T H E R E V I E W Z O N E
With grateful acknowledgement to: AUTHENTIC, ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN, CAPITOL CMG, INTEGRITY, McCAIN, PROVIDENCE & VERITY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS.
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
ELLE LIMEBEAR : Holding Me Still. (Reunion)
“Holding Me Still” is the brand-new debut single from Elle Limebear. It’s a fresh contemporary current sound with great production. Elle’s vocals are beautiful, powerful and strong. The lyrics “So when I call upon You, it's not in vain, everything changes, Jesus, You're still the name, holding me still, holding me still” are a call to this generation and to Elle’s friends, her message is “My hope is for my friends that don’t know Jesus to still identify with these songs,” It would be great for everyone who hears or reads about this song to add it to their playlists, Christian or not, when listening to the hope and truth of these words hope will be set free in people’s lives. Elle says a beautiful thing about her dad Martin Smith (Delirious) “Singing and leading worship with my dad is my favorite thing. I’ve watched and learned from him since I was a little girl - my whole life he has let me fly.” Even though Elle has a famous dad, she is an anointed worship leader in her own right and as she has been able to fly throughout her life, may the words of her debut single enable many others to find a spiritual freedom in themselves and fly in their own right to a place of inward peace. Jesus is “Holding Me Still”. Vivienne Neville 10/10
BRYAN & KATIE TORWALT : Praise Before My Breakthrough. (Jesus Culture)
Bryan and Katie Torwalt are well known as the writers of popular worship song Holy Spirit. Their fourth project, Praise Before My Breakthrough is a 5 song album that is packed full of truth and hope. “These songs are our prayers and declarations as we were learning to praise while dealing with fear and anxiety in the middle of an extremely difficult pregnancy, the birth of our beautiful baby girl and navigating parenthood for the first time” say Bryan and Katie. Listening to the album I love how these songs are relatable and put the words into the mouth of the listener to declare the goodness of God into their own situations. Songs like Prophecy Your Promise and Praise Before My Breakthrough are great examples of this with the latter destined to be a popular anthem sung in the church. An enjoyable project that showcases their fresh distinctive sound. 9/10 Angie Lendon.
THE NO WALLS PROJECT : Freedom. (Over Yonder Promotions).
No Walls Project is a Nottingham base initiative, where different Musicians and Artists are working together regardless of backgrounds or style of music etc. to record and produce great music. The project is spear headed and managed by Song Writer/Musician: Trevor Edinborough. He says; “As a Project our main speciality is Christian/Gospel and World Music. “ Well, this album is predominantly gospel in flavour, but there’s also a taste of RnB thrown in the mix. A lot of the songs are quite lengthy in running time. Personally, I thought that a number of them would have been stronger tunes at half the time. Marcia Campbell and Lincoln Jean-Marie are the two stand-out vocalists, adding their voices to 6 of the 12 tracks. Campbell performs like Ce Ce Winans on the smooth “Safe Forever.” Later, on the ballad “I’ll Always Love You,” she gently caresses the lyrics which tell you that Jesus is there for you, no matter what you’re going through.” As for Jean-Marie, his vocal style is more akin to Donnie McClurkin. His vocals rescue what is probably the weakest track on the album, “Every Road You Walk,” The pace is so pedestrian, that I found myself willing it to end. On the other hand, “I Don’t Know Why You Love Me Lord” is a belter of a song. Dave Francis’ piano sound is quite “run of the mill” throughout the album but, here, it is spot on. Add Gary Warner’s orchestral backing to some powerful vocals, and the result is excellent. Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag in quality. Adding more to the story, Trevor goes on to say; “No walls project is not a band and has no set artist or musicians but continually seeks out new and talented individuals who are serious about making great music.” This collection of songs shows a lot of promise, but still needs a bit of fine tuning. 6/10.
CHRIS TOMLIN : Is He Worthy? (Sparrow Records)
Chris says; “I’m always excited when I get the chance to record a song someone else has written because I can brag on it. “Is He Worthy?” written by Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive is no exception. The first time I heard this song, I knew it was a game changer for the church. I am so excited to release this EP.” “Is He Worthy?” sings Chris. The “He” being Jesus, Chris shouts loudly “He is!” Yes, of course, Jesus is worthy of all blessing and honour and glory. There are three versions of the song on this EP. The first is a studio recording but I much preferred the live version. In fact, it sounded so good that I played it several times. The vocals from Chris and those gathered really made the song come alive. Finally, there’s an acoustic version of the song, just Chris, his piano, and a guitar. Again, this is much better than the studio recording. Stripped down, musically, it’s a much stronger song than when filled with a full band accompaniment. A wonderful song. 9/10.
YOUR MEMORIAL : Your Memorial. (Facedown Records.)
This album showcases the band’s various and wide metal influences – the guttural vocal work is very modern/thrash whereas some of the guitar work harks back more to the psychedelic rock of the 1970s and bands such as Spontaneous Combustion. It’s a curious mix of hard industriality and subtle fingerpicking at times. Some of the riffs are rather good (“Degenerate”, for example) and the majority of the album is more straightforward – solid 100mph drumming, heavily distorted guitars and that vocal. It’s not as harsh as some I’ve heard but it does get a bit wearing after a while and the more conventional interjections (e.g. “Steadfast”) were very good, making me wish they’d used this voice more. Some of the rhythmic changes (“Embers” for example, and the manic start to “Anchor”) are very good and show just how tight this band is. If the vocal style is to your taste, then this album will be right up your street. Best track: Regenerate. 7/10. Paul Ganney.
IAN YATES : Deconstruction. (7coremusic)
This is Ian Yates’ forth single and title track of his forthcoming mini album. The song is about re-thinking everything you once believed, and finding out you’re still in the game. It’s about tearing down to rebuild something stronger. “From deconstruction to resurrection. From distant hope to full connection.” Firstly, I‘ve got to say how much I loved the guitar sound that runs throughout this track. The press release says that Ian’s latest songs have a slightly darker overtone to anything he’s released before. I think that may be true, but I’d also like to believe that it’s just natural evolution of his music. Vocally, he’s as spot on as ever. Style-wise, I was reminded of Depeche Mode, especially with the opening drum beat and synth bassline. It’s always a pleasure to hear Ian’s music over the years, and I have yet to be disappointed. 9/10.
JESUS CULTURE : Living With a Fire. (Jesus Culture Music)
Following on from their last release, “Love Has a Name,” Jesus Culture returned, last year, with this new album. (Another one that arrived during my lengthy illness). All the usual worship leaders are featured, such as; Kim Walker Smith, Chris McClarney. Chris Quilala, The Torwalts, and Derek Johnson. And, as for the songs, most of them sound very much alike. In fact, listening to this album needed real dedication, as its total running time is over 100 minutes! Without a doubt, Walker-Smith offers the best and worst vocal performances. “How Amazing” features her at the top of her game, with a powerful range. On the other hand, I found her strange laughter quite off-putting on the nine and a half minute epic “Center of Your Love.” I remember hearing that same laugh on her early recordings and, really, it feels very un-natural. McClarney’s best moments are caught on “Yes and Amen.” A song about God’s promises, in which Chris sings; “I will rest in your promises. My comfort is, you are faithful.” Sadly, there is little variation in the rest of the songs, and production could be better. It’s one of those albums were all the instruments merge into mush, and the resulting sound is not good. With this release, it appears that Jesus Culture have run out of ideas. I hope that I‘m wrong. 5/10.
KAT MLLS : Not Made Wrong. ()
Surrey based artist, Kat Mills has released this single from her forthcoming album “Work In Progress.” The song tells how, for years, she felt misunderstood. But now, she’s relieved to learn that she is autistic. The song lyrics say; “We all have challenges in our lives; We all have mountains we have to climb; But by knowing what they are we can learn to overcome.” It’s a very open and honest song from Kat, but very refreshing too. The music has a choppy pace about it, and her vocal delivery is very much in the style of early Lily Allen recordings. The chorus is such a joyful one, as Kat shouts triumphantly, “I’m not made wrong, I’m just made differently.” Well done Kat for your declaration, and for opening people’s eyes to the struggles autistic individuals go through. 9/10.
BRANAN MURPHY : Coming Home. (Provident Label)
“I write songs about what it’s like to be human,” says Branan Murphy. “We are all complex people. We have struggles. We have contradictions. We have deep desires. We are all seeking to be loved, understood and satisfied. My songs attempt to capture those deep emotional, even spiritual, yearnings we have as human beings. The bottom line is that I want to make great art, but most of all I want to be honest. I want to sing about what people are really going through.” This new single follows three successful Top 10 hits. Listening to his back catalogue, Branan is a mixture between rap and pop. This song has a lively beat to it, and a theme that we all make mistakes and, sometimes, distance ourselves from God. He’s got a really good voice, while there’s a hint of disco in the guitar work. Certainly, I could hear a riff similar to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Overall, the track is radio friendly and should see continued exposure of this Atlanta, Georgia native. 8/10.
ESMEE KESTER : No Other Name. ()
Esmee Kester is a Belgium based international gospel minister and Philanthropist. This single sees her music finding its way into the UK. The theme of the song centres around Jesus, of course. “You’re my love, my saviour; you’re the name above all names.” Yes, the lyrics are fairly predictable, but Esmee puts her own stamp on this gospel ballad. Vocal wise, I compared her to Tamela Mann, and she’s well backed by other singers. Musically, it’s well produced and the electric guitar is very good. I don’t think that the song will win any prizes for its originality but it is an enjoyable listen. 7/10.
JOHN NICHOLAS : Free. ()
With influences such as Foy Vance and John Mayer, John Nicholas has garnered much airplay over the last 18 months, following the release of his album “What My Eyes Failed to See.” John had a stellar 2018 winning Firestone’s “Road To The Mainstage” Final and performing across the UK on two headline tours. This brand new single releases on March 22nd, and opens with bass drum and hand clap sounds, interspersed with searing guitar licks. John’s voice sounds quite aggressive at times, and I think that it works well with the kind of lyrics he’s singing. It’s a song, I guess, that is based on the Bible story of the lost son, who returns to his father. “I’ve walked this road, I’ve worked this long, wanna, wanna be free.” Another impressive release that should see John carry on his recent success. 8/10.
The CASHMANS : City of God. (CLG Distribution)
From their base in Franklin, Tennessee, singer-songwriter husband and wife team Jonathan and Britney Cashman run a full time music ministry, travelling to around 150 dates each year, whilst also managing to be parents to baby girl, Everly. This 14 track offering is said to 'run the gamut from CCM pop to Americana to heartfelt worship'. To be honest, I don't detect as much variation as that (!), but I do find this folk-pop ccm release to be a goodie. I view this as a 12 tracker really - tracks 13 and 14 are electronic dance remixes of other tracks and don't particularly add anything in my view. The Cashmans are clearly talented songwriters as well as singers however, and I feel Britney's contributions in particular, in both respects, lift this project above the ordinary. My favourite tracks all happen to come together i.e. tracks 9-12, being 'Surrender, 'Home', 'Carried to the table' and 'Speak to me'. 'Carried to the table' is the only 'cover' on the album, the other three are Britney compositions, with 'Speak to me' co-written with Rebekah White. 'Surrender' has evidently proven to be particularly effective in the live ministry, frequently used to end concerts. Whilst Jonathan is a very capable vocalist, the Cashmans seem to sound best when Britney takes the lead, and she is one of those singers who can clearly communicate the emotion of a song. Arrangements vary from workmanlike to excellent, but overall there are no weak tracks here - including the re-mixes, although the originals are better! Sadly, as is so often the case these days, sound quality isn't wonderful - but on the basis of this evidence I wish The Cashmans every success in continuing to make a strong contribution to contemporary Christian music ministry. 9/10 Dave Deeks
FOLDINGLIGHTS : Beauty Traded Places. (7Core Music)
Michael Peter Ball is the artist behind Foldinglights. Desperate to add some of his colours to the madness of this world, he writes with vulnerability, and straight from the heart honesty, about faith, love, death and everything in between. He has dedicated himself to crafting music that cuts straight to the centre of the soul. This new single is set on a bed of electronic sounds, blended with electric guitars. The lyrics tell of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and how grateful the singer is for that act. Musically, the verses are quite empty, as Michael tells the story. The chorus explodes with sound, but I found it very difficult to hear the heavily processed, double tracked and ‘lo-fi vocals plainly. (Perhaps that’s just my hearing at fault). An exquisite bridge contains the words; “My heart beats only for you God, “and links the song together, well. Overall, the song structure is good, and certainly not your “run of the mill” listen. With a debut album ‘Subterranean Hum,’ to be released later this year, Foldinglights has already shown an array of sounds to his repertoire. Still, I have a feeling that the best is yet to come. 7/10.