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UK Worship Release Roundup 

Albums covered: 
Mal Pope - Land of my Children - Kingsway Music 
Tim Hughes/Martyn Layzell - Reward - Survivor Records 
African Children's Choir - It Takes A Whole Village - Alliance Music 
Global Zamar - Urban Doxology - Alliance Music 
Noel Richards - Calling All Nations - Kingsway Music 
Parachute Band - adore - Kingsway Music

Mal Pope - Land of my Children (sample)
Noel Richards - Calling all nations (sample)
Tim Hughes/Martyn Layzell - Reward (sample) 

In the UK, worship music far outstrips other Christian label releases when it comes to publicity and sales. Given the volume of releases from both sides of the Atlantic, The Phantom Tollbooth offers a round up of some notable recent releases. 

Mal Pope continues to get plenty of attention and his latest, Land of My Children is dominated by hymns and other tunes he grew up with. Following in the tradition of Welsh hymn singing, Pope has written new words for a number of the tracks. Definitely middle of the road, but carefully crafted as ever, it's good to see Mal Pope getting some attention after spending most of his life paying dues. 

Perhaps the most talked about release on the "youth worship" scene has been Reward, a project shared by worship leaders Tim Hughes and Martyn Layzell, which brings in a star studded cast of backing musicians including Mal Pope (vocals), Phil Barker (Iona, bass) and Terl Bryant (percussion). Given the absence of new Matt Redman releases this year, the project will be a hit with any Redman fan. The sound is fresh and there are some good songs, including Hughes' "My Jesus, My Lifeline," which is already widely used. But it doesn't move far from the formula which has seen Soul Survivor's worship music become so popular, which is a shame as it would be nice to hear a little more diversity from that camp. 

Going even further in the "youth" direction, the new African Children's Choir release, It Takes A Whole Village, collects together some of their best loved recordings. The fresh voices of the choir and the african sounds are enticing--at first. Unfortunately the inclusion of 25 tracks puts them in danger of overkill, and it is difficult to listen to the album the whole way through in one sitting.

Global Zamar's Urban Doxology sees more emphasis on the urban than on the global, with an urban/R&B vibe dominating. It stands out from the rest of the recent releases as a result, but doesn't bring much that's new to the genre. Perhaps a useful resource for R&B fans wanting some tracks to use in their worship.

The biggest disappointment in the worship scene in recent months is the new Noel Richards disc, Calling All Nations. Richards continues to keep a high profile, recently touring this release across the country, but it lacks any real musical muscle behind its rock ballads. He'll continue to sell out venues wherever he goes, but perhaps it's time for something a bit fresher. 

The highlight this time around is New Zealand's Parachute Band which released a live album (adore) with a much fresher, funkier sound. Hitting similar funk sounds to groups like Phatfish and Beehive, the album's not as much fun as the live event sounds to have been, but there's plenty of energy and the talent is obvious. The lyrics are largely "shouts of acclamation" and it would have been nice to hear a little more variation and care in this respect, but this is the best of the batch. 

By James Stewart 1/15/2000


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