Two friends and early collaborators reunite on an excellent remake.
Length: 11 songs/49 minutes
Having been a longtime fan of Sheila Walsh I am delighted to discover that the closing track of Braveheart reunites her on a duet with her friend and early producer Cliff Richard. Their first duet was a song called “Drifting” from Walsh’s 1983 UK release of the same name. The album was released in the US as War of Love (1983) but lacks the duet. We were robbed! I guess variations between UK and US releases didn’t stop with The Beatles.
Cliff Richard is not as well known in the US as he is in the rest of the world but his over five decade career includes 300 million albums sold. I first came to know of him through participating in Billy Graham’s 1984 Mission England outreach in Birmingham, England. Cliff Richard was a special guest. I’ll never forget being in the overflow crowd outside Villa Park watching on a giant screen as he sang “The Only Way Out,” a single released in 1982.
Richard may be best known in this country for the pop songs “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and “Devil Woman.” He also appeared and sang in some of Billy Graham’s early movies. Since learning more of him through his music and biography I appreciate how he navigates Christian faith with fame in the pop world. Sir Cliff is a gracious gentleman.
To find Walsh and Richard remaking “It is Well with My Soul” is to witness the reunion of two friends who “through many dangers, toils and snares … have already come.” This adaptation includes new words and melodies that make it come alive. It does not matter if one is familiar with the original. It’s like a new song, and makes the album worth having for this alone.
What’s refreshing is that Walsh takes a similar approach in the style and sound of the rest of the tracks, which comprise her first full-length in eight years. All but the hymn remake are new, done in the studio but could pass for being live but for the absence of crowd noise. Walsh leads the singing but much of the time is joined in harmony with other voices.
I have not heard her more recent prior releases on the Women of Faith label but my guess is that this is the most contemporary that Walsh has sounded for some time. Hints of this are reflected on the cover which shows Walsh and her collaborators in black and leather. Album covers can be revealing. It’s not so different that she loses the Women of Faith crowd. I appreciate the artistry.
Past producer, John Hartley, is back layering the background with soothing washes of sound. His excellent work is recognizable. In addition to working with Walsh in the past, he produced Heaven & Earth: A Tapestry of Worship (1999) that brought together some popular female artists.
“A Thousand Hallelujahs” is the perfect opener, cheerful with some Celtic accents. I would have enjoyed more of the latter. It does not seem to be as evident in the remainder.
“Love Changes Everything,” the following song is surprising in that Walsh is heard only in the background, if at all. I suspect that it is Jonathan and Rebecca Hart who take the lead as they are part of the worship team that travels with Walsh. I give her credit for letting her collaborators shine.
The lyrics in “Behold Him” point the broken to wholeness:
For every heart that just won’t heal
In all the emptiness we feel
For every heart that’s on the floor
For shadowed hopes and closing doors
And every moment we fall short
Walsh’s heart of compassion finds expression in lyrics like this which you find throughout. It’s comfort in a trying time.
Being the author of over 17 books, writing may have inadvertently eclipsed singing. It’s been said of John and Charles Wesley that we remember their hymns more than their numerous writings. There may be something to this, and I hope it will serve as an encouragement for Walsh to continue in music. I will never forget her excellent cover of “Love is the Answer” and “Angels with Dirty Faces” on Say So (1988). I even vaguely remember being moved by a video of Walsh singing, “It’s All for You,” that I think was from a Billy Graham Crusade broadcast.
Walsh’s singing and writing are like the investor diversifying their assets. God may use both or one and not the other in a particular situation.
It may be too much to hope for more collaborations with Cliff Richard, but it would be an automatic buy for me. I admire them both and it’s so lovely to hear them singing together again almost 40 years later.