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Creation Sings
Artist:  Stuart Townend
Label:  Kingsway
Time:  CD:    13 Tracks / 59 mins
            DVD:  5 songs + interviews / 34 mins
With songs like “Beautiful Saviour” to his credit, Stuart Townend is one of today’s best hymnwriters. Creation Sings is a 50/50 split between his latest creations and some old favorites. With a DVD that shows five of the new songs being recorded, this is a high profile worship release for those involved in leading in their churches.
Townend is a strong writer, which is not the same thing as being a strong performer. It seems to be almost policy currently for hymnwriters to release musically uninspiring records. The idea seems to be to showcase the skeleton of their music and let other more performance or genre-focused musicians put flesh onto it later in their own styles. Of course, nothing is exactly neutral, and Townend has come up with a folky, country-tinted disc that has a definite Celtic edge. It is when the band keeps playing after the main track is done on “Light of the World” that we see more passion, as the fiddle kicks in and the band lets some emotion through. 
Knowing how conservative many worship music buyers tend to be, I imagine that part of this is pure fear of driving punters away: keep it safe and keep the sales. But although the disc seems over-safe when it first pops out of the speakers, it doesn’t take long to get used to the feel and let the songs themselves come through. Some tracks exude peacefulness, such as “O For a Closer Walk with God,” which just has picked guitar, a little piano and a sustained, spacey, atmospheric pedal steel. 
Townend is such a strong wordsmith that this release has much to offer. Many Christians will already be familiar with songs like “O For a Closer Walk with God” and “The Father’s Embrace,” often singing them on a Sunday. Among the newer fare, “Light of the World” shows special promise. 
The DVD features five of the songs played live in the studio, each given an introductory piece of studio chat and a short interview with Townend afterwards. It is a mixed bag. Much of the split-screen work is useful for showing simultaneous close-ups of the band  as they play, but one track has a distracting flickering visual effect that has you wondering if they have switched a ceiling fan on in front of the light, and a couple of dramatic cuts to the cymbal are counter-productive, as the cymbal is only lightly touched.
The interviews give some insights into the songwriting process and aims of the material, but other than the important point after “O Church Arise” about songs being for the community as well as the individual, there is little said that the lyrics don’t already cover. Townend mentions on the DVD that he had been listening more to folk music, which explains much of the acoustic instrumentation – which in turn may explain why the more electric, if slow, “My Fault” is described as a bonus track. 
Such is the depth of content here that this release could tempt those who don’t normally buy worship records, but do enjoy roots music. The similarity of his voice at times with Cliff Richard’s will also help. There is certainly plenty for both worship leaders and those who like their music at home to be conservative with sound spiritual input.
Derek Walker


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