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Hope of Heaven - Live at Bethel
Artist: Dave Fitzgerald
Label: Kingsway Records
Time: 10 Tracks / 57 minutes

This is a disc of two parts. Brilliantly mixed, with a sound as clear as early Passion recordings and Ryan Delmore-era Vineyard Touching the Father’s Heart releases, it is a sonic delight, right down to the bells that cut in on “Hope of Heaven”. Fitzgerald’s voice is clear and has a soulful edge in quieter moments. However, the lyrics that feed it are shockingly artless and repetitive, and the instrumental work is pretty basic.

Part of the problem probably stems from it being a live recording. On the night there could have been an electric atmosphere, but via the merciless clarity of the CD/mp3 player, the weaknesses are there for all to hear and the songs are desperate for some disciplined editing.

There is no excuse for the words being so cut-and-paste. Apart from “Hope,” many lyrics are cobbled together from lines of scripture and collected jargon. We get “My praise goes on / Worship be strong / My praise goes on and on and on... I will praise on / When I am blessed of God.” The line “I am an ark of your glory” doesn’t really make much sense, but we have to hear it 23 times and the next line “You make your home in me” 40 times! I got the message in about two minutes, but had to put up with it for at least another five. Counting isn’t his strong point, though: “This one thing I ask, come fill this place/ Lord my one request is to see your face.” He could make up his mind which is the one thing he wants...

The disc features guests, such as Rita Springer and Chris McClarney, while the backing musicians are from Jesus Culture. However, the songs are stronger when there are no guests. The playing often sounds like very simple stuff made to sound anthemic by gradual build up and occasional near-ecstatic vocals. In places this is like a Delirious? pastiche. After a while it sounds like they are trying to pass off a copy as an original and we are being ripped off.

With a couple of tracks removed completely, new lyrics for the rest and the sort of pruning you get from a gardener on speed, it could make a really decent EP. Those who love CCM should enjoy some of these tracks, the best of which are “Burn,” “Hope” and “Good”. It’s a shame to waste the excellent mix, but most of this triumph of style over substance is best left alone.

Derek Walker

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