In His Light
Artist: Amy Choate
Label: Independent release
Tracks: 10/ 32.41
This is something new for Amy Choate.  Having begun her career in theatre (as we Brits spell it) and opera, she has recorded this--her first Gospel pop album.  This was going to be something new for me too.  Listening to operatic voices doesn't come high on my list of preferred entertainment, falling somewhere below listening to Celine Dion, which itself is just below having teeth pulled.  I was either going to hate this, or be pleasantly surprised.
Choate does have a highly trained voice, no doubt the result of her vocational and educational background (she possesses a music degree in voice from Miami amongst other qualifications). However, even though that training is evident throughout this album, her voice is pure and light enough and her singing sensitive enough for it not to be a problem for even the most prejudiced of listeners (like me).  In fact, after a few listens I've warmed considerably to it and can only agree with the reviewer who described her voice as "[having a] crystalline purity of tone... [a] light silvery soprano" on her website.  Maybe the only moment on the album I would leave the room for is the very end of "Victorious King", which has a big mega-vibrato high note, then another even higher one, aimed possibly at the Mariah Carey fans and canine-torturers among us.
The playing and production on this album are very slick, up to the standards of a major-label release.  The sleeve, sadly, would have benefitted from a more professional design--there are spelling mistakes and a few poor choices of fonts and colours which should have been avoided.
So, what of the songs?  Well, half of them were written or co-written by Choate herself and the others are by modern pop-gospel writers, with one exception, more of which later.  The opener, "My Heaven" (Biga-Choate/Moody) starts gently and promisingly, in a soft Celtic-tinged ballad kind of way. It sets out Ms Choate's stall in an intelligent manner, demonstrating her vocal purity and control.  Track two, "Let It Go And Let God In", from the same songwriting partnership, is a more upbeat piano/guitar driven affair--much like her namesake Ms Grant might have sung, but marred by some cheesy 'Sha La La....' singalongs which are just a bit too much to bear after "My Heaven"'s 'La La La' refrains.
Apart from all the "La La La"-ing on the early tracks, the album's lyrics are forthrightly and explicitly Christian, as you might expect.  There is no mistaking the meanings in these songs, which I guess is good when you have something important to say.  Most of the lyrics of the cover songs, regrettably, were contrived or platitudinous.  Maybe they're older songs, from the days when Christian songwriters often thought a strong message, no matter how clumsily worded, was better than good art.  Maybe these songs have a special place in Ms Choate's heart.  They don't in mine.  The exception I mentioned earlier is a cover of Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You."

Here aimed at God, it offers nothing more than that over the original and serves only to show that Ms Choate can squeal those high notes as well as Minnie did. (I suspect that 'squeal' may not be the correct musical term here.)
The music, despite (or maybe because of) the slick production, is pretty bland to my ears--and fairly derivative.  Apart from the singing I could be listening to one of countless pop/gospel albums by one of a thousand writers. An illustration of this was "I Am Loved, My God, By You" (Biga-Choate/Moody).  I first heard that track without the sleeve in front of me and was convinced it was going to be a version of Darlene Zschech's "My Jesus, My Saviour".  For the first two and a half bars it IS "My Jesus, My Saviour" note for note.  I'm accusing no-one of plagiarism here, but it shows how narrow a field worship music can be at times.
In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by this album.  The sleeve led me to expect something less polished, and the letter which detailed Choate's singing background had me fearing the worst, but those fears were mainly unfounded.  As a showcase for her considerable vocal talents, it works very well.  As a gospel/pop/call-it-what-you-will album for repeated listening it's less good - let down by songs that are weaker than their execution. Nevertheless, it's a promising start.
By Daren Allder