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Creating Freedom From Poverty
Time: 15 Tracks / 57 mins
This release is a very pleasant surprise. Often, when you get big names from the worship music sector doing something big, they tend to cut risk and so bland out – and with 42 million albums sold between them, this is a huge bank of talent. But this disc has the Martin Smith factor and there are plenty of Delirious?’ fingerprints on the surface of this disc.
This is the much-vaunted charity disc that emerged from Martin and Anna Smith coming face to face with poverty (in parallel with the final Delirious? collection, Kingdom of Comfort). Its fees for recording artists, composers, management, copyright bodies, agents and publishers are all completely waived, allowing the purchase price to go straight to charity (full details of the background can be found at www.compassionart.co.uk).
I wonder whether it was a sub-conscious sense of competition to make sure that their songs were up to the standard of the others’ that kept the quality so high. Whatever the reason, this is easily of the same standard as compilations like Exodus and Streams. Much credit for the sound goes to the joint producers, Martin Smith, Les Moir and the very dependable Matt Bronleewe.
To start the process, the twelve writers involved in this project were split into teams of three and sent to four separate writing areas in a Scottish lodge at the start of 2008. Each team was given two hours to write a song. After working away for a week, enough workable songs emerged to fill an album.
By working in ever-changing teams, the result has a blended integrity without being homogenous. When it reached the recording stage, other names moved in to accentuate that, so Israel Houghton or Kirk Franklin can bring the energy of black gospel to a rock piece. The opener, “Come to the Water” is typical Martin Smith, but Kirk Franklin adds his touch towards the end. On the best track “Fill My Cup,” Martin Smith builds on a foundation of handclaps and an acoustic blues riff until it gets to the point where Cece Winans and the Lakewood Choir can take up the baton. Their soul takes it to another level until they add a real end-of-Hey-Jude, lighter/mobile-waving section, all singing, “Take us to the other side” with those handclaps still working away underneath. Paul Baloche’s “Lead Me to the Rock,” has a similarly anthemic ending.
The highlights also include a couple of ballads. Leeland Mooring and Andy Park sing with understated passion on the lovely “Friend of the Poor” and old friends Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith are joined by the Watoto Children’s Choir on the Celtic-toned “Highly Favoured,” a song which explores Mary coming to terms with the news of Jesus’ birth. The power ballad “King of Wonders,” which features Matt Redman and Tim Hughes, has a fine guitar line threading right through it.
The only two that risk not fitting are strangely set together on the running order: Graham Kendrick’s sparse duet with Darlene Zschech misses the lushness of the rest of the disc – something that doesn’t suit Kendrick’s voice – and TobyMac’s duet with Kirk Franklin sounds too aggressively urban coming straight after it.
Otherwise, this collection has got enough of the middle ground to appeal to the CCM crowd; high enough production standards to please the mainstream; music to reach both black and white audiences; and a good balance between typical praise lyrics and the importance of addressing poverty.