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
LOU FELLINGHAM : Made For You. (Integrity)
I have long been a fan of Lou Fellingham, originally in her role as lead singer of the Brighton-based Fellingham family band Phatfish and more recently as a solo artist. Early Phatfish songs tended towards the jazz-funk vein, gradually giving way over time to a more rock-pop sound. After many years of active ministry Phatfish called it a day in early 2014 with the release of their final album, a double, the excellent 'Phatfish Live'. Lou however continues with her already established solo career - this 11 track release being her latest. It is no surprise to find the songs to be intelligently written, and lyrically the whole album is very positive. As the press release puts it ... "The overarching theme of the album is God’s greatness and goodness ... Jesus is everything and has done everything needed for us to live.” Arrangements and musicianship are also as usual to a high standard, and overall I find it difficult to select standouts. 'Miracle or not' brings touches of Phatfish's more jazz oriented period. 'Jesus you're with us' is a high point with particularly thoughtful lyrics and great repeating chorus. 'I will go' is a song of commitment that is still going round in my head as I type. The slower paced 'Keeper of my heart' is classic Lou Fellingham and features some brilliant lead guitar in the climax towards the end. An excellent album then, including the fact that most of the time sound quality is pretty good - although it does sometimes become distorted on louder passages. This aside, a definite 10/10. Dave Deeks
DAVID LEONARD : The Wait. (Integrity)
Previously part of the duo All Sons And Daughters this is the first solo album of David Leonard. It’s always a challenge to create a sound that is true to the artist whilst not repeating that of a previous act. I’m glad to say that David has done just that. The songs are deep and display a vulnerability that many of us can relate to. It shows the honest struggles that we all go through in our faith. It’s a refreshing album that always comes back to Jesus the solution for all our struggles. With 13 songs this album is a feast of good music and lyrics. My particular favorites were Share This Burden with its purposely out of tune piano chords in the pre intro and passionate lyrics, and I Will Wait a beautiful modern day psalm that is like eavesdropping on a conversation between David and his Creator. Threads is another anthemic song that will have you singing along. An excellent first solo release from this psalmist who I’m looking forward to hearing more from in the future. 10/10 Angie Lendon
MY DARKEST TIME : Dawn. ()
Featuring interplay between two very good and contrasting vocals, some very interesting guitar work and a style described as “Gothic Doom” this Macedonian band know how to rock and how to throw in all sorts of hooks that you weren’t expecting. It’s got the feel at times of a Kasbah, as might be interpreted by Jimmy Page (the opening “Two Angels” is a very good example). The vocal interplay reminded me of Amaranthe at times, the male vocal being a cross between the two men in that band, with the female soaring over it all, sashaying its way between the riffs. Lyrically they are clear about their faith: “Open, O Doors” declaring Jesus as king of Glory and a desire for Him to be king of the band’s heart. I’d not describe it as doom metal though (like Anathema, maybe they started there but evolved?) – it is far too fast for that, being uplifting rather than depressing. The band are solid, the songs are well written and the hooks just keep you listening. Drawing on their native rhythmic traditions and fusing them with pure metal power, this is certainly one of the more interesting albums I’ve heard for a while. Best track: “Open, O Doors”. 8/10. Paul Ganney.
OUT OF THE ASHES : Get Out the Boat. (Resound Media)
Penny Lyon & Kevin Washburn are back again, complete with their tried and trusted formula of jazz, gospel and blues numbers. As you might expect, the songs are mostly based around God and Jesus, with a nod to various stories of the Bible along the way. The title track highlights when Peter walked on water, and then began to sink when he took his eyes off our Saviour. The song starts the album off well, with some nice brass sounds. “Steady Hand” is a smooth number that drifts along, in a laid back way. Backing vocalists rarely get a mention but, they really stand out on this recording. With Penny providing the vocals, Kevin plays the guitar. And, on “You Are Enough,” his solo is top notch. I found the bluesy “Come on Home” and “The Fire Ain’t Mine” to be rather too pedestrian in tempo and, consequently, both songs sounded very lethargic. The same can’t be said of “Unaccountable Comfort.” It’s a real foot tapper that lifts the album just when it’s looked like stalling. Great vocals all round carry “Ain’t That the Truth.” Apart from a well-thought out bassline, there’s no other music to the track. Highlights of the album, for me, come in the shape of “I Just Love You” and “Pray That Prayer.” The former is a simple message that Jesus’ love is waiting for everyone, while the latter rattles along at a fair lick, with Paul Jones showing his skills on the harmonica. Out of the Ashes are in quite a niche market in the UK. But, their popularity is shown by both their album sales and live performances. This record will, no doubt, see that trend continue. 8/10.
JOE MULLINS & THE RADIO RAMBLERS : Sacred Heart. (Rebel Records)
This southern gospel & bluegrass band have won a host of awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, but their music is new to me. As you might imagine, the banjo and fiddle play a big part in most of the songs on this album. In fact, Joe is widely considered one of the world's most accomplished five-string banjo players in the traditional bluegrass style. There are plenty of upbeat numbers to enjoy, including the opening “When the Sun of Life Goes Down” and “I Know What I Know.” Both are very enjoyable. The poignant “All Dressed Up” is a story about one man’s life, and meeting his sweetheart in Heaven. It’s performed quite well, and certainly much better than the painfully sad “I Hope We Walk the Last Mile Together.” The title track features guest appearances from Ricky & Sarah White Skaggs. The feel of the song is a happy one, and features a piano sound that comes straight out of a saloon in a Western movie. Vocally, I can’t really find fault. Harmonies are spot on, too. My only concern was that, occasionally, the banjo and/or fiddle breaks seemed to have been thrown in just for the sake of it. Overall, a competent set of songs. 6/10.
SOCIAL CLUB MISFITS : Mood. (Capitol CMG)
Social Club Misfits are rappers FERN and Marty Mar. They hail from Miami and have been rapping together since 2011. A media review of a previous release said that the duo had “off the wall humour” in their songs. I, certainly, didn’t find anything funny about this release. What I did find was that each song sounded very much alike, with basic percussion sounds and both guys rapping so fast that I really had to concentrate to pick out any lyrics. Even then, the difficulty was trying to fathom out what message was been given. “I wanna make music, people can’t ignore,” was one line I did pick out from “Everytime.” I guess that SCM were saying that their music is as good, if not better, than their secular counterparts. But, I can’t be sure. The single “Que lo Que” is sung in both Spanish and English – not that it made much difference in me understanding it. The third song is called “Up.” Lyrically, there were mentions of 3CPO, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Wells. Similarly, in “Chinatown Freestyle” FERN and Marty Mar sing about playing the Playstation 2 in 2005. By the time “So Our God Came To Us” came along, I’d completely lost the plot. I, now, understood why one of my review team said that she had “No idea how to review this type of music.” I forced myself to give it a second listen and contemplated on the resulting 35 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. Can I give it a zero rating?
KIM WALKER-SMITH : Just Be. (Integrity)
The song begins with a quiet piano and vocals. The verse is repeated, before a delicate refrain leads to a sumptuous chorus. “There’s nothing I want more; because nothing matters more. I’ll just be, here at your feet, just be, here on my knees. Here in your presence, I am complete. Jesus, you’re all that I need.” Superbly produced, sympathetic backing is added to Kim’s unfaltering vocals. It’s a beautiful song, and there’s nothing more I can say, except, have a listen. 10/10.
FOLDING LIGHTS : American Jesus. (7core Music)
This single is a fairly atmospheric synth pop track, with loads of rich reverb all over it. It's about someone searching for Jesus, and not finding him in the places that you'd expect to find him. It's actually quite a simple song lyrically beneath the studio production, and the multi layered synth backing track works well to keep the song interesting. Being just a single track, there's not a tremendous amount more to be said really. It's definitely worth a listen in my opinion. 8/10. Andy Sayner.
IMARI TONES : Overture. ()
I was very impressed with the previous album from Imari Tones (“Jesus Wind”) and so had great expectations of this one. I certainly knew what I was in for and they didn’t disappoint, style-wise: loud riffing guitars, pounding drums, short but sweet solos. It’s all sung in their native Japanese, which (not being any good at languages) made it harder to get into for me, especially on tracks that were more stripped back, such as “Kotoba”, even when odd English phrases were slipped in. There are more of these than on “Jesus Wind” and I found them hard to connect with. Better are the full-on ones where there is more interesting stuff going on instrumentally and the vocal lifts (such as into the chorus on “Cat Licks”) convey the emotion that I couldn’t draw from the lyrics. The guitar work is really good and they have a fabulous tone, as demonstrated by the intro and riffing in “Born Again”. Here the vocal line reminded me of some of the twists and turns from Sparks in their pomp (but in a lower register, obviously). There’s more complexity in “One More Continue” which has hints of prog-rock (especially Genesis) in the keyboard work, counterpointing the frenetic guitar riff splendidly. The best solo is on “Forgiven”, a flowing, lyrical piece of work. I struggled with the Japanese, but there’s still a lot here to enjoy. Best track: “One More Continue”. 6/10. Paul Ganney.
JACQUIE SINCLAIR : Captivating. (Tune Core)
I’ve very little information on this singer, apart from her being British, and releasing a single “Without Your Love,” last year. This song is quite a bright number, in an RnB sort of way. The song is all about Jesus being her “shining star” and “redeemer,” and has some very nice backing, too. Jacquie’s voice is competent but, possibly, a little high in the overall mix. A minor complaint is that the chorus seems to be repeated far too many times, extending the running time unnecessarily. Apart from that, it’s very listenable. 6/10.
VARIOUS : Worship Anthems 2019. (Essential : 5021776233831)
This is the series which annually brings you, arguably, the best worship songs from events such as Keswick, Spring Harvest, New Day, and more. Songs are led by various artists, but no particular vocal credits are given. But, I think I’ve made a good guess at the ones I’m about to mention. A favourite of mine is the first track performed, “Your Kingdom Come.” Pete James seems to have a knack of writing (or co-writing) some great songs, and this is one of them. There’s a joyous feel to Bryan Torwalt’s “Sound of Adoration,” while a female voice provides excellent vocals on the anthemic “Who You Say I Am.” I was quite disappointed by the lack lustre versions of “Reckless Love” and “Grace Awaiting Me,” but buoyed once more by the excellent “Rock of Ages” – not the old hymn. The second half of this album didn’t really appeal to me, at first. Chris Quilala’s “Halls of Heaven” was typical Jesus Cutlure fodder, and “Build My Life” came across as being very repetitive. However, the purple patch began with two really moving songs of worship. “King Forever” (written by Pete James & Aaron Keyes) and “Mention of Your Name” (written by Jenn Johnson, Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin & Brian Johnson) are just terrific. I loved these songs so much! Of course, it would be improbable to like every one of the 28 tracks but I think you’ll find plenty that you do. 8/10.
DANNY GOKEY : Haven’t Seen It Yet. (Capitol CMG)
Danny Gokey’s brand new studio album speaks of the promises yet to come, and encourages listeners to "push through" so they can see what God has planned for their lives. “When I started the process of making this record, one of the very first things I asked God was to inspire the lyrics and melodies. Music is a tool and I wanted this album to not only entertain, but to infuse hope to the listener.” The songs are a mix of hi-energy numbers and ballads. The opening “New Day” reminded me of Tauren Wells, and that thought stayed with me throughout the play list. “Love God, Love People” has a simple message. Love is the greatest gift, so go out and share it. The title track has already been released as a single, and is a powerful reminder that we should “keep going” through our trials. Of the ballads, “Undertow” complete with smooth orchestral sounds is the pick of the bunch. Danny duets with Mandisa on “Tell Somebody.” Basically, it’s an anthemic piece that tells the church to remember that there are so many broken people that need to know Jesus, now! My favourite song was “More Than I Could Be.” T has an interesting percussion rhythm but, apart from the title track, is the catchiest song on show. After listening to the whole album, I thought that some of the songs sounded very much alike. It’s not a bad album, but not one that I‘d rush to play again. 6/10.
JIBOLA : Great & Mighty God. ()
Gospel singer, Mojibola Oyediran popularly known as Jibola gives us a taste of what’s to come with this single, centring on the greatness of God and how incomprehensible He is. After a spoken introduction, Jibola sings sweetly “You’re the alpha and omega, worthy of my praise.” The verses to the song are quite short but the catchy chorus really pulls the listener into wanting to praise. The chorus sees Jibola singing counterpart to the backing singers’ repetition of the song’s title. This works well and the production is excellent. I’d certainly like to hear more from this lady. 7/10.