City Of Gold - Impressions Of Heaven
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Word (UK)
Time: 18 tracks/51:08
    You'll be given the robes of princes,
    You'll be flying on golden wings,
    You will live in pavilions of splendour,
    Be surrounded by beautiful things,
    So hold on to these promises,
    And keep them in your hand,
    Didn't anyone ever tell you,
    This is your land
    (from the sleeve)

Something of a who's who of the adult-orientated end of British Christian culture, this one. The brainchild of Adrian Plass (author noted for his humorous works), Dave Clifton, and Phil Baggaley (Phil and John), and featuring Mal Pope, Mark Edwards, Neil Costello, Dave Fitzgerald, Tracey Riggan, and more, it's a mixture of spoken-word poetry and music focused on pictures of heaven.

The well-crafted music varies widely, from the black gospel-influenced "River of Life" to the folky "Welcome Dance," which features some nice mandolin from Dave Clifton. Of course, Dave Fitzgerald (Iona founder) is as impressive as ever on his selection of woodwind instruments.

Words have been taken from the companion book, which includes passages from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress as well as works by C.S. Lewis, J. John, Phil Baggaley, Mike Mitton, and Stewart Henderson (Over the Rhine's new guitarist). They include powerful images of heaven, along with down-to-earth, even amusing, references, like when the narrator (Adrian Plass) asks that heaven should contain a wealth of rustic Sussex pubs.

Concept albums are sometimes an acquired taste, and your taste for these things will determine how you take to this project--the same is true of the spoken commentary. The music is relaxed enough for this to be either background listening or an absorbing guide to meditations on heaven. Either way, it is a nice addition to the collection.

By James Stewart