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.
RECORDS OF THE MONTH
KEITH & KRISTYN GETTY : Sing Psalms: Ancient & Modern (Live At The Getty Music Worship Conference)
I seem to be asked to review husband and wife singer-songwriter teams based in Nashville at the moment! Last month I had the pleasure of reporting on Jonathan and Britney Cashman's most recent release, and here we have the latest from Keith and Kristyn Getty. To be exact this particular pair are of course Irish in origin, evidently still spending half of their time back in Portstewart, Northern Ireland. They have become important modern hymn writers, Wikipedia describing them as 'connecting the world of traditional and classical composition with contemporary and globally-accessible melodies'. This release does nothing to dim their considerable reputation not only as writers (in my view theologically spot on!), but also performers. In a definitively pop rock style (the drummer deserves special mention) but given added variety by the use of Irish pipes and I think violin and viola, there really isn't a weak track amongst the sixteen on offer. I found the seven-and-a-half minute mostly instrumental 'Psalm 150/Total praise' a bit strange to begin with, but it tended to grow on me. The upbeat minor key Irish stomp of 'God be merciful to me (Psalm 51)' is a particularly enjoyable track, as is 'The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23)', with excellent sound dynamics and an effective climax. Whilst most tracks are delivered vocally by either Keith or Kristyn (a very talented singer in my view), the standout for me has to be 'The Lord is my salvation', an extremely effective 'praise anthem' with shared vocals. A most worthwhile release then, with overall good sound quality to top it off. 10/10 Dave Deeks
CHAOS CURB COLLABORATION : You Are…
After nearly four and a half years since the album “Everywhere,” Bournemouth based Chaos Curb Collaboration are back with an awesome single. The sound is a mixture of ambient music, provided by both synths and guitar. In turn, this results in a recording to soak in the love of God. Dave Griffiths’ FX vocals are almost hypnotic in delivery, as he sings: “Awake, awake, my soul; Open up to love; Now is the time, for my freedom.” In all honesty, I couldn’t stop playing this song. It’s releases like this that makes it such a joy to review music of all genres. “You Are…” is much more than a song, it is truly beautiful in every way. 10/10.
TINA BOONSTRA : Flicker (7coremusic)
Following on from the success of her 2018 EP “My Concrete Heart” and the single “Find You,” Tina Boonstra returns with another brand new song. From the off, she provides a superb vocal delivery, which is aptly backed by a chugging guitar rhythm. I said it about her EP, and I’ll say it again, style-wise, the finished product is very much in the mould of Marina & the Diamonds – and that’s no bad thing. A refrained middle eight is followed by a simple, but excellent sounding, lead guitar. The song asks that age old question; “What is the meaning of life, and where do we fit in?” Based on Ecclesiastes, the song goes on to declare that we shouldn’t just sit on the sidelines. We are part of this world, and we should take part. As producer, Trevor Michael explains; “This life God has given us is worth everything, so Shine your light, even if you feel you’re just a small unworthy flicker, keep flickering because your life matters and your flicker is important in this world.” I loved this song as soon as I heard it, and thinking about the lyrics, have only strengthened that feeling. A terrific release. 10/10.
THE DOWN EAST BOYS : One Day in the Past. (Sonlite Records)
These guys have been making fine Southern gospel records for more than 30 years, but this is the first time that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing one of their albums. Great vocals and solid harmonies are the trademark of this group, and it should come as no surprise that this release carries that same tradition. The opening “That Would Be Amazing” and “Somebody Is Me” are both uplifting songs. The former relies on the piano to carry it along, while the latter includes some nice brass sounds. It was difficult to tell who is actually singing each solo part on the songs, but I believe it’s Ricky Carden doing a fine job on “I’d Like To Tell It Again.” The #1 hit single “Beat Up Bible” tells that a well-thumbed and torn paged Bible is what you have, if you live by its scriptures. Reading it, and keeping it close by will “get you through hell!” I liked the way that these songs were fairly short and snappy to listen to. The foot tappin’ “Lord, I Need You to Show Up,” is one prime example of this. I wasn’t so keen on the orchestral backed ballad, “Jesus Have Mercy on Me.” I found it rather too slow in tempo, and didn’t enjoy it at all. On the other hand, “The Blood Remains” is one, great big ballad of a song. With a full orchestra backing, the overall production is first class. A tasty offering, on the whole, and no wonder that The Down East Boys are so popular with their fans. 9/10.
FLESHKILLER : Awaken. ()
This album largely sounds pretty much like you’d expect a band called Fleshkiller to sound – it’s metal with a large hatful of riffs (I especially liked ones in “True Image”, “Window Of Time” and “Secret Chambers”), nothing slow, bludgeoning drums and bass, overlaid by a half-shouted, half-grunted lead vocal. And then it throws a curve into the mix: vocal harmony work which shows they’re not music-by-numbers. Some of this reminded me of Yes (the start of “Evil Eclipse” and the second half of “Parallel Kingdom” are great examples), which was a big and pleasant surprise to find something so unexpected – it really makes you sit up and pay attention, wondering what else they have up their collective sleeves. The faith-based lyrics come through well and clear, a band not burying it in odd imagery or hiding behind the wall of noise. Once I’d made the Yes connection on the vocals I could hear some more in some of the rhythmic punches, high-speed runs and solos (such as the title track). I’d probably describe them as Yes meets My Chemical Romance meets Napalm Death. A curious and enjoyable meeting it is too. Best track: Parallel Kingdom. 8/10 Paul Ganney.
MARTIN SMITH : Great & Glorious. (Integrity)
For the last three decades, UK worship artist, songwriter and producer Martin Smith has been penning songs that bring fresh air to the lungs of the Church. Following his 2018 Love Song For A City recorded around the globe, Martin now releases, coming Spring 2019, an all-new studio album, ‘Great & Glorious’ being the first single of a brand new collection of stunning songs. Well, it certainly took me by surprise. Don’t expect anything like “God’s Great Dance Floor,” or even “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.” The track begins with industrial sounds and vocal reverb that instantly reminded me of Depeche Mode. “We were born to be alive,” sings Martin, before launching into the chorus of “God! Great & glorious.”
Halfway through, a female hollers “Holy, holy, holy, freedom” several times, as the banging rhythms and distorted guitars take centre stage. The outro finds a mash up of instruments almost drowning the vocals, which repeat the words “Holy, holy, holy, joy.” In all honesty, I couldn’t wait for the song to end. It was a real chore to listen to it again but I failed in finding something to change my mind. I did invite three of NFN’s regular reviewers to comment. Words like “dire” and “awful” came back, with one also saying that “ It could be viewed as grandad trying to keep up with the kids.” Martin, I‘m deeply sorry, but this song is just dreadful. 1/10.
ICF WORSHIP : God of Life. (Integrity)
God Of Life is the new song from ICF Worship. The brand new Worship Hymn speaks about the beauty and majesty of God in creation. Songwriter Dominik Laim loves spending time out in the nature where he gets inspiration for his songs. “God of Life” is the official #jesus2019 campaign song of the ICF Movement. Recorded live, the record begins with just a piano backing. The male lead vocalist sings well, and is ably backed by a choir. Strings add substance before the song shifts into full musical production. “The God of life, you are beautiful, I surrender all. Even in the night when darkness falls, I can rest assured, your light will come.” A powerful bridge lifts the song even higher before a beautiful orchestrated refrained piece brings the whole thing to an end. This is a worship song that I’m sure will find its way into hearts throughout the world. 10/10.
ELEVATION WORSHIP : Hallelujah Here Below. (Provident/Sbme)
Recorded live at the Elevation Church in Balantyne, Charlotte, North Carolina, this is the latest offering from the musicians of this mega-church. As I opened the CD package, it did cross my mind that this might be “just another” collection of songs that sound exactly the same as we’ve been treated to, over the last few years. Sadly, my fears were right. There are 14 tracks on this release, and most of them stick to the aforementioned recipe. Part of that problem here could be due to the fact that Steven Furtick and Chris Brown have writing credits on all of the songs. Therefore, there’s little variation in style. However, with co-writing credits given to Israel Houghton, “Echo” has a snappy, pop feel to it, and really stands out. The best song by a mile, has to be “Greater Than Your Love.” Again, rather than just Furtick and Brown, writing credits are also given to Mack Brock. Celebrating the greatness of God’s love, it’s an excellent song with a glorious chorus. Why couldn’t they produce more songs like this? Instead, the listener is put through meandering songs that spend half their time repeating one or two words, supposedly focussing on worship. It’s time that some of these mega-churches came up with some fresh ideas. And, for me, the sooner the better. 3/10.
WEATHERED : Stranger Here. (Facedown Records)
Weathered serve up an album of accomplished pop/rock – nice guitar figures (such as “Lions Den”) underpinning a fairly laid-back vocal, the rest of the band providing odd flourishes but mostly sitting comfortably in the mix, knowing their place in the song. Mostly the songs lean more towards the rocky side, with distorted guitars and occasional heavy strumming. There’s an element of bleakness to their sound – for example, the acoustic “Blue Van” sounds like an unplugged death metal band – the guitar playing is very basic and the vocal line is simplistic. The harmonies are quite nice when they kick in, but the closing line “sometimes you’ve got to ask God ‘why?’” fits the mood perfectly. Alternatively, “There Is One” starts in a gentler mood, evoking memories of early Pink Floyd (“Strangers Here” also had a very Syd Barrett opening riff), then piles in with a more Wanted-esque chorus. On the electric numbers they particularly evoke Snow Patrol (“Forget About Me” having a good quiet-into-loud movement reminiscent of “Chasing Cars”, of which the main two-note riff also invited comparison). Lyrically they explore various themes, the most overt faith-based one being on the closing “I Do Not Belong Here”, exploring personal failure but Jesus’ salvation – ending with a haunting repeated “not a stranger, but like a child I’m home”. It’s a decent album with some good moments. Best track: Forget About Me. 6/10 Paul Ganney.
DEBBYGREAT : Nobody. ()
Deborah Ismaila popularly known as Debbygreat makes an official debut with the single, “Nobody.” Debbygreat has previously lead worship and headlined major events in America’s capital as well as working with renowned gospel artiste Freke Umoh, Tim Godfrey, Chris Morgan, David G, to mention a few . The song magnifies the name of God above all, and begins with her voice singing well, above the musical backing. Then, the song gets lost in the repetition of the line “Son of the living God.” The gospel choir come in, and that seems to be the cue for Debbygreat to turn from controlled vocals to some hollering words that the production - over processes. The result is that it’s very difficult to hear what she’s actually singing. A real pity, in my opinion, as the beginning of the song shows real promise. 4/10.
KESWICK CONVENTON : Sent (Live Worship From…. : Essential)
Here’s the annual release of live worship from the beloved Keswick Convention. And, as usual, the quality of the production is first class. There’s none of these “over the top” presentations, just good, solid musicianship. Stuart Townend kicks things off with “How Good It Is To Sing,” and, judging by the sound of those gathered, everyone agreed with the title! There’s a nice version of “All Creatures of Our God & King” before EMU Music’s Liv Chapman beautifully leads the vocals on “I Cannot Tell.” As well as the well-known songs, there’s a smattering of new stuff too, like “When The Word of God.” Written by Phil Moon and Tim Chester, it fits really well with the rest of the track listing. On “Facing A Task Unfinished” I was so aware of the “togetherness” of both the band and the congregation. The sound was stunning to hear. I can’t write this review without highlighting the vocal prowess of Liv Chapman. She has such a lovely voice, and it is at its best as she sings Michael Morrow’s “This Life I Live.” Worship leader, Colin Webster, has his moments too, with the striking rendition of “See Jesus Stripped of Majesty.” But, it’s Chapman, again, who both co-writes and sings on the bouncy “Won My Heart.” It’s an excellent song and contains a bridge that serves as a reminder to us all; “No Power on earth can take us from your love.” As expected, a super release. 9/10.
IAN YATES : Deconstruction Vol. 1. (7Core Music)
This is Ian’s new 7 track mini-album. Three singles from it have already received glowing reviews from critics and journalists. The whole tone of the album is quite different to his previous releases. Whereas, previously, I likened his music to that of The Killers, this package screams of New Order. Power guitar rhythms and crashing cymbals are the staple diet of “Blackout,” while the title track has a lighter feel, with some really nice guitar phrases. The whole idea behind the song, “Deconstruction,” is about tearing something down and rebuilding it, stronger. “Broken Again” begins in quite a mellow way, before morphing itself into a rockier sound. Ian sings of emptiness and suffering in his life and then declares “I run to you [God] again.” I’m very impressed by the way Ian’s music has evolved over the years but “Belly of the Beast” has to be my least favourite track. It wasn’t the pulsating bassline, or the rock guitars, it just didn’t work for me. On the other hand, the closing “Hope in My Heart” is really good. An acoustic guitar is all the backs Ian’s cracked, vocal delivery, initially. But, as the song builds, so does its intensity. Suddenly, the track becomes prog’ rock, in a Yes [band] sort of way, and I like it! It’s quite an explosive album in sound, and certainly not your run of the mill worship release. 9/10.
RICHARD JAMES BUTT : Lamina. (www.richardjamesbutt.co.uk)
It’s 4 years since I reviewed Richard’s album “Conversation.” I remarked, then, how his music reminded me of that by The Script. After listening to this new release, my views are similar, especially when the guitars carry the song. He says; Lamina means "layer" in Latin and the concept of the record is that there are many voices that fight to define us, but only one speaks life. These songs look at that truth from a few different angles.” “Spirit Lead” is one such track. “Show us your way, guide us we pray.” Simple lyrics, but well used on this song. Richard has quite an individual vocal quality, but it does suit most of the songs that he sings. “This is Everything” sees the guitar sound swapped for keyboard phrases. The rather uneven percussion does sound, at times, to fight against the vocals, making the song rather forgettable. Richard’s vocal range is challenged by the Michael W Smith-esque “Breathe Life.” It sounds like a big production number, and is one of the best songs on the album. Hats off to Richard for trying something different mid-album, but I thought that both “Trinity” and “Whisper” stood out like sore thumbs. The former has a very slow tempo, while both tracks have some annoying, retro keyboard sounds. Thankfully, “Safe” is a much better song. It’s brighter in every way, and I loved the guitars on this one. Finally, comes the best song of the album. “Nothing Like Your Love” just stands out for both music and engaging qualities. The chorus, too, expresses, perfectly, how grateful we are for the love of God. All in all, quite a solid release. 7/10.
JOSH GAUTON : O,Peace. (Running Club Records)
This album release follows on from three of the tracks from the album which were released in 2018 beginning with the track “Cathedral” which has a driving rhythm throughout until the beginning of the last section which features Josh’s unique sounds and intricate writing “Kindness never ending/Held within the Saviour's hands/The borders are collapsing/Nothing could restrain Your love. The next new single release was "Time's Not Wasted" This dramatic piece creates an intense, ethereal sound that is very contemporary, with a strong and yet fragile vocal building beautifully throughout the track. The lyrics remind us that time is not wasted when we spend time with God, not rushing in and out of His presence but lingering there eager and desiring to hear from Him “Lost in your presence/A heavenly moment/Telling my heart don't rush away” This release was then followed in November 2018 by the single "O, Peace" the title of the album. Throughout this debut album, Josh strives to create music which challenges, inspires and excites. His songs contrast both beautiful melodies alongside lyrics that speak of the issues of faith and life. “Josh Gauton (writer of Stir A Passion) is a songwriter with experience of collaboration, whose work has appeared on the recording projects of multiple other artists and collectives” The two stand out tracks for me are: “Perfect Father” and "Wounded For Me”. “Perfect Father which was produced by Josh, instantly reminded me of Paul Oakley, with its gentle fragile vocals growing in intensity and emotion declaring “You are a perfect Father/ You love me like no other can”. “Wounded For Me” a reminder of Jesus sacrifice for us all. It is very refreshing when artists are strong enough to sing the name Jesus, we need more songs like this one. This type of track is so needed because the lyrics are declaring powerful truths, telling the story of Jesus and his sacrifice. The pace is slow and worshipful. “Josh blends artistry and energy with the prophetic, and a desire for people to experience something of the love of God through music”. This album offers contemplative space, which balances out the more upbeat, driving tracks. This album was 18 months in the making, and what an amazing album it is with many videos of the tracks already available. Vivienne Neville 9/10