Monday, August 13, 2018

JESUS SAVES


Gregory Alan Long was born on Dec 12, 1966 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He began singing at his Dad's revivals when he was just 2 according to Wikipedia.org. Greg's first two solo albums were CROSS MY HEART (1994) and DAYS OF GRACE (1996). His #1 hits include 'How Long?', a duet with Margaret Becker, and 'Love the Lord'. Greg's third of five solo albums was JESUS SAVES (1998, Myrrh). It's what I'll be reviewing here. In the liner notes, Greg writes: "I hope these songs will draw you closer to Jesus".

Starting things off is 'We Love You Jesus', written by Greg and John Elefante. Background vocalists are: John Elefante, Greg, Jim and Kim Thomas, Jeni Varnadeau, and Sara Paulson. This adult contemporary praise and worship song is almost five minutes long and includes these words: "We love You, Jesus with all our hearts/Our Lord and Savior/You've been so good to us/We love You, Jesus/You are the light in the dark/We'll follow You anywhere/We love You, Jesus". 'First Greatest Wonder' is an adult contemporary ballad of gratitude for God's mercy and love: "It took a heart that was torn from within/Healed the scars and made me feel like a child once again/It saw the hurt, felt the pain, knew the cost/Took the blame just to say/The debt was paid and I was free/So it sure seems like to me/That mercy has to be/The first greatest wonder of the world".

Don Koch, Joe Beck, and Bryan White wrote 'Jesus Saves'. Phil Madeira plays B-3 and a choir called Greg O'Quin 'n Joyful Noyze appears on this fast paced pop/dance track that witnesses: "Jesus saves, I know that Jesus saves, oh/Jesus saves, I know that Jesus saves/There's nothing more that I can say/It's just enough that Jesus saves/He came for the lost and the hurting/Oh and He died for the broken souls/And He lives for the ones who are searching/We've gotta let 'em know". On 'Mercy Said No' Dennis Dearing plays a guitar solo and strings are arranged and conducted by Carl Marsh. It's a lovely adult contemporary ballad of testimony: "Mercy said no/I'm not gonna let you go/I'm not gonna let you slip away/You don't have to be afraid/Mercy said no/Sin will never take control/Life and death stood face to face/Darkness tried to steal my heart away/Thank You, Jesus/Mercy said no/And now when heaven looks at me/It's through the blood of Jesus".

Two of the backing vocalists on 'Man of Sorrows' are Billy Gaines and Nicole Coleman Mullen. It's a soulful song about what Jesus endured to provide us with salvation: "Isaiah's word was true/They stripped You naked/As the day that you were born/And then they laughed at You/And spit into Your face/Your body bleeding/From the whippings and the beatings/As they led You to that crucifying place/You were the man, man of sorrows". 'Everything is Gonna Be All Right' finds Greg fully relying on God even in the dark times: "The Lord is kind/I know He's gonna see me through/Everything is gonna be all right/I'm holding onto the mercy and truth of His plan/I'll weather this storm/Safe in the warmth of my Father's hand/But through the healing stages/I will stand courageous/Though the hurting rages in me".

'Prove that by Me' was penned by Jack Wesley Routh and Randy Sharp and features backing vocals by Russ Taff and Chris Harris. It's an easy listening song that finds God speaking to us: "If the stars lead you astray/And the winds don't hear your plea/I still believe you'll find your way/Back to Me". Greg, Joel Lindsey, and David Browning wrote 'Life', an upbeat pop song of testimony: "Everyday is amazing now/When I think of how He turned my life around/Yeah, I can face what the day will bring/Knowing God is holding everything in His hands/I'm a man who knows the meaning of forgiveness".

'More Like Jesus' is a terrific inspirational ballad that reveals Greg's heart: "I just wanna be more like Jesus/A little more of Him today/A little less of me/I just wanna be more like Jesus/To love the way that He loved me/So unselfishly/Oh, I just wanna be more like Jesus". Last up is 'I Saw An Angel Tonight', written by Chris Harris, Phil Madeira, and Jim Daneker. It's almost five and a half minutes and finds Eric Silver on violin and Susan Demur on backing vocals. It's a peaceful song that seems addressed to one's parent (s): "You prayed for me every night when I was only a child/I can't imagine growing up without your love/Now I believe in the truth 'cause I saw Jesus in you/And I'm so thankful/For the way you brought me up".

JESUS SAVES clocks in at 45 minutes and 21 seconds. Genre-wise this is a mostly adult contemporary and pop album, but there is one rock song and there are a couple easy listening numbers. There are six slow songs and four faster ones. A love for and gratitude towards God come through loud and clear. God is good, loving, merciful, helps us through life's storms, and provides us with salvation through the cross. In return Greg sings of his love for God and his desire to be more Christ-like. There's also a great song about how parents can nurture, pray for and with, and influence their children to grow up and choose Christ as their own Lord and Saviour. I'm recommending this album to fans of Clay Crosse and rating it 96%. For more info visit: www.greglong.com and/or connect with him on Facebook.





Saturday, August 11, 2018

THE GOSPEL COLLECTION


Country and Western singer Dolly Rebecca Parton was born on January 19, 1946 in Sevier County, Tennessee. She released her debut solo album, HELLO, I'M DOLLY, in 1967. Her best known songs include: 'Coat of Many Colors', 'Jolene', 'I Will Always Love You', and '9 To 5'. In 2010 Sony Music released THE GOSPEL COLLECTION. Several of the songs on it are noted to have been recorded prior to 1972.

Starting things off is 'God's Colouring Book'. Dolly wrote it, originally recorded it in 1971, and it was released in 2007. It's a pretty folk song that nature lovers will appreciate: "A yellow dandelion, pretty evergreen/And some red and orange flowers growing wild along the stream/As I looked around me/The more that I did look/The more I realized that I was viewing God's colouring book". 'Sacred Memories' is a sentimental, upbeat country and western song: "Sacred memories often take me to the place where I grew up/And that little country church that I love so much/I used to go there every time that old church bell would ring/And I remember how I loved the songs we used to sing".

A rockabilly version of 'Comin' For to Carry Me Home' follows. It anticipates our eternal heavenly home as Christians: "I looked over Jordan and what did I see/Coming for to carry me home?/I saw a whole band of angels coming after me/Coming for to carry me home/Swing low, sweet chariot/Coming for to carry me home". A traditional version of the classic hymn 'How Great Thou Art' is up next. It begins with church bells and includes great backing vocals. Heaven is again anticipated: "When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation/To take me home, what joy shall fill my heart/Then I shall kneel in humble adoration and then proclaim/'My God, how great Thou art!'"

'Golden Streets of Glory' is one of seven tracks solely penned by Dolly on this compilation project. This cheery old country song looks forward to the afterlife: "And when I've reached my journey's end/And if I'm worthy to go in/Golden streets of glory, I'll walk on/And the golden streets of my new home/Will lead me up to the Master's throne/With the angel band I'll sing/'Glory to His Name/Oh, holy, holy!'" 'I Believe' is a powerful, inspirational anthem of faith: "I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard/I believe that Someone in the great somewhere hears every word/Every time I hear a newborn baby cry/Or touch a leaf or see the sky/Then I know why I believe".

Dolly co-wrote 'Preacher Tom' with Porter Wagoner. It's a toe-tapping country and western tribute to an old-school country preacher: "Your smile is like the sunshine bringing warmth and joy to others/And love controls your understanding heart/And the message that you spread is just like water to the thirsty/A beacon that keeps shining through the dark/So Preacher Tom, come on preach/Let the One of which you speak have His way/Let His precious will be done". 'The Seeker' has  a cool vibe sound-wise. The lyrics are prayerful: "I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature/There is no weaker than I am/ I am a seeker and You are a teacher/You are a reacher, so reach down/Reach out and lead me/Guide me and keep me in the shelter of Your care each day".

Dolly and Dorothy Jo Hope wrote a newer song called 'Would You Know Him (If You Saw Him)'. It's a great country ballad: "He might be a little orphan, he might be a crippled man/Oh, would you know Him if you saw Him?/Would you offer Him your hand?/God is all around us/He's never far away". The country and western classic 'Wings of A Dove' was penned by Bob Ferguson and Ferlin Husky. It has a simple, but wonderful chorus: "On the wings of a snow-white dove/He sends His pure, sweet love/A sign from above/On the wings of a dove".

'The Master's Hand' is a pleasant country song about God's goodness and faithfulness: "The Master's hand is always held out to us/And it will lead us to the promised land/And the evil of this world cannot outdo us/If we are holdin' to the Master's hand (2X)". 'Everything is Beautiful (In Its Own Way)' is a ballad nature lovers will again appreciate: "When I see a fountain flow from a mountain/Or see April showers bring flowers to May/I can't help but ponder /Life is such a wonder/And everything's beautiful in its own way.../What my eyes can't behold/Can't be bought or sold/And everything's beautiful in its own way".

A fast-paced duet with Porter Wagoner, 'Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man', follows. Here's verses one and two: "Daddy was an old time preacher man/He preached the Word of God throughout the land/He preached so plain a child could understand/Yes, Daddy was an old time preacher man/He told the people of the need to pray/He talked about God's wrath and judgment day/He preached about that great eternity/He preached hell so hot that you could feel the heat". 'There' includes kids on backing vocals as well as adults.  It's a great inspirational song: "A city of riches beyond comprehension/Take me there/Won't you take me there?/Streets are of gold, gates of pearl, brilliant mansions/Take me there/Won't you take me there?"

Tommy Tomlinson wrote 'Heaven's Just a Prayer Away', a gospel music infused song about having a relationship with Christ: "And if you go/If you go to a church on Sunday/You get down on your knees and pray/And give your heart and your soul to Jesus/Heaven's just a prayer away". 'Letter to Heaven' is a bittersweet folk ballad about a little girl hit and killed by a vehicle, reuniting her in Heaven with her Mother who'd gone before her.

'Lord Hold My Hand' is a pretty ballad that serves as a prayer: "Hold my hand, let's not lose my way/Hold my hand and lead me home/Guide each step that I might take/Hold my hand and keep me strong/And let the path I walk be straight/Let the deeds I do be kind". Last up is 'Yes I See God', written by Dorothy Jo Hope. It's a song of testimony: "Yes, I see God where the mountains reach the sky/And I see God when the eagle starts to fly/I see God in a little baby's smile/I see God and He makes my life worthwhile".

On THE GOSPEL COLLECTION, the songs are mostly old country and western in nature, with some folk and gospel influences. Dolly's voice is strong and distinct. Some may find it a bit too shrill, but overall I didn't. There are nine fast songs and nine slow songs presented here. Heaven is most certainly a main theme (being a place where peace, joy, and love never cease). Appreciating God's handiwork in creation is another recurring theme. We are also encouraged to give our hearts and souls fully to Jesus. I'm rating this project 98%. For more info visit: www.dollyparton.com or look her up on Facebook.










Tuesday, July 24, 2018

HYMNBOOK


Back in 1959 and 1962 Johnny Cash released his first two gospel albums. HYMNS and HYMNS FROM THE HEART were both issued by Columbia Records. My Dad had both of them on LP back in the day. Fast forward to 2016 and both albums were combined on the cd HYMNBOOK (Simply Media TV). That is what I will be reviewing here.

1. It Was Jesus-I really like the call and answer style chorus: "Who was it everybody?" "It was Jesus", repeated.
2. I Saw a Man-A slow, old country song of testimony: "My life, my heart I gave/My soul was in His care".
3. Are All the Children In?-A sentimental, talking song. Quite good, reminds me of 'Christmas As I Knew It'.
4. The Old Account-One of his best upbeat gospel songs. Celebrates our redemption!
5. Lead Me Gently Home-A pleasant country ballad requesting Divine guidance.
6. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot-A gospel standard. I prefer Larry Norman's version.
7. Snow in His Hair-A moving story song about a prodigal son returning to Daddy.
8. Lead Me, Father-A dreary song. It drags on.
9. I Call Him-A faster song about God's faithfulness. "And I call him when I'm troubled and I call Him when I'm weak/And He always pulls me through my troubles some way and I believe He'll be there".
10. These Things Shall Pass-A good reminder our troubles are temporary :)
11. He'll Be a Friend-Not my fave song about Noah. That'd be 'Noah Found Grace'. Still, this one's alright.
12. God Will-I like the opening line: "God will walk with me down the streets where no one else will walk".

13. He'll Understand and Say Well Done-I like the old school backing vocals here.
14. God Must Have My Fortune Laid Away-Reflects on why some are rich and some poor.
15. When I've Learned Enough to Die-A forgettable track.
16. I Got Shoes-A real toe-tapper about our eternal home as Christians! Great backing vocals.
17. Let the Lower Lights Be Burning-Nice organ intro. A great song about rescuing lost souls!
18. If We Never Meet Again-A pretty, mid-tempo number about heaven.
19. When I Take My Vacation in Heaven-The weakest lyrically so far. Heaven won't be a vacation. A vacation implies we'll be going back to our daily toils at some point.
20. When He Reached Down His Hand For Me-There's much truth here: "Once my soul was astray from the heavenly way/I was wretched and vile as could be". Even as believers we still sin.
21. Taller Than Trees-A tad on the cheesy side lyrically.
22. I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone-A strong song! We need not fear death! Hallelujah!
23. My God is Real (Yes, God is Real)-A child-like song of testimony. "God is real for I can feel Him in my heart".
24. These Hands-Forgettable to me.

HYMNBOOK clocks in at a good length of 54:03. Stylistically, this is straight up old country gospel music. There are twelve fast and twelve slow songs here, so it's a good mix! Heaven is the most dominant theme. It is there where God will tell us He's pleased with us and give us our rewards. Temptations and troubles will be a thing of the past! A gratitude for salvation is the next most common theme. This is followed by songs that ask for and show thankfulness for God's guidance, strength, and overall presence. 'Snow in His Hair' is a great story song. I'm rating this two record collection 85%. For more info visit: www.johnnycash.com or connect with his fans on Facebook.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

KISS OF HEAVEN


Darlene Joyce Zschech was born on September 8, 1965 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  She was the worship pastor at Hillsong Church from 1996-2007. Her debut solo album, MAKE THE CHOICE, came out in 1987. Then in 1993 she released PEARLS & GOLD.  Fast forward to 2003 and she released her third solo album, KISS OF HEAVEN (INO Records).  Producers on the album are Darlene, David Holmes, and James Roche, while the executive producer is Darlene's husband Mark.  In the liner notes to the album Darlene writes: "I pray you can sense, throughout these songs, my love and devotion to my Lord and Saviour, for without Him, I have no song and no reason to sing...Psalm 145".

1. Starting things off is 'Pray', one of three songs solely penned by Darlene. It's an upbeat Christian pop song that features the Born Again Choir and beseeches God: "We pray, pray/Open the windows of Heaven on us/Today, we pray/Pour out Your Spirit/Your wonders on Earth/We come on bended knees/We bring an offering/Lead us in Your way/Everlasting, oh yeah/Every heart of every man will pray Your will be done". 

2. 'Heaven on Earth' is one of several co-writes by Darlene and David Holmes. It includes a guest vocal by Miriam Webster and uses strings. This one is a beautiful adult contemporary song of testimony: "Whom You set free is free indeed/I've got the strength of my God in me/Well, You restored my dignity/Oh, completely, You love me/Well, if they only knew how You've mended my broken wings/Now I'm flying/Your love is Heaven on Earth/I'll shout it out to all the world/There's no doubt my greatest dream/It has come true/Just to be loved by You".

3. 'Faithful' is a praise and worship ballad: "All Heaven and Earth will worship You/Singing 'Holy is the Lord'/A hymn of pure adoration/As we see Your wonderful Kingdom come/Your favour is surrounding me/Your Word is lighting my way/You're faithful to deliver me/Your glorious love leads the way to salvation".

4. 'Beautiful Saviour' is based on the 1677 hymn 'Fairest Lord Jesus'. It features the Born Again Choir and includes these lyrics: "Beautiful Saviour, Lord of the nations/Son of God and Son of man/Glory and honour, praise, adoration/Now and forevermore be Thine/Glory to God in the highest (2X)/Emmanuel/Glory to God in the highest".

5. Jack Jones plays guitar on 'Everything About You'. It's a lovely adult contemporary song about Darlene's husband Mark: "I love everything about you, everything you are/You'd catch a falling star if I asked you/And I couldn't live a single day without you/You hold me in your arms/And once again I know that I'm the only one for you".

6. Steve McPherson, Andy Sorenson, and Dee Uluirewa sing backing vocals on 'Promise', a pop/rock song of spiritual dedication: "Hope of the world, oh I come to You/Light in the darkness/You're shining Your heart in me/I promise, I promise/To eternity I'll live and die to know You, to love You/For I've found what I've been looking for".

7. 'Irresistable' was previously on the live 2001 Hillsong album YOU ARE MY WORLD. It's a pretty praise and worship ballad that includes these lyrics: "Whenever I call You're there/Redeemer and Friend/Cherished beyond all words/This love never ends/Morning by morning/Your mercy awakens my soul".

8. Darlene and David Moyes wrote the title track 'Kiss of Heaven'. James Roche is responsible for programming, loops and editing on this cheery pop song: "My Jesus, dream maker/My Jesus, life giver/I'm living under the kiss of heaven/And I'll never ever be the same again/I'm singing a new song in the presence of my King/Giving You my heart/That is all that I can bring/You lit a fire inside of me/That I thought would never burn again".

9. 'Everlasting' was written by Darlene, David Holmes, and Marty Sampson.  It's an easy listening prayer: "Lord, I want to know You more/Follow You with all my heart and soul/Lord, I want to know Your voice/Lead me in Your way everlasting/Show me Your ways/Teach me and guide me in Your truth, my Saviour".

10. The now praise and worship super-classic 'Shout to the Lord' originally appeared on the 1994 live Hillsong album PEOPLE LIKE US. Here this anthem runs six and a half minutes and includes a guest vocal by Ternae Jordan, strings, and The Born Again Choir. Here is the wonderful chorus: "Shout to the Lord, all the earth/Let us sing/Power and majesty/Praise to the King/The mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your Name/I sing for joy at the work of Your hands/Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand/Nothing compares to the promise I have in You".

11. 'Dreams' is an adult contemporary ballad that finds Darlene desiring intimacy with God: "Take this heart of mine/You've captured me/I'm so in love with You/My destiny defined is spending every moment just to know You/I need to know You more/You're my world/You're my heart's desire".

12. Amy Zschech provides a guest vocal on 'Wonderful You' and Nabi Terrigal Gang provide handclaps. This one is an adult pop song of testimony: "Oh, You opened up my heart to see a new day/Now this fire within me needs to praise/I once was lost but then You found me/I'm in Your arms to stay/How I love You, wonderful You/Like a dream You came, let me live again/Oh, now there's You, beautiful You/I need forever to know Your way".

13. 'Thankful' is a worshipful ballad of gratitude: "To the cross I come again/I'm so thankful, I'm thankful/Your mercy over me again/I'm so thankful, living God/I wanna thank You living God/In the light of day/Your truth defines my way/And You call me Yours/I'm forever Yours".

14. Last up is a cover of U2's 'Walk On' from their 2000 album ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND. Martin Smith of Delirious? fame is guest vocalist on this great pop/rock song of encouragement: "Walk on, walk on/Stay safe tonight/Well, I know it aches/And your heart it breaks/You only take so much/Walk on, walk on/Home...hard to know what it is if you never had one/Home...I can't say where it is, but I know I'm going/Home...that's where the heart is".

KISS OF HEAVEN is a lengthy album, coming in at 66 minutes and 37 seconds. Darlene's vocals are absolutely marvelous on this project.  God is celebrated for His love, power, glory, salvation, faithfulness, and creation. Darlene is not shy about her love for God or her desire for His Spirit and to follow Him. The love song to her husband, 'Everything About You' is just terrific, and a 'Walk On' is a great mainstream song of encouragement to keep on keeping on. Genre-wise you will find several praise and worship songs here, several pop songs, and an adult contemporary song. The slow songs far outweigh the fast ones. There are several beautiful pics of Darlene included with the cd. I'm rating KISS OF HEAVEN 96.5%. For more info visit: www.darlenezschech.com or connect with her on Facebook.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER


Amy Lee Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia.  She is the youngest of four sisters. She released her self-titled debut album in 1977.  It was 1983 when she put out her first holiday project, A CHRISTMAS ALBUM, which features such now classics as 'Tennessee Christmas', 'Emmanuel', and 'Heirlooms'. In 1992 she put our her second holiday album, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, which included the super popular 'Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)', and 'Grown-Up Christmas List'.  Fast forward to 1999 and she released her third holiday effort, A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER (Myrrh), which I will be reviewing here. It peaked at #1 on the Top  Contemporary Christian Albums chart and at #36 on the Billboard 200.

1. First up is the title track, 'A Christmas to Remember', written by Amy, Chris Eaton, and Beverly Darnall. Michael Omartian plays piano and Beverly Darnall provides vocal harmony on this pleasant adult contemporary album opener: "Setting our hopes on a big snow tonight/We'll wake up to a world of white/And it's gonna be a Christmas to remember/Light up the fire, play some Nat King Cole/Always sentimental and don't you know that/It's gonna be a Christmas to remember".

2. Roger Cook and Wayne Jackson wrote 'Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away'. Background vocals are provided by Michael Mellett, Lisa Bevill, and J.D. Cunningham. This pretty easy listening tune begins with these sentimental words: "Little bits of heaven floating gently by the window/Soon this dirty city will be covered with a new snow/Let's put on our winter boots/Go outside and play/Christmas can't be very far away".

3. A reverent and mellow version of 'Silent Night' follows. It features the Patrick Williams Orchestra and Choir and speaks of Christ's birth: "Silent night, holy night/Shepherds quake at the sight/Glory streams from heaven afar/Heavenly hosts sing 'Alleluia/Christ the Savior is born/Christ the Savior is born'".

4. Amy co-wrote the modern hymn-like song 'Christmas Lullaby (I Will Lead You Home)' with Chris Eaton. God's love for us is celebrated: "How beautiful, how precious/The Savior of old/To love so completely the loneliest soul/How gently, how tenderly/He says to one and all/Child you can follow Me and I will lead you home/Trust Me and follow Me and I will lead you home". Grace Stumb, a child, sings on the track as well.

5. 'Highland Cathedral' is a beautiful Celtic instrumental shy of three minutes long and featuring the Nashville Studio Orchestra and the Nashville Pipes and Drums.

6. A swingin' pop version of 'Jingle Bell Rock' makes use of a male quartet. This one's all about having a good time: "Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock/Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time/Dancin' and prancin' in jingle bell square in the frosty air/What a bright time/It's the right time/To rock the night away/Jingle bell time is a swell time/To go glidin' in a one horse sleigh".

7. Pat Ballard wrote 'Mister Santa', which dates back to 1955. It's a toe-tapping pop song set to the tune of the ever popular 'Mr. Sandman'. Here, we find Amy vocalizing children's holiday thoughts: "Santa/We've been so good/We've washed the dishes and done what we should/Made up the beds/And scrubbed up our toesies/We've used a Kleenex when we've blown our noseies/Oh Santa/Look at our ears/They're clean as whistles/We're sharper than shears/Now we've put you on the spot/Mister Santa bring us a lot".

8. John Jarvis and Randy Goodrum wrote ''Til the Season Comes 'Round Again'. Vince Gill sings harmony vocals on this easy listening song about cherishing Christmas moments: "Come and gather around at the table/In the spirit of family and friends/And we'll all join hands and remember this moment/'Til the season comes 'round again.../One night holy and bright/Shining with love from our hearts/By a warm fire/Let's lift our heads high/And be thankful we're here/'Til this time next year".

9. Bobby Taylor plays oboe on 'Gabriel's Oboe', a short and lovely instrumental.

10. Chris Rice wrote 'Welcome to Our World' in the mid 1990's.  It's an adult contemporary ballad directed to Christ: "Tears are falling, hearts are breaking/How we need to hear from God/You've been promised/We've been waiting/Welcome, Holy Child/Welcome, Holy Child.../Bring Your peace into our violence/Bid our hungry souls be filled/Word now breaking Heaven's silence/Welcome to our world/Welcome to our world".

11. Closing out the album is an over six minute version of Michael W. Smith's praise and worship classic 'Agnus Dei' with Tim Morrison playing trumpet solo. It's pretty. The lyrics begin: "Alleluia, alleluia/For the Lord God Almighty reigns/Alleluia, alleluia/For the Lord God Almighty reigns/Alleluia/Holy, holy/Are you Lord God Almighty/Worthy is the Lamb/Worthy is the Lamb!"

I find A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER to be a very pleasant, warm, inviting album to listen to and I am writing this in July! It's not particularly the longest Christmas record ever. It clocks in at 38 minutes and 51 seconds. There are several songs about enjoying the sentimental sights and sounds of Christmas (including snow, carols, shopping, cards, jingle bells, and Santa) but there are also blatant Christian themed songs about Christ's birth and God's love and care for us. And the album does end with an all out praise and worship song. The slow songs far outweigh the fast ones here. The musical genres presented are easy listening, adult contemporary, and pop. This is a must have Christmas CD. I'm rating it 100 %. For more info visit: www.amygrant.com and/or connect with her on Facebook.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

SLOW REVIVAL


Bryan Duncan was born on March 16, 1953 in Riverside, California.  He sang for the Sweet Comfort Band who put out their debut album SWEET COMFORT in 1977.  They broke up after 1984's PERFECT TIMING.  They would re-unite in 2013 for THE WAITING IS OVER.  Bryan's solo debut was 1985's HAVE YOURSELF COMMITTED.  Over the years he became known for such songs as: 'Strong Medicine', 'Love Takes Time', and 'A Heart Like Mine'.  In 1994 he released his seventh solo project, SLOW REVIVAL (Word/Epic). The album peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Top Contemporary Christian Albums chart. In the liner notes, Bryan writes: "I'm grateful, dear God, for the unconditional love You have for me. It's been hard to believe".

1. Bryan co-wrote 'A Heavenly Light' with Randy Lee, and Lou Ann Lee.  It's an upbeat, funk/pop song about spiritual enlightenment: "A light in the darkness always changes everything, yeah/I'm in a slow revival from a rude awakening/Hey! Oh yeah!/Well, it's a sure sign for seeking time/Take another hard look/Where I'm going wrong/And then all of a sudden a heavenly light goes on/It's a little brighter than before/Leads back to the Savior/Don't need to fix the world, yeah!"

2. James Felix and Bryan wrote 'United We Stand'. It's a soulful ballad with guest vocals by Anointed.  It is about unity in the body of Christ: "United we stand, divided we fall/We will live or die together/The same for one and all/Together defend this love without end/And we'll honor God forever, together, oh.../Oh, there's just no way to win if we're fighting all the time".

3. 'Don't Look Away' is a light pop song about caring for others: "There in a dozen faces all calling my name/And their hands reach for mine and they're cryin'/Don`t look away, see how I've been wounded/Don't turn your face, see my face as your own/Don't look away/Put your arms around me/Don't go closing your eyes to the truth as you pray".

4. 'Your Love, My Saving Grace' is a bouncy funk song that makes good use of horns and testifies: "I know that it's Your love in a lonely place/My life that You help me face/And there ain't no need to worry/Your love, my saving grace/No need to cry/Don't take it away now/Ain't no need to worry/As long as I've got You/I got help to see me through/It's Your love, my saving grace".

5. Michael Omartian and Bryan wrote 'Traces of Heaven'. It's was one of three tracks to reach #1 on Christian radio.  It's an adult contemporary ballad about God's love for us: "My hope lies in Your love for me/In Your faithfulness I can see/Traces of heaven/In subtle kindness, Lord/You keep lovingly showing me/Traces of heaven".

6. 'My House' is a fast-paced pop song about spiritual renewal: "Tearin' the walls down in my house/We're swingin' the doors wide/Takin' all my windows out/Lettin' the light in, in my house/We're startin' all over". There's a great electric guitar solo at song's end.

7. 'Lonely Tonight' is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad that finds Bryan pouring out his heart to God: "You know I trust in You/But I'm lonely tonight/It's not a simple need for company/I don't know where I belong in the world I see/And I'm lonely tonight".

8. Reed Vertelney and Bryan co-wrote 'Things Are Gonna Change', a great song of encouragement: "Don't give up, well, I've seen some hard things/I never thought that I would ever smile again.../Gotta have a little faith/Maybe add a little trust, add a lot of love/You see you're gonna rise above/The things that are so rough".

9. 'Wheels of a Good Thing' is an upbeat, funky toe-tapper of encouragement: "When you feel yourself stranded/Broken down, abandoned, call y'all!/Say your prayers and get out of the way/Ah, and He'll get ya/Hey!/Jesus may, Jesus may help you get through this world, amen!/When there's a will there is a way/Oh, leave it to Jesus to help you change your attitude".

10. David Lasley, Lana Marrano, Darrell Brown, and Dan Posthuma wrote the closing song, 'Safe Harbor'.  It's a nice easy listening praise and worship number: "Tossed upon the ocean/Your hand steadied straight my bow/And as I chart the storms of life/I know You will show me how/And now, in this cold, dark world/I'm put always to the test/Your arms are the shelter that offers to me rest/Lord, You're my safe harbor/With a word You calm my soul/And You show me sweet power/And a love that brings me home".

SLOW REVIVAL was nominated for 'Best Contemporary Album' at the 26th GMA Dove Awards. Pop, funk, easy listening, and adult contemporary sounds are all found on this album.  There are an equal amount of fast and slower songs.  A gratitude for God's love and salvation clearly comes through.  A desire for love and unity among believers and a need to care for others are expressed.  Revival and spiritual renewal are desired here. There's a song about loneliness and songs of encouragement. Bryan's vocals are soulful. I'm rating this project 93% and recommending it to fans of Clay Crosse. For more info visit: www.bryanduncan.com and/or connect with him on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

A CHRISTMAS ALBUM


Raymond Howard 'Ray' Boltz was born on June 14, 1953 in Muncie, Indiana.  He released his debut album WATCH THE LAMB in 1986.  As the years went on, he became known for such moving songs as 'Thank You', 'The Altar', 'I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb', and 'One Drop of Blood'. Fast forward to 1997 and he released A CHRISTMAS ALBUM (Word). It was produced by Steve Millikan and executive produced by Ray and Lois Veenstra.  In the liner notes, after reflecting on Jesus' mother Mary, Ray writes: "It is my prayer that as you listen to the songs on this project, you will find yourself looking at Jesus too...and as you keep your eyes on Him, you will be filled with that same strength, peace, joy, and love".

1. Starting things off is 'Glad Tidings' penned by Ray, Steve Millikan, and Randy Melson. It begins with a children's choir singing acappella.  Then it turns into an upbeat adult contemporary number that recalls the night Jesus was born many a year ago: "And so it was/The lowly shepherds lay/In fields they watched their flocks by night/And suddenly/They heard an angel say/As they were frightened by a great light/'Glad tidings to all the world/Glad tidings we bring/Unto you is born this day/Emmanuel/A Savior and a King'".

2. 'The Perfect Tree' is one of five songs here written by the duo of Ray and Steve Millikan.  Sandy Williams plays guitar and background vocalists include Marshall Hall and Amy Rouse. This easy listening song is ultimately about the cross: "The perfect tree/Grew very long ago/And it was not decked with silver or with ornaments of gold/But hanging from its branches/Was a gift for you and me/Jesus laid His life down/On the perfect tree".

3. 'Oh, What a Beautiful Name' features the wonderful vocals of The Martins and finds Steve Dokken on upright bass and Tim Wright on steel guitar. This is a reverent easy listening ballad about the night Jesus was born: "Jesus, Jesus/Oh, what a beautiful Name/Jesus, Jesus/Forever will be the same/I know of a name, a beautiful Name/That unto a baby was given/The stars glittered bright throughout that glad night/And angels praised God in heaven".

4. Children and ladies provide additional vocals on 'I Believe in Bethlehem'. This tropical sounding song begins with these words of positivity: "I believe in Bethlehem/Shining stars and making friends/Peace on earth, goodwill to men/In all the world/I believe in silent nights/Gifts of love and guiding lights/I believe it all began in Bethlehem".

5. Skip Ewing wrote 'The Gift'. Tim Wright plays steel guitar on this story song: "For them there were no presents around the Christmas tree/No flashing lights unless you count the lamp across the street/A fire in a barrel/No chimney and no roof/To most of them Santa Claus was the man who made the soup.../But who needs Christmas presents?/We already have the gift".

6. Ray, Mark Pay, and Steve Millikan wrote the beautiful adult contemporary anthem 'Bethlehem Star'. Here are some of the words: "I may not be a wise man/And I don't have much to bring/But my heart is my gift of love/So lead me to the King/Bethlehem star, how beautiful you are/Shining in the darkness/Guiding strangers from afar/As your light fills the heavens/His love fills my heart/So shine for me my Bethlehem/Oh, that I might worship Him/Shine for me my Bethlehem star".

7. An upbeat, tropical pop version of 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is up next. It's a song of testimony: "Down in a lowly manger/The humble Christ was born/And brought us God's salvation/That blessed Christmas morn/Go tell it on the mountain/Over the hills and everywhere/Go tell it on the mountain/That Jesus Christ is born".

8. 'When Her Eyes Are On the Child' is an easy listening story song: "There's a soldier whose name is Terry/And he's serving far from home/It's the first time that he's spent Christmas far away and all alone/And when his eyes are on the Child/He finds all the strength he needs/All the struggles and the trials/Just turn into perfect peace/He can even stop and smile/When his eyes are on the Child".

9. 'Still Her Little Child' dates back to 1991. David Huntsinger plays acoustic piano, while Steve Millikan plays synthesizer. This adult contemporary anthem is told from Mary, the mother of Jesus' perspective: "When she laid Him in a manger/He was still her little child/In a city filled with strangers/He was still her little Child/Though the inn was full and the night was cold/She held Him close and smiled/When she laid Him in a manger/He was still her little Child.../When the people turned against Him/He was still her little Child/When they shouted 'Crucify Him'/He was still her little Child".

10. The album concludes with 'Sent by the Father', a great adult contemporary number that reminds us of Christ's upcoming return to earth: "Oh, but soon every eye shall see Him, angels at His side/See Him now on a great white stallion in the eastern sky/Sent by the Father/'Jesus, go and call my children'/A trumpet sounds and the angels sing like never before/With shepherds and wise men/We humbly bow/And every tongue confess that He is Lord". It's a song of victory indeed!

A CHRISTMAS ALBUM focuses on the spiritual aspects of Christmas. It's a good album to help us focus on the night of Christ's birth and the awe and wonder of that night as seen through the eyes of Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men.  Christ is presented as Savior and King and a Gift to humankind.  He brings us love and joy. It is important to keep our eyes on Jesus. Our response to Jesus coming to earth for us should be to give Him our hearts and share the Good News of the Gospel with whoever we come into contact with.  A gratitude for Calvary and anticipating Christ's return are also sung about here.  Easy listening and adult contemporary sounds dominate the album and there are several slower songs than faster ones on this album. Ray's vocals are great! I'm rating A CHRISTMAS ALBUM 100%. For more info visit: www.rayboltz.com and/or connect with him on Facebook.