T H E R E V I E W Z O N E
With grateful acknowledgement to: AUTHENTIC, ELEVATION, CAPITOL CMG, INTEGRITY, McCAIN, PROVIDENCE & VERITY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS
JONATHAN VEIRA : The Hymns Project. (Essential Christian : 5021776227731)
Receiving one of Jonathan’s albums always brings a smile to my face. Because, as soon as I hear his voice, it’s like being in the company of a good friend. Strong, powerful, and sometimes gentle, the vocal prowess of the man is inspirational. On this new release, he breathes new life into 12 much-loved hymns, with melodies old and new. “To God Be The Glory” is the first track, complete with excellent sounds of the accordion and mandolin. I really liked the Celtic theme given to “I Wil Sing the Wondrous Story.” Its melody skips along and certainly adds something special to this classic hymn. One of my favourite hymns, “O For a Thousand Tongues” gets a full makeover, and the result is unrecognizable from the tune we’ve come to love over the years. Still, it works! “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” and “I Stand, Amazed” show both the aforementioned power and gentleness of Jonathan’s voice. It’s a voice that never ceases to draw me in both musically and in worship, and makes this such an enjoyable album. Space in this review doesn’t allow me to wax lyrical about every track but honourable mentions must go to simple piano backing on “Just As I Am” and the splendid choir on “Love Divine.” Sit back, close your eyes, and let this recording just flow right over you. You won’t be disappointed. 10/10.
KELITA : Everyone Has a Story. ()
Canadian resident, Kelita writes, sings and speaks from her own life experiences, sharing her powerful and inspiring healing journey. Coming from a life of countless tragedies and family dysfunction, she shares the lessons of overcoming and victory with an endearing transparency and honesty that engages, encourages and inspires. This new release contains 12 songs written by Kelita, or with her husband, producer, Gord Lemon. The result is a stunning collection of wonderful music. Why I’ve not heard more of her music previously is beyond me. Her voice is up there with the best, and is so striking. The title track is all about saying “Sorry” to the people who need to hear those words. Listening to the lyrics of each song is key to getting the most from this record. Kelita’s songs tell stories that everyone can relate to. Style wise, most songs are light country. However, the bluesy “Something’s Got a Hold of Me” is a welcome change. “Farewell My Love” actually brought a tear to my eye. It’s such a pretty song, yet poignant, as Kelita sings to someone who is about to pass and come face to face with Jesus. “Reason to Sing” is a choppy number, while “More Than Words” celebrate being overflowing with God’s love inside. There’s strong vocal performances on “Trilogy” and “Embrace the Shift”, while “Unspoken Words” simply takes the album to another level. Musically, the orchestral backing lifts Kelita voice high and reminded me, very much, of Celine Dion. Finally, it’s just Kelita and a piano, on “Radiant” as she sings “Glorify the Lord with me. Let’s exalt His name together.” It’s a beautiful way to close a very beautiful album. 10/10.
MARVIN SAPP : Close. (RCA Inspirational : 89854-2225-2)
Spawning the massive title track hit single, this album sees Marvin Sapp doing what he does best. It’s contemporary gospel, with his signature forceful vocals, preaching, through song. Kicking off with a jazz intro, “Safe in You,” is the first track. The message is clear, no matter what comes my [Sapp] way, I’ll trust in you. My only complaint about this song is that at nearly 8 minutes in length, Marvin’s hollering vocals get a little repetitive. “He Is” follows in similar fashion, while “Listen” moves into more of a ballad, in style. Again, when things are against you, “listen” to the Spirit, because He can help and pull you through. Erica Campbell and Izzie Williams make guest appearances on “You & Me Together,” but I found this to be my least favourite track, despite its bouncy beat. “Face to Face” won the battle for my top song. A classy ballad, it features some smooth backing vocals that help carry the song along. As a whole, the album is full of praise and worship. If you like this musical genre, you won’t be disappointed. 9/10.
ELIM SOUND : One. ()
Elim’s theme for 2018 is ‘One movement - One mission’. This inspired the title track of their forthcoming album and first single which features Sam Blake and Helen Yousaf. As the Elim family is growing worldwide Elim are positioning ourselves to look outward beyond the shores of the UK. With the belief that we are one church who worship one God and there is blessing in our unity. With all that in mind, the song itself is a medium paced number that focuses on the Trinity. Both vocalists are spot on with their delivery, which begins with a rather refrained sound. But, all that changes with a glorious chorus; One hope, one faith, One joy and one salvation, One Christ, One Cross, One death and resurrection.
In fact, it’s one of those songs that actually gave me Goosebumps, listening to it. If this is just a sample of what to expect from the album, then, I can’t wait to hear it. 10/10.
PETE SAMARA : Jonah & the Whale. ()
After becoming a Christian, Pete compares time in his life, like that of the story of Jonah. Not believing in himself and never thinking that God could use him, Pete struggled and felt like running away. This acoustic song tells of being “lost in the night” and then “coming home to you [God].” It’s quite a raw recording, and Pete’s vocals are quite forceful at times. It will be interesting to hear more of Pete in the future. 7/10.
GODFREY BIRTILL : Intrinsically linked. ()
Released at the back end of 2017, this is Lincoln based Godfrey’s latest album. Recorded live, it captures a raw, but honest, sound that has become a trademark of his recordings. There’s no hidden agenda with the message of the songs, they’re all purely centred on God and what He can do in your life. “Inside of You is a Real Believer” is a super song. Beginning with a fiddle sound, it starts of slowly, but speeds up into its refreshing chorus. Many people have written their version of the Nicene Creed, and Godfrey does a fine job with his. As with a lot of live worship recordings, things calm down mid-album with three songs that sound quite similar to each other. “Embraced By God” is led by a piano backing, and is quite reflective in style. “Heaven is the Song” and “I’m in Chains” follow on – the latter including a touching guitar solo.
Vocally, Godfrey’s voice never wavers, and is quite engaging. I liked the change in tempo for “The Law”, where the song almost creeps into country rock territory. Another song of note is “Yours.” Here, the message is of God being the infinite source of joy, peace, life, and love, while the chorus’ beat is that of a march. There’s plenty of good songs on this album, and it shows just why Godfrey’s live concerts are so popular. 8/10.
GARETH HIDES : We Will See. ()
It’s 3 years since Gareth’s previous release made Album of the Month status, here at NFN Towers. This brand new 4 track EP carries on where “All the People” left off, with some thought provoking lyrics. Containing the best intro that I’ve hear for some time, “Hideaway” is a brilliant song. I have played it over and over again, as it’s galloping chorus goes round and round my head. Gareth says; "I wrote ‘Hideaway’ a while back when I was thinking about the times when we can keep guilt and issues hidden from God and others. God sees everything. There is nothing that we can hide from Him and He wants us to give Him our shame, instead of keeping it locked away. He doesn’t want to point the finger, but to forgive and restore us.”
With that opening number being so good, it would be easy to forget the other tracks. However, although very different, “Valley of Decision” does have similar qualities. Almost with a feel of Southern Gospel, it’s a foot tappin’ track about taking the hand of Jesus when, maybe, you’ve previously distanced yourself from Him. “Blessed Assurance” is Gareth’s version of the well known worship song, and works well, with piano, trumpet and orchestral sounds providing the backing. “Within a Yard of Hell” is quite a title on its own. But, the song is big in production terms too. The theme is all about rescuing lost souls, even if they’re so close to the gates of hell. Are we prepared to do that? I’m sure that this recording will go down as well as its predecessor. The only trouble with this 4 track EP is that I wanted more! 9/10.
JOY BOYD : Light of That City.
Well known in her native Northern Ireland as part of the group, Justified, Joy Boyd brings us this 11 track CD of old fashioned gospel songs. Kicking off with the flowing “Won’t It Be Wonderful There,” I especially liked the accordion and piano sounds provided by producer, James Strange. Joy’s vocals are gentle and delicate, but perfectly suit each song. “I Bless Your Name” is a lovely ballad, while “God and God Alone” benefits from some expertly produced backing vocals. The album is really easy to listen to, and songs like “Beneath the Cross” and “Jesus Saves” are just two of the highlights. Songs that give thanks to God for all that He’s done in your life are plenty, but “Through It All” comes across as being very special. My favourite track has to be “My Debt Was Paid,” written by Karen Gillespie and Rachel McCutcheon. I love the way that Joy picks her way through the words with consummate ease, and the tune is just superb. James Strange has worked his magic on this album, providing not only the music, but some fine vocal backing too – as on “Tis Jesus Precious Blood.” Comparisons will be made to albums made by the likes of Marilla Ness. They have always proved popular with listeners, and I’m sure that this album will bring “Joy” to many. 9/10.