T H E R E V I E W Z O N E
ROB EISNER : Your Love Pursues Me. ()
Rob Eisner is a Worship Team Co Ordinator from Reading, and also the former lead singer of the band Broken State. This 6 song EP is his debut solo release. Produced by &Core Music’s Trevor Michael, the overall sound is similar to that of Ian Yates. I must say, straight off, that Rob has a knack of playing some excellent intro’s to his songs. For instance, “I Love Your Name” opening is absolutely glorious. The song is about declaring your love for Jesus, and the production builds throughout. The theme of the whole album is very evangelistic and filled with personal testimony, as with “Arms.” “Come wash away every sin, every sickness in me.” It’s a superb song, and one that gets better with each play. Rob’s single release, “Your Grace” comes next, and it’s another blinder. The structure really appeals to me, and Rob’s vocals are so pleasing. I can picture this song going down well live, especially with the excellent backing vocals. “Rescued” tells of being set free by the blood of Jesus, and then we end with two slower songs. However, though the tempo drops, the quality of the songs remain high. Both “Take My Life” and “Have Your Way” are about surrendering your life to Jesus. Rob writes with complete honesty about his faith and what it means to have a loving relationship with Jesus. Transferring those words into such appealing songs isn’t easy but Rob masters it perfectly. 10/10.
JOHN NUTTALL, featuring Ruth Hill : You Are God and You Are Good. ()
Can it really be 16 years since I first heard the songs of John Nuttall? During that time, he’s released numerous albums that have sold in their thousands, to both Christians and non-Christians alike, all over the world. This new 9 track offering features John, whilst introducing listeners to both Ruth Hill and Hannah Davenport. The title track begins with a gentle piano sound, and John’s vocals prayerfully worshipping God. On “Wonderful Saviour” the song has a steady rhythm, with lyrics such as “I will worship your name and I will lift your name on high – Jesus, a beautiful name.” For “He’s the One” it’s the turn of Ruth Hill to take over the vocals. Her voice improves as the song progresses, with the focus of Jesus’ love, performed to a light, pop tune. Highlight of the album, for me, has to be “No-One Like You Father.” Lovely guitar work provides the perfect vehicle for John’s voice, and I found the song very moving. I guess that, in a way, John’s vocal delivery is akin to that of Michael Card. He has a warm and engaging tone that you immediately respond to. Ruth returns on “My first Love” – a simple telling of Jesus pouring the oil of His love on your feet. There’s a distinctive violin sound on “No Cries of Grief”, which lends to producing a rather sad sound, overall. However, the closing “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” sees John’s take on the Sermon on the Mount. It’s put together well, and is a fitting end to a lovely selection of songs. 9/10.
NINE BEATS COLLECTIVE : Nine Beats to the Bar. ()
I can’t remember ever reviewing a Christian concept album, so this is a first. The Nine Beats Collective is a collaboration of world class musicians, poets and songwriters drawn together from across three continents on the trail of exploring the wisdom of the ancient Bible sayings, known as The Beatitudes. In this wild world, a growing number of people have begun to wonder if the Beatitudes might contain the keys to our liberation. The 26 tracks on this album look at these ancient sayings, spoken by Jesus, in music, spoken word and soundscapes. It would be impossible for me to mention every track here but the album is definitely one that needs your full attention. Lyrically, you will recognise various phrases from the Bible, but listen closer and you will find yourself digging deeper into your knowledge base. My favourite contributor to this album is Heatherlyn. I liked her voice from the moment she began to sing “Blessed Are the Undead.” Although the melody lends more than a passing nod to Matthews Southern Comfort’s “Woodstock,” it’s an engaging song. Later on, she sings, quite beautifully, on “What Love Can Create.” Mikael R Andraesen provides very distinctive vocal delivery on songs like “The Beatitudes” and “Nine Beats to the Bar.” Short instrumental pieces feature cellos, violins and clarinets, a style which is also repeated as a backdrop to various pieces of modern poetry. I’ve got to say that I found Eric Leroy Wilson’s “Call ‘Em Out” to be the best of the RnB numbers, but his take on “9/8” became rather irritating to my ears. Over the years, Plankton Records have introduced the world to many new artists, not always being swayed by the current chart styles. This release, I believe, is a brave move in the Christian and it will be interesting to see what the public make of it. For me, it’s a winner. 8/10
THE MILLERS : Take a Moment and Live. ()
The rich heritage and unique sound of Gospel Music can often be traced back to the smooth harmonies possessed by musical families who have continually passed down this tradition from generation to generation. Such is the case with Randy Miller, Becky Miller, Renee Settles and Randy Simpson. Each of them learned family harmony very early in life, singing in churches and traveling with their respective families. The Millers are a southern gospel group based in Winchester, VA. The Millers travel throughout the United States and Canada, performing at various concert venues and churches, and have shared the stage with some of the nation's most well-known gospel artists. It’s a honky tonk piano that takes centre stage for backing this new single. From the moment it begins, the sound carries the vocals and sweet harmonies, telling the story of the greatest gift of all. If I’m honest, the overall sound does come across as a little dated but there’s no denying that the Millers’ music is loved by many. Visit the website to listen to “Take a Moment to Live”, along with a couple of other tracks, and see for yourself. 6/10.
LAURA STORY : Open Hands. (Fair Trade : 696859310133)
Following on from her 2014 release “God of Every Story,” this is Laura’s 4th studio album release. I wasn’t too keen on her last album, but this one is so much better. From the opening “Death Has Arrested” there’s a real freshness in her writing and in the production of each song. The first single from the album is the title track, and it’s a touching duet with Third Day’s Mac Powell. Based on Psalm 51, it tells you that God loves the brokenness that you suffer, when you give it all to Him. “Give You Faith” is written by a mother to her child. It’s a poignant song that, I think, can be used as a prayer. “As long As I have breath n my body, I will sing for the love of my King.” This is the thrust behind “For the Love of My King.” This song comes mid-way through the album, and Laura’s vocals are strong and concise. “Awake My Soul” is co-written by Laura, with help from Matt Redman, Matt Maher, and Joseph Myrin. Subtitled “A 1000 Tongues,” it sounds like an old hymn, set to a modern tune. As the album comes to an end, Laura sings of wonder of God’s “Majesty,” and the “Extraordinary” love of Jesus. This album sounds like Laura has been blessed with some really good songs. 8/10.
DARLENE ZSCECH : Here I Am Send Me Live). (Integrity Music)
This is Darlene’s first recording since successfully battling with breast cancer. It was recorded at the Hope Unlimited Church, were both she and her husband are pastors. The theme of the album is a call to all, to go out and share the gospel to a waiting world. With almost all the tracks lasting for more than 6 minutes, listening is a worship experience. As you would expect, Darlene has gathered well known songwriters like Martin Smith and Paul Baloche to co-write songs, as well as members of her own church. The result is a typical Darlene Zschech album, full of big production numbers and vocals that soar in praise of God. “You Are Great” is a strong ballad that opens the track listing. Then, comes, “You Will Be Praised.” I took an instant like to this one, as it’s chorus really draws you in to worship. Once or twice, I felt that the longer songs got quite repetitive. For instance, nearly 3 minutes of the title “Kingdom Come” being repeated just became purely irritating. The simplicity of “Emmanuel” comes as welcome relief to the fuller sound of most songs. The piano and choir backing are perfect for Darlene’s delivery. If you’re a fan of Darlene, you won’t be disappointed with this recording. 8/10.
ESTHER MOORE : The Answer. ()
This debut single from Esther Moore has been released in support of World Refugee Day, and is provocative call to love without condition and reservation. Of the song, Esther says; “The Answer was written from a place of deep wrestling. What is our response when faced with senseless violence and hate- filled attacks on innocents? The natural response is to react with fear and hatred of the individuals responsible and a desire to make them pay. My question, inspired by those who chose another way, was this: what would happen if we chose the most counter-intuitive, difficult and challenging response - and chose to love instead?” The song itself sees Esther with a vocal quality and delivery akin to that of Florence Welch. It’s lovely to be able to hear every word sung so distinctively, when many of today’s productions bury the vocals within a cacophony of sound. “Stand with one voice. Love is the answer.” What a simple message. 7/10.