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ELIM SOUND : One.   (www.elim.org.uk/Groups/257373/Elim_Sound.aspx)

Following on from last month’s single release of the glorious title track, this is the brand new album from Elim Sound. There are fifteen tracks, consisting of both congregational and standalone, contemporary praise and worship. Several vocalists are featured and this helps to vary the overall sound. Whatever lies ahead, “We Say Yes” and follow Jesus. It’s a lively number, and is followed by the guitar led “He Is” – Saviour of the broken and the lost.  On “Be Moved” Suzanne Hanna gives a gentle vocal delivery, until she’s joined, mid-song, by a myriad of voices in worship. Mid-album is the real “purple patch” of recordings, for me. Ian Yates delivers his customary, excellent vocals on “Still God,” while Nathan Jess leads on the superb “When I Am Lost.” And, just as I thought things couldn’t get better, along comes “Grace Will Lead Us.” “We thank you for your grace. Lost in wonder, love and praise. We thank you.” Sung by Fiona Crow, this was my highpoint of the track listing. Beautiful vocals, and a song that oozes the power of worship. I thought that the only downside was the dance orientated “New.” Somehow, it just seemed out of place, compared with the other songs. A couple of ballads should get a mention here. Stephen Gibson shows promise on “Crucified,” while Shell Perris smoothly sings “Journey Back to Love.” In all, a super album, and one that should fly the flag for Elim’s theme for the current year: One Movement – One Mission.   10/10.

ICF WORSHIP : For Your Glory.   (Integrity)

ICF Worship has its roots in the ICF Zurich church (www.icf.ch), founded in 1996 in the largest city in Switzerland. ICF Worship is not simply a band or a bunch of musicians writing worship songs and performing. It is strongly connected with and focused on the local churches of the ICF Movement and beyond. And, as the movement has grown so has the music of ICF Worship. This new single starts where their 2016 album, “Valley’s & Wonders,” left off. Clear vocals, strong (but simple) lyrics, and music that has been carefully crafted to carry the song along. It’s a live recording and begins with a quiet, opening verse. The chorus is fairly restrained but eventually builds, strongly. “Let your church rise and fall at your feet. Let your light shine like the stars in the sky.” It’s a call to Jesus, and a call that says that we want to make things happen in this world, to His glory. I was impressed by the album, and this single is no different. Heart-warming praise at its best.   9/10.

HAWK NELSON : Miracles.   (Fair Trade : B079HLWG3X)

This is pop rock of a very high quality, in a very modern style echoing One Direction, The Wanted, Bruno Mars and so forth with the slightly dancey keyboards behind a thumping bass drum and distorted electric guitars. Over it all is Jon Steingard’s voice, soaring and making you listen (see the “I am falling” line on “Parachute” for an example) and reminding me at times of Robbie Williams in his pomp. You can almost visualise the Big Weekend dance moves as it plays, with the crowd singing along to every word. I don’t recall being overly impressed with the last album (looking back it was actually the bonus CD I wasn’t impressed with), but this is very well performed and recorded. It’s equally in your face about the faith basis to their lives and music – “He Still Does (Miracles)” being a clear pointer. There’s some very good arrangements too, “Right Here With You” being an excellent example of how to build a song without resorting to key changes. The overall tone is uplifting, proclaiming God’s glory and grace in a way I don’t think I’ve heard for a while. It certainly gets its message across. Best track: He Still Does (Miracles)   8/10.   Paul Ganney.

WORSHIP CENTRAL : All For Love (Gethsemane).   (Integrity)

Worship Central is a movement of worshippers who want to see the worship of Jesus Christ made central throughout our communities, local churches and the world. This brand-new Easter song from Worship Central, features Luke & Anna Hellebronth, a husband and wife duo that head up the Worship movement coming out of St. Luke’s Gas Street, Birmingham U.K. “All For Love” is taken from the forthcoming Worship Central live album ‘Stir A Passion’, releasing this May. The single begins with some very dusky vocals from Anna, which I found rather off-putting for a congregational type of song. However, when the tempo picks up, I could easily imagine soon joining in. It’s a rather reflective number and centres around there been no greater name than Jesus. It’s not a bad song but, perhaps, it needs a few listens for one to really engage with it.   6/10.

JOE KING : Stars in Every Corner.   (www.joekinguk.com)

It’s more than twenty years since Joe’s music first came to my attention, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard any music from him. Along with his wife, Sara, Joe’s ministry of healing and breakthrough in people’s lives are well documented. This album comes in two parts. Firstly, we have seven songs that often focus the words of the title. For instance, “Glorious” repeats the word numerous times, to a piano and orchestral backing. Its quiet start, builds into quite a crescendo of worship. Similarly, “Let Your Kingdom Come” is themed around the Lord’s prayer and contains the additional lines, “So let your glory from Heaven come down upon the Earth.” The piano is Joe’s main instrument of choice, and the musical phrases work very well. The album is definitely not one that you’d instantly singalong to. It’s much more personal than that. Later on, there are four instrumental tracks that are sub-titled “Soaking Section.” These tracks are introduced by Joe, who prays that the listener will receive healing and a closer encounter with God. Slightly different are the songs “Just to Love You” and “The Best is Yet to Come.” With acoustic guitar sounds taking the place of the piano, these feel more like the songs that I’m familiar with Joe producing. I listened to this album whilst driving around a busy city. That, in hindsight, was the wrong thing to do. Taking time to listen to the words of the songs and actually soak in His love, is how this record works best. 8/10.

JESSE PRUETT : The Journey.   (www.jessepruett.com)

Jesse Pruett's working life is evidently multi-faceted. Singer, songwriter, worship pastor, actor, composer and producer, here we have his second album release. Predominantly country rock oriented AOR but with dashes of straight country, I have really been enjoying this eleven tracker. Things didn't start off too well however, so we'll begin by getting the weakest aspects out of the way. As I began to listen, the opener didn't impress with its derivative melody and trite rhyming couplet lyrics and I would judge it the weakest on the album. Track 2 'Come to the throne' is straight country rock, to my ears a bit unoriginal. The well known 'I saw the light' is given the full hootenanny treatment, whilst the very short rendition of 'This little light of mine' is sung by a children's choir. Apart from these we have an excellent set of rock ccm offerings. Overall production, even on the weaker tracks, is excellent - with some arrangements particularly interesting. Musicianship is particularly strong, with guitars and drums predominating. The guitar break at the end of strong worship ballad 'Even when' is absolutely beautiful (although I wished the track didn't suddenly end when it does!). The contemporary AOR 'Beautiful ' features a great melody that I'm still singing in my head. The varied drumming and time signatures within 'Light the way' deserve special mention. Yes, the weaknesses are worth forgiving because overall this is a high quality very enjoyable album, worth a definite 9/10.  Dave Deeks.

CASTING CROWNS : Glorious Day – Hymns of Faith.   (Reunion Records : B00ZUTM9UU)

This new offering from Casting Crowns seems to be a bit of a compilation, as many of the songs are available on other recordings. It’s a mixture of original songs and timeless hymns – the latter given a complete revamp. It all starts off with the sweet acoustic duet “When We All Get To Heaven”. Indeed, this quickly became my favourite track on the album. There’s some great banjo picking on “Nothing But the Blood,” while “Glorious Day” sees the full band in its more traditional contemporary form. Mark Hall is in fine form vocally, and I particularly liked his delivery on the old fashioned sounding “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” One of my minor moans about this group is that they never seem to settle on one format of sound. Connoisseurs will argue that the sound is always evolving, but it leaves me a little confused, at times. “At Calvary” plods along, and is quite mediocre, until it’s lifted by an excellent guitar solo. “Praise You in This Storm” provides some very deep moments of worship, featuring that well-known phrase, “My help comes from the Lord.” A lot of the songs are sung as duets, but the sleeve notes leave you to guess which female member is accompanying Hall. That, in itself, is a pity, as “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” is a particularly good example. Overall, I quite enjoyed this album, and will definitely give it more plays in the future.   8/10.


BEBE RIZ : Psalm 45:1-EP.   (https://open.spotify.com/album/3qtgoEoqwM6QSkSQq46WyS)

I’m rather impressed with this 5 track EP from the Manilla born but New Zealand based rap artist. That’s not say it’s perfect, just that in spite of its flaws it’s a really enjoyable and uplifting listen. The best track is the final one, “Have Faith (God is Love)” with a wonderfully catchy chorus which aptly demonstrates that there is more to rap than, well, rap. It would have made good opener so it’s a brave move to save the best until last, though I suspect that most people listen on shuffle these days anyway. In contrast, the song “Common Sins” is much more “wordy” adding into the mix a number of passages of narrated scripture. Often this kind of thing doesn’t work, feeling rather incongruous amidst the ebb and flow of a melody, but it really works here. It also fits with the theme of the lyrics so there is real coherence to the whole thing. Good job. The remaining three tracks are solid, if unspectacular, being enjoyable and well constructed. Some of the lyrical work occasionally loses its rhythmic tightness but as stated, it’s not something of great substance. Lyrically it’s bold, honest and overtly Christian – Bebe isn’t beating about the bush – yet it doesn’t feel forced or false. Overall, a real courageous collection of songs, a great debut and worthy of the effort and struggles it took to bring it to fruition. 8/10.   Robin Thompson.

COMPASS CHURCH : God of All Ages – Songs of Worship and Reflection.   (www.compasschurch.co.uk)

This album comes from the fellowship based in Wellingborough, Northants, Most of the songs on the project were written by singer and guitarist Paul Cooper who is the pastor of Compass Church. Enlisting the musical gifts of Jayne Hunt, Benjamin Maxwell and Jessica Smith, and the technical skills of Trevor Michael, the group have put together a really pleasing recording. One thing that is so wonderful about this recording is that all the songs have a stripped back, acoustic sound. When the likes of Hillsong, Bethel, and Planetshakers all seem to throw every instrument possible into the mix, this is a refreshing change. “Hallelujah” is a simple song of worship that I can see being sung in churches up and down the country. Nothing less than “beautiful” can describe the vocals of Jessica on “God of All Ages.” The song itself is very good, and tells of a God who is constant in everything He does. The four musicians harmonise well on “Your Love Has Paid the Price,” while, once again, there are stand out vocals on “There’s Nothing More.” In style, “You Alone Are God” is very much like the opening track. It’s another song that you can easily learn. I particularly liked the lyrics “I will lay down my life for you, I will pick up my cross for you.” It made the song very personal. “I’m Singing Praises Out” gets two outings on this album. Firstly, as a less inspiring song of praise, and then, as a more touching, meditational instrumental. But, on the whole, I think that Compass Church have come up with a collection of new songs that will be of benefit to both churches and individuals alike.   8/10.

BRIGHT CITY : Still - Volume 2.   (Integrity Music)

This CD is a collection of  13 instrumental worship songs performed in various styles. There are string arrangements, synthesised brass arrangements, and other electronic arrangements. The publicity for this album suggests that it is "A perfect backdrop for creating an atmosphere for soaking prayer to offering a sonic oasis during the rush hour commute, this series calls listeners to still their hearts before God". The album kicks off with a atmospheric rendition of "Our God Reigns", although I couldn't recognise it as the song that we are all familiar with, still. it's quite pleasant. The second track is a completely different style altogether. Entitled "Here For You" it's a driving rhythmical song, and is not in the slightest bit meditational in my opinion. In fact I found this to be a bit of a curious album all round really. There are some nice laid back songs, that you could possibly use as soaking, prayer songs, but these seem to be punctuated by other tracks with really complex and distracting rhythms. I found that I was trying to work out what was going on in the songs rather than relaxing into any kind of meditation. As an instrumental album this is quite a good listen, but a lot of the arrangements are far too complicated for a meditational piece. Personally I found the best way to listen to this was to play it in the background whilst doing something else. I understand what the goal of this album is, but I think myself that the arrangements should have been a lot more sparse in places in order to achieve it properly.   6/10   Andy Sayner.

COVE WORSHIP : The War. (https://coveworship.bandcamp.com/album/the-war)

I had a lot of difficulty in finding anything out about this band aside from the CD I was sent – even their web site doesn’t tell you where in the world they are! It does list the songs they’re singing on each Sunday though, which is a nice touch for a church with this musical style. The style I’m referring to is the current mega-church pop-rock style with very singable choruses (e.g. “Reaching”). On display is some very good guitar work (some lovely figures and the power chords are there for emphasis rather than focus). The vocals are not as clean as you’d expect from a worship band which may make you focus on them rather than being led by them – I certainly found that to be so. Overall this is a worship album you can listen to and not just sing along to. Fans of Chris Tomlin and the like won’t be disappointed in the style at all but I did feel that it followed the formula of other bands too closely - for example the female lead vocal being only on the slower piano numbers e.g. “Mountain Of God” despite being the better lead vocal (and being accompanied by some very good harmonies on this particular track). It all sounds like two different bands who then come together on the title track (for which the overblown “hallelujahs “ at the end were a sheer delight). A bit more integration and better sharing of the lead vocals and this could be better than “very good”. A band to watch. Best track: Reaching.   7/10.   Paul Ganney

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