soaking with a long forgotten song, ‘As the Deer Pants For the Water’. If popular worship music works for you, then look no further than this carefully put together collection. 9/10 (March 2011, Album of the month)
VARIOUS : The Ultimate Collection - Modern Worship. (Sparrow : SPD59098)
The press release says that this collection "captures 25 songs that are sung by tens of millions in church every week, and are quickly becoming the hymns of our day". I guess it depends where you go to church, as there were still a few songs on this double Cd package that I didn't recognise. There's a host of well known names featured, and it all starts with the Newsboys awesome number, "He Reigns" and an energetic live version of "Open the Eyes of My Heart" by Sonicflood. As much as I like Rebecca St James' music, I'm afraid her version of "Above All" just doesn't match up to the original Michael W.Smith release. Tim Hughes offers "Here I Am to Worship" while Delirious give you "I Could Sing of Your love Forever" and, the song that always lifts me up, "Shout to the North". Other artists featured include Chris Tomlin, Brenton Bown, Vicky Beeching and Matt Redman while Sonicflood must also get the plaudits for the most horrendous track with their version of "Lord, I lift Your Name on High". In a nutshell, there should be something for everyone on this album of worship. 7/10 (December 2006)
VARIOUS : The Veil Torn. (Kingsway : KMCD2895)
This 3CD package sets to take you on a journey of praise and thanksgiving, repentance and cleansing, leading to the awesome glory of God. 50 tracks, in total, make it quite an ordeal to listen to in one sitting, and I failed to manage that. There's a mixture of songs old and new, and various re-workings included, but no credits as to who's actually singing them. 'Arise' gives a bouncy, pop start, and a lively version of 'Blessed Be Your Name' caught my ears as being quite good. The first re-working came with 'Beautiful One' and a very individual vocal, just to make it different from the norm. I think that most of the tracks have been recorded live, and the musicianship shines well throughout. I had forgotten just what a good song' Come On and Celebrate' was, and it's bubblegum, pop production here, gave it new life. It may have been written in 1994, but Paul Oakley's 'We Have Prayed' is fairly new to me. I like it's structure and the easy to pick up, catchy tune - first class. It wasn't all plain sailing with the album though, as I found some of the songs to be rather bland, but whoever sings on 'I Am A New Creation' has been certainly blessed. What a great voice the female singer has! Not the best compilation I've come across this year, but enough for your average listener to find plenty of highlights. 7/10 (November 2008)
VARIOUS : This Way Up. (Elevation : ELED00830)
Three bands/I sonic assault. Well, that's what the label says. As ICC's Elevation label gives three UK bands to the chance to air their music with full company backing. All three bands featured show that the guitar is not dead, and there's some stunning effects on show. First up are Chasing Stars with the effervescent "Come On". "Only Human" is a brand new song, and not the one from the late-lamented Giants Will Fall, and "Another Place" rocks things nicely. Supervision, on the other hand, I found to be a cross between Oasis and Duran Duran. Some good lyrics, catchy music, but the delivery didn't quite happen for me on any of their offerings. Enter, Newcastle's finest, Titus. Three Chinese lads, doing it their way. There's a rawness about their music that even comes out on CD, and that just generates excitement to me. "I Could Run A Thousand Miles" and "Made For God" are terrific, especially the latters' guitar work. Then, they finish with "Lost In You". Simple, straight forward lyrics, and a punch packing song is the result. And if that's all not enough, the nice chaps at elevation throw in a Kato song for good measure. Into UK guitar bands? Give it a try. 7/10 (April 2004)
VARIOUS : To The One God. (Elevation : ELE1573D)
Although this collection of 12 contemporary hymns features various artists, it is mainly a Paul Field project. The album is produced by Paul in conjunction with Dave Lynch, features 10 songs that he wrote or co-wrote and Paul also contributes a large amount musically and vocally. There are other “big names” featured including the operatic talents of Jonathan Viera, the guitar wizardry of Dan Wheeler, the percussive musing of Calum Rees and some cameo appearances by Mal Pope. So, how does this plethora of talent stack up? Well, as much as it is billed as contemporary, it has a distinctive traditional praise and worship feel to it. It is very reminiscent of what was considered avant-garde in Christian music circles in the late 80s but then, given the albums Daybreak associations, this is largely to be expected. If I'm honest, the songs, whilst excellent on theological and spiritual content, are lacking enough variety musically, both in the context of this cd but also within the wider contemporary hymn genre. As a result, it's an album that doesn't do enough to retain my interest and leaves me slightly disappointed considering the talents of the artists involved. 6/10 Robin Thompson. (January 2011)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Top 25 Heart Seekers. (Maranatha : UPC738597131622).
Featuring some of the fastest rising praise & worship songs from the past year or two, this album contains ten tracks and makes for good listening. In fact, this pre-release has left me wanting to hear more and I fully intend to buy the full version in the future. The songs are all produced well, singing and music excellent. Reading the sleeve note, I recognised several songs, although some are quite different from the original versions. Included are well-known numbers such as "I Could Sing of Your Love For Ever", "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble", and "Heart of Worship". One song that I had never heard before was "Hungry", very much in the style of Delirious? A good album with plenty of modern songs. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (August 2001, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Top 25 UK Praise Songs. (Maranatha : MMCD0101)
Here we are then, the top 25 UK Praise songs as reported by the Christian Copyright Licensing International organisation. Two CD's produced and recorded in the UK, by UK artists. But don't think that this is just another collection of well known songs. Each track has been recorded in quite a different style by several artists. "We Want to See Jesus Lifted high" is given a full guitar band treatment, with singer JK Jamieson leading the way. In fact, Mr Jamieson performs well throughout including the smooth "All Heaven Declares" and "I Will Offer Up My Life". In similar fashion, Paul Oakley shines on "As The Deer" and his rock version of "Jesus is the Name We Honour". Slower songs of note are Carla Hayes' "Faithful One" and Esther Alexander's "The Power of Your Love". Then, of course, there is the most hideous version of "Shine Jesus Shine" that I have ever heard. This is one of the most joyful songs that, usually, never fails to lift flagging spirits but, on this occasion, to say it was bad would be being kind. The Watchman raps his way through the verse while the chorus is sung by a children's choir that sound as if they are being forced to do so. Yes, it is that bad. Still, that still leaves another 24 songs to enjoy, so that can't be bad. 9/10. (June 2002, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Touched By An Angel. (Myrrh : 080688591120)
From the massive TV programme that is "Touched By An Angel", comes this soundtrack featuring a host of top artists. In America, the show pulls a staggering 22 million viewers but I can't see the album doing it much good. Celine Dion guests with God's Property for some serious whailing and hollering on "Love Can Move Mountains", which follows the equally tedious "Walk With You" by Della Reese & the Verity All Stars. The Kinley's provide the first bright ray, with a modern country sound called "Somebody's Out There Watching". Amanda Marshall sings the pick of the bunch, a particularly well orchestrated, "Believe in You", while Uncle Sam do a good East 17 impersonation on "When I see You Smile". Amy Grant may be having trouble in her personal life right now, but no-one can touch her voice for the beautiful rendition of "Shine All Your Light". It's a bitty, rather than polished affair and, having never seen the programme, I'm not over impressed. 6/10. (April 1999)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Trad Jazz Praise - Be Bold. (Kingsway : KMCD2041).
I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing when this album began. Those of you old enough to remember the TV variety shows of the 60's & 70's will also remember the appearances of Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk. Well, this could be them, playing well known hymns and praises in their, oh, so familiar style. "Father God I Wonder", "Jubilate" and the title track are all given an injection of jazz. "We Are Gathering Together" reminded me of one of those old negro funeral processions and is downright mournfull. I did tap my feet to a few of the tracks but I really didn't feel uplifted by it all. I certainly didn't dislike the music but my previous aversion to jazz has not been converted by this. 6/10. (April 1998)
VARIOUS : Trinity. (Authentic Media - 8203962)
Finally, a compilation is released that seems to have a purpose, in this case a celebration of the Trinitarian nature of our God. This unifying reason helps the compilation to hang together better than many others, and this is assisted by consistent production, handled in the main by Nathan Fellingham. There is a certain pomp rock feel to the opener, "See What a Morning" and this guitar driven feel continues until track five, "Dance of Our God", a wonderful hebrew style praise number sung superbly by Geraldine Latty. Other highlights include the wonderfully Celtic "Come Let Us Sing" and a quite sublime original arrangement of Graham Kendrick's old stalwart "We Believe". This remains inherently a rock album, and I think there is some nice inteplay between old and new styles on this album. The only real disappointment is that, as good as Cathy Burton's voice is, she lacks the power to make the most of the two songs she sings. She is much better suited to a pop style, and a more appropriate vocalist would have been a better choice. Overall though, a good compilation, and one you are likely to keep playing for some time. 8/10 Robin Thompson. (August 2006)
VARIOUS : Ultimate Hymns. (Authentic : 8204672)
'Ultimate Hymns' is a spot on title for this 4 CD collection. It really does contain the cream of hymns that we have grown to love over the years. Sung exactly how they were written, there are some real crackers for the listener. Writers such as Charles Wesley, John Newton and many others are featured here on an album that, for me, re-kindled so many happy memories. The list of great songs is endless and are far too many to list, but hymns like 'Now Thank We All Our God', 'Be Thou My Vision', 'O For A Thousand Tonuges' and 'Amazing Grace', all appear on the first disc alone. Other personal highlights include 'Holy, Holy' Holy', 'Immortal, Invisible', and 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. The vocals are crisp and clean and the accompaniment unobtrusive. Delight, once more, in the hymns that have stood the test of time. 8/10. (July 2008)
VARIOUS : Ultimate Worship. (Authentic : 8204282)
Anyone familiar with the 'Heart of Worship' series from Authentic Media will know what to expect from this 'Ultimate Worship' four CD set drawn from the original 6 volumes. Whilst the sleeve notes mention the songwriters, it is a shame that the artists remain anonymous for there are some very capable singers here, as well as some excellent songs, in the main well recorded, and with a nice clean sound. As is so often the case with such material however, many of the tunes are predictable and most of the arrangements bland and uninteresting. I did find four tracks worth a mention because they stood out musically - as it happens, one from each disc. Disc 1's 'Majesty (here I am)' features a great bass-guitar-led groove. On disc 2 Marie Barnet's gorgeous 'Breathe' features a strong piano intro and excellent female vocal. Disc 3 brings us 'Holy, holy' - always strong musically, and here featuring nice harmonies and excellent drumming that lifts it above the ordinary. On disc 4 we have the Phatfish song 'There is a day', again strong musically and with its strong anthemic chorus - but the Phatfish original is better. Overall then, a fair introduction to the Christian worship scene, but I can't help wishing better things were happening in terms of variation and originality. Suitable as 'Christian bookshop' background music then, but for home listening not really interesting enough to raise it above a lowly 4/10.. Dave Deeks. (August 2008)
VARIOUS : Ultimate Worship 2017. (Integrity : B01LQT4OS2)
I’m always a little wary towards compilation albums but I’m pleased to say this is a really pleasant collection of worship songs that will appeal to all tastes. There are songs from established and well-loved favourites like Tim Hughes, Paul Wilbur, and Soul Survivor as well as emerging artists like All Sons and Daughters, ICF Worship and All About Worship. There are real lyrics that depart from Christian jargon “resentment and depression and all anxiety they have no power over me” declares Amanda Kinner from the latter. There are some really great songs with a fresh sound that are paving the way and pushing creative boundaries. Closer would sit comfortably in any live church setting. It’s encouraging to see writers like Chris Sayburn teaming up with the likes of Jock James and bringing an influence and freshness to the established sound of Life Worship from Bradford. All in all an enjoyable collection of songs that would play nicely in the car, in a personal worship time or in the background as you go about your every day. 8/10 Angie Lendon (December 2016)
VARIOUS : Vertical Momentum - Trading My Sorrows. (Vertical Music : 29082)
The sleeve notes tell me that this is the ultimate contemporary worship collection of the church's fastest rising favourites of today (disc1) and emerging hits of tomorrow (disc2). Sorry to say, that my church sings none of them, so does that mean I'm missing something? Well, the first Cd is fully charged with some great songs. David Chatel's "I Give You My Heart" is very Third Day in sound and pounds away at your head. "My Glorious" is, in my opinion, the best Delirious? track the boys have come up with since those heady days UK single chart success of the 90's. Drawing you deep into worship is Ten Shekel Shirt with their terrific number "Meet With Me", while Kathryn Scott's great voice treats you to "I Can Only Imagine". Other songs of note include Lamont Heibert's "Sing for Joy" and United Live with "God is Great". The second disc turned out to be a bit of a let down and despite the opening promise of Lincoln Brewster's "Let the Praises Ring", I found very little to enthuse about. Perhaps I am missing something. 5/10 (March 2005)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : "Video You Can Believe In". (Reunion Records). (Video)
For those of you who want to see what some of top CCM artists look like, you could do a lot worse that to spend a few quid on this budget priced video. Only 34 minutes, but containing 8 tracks. Best of the bunch, visually, must be Michael W.Smith's "Cry For Love", while Clay Crosse, singing on a mountain top with a fully robed gospel choir, pushes a close second. Great to see Carolyn Arends sing "Seize the Day" from her debut album "I Can Hear You". Others featured are Wes King, Kathy Troccoli, Church of Rhythm, Rich Mullins, and Joanna Carlson. Shop around, I picked this up for less than a fiver, and can well recommend it. 8/10. (October 1996)
VARIOUS : We Bow Down : (Kingsway : KMCD2949)
I'm not sure whether worship compilations are getting better, or whether my tastes are changing(!), but I found this one mostly a pleasant surprise in the same way as the 'Worship Shuffle' release that I reviewed last month. Kingsway of course have a massive back catalogue to draw from, and whilst the songs here are written dating back to 1994 by the usual well known names - Godfrey Birtill, Stuart Townend et al - there are some tracks that I had not heard before. Again, as with last month's review, production is mostly of a high standard - but it is also again a pity that the artists are not actually credited on the sleeve or insert. The Fellingham family's compositions always seem to stand out for me on such issues, and it is the same here - with two of their offerings 'All I have and all I am' and 'We have this treasure' being my favourites, featuring strong arrangements and excellent performances from lead vocalist Lou. Other tracks that I found worthy of particular mention are 'Most Holy Father I come to You' (written by John Hartley and Chris Eaton), 'In all I do and all I say' (Nathan Fellingham), 'Angels bow (Keith Getty)' and Paul Oakley's 'We have prayed (Let it rain)'. Overall then, another worthy compilation. 8/10. Dave Deeks (May 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : When Women Worship (Kingsway: KMCD2248)
When this CD dropped through my letterbox, I thought, 'Oh no, not another one of those!' It's a nice pastel shade of lilac, very feminine and obviously designed by a man. But it just shows that you shouldn't judge a CD by it's cover. I was surprised by the content and quality of this album. There are a couple of tracks from Sue Rinaldi's excellent 'Promised Land', a couple from Viola Grafstrom, and a vast array of one off's including Lou Fellingham from Stoneleigh and Geraldine Latty from Focusfest. This compilation is a real mixture - some studio, some live recordings; some hymns, some recent songs but with the common theme that all are fronted by female vocalists. I have to say that I preferred the studio renditions, as you tend to get some strange mixes on live ones, and it's very rare that a live atmosphere can be captured on CD. The tracks that stood out for me were Sue Rinaldi's 'Holy River', Viola Grafstrom's 'We Bow Down' and the final track, Joanna Hogg's 'The Lord's My Shepherd'. A nice album, shame about the cover. Kingsway must have designed it with a female market in mind. Strange, I would have thought the opposite as I'm waiting here with bated breath for the release of 'When Men Worship'!! 6/10. Julie Lord. (May 2000)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : When Women Worship - Vol.3. (Kingsway :KMCD2364)
As the title says, this is the third release in the series that features some of the world's finest female vocalists, singing songs of worship. Sadly, (you can tell what I'm going to say, can't you?) it's not as good as it's predecessors. Not that it doesn't have it's moments. Take, for instance, Sue Rinaldi's passionate rendition of James Taylor's "Only You". Expertly sung, with great feeling and dedication. Also, Kate Simmonds produces a real "feel good" factor as you listen to her version of Stuart Townsend's "You Are My Anchor". But, "Come to the Table" is nothing more than a 'happy clappy' number, while "O God of Love" bears more than a passing nod at Wet Wet Wet's version of "Love is All Around". Okay, so I'm not a woman, listening. There again, I've heard the previous albums in the series and have enjoyed the worship. This time, however, perhaps I was too masculine to appreciate it properly. 4/10. (May 2002)
VARIOUS : Wonderful Saviour - 20 new songs for Spring Harvest'. (ICC : 1160D)
Considered 'the 20 outstanding worship songs to emerge through the Church this year', the first of this double CD set features full band arrangements, and the second stripped-back acoustic ones. Five lead vocalists - Andreana Arganda, Cathy Burton, Ross Gill, Adrian Thompson & Neil Wilson - are found on CD1, whilst Andreana, Cathy and Ross share the songs on CD2. Unfortunately they are not identified track by track. There are some very good songs here however, including lyrically - and the insert includes printed lyrics. Production and sound quality are excellent, apart from one track on CD2 ('All I am') where the lead vocal is set too high. The standout track for me on CD1 is the (female vocal) 'Mighty to save', featuring a slightly out of the ordinary drum riff that strongly contributes to the effectiveness of the overall performance. Other strong ones on this CD are the Sarah Masen-like 'From the inside out', 'Beauty unspoken', and the title track 'Wonderful Saviour'. I found the arrangements to be strong, apart from a tendency for the slightly predictable 'drums kick in on second verse' approach. On CD2 'Psalm 13' worked well, but I thought that overall this CD was less successful, with the piano/acoustic guitar providing insufficient variety and several of the songs crying out for a fuller treatment. To help you decide whether to purchase, hear some of the tracks at www.essentialchristian.com. With the emphasis on CD1 however, a worthy 8/10. Dave Deeks (July 2008)
VARIOUS : Word to the World.   (Elevation : ELE1621D)
Subtitled, Keswick Live Worship, this CD was recorded last year at this well loved UK conference. With leaders, Steve James, Stuart Townend and Colin Webster, there are a variety of musical styles featured. It’s no surprise to hear the celtic sound of Townend on ‘All My Days’, while I really enjoyed a new song to me, ‘We Have Heard A Joyful Sound’, sung by Colin Webster. Classic hymns are next in line as we hear ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ and ‘Praise to the Lord, The Almighty/O Come Let Us Adore Him’. I must say that the live feeling of the worship didn’t come over too much on this CD. Not sure whether that was due to the original recording, or the later studio production. Just a minor moan! ‘The Harvest Is Coming’ was another new song to my ears. Written and led by Steve James, I’m pleased to see that this guy has gone from strength to strength since his 1998 ‘Voices in the Desert’ album. I loved the female vocals of Jayne Lewis on ‘Amazing Love’, and the majestic power of ‘I Will Say My God Is Glorious’. Without being outstanding, a really nice album.   8/10  (May 2012)
VARIOUS : Working on A Building. (New Haven : 8098-2)
This is a country gospel collection, with proceeds from sales specifically benefitting the Mindanao Blessings International Philippines Orphanage Project. It’s a long time since I heard a compilation like this, and I’m pleased to say that, on the whole, it’s a hit. Kicking off everything is the foot tappin’ title track, sung by Marty Raybon, Trace Adkins, T. Graham Brown and Jimmy Fortune. It’s quite infectious, and there’s plenty of fiddles and slide guitar to keep you happy. Fortune’s rendition of ‘On The Other Side’ is very much in the style of Rascal Flatts. Smooth and easy on the ear. One of my favourite country artists, Alan Jackson, gently sings the classic ‘In The Garden’, while the unmistakable voice of Glenn Campbell provides us with ‘Unto the Least of These’. I’ve not heard of Aaron Tippin before, but I enjoyed ‘A Mighty Good God’ very much. With just a banjo and handclaps for backing, it really stands out from the crowd. The closing ‘Softly and Tenderly’ from George Jones sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s so “old fashioned”, compared with the rest of the tracks, that I found it an odd song to include. But, all in all, a good one for the country fans. 8/10. (August 2012)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : World Worship 2. (Kingsway : KMCD2373)
Worship leaders on this album come from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, the Carribean, England, Sweden, and Native America. It's quite a collection, with a wide range of styles contained within. Perhaps this, then, is the reason there seemed to be so much variety on offer to keep my ears interested. I'm still a sucker when it comes to a good old fashioned jig, and so wasn't disappointed by "Sound the Trumpet". I'm not a big fan of David Ruis but I thought that "everybody Come Now" rates as one of his best songs of praise. Viola 's "A Generation Comes and Goes" really stands out because of her whispering voice. It simply makes you listen more intently and, therefore, you enjoy the song much more! I wasn't to keen on the gospel tinged "Yes I Thank you", but found the accappella lament "I Turn and Come To you" a compelling listen. Lots of styles on show and lots to commend this album. 8/10. (May 2002)
VARIOUS : The World’s Favourite Hymns. (Integrity Music)
I’m not a big fan of compilation hymn albums but my approach to this three CD collection was one of expectation of a fresh sound to hymns ancient and modern! Described as “Featuring a combination of modern worship songs, contemporary versions of classic hymns, as well as more than a few timeless classics” With all proceeds going to Tear Fund this album draws from a deep well of talent such as Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Martin Smith, Lou Fellingham and Elim Sound’s Ian Yates. There are some real favourites like “Holy Holy Holy” and “Oh for a Thousand Tongues” as well as “Ten Thousand Reasons”, “Hope and Glory” and “How Deep the Fathers Love.” It certainly covers a lot of ground and makes one realise what an incredible journey worship writers have travelled throughout the years to put songs into our mouths to worship with. One highlight for me was the inclusion of instrumental versions of said hymns. It takes the album in a more chilled direction suitable for prayer and reflection. Production, for me was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a fresh sound when in actual fact the songs appear to be lifted from previous releases some dating back to the 90’s. All in all a pleasant album but one I woudn’t be in a hurry to purchase. 7/10 Angie Lendon. (April 2017)
VARIOUS : Worship 24:7. (Integrity : 42632)
Following up on last year's highly successful Worship Platinum release, 'Worship 24:7 is the next release in the best-selling series. Here are 31 songs on a two CD collection that features some stirring performances. Lincoln Brewster's 'Salvation is Here' kicks things off, and it's a very bright start. Don Moen's 'How Great is Our God' is a rather luke warm rendition, but Aaron Shust's 'My Saviour My God' is great, in your face worship and declaration. Hillsong United contribute two fabulous tracks, 'From the Inside Out' and 'Lead Me to the Cross', while there's terrific harmonies from Phillips, Craig and Dean on 'Your Name'. The songs keep rolling on and Kathryn Scott's sweet voice on 'I Belong' is particularly beautiful. One of the lesser known artists, Phil Whickham shows what a talented singer he is on 'Always Forever' while Robin Mark typically leads worship with 'I Have Been Crucified With Christ'. As I say, 31 songs, and hardly a bad one among them. 9/10. (March 2008)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems Decade. 10 Years of Amazing Praise. (Elevation : ELE1562D.)
This is a double CD which contains 32 worship songs taken from all the major conferences over the last ten years. There are songs from Spring harvest, New Wine, Soul Survivor, and several others. The CD has a cover featuring the Union jack, and the two disks are labelled Red and White. Not sure where blue is though, doesn't seem to get a mention anywhere. I actually like this CD a lot, most of the songs are quite good versions, and most of what you'd expect to be on here is there somewhere. "Happy Day", "Consuming Fire " "Indescribable" to name just three. The biggest problem with this album though, is that every track on it has been released on any one of a dozen other worship compilations. If you have no worship CD's in your collection, then this would be an excellent choice, but if you have more than two compilations, then you will already have most of what is on here, and I wouldn't bother with it. 7/10 Andy Sayner. (March 2011)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems Kids. (Elevation : ELE1606D)
I resisted passing this one onto someone with children as, through working with children over the years, I thought that I could give a balanced view of how these songs would be received. First up, I was pleased to hear something different that the usual twee little songs that get turned out for early teens. Indeed, the verse sounded a little like Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, featuring choppy guitars and brass sounds. Tracks one to five certainly move along at breakneck speed, but with easy to understand words for young people. Then, disaster strikes as we’re treated to those sweet little songs that make you cringe as a Christian. A whole host of songs fall into the ‘god Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ category. Happily, things take a turn for the better with Pete James’ ‘Giant of Faith’ and Simon Parry & Nigel Hemming’s ‘God So Loved the World’. The second CD starts like it’s predecessor and there’s strong songs in the shape of ‘Every Move I Make’ and ‘Words are Not Enough’. With tracks culled from a number of albums, I think that Elevation have tried to cover all young age groups. The sad thing is that early teens are going to simply hate half the songs because they sound like nursery rhymes. The more contemporary sounds will hit the right note as they do compare well with the sort of things that young people here and see on music TV. The result? A good try, but could try harder. 7/10 (June 2011)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2011. (Elevation : ELE1642D)
This offering brings together a collection of tracks from a variety of UK festivals such as Grapevine, Keswick, Spring Harvest & Soul Survivor. It features a number of very well known names on the Christian music & worship scene including Vicky Beeching, Phatfish, Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick & Trent Vineyard so certainly no lightweight in that respect. The quality is also evident in the presentation with a comprehensive insert listing full song lyrics as well as letting you know who wrote it, which event the song was recorded at & the lead worshipper(s). Despite the big names however, I cannot say I was completely blown away by the contents. Don't get me wrong, there are some great tracks in here such as Jesus Saves led by Tom Field at Soul Survivor & Glorious Life from Trent but I found the vast majority to be just OK as a stand-alone listening experience. The musicianship is fine but in many cases such as the rendition of "Majesty (Here I am)" - the famous Delirious number, I was left feeling a bit flat - not bad but I have just heard more lively & powerful versions elsewhere. In spite of the positives, there's just not enough in this one to make me want to rush out to add it to my personal collection. 6/10 Simon Redfern (July 2011)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2012. (Elevation : ELE1716D)
This is a collection of live worship songs from all the big events like Spring Harvest, and Soul Survivor among lots of others. It's a double CD containing 31 tracks. CD 1 is referred to as Orange, and CD 2 as Purple, for reasons that escapes me. The performances are all very polished, and well produced, but apart from a couple of songs though there is not much that stands out and grabs your attention, in fact the whole thing seems to lack any kind of spark. There are good versions of "My Saviour's Love" and "Hosanna In The Highest" neither of which are new songs by any stretch of the imagination. If you were there on the night, then this CD might be of interest, but I didn't find it to be any better, or worse than any of the countless other worship CD's which all feature the same songs. I wonder, how many versions of 10,000 reasons do we really need. 5/10 Andy Sayner. (October 2012)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2013 (Elevation ELE1888D)
I recently gave a mixed review to the 'Worship Anthems Live from Vineyard USA' double CD. Here we have another 'Worship Anthems' release, again a double CD but this time with various origins. As previously, printed lyrics are provided, original albums and songwriters are identified and there is a list of artists on the front of the insert without these being credited against the tracks. I assume that '2013' refers simply to the year of compilation – the songs actually date from 1998 to 2012 and the recordings are taken from a range of previous albums, so listeners may find much that is familiar here. The two real standout tracks for me are both on CD1. 'Glorious' and 'Freedom reigns' (a nearly 8 minute tour-de-force) are nicely arranged 'Jesus Culture' offerings, worthy of particular note because they are delivered by the same brilliant female vocalist. Other strong ones include the two Pete James songs 'Fill me' and 'Only one name', 'You never give up' by Chris Morton, James Gregory and Zak Rob, 'Rhythms of grace' by Chris Davenport and Dean Ussher, 'Glory in the highest' by Al Gordon, Luke Hellebronth and Hanif Williams, Jules Burt's 'Devotion', and Jeremy Riddle's 'Full Attention'. The thirty two tracks include a lot of distinctly average material however. Many also suffer compressed and distorted sound, as is common with so much CCM these days and in contrast to the excellent WOW Gospel release I reviewed last month. For both these reasons I found myself skipping tracks to find something listenable. Overall then? 5/10. Dave Deeks (July 2013)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2014. (Elevation : ELE1962D)
This two cd set features 30 songs lifted from the various Christian festivals that took place in 2013. There is a Red disc and a Blue disc. I tried to discover if these were themed in someway but it just appears to be a creative way to differentiate between the two, instead of calling them Disc One and Disc Two. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this album is. It doesn’t really work as an album to worship along to as there is no flow – it is, after all, a compilation. Yet, it doesn’t really work as an album to listen to either. This is because in most instances, the recordings don’t do the performances justice. They tend to have far too much ambience. So for instance, “Move Like This” a song with a house/hip hop feel lacks the punch that you would normally expect from the genre. There is an excellent version of the classic song “I Will Worship” but the superb bass and guitar arrangements are indistinct and disappear into the general mix. Some songs are slightly better, particularly the Vineyard ones, but most never real feel like they have enough presence. Neither is it a collection of new songs as there are some well-known classics mixed in with some newer 2013 material. Overall it just feels a little incoherent, inconsistent and confused. There are some bright spots however. Pete James’ “Come Everybody” is suitably aggressive and “Emmanuel” is a beautiful acoustic number but these high points don’t make it worthy of consideration. It will however have value if you went to most of these events and can place this material in context. Otherwise you might find it a bit arduous. Robin Thompson. 6/10. (February 2014)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2015. (Elevation : ELE2024D)
This 2 CD release features 30 songs of worship, recorded live at various events both here in the UK, and across the pond in the USA. I do declare, that listening to these songs, I felt something like a dinosaur. I knew so few of them, that it makes me wonder if I’ve been locked away in some sort of time warp? I liked the high energy start of ‘Let It Be Known’, as well as the duet between Jesus Culture and Martin Smith, on ‘Waiting Here For You’. I, sometimes, find it quite strange how one song leads some people into worship, yet leaves others cold. There’s a big production on ‘Holy Spirit’, but the song failed to move me at all. The opposite can be said of ‘Stand Up, Stand Up, For Jesus’. Recorded at the Keswick Convention, there was something rather comforting and warming about this fine rendition. Hearing most of these songs for the first time, it did take me a few listens to feel at home with them. One that did take only one listen to impress was the Rend Collective’s glorious ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’. Right from the opening lines of “Come set your rule and reign in our hearts again”, the song cannot fail to raise your hands in worship. Other highlights include the Queen-esque “Great is Thy Faithfulness’ (not the old hymn) and ‘Jesus I come to You’. So, if you’re a regular, big event, worshipper, you’ll probably know all these songs and appreciate them more than I did. For others, like me, maybe it’s time to open your ears to new worship. 7/10. (February 2015)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2016. (Elevation : ELE2105D)
This collection of songs captures live worship from the likes of Spring Harvest, New Wine, Jesus Culture, vineyard, Keswick convention and many more events. It’s a 2CD release that contains thirty songs, written by many of today’s top songwriters. I’m always disappointed when the sleeve notes fail to credit the singers and I find it rather annoying. The female vocalist of “This is Amazing Grace” gives a fine rendition of the song. Two new songs, “When You Walk Into the Room” and “Pursue Me” made little impression on me, despite numerous plays. It was left to two Celtic songs to lift my spirits. Firstly, “Your Great Love”, followed by the unmistakable voice of Stuart Townend on “Across the Lands.” The latter is especially good and swings along very nicely. Cathy Burton (if my hearing is right) leads those gathered in a stirring version of “Cornerstone”, while I found “Mercy” to be the best of the new songs to my ears. One of my favourite tracks on the recording is “Alive With Worship”, complete with it’s great, singalong chorus. “The Way,” written by Bn Cantelon, Nick Herbert and Tim Hughes sounds like secular artist Amicii, with its excellent dance tones. There’s a diverse selection of songs featured and possibly the best is Pete James’ “Prepare the Way.” This is definitely one song that you wouldn’t be ashamed to play to secular musicians. It’s got everything, from a great guitar sounding backing, to an exciting verse and terrific chorus. It really is a fantastic song. All in all, it’s another fine collection to add to your worship library. 8/10. (May 2016)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems Live From Vineyard USA. (Elevation : ELE1819D)
Here we have a double CD compilation of 24 tracks selected from several previous 'Vineyard Live' albums. Printed lyrics are provided, and original albums identified – as are songwriters, but whilst there is a list of artists on the front of the insert, these are not credited against the tracks so it takes guesswork to know who is singing when. There is some good stuff here, beginning with a rousing rendition of Tony Sanchez's 'Bless His Name'. The problem with this track and many others however is that old bugbear of mine – i.e. poor sound quality. The following track 'Father Of Lights' is particularly bad in this respect, with heavy compression and distortion. A good few of the tracks are quite long but benefit from this, the arrangements taking their time to allow the songs to develop. Standouts for me that happen to follow this pattern whilst also having better sound include the seven-and-a-half minute 'What can I bring' – with excellent lyrics, brilliant female lead vocal (wish I knew who the lady was!) and great production – and the male and female vocal repeating-riff-based 'Invitacion (yep, that's how it's spelt) Fountain' which builds very effectively and stays in your head long afterwards. 'One thing remains' is another worth special mention although it suffers a bit sound-wise – this is another long one at almost eight minutes but very effectively reminds us that the one thing that remains is that His 'love never fails, never gives up, never runs out' on us. Amen to that! The reggae 'If you say go' is a well sung and enjoyable closer reminding us of Jesus' 'great commission' and our lives of faith, with particularly clean sound. My lasting impression of this release however is of a few gems surrounded by a lot of distorted filler that distracts from the Christian message. 6/10 Dave Deeks. (March 2013)
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems. (Elevation : ELE2179D)
This album delivers an international selection of live worship from a wide range of conferences, events and lead worshippers. It’s a double Cd collection, featuring 30 songs, some of which seem to appear rather too regularly on similar compilations. However, there’s some quite moving and powerful songs included. Kim Walker Smith’s vocals are unmistakable on “In the River” and “Rooftops.” Written by Beth Croft, “Love Takes Over” is a chart orientated number that sounds as if it could have come from teen favourites, Little Mix. Kristine DiMarco delivers a first class version of “Hope and Glory”, while Tim Hughes and Nick Herbert’s “Plans” is a new song that is so easy to learn and made it’s mark on my ears. I’m not a big fan of United Pursut, and I found both “Head to the Heart” and “Hidden” to be rather dull and boring. Stuart Townend’s “May the People Praise You” gets his usual rip-roaring treatment, and it’s good to hear those gathered singing along. For me, the second Cd is the stronger of the two, and include great vocal performances on “Held High” and “O Praise the Name.” Toward the end of the track listing, we come to, two tremendous songs. “Hold On” is simply beautiful. Written by Beth Croft and Nick Herbert, the female vocalist gives a stunning performance. And, when you just think that it can’t get any better, there’s a stirring version of “No Longer Slaves.” I first heard the Newsboys sing it, and I’ve loved the song ever since. As for the album itself, it’s definitely one of the better compilations. 8/10. (April 2017)
VARIOUS : Worship at the Abbey. (Kingsway : KMCD2762)
Recorded live at the famous Studio One of London's Abbey Road Studios, this Cd features an evening of celebration. Included are a whole host of artists, delivering various musical styles. It all starts off in triumphant mood with the terrific 'Happy Day' by Tim Hughes (a song that you will read more about in this month's NFN). Along with 'Clothed With Splendour', it's as good as anything that Hillsong have thrown at us in the last couple of years. Jocelyn Brown flexes her vocals chords on the gospel number, 'Praise the Mighty Name of 'Jesus', while Smokie Norful's voice grates rather on the repetitive 'Celebrate'. The varying styles tend to make the running order rather dis-jointed, and I think that this makes for a rather "stop-start" production overall. I enjoyed the more traditional songs mostly, including 'Here I Am To Worship' and 'How Deep the Father's Love'. An album that is more than just another worship compilation. 7/10. (November 2007)
VARIOUS : Worship Box Hymns : (Kingsway : KWCD3305)
This well priced three-cd compilation contains reissues of fifty mostly live recordings of traditional and more recent hymns from Kingsway's back catalogue, described on the web site as 'a new release that captures the very best of essential worship hymns'. I found things to enjoy – including the nicely arranged and beautifully sung 'Before the throne of God above', the carefully arranged and delivered combined track 'Who is there like you Lord / I love you Lord', the powerful 'On Christ the solid rock I stand' (amen to that!) and the beautiful 'All I once held dear'. The waltz timed 'Praise to the Lord' is an interesting take on an old favourite! The effective 'Glory be to God' majors on a pleasant repeating riff that stayed in my mind after the album had ended. The otherwise enjoyable medley 'Amazing grace / No not by might / Are you washed' is somewhat spoiled by a voiceover prayer at the beginning. Those who enjoy 'rocked up' hymns will find much to appreciate, but I often struggle with such an approach. I also found that a fair few tracks suffer from introductions / riffs that don't seem to fit the melodies – no doubt an attempt to bring something new to well known hymn tunes but in my view unnecessary and with results that sound 'contrived'. Sound quality? – ok, but there are several instances of perceived volume variations between tracks. Taking everything into consideration then, for me a somewhat mixed bag. 5/10. Dave Deeks (August 2012)
VARIOUS : Worship Devotional. (Kingsway : KWCD3163)
A daily devotional is nothing new, you might say. But, Kingsway have put Refelctions, Readings, and prayers together with a daily song. For instance, Day 1 of January features ‘None Like You’ by Nicole Brown and Eoghan Heaslip. The lyrics are included in the accompanying booklet, along with a passage for you to read and reflect upon. Indeed, there is no-one quite like Jesus, but how often do you remember that? And, how often do you tell somebody about His greatness? There’s a prayer, followed by a challenge to respond to what you’ve read. On this occasion “Tell someone today of the wonder of God’s ways”. And so, each day offers a fresh look at your Christian life. Music is provided on two CD’s, from artists such as Kelly Minter, Susan Ashton, Delirious?, and Tim Hughes. However, there is one minor moan. Even with my newly prescribed reading glasses, I struggled with the size of some of the text. Also, some of that text is coloured light green, on a darker green background – absolutely horrendous to try and read in broad daylight! The whole idea has been very well thought out, otherwise, and will be a boon to many. 8/10 (January 2011)
VARIOUS : Worship Encounter Vol.2. (Fierce : Fiercd30)
Let me get one moan right out of my system from the beginning. It took a very bright light and a magnifying glass for me to read the horrible small white print on an orange background, of the sleeve notes. I don't wear glasses but I was certainly thinking of paying the optician a visit after my first squinting look. Still, the music is what it's all about, and I settled down to listen. There are 18 tracks on the Cd, featuring some well known, and some not so well known, songs. "Beautiful One" is a good starter but David Lyle Morris' "Blessed Be Your Name" really kicks things off with a super rendition. Cathy Burton shows her vocal prowess on "Indescribable" and, later, returns to duet smoothly with Marc James on "Faithful One". David Lyle Morris provides the best of the tracks with "Whole World" and "You". The latter is produced very much in the style of recent Snow Patrol singles, and is a real winner for fans of that genre. "Come Let Us Return" and "I Love Your Presence" were new songs to me, but I didn't really like either of them. Neil Wilson sings a nice version of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" and ends the album on a solid footing. As worship albums go, this one is quite good. 7/10. (July 2007)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Worship from Ireland (ICC: ICCD79430)
The sub-title of this twenty four track double album is 'songs and events that have influenced the church in Ireland' - so although the worship leaders do tend to have Irish accents the music itself is perhaps not quite as 'Irish' as may have been thought from the title! Whatever, some of the arrangements found here are more musically interesting than in many contemporary P&W albums. 'This Is the Air I Breathe', 'Closer, Nearer' and 'Deeper Still' follow one another and are examples of songs that are carefully produced and well sung as 'performances' rather than attempts to lead worship, and will therefore stand repeated plays on the home CD player. Other high points for me, although more in 'worship leading mode', were 'Lion of Judah', 'Surely Our God' and 'Awake, Awake O Zion'. 'How Deep the Father's Love' is more than five minutes of beautifully played instrumental. Some of the remaining tracks are led by vocalists who sound rather strained and tired. 'Shout to the Lord' is one example - I would suspect this song was recorded towards the end of an especially uplifting time of corporate worship! A mixed bag, then, worth an average of … 6/10 Dave Deeks. (April 2004)
VARIOUS : Worship From the Heart of Ireland. (Integrity Music: 30922)
I found this CD quite a refreshing change to a lot of the worship CDs that I've heard lately. The people involved seemed to be really enjoying themselves, and genuine about what they were doing. There are some well known people here, Brian Doerksen, Robin Mark, and Joanne Hogg just to name a few. A mix of traditional hymns like Be Thou My Vision, and When I Survey are side by side with more modern songs like Days of Elijah, and the Anthem for Ireland, which goes to the tune of Danny Boy unsurprisingly. This is a double CD, with 22 tracks, so most people will find something that they know on it somewhere I should think. If like me you sometimes despair at the sugar coated mush that is all too often served up by the big American labels, then give this CD a try. I'm sure that you won't be disappointed. Andy Sayner 9/10 (June 2004)
VARIOUS : Worship Gold. (Elevation : ELE2225D)
For those of you who love today’s worship songs, this is a collection of those which are currently enriching the worldwide church. All the tracks are studio recordings but as is often the case in these compilations, there are no vocal credits given. And, for me, that is a pity, because one of the female vocalists has such a terrific voice! Kicking things off is a rather lethargic version of “Hosanna.” There’s a good version of “This is Amazing Grace”, but this track is completely outshone by a sweet, acoustic rendition of “Cornerstone.” The female vocal is so sweet and pure, that I had to play the song again straight away, because I enjoyed it so much. Similarly, “Calvary” delights the listener, before the well known sound of “10,000 Reasons” fills the air. This song has grown on me immensely in the last 12 months, as has another inclusion, “Mighty To Save”. Leading worship myself with both of these songs, I have seen how people bathe in the presence of the Lord, whilst singing. “Every Nation Under Heaven” was a new song to me. Written by Tom McConnell, it has all the traits of a modern country number. The female vocalist, again, raises the barre with excellent performances on “Revelation Song” and “God of Our Yesterdays”, before there’s a quite majestic feel to “We Believe.” As worship collections go, this is one of the best. 9/10. (March 2017)
VARIOUS : Worship:Medley. (Kingsway : KMCD2947)
I wasn't expecting too much of this 2 disc set as I slotted CD1 into the player. There are so many attempts to sell successive worship releases as 'new' and 'different' with the results often disappointing, that the 'unique selling point' of mini-medleys didn't really sound too appealing. I was largely wrong however. Here we have fourteen tracks, each containing two or three songs seamlessly joined together, with the medleys mostly well chosen both musically and content-wise. The tracks are specially done studio recordings - recorded and mixed by Andy Green in Manchester, Leeds and Seattle. Vocalists are Andy Green, Ingrid DuMosch, Brent Miller, Wendy Green and Tim Light and there is occasional and appropriate use of a 'congregation' (Bury Christian Fellowship) in the background. Disc 1 features my two favourite tracks of the set i.e. 'Because of your love'/'Hosanna' and 'In every day that dawns'/May I sing/Draw me close to You'. Other standouts for me are 'How great is our God'/'God of wonders', 'Lord you have my heart'/'To be in your presence' and 'I cannot tell'/'Holy holy holy'/'All hail the Lamb'. There is nice variety here with arrangements mostly inventive and 'musical', and production and sound quality are good except for a somewhat over-processed autotuning digital 'edge' to many of the male vocals. Altogether, quite an enjoyable release. Tracks can be sampled via www.missionworship.com. 7/10. Dave Deeks (October 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Worship on Location. (ICC : ICCD52230)
This is a double album featuring live praise and worship from some of the top worship leaders today - Robin Mark, Matt Redman, David Ruis and Graham Kendrick to name but a few. An excellent compilation of new, and some not so new, songs. Music, singing, lyrics all of a very high standard. Songs taken from Spring Harvest, soul Survivor, and New Wine etc. There are rousing praises and plenty of quieter prayerful numbers. One minor criticism about the sleeve notes, where I would have liked to have been told who was actually leading each song. Some voices are very distinctive but others left me wondering. I found it difficult to pick out favourite tracks, there being so many, but from disk one; "It's Our confession, Lord" begins fairly quietly and then gradually moves into a stirring praise song. From the second disc, then, "Stand Amazed In the Presence" is a favourite of mine anyway. Sung with a haunting voice, a beautiful version of a superb song. "O Sacred King" works well but isn't quite as polished as Matt Redman's original rendering. On the whole, an excellent album. 9/10. Pam Robinson. (December 2001)
VARIOUS : Worship Shuffle - 50 great songs for your MP3 player. (Kingsway : KMCD2902)
I must admit my first impression wasn't good when I received this 3 CD set for review. For a start, it comes in a garish 'highlighter pen' orange. Then the title seems to imply the worst kind of 'conveyor belt' worship songs. The outcome however is better than I imagined, with production mostly of a high standard and enough good tracks to make this a cost effective way to obtain a worthwhile range of recent worship material. Whilst regular worship listeners will recognise most of the lead vocalists when they hear them, it is a pity that artists are not credited against songs. The composers are however, and there is also a general statement that the set 'includes songs from worship leaders such as Stuart Townend, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Lou Fellingham, Brenton Brown and so many more'. Strongest tracks for me from CD1 were 'You've granted perfect merit' (Nathan Fellingham) and 'Now that I am born of God' (Kate Simmonds and Mark Edwards), from CD2 'In all I do and all I say' (Nathan Fellingham), 'Jesus you are mercy' (Brenton Brown and Don Williams), 'Though I walk upon ground that is rugged' (Simon Brading) and 'Speak oh Lord' (Keith Getty and Stuart Townend), and from CD3 'When we turn our hearts to Heaven' (Noel Richards and Ken Riley), 'God of justice' (Tim Hughes) and the haunting 'If this life's just these last few days' (Kate Simmonds and Mark Edwards). It isn't often that a mastering engineer gets a mention in a review, but I want to praise Denis Blackham at Skye Studios for doing an excellent job of making the compilation sound uniformly good. Overall then, worth an easy 8/10. Dave Deeks (April 2009)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Worship - The Acoustic Set. (Kingsway :KMCD916).
Earlier this year, Kingsway released another album from the Worship Together 97 conference, which was nothing special. However, with this release we hear musicians perform in an intimate venue, producing live acoustic recordings of their best songs. Bryn Haworth starts things off with the bluesy "I'm Grateful" and soon gets the audience clapping along. This is followed by some lovely prayerful worship, in the shape of Dave Bilbrough "What Kind of Love is This?". Oh yes, my friend Graham Kendrick is featured too....at his best. "Lift Him High", "Abba Father" and "Thorns in the Straw" are his contributions, all excellent but, with the former standing out. Andy Piercy's "Psalm 139" washes peacefully over you and Matt Redman's "Show Me the Way of the Cross" ministers in such a profound way. Also featured are Noel Richards, Stuart Townend and Carol Owen, on a worship album of great power. 9/10. (October 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Worship Together 97. (Kingsway : KMCD994).
In January this year, 3,000 worship leaders and musicians from across the UK , Europe and the U.S gathered in Eastbourne for a unique conference - to rediscover the heart of worship. This album captures some of the worship time led by several gifted leaders. Kicking off with Matt Redman and "The Cross Has Said It All", it's a bouncy and exciting number. Graham Kendrick comes next with a stuttering gospel offering called "Say It Loud", before the pace picks up again with the hoe-down "I Will Dance". It's a well crafted album that does get you excited, as well as quietly worshipping. Stuart Townend and Noel Richards are just two of the other artists featured on a live worship recording that stands up well. 7/10 (July 1997)
VARIOUS : Worship Together Platinum - CD & DVD Set. (Kingsway : WTD60606)
The publicity blurb gives the rationale for this set as follows: "Following the rapid success of the certified platinum release 'Worship Together: I could sing of your love forever', accompanied by major television advertising from Time Life, Worship Together introduces a new collection featuring the best songs from the top selling 15 volume continuity series - all in one new package". So there you go. Essentially, what we have here is a CD containing what are considered to be the top 15 tracks from the full volume, plus a 'bonus' DVD of '"7 top worship videos". With one or two exceptions, the CD contains medium paced, guitar-based pop-rock worship songs - some studio recorded, others live. Here we have names like SonicFlood, Newsboys, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman - beginning with the excellent 'Breathe' by the only lady here, Rebecca St James. The other stand-out for me is 'Blessed be your name' by Tree63, done in anthemic fashion and great to sing along to in the car. The other tracks are familiar and mainly enjoyable, but I couldn't help noticing that many suffer from the overall similarity that much of CCM seems to have developed these days, with each artist/band progressing seamlessly to the next. The 7 track DVD is better, with more variety on offer - and there is also the obvious benefit of seeing the artists in action. Rebecca James again has one of the best tracks, opening with a 'pop video' of 'Song of Love'. Other stand-outs are the live 'O Praise Him' by the David Crowder Band, Matt Redman's (very hot and sweaty!) live performance on 'The heart of worship', and Newsboys' 'pop video' style 'He reigns'. Unfortunately, Plus One's live performance of 'Here I am to worship' is sung out of tune. Mostly however, an enjoyable DVD with good sound and picture quality - and this puts my score for the whole package up to 8/10. Dave Deeks. (February 2006)
VARIOUS : Worship's Biggest Anthems. (Kingsway : KMCD3124)
Here's thirty worship songs that you can either listen to on your own, or as part of a small gathering. Lots of well known worship songs that you can join in with, and enjoy time in God's love. Full lyrics are included in the sleeve, so there's no excuse! There's an exciting start to the first of the two CD's with Brian Doerksen and Wendy Whitehead belting out 'Now Is the Time to Worship'. On the other hand, there's a rather sedate version of 'Shout to the lord' by Cathy Burton. Many years have passed since I first sang 'Shine, Jesus Shine' but the song still means a lot to me. Probably the best worship song of the last decade 'Happy Day' is featured with a live recording, while Delirious? are included with 'My soul Sings' and 'I Could Sing of Your love Forever'. Other songs of note include 'Above All', I Can Only Imagine' and The Heart of Worship'. The minor moan is one I hear myself repeating so many times. Why are the credit written in print that cannot be read, even with glasses on? Orange print on blue is not good either. Aaargghhh! 7/10 Nevertheless. (February 2011)
Various Artists - WOW 1997. (Alliance Music : SPV3222) (Video)
Good CCM videos are a rarity and I'm usually disappointed by those I do see. This collection features nine artists, of which none would be out of their depth on MTV. But, they do - generally - lack imagination. Jaci Velasquez sings about Heaven, in a desert, while Audio Adrenaline make the most of an elevator and roof top. Carmen's R.I.O.T. video is the pick of the bunch. Set in a factory, where workers are shackled and ruled by an evil boss, it tells of breaking free, with good triumphing over evil. It's clever setting, dance routines, and brilliant tune ensure that your eyes are glued to the screen. Michael W. Smith's 'Cry For Love' does have some stunning effects but this film is now over two years old, and has lost it's freshness. There's quite a variation in the styles, including the whacky Newsboys in space suits and grunge band, Third Day, debuting well with 'Consuming Fire'. WOW 1997 will open a few people's eyes but 'Quite Good 1997' would be a more apt title. 7/10. (July 1997)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Wow 1999. (Alliance : 7243 8516862 8)
Now this IS really good! Actually 33 tracks, this double CD contains 11 potential number one hits (in my humble opinion) and at least a dozen more that are top 10 material. The first category includes the massive hits by DC Talk "Supernatural"; Jars of Clay "Crazy Times"; Delirious? "Deeper"; and Mairre Brennan "The Light on the Hill". The quality ofd these songs alone should not be underestimated, and they are backed by Michelle Tumes, Fernando Otega, The Newsboys, and Michael W.Smith. Of course, no-one is going to like every single track and neither Stephen Curtis Chapman or Smalltown Poets win my votes. However, at single CD price, this album ranks alongside all those compilations that hit our TV screen throughout the year. A good buy if ever there was one. 9/10. (February 1999, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : Wow Christmas. (Word : WD2-886078)
A two CD package this, featuring some of the top names in US CCM today. 31 songs ranging from the awful opening, swing version of "Winter Wonderland" by Avalon, to the simply astounding and passionate performance of Third Day and "Do You Hear What I Hear". Full marks for everyone not just contributing a standard version of these well known Christmas tunes but the quality is a little "up and down". 4Him show off their great vocals harmonies on "A Strange Way to Save the World", and similarly, Plus One provide class with "A Payer for Every Year". Mark Schultz and Nichole Nordeman duet well on "Silent Night", while Kathy Mattea's "Mary, Did You Know?" sounds awfully like Tracey Chapman. Jennifer Knapp's "Sing Mary Sing" is simply devine, but ZOEgirl's disco version of "Angels We Have Heard on High", just doesn't work. There something for everyone on this Cd but, for me, not enough to make me give it more than…5/10. (December 2002)
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Wow The 90s (Word : 701997760X)
This compilation covers Christian music from 1990 to 98 with the exception of 93 (obviously a bad year!) and features many well known artists all of which are American. My overall impression was of an album well suited to being background music with little to really draw my attention. Both CDs from this double album start with a series of more pacey numbers including Jesus Freak from dc Talk, Shine from the Newsboys and Keep the Candle Burning from Point of Grace. The later tracks of both CDs seem to allow the pace to drop and leave me feeling a sense of repetitiveness about the melodic pop and rock based ballads from the likes of Michael English and Avalon. Highlights for me include Twila Paris with God is in Control and Kathy Troccoli's Everything Changes not to mention the old favourites such as offerings from Michael W Smith and Amy Grant. Being a pre-release, I don't get to review the final inlay, but I hope that is more than just a list of artists and tracks, as it would improve the value of the product if plenty of information were forthcoming. I couldn't help feeling that this album lacks British input and innovation, but if you like American Christian music then it could be for you. 5/10 Geoff Waring. (September 1999)
VARIOUS : WOW 2001. (Alliance : 7243 8 51779 2 7)
I sometimes look bewildered at the latest secular compilation that adorns my teenage children's CD collection. If I recognise half a dozen of the artists, I'm doing well. If I recognise the same number of songs that I actually like, well, that's really good going. So, if I tell you that there are more than 20 personal favourites on this latest CCM collection, you'll know just how good it is. 30 top 40 CCM hits, plus 3 bonus tracks, results in a top notch release. I've got to also say that I was absolutely knocked out by the brilliant Plus One, and the song "Written on My Heart". Matching anything the Backstreet Boys can give, this IS the class cut of all. Michael W Smith's on show, as is, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Jaci Velasquez shines with "Crystal Clear". Pop outfit Avalon, FFH, Fernando Ortega, and Mark Schultz are just a few of the other artists on the first CD performing great songs. Then, it's on to the second disc which includes the massive hit "Shackles" by Mary Mary and Third Day's "King of Glory". Who else? Well, how about Rebecca St James, V*enna, Delirious?, the list is endless. Sorry, but this must be….10/10. (December 2000, Album of the month)
VARIOUS : Wow Gospel 2012. (EMI/Verity : 886979701427)
The Wow Gospel series has been with us since 1998, producing an annual offering on a double CD; bringing together a selection of the current big tunes on the gospel scene. The first of the 2012 CDs leans more towards contemporary urbanised pop sounds with the second being more typically traditional for the genre, providing a good spread of styles for the compilation to have wide appeal. There are certainly some big gospel movers & shakers present with the likes of Mary Mary, Israel Houghton, Fred Hammond, Dietrich Haddon & Lecrae all making appearances. Although CD one is in no way devoid of gospel flavour, you could quite easily mistake much of the content for quality R&B offerings which wouldn’t be out of place in today’s secular charts – a definite plus in my book. Worthy of particular note are Israel Houghton’s “Love God Love People” with a very funky dance beat, followed by the equally powerful if slightly more laid-back “Boasting” from Lecrae which adds a hint of rap-style vocals to the proceedings. This is something I would normally run a mile from but in this case it works, being interspersed with some great instrumental backing & excellent vocals. On to CD two, we come to the more familiar material which will please the traditional fraternity. However for me, this is the point where my own interest starts to fade somewhat. Whilst I cannot help but admire the irregular & massively complex drum rhythms, fine vocals & brass section interludes this style just doesn’t speak to me at all. I would have been happy with CD one on its own, but I can see how this CD could well find its way in to many a gospel fan’s music collection with something for all generations. 8/10 Simon Redfern (June 2012)
VARIOUS : WOW Gospel 2013 (Verity 88765-40789-2)
Readers will be aware that 'WOW' releases consist of compilations of tracks from previous albums of a particular genre. This recent issue "revisits the southern city of Atlanta" and provides two CDs containing thirty tracks of Gospel soul, mainly featuring male vocalists speaking/singing over gospel choirs, most of the songs using the 'mini-sermon' approach with repetitions of a key phrase. Arrangements, production and performance are all of a high standard, and sound quality is also good - I wonder why the sound of 'Gospel' albums is usually so much better than mainstream ccm? There are some excellent performances here, many of them live. The best track for me is Richard Smallwood with 'Sow in tears'. Richard's spoken voice-over reminds me of Labi Siffre on his 'Nothing's gonna change', and really seems to connect with the listener. Musicians will find this track particularly interesting because of its shifting time signature and instrumental fills in a different key, whilst others will simply enjoy what is all round a great arrangement and performance! Further standouts include Vashawn Mitchell's 'Turning around for me' which features a particularly strong vocal, and Forever Jones (one of the few lady lead vocalists) with 'Every Moment'. Marvin Sapp's 'My testimony' is also excellent and was given special mention on my recent review of his 'I win' album. There really isn't a weak track here, although having reviewed J Moss's album 'V4 ... the other side' I feel that 'Good and bad' is not the best he can do. In common with other compilations, the perceived sound level sometimes varies between tracks. A very worthwhile release however, worth a comfortable 9/10. Dave Deeks. (June 2013)
VARIOUS : Wow Hits 1. (Provident : ProvID879)
The WOW series of albums has always endeavoured to bring together some of the biggest Christian music releases of the year. Now, the series has been re-launched, bringing the listener more music, more often and at a budget price. It's an ideal album if you want to sample a broad spectrum of CCM, or give to someone as a present. Included are some of the very top names around, including Michael W Smith, Casting Crowns, Relient K, and Newsboys. Smith opens things with a typical song. He has a big voice and 'So Great' has a big production behind it. 'Everything Glorious' by the Dave Crowder Band really draws you in, and I was soon singing along with the chorus. Point of Grace have often flattered to deceive in my opinion, but 'All the World' sees them harmonising at their very best. A new name to me is Matthew West, but he has a wonderful voice and gives it his all on the quite brilliant song, 'You Are Everything'. Provident have really put together a good collection of songs here, and 'Wow Hits 1' carries on their great tradition. 9/10 (October 2008)
VARIOUS : Wow Hits 2006. (Kingsway : SPD11247)
Here we have a double CD labelled 'Gold' and 'Bronze' containing '30 of the year's top Christian artists and hits'. Three 'bonus tracks' actually make the total 33. The two CDs turn out to be quite different. 'Gold' gets off to a good start with 'Voice of Truth' by Casting Crowns - nice sound, good lead vocal, smoothly produced, starting quietly, building into a memorable hook. The only real stand out on 'Gold' however, is the excellent Bebo Norman track 'Nothing without you'. 'Bronze' tends to be more 'rocky', with more variety. Best tracks here are Barlowgirl's 'Mirror' (with a Michelle Tumes-sounding piano-led intro), Tobymac's 'Atmosphere', Relient K's 'Be my escape', the David Crowder*Band's 'Here is our King', Bethany Dillon's 'All that I can do', Superchick's 'Pure', and the Josh Bates closer 'Perfect Day'. On 'Gold', much of the content sounds too similar to the opener. Many of the artists may well be talented and individual, and there are some good songs here, but such songwriting and performance talents seem to have been 'processed out' by the somewhat formulaic production approach so that, regretfully, these special giftings from God have been lost along the way. When are such artists going to be revealed as the Coldplays, the Athletes, the K T Tunstalls, the Katie Meluas and Keanes of CCM? So, 'Gold' for background, 'Bronze' for more rewarding listening. Overall 8/10. Dave Deeks. (April 2006)
VARIOUS : Wow Hits 2007. (EMI : SPD67196)
This series of albums has become very popular over the last few years, giving the listener a great diversity of styles and genre. However, on the downside, if you're not a rock fan, then there's a fair few songs on this 2 CD album that you're not going to like. But, for those of you who like a variety in their music, this is a perfect addition to any music collection. Casting Crowns start the ball rolling the title track from their award winning album, "Lifesong". Aaron Shust delivers a chorus of power with "My Saviour My God", and there's some sweet vocals from Natalie Grant on "Held". Highlights of the second CD, for me, are Relient K's "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been", and Hawk Nelson's "Everything You Ever Wanted". The former is performed in typical Blink 182 style while the latter has one of the catchiest choruses of the year. Rebecca St James and Krystal Meyers provide some chart orientated rock and, all in all, help to make this a very good collection. 8/10 (March 2007)
VARIOUS : WOW Hits 2008. (EMI/Provident : 0946 3 96677 2 7)
Oh no, not another compilation, I hear you cry! Thankfully, this is a good one, which in a market awash with such things is a welcome relief. To be honest, the WOW collections are normally pretty excellent and this is no exception. Of particular note on this one is how well the different styles actually work together. From the awesome guitar riffs and catchy melody on "The Show" by Hawk Nelson to Mandisa's touchingly soulful "Only the World" the album hangs together extraordinarily well thanks to a well selected collection of songs that are actually very good. This is to be expected when artists such as Third Day, Michael W. Smith and Newsboys are represented but it's not always the case. Worship clichés are thankfully avoided and the whole collection is infused with a passion and enthusiasm which makes this whole thing work with professionalism and panache. The album encourages you to "share it with a friend" and, to be honest, you wouldn't be embarrassed to do so. Want a summary of the current healthy state of Christian Contemporary Music? Look no further. 10/10 Robin Thompson. (April 2008, Album of the Month)
VARIOUS : WOW Hits 2010. (EMI/Word/Provident : 5099021485725)
I always think that if you really insist on having a compilation cd then you can't go far wrong with the WOW series, the Christian equivalent of the ubiquitous "Now That's What I Call Music". Thankfully, this one proves to be every bit as strong as its predecessors, which, given that it aims to present the "years most powerful Christian music hits" shouldn't really come as a surprise. The strength of the WOW series lies in its freshness - there are no rehashes and reworkings of the same old songs here - but instead the cream of what is currently out there both in terms of songs and artists. For me, I really like the Newsboys' song "In the Hands of God" and the Sidewalk Prophets "The Words I Would Say", billed as a bonus track but as strong a song as you are likely to hear. But there aren't any really disappointing songs - it's a pretty impressive collection - and there is a welcome variety whilst without compromising on coherence or quality. Thirty songs over 2 cds also represents great value. 9/10 Robin Thompson (April 2010)
VARIOUS : WOW Hits 2011. (EMI : WWCD55965)
I'm not sure how this CD can claim to be the hits of 2011, when we're only in the third month, but even so it's not a bad CD this. There are 2 CD's containing 30 tracks here, and yes, it's the same crowd that fill up space on every compilation CD ever issued by a Christian label. Casting Crowns are on here, along with Chris Tomlin, Natalie Grant, Switchfoot, and Third Day, to name but a few. The good thing is though, that most of the songs are not the usual endless repetitions from previous compilations. (If I receive another CD with "How Great Is Our God" or "Shout To The Lord" on it I'll probably launch it into the nearest river). A lot of the songs are more contemporary than out and out worship songs, and it's actually quite nice to see that Amy Grant has recorded other songs since "El Shaddai" came out. I have got a couple of the CD's from the WOW series, and they are actually on the whole, better quality than most compilation albums. There's nothing here that would offend your Granny, so give this on a listen if you'd like a slightly different slant to most of the other collections that are doing the rounds. 6/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2011)
VARIOUS : WOW Hits 2012. (EMI 5099994808520)
Readers will be familiar with the 'WOW Hits' concept – an annual compilation of tracks from the ccm scene, in recent years being supplemented by video releases as well as 'WOW Christmas' and 'WOW number 1s' cds. This two cd release says it contains '30 of today's top Christian artists and hits' – there are in fact 33 tracks. With an evening set aside, I listened to all of them in one go. On this first run through the most obvious standout for me was Francesca Battistelli with her fresh and original 'This is the stuff'. I also picked out Casting Crowns with their 'Glorious Day' (an update of the hymn 'Living He loved me'), Britt Nicole's 'Hanging on' and Group 1 Crewe's 'Walking on the stars'. On further listening Brandon Heath's 'Your love' and Royal Tailor's 'Hold me together' also made a favourable impression. Overall however I felt a level of frustration and suspicion that talented artists were in many instances having their creativity compromised by over-standardised production. Where was the variety, originality, that these artists were capable of? So much of what I had listened to was formulaic, typically a quiet beginning with anguished initial vocal with a crack in the voice, a few long power guitar chords, then the drums come in, then it builds, drops back and then builds again to a no holds barred close – and mastered with the level wacked up into distortion so that almost the only discernible difference between the vocalists is that they are either male or female. Where was the upcoming Peter Case, Sarah Masen, Chris Eaton, Jars of Clay, or Smalltown Poets? – or Phatfish or Jon Foreman? Some high points then, but fewer than I would have liked. 5/10 Dave Deeks. (March 2012)
VARIOUS : WOW Hymns. (EMI : 8068871472)
This is supposed to be a collection featuring 30 of the best-loved hymns, but there are certainly plenty that I have never heard of before. Steven Curtis Chapman and Chris Tomlin are the first two artists to feature, with renditions of 'Holy, Holy, Holy' and 'Take My Life' respectively. Both are nice enough, but nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, that, sadly, was my feeling throughout this two CD collection. Third Day give a celtic style cover of 'All the Heavens' while the Newsboys' 'In Christ Alone' has a powerful production to it. Unmistakable, is the sound of Michael W Smith on a new song called 'The Wonderful Cross' and the duet by Bethany Dillon and Shaun McDonald on 'All Creatures of Our God & King' shines out as high points. Late on in proceedings we get the real polished affair of Passion, featuring Christy Nockels, singing 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty', while at the other end of the scale, Point of Grace provide the most awful, twee, harmonies it's ever been my misfortune to hear. Overall, a rather weak album which fails to inspire. 4/10. (November 2007)
VARIOUS : WOW Worship. (EMI : WD2 887999)
I must admit to being on "Praise and worship overload", by the time I came to review this album. However, at least, I thought, that this collection should bring me some new songs to hear, instead of the same one’s, heard over and over again. There again, the first bright spot on the album came from Lincoln Brewster, and a very good version of ‘Everlasting God’. Chris Tomlin’s acoustic version of ‘Amazing Grace’ also glittered brightly, for me. On the other hand, Leeland’s rather weak cover of ‘Majesty (Here I Am)’ flickered briefly into life, but isn’t a patch on the original. So, what of songs that I hadn’t heard before? Well, there was bright pop from Meredith Andrews, on ‘New Song We Sing’, and the excellent Kari Jobe’s ‘Revelation Song’ – both hitting the right notes. Unmistakably, The Newsboys race along with ‘I Am Free’, and the Robbie Seay Band shine on ‘Song of Hope’. I’d certainly not use "Wow" as my opinion for this album. More like, "It’s not bad". 6/10 (March 2011)
VARIOUS : X2006. (BEC : BED45605)
"X 2006" offers plenty for those who like their music a little more on the loud side of the spectrum. It features 20 different artists and shows the great variety of top sounds for fans of this type of music. Kutless kick off things with a grunge-rock start on the track "Shut Me Out". Thousand Foot Krutch supply an Evanesence style sound on "Move", while Relient K sound like Blink 182 on "I SO Hate the Consequences". Both songs are top notch quality and I liked them very much. It must be my age, but I'm afraid I just can't get into the growling vocals of bands like Demon Hunter and Underoath. I'd like to understand what the bands are singing about, but I found it almost impossible to hear any of the words. Hawk Nelson have had good things written about them over the last 12 months and their showing on this album with "The One Thing I Have Left" sees them shine brightly. Possibly the most commercial song on the album comes from Superchick. Here, the sound is very much akin to that of Kelly Clarkson, and the song is really catchy. The album is supposed to be what is the best in Christian rock music, and I don't think that it will disappoint. 8/10. (August 2006)
VARIOUS : X2008. (EMI : BED00408)
Well, here's this year's batch of Christian rock hits for the lover of the harder edge of music. The track listing showed that their was a varied range of acts performing, so I was hopeful that despite my advancing years, there would be a few tracks that I would enjoy. I began to fear the worst as Thousand Foot Krutch screamed out of the speakers with the aptly named 'Falls Apart'. What a lot of noise, and not much else really. Toby Mac didn't raise my spirits either, but Barlowgirl at least showed signs of life. Their 'Song for the Broken' is much like that which propelled Evanesence to popularity a couple of years ago. Relient K proved to be the best for me. 'Forgiven is a lighter rock sound and has a great chorus for lots of jumping up and down to. For those who like the grunge and growling vocals, there's typical fayre from The Almost, and Underoath - but these did nothing for me. Of the heavier music, Kutless' 'Heart of the Innocent' was probably the best, as I could actually understand the words being sung. Skillet provide the "My Chemical Romance" moment with a great guitar solo on 'Whispers in the Dark', while Amberlin's roaring chorus on 'A Whisper and a Clamor' made me sit up and take note. 6/10 (March 2008 - repeated April 2008)
VARIOUS : You Raise Me Up. (Curb : 8789292)
There's not many CCM compilations that can boast two #1 mainstream country singles, but this one can! Leanne Rimes' "I Need You" and Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" are both featured on this Curb release. Miss Rimes' voice works the song well, but it was Tim McGraw's song that hit me the most. I've not previously liked this song, but on this occasion, the worlds just seemed so alive and true. The title track of the album is done by Selah, and how beautiful it is too. By The Tree sing a good, energetic version of "Beautiful One" and Plumb present "I Can't Do This" is an Evanescence style, but the most lovliest song comes from Natalie Grant. "Held" is such a personal song and she manges to caress each word that she sings. Other artists featured include Mercy Me, Big Daddy Weave, Barlowgirl, and Nate Sallie, on this more than average collection. 7/10. (September 2006)
VARIOUS : Your Grace is Enough. (Benson Records : 84418-0882-2)
Sub-titled “Today’s best known worship songs”, I was at somewhat at a loss when I perused the track listing. There seemed to be so many songs that I hadn’t heard of before. Closer inspection of the sleeve notes revealed that this was, in fact, an American release so, obviously, some of the songs haven’t made it across to the UK as yet. Matt Maher kicks things off with a strong version of ‘Your Grace is Enough’, closely followed by a typically classy rendition of ‘Mighty To Save’, led by Michael W.Smith. Mac Powell and Danielle Young present a pleasant duet on ‘God of Wonders’ while the highlight of the album has to be Rebecca St James on ‘You Never Let Go’. Rebecca has a terrific voice and there is such feeling in this song. Leeland provide a watery version of ‘Majesty (Here I Am), and both Third Day and Casting Crowns feature on a couple of new songs. It’s not a bad album overall, but I can’t see me playing it again very often. 6/10. (April 2013)
VARIOUS : Your Great Grace. (Elevation : ELE2027D)
This 30 track double CD is subtitled ‘Worship Anthems of Grace, Faith, Mercy and Justice, based on 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Although everyone will recognise a few of the tunes, it’s nice to hear so many new songs. It’s one of my favourite modern songs, that starts things off. ‘We Are the Free’, written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin, has lots of energy and never fails to give me a spiritual lift. “Scream it from the mountains, tell it to the masses, that He is God”. Wonderful words, and a lovely song. I also liked the modern country feel of ‘Lend Me Your Heart’. A great female vocal but, sadly, no credits listed. All of the songs have been taken from 5 previous releases, but I found so many of the songs being new to my ears. I particularly enjoyed ‘Our God is Mercy’. Sung by a Leigh Nash sound-alike, she sings; “If your heart is heavy, if your soul is thirsty; There is a refuge, a home for the lonely. Our God is here”. In fact, there were too many good songs on this album, for me to mention. But, Joel Houston’s ‘From the Inside Out’ has a great guitar solo, while Paul Oakley’s ‘Father Me’ is a very pretty little song. As compilation’s go, this one rates highly. 9/10. (January 2015)
VARIOUS : Your Kingdom Come. (ICC : ICCD69930)
Here's the latest release of live worship recorded at Detling 2002. I reviewed it by listening on a train journey, too and from London. So, with a very early start, I fancied that "worship" was the right CD to take. The opening tracks disappeared without a trace and, although "God Is Good" is a quite bouncy song, none of the first five songs either lifted my spirits or brought me closer to God. Then, "Salvation Belongs To Our God" hit my ears. It's a song I know well, but I'd never heard it sung to this tune before. Russ Hughes leads, what is, a very strong rendition of an excellent song. The versions of "How Great Thou Art" and "We Humbly Pray" are sung with similar power, and the album really kicks off. "Jesus Thank You For the Cross", led by Eoghan Heaslip follows suit, while Simon Goodall's "Deeper in Love with You", is a quieter, more personal meditation. One of those albums of two halves. The first is quite lack lustre, while the second has everything a good worship album should have. 5/10. (February 2003)
VARIOUS : #Worship – This is Amazing Grace.   (Elevation : ELE2080D)
#Worship is a new series that brings together current and contemporary songs of worship written by the likes of Phil Wickham, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Paul Baloche. I’m not sure that the original artists are actually singing the songs, but Wickham’s opening ‘Jesus Saves’ is a very good version. It’s a great song to start the album, and one that I enjoyed very much. The title track is well sung by a female artist, and there’s some tasty guitar work on ‘The Same Love’. It was good to hear some new songs instead of the usual ones that seem to appear on so many compilation releases. ‘All the Poor and the Powerless’ sounds like a typical Hillsong number, but this epic number is actually written by Leslie Jordan and David Leonard. There’s a rather lack lustre version of ‘At Your Name’, and ‘Perfect Sacrifice’ sounds like so many modern contemporary songs of today. ‘Canons’ was a new song to my ears, as was the beautiful ‘Sinless Saviour’. “He is Jesus, sinless saviour; The spotless Redeemer of man.” Some beautiful words and a lovely song. It’s a well put together album and is a very engaging collection of songs.   8/10. (July 2015)
VERITY RECORDS : The First Decade. Vol 1. (Verity : 8287 66067224)
Conceived in 1994, Verity Records was the culmination of shared vision and purposed destiny. Ten years later, and following countless, massive hit records, this album celebrates those years. It's a two CD set. One is subtitled "Meditation & Strength", while the second is called "Praise Party!". On the first we have a whole host of artists plying their trade in inimitable style. Everything I loathe about traditional gospel music is on show here. Hollering and yelling to their hearts content may give the chest muscles a good work out, but it only leaves me reaching for the volume control. Main culprits here are Richard Smallwood, Vickie Winans and Albertina Walker. Joann Rosario sings what is the best number with some sweet vocals and restrained choir backing on "More, More, More". Disc 2 is more of the same, although Tonex does sing a passable funky dance number called 'Bout a Thang". Not sure what Deitrick Haddon is singing about but unless my ears deceive me, he delivers some sort of message bout "booty's and thongs". Where he's going with this one I'm not sure. Virtue save this disc from oblvion with a chart tinged hip hop number called "He's Been Good", but overall, it doesn't save this collection from being pretty mundane. 3/10. (November 2004)
VERRA CRUZ : Emancipation Day. (Fierce : Fierc023)
Verra Cruz burst onto the scene in September 2003 after the demise of rock band Dust. The band have played almost every kind of venue and are led by singer Marc James, who also provides all the lyrics for the songs. The sound is very old fashioned rock, with more than a passing nod to the likes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. There's thumping beats and distorted guitars, and these feature heavily on the opening "Cold That You Feel" and "Strange Food". After listening to many of the new rock sounds, I thought that the overall sound of this album was quite dated. "Hell Hound" and "Guns in the Distance" both sounded as if they would be better suited to the 80's rather than this millennium. The best song, by far, has to be "Soul Collides". It's an energy packed number, complete with racing guitars. Sadly, the album, then, seems to have run it's course and apart from the dreadful acoustic "Lead Me", the songs just stutter on. I can't say that I was particularly impressed by the album, nor the sound. Verra Cruz have picked up some decent reviews for this album. Sadly, tis isn't one of them. 5/10. (January 2007)
VERRA CRUZ : Innocence. (Fierce! : FIERCD40P)
Verra Cruz are an English band that attract descriptions such as 'American mainstream rock', 'nu-grunge' and 'blues-rock'. Their first album 'Emancipation Day' brought some excellent reviews, some commenting in particular on the sophistication and depth of the song lyrics. Having been well received at Greenbelt last summer, this follow-up 'Innocence' includes some of the songs featured on stage. My pre-release copy did not include the jewel case insert, so I don't know whether printed lyrics are provided - I would like to think so. As with the first offering however, here we have high quality intelligent 'adult' lyrics and strong melodies delivered by Marc James' excellent lead vocals sitting on distorted guitar-driven heavy rock, blues and blues/rock. In addition to vocals, Marc provides the excellent bluesy guitar sounds, Jimmy Cooke drives things along on drums, and recently-joined Henry Cross underpins everything with effective bass playing. The sound is unusually good for such an album, a quality system revealing a spacious acoustic that contributes to the whole Verra Cruz experience. The best tracks for me were 'Weapon' (delta-blues/rock featuring slide guitar), and 'Friend to you' (medium-paced, featuring acoustic guitars and strings and a chorus with a strong hook). Others worth particular mention are 'She don't want him' and 'Grace' - both straightforward heavy pop/rock. To sample the Verra Cruz sound, visit www.verracruz.com. 8/10. David Deeks (May 2008)
VESTAL GOODMAN : Vestal & Friends. (Pamplin : PMCD2058)
Vestal Goodman has sung and ministered to countless thousands of fans for nearly 50 years, along with husband, Howard, and Johnny Minnick. As a celebration of her ministry, Vestal has teamed up with a host of top stars to produce some memorable, and some not so memorable, duets. Things begin with country legend Vince Gill and a typical gospel number called "Jesus Made A Way". That cross of country meets gospel runs throughout the album and, with them, we find the likes of Dolly Parton and Jake Hess. The former features some great steel guitar, while the latter is just good old fashioned country music. Track 4 sees The Newsboys providing the backing for an extremely nice version of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", a crazy sort of thing but works well. Vestal has a great voice and, upon hearing it for the first time, I can see why she's become so popular. Hats off to Pamplin (or whoever had the idea) for this off the wall marriage that, overall, can consider itself a hit. 8/10. (May 2000)
VICKY BEECHING : Eternity Invades. (Integrity : 46232)
Here, we have Vicky Beeching's 4th studio album. Co-writing a lot of the songs with Jonny & Sarah Macintosh, Vicky provides some solid lyrics throughout the album. 'Salvation Day' is a bouncy number, with the first verse based around John 3:16. 'Breath of God' is a fine song about setting your heart on fire for God. Overall, I thought this was the best produced track on the album. Vicky edges between rock and pop, but it's pure pop on 'Inhabit the Praise' and the guitar led, 'One Day'. On 'Break Our Hearts', Vicky tells us to get out of our comfy churches and homes, and to go out into the world to shine in the darkness. The lyrics are just so simple, that the effect is tremendous. In fact, it's the simplicity of the lyrics that are a real strong point of the track listing. To close, there's a piano led, worshipful prayer called 'Undivided Heart', and the 21st century hymn, 'The Wonder of the Cross'. Originally released in April of this year, the wait for my review copy has been well worth it. 8/10 (September 2010)
VICTORIA GRIFFITH : Wellspring in the Wilderness. (www.victoriagriffithmusic.com)
Let me get this of my chest right up front. None of this is Victoria Griffith’s fault, but all the clichés that frustrate me about some Contemporary Christian Music are in this album, right down to the classic story of the talented young singer with a testimony of life-saving surgery underpinned by her faith in God – all of which arose shortly after her producer told her she needed to have a testimony in order to connect with her audience. As they say ... God moves in mysterious ways. The album itself is classic solo female CCM, in a “could have been recorded by Amy Grant or Sheila Walsh 20 years ago” sort of way, but the songs are good with “If I Know God” and the country/blues influenced “Oh Me Of Little Faith” particularly standing out. Victoria herself is superb, she has a beautifully expressive voice which moves effortlessly between the gentle ballads and more up-tempo material and the songs suit her perfectly. The final frustration, however, is that the songs don’t really give you a sense of the singer, or her testimony, as they are all written by other people and the lyrics tend towards generic Christian as do so many others. The voice and delivery suggests an artist who could do so much more, and explore areas that would set her apart from singers that have come before. Hopefully she will get the opportunity to do so in future. All that said (and personal frustrations aside), if you are a fan of the kind of Christian music championed by the aforementioned Grant and Walsh, this is a fine example and you should definitely give it a listen. 7/10. David Cooper. (February 2013)
VIGILANTES OF LOVE : To the Roof the Sky. (Private Recording US Import : Telephone 0181 3595059 for details).
Since leaving their record label and setting out their own stall, VOL have been far from just sitting around. This first self financed release sees a move forward in their musical make-up, resulting in a sound that encompasses The Waterboys, The Electrics, and Garth Brookes! Quite a concoction, I agree, but there you have it. My pre-release copy came with no track listing, so apologies if I get the titles wrong. The second half of the album is much stronger than the first, with 'Fill A Dream' having a quite infectious chorus, and the slower 'Proven Ground' being just as catchy. The vocals, throughout, are very tight but meander depressingly - for what seems like a life time - on 'From the Verge'. 'Code Blue' is quite quirky, complete with it's mandolin and harmonica backing, and I enjoyed this style most of all. The overall sound was a bit muddy, but I guess these things will all be ironed out by the time the album is released. Good album. 8/10. (September 1998)
THE VINE : Horizon. (mattchens64@gmail.com)
At churches up and down the country, there are enthusiastic musicians who form worship groups and then begin to write their own songs. Oxfordshire’s The Vine are no exception, and this release sees 10 tracks written by the band. “We recorded and produced it ourselves at Henry Box School. The message of the album is daring people to take the journey with God and see the amazing plans he has for each one of us," says vocalist, Matt Richens. ‘The Name of God’ is one of the strongest tracks of those on offer. It tells of ‘God’s way, being THE way’ for us all, and how we should all grasp His free gift. Matt shares vocal duties with Lily Page and, at times, they don’t really complement each other. ‘Salvation’ is one such song were the vocals are almost fighting for pole position. Matt’s vocals, overall, aren’t the strongest, and he struggles when trying to hold a note. However, when in control of his vocals, he shines brightly on the slower paced ‘At the Cross’. ‘What Eyes’ suffer vocally again, and the lead guitar is rather off putting. Lily’s vocals are very raw, but also show great promise when she sings ‘The Lord Our God’. Other songs, like ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘On That Day’ are really well written. The former, is a prayer to God, while the latter tells of Jesus’ resurrection. Production is grand, but what you have to remember here is that the album has been recorded on a shoestring budget, with some members of the team working on an album for the first time. ‘Horizon’ shows great promise and, if a few of the rough edges can be worked on, who knows what the follow up recording may bring. Musically, there’s a lot of talent on show, and the song writing is a real strength. It’s lovely to hear The Vine taking their first steps together in worship music. 6/10. (June 2014)
VINESONG : The Christmas Album. (VM MUSIC)
"A refreshing new approach to Christmas music combining traditional carols with modern worship songs declaring the birth of Jesus Christ" - so says the sleeve notes. Mind you, for the first 4 songs I wondered just where these refreshing new approaches where hiding? There was nothing new about "O Come All Ye Faithful", nor "Silent Night" with it's over the top bass. "Angels We Have Heard" sounded better, but new? Then, just as I was getting pretty fed up with proceedings, "Nations Rejoice" appeared. What a change! What a brilliant song! I could see (in my minds eye) thousands upon thousands of people using this song for some serious praise. All of a sudden the skies were blue and "Joy To the World" shone like the summer sun. Great funly rhythms and some of the best brass I've heard in some time. Why it took Vinesong so long to hit the right note I'm not sure but the rest of the album stays right on track. 7/10. (December 1999)
VINEYARD MUSIC : Surrender. Alliance : 1995022
"Surrender" is the third album to focus in the very best the Vineyard Fellowships in the UK and Ireland have to offer. It is, in fact, a strong recording, with many fine songs of worship. Nigel Briggs' "For Me" has got that 'Matt Redman' sound about it, and it's simple lyrics really do hit home. The title track is one of those beautiful, yet powerful, worship songs that bring to mind a scene of thousands praising God as one and singing "I Surrender all to you". Kathryn Scott's "Devotion" is another brilliant song and, if it's her singing, what great vocals she has too. "You Are My King" doesn't quite make the grade but "All That I Need" raises up the praise again, with the assurance of God's protection. Nice touch for worship groups is that the CD contains a section for use with a PC that includes acetate masters, guitar lead sheets, and many other bits of useful stuff. 9/10. (September 2000)
VINEYARD MUSIC : Holy. (Vineyard : 50285 1995062 8)
If you want a good pop worship album, then look no further than "Holy". Beginning with Brenton Brown's "Thank You For the Cross" and ending with the Delirious/U2 sounding "So Near", this is a highly polished release. Indeed, Brenton Brown shows what a great writer he is on the title track too - more pop worship. Esther Alexader's moving "Let My Heart Be Your Home" will, I believe, become a great favourite around the churches, but Daniel Chadney's vocals on James Hellings' song "What Love is This?" takes a lot of beating. led by acoustic guitar, the worship during this song just gets deeper and deeper. I can say no more than I did in the first line of this review. That should say it all. 9/10. (July 2002)
VINEYARD : Come Now Is the Time. (Vineyard : 6012 1280412 9)
Taken from recordings made as far back as 1977, this album tries to capture the live passion and energy of worship events from around the world. The UK, America, Canada, and more are all venues featured with 25 songs sung by various leaders. It all totals around 2 hours of music, but where there's quantity, I'm afraid that the quality suffers. Being perfectly honest, there wasn't one track that made me say "Ooh, that was good". On the other hand, there's adequate versions of songs like "Refiner's Fire", "Hungry", "The River Is Here", and "Sweet Mercies", but there's also some dire rubbish such as the OTT "Holy" which is just truly outrageous. Nothing really to write home about, just a very ordinary album. 5/10. (December 2004)
VINEYARD : Emmanuel (Vineyard : 6012 1280422 8)
This, short, eight track Cd represents songs both traditional and modern in style. The listing begins with "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", which has a very nice feel about it. "Away in a Manger" is sung most carefully in lullaby style and it's no surprise that this comes over very well. Of the others, I especially liked "Adoramus Te", a tune that I'd not heard before, but enjoyed immensely. Of the two new songs featured, the title track is, perhaps, the stronger and it's instrumental backing brings a glowing warmth to the proceedings. As I write, this is the best Christmas offering I've heard so far this year, but that's not saying much. 7/10. (December 2004)
VINEYARD UK WORSHIP : Be the Centre - The Best of... (Vineyard : 1280882)
This collection features the most influential songs that have been birthed in the UK Vineyard Churches since 1998. It includes worship leaders like Brian Doerksen, Brenton Brown, and Kathryn Scott, amongst others and mixes both live and studio recordings. 'Come Now is the Time' is an empowering cry for people to do just that, and this version is simply superb. Kathryn Scott leads an excellent version of 'Hungry', while 'holy' is just jam packed full of the spirit. There's a quieter sound to the title track, and a rather sedate version of 'Lord Reign In Me', but I found myself really enjoying the album. On the live tracks, you get a real sense of togetherness from those gathered and that, too, helped me feel part of the event itself. 'Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing) runs well, as does the terrific 'Awesome God', before the album closes with quieter songs again. After listening to this album, I can honestly say that my personal spiritual life had been enriched. 8/10. (July 2006)
VINEYARD UK : All From You. (Vineyard : 1280692)
This album features the Vineyard St Albans Burn Band, following up their 2002 release, "Beautiful". Now, I may be completely wrong here, but I assumed that this was a worship album for people to worship along to. Therefore, I was stumped by the approach of most of the songs, which seem "performance" orientated. Each of the first three tracks were very repetitive and unimaginative, and I found little to get my teeth into. On "Have Mercy" there's lots of shouting and crying featured, but I just didn't feel anything at all from it, and found it hugely disappointing. I thought that "How Could I Live Without You" was a nice song in it's own right, but just couldn't see it in a congregational worship session. The same can be said of "Joy". It's an energetic and powerful song, but one that makes joining in rather difficult. On the other hand, the gentle worship of "More Than A Friend" is ideal for worship and it's truly a fine song. Try as I may, I just kept seeing this as a performance album from a competent band, playing some ordinary songs. 4/10. (August 2006)
VINEYARD UK : Thank You For the Cross. (Vineyard : 1280702)
Our second Vineyard release of the month captures 8 songs echoing the cry of humble submission and gratitude for the Cross within Vineyard churches across the UK. Brenton Brown leads the worship on the title track, which is just full of praise and worship. Marc James' "Great Is Your Name" was rather dull in contrast, the vocals needing a lift. I felt that the music really did focus fully on the Cross and both "When I Survey" and "What Love Is This" cemented these thoughts. Again, on "Jesus Meet Me", I found Marc James' vocals to be more performance orientated, but that couldn't be said of Kathryn Scott's "Devotion". What a super, little song it is - and well worth playing again and again. It may be short in duration, but this low priced EP would certainly please many. 6/10. (August 2006)
VINEYARD MUSIC : Sweetly Broken (CD1280752)
Vineyard UK have for some time had an excellent formula for producing worship CDs that are pleasing to the ear whilst also being very accessible for use in the church environment (with their CDs including free printable chord sheets & lyrics). This said though, some of the recent offerings from US Vineyard Music have failed to inspire, but thankfully they seem to have taken a leaf from the UK's book with this latest offering, using new generation worship leaders such as Ryan Delamore & songs brimming with passionate lyrics from the outset. Music production as you would expect is excellent as is the musicianship…not overdone or too complicated. The title track Sweetly Broken is a typically Vineyard styled rocky ballad that builds up slowly with poignant lyrics before launching into a powerful & energetic chorus. The majority of tracks follow in a similar style with nothing I'd call an out-and-out rock anthem, which is what I think helps them to be so accessible for live worship in church. The only real let-down is "We Need Your Touch", which seems to backtrack to the older style US material with slightly cheesy gospel style vocals 'colouring' the song & lyrics and music failing to inspire, which is a bit disappointing given the rest of the top quality content. If you like Vineyard UK's recent CDs, Sweetly Broken is one very much worth considering adding to your collection. 8/10 Simon Redfern (February 2007)
VINEYARD : You Are A Holy God. (Vineyard : 1280762)
This CD contains a selection of songs from previous Vineyard releases, described as '10 reflections on holiness from Vineyard UK' and delivered by a range of worship leaders including Brian Doerksen, Brenton Brown and Kathryn Scott. Brian Doerksen's opener "Your Name is Holy" is straightforward formulaic P&W pop with handclaps, a 'congregation' joining in and applause at the end, and includes a female vocal with less than perfect tuning. Marc James' "I Surrender" is a bit weak to begin with, but builds and finishes well. Brenton Brown's "Holy" is next and is ok, but it is tracks 4, 5 and 6 that stand out. Wendy O'Connell's "I surrender" is probably the best. Here we have a well arranged song, with a vulnerable but beautifully sung lead vocal (reminded me of Sinead O'Connor) delivered with real conviction. The slow "You Are a Holy God", by Kathryn Scott and Brian Duane, is quite a good arrangement that is well performed and builds nicely. Keith Sadler's 'Holy (Isaiah 6)' is an effective though extended song that takes 4 minutes before it begins to build into more than 2 minutes of extended repeat chorus. In the main however, what we have here is standard and unexceptional production-line P&W. Overall, 5/10. Dave Deeks (April 2007)
VINEYARD : Waterfalls – Live from St. Albans. (Vineyard : VRUKCD33)
Recorded live at St Albans, in 2014, Vineyard, 'Waterfalls' captures the vibrancy and energy of the new songs being birthed from the Vineyard worship community. Mind you, if you’re expecting those new songs to be any different from the popular Hillsong or Planetshakers style, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, that’s not to say that this is a watered down affair. The album did take a few listens for me to appreciate the content fully, but I’m glad that I stuck with it. The opening “We Need More” has a rather thin vocal track that I found quite irritating. Indeed, the whole song lacks a little cohesion as it stumbles through its varied make up. However, “Glorious” is simply that! I really enjoyed this song, as it reminded me of an 80’s Madonna sound. I chuckled to myself when I heard “No Longer Strangers”, as it sounds so much like singer/songwriter Mark Pierce. A nice song, and well produced. Trusting God in all things and at all times, is the thrust behind the title track. It’s a high energy number that I, personally, would have opened the album with. Songwriter Dave Miller may have to re-look at his song “All For You” as it sounds uncannily like Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” at times. (A fact noted on various social media groups). The overall recording sounds like this was a great night of praise and worship. Most of the unfamiliar songs will become church standards I’m sure, including “O Great Light”, which fairly motors along, and the lovely “Bring Me Back”. Well worth checking out. 8/10. (September 2015)
VINEYARD : Open, (Vineyard Records UK : VRUKCD35)
I have to credit Vineyard for inspiring me to think differently about worship music, for demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be bland and flavourless, but that it can be edgy, ground breaking and a source of musical creativity. Where the likes of “Holy” back in 2002 said it’s ok to turn up the guitars and have them loud, “Open” says it’s fine to crank up the synths and let the trance rhythms loose. Although Club J were doing such things back in 2005, and Nitro Praise before then, it’s good to see that such sounds are no longer confined to the domain of Kids worship. Not that all of these songs are new – some are re-workings of tracks already heard in the last few years, but this brings them together under a united sound and purpose. The eponymous opening track “Open” is a great song and I can see that becoming a worship stalwart in the near future though the second track “Living in the Light” is the one that I keep humming, and I would imagine is even more likely to be the one we’re still singing in ten years’ time. There is also a track rather confusingly called “The Light” which is another cracker with a simple hook: “All I need is you, all I need is found in you”. In a sense it embodies the Vineyard tenets of intimacy and simplicity, and lyrically and melodically that’s what this 10 track album has. Musically however, there is lots of complexity and nuances which makes it appreciable on multiple levels. I was told this is an album you will probably love if you’re under 40, but hate if you’re over. We’ll I’m over but I like it, though I suspect I may be an exception and it’s probably not a bad general barometer to the potential appeal of the album. 9/10 Robin Thompson. (March 2016, Album of the Month)
VINEYARD UK WORSHIP : Creator. (Elevation : ELE1645D)
This 12 track worship Cd showcases the vocal and writing talents of Andy Young (Dungannon Vineyard) and Harmony Smith (Belfast City Vineyard). Sub-titled “New Worship from Northern Ireland, it’s also been produced by Tre Sheppard – a name that is becoming well known in UK worship. The opening ‘God of Hope’ is a fairly standard song, but includes a rather annoying “wasp in a jar” keyboard sound running through most of it. I liked the raw sound of ‘I Respond’, as it sounded as if it had been recorded live. The drums, especially sounded good, and Harmony Smith’s vocals are a delight. I must admit that by the time the title track appeared, I was finding it very difficult to put myself in any sort of worship mode, with the type of music that I was listening to. Hats off to the writers for not just producing another Hillsongs worship album, but I failed to connect with most of the performance orientated songs. Saying that, I thought that ‘Shine on My Heart’ was the song most likely to be used for collective worship. Much as I tried, I failed to really engage with this album, although the closing ‘Little Old Me’ did find it’s way into my heart. For an album that promised so much, I felt rather let down by the actual product. 5/10 (August 2011)
VINEYARD UK : My Soul Yearns – Live Vineyard Worship. (Elevation : ELE1646D)
The latest in Vineyard UK offerings was recorded live at the 2011 Leaders Conference & brings a collection of 12 of the latest tunes from some of the best known names in the Vineyard stable such as Nigel Briggs & Sam Lane. It comes as no surprise that songs follow the expected pop/rock formula but have shed loads of atmosphere, feature extremely polished musicianship & packed with spiritual truth – all positive stuff. What you won’t get is anything particularly innovative but if you listen to Vineyard on a regular basis (as I tend to) then this will come as neither a shock nor a disappointment. No doubt a fair number of these songs will worm their way on to many a contemporary worship leader’s set list, but not all lend themselves to congregational setting as I can imagine people struggling to fit the words in occasionally where the words & tune don’t follow the expected pattern. “Adore Him” is a great example – a beautiful chilled-out number in its own right but I certainly couldn’t see huge numbers grasping this on a Sunday morning. However, others such as the lively “Hear the Sound” & the slightly more relaxed (but nonetheless atmospheric) “Love Reign Down” could well be done by many a worship band – not just for the big events. As always, musicianship & vocals are top rate; combining to produce a very listenable & useable album that’s worthy of a place in many a CCM collection – mine for one! Well worth a look. 9/10 Simon Redfern (December 2011)
VINEYARD UK : Come Now is the Time. (Elevation : ELE1890D).
This double Cd is a definitive collection of original recordings of Vineyard UK’s 30 best-loved worship songs, spanning the last 14 years. If you’re a member of the Vineyard Church, then I’m sure that you will love and know all of these songs. However, for me, there were so many that I was hearing for the first time, and only a few really stand out. The title track is a nice start to the album, while Michael Frye’s ‘Holy’ is sung with real feeling. There’s a touching version of ‘I Will Hold On’, followed by two good songs of worship from Brenton Brown, ‘Humble King’ and ‘Lord Regin in Me’. The second CD starts with a song called ‘Beautiful’, written by Samuel Lane. The vocals are accompanied by just a guitar, and it takes an age to get going. When other instruments finally do come in, the song dies and I was left disappointed. There’s some really annoying guitar playing on ‘The Lamb Has Conquered’, which is accompanied by terrible production overall. Then, there’s the Commitments- type song ‘The Lord is Gracious and Compassionate’, where saxophone and brass instruments take centre stage. Again, production is poor. After recently studying the 23rd Psalm, I did enjoy the female interpretation of ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’. This, I felt, was done with compassion, and I certainly would enjoy singing it myself. So, not an album that’s going to blow you away. Rather, one that you will have to pick and choose which songs to play, and which to leave well alone. 6/10. (July 2013)
VINEYARD UK : Spirit Burn. Elevation : ELE1893D)
Recorded live at Riverside Vineyard, London in 2013, this two Cd collection features songs gathered from Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland. I thought that the second Cd was much better than the first, and I think that my decision was mainly due to the rather flat production of that first disc. Indeed, it almost sounded like one of those early 70’s live recordings, when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. ‘O My Soul’ starts things off, with a repetitive and tedious chorus. The title track is similar, but the recording lacks depth and the song suffers from its thin sound. A lot of the songs are mini epics, that last well in excess of six minutes and ‘Emmanuel’ is one of the few that goes well. ‘The Light’ sounded like a Remission Flow track in both musically and production wise, and it is one of the stronger tracks on CD1. The second CD starts with an exciting sound. ‘Show Your Power’ is both sung and played as if the musicians actually do believe in what they are playing. Mind you, as I’ve already stated, the production is so much better. On ‘Holy One’ you can actually hear the congregation joining in during the song, rather than just mildly applauding at the end of the song. The foot tapping acoustic ‘You Are Faithful’ is by far the best song on offer, before the album closes with ‘Your Love Takes Hold’ – a track that just seems to go on forever. I’m not tarring all the Vineyard churches with the same brush, but if this is a sample of what’s on offer for praise and worship, I’ll be staying well clear. 3/10. (March 2014)
VINEYARD UK : Saved. (www.vineyardrecords.co.uk)
Heartfelt worshippers Vineyard UK release their new radio single ‘Saved’, which captures their theologically rooted feeling of wonder at God’s grace. Originally recorded as part of the ‘All My Love’ EP at The Cause To Live For young adult conference, the track draws listeners into a moment of triumphant worship and gratitude along with hundreds of other voices that were captured in the moment. Led by Samuel Lane, the song plods along at walking pace, building into a cacophony of sound, that reminded me of Elbow. Sadly, Samuel’s vocals sound rather rough in places and, at times, get rather lost in the final mix. Originally recorded as part of the ‘All My Love’ EP at The Cause To Live For young adult conference, the track draws listeners into a moment of triumphant worship and gratitude along with hundreds of other voices that were captured in the moment. Unfortunately, listening to the track at home, it’ didn’t do a lot for me. 5/10. (May 2017)
VINEYARD YOUTH : Rooftops. (Vineyard Records UK : VRUKCD30)
Well, no surprises here, the front cover tells you straight away that this album is by the youth of various Vineyard Churches, in the UK. Based around the words of John 3:16, the title track is a call to shout the good news from the rooftops, so that everyone can here. It’s a lively song, and a predictable opener. ‘Furious’ sounds as if it’s come straight off a Planetshakers album. The likeness of this song to the Australian sound is quite remarkable. Don’t let those comments detract from the song itself though. It is well put together, as it looks at the different aspects of God’s love. There’s some guitar driven worship on ‘Unfailing Love’, while ‘Jesus I Come To You’ is more majestic in it’s delievery. ‘Forever Changed’ gets a Vamps treatment, with lots of energy being driven into the song, and one that is bound to please the younger audience, as well as an old fogey like myself. Sadly, the remix of the same song at the end of the album, simply ruins, what is, a good song. Lots of samples and vocal FX do nothing for me. ‘Jesus’ Name’ begins softly, and then builds powerfully into a full blown, guitar led worship song. It’s really quite awe inspiring, and then quietens down again towards the end. Obviously, there’s plenty of talent on show here, and it all helps to make it a really strong collection of songs. 8/10. (November 2014)
VINI CONTREAS : Kingdom of Conscience. (www.vinicontreas.com)
Haling from Southern California, Vini Contreas cites his many influence as including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and James Taylor. For me, it's the Dylan influence that comes through here, although I much prefer Vini's voice! Perhaps it's the inclusion of some good harmonica playing in some of the songs. There again, maybe it's the simple, yet incisive writing of his lyrics that reminds me of Dylan in all his pomp of the sixties. This album starts with a bright song (The Invitation) and some of the best acoustic guitar recording that I've heard in some time. As I've said, I like Vini's vocal prowess and he is a very engaging singer. For something a little out of the ordinary, 'Christ Crucified' has a South American feel to it, complete with trumpets playing. I once wrote a song called 'Give it to Jesus'. On this album, Vini includes a song called 'Give it to Christ'. Two songs, but the sentiments are the same - confess your sins and be made whole again. There's also a song about revival, called 'Derek's Lament', and that's rather catchy too. One minor moan? Well, there's only 9 songs. I've listened to a lot albums from singer/songwriters lately and Vini Contreas is the most original and freshest of all. 9/10. (December 2007, Album of the Month)
VINI CONTREAS : Case in Point. (http://www.reverbnation.com/vinicontreas)
“My Dad bought me my first guitar for my 12th Birthday and I was immediately obsessed”, says Vini. “The Beatles had just landed and I couldn't put it down. I wrote my first song at 19 and since then I've pretty much had one going at all times”. Vini moved to California in '90 to pursue a songwriting career and became a Christian, at which point he pursued the Lord and started writing and playing worship as well as writing Contemporary Christian material. His 2009 album ‘Kingdom of Conscience’ was well received by the media, and it’s been a great pleasure listening to this new offering. With acoustic guitar and harmonica still playing a large part in the music, as well as being likened to Bob Dylan, UK fans of Garth Hewitt should recognise Vini’s style. After the opening, short acoustic ‘Home Church’, we’re lead with driving guitar rhythm on ‘We All Need Jesus’. It’s a simple message, but well delivered. At five and a half minutes, ‘Watch the Apple Fall’ may be a little long for some radio stations, but it’s a great song. It has a strong chorus and catchy hooks. In fact, it has everything you could ask for in a song! Vini doesn’t hide the fact that his songs are pro God, and he makes it quite clear with song titles like ‘With Jesus, The Giving is the Getting’ and ‘Bite Your Tongue’ – the latter being a reminder to us all. Towards the end of the album, things get a little rockier, and maybe that Beatles influence comes out on ‘Redemption’. There’s also a great guitar solo on ‘To Timothy, Too, by August Gilliland. The closing accapella track, ‘Father God, Father Father’ stuck in my head for a while after hearing it. Who did it remind me of? Layered harmonies work really well and hark back to the sounds of The Beach Boys in their prime. When so many US albums find their way to me with production raised to a maximum, this budget release is a little gem. 9/10. (March 2013)
VINI CONTREAS : Case in Point.  (http://www.reverbnation.com/vinicontreas)
“My Dad bought me my first guitar for my 12th Birthday and I was immediately obsessed”, says Vini. “The Beatles had just landed and I couldn't put it down. I wrote my first song at 19 and since then I've pretty much had one going at all times”. Vini moved to California in '90 to pursue a songwriting career and became a Christian, at which point he pursued the Lord and started writing and playing worship as well as writing Contemporary Christian material. His 2009 album ‘Kingdom of Conscience’ was well received by the media, and it’s been  a great pleasure listening to this new offering. With acoustic guitar and harmonica still playing a large part in the music, as well as being likened to Bob Dylan, UK fans of Garth Hewitt should recognise Vini’s style. After the opening, short acoustic ‘Home Church’, we’re lead with driving guitar rhythm on ‘We All Need Jesus’. It’s a simple message, but well delivered. At five and a half minutes, ‘Watch the Apple Fall’ may be a little long for some radio stations, but it’s a great song. It has a strong chorus and catchy hooks. In fact, it has everything you could ask for in a song! Vini doesn’t hide the fact that his  songs are pro God, and he makes it quite clear with song titles like ‘With Jesus, The Giving is the Getting’ and ‘Bite Your Tongue’ – the latter being a reminder to us all. Towards the end of the album, things get a little rockier, and maybe that Beatles influence comes out on ‘Redemption’. There’s also a great guitar solo on ‘To Timothy, Too, by August Gilliland. The closing accapella track, ‘Father God, Father Father’ stuck in my head for a while after hearing it. Who did it remind me of? Layered harmonies work really well and hark back to the sounds of The Beach Boys in their prime. When so many US albums find their way to me with production raised to a maximum, this budget release is a little gem.   9/10. (April 2013)
VINI JONES : Restless Bride (Private CD/Cassette : Price from Vini Jones, 16 Kaye Don Way, Weybridge, Surrey, England, KT13 0UX).
It's not often that someone releases an album of acoustic folk but, inspired by the likes of Robin Mark, this is just what Vini Jones has done. Not to be confused with the ex- hardman of British soccer, nevertheless, Vini's songs are just as hard hitting. Straight biblical truths, written in a style that can only be his, Mr Jones opens things with the very accessible "Footprints". With all the current debate about Bob Dylan, it's easy to say that this IS the sort of album that he, himself, should be releasing. you know what I mean, it's a nineties thing but there's still a feel of sixties protest in songs like "Hollywood" and "Breakthrough". "Young in You" would easily find it's way onto radio but, perhaps, its overall strength would be in the confines of the smaller, folk field. Vini says that he would like to hear other people sing his songs but I, personally, feel that there is an interesting ministry here that - although limited in appeal - would be of great value in the folk clubs around the country. Folk lovers take note, Vini Jones is a name to remember. 8/10. (October 1999)
VIOLA : Our Master, Our Saviour. (Kingsway : KMCD2162).
Involved in outreach and ministry since meeting Jesus at 17, worship leader Viola believes that worship is a lifestyle, not simply a series of performances. On this new album, she treats us to some simply exquisite songs like "In His Time" and the 'lay it all before the Lord' "Break Me Open". The simplicity of both songs are their strength, and Viola's delicate voice will melt the hardest heart. Of the 9 tracks featured, 3 are duets, of which the title track is by far the best. In between, come songs of hope and love, including the country style arrangement of "It's You" Probably better known in the States and the rest of Europe, perhaps this will open the UK to the sweetness and gift that is, Viola. 8/10. (July 1999)
VIOLA : O Holy Night. (Kingsway : KMCD2278)
Just when you think that surely no-one else could release an album of the same Christmas songs that have been churned out year after year, along comes Viola, complete with her festive offering. I loved her previous album "Our Master, Our Saviour", but this is the sort of thing you wish you'd never heard. Guess what songs are included? Yes, "Away in a Manger", "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "Silent Night", you could probably fill the rest of the track listing in a couple of minutes. The only new track to my ears was "The Swedish Song", a delicate little lament sung in her native tongue. Sorry, it's a bit like Amy Grant's Christmas album last year, tacky, and doesn't do anything for a very talented and gifted lady. 2/10. (December 2000)
THE VIOLET BURNING : Faith & Devotions of a Satellite Heart. (Sovereign Productions : SP70006-2)
Praise and worship doesn't get any stranger than this release from The Violet Burning. It's a bit hippy sounding. Then again, it's pop….or is it alternative indie? To be honest I'm not sure, perhaps it's a bit of all those styles and more. There's lots of swirly sounds throughout the album, as well as some atmospheric guitar playing. "Invitation Fountain" has some very simple lyrics about god's offer of the living water but, in all honesty, the music detracts from the message the lyrics portray. "Clean" is a lot cleaner in sound, with an acoustic guitar being caressed by a nice string pad. All the songs are written by Michael J. Pritzl and, within them, contain plain honesty and passion about the Lord. Try as I may, though, I couldn't get in the right frame of mind to either enjoy listening to this album nor to use it as a worship tool. The closing "Lord, Shine Your Light" lasts for 10 very long minutes, during which I was longing to reach for the eject button of my CD player. Cross Rhythms recently gave it a 10 out of 10 rating but, I'm afraid, this reviewer obviously missed just what TVB are about. 3/10. (April 2001)
THE VIOLET BURNING : Drop-Dead. (Northern Records : NRCD0027)
The first thing that grabbed my attention about this CD was the rather strange title. And, after listening to the songs, and researching a little about the band, I'm still not sure what the title means. Lead singer and guitarist, Michael J Pritel seems to be the driving force behind the group. He was raised in and around the Los Angeles punk scene. Therefore, the music on the album is geared, in some way, to that sound. There's not just guitar rhythms on show, but some programmed sequences too. As for the songs, most of the first half of the album are instantly forgettable, apart from the way Pritel snarls his way through "Do You Love Me?". The second half, however, becomes more commercial and the influences of New Order come to the fore. "Rewind" for instance, is one such song, and is electro pop at it's best. Similarly, "Blown Away" has the identical traits but with the added bonus of a clever guitar hook. I thought that "The Ends Begin" has a smattering of Verve-like orchestralness about it, and "One Thousand Years" ends things on a high. It's definitely a little different to anything else I've listened to this month, and needed more than a couple of plays to appreciate it's intricacies. 6/10. (September 2006)
THE VIP MUSIC & ARTS SEMINAR MASS CHOIR FEATURING JOHN P KEE : The Power of Worship. (Verity : 53728-2)
Maybe it's my ignorance of this type of music, or maybe I've just heard too many albums all sounding very much alike. John P Kee leads the Mass Choir through 15 tracks of live, and powerful, worship. I don't have to tell you the style, it's gospel and very run of the mill stuff. There's nothing much wrong with it but, there again, not one single track really stood up from the others. From the funky groove of the opening "Throw Up your hands" to mellow sounds of "I Am Blessed", the track listing…well, it just "happens". Basically, if this type of gospel music is your thing, then you're not going to be disappointed. Sadly, I was. 4/10. (January 2004)
VIRTUE : Free (Verity Records)
Virtue are a three piece female vocal group described as 'the only female gospel group that combines hymns, praise and worship', and the 'premier girl group for praise and worship'. So does this, their fourth album, live up to this kind of hype? The honest answer is ... not being a big fan of girl groups (or boy bands for that matter) I cannot comment on those particular claims only on the album itself, which, for me, never rises above "OK" in spite of the fullsome praise I have seen it given elsewhere. The three vocalists (sisters) are all extremely talented and the sound they produce with their harmonies is very pleasing indeed, but the songs, in mostly gospel and R'n'B style, just don't grab me at all. Best of the bunch are the title track 'Free' and the traditional hymn 'Lord I lift my hands' and the rest are all very pleasant, just not my cup of tea. If you are looking for a Christian equivalent to Destiny's Child you would be well advised to check out Virtue. Unfortunately I'm not! 6/10 David Cooper (November 2003)
VIRTUE : Nothing But the Hits. (Verity : 8287 6599982 3)
As far as I can gather, these three girls have been recording albums for around 10 years, scoring radio hit after hit with their R'n'B style. This collection showcases those hits and gives new listeners like me, the chance to see what all the fuss is about. "He's Been Good" starts things off in an upbeat Destiny's Child sort of way, and this song would not be out of place in the UK singles chart in any way. For me, it is, perhaps, the cream of the crop as I didn't find anything better on the album to beat it. The three girls lose their early edge and go for more traditional gospel traits on numbers like "Love Me Like You Do" and"Quiet Time", but it's still quite enjoyable. The girls also include a short "commentary" every now and again, stating their beliefs and despite cutting the music flow, it all fits very nicely together. For those of you who like the style of Destiny's Child and the like, you could do a lot worse than to check out Virtue. 7/10. (January 2005)
VIV NEVILLE : Holy One. (Plankton Records : Plancd007)
Darlington's Viv Neville is an Oxford Brookes graduate, writing contemporary Christian music and choir arrangements. She has also led worship at Durham Cathedral, as well as performing on the fringe at many festivals around the UK with the band, Asylum. This 4 track CD is her first release, and she hopes to release an album later in the year. The sound is contemporary folk, with a hint of celtic influence thrown in for good measure. In Stuart Elwin and Barry Marshall, she has two talented musicians that help bring her music to life. On 'Holy One' Viv gently weaves her vocals through a song of praise. 'Lover of My Soul' and 'A Celtic Saint's Prayer' have been co-written with Cindy Spear, who has previously written for Iona. Both songs carry on the praise and worship feel and tell of Viv's own faith. If I could liken her to anyone, it would be another British artist, Rachel MacDonald. Her own keyboard skills are well used and the closing 'I Love You Lord'. This is the simplest of the 4 songs in production but, somehow, the most memorable. Viv has also just finished writing two books, one of which explores issues relating to trying to understand God's will and leading in our life. She's obviously a very talented lady, and this fledgling artist is getting ready to fly. 7/10 (February 2009)
VIVIENNE NEVILLE : Veiled in Mystery. (Plankton : pcdn164)
Following her debut EP of early 2009, Vivienne Neville finally releases her long awaited full album. Her style remains in the folk/pop field, but there's still an element of Celtic sounds influencing her overall delivery. Take, for instance, the opening 'A Celtic Saint's Prayer' Co-written with Cindy Spear, and based on Psalm 46 v10a. Vivienne's voice soars through it, like a seasoned campaigner. For years, the Celtic voices of the UK were Mairre Brennan and Joanne Hogg. Vivienne's performance, here, ranks alongside both of them. 'Let Me Know Your Presence' is a keyboard based number about God's everlasting presence. It's well written, and production is first class. There's a more poppy edge to 'The First, The Last'. I particularly liked the atmospheric sound of 'Holy One'. Not many words to the song, but it's simplicity lets you soak in God's love. There's also a touch of experimentation about Vivienne's music, and she demonstrates this admirably with her arrangement of the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father'. Once again, it's music to soak in. Musically, she's backed by some super talent. But, when she's alone with just her keyboard for company, the strength of 'Don't Be Afraid' really shines through. It's a stripped back sound, and her vocals rise once more to encourage the listener to trust in Jesus in all life's storms. Building on the success of her original EP, Vivienne Neville has risen to the challenge of writing a full length album and produced a collection of songs that will speak to individuals, the world over. 9/10 (December 2010)
VIVIENNE NEVILLE & LIZ CLARKE : Emmanuel. (Plankton Records : PCDN166)
Two of the UK’s brightest female, Celtic artists come together on one album to share their sounds, on this Christmas offering. Of the ten songs, only two are originals, but the thought to the production of the traditional carols, make this album stand out from the usual copycat versions that are trawled out each year. The opening song is a Vivienne Neville composition called ‘Angels’. It has an ethereal sound, and is certainly one for relaxing with, and soaking in God’s love. Liz’s written contribution comes later on in the listing with an olde worlde feel to ‘I Think About Jesus’. But, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a real strength to the well known songs and carols, with Vivienne leading the way on the beautiful version of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’. She follows that with another stunning version of ‘O Holy Night’, before the girls come together for a wonderful duet on ‘Mary Did You Know’. Here, the vocals compliment each other perfectly, as they do on ‘Silent Night’, as well. ‘We Three Kings’, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ are all sung in their own style, and the result is more than pleasing to the ear. Definitely one to buy this Christmas. 9/10 (December 2011, Album of the Month)
VIVIENNE NEVILLE, LIZ CLARKE, JACKIE MORRIS BATES, MARY-KATHRYN : What a Friend We Have. (Plankton Records : PCDN169)
When these four ladies got together to record the charity single “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”, earlier this year, Vivienne was keen to explore the possibilities of releasing a compilation album, featuring them all. This release is the result, and what a fine album it is too. Mary Kathryn opens the album, with the far-eastern sound of ‘Incense and Praise’. There’s lots of drums to give a hypnotic rhythm, and also a sitar, that is pleasing ion the ear. As an opening song, it’s really catchy and very strong. Vivienne’s first contribution is the euro-pop ditty, ‘Up Close & Personal’. This song reminded me a lot of German duo Swimming With Sharks, and her voice, reminiscent of singer Annette Humpe. The song itself is about finding that personal relationship with God, and the love that it brings. All four of the ladies present three songs each, and Liz Clarke’s best, for me, is the lullabye ‘A Mother’s Love’. Her vocals are so sweet, and the marriage with the accompanying accordion is pure delight. There’s a gospel style about Jackie Morris Bates’ ballad ‘What Sin’, while later on, she provides a swing number, called ‘Jesus is Mine’. Both are very listenable. Mary Kathryn returns with more eastern sound of ‘Only One’ (which I wasn’t too keen on) and the chanting ‘Tehiliah’, which is simply beautiful. The album ends with the charity single, and brings to a close, a quite exquisite collection. 9/10. (October 2014, Album of the Month) Forward to the next archive
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