The Rose Sessions Vol 2 - As Reviewed by the Phantom TollboothWondering about the state of the UK indie Christian pop scene? Give this disc a spin and wonder no more ...


Following on the heels of its like-titled predecessor, The Rose Sessions Vol. 2 release once again collects new and previously-released material from UK-based Christian performers in support of The Rose Education Foundation. "Saving One" from the Steels kicks off the proceedings with a tasty slice of winsome power pop. Jamie Hill follows up with "Sweet Deceit," an uplifting piece that falls somewhere between the laid back folk-pop of Jim Croce and the breezy, jazz-tinged pop favored by John Meyer. Like Hill, Ste Hedley has been playing his Mayer records, as evidenced by the bouncing, tongue-in-cheek "Monsters," an acoustically-based account of everything from the innocence of youth to the perils of cellular telephones that would certainly do his inspiration proud. At the very top of the totem pole, Matt Henderson's "Lotteries and Tents" reflects everything that made the sadcore/dream pop of the Red House Painters so absolutely riveting.

On the other end of the coin, "Victory of the Cross," despite the combined writing talents of former yFriday front man Ken Riley and pioneering UK worship leader Graham Kendrick, is surprisingly by-the-numbers radio-ready worship fare. Fans of early '80s MTV may appreciate the spacey new wave inclinations of Galactus Jack's "Symmetry," but the track falls well short of exceptional, thanks to its favoring sheer volume over either hook or melody. The leaden electronic flourishes that grace the remixed version of Golddigger's "Hanging On" only serve to dampen the original song's stellar melodic content. And Chip Kendall's cleverly-titled "Solve it on the Dance Floor" sounds a bit like a poor, synthesizer-based, cousin to Audio Adrenaline's perennial youth rally favorite, "Big House."

Of course, the occasional duff track is to be expected with any multi-artist effort. And, to be fair, the first-rate cuts on Vol. 2 are far greater in number than their weaker counterparts. Also in its favor, the compilation is made all the more appealing to fans of the groups represented, given that many of the songs on this collection aren't available anywhere else. A bit pricey ($15 dollars U.S.) for a release of its type, the Rose Sessions nonetheless features an admirable diversity of styles and, more importantly, shines a decidedly favorable light on several of the UK's most talented – and for many listeners, previously-undiscovered – indie artists.


Bert Gangl