Album Review: Rend Collective Experiment ‘Campfire’

Rend Collective Experiment - Campfire

Rend Collective Experiment – Campfire

I love the beach… I love everything about it… the fresh wind… the warm sand through my toes… the romance of it… the ruggedness of it… the freedom of it, it’s no wonder that this is the place that Rend Collective Experiment chose record their latest album.

I’ve tried to think back and I honestly don’t think I remember smiling so much through a worship album than I did when I listened through the latest album from these Irish folk.

Rend decided to feed their continued focus on community by releasing a live album of songs  from their last two albums Organic Family Hymnal and Homemade Worship by Handmade People… both great albums in their own right., however don’t think for one minute that Rend will give you just the same thing as they gave you on these albums… Rend are far two creative for that. This album is filled with the the new-folk joys of the original albums with all the surprise and quirkiness of their Indie vibe.

The band was so keen to have a ‘live worship’ feel and a real sense of community that they put out an invitation via Twitter and Facebook for people to come and participate around a campfire on Ballyholme beach where all the vocals were recorded live… and thus atmosphere is created… it was literally recorded around a campfire… I mean how cool is that????

The Album starts with the call to worship… ‘Kumbaya’ – it’s a stroke of genius… the ultimate campfire song is re-visioned into a cry for God to be a part of the album, the continued worship.

The first track I heard from this album was ‘Movements’  – I was excited to hear it live, and I was at first a bit puzzled… yes it was a great song… but what have you done to this great pop number… however before long I found myself smiling and singing along… I was drawn into the song… drawn into the atmosphere… I could almost feel the heat of  the campfire against my skin.
Then it dawned on me it wasn’t about the song or the arrangement… it was about community… eccelesia (a movement… church)

The concept of the album demands new arrangements .. new feels…  new twist mainly because of the simple fact that beaches don’t usually have power… however what is birthed from the album is fresh and new and exciting.

Rend have even taken the Matt Redman ‘10,000 reasons’ and re-visioned it for around the campfire and again the song takes on a new personality and the focus once again changes

Gone of the days where worship was confined to churches… gone are the days where church music was paint by numbers worship… or had to feel a certain way… Rend are breaking it down… knocking down stereo types and creating something that is so fresh that people can’t help but be drawn into it.

The creativity on this album… the honesty of this album… almost begs you to look to one direction… and that’s up!

Forget Mumford and Son’s or Arcade Fire or The Lumineers… Rend has not only the heart and fire… but a deep soul. If you’re going to listen to the next wave of New-Folk and Indie… don’t look past Rend Collective Experiement.

Come… lets sit around a campfire and sing… lets tell stories… lets create community… or at least start living in the one God has put us in!



Twenty Seven Million – Matt & Beth Redman and LZ7

The number of slaves today is higher than at any point in history, and it inspired worship leader, songwriter and author Matt Redman and LZ7 to highlight and raise awareness for the anti-human trafficking movement. So as any good songwriter would do they wrote a song…. and that song is Twenty Seven Million.

Matt Redman said:

“Society is waking up to the fact there are twenty seven million slaves on the earth today. They are the voiceless, but we could be their voice. Please buy the single at iTunes.  If we all move as one on this, together we could make some big noise about this important issue.”

Have a listen to this song… and then download it.

Love is a battlefield

Love is a Battlefield

“All you need is love” – The Beatles

“No Promise’s no Demands – love is a battlefield” – Pat Benatar

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:16

I’ve been thinking about the whole ‘love’ issue for ages… it’s been mulling through my mind for a while until I heard at a soldiers funeral a variation of the 1 John 3:16 used to describe the act of going to war and dying for someone else… as an act of love.

And it made me realise that is what Christ was talking about when he talked about love.

The love of Christ goes well beyond feelings and warm fuzzy’s, and it even goes well past words… we’ve been made to think that love is all about the ‘feeling aspect’ but that’s only a mere brushstroke on the canvas of a much bigger and a much more vast picture.

You see it dawned on me we’re not saved by Gods feelings… We’re saved by the blood of his son, the pain, the sacrifice… the agony of what his son went through for us… it wasn’t about feelings… it was about love… and love in action.

Matt Redman in his book ‘Mirror Ball‘:

“Words like grace and mercy can sound so warm and carefree in certain context – but there is nothing soft and fluffy about them in this place”

Just like the soldier who fought for our freedom on the battlefield so too did Christ for us on the cross, the pain the suffering. This is not some wishy washy love it’s not some heartwarming kindness…

This is a bold, brave love… this is the kind of love that is dirty and sweaty and doesn’t fit nicely into our little love box of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”  this is love in the trenches… a love for all mankind… with each laboured breath.

God is love… and through the love of Jesus Christ we see love in non-stop action. Sometimes it is still and peaceful… at other times it overturns temple tables in a rage, standing up for justice and reverence.

“We must have the whole picture… the incarnate, active, passionate, surrendering, dying, rising, ascending, reigning Jesus who moves in love and rules in power”

Album Review: Jesus Culture – Awakening ‘Live from Chicago’

I always get nervous when I’m  about to listen to an album where the average song is about 6 minutes each, and there is two disc’s…

On my lap was the new album by Jesus Culture ‘Awakening – Live in Chicago’… a Live worship album in a sea of Live worship albums, can this album stand up against Live albums from Hillsong, Planetshakers even Matt Redman weighed into the live worship album battle.

So what makes this album different?

Well… for a start this is Jesus Culture, and this is a Jesus Culture album… and live is where they are at their best. They’ve never been a band that has played by the rules… in fact they seem to have stumbled to their own style as they’ve come on this ‘worship’ journey… and they view their world differently.

Jesus Culture call themselves ‘a new breed of emerging revivalists’ so what does that mean? Mainly they are wanting to help ignite revival through connecting people in worship, ‘reawakening’ Christian values and commitment to God and God’s word…

Sonically the music is very much in line with indie based worship that you would hear from groups like ‘Hillsong United’ – but not as polished (which isn’t a bad thing) – but the lyrics are very much walking you through the Gospel message… but the thing that’s interesting is that this is an album to re-awaken the hearts of those who have believed, and so it’s an album full of reaffirmation… rather than new conversion or just praising God because he’s God. Now don’t get me wrong all that stuff is in their too… but if you were to stand back and view the album obectively as a theme… Awakening is most apt… so a two thumbs up from Jesus Culture from the outset.

The album starts of with the indie sounding keyboard that you would expect hear on a a David Crowder Band album… and from the start the band are showing they’re not hiding anything… there is nothing up their sleeve… this is about good honest music and being honest to God “Eyes to see and ears to hear your calling, our hearts respond to your Spirit falling” – now I’m not going to get into the theological aspect of the songs on this album as I am yet to hear one whole album that would line up with everyone’s theological view perfectly – this is not about theology this is about honest praise to God.

I like the reoccurring theme of repentance that comes up throughout the album… there is a real sense of never being the same after this moment, you will see the world in new light, and I like that… it’s a turning away of your old life.

The more I listen to the album the more I’m reminded about how church music used to be… when we would be able to go into ‘free worship’ and that meant something different to just a ‘instrumental’ or ‘guitar solo’

Jesus Culture’s aim seems to be giving people the promises of God in nice bite sized chunks… and they are more than happy to let you sit on the same phrase from phrases like “There is power in the name of Jesus… Break every chain, Break every chain” and to “Have Your way, Have Your way, Have Your way’,

A couple of things make this album work as a worship album… one of which is Kim Walker Smith’s voice… holy smoke Batman, what a powerful yet tender instrument…

The other is the focus… it’s all on God and it’s all about reminding Gods people, that they are part of this might army and that we are to stand on the promises of God…

This is a long album… filled with every aspect of the event… this is great if you’re needing something to help with freed worship at home… however I’m unsure if you would want to listen to the free worship EVERY time you listened to the album…

This album is release 29/11/11



Album Review: Planetshakers ‘Nothing is Impossible’


Aqua made it big with a song with the lyrics “If I could turn back time”… and it seems very apt for Planetshakers new live worship album ‘Nothing is Impossible”.

Planetshakers certainly has a different sound to the other big worship albums coming out this year… while Matt Redman and Hillsong United are starting to lean more towards a ‘Indie’ sound… Planetshakers has taken a step back in time releasing their first studio album in 5 years and has given the album a more  pop/rock album and it sounds good. What they loose in conference energy the more than make up for it in sound.

The album starts off with three songs that seem to be a blend of 80’s glam rock and 90’s pop sounds, the track ‘Power’ even feels like it should have the artist Prince breaking into a guitar solo.

But the album’s feel isn’t the only thing that makes this album a time travelers dream… the title track ‘Nothing is Impossible’ is actually a track taken from the 2009 Planetshakers album ‘Deeper’… this is not a bad thing and extra energy has been added to it with the dynamic vocals of Grammy Award winning artist, Israel Houghton.

The musicality on the album is polished, clean and arranged well… but as professional as it sounds there seems to be a real innocence to the album… someone walked in as I was doing one of my listening for the review and said it had the feel of a Hillsongs album about 10 years ago… and she wouldn’t be wrong.

Even the slower song like ‘You are God’ and ‘No one like you’ have a through back feel… kind of like a boy band pop feel to them. A well polished pop sound.

‘Song of Victory’ is pretty cool song however it has the feel of a song that would fit on a Spice girls or Pussycat Dolls album (if they were to do a worship album)… and ‘Sound of praise’ does it’s very best ‘Eye of the tiger’ or Van Halen impersonation complete with guitar riffs and piano riff… certainly 80’s rock inspired… even if they do add a rap half way through to make it feel more up to date.

I think this is a great album… it’s simple themes and familiar sounds make it kind of endearing…

Does church want to rock how they did 10 years ago?

I guess Nothing is Impossible.


Album Review: Matt Redman ‘10,000 Reasons’

Matt Redman '10,000 Reasons'

I like Matt Redman’s songwriting when it comes to church music and it can be summed up by simple, easy and to the point.

Matt Redman is one of few worship leaders and songwriters who constantly write songs that can be sung in church… sure other groups and songwriters have done it often… but not every church can pull off David Crowder Band, Planetshakers or even Hillsong United in church and that’s what makes Matt’s songwriting so good for churches of ALL sizes.

Matt recently said:

“You have to find ways to not water down your faith but to be lyrically as accessible as possible. That’s an endless challenge. It makes me always want to keep the cross front and centre.”

This was the first album of completely new songs that Matt has released as a live recording, and it is a real kaleidoscopic view of musical styles, themes and feels on this album and the name ‘10,000 Reasons’ really sums up the album as a whole.

Matt said that an old pop producer once said “There are only 4 kinds of songs that you can sing about in the Pop world (I love you, I hate you, go away and come back) but Matt has discovered that there is so many things that you can sing about when it comes to the story of Jesus… 10,000 reasons is a good start.

The song 10,000 reason is great… it seems to me to be the kind of song that your would sing around a camp fire… it seems to have that easy swagger of an Irish tinged pub song.

The lead single off the album is the track ‘Never Once’ is a real song of faithfulness and it echoes this real sense that ‘Never Once’ has God taken his eyes off you, “Standing on this mountain top, looking back at all you’ve done, knowing that for every step you were with me”… and how true is that, how often have we found ourselves on the other side of pain, only to realise that Gods hand was there all along… and you never even realised. “Never Once did we ever walk alone, Never Once did you leave us on our own”

A great song that would be AWESOME to start a service with is ‘Here for You’… not only is it a real cool song… but a real song to focus who we are singing too, and what we are here for “We welcome you with praise… Let every heart adore”… it’s BIG, it’s anthemic and a great way to unite a congreations focus.

‘Where would we be without your love, we would still be lost in darkness’… It’s really great to hear a worship leader sing about where he has been… often it seems like Christians have it all together… but with Matt you really get the sense that he has really had to struggle through some tough times, and from those tough times God has been able to shine is Glory.

After all his years as a songwriter for the church penning some of the most popular ones in this generation, songs like ‘Heart of Worship’ ‘Blessed be your name’ ‘Never let go’ and ‘You Alone can rescue’ Matt concludes…

“You can have clever chord progressions. You can work hard at getting some sort of nice sounding lyrics, but at the end, I just want a song that connects people with God.”

And it’s true… other albums may have slicker guitars, better riffs, and funky beats… but this album has a real HEART… and that’s something that really grows… it can’t be produced.



Album Review: Tim Hughes – Love Shine Through


Tim Hughes - 'Love Shine Through'

I like how Tim Hughes doesn’t release an album until he has a full album of tracks… in fact he doesn’t even go into the studio until he has a full album of songs. This is great for a number of reasons… the songs that he wants to capture on an album are usually well played, are usually well thought and are usually arranged well. So often you find albums that have a couple of great singles but the rest of the albums songs are just fillers, as artists feel the pressure of deadlines. Tim has thought about this in the iTunes age with people able to pick and choose the songs they want rather than having to buy the whole album… and I respect that stand… of quality on ALL tracks rather than quantity of average track from many albums… this is about God not about cash.


Tim has said that his first job is as the Director if Music at his church Holy Trinity Brompton… the songwriting is a bit of a side line. This shows through in his songwriting as he’s thought through the spiritual process of writing songs for church and the history behind it… and from that base he starts.

Like Matt Redman, Tim has a real focus for writing songs for church… and often Tims songs are simple in lyrical content (often taking cues from the old hymns), are simple in chord structure… and ‘Love Shines through’ is no exception to the rule.

Where ‘Love Shine Through’ really shines is at the heart the songwriting, this time Tim has chosen to collaborate with other worship leaders so as well as having the best of what Tim has to offer you now have songs that are now influenced by Martin Smith and Stu G (of Delirious?) & Ben Cantelon – with Martin also helping produce the album. Even the arrangements of the songs have a collaborative feel to it with people like Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith adding her distinct raspy vocals  & musicians from Hillsong United, and Vineyard and the new Northern Ireland new comer Rend Collective Experiment playing their part.

It’s good seeing an album being produced by ‘THE’ church rather than ‘A’ church.

Tim is the master of building a song and making a song grow… he’s also great at the song surprise. ‘Love shine through’ the title track is boosted by this amazing Beatles Sgt. Peppers brass sound that launches the song into the Heavens… while in ‘All Glory’ this Londoner gets his preach on and the song erupts into this amazing Gospel choir bridge that encourages you to sing along.

This album isn’t going to set records for the lyrically best album ever heard… but it doesn’t need to, this is a simple Gospel message, and while the album title suggests love is the underlying theme… it’s not wishy washy love… it’s tough love, it’s grace, it’s about how God relates in a world that is so broken… and that is the backdrop for the album, while it rests on the fact that God has it all under control.

I’ve listened to this album heaps already… and I really like it.

In the middle of albums that are produced to fit in with huge conferences, it’s great to hear an album that is modern in it’s approach, without loosing site of the wider church (including the smaller ones)… it’s forward focusing, while keeping its roots firmly in the past, and more importantly the foundation of God.

8 1/2 out of 10