Never for Nothing - CCM Record Reviews archive J

JACI VELASQUEZ : Jaci Velasquez. (Myrrh : 080688537821).

With her debut album selling over 500,000 units world wide, the industry has been waiting in awe for this follow up release. I must admit, hearing the first song, I was ready to join the multitude of adoring fans. It's a classic Celine Dion type ballad that has been written by Chris Eaton, and takes some words straight from John 3:16. It's these type of songs were Jaci really excels, rather than the quirky 'Show You love' type where she tries, and fails, to be Alanis Morrisette. Perhaps she wants to move on from her little girl image but, along with 'Child of Mine' the delivery just doesn't hold. If it's not her own idea, then someone is trying to make her into something that she is not. The album ends on a high note with a similar track to the opener, 'al mundo Dios amo' co written by Eaton again. In between, there's a hotch potch of songs of varying quality, including contributions from DC Talk's Toby McKean. All in all, a bit of a let down. 5/10. (September 1998)

JACI VELASQUEZ : Crystal Clear. (Word : 080688603922)

Here she is, then. The darling of female CCM both in America and the UK, who's music is successfully crossing over in the mainstream market. No, it's not meant to be a flippant remark. Jaci IS the 'darling' as she not only does the business for God but actually makes money for the record companies who, after all, do need to eat! So, I unashamedly say, "Thank God for Jaci Velasquez". With this release, she packs in so many musical styles without ever losing control of that great voice. The Latin dance feel of "Listen to Me" and "You Don't Miss A Thing" is just superb. The title track is a song of love and the brilliant "Adore" takes the same feeling and just multiplies the wonderment of God's unfailing love for us. "You're Not There" has a slight darker edge to it, but Jaci carries it off with no problem. The power pop sound of "Every Time I Fall" is a sure fire radio hit and beautiful "Just A Prayer Away" finishes of what is a truly inspirational album. 10/10. (February 2001, Album of the Month)

JAMIE HILL : One Day. (ICC Records : ICCD81730)
This is a collection of worship songs that are obviously very heartfelt and personal, mostly delivered in a no nonsense rock style, but also featuring some slower songs. This album makes a refreshing change from all the bland material that seems to come out of the US these days. From the opening track,
"Creator God", right through there is not a bad track on this CD. Also included are the words and music, all laid out ready for printing straight to acetates for projection. To be honest I'm not sure that all of the songs here would work in a general worship meeting, but there are a lot that would. "Faithful God" and "Lord I Receive Your Love" stand out. Jamie will be familiar to anyone who is into "Quench" as he's part of that set up. I would definitely recommend this CD to anyone who likes their worship songs to have a bit of attitude to them, without going over the top. 10/10. Andy Sayner.
(November 2004, Album of the Month)
JANE GIBBS : You Are the Rock. (New Music Enterprises).

'You Are the Rock, 'Lord You Are Everything', and 'Servant's Prayer' are the titles of the first three tracks of this debut, and enough to tell you that this is a praise and worship album. With most of the tracks written by the lady herself and Wes Davis, it's also obvious to see just how firm and important Jane's own faith is. The production of this privately recorded CD is a little weak and both the vocals, and husband's fine saxophone playing, suffer. However, all is not lost and Miss Gibbs' Madonnaesque voice copes admirably with most offerings. 'Blessed Be The Name' gets the calypso treatment while 'Sing Allelujah' is the best of the self-penned songs. My head says a 6 because of the production but my heart says 7/10. (November 1996)

JANIS ENGLISH : God Holds the Key. (Private Recording. CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 including p&p from: Janis English, 164 Barnston Road, Barnston, Wirral, L61 1BZ).

Let me say right now, unashamedly, that the quality of privately recorded British CCM is - on the whole - just so good. Here's another new name to the scene, Janis English. A Scot, who's debut album contains a spoonful of country, a pinch of 70's pop, and a cup of refreshing, home made muse. Surely the title track sounds like....."Oh no", she said, "I don't really listen to any particular artist". Lovely, sugary, enjoyable, singalong....and that's just the first track! If originality is lacking anywhere, then the country sound is rather predictable. However, don't let this put you off, you'll soon find yourself tapping your feet to "Over & Over" or admiring the steel pedal guitar on "Move On This Land". When I first heard "Move Now Holy Spirit", I had to stop what I was doing and play it again. What a beautiful song, and what power it holds within. This track just "blows me away" as it quietly begins and then builds to where I can imagine thousands joining together in praise. God given praise and worship doesn't come much better than this. 9/10. (March 1998)

JANIS ENGLISH : Eyes of A Child". (Private Recording. CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 from: Janis English, c/o 113 Bricknell Avenue, Hull, East yorkshire, England, HU5 4EU).

It's still hard to think that this housewife from The Wirral has only been singing and writing for a few short years. After the release of her previous album "God Holds the Key", Janis received the invitation to sing and record this new album in Nashville, under the watchful eye of Jerry Arhelger. It's with the more mature listener where this is going to be a hit as her Anne Murray/Marilla Ness vocals quietly minister God's word. The title track simply asks for the gift of looking at God's wonder and love, with, the "Eyes of A Child". Here, then, the scene is set for an album of, mainly, country/Irish style music that would fit any easy listening radio show. "I'd Rather Know You" will have you singing along quite quickly, while "It Should Have Been Me" is an olde-time classic hit. The music is of A1 quality and the finished product just oozes professionalism. Mid-album, Janis throws in a couple of Jewish style songs, of which "More Than Broken Dreams" is the better. Then, it's on with the show and, probably the one that will get most attention "O Mary". Crashes of thunder, the sound of rain falling, and a great song. Janis English proves that you don't have to be American to make a quality, country recording. 9/10. (October 1999)

JANIS ENGLISH : Awesome is This Place. (CD £12.50/Cassette £7.50 from: Mr E English, c/o Moreton Baptist Church, Moreton, Wirral, CH47 0NX, UK)

Praise the Lord for the independent artists around the world, who tirelessly spread the Good News through music. Janis English is one such artist and, while not playing to arena sized audiences, ministers to many both home and abroad with her blend of country and praise and worship sounds. Her spiritual walk with God, through good and bad times, have resulted in some classy songs over the years, and this new release adds more of the same. Complete with triumphant fanfare, the CD opens with "Psalm 148", closely followed by the Messianic feel of "House of Prayer". I loved the celtic lament reflecting on the life of Christ, "Father's Perfect Plan", but think that the real pearl in the collection is "Sound the Trumpet". Here, Janet's warm vocal talents are joined by the lovely use of both trumpet and drums. "God is Good" seemed to be a dip in quality but "Like A Gentle Breeze" is a wonderful worship number. It may only be 8 lines long but the simplicity works really well. For the closing two songs, Janis eases the tempo down with a gentle, prayerful finish - a smashing end to a smashing album. 9/10. (February 2004, Album of the Month)

JARROD COOPER : Days of Wonder. (Jarrod Cooper Ministries : JCM003)

Originally released a couple of years ago, this relatively low budget recording is now in it's third reprint, with sales recorded from all parts of the globe. Jarrod Cooper is a respected worship leader based at the New life Church in Hull, and this recording literally knocks many others for six. It's lyrical content, music, and finished product is one of the finest worship albums that I have ever heard. No, I'm not biased because he's from my home city, I've never even met the guy. "Your Majesty" is said to be one of THE worship songs of last 12 months and I can easily see why. Beautiful, just doesn't describe what I feel about it. "Lost in Your Glory" simply oozes peaceful worship and that feeling runs throughout the whole album. "Clamourously Foolish" is shorter and livelier in style, before "Your Majesty" is reprised in Spanish tongue. And, just when you thought things couldn't get better, Jarrod presents a Celtic version of the great "Be Thou My Vision". There's no wonder this album has sold so well, it's a masterpiece. 10/10. (March 2000, joint Album of the Month)

JARROD COOPER : The Early Years. (JCM005)

This album by a Hull artist - whom I had not heard of before - features songs from his previous albums "deep Calls To Deep" and "Song of the Bow". I have enjoyed listening to and reviewing this album, and there are some quite catchy songs. Indeed, I found myself singing "Thank You" whilst out and about this week. This is my favourite track, a quiet, contemplative and prayerful song, telling of what Jesus has done for each one of us. "Mighty Warrior" is a good praise song wit plenty of beat to it. I was a little disappointed with the CD cover, however, as it contained very little information, and I do like to read the lyrics. 8/10 Pam Robinson. (March 2000)

JARROD COOPER : King of Kings, Majesty. (Authentic : 8203622)
Jarrod Cooper leads the New Life Church and the Days of Wonder Trust, based in Hull. His classic worship song "King of Kings, Majesty", gives this album it's title. It's always great to get off to a good start and this album doesn't let you down. "Overwhelmed" has a summer sound about it, sets the tone for the listing. My wife reckons that Jarrod's vocal delivery is a lot like Cliff Richards' gospel recordings - smooth and rich, with a touch of class. Most tracks are self penned, but Jarrod delivers a great version of Brian Doerksen and Sandra Gage's "Today". Mid album, songs like "I Tremble" and "You Are My Healer" begin to draw you into some personal worship time, and I found myself drifting effortlessly into a closeness with God. The uptemo "He's Alive" compares favourably with anything that the likes of Hillsongs produce, while "Glory in the Land" I found to be very poignant. With this collection, Jarrod proves that he's more than just a one hit wonder, sharing some high quality praise and worship with the listener. 9/10. (July 2005)
JARS OF CLAY : Much Afraid. (Kingsway/Essential : 83061-0405-2)

So much hype about this release that it had to be something special. The band have made the cross-over into mainstream US music but the first UK single failed to dent the Top 40 despite the obvious Brit feel to 'Crazy Times'. The album opens with the simply wonderful 'Overjoyed', displaying the sheer joy of being a child of God. 'Tea & Sympathy' is very Beatlesque, in a 'I Am the Walrus' sort of way, while the ballad 'Frail' oozes a melodic atmosphere that calms you during the full 7 minute performance. However, 'Much Afraid' is another one of those releases that fades in class halfway through. Styles change with each song and I found it very difficult to remain interested. Jars of Clay have much to offer the CCM scene on both sides of the Atlantic, they just need fine tuning. 6/10. (January 1998)

JARS OF CLAY : If I Left the Zoo

I'm no connoisseur of this band, but initial impressions are very favourable. The album opens with an acoustic number 'Goodbye, Goodnight' and then launches into 'Unforgettable You' with its heavily effected vocal and great drum sound. Musically, the four lads cover a wide variety of styles but integrate them well to create a very well recorded and produced product. Lyrically, the album tries to tread a delicate line between cheesy Christian cliché and omitting to mention God. On the whole it succeeds well on this score. There is an emphasis on the loving patient character of God and how we can relate to him personally. The artwork is attractive and well put together, although I've not worked out where the inspiration for the album title comes from as far as the musical content is concerned, but there is plenty of animal imagery in the booklet!

8/10 Geoff Waring. (February 2000)

JARS OF CLAY : The Eleventh Hour. (Essential Records: MPCD40525)

I must admit to never having listened to this band at all before this CD arrived in the post, but this album was a hit with me right from the start. So much so that I will have to check out some more of their material I think. The style of music is a pleasant laid back kind of rock music, with a definitely acoustic sound in some places, but also some more upbeat material too. It puts me in mind of Crowded House, or Soul Asylum. The Lyrics are well written and relevant, with some lovely vocal harmonies in places. I should think that this music will appeal to both Christians and non-Christians, as it makes its point well without resorting to religious clichés at all. In fact, to be honest, I can't find anything bad to say about it. (This is probably a first) In the sleeve notes the band hope that you don't hear "The noisy vocabulary of Religion, but music that is because of faith more than about it". No doubt there will be a few who would criticise this attitude, but I think that it shows that band are prepared to live in the real world rather than the cosy place that Christian music sometimes is. This album works well, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their music straightforward, and unpretentious. Well done, we need CD's like this from more Christian Artists. 10/10 Andy Sayner. (April 2002, Album of the Month)

JASON BRELAND : Believe. (Integrity : 27262)

Packaged as Jason Breland - Live with the North Mobile Worship Choir, this is an uptempo US recording that includes those awful moments that remind you of ghastly US Evangelistic TV programmes. Indeed, I wouldn't have been surprised if Jason had made an appeal for money over many of the boring songs here on offer. The album is filled with OTT tracks that sound tired and old fashioned - the sort of stuff that events like Spring Harvest buried 10 years ago. Cringe to the guitar solos on songs like "Let There Be Blessing" - it doesn't come much worse. "Everyday" is a catchy number and saves this album from total drabness but as for the rest? Forget it, there's plenty UK albums that are much better than this. 1/10 (January 2004)

JASON INGRAM : Jason Ingram (Resonate Records)

Originally from Santa Cruz, California, and now living in Nashville, Jason has previously gained acclaim in the US with his band, the rather unimaginatively titled "Jason Ingram Band". He also co-wrote SONICFLOOd's hit single "Resonate", and has written some good, scriptural songs for this, his first solo album. The album is heavy on acoustic guitar (never a bad thing as far as I am concerned), but with enough interesting stuff happening to stop it becoming just another acoustic Christian album. Three tracks in particular stand out for me: "The Wonder Of Your Grace" is a great song in its own right but, more importantly, because of its position in the track list (5) it brings a distinct, and welcome, change of feel. "I Love You Lord" reminds me of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up", which is one of my fave songs of all time, and "How Deep is Your Love" is simply stunning and should have been the opening track. There are a few small niggles: production on the vocals is disappointing (far too much backing, and the lead is too quiet and over-produced so it tends to get lost); and the first four tracks are too similar to stand being put together at the start of the album, but these cannot detract from what is a fine listen. I can pay it no higher compliment than to say "I wish I had made this". 9/10 David Cooper (July 2002)

JASON MORANT : Abandon. (Vertical Music)

Distributed by Fierce, I think I know why they decided to promote this 22 year old, New Orleans born worshipper. Take the American accent from the songs and replace it with Martin Smith's voice, and you have a typical Delirious album. There's driving guitars, there's bouncy pop numbers, and fully fledged worship songs that lean very much towards the sound that have made the D-boys so popular. Sadly, that's were the resemblance ends, as the quality of each song doesn't stand up quite so well. "Bless the Lord" works well and the re-worked Vineyard classic "I Love You Lord" also got my seal of approval. Apart from that, plus the clever mix of acoustic and electric guitars on "Fashion", it's a rather over-rated release. 4/10. (September 2004)

JAVED : Javed. (Crowne Music Group : 785277700128)

I must say that personally I find dance/soul music instantly forgettable. The monotonous drum tracks just bore me rigid, so it would be easy to just dismiss this CD as not very good. However that would be unfair, because I think anyone who likes this sort of music would really enjoy this CD. Andrae Crouch has done a lot of the production work on it, and you can see his influence right through the whole thing. I preferred the slower material myself, I just found it a bit more tuneful than the more upbeat material. The best track for me by far being the final track "I'll be okay". That's not meant to be a criticism of the rest of the tracks, they are all well produced, and a lot of work has gone into the arrangements. I was impressed with the lyrics on nearly all of the tracks, they are on a fairly simple yet positive level that anyone can understand and be encouraged by, also there seems to be a genuine honesty behind the words, you can see that they are written from personal experience, not just religeous cliche which seems to be the case with some artists these days. So if you're into dance/Soul music, then I think I can recommend this CD. You should find it quite uplifting. 9/10 Andy Sayner. (May 2002, Album of the Month)

JAZZ PRAISE : In Your Presence. (ICC : ICCD69630)

Well, if you can have a solo piano playing instrumental praise, as well Celtic pipes, I guess you can have Jazz as well. 12 songs giving "a fresh interpretation…in an easy listening jazz style", so read the sleeve notes. Try as I may, I just can't say that this is a good album. It's the sort of thing that you hear in elevators, large department stores - muzak, I think they call it. Songs such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", "Go,Tell It On the Mountain", and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" are all given the jazz treatment. The musicians are quite accomplished and, I dare say, to some, it will sound quite nice. Not me I'm afraid. Apart from the uplifting "We Want to See Jesus Lifted high" and "These Are the Days of Elijah" I wasn't sad to seethe back of this one. 3/10. (April 2003)

JEAN SUMMER/DEREK WEST : Angels. (CD £5 from Health Help International, 661 Chepstow Road, Newport, South Wales, NP19 9BY.

As you will read elsewhere in this issue of NFN, this Cd has been recorded, produced and manufactured in someones living room. Why? To show just what can be done by a "one man band" affair, as well as helping to raise funds for a worthwhile charity. This Cd is a mixture of poems and stories that focus on Angles. There is, too, an instrumental theme to open and close the CD. Nothing wrong with the tune, it's just the instrument's quality that rather let's things down. However, the rest of the content is quite enthralling. I particularly liked the story of "The White Cavalry", which tells of an incident that actually happened during the Great war. "The Girl in the Park" is another, well written piece, that made me smile. While this Cd would never win a Dove award for it's release, or Gold status for sales, it would appeal to many who wish to purchase something "a little different" as a gift. Indeed, buying a present for someone, as well as knowing that the money goes straight to charity, seems to be an ideal opportunity.6/10. (April 2003)

JEFF & SHERI EASTER : My, Oh My!. (Spring Hill)

Jeff & Sheri Easter have won numerous awards, over the years, including a Dove award in 1998 for Country Recorded Album of the Year "A Work in Progress" and just recently accepted a Dove Award for Country Song of the Year for "Goin Away Party". They've also won various individual awards and have even been nominated for a Grammy. So, this husband & wife duo have got quite a pedigree and it's well deserved. This latest album throws up no surprises of what Southern country gospel music should be, as they stick to the tried and trusted sound. Sheri has a vocal quality comparable with Cher, and that's the sound that comes across on the opening "Sing Sister Sing". "John Saw" is a busy little ditty, while "Learn to Love Again" sees Sheri take the lead again on a pleasant ballad. "New Day" is my favourite track as it's one of those songs that just make you glad to be alive - very uplifting. Not sure about the parody of Little Red Riding Hood later on in the track listing, but a must for southern country fans. 7/10. (September 2002)

JEFF ANDERSON : Seamless. (Gotee Records.)
While studying Vocal Performance at Capitol University, Ohio, Jeff Anderson began to attend the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Columbus. He says that this resulted in him soon leading worship at a service for young adults, bearing "a lot of Fruit". This is Anderson's Gotee debut, and it showcases songs of praise tinged songwriting that, somehow, don't always make the grade. "Open My Eyes" begins the listing with a pop sound that the likes of Steven Curtis Chapman might produce. "Paralyzed" bounces along quite nicely and I loved the banjo picking on "All We Have Is Now". Then, comes a clutch of songs that dip in quality somewhat and I felt that these were really quite poor. One that did prick my ears up in the latter listing was "I Will Follow", which sounds like Busted - I kid you not. Some good songs on show here, but rather a lot of poor ones too, hence 5/10. (June 2005)
JENI VARNADEAU : Colours of Truth. (Word/Pamplin : PMCD9604)

Produced by John & Dino Elefante, this debut release sees Jeni paint powerful word pictures that evoke a deeper desire to live by faith and trust in God's word. Nothing at all wrong with the lyrics, but what this release does suffer from is the current overkill of American females all wanting to sound like Alannis Morrisette. 'Stronger Than You' is an okay rock opener but it's followed by some rather poor songs. 'This is Rest' breathes new life into the record by using a mandolin as backing but it's only a brief respite. 'I See You' could well have been Miss Morrisette herself and it's probably the strongest track of the whole album. Sorry Jeni, when you've heard as many as I have.......4/10. (November 1997)

JENNIFER KNAPP : Kansas. (Gotee/Word : 701383288X).

Following a long line of new American female artists comes Jennifer Knapp, with a debut album which leaves us in no doubt about her faith. It's a sort of electro-folk mix, you know, Amy Grant with Sheryl Crow's rawness. "Whole Again" talks of being made whole and it's an easily accessible number. "Trinity" uses the same blueprint and the resulting song is very good. Jennifer writes almost all the tracks featured and there's a whole host of new names (to me) providing the backing. Acoustic numbers like "Martyrs & Thieves" and "Refine Me" are refreshing and fit well with the more fuller numbers such as "In the Name". Loved the electric fiddles in "Romans" but I feel that, overall, there's a few 'fillers' on this album. If she concentrates on the more appealing tracks, JK should go a long way. 6/10. (March 1998)

JENNY & ALEX LEGG - True Stories (ICC)

I keep telling myself I shouldn't like this album. But I do. It's far too folky for me. The rocky bits aren't rocky enough. And yet... and yet, it works. The whole is so much more than the sum of the parts that no review is ever really going to do it justice. But I'll try. The album consists of tracks sung by Jenny Legg (mostly the gentler ones) and sung by (or just by) Alex Legg (mostly the rockier ones). They mostly take it in turns, which adds to the effect. First impressions of Jenny are good: the chorus to "There is Love and There is This Love" has a gorgeous 1980s Kate Bush-esque feel to it (this impression re-iterates itself throughout the album). Alex takes more time to make an impression, but when he does (with such as "Some People") he has a Peter Gabriel quality to his voice. The album's main fault though, is that it starts well, goes through a (albeit long) good phase and then peters out. "At the End of the Long Hard Day" is a mid-album filler, not a show closer. Sound-wise the Leggs know the 1990s never happened, stuck as they are firmly in the 80s: that though, is no real problem. I hate albums that dot all over the place, trying to catch everyone's attention but really only losing it. This album's more of a winner than a loser. 7/10 Paul Ganney. (September 1999)

JENNY LEGG & DAVID LYLE MORRIS : Sing Scriptures. (ICC : ICCD61130)

"Sing Scriptures" is the 3rd album in Jenny & David's "Sing" Series. Jenny & David say that the motivation behind the series is a desire "to produce good quality music for little people". In "Sing Scriptures" they say they hope to instil some of God's word into little lives in a fun, palatable and effective way. We listened to the album with Sophie, our 3 year old daughter (NFN's youngest ever critic??). Generally, we found that the album is made up of good quality music, well composed lyrics and a wide range of styles. As adults, Melanie & I certainly enjoyed listening to it. Sophie, however, wasn't quite as engaged throughout the whole album. She responded well to the "catchy" songs with simpler lyrics such as "Love the Lord Your God" and "Your Word". She switched off completely, however, for the slower tracks such as "God's Love Will Never End" and for the tracks with more complex lyrics such as "Blessed". These are songs which may appeal to an older age group, but even so the message still may be a little too complex. Having said that, the album is obviously aimed at a very wide age range and, as such, all children are not going to like all songs. Sophie must be at the lower end of the target age range and therefore it was good that some of the songs did engage her. In short, the album is well put together and the wide variety of musical styles should ensure that it makes an excellent resource for churches and Sunday schools. 7/10 Nigel, Melanie (and Sophie) Mills (April 2002)

JENNY LEGG & DAVID LYLE MORRIS :Sing Bible Stories. (ICC : ICCD71830)

When I first got this for review I was sure that I recognised the name David Lyle Morris. I was convinced that he had written something that is really well known but I couldn't think what. As I've now discovered, he's been Graham Kendrick's right hand man for a number of years, having been in his band since 1990 and is now a respected Worship Leader in his own right. The idea of this latest album is to present Bible Stories in song and in so doing to make them accessible to children. Various songwriters have collaborated on this project including Garth Hewitt and Alex Legg (Jenny's husband). Most of the well known "childrens" stories are here: Noah, Jonah, Zacchaeus et al and each one is presented in a different musical style. This works well and, rather than making the album sound disjointed, actually helps to give the whole thing a varied feel which enables the listener to remain interested. This is extremely important given its target audience and it should hold even the shortest and youngest of attention spans. In fact, the overall feel of the album is very Doug Horley. The melodies are simple and catchy, great for young voices and the lyrics are simple yet succinct. There are some great touches of humour too, especially on "Noah's Song" in which God speaks with a broad Yorkshire accent, final proof indeed that Yorkshire is God's own county! I can see many of these songs working well in a worship context and if you are anything like me, you are always looking for fresh good quality childrens songs . More importantly, my three year old daughter, Faith loves it which is why I think it deserves an 8/10. Robin Thompson (May 2003)

JENNY VERANDEAU : Colours of Truth. (Word/Pamplona : PMCD9604)

Produced by John & Dino Elefante, this debut release sees Jeni paint powerful word pictures that evoke a deeper desire to live by faith and trust in God's word. Nothing at all wrong with the lyrics, but what this release does suffer from is the current overkill of American females all wanting to sound like Alannis Morrisette. 'Stronger Than You' is an okay rock opener but it's followed by some rather poor songs. 'This is Rest' breathes new life into the record by using a mandolin as backing but it's only a brief respite. 'I See You' could well have been Miss Morrisette herself and it's probably the strongest track of the whole album. Sorry Jeni, when you've heard as many as I have.......4/10. (December 1997)

JENNY & ALEX LEGG : Granite Stones & Clay. (ICC : ICCD19130).

Alex has a voice that sounds like my old friend Garth Hewitt. The difference between the two guys is that Alex sings well and writes really good songs. Jenny, on the other hand, has a sweet range that fits well to the likes of 'It's A Long Way Down' and 'Under A Nazerath Sky'. Listening to this album, you almost feel that it could be a 60's protest collection, it's that kind of style. However, it isn't filled with doom and gloom, but well crafted lyrics that have been moulded into some foot tappin' numbers. 'The Mighty Fall' comes into this category with it's telling of judgement day. I really liked the track called 'In A Doorway Tonight', which tells of the homeless plight. Again, well written, and well sung. The Legg's are new to me, but I'll be looking out for them in the future. 8/10. (February 1997)

JEREMY CAMP : "Restored". (BEC : BED 98615)
Jeremy Camp may not be such a familiar name to many UK CCM punters, but he's sufficiently talented to have grabbed three Dove Awards at the Gospel Music Association convention this year, as well as being the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year for 2004. The guys he's been touring with, or is about to be touring with, include MercyMe, Bethany Dillon and Tree63, so the man doesn't lack experience, and it shows in this latest offering. 'Restored', following up his last album for BEC Records, 'Carried Me: The Worship Project', carries on where that one left off - hooky pop praise with a dash of rock and a hint of grunge, and 12 songs all his own work. The title track kicks things off in style, the second song 'Take You Back' is a perfect radio song, and with plenty of good vibes going on all the way through, this is ideal summer driving music - play it loud with the windows down!! 8/10 Trevor Kirk. (June 2005)
THE JIVE ACES : Bolt From the Blue. (Private CD Recording. Information from: Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 4JY.

In a world of shred, dread and grunge come a bolt from the blue....meet the Jive Aces. A six piece band playing a form of jive that is best expressed as rock/jazz. Just a CD in the NFN postbag, with no accompanying literature. 15 songs including some that older listeners will instantly recognise, which have been given a 90's face lift. 'When You're Smilin', 'Blue Moon', and the 30's hit 'Pennies From Heaven' are just three of those with shining pedigree. Of the new songs, perhaps the 'Jive Ace Boogie Woogie' is a bit of self indulgence but the title track is up there with the best. If a little boogie woogie and jive is your cup of tea then the Jive Aces will go down a treat. 7/10. (January 1998)

JILL PAQUETTE : Jill Paquette. (Reunion : 4100312)
Singer/songwriter Jill Paquette has been likened to Sheryl Crowe and the likes but I'm not sure why. Still, if I say that she reminds me of Joan Armatrading, there's bound to be those who ask the same question. Jill's at her best when she takes the simple approach to her songs, like on the delicious "Take My Life". Her vocals are a little "off the wall" in delivery and "Not the Only One" had me thinking that there's a little rocker hiding beneath what's on show here. Difficult to know what she's trying to do with this release as it's very ordinary for a debut. There's plenty of better independent albums around offering much better than this. Perhaps, Jill just needs to find her real self. 3/10. (November 2003)
JILL PARR : Orbit (Christian Records : www.spiritmusic.co.uk)

When a new artist comes along with so many lyrically honest songs about life's struggles to fit-in with the norm, about finding God, and how He can change your life, you might know that SHE'S been there. Yes, Jill Parr admits to all of this, and producer Brian Hardin has put together a fusion of today's alternative and new fashion pop music. For me, this is the album is very much like the debut album form Margaret Becker, some 15 years ago. It's filled with excitement, a freshness, lots of good songs, and a sincerity that struck lots of chords in this heart. Even ballads like "This I Know" takes the promise "Jesus loves me, this I know" and makes a lovely song. "Feel the Scars" tells you to let go and just let Jesus save you by how He suffered on the cross. I personally feel that this is the best song on the album and I've been playing it over Andover again…..very loud! Jill bares more than a passing resemblance to Avril Lavigne and on "County Line" you could almost believe that you were listening to the chart topper herself. There's a fantastic album closer in "Another Revolution" where she just gives everything vocally. In my book, already a main contender for Newcomer of the year. 10/10. (August 2003, Album of the Month)

JILL PHILLIPS : Jill Phillips. (Word : 080688598020)

Melodic folk rock, is how Jill Phillips, herself, describes her own style of music and, she's not far off too. As the jangly guitar led me into "Only One", I immediately thought of Carolyn Arends and Sarah Masen - it's that kind of thing. All the songs are written by Jill, or with her husband, and there's a distinct quality that runs throughout. "Everything" is a lovely little number that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, as she simply praises the Lord for His love in her life. Produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick, the album shows Jill Phillips in good light but, perhaps, still learning her trade. Once or twice the finished product doesn't seem to match with the initial power of the lyrics but, surely, that will come. The closing "Everyday" is another number that does, however, have that power and is one to sit and listen too, over and over again. Good start, but more to come. 6/10. (April 2000)

JIM BAILEY : All Over Again. (Kingsway : KMCD2276)

Over the years I've been publishing NFN, the name of Jim Bailey has popped up in the gig guide on more occasions than I can count. But, I've never seen the guy or heard any of his music. So, perhaps, this "best of" release is just the thing for someone like me. Jim travels to churches perfoming Family Roadshows and running training camps for those working with children. This album will give you a glimpse of the sort of thing you can expect, should you attend one of his events. From the opening line dance feel of "O Lord, I Will Sing your Praise", to the closing 60's parody "Will You Love Me All Over Again", there runs a simple message for children, performed in a way that really does appeal. The song "I Am Fearfully And Wonderfully Made" had me cringing as I read the title but I need not have worried, it's a great little pop song that is easy to singalong too, without being crass. Mid-way through the album, there's a couple of Christmas songs including a dance version of "We Three Kings", which just sounded a little lost in the blazing heat of summer. However, "God Was the Colour" produces a celtic folk feel, while the excellent "As For Me & My House" produces great visions of hundreds of kids whooping it up for a hoe-down. If, like me, you've missed the delights of Jim Bailey over the years, perhaps it's time you did something about it. 9/10. (July 2000, Album of the Month)

JK2 : Jesus 2000. (Alliance : 7243 8202472 9)

To celebrate the millenium, 8 top US gospel artists got together to produce an album of songs personal testimony. The resulting release has contributions from Men of Standard, Dawkins and Dawkins, and Nancey Jackson. By far the most popular, in my book, are Anointed who sing "Help Him Stand". I guess I like it because it's very radio friendly and easy to listen to - unlike Montrell Darrett's awful "Prophetic Millenium 2000" which drones on for more than six minutes! Kim Burrel provides another good song, "Woman", which tells how God can change anyone's life no matter what their past may have been filled with. Gosepl music, of this kind, has never been a big favourite of mine but, I guess, that this ranks as one of the better ones. Perhaps, if you are like me, this would be a good time to try a taste of gospel. 7/10. (July 2000)

JOANNA CARLSON : 'The Light of Home' (Benson).

Here's another new name for you to familiarise yourselves with. A songbird from America, and following in the footsteps of Susan Ashton and Kathy Troccoli. With slick production provided by Brent Bourgeois and Wayne Kirkpatrick, and ten self-penned songs, Miss Carlson has certainly got off to a good start. Her voice has a smooth and silky quality about it but rarely does she push it to the limits.

The songs are all very relaxing and easy to listen too but towards the end of the album, one sounds pretty much like the one before. However, at her best, Joanna sings the soulful 'Looking at You' and exquisite 'Belong to Me' - two highlights from a lady who promises more. 6/10. (May 1996)

JOE KING : The Harvest Has Begun. (Alliance : 1900972).

You know when Joe King writes a song, that it's something very personal that he wants to share. After the success of his previous release "Next To You", and the theme of God putting strength into all through difficulties, this one is long awaited. With Chris Eaton at the helm of the controls, the result is a more polished affair yet with nothing taken away from Joe's intimate gifts. Beginning with the catchy "When Jesus Comes Again" and continuing with the title track, you hear the professional touch of Mr Eaton adding a certain something to what could have been ordinary songs. The acoustic "Until Our Heart Beats..." is a poignant number of great value and "Father"'s lucidity is just sheer honesty. Pipes, whistles, and more, get you jigging to "Stand Your Ground", and the effective drums on "Let My Power" give Joe's writing yet another angle. Overalll, it's a good album, but I've a deep feeling that the next will be even better. 9/10. (March 1998)

JOE KING : Eye of the Storm. (CD £12.99 plus p&p from: Croft House, Common Lane, South Milford, Yorkshire, England, LS25 5BP)

This worship album reflects Joe's Celtic/Irish roots, with musicians drawn from Iona and Eden's Bridge. However, I think that he's also been listening to some good old 60's & 70's pop, as several songs have that uncluttered, yet still stylish, feel about them. Take, for instance, "The Wonder" and "Still, I'm Trusting". both have been carefully crafted and have that perfect warmth from the finished song. Joe's healing ministry has seen him travel the length and breadth of the country and the song "There Is Healing" is the perfect vehicle to carry the message of God's healing powers. "Lord of All Creation" is uncomplicated, yet draws the listener into the wonderment of God's creation with ease. I loved the sounds of the pipes on "Follow You - a really joyous song with a little Celtic reel thrown in for good measure too. "Eye of the Storm" contains so many songs that had me really thanking God for all the goodness He has poured into my life, despite some sorrow, and not many albums do that so completely. Well done, Joe, this is superb. 10/10. (February 2002, Album of the Month)

JOE KING : When Heaven Comes Down. (www.joekinguk.com)

Gaining and NFN "Album of the Month" award for his last release, Joe was on a hiding to nothing with his follow up. And, while this new release never quite reaches the same dizzy heights of "Eye of the Storm", it's still a good album. Joe says that the central theme of the album is one of yearning for God to touch and change our society with His healing love and power. Certainly, the lyrics of all the songs do convey that feeling. The more progressive opening number told me straight away that this wasn't simply just another album, rather, one that's been prayed about, over and over again. Joe has a great voice and I love it when it's in full flow, like on "This Is What I Love About You". There's a few more quieter songs this time round and mid-album "At the Cross" and "To Be Touched By Jesus" show Joe in meditative thought, while "At the Cross" falls a little flat. "Fresh Fire" asks for a personal renewal, and the 9 minute "God Of Love…" gives a full sense of being one with the Lord. 8/10. (February 2004)

JOE PACE & THE COLORADO MASS CHOIR : Speak Life. (Integrity : 24022)
"Mass Choir" is definitely the right description, here. If you want to know what almost 50 people singing in close harmony sounds like, this album would be a great place to start, with some great solos, the occasional familiar song, some very American spoken Reprises and a great version of "Joy to the World" thrown in for good measure. Co-produced by Don Moen, this CD is everything you might expect from a gospel choir in full flow: simple, worshipful songs brought to life in lengthy, subtly different, repeated passages, wonderful rich harmonies, drums, funky bass riffs and organs combine to make this a truly uplifting experience. If I had to pick a favourite track, it would have to be the "Sing Unto The Lord" medley, 4 minutes capable of leaving a smile on the coldest of hearts. If you have got the impression from these comments that I like a good gospel choir, then you would be absolutely right ... and this is a great album by a great gospel choir. 9/10 David Cooper (November 2003, Album of the Month)
JOHN DeGRAZIO : Revolution. (IMG : WS31573104)

As UK based Spirit Music continues to distribute some of the lesser known artists from all around the world, it's really great to hear some different musicians. John DeGrazio is one such artist, who's acoustic led pop is sometimes reminiscent of the late lamented Crowded House. There again, fans of Chris Rice will, no doubt, appreciate his quieter moments on songs like "Wish I Could Have You". It sounds like a very personal album, as the singer/songwriter takes you through the journey of being a Christian in today's world, where not only others question you but, sometimes, you question God yourself and say "Hey God, I'm not really sure what you want me to be in this life, but I'm trusting my heart to you". "Until You Answer" is one such song, while the catchy chorus of "Somebody Other Than Me" will soon be tapping around your brain for ages. Listening, I could relate a lot to these songs and found the finished article very good indeed. 8/10. (January 2003)

JOHN ELEFANTE : Defying Gravity. (Pamplin : PMCD9952)

John's history as the lead singer wit mega rock band Kansas seeps into a few of the songs on this latest album, but there is so much more to this man's music. Throughout the album I was consistantly impressed by the sheer quality of each song. The title track is a prime example of how God's music can both enthrall and draw into a closer relationship with Him. The song itself tells of John's own desire to fight against the pull of the world and towards his Heavenly Father. "Pass the Flame" is a lighter number that almost passes as country, while "The Way That You Love Me" reminded this reviewer of late 60's Beatles. Brother, Dino, shares most of the writing and production credits on what is, I'm sure, one of the better American rock albums. 10/10. (December 1999, Album of the Month)

JOHN FROUD & THE PKs : Seriously… (Private CD Recording : £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).

John Froud works full time in music ministry, specialising in schools work in his home area. However, his music will appeal to all ages and I think that a live concert would be quite an experience, judging by the humour contained in some of his songs. Prime example on the album is "Stressed" - which lends a lot from an old T.Rex tune - which contains the immortal line "I've had another bad day, and my hair's going grey". It's not all tongue in cheek muzak though, and there's plenty of lyrical depth in "Lost Without You" and the poignant "Seriously Unrehearsed". Perhaps the most appealing, is the folk tinged "21st Century Prophet" and it's sideways look on life and just what the future holds. On the whole, the songs contain a mixture of ingredients with styles varying from blues to rock. "The Spin" reminded me of The Beautiful South while "Face" and "Tell Me", I found less appealing. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, and John Froud certainly provide quite a mixture. 7/10. (June 1999)

JOHN FROUD & the PK'S : Be There. (Private CD Recording : £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).

And so we come to the latest musical offering, recorded on a shoestring budget, from one of the many wonderful artists who play and minister at 'grassroots' level. Recorded over four days at Dan Bowater's studio in Lincoln, John Froud & the PK's present an album of good old fashioned, honest lyrics in a style that sees folk, pop and R'n'B rub shoulders with each other. "Language of Love" starts the ball rolling, as John tries to tell the Lord that he sometimes finds it hard to speak the right words to Him. "Blue Hills" and "Holding On" are pure rhythm & blues, with the latter featuring some heavy saxophone and 60's keyboard. Actually, it's very refreshing to hear some different instruments being used with whistles, flute & mandolin being added to those already mentioned. Mind you, I did find the saxophone rather annoying in the laid back ballad "Be There" which, for me, distracted the listener from the words. John travels all over the UK but is primarily involved in schools work around the Bradford area. Like Brian Houston, last month, his lyrics are simple and will, therefore, appeal to all ages. One day, I'm going to have to catch up with this guy for a live gig. In the meantime, knowing he's out there producing songs like the powerful "Still Dreaming" will do nicely. 8/10. (December 2000)

JOHN FROUD : Angel. (CD Recording, £12 from: Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ.)

One thing that has struck me about John's recording's over the last couple of years is that the finished song production has become more polished. Some of that polish must have been provided by Dan Bowater at his db studios in Lincoln, but "hat's off" to John for his own work too. This collection of Christmas songs features many that have been written by John himself for the famous Wycliffe carol services, and can also be obtained in songbook form (£20) which is written for piano, guitar and vocal, as well as featuring some backing tracks! Musically, John keeps to his tried and trusted styles and after the nice opening title track, the first to prick up your ears too is "Sing With the Angels". This begins with a lovely whistle sound that, then, leads into a gentle celtic number of quality. I always enjoy a good calypso, and "Mary Gave Birth" is no exception - a fine worship song. "I Wish I Could Have Been There" is the top track on show, with nice acoustic guitar and excellent vocals. "Silent night" is sung, predominantly, as a lullaby and the result is very good. I'm never keen on the blues side o things, so I'm afraid "Far Away" and "Born in the Night" didn't go down well with me. Nevertheless, it's great to hear a collection of original Christmas songs instead of just a rehash of old ones. 8/10. (December 2001)

JOHN FROUD : Don't You Know". (CD £13.00 from Zephaniah Music, 2a Norwood Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England, BD18 2AZ).

Over the years, it's been my pleasure to review a number of albums written and performed by Bradford's John Froud. John works mainly in schools in West Yorkshire taking the gospel of Jesus into the schools in a fun way that the children can understand and enjoy. Last year, he gave all the primary schools that he visits, the opportunity to be part of a new album. The result sees 19 different schools represented on 23 songs on the album. The one thing that eminently stands up throughout the album, is the way that John, his co-workers, and children all radiate a great joy in what they're doing. Some songs, like "When the Spirit of the Lord" and "Be Bold Be Strong", are well known to us all, but others such as "God So Loved the World" and "Though the Grass May Wither" will be new to the listener. The strength of a lot of the songs featured is their simplicity. Sometimes, those repetitive songs just annoy, but I didn't find it the case once here. It was quite a task to undertake, but well worth the effort, for a result that is a little out of the ordinary. Well done guys and gals. 8/10. (February 2003)

JOHN FROUD : Late Nights & Hard Conversations. (CD £12 from Zephaniah music, 2A NorwoodRoad, Shipley, UK, BD18 2AZ).

One of the most successful independent school workers is West Yorkshire's John Froud. Over the last few years, his tireless work has taken him, his family, and friends into countless schools and churches. Album releases have been fairly frequent and as well as being a great resource, have provided some much needed monetary support. This new release sees the songs stripped down somewhat instrument wise, like the super "He Never Said". It just goes to show how a well written and presented song can be just as strong as one with sparse instrumentation. The title track sees John tackle all those times when the struggles of life take your eyes from God, and you ask Him so many questions. I found his story of Jonah, "Nineveh Bound" a little weak but the bluesy feel of "You've Got a Friend" and "Abide With Me" stand at the other end of the scale. John's not the sort of guy to rest on his laurels and, with his ministry, is always trying to further the boundaries. With that in mind, no doubt we'll hear something different next time out but, for now, sit back and enjoy the folky essence and pleasant sounds. 7/10. (December 2003)

JOHN HARDWICK : Bible Explosion. (ICC : ICCD655300

John Hardwick is part of the Children Worldwide Ministry and has produced many recordings, videos, and other media especially for young people. "Bible Explosion" concentrates on specific passages from the Bible and some of the songs here even include the verse reference. Take, for instance, "Do You Know" that includes the words "Look up John chapter 3, verse 16 and see", or the calypso sound of "He's a Rock" complete with the chorus "Look up chapter 32, verse 4 of Deuteronomy". I'm afraid it makes me cringe again just remembering listening to it - it's pretty corny to say the least. "Those Who Put Their Hope in God" was an improvement and has a typical kids' singalong chorus, and the celtic "Let the Little Children", does stand up in it's own right as a song. Not a patch on Captain Alan's release last month. 3/10. (December 2002)

JOHN MICHAEL TALBOT : Troubador For The Lord. (Sparrow : SPD1545)

This compilation has been put together to celebrate John's 20 years of music and ministry. 19 songs from his previous 16 releases, and I had never heard one of them. JMT presents simple worship songs with no frills. Opening with the gentle 'Come Worship the Lord', it drifts lovingly into the joyous 'Glory to God'. He's got a strong voice and it's one that seems to flow easily into every track. Strings and guitar are the main instruments on show, again , all carefully produced. My favourite track had to be 'Come Holy Spirit' with it's melodic tune and easy to pick up chorus. After listening to this album, I realised that there's been a gap in my music collection that has now been filled. 8/10. (February 1997)

JOHN NUTTALL : Heartsongs. (CD recording from : John Nuttall, 121 Castleton Road, Royton, Oldham, England, OL2 6UP, £10).

The obvious comparison when you first hear a male singer/songwriter of this kind is, of course, Martyn Joseph. There again, comparing john to Martyn Jospeh is a bit like saying that S Club 7 are as good as The Beatles! Who knows? In years to come we may well be eating our words but, for now, lets say that John Nuttall certainly has every chance of becoming as popular as Martyn is today. The songs are all (bar one) carefully crafted in a consistant way that obviously shows he has the right ingredients needed. "Deeper Is your Love" starts off the album and is, indeed, one the strongest tracks. It chugs along quite nicely and I soon found my foot tapping away to the beat. Then, it's basic piano accompaniment to "You Said It All" which, in my view should have come later in the listing. "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" reminded me of Adrian Snell, and I especially liked the love song to Jesus entitled "Hang on To You". There's some simple acoustic worship and then the out of place hymn "The Cross" but, as a grounding, John Nuttall is a name to remember for future. 8/10 (July 2001)

JOHN NUTTALL : Joining With the Angels. (CD: £5 from: 121 Castleton Road, Royston, Oldham, UK, OL2 6UP.)

It's more than 4 years since John's previous album, "Heartsongs", and I just wonder where he's been hiding himself? Since that debut, John's song writing has become smoother and more rounded, with the result that the finished product is well worth £5 of anyone's money. He opens with the African rhythms of "Come Let Us Worship Our God", and follows that with the title track. This song is so lovely and powerful, and reminded me so much of the quality of Fernando Ortega. Indeed, "Sovereign God" could have been written with Fernando in mind, it is just SO him. Rachel Kitchenside takes over the vocals for the summery "Morning Glory", but John's back to his best on "Fairest Lord Jesus". This is a beautifully crafted song, and you really do get the feeling that it's come straight from the heart of the writer. I thought that "You Are My Fortress" has the makings of a great congregational song, and "Come to Me" says everything about resting in the Father's love. The packaging is definitely low budget, but don't let that put you off sampling the delights of Mr Nuttall. 9/10. (December 2005)

JOHN REUBAN : The Boy vs The Cynic (Gotee Records / Kingsway GTD72947)
Looking into who John Reuben is I discovered this is his 5th Album, although listening to it you wouldn't think so! The CD cover is deceptive & leads you to expect a very deep & soulful "intellectual" rock album, but once you listen it begins to fall apart. John tries to fuse some energetic rock with heavyweight rap vocals which is a very difficult concept to pull off. I've only ever heard "Band With No Name" do this & they were excellent: this on the other hand is appalling. The music is very poor in terms of composition & production is low quality. Unfortunately, I cannot even say the lyrics were the saving grace - not inspired. One song claims the "Good 'ol US of A" is Jesus' favourite place on earth…the jury's still out there. If you like rap, buy Band With No Name or WW Message Tribe - don't waste your cash on this, even as a coffee mat. 0/10 - dreadful. Simon Redfern (November 2005)
JOHNNY MARKIN : See With Your Eyes. (ICC : 17730).

"This is an attempt to capture the natural and simple atmosphere of worship", so says Johnny in the sleeve notes. Indeed, this is exactly what he does. This is a brave step forward from his previous rockin' release of a year or so ago. From the moment he opens with the 'up and at 'em' 'I'll Stand', you know that you are in the company of someone with worship at his heart. His vocals are strong and, when needed, also sweet - especially on duets with Jo Holland. 'Make My Heart' is a highlight on the album, as is the closing 'Jesus, You Are My Only Destiny'. Didn't enjoy the 'Deep Calls to Deep', nor the sudden ends to some of the songs but, if you like the Noel Richards' type of music, you'll like this. 8/10. (January 1997)

JON BAMFORTH & MIKE KIRK : Refiner's Fire. (Private Recording.: CD £11.30 / Cass £8.30 from : Promit Ltd, 40 Ringwood, Peterborough, PE3 9SH.)

This album took me quite some time to appreciate and I literally had to ask the Lord to open my eyes to it's power. Refiner's Fire is a musical meditation on Hebrews Chapter 12, for the thoughtful individual to truly worship God. Jon, Mike and friends use over 25 different songs to aid impact of the message. The music itself has it's good and bad moments - the latter is shown on the rendition of "Be Bold" with some very weak guitar playing. At it's best, there's some very reflective keyboard on the "Prayer of Response" and the overall craft on "Prayer of Adoration" only makes you wonder why the aforementioned guitar was so poor! Great calypso feel to "When I Remember" and more meditational keyboards to "Here I Am". It's not an album that you would put on to simply enjoy, but for personal worship, anointing, and meditation, Refiner's Fire will inspire many. 8/10. (August 1997)

JONATHAN BUTLER : Surrender. (Warner Bros)

This is one of the most exquisite jazz albums I have ever heard; kind of Stevie Wonder meets Robert Cray with God right through the centre and a touch of R n B in the middle.I f you think jazz is for old men and not your scene, get into this! The production by the man himself ably assisted by Paul Brown is so polished the CD could slip out of the tray. Do yourself a favour, get into this album and find a new meaning to Christianity at the same time. There is one track called 'take me back' - we've all strayed and yearned for the love of God to enfold us and welcome us back - buy it - you won't regret it! Graham Taylor. 8/10. (December 2002)

JONATHAN SHELTON : Provision of Heaven. (CD from )jonathanshelton78@hotmail.com
Jonathan Shelton is a new name to the world of Christian music, and this debut album has been released independently. All songs feature the piano playing of Seth Partridge Underwood and very little else in the way of backing. That said, there is an annoying guitar that appears every now and again such as on the song "Amazing". With that in mind, the limited backing does tend to make the songs sound a tad similar to each other despite Jonathan's best vocal efforts. It's an album of simple praise and worship but there are quite a few highpoints on the journey. "More Than words Can Say" and "Breathless" are just two of the fine songs on display, while "Thankful Heart" is another. Indeed, the latter contains some really nice harmonies. On the downside, weaker songs like "I Stand" and the repetitive "Without You" detract somewhat from the potential of the rest of the album. It would nice to hear what Jonathan and co writer Seth could do with their songs given a larger budget and full band to work with. Certainly, there's a lot to build on here. 7/10. (October 2005)
JONATHAN VEIRA : Rhythms of the Heart. (ICC : ICCD72730)

Internationally acclaimed as a bass baritone opera singer, Jonathan Veira has proved just as popular as he tours his one man show around the world. Once you hear his voice, you're instantly aware of it's sheer quality and power. However, he also has the technique to make it as gentle as a soft breeze, floating through a summer's day - it's so smooth. The songs on this album are of high's and lows. "Touch the Flame" and "The Father's Song" are both very pleasant and calming. The bluesy "Wayfaring Stranger" sounds too much like a cheap lounge singer and really does this man no favours at all. "Empty Page" is a nice ballad, and I especially liked the simply written "Lord HaveMercy". It's one of those albums to relax to and, possibly, meditate. Very nice. 8/10. (July 2003)

JONATHAN VEIRA : An Audience with.... (ICC : ICC0889A)
Recorded in January of this year, in front of a sell out audience, this DVD gives the viewer a taste of that evening. Acclaimed internationally as a bass baritone singer, Jonathan has released several albums of Christian songs, and is a regular guest on BBC Songs of Praise. This one man show, gives Jonathan the chance not only to flex those baritone muscles, but also to weave his humourous stories within. The songs feature various operatic numbers such as "Me Voglio Fa'Na Casa" but there's also plenty of more well known tunes such as "Mona Lisa", "Old Man River" and "My Funny Valentine". Jonathan takes other songs like Elton John's "Your Song" and Billy Joel's "Piano Man", and gives them his own treatment, not merely being content of a straight copy. I found the whole "evening" to be well produced and it was obvious that the audience loved every minute of it. It's nice to see ICC promoting such a show in this way, and I hope it finds it's niche in the UK market place. 7/10. (November 2005)
JOSH BATES : Perfect Day. (Reunion : 02341-0097-2)
Well, what can I tell you about Josh Bates? Absolutely nothing is the answer. No press release, and a website that seems to be offline each time I try and reach it. So, what about his music? Well, it's an album that my wife said was "cheerful and modern". He's not as delicate a singer as say, Chris Rice, but more in the mould of Clay Cross, and to that end he has a strong, powerful voice. The opening three or four songs were fairly ordinary, as Josh sung about the return of Jesus, and eternal life. Then comes the purple patch of the album. "Never Give Up on Me" is a great, thoughtfully sung song that I'll certainly be playing on radio. "There is None Like You" and Walking Through the Fire" are almost as good and by this time, you really get the feeling that Josh has real belief in his songs. Another top song is "You Say Come", which sings about God giving you strength when you feel all is lost. It's one of those albums that seems to grow on you and therefore, at the moment, its an 8/10. (March 2006)
JOSH JACKSON : Challenge Point. (Josh Jackson-Sponge Productions, 4432 Sears Road, Pegram, TN 37143, USA)

Challenge Point is a ministry focused on helping individuals and groups discover the potential God has placed within them. Josh Jackson's musical gift is one example of the talent that can be used to the glory of God when individuals take courage and walk in faith. "Oh wow, is that Matchbox 20?", asked a passing work colleague, obviously impressed. "No", I replied. "Quite good though, isn't it?". The songs are all acoustic guitar driven, with Josh's endearing vocals shining through each one. "Till Tomorrow", "Road Called Life", and "One More Day" are all bright, choppy numbers that make an instant impression on the listener. "I Still remember" is quieter and a more reflective number, focussing on days gone by. "My Father's House" and "You Gotta" are just two more catchy songs that had me tapping my feet and wishing that there was more than just the mere 35 minutes. There is a dip in musically quality when "Rhythm Sine"'s retro rock - complete with overdriven guitar & keyboards - just doesn't work. Likewise, "Take Me Along", but that doesn't stop this album from being a refreshing change from all the usual radio fodder. 8/10. (August 2000)

JOY ELECTRIC : Robot Rock. (BEC/Alliance : BEC84).

Imagine that you were placed in a time capsule during the mid - 70's, when PC's were practically unheard of, and Moog synthesizers were THE toy of the day. Well, I think that's just what happened to Jeff Cloud and Ronnie Marrtin, aka Joy Electric. No samplers, no computers, and no drum machines as they release an album of 10, sometimes, strange songs that, in total, last a little over thirty minutes. The opening number is called "Sugar Rush" and I sat in disbelief, staring at what was coming out of my stereo. "I Get a sugar rush, thinking of you too much", sang to the sounds I'd long since forgotten. I couldn't believe it, this was brilliant. It was as if Kraftwerk & Gary Numan had been re-born. "Joy Electric Land" is another chirpy number that sounds like the backing has been provided by a Space Invaders game. Put a drum machine to "The Berry Patch" and it sounds similar to a Pet Shop Boys single, and "Strawberry Heart" is just plain infectious. A couple of droning numbers lowered the tone and I just wonder how long the appeal of the album will be. At the moment, however, I'll play it again. 8/10. (April 1998)

JOYCE, KAREN & SHERI : Best of Friends. (Spring Hill)

Joyce Martin, Karen Peck and Sheri Easter have many things in common. Their careers as vocalists, their roles as wives and mothers, and their gospel music heritage being just three. Did I mention that they're also the best of friends? This album brings these friends together for the first time, and the wait has well been worthwhile. The quality of the songs, the music, and most importantly, the lyrics is just of the finest order. Take the foot stompin' "Chains Gone, Set Free". It's a great celebration of the time when the angels in heaven party at the announcement of another soul set free from sin. Then there's the piano ballad of "You Give", praising a Lord that never stops giving. I really enjoyed listening to this album and couldn't wait to play it again. "I'm A Mom" , "It's All About You" and "High Road" would stand out on any album. They are so good. Of course, I didn't reckon the closing "If She Could" and "I'll Leave the Light On". The former tells of an old lady in her final years, maybe not as sharpe as she once was, but still sure in the Lord. The second is the most moving song I've heard this year. If you want to know what a real friend should be like, listen to this. As much as I love the country music of Faith Hill and Shania Twain, this Cd is just so much better. 10/10. (June 2003, Album of the Month)

JUDY BAILEY : Misdemeanours After Midnight. (Pila : 272322).

Working with the likes of Steve Thompson in the London area, Judy was a well known singer who had already made quite a splash in both Europe and her native Barbados. This release was supposed to launch her British career, with a sound that was somewhere between Joan Armatrading and Sade. The Caribbean roots can be heard on the calypso inspired "Can't Take It Anymore", while there's a touch of reggae on "Hidden". Judy, herself, has deep, dusky vocals and they fit well on all the tracks. Most of these are quite lightweight but are still very attractive. However, on "Vertigo", she really lets her hair down and comes up with a good rocker. There's great guitar work here and it's, probably, the best track. Judy attempts to tackle various social issues in her lyrics and, on the whole, it works. Five years on, the album still sounds fresh but, where is she now? 7/10. (July 1998, Released 1993)

JUDY BAILEY : Run To You. (www.judybailey.com)

In the years since I last heard from Judy Bailey, she's been working very hard with her music in the rest of Europe. This album was actually released last year but is only just finding it's way over here. In those intervening years, Judy seems to have found her own style of pop and/or reggae and put some fine polish to the resulting songs. "Jesus First" is a terrific opener and I found it totally uplifting. "Out of the Natural" follows in similar vein, but "Fill Me With Fire" shows just what Judy can do with a funky number that concentrates on learning the secret of having a burning heart for God. "Don't You Know" has that reggae feel to it, while the pleasantly sounding "Extra Eyes" is a real smoothy. To me, Judy Bailey sounds as though she's an artist who knows exactly what she wants her music to do, and is firm in her belief that it is a gift from God. If I needed that confirming then listening to "Jesus in My House" removed any lingering doubts. Written originally for a big youth event in Germany, this song is fantastic, and the live recording brings out the very best in it. With a new album on the way, I sincerely hope that Judy gives us more of the same. 9/10 (October 2003, Album of the Month)

JULIA PLAUT : God's Wonderful World. (Kingsway : KMCD939)

When I was given this CD to review my initial response was to recount the previous children's praise recordings I had experienced. Past criticisms had included: embarrassing, overloud, repetitive, unintelligible, and kitsch. In contrast, this CD is delightful. It captured my children's interest immediately, and they have been singing 'Mr Cow', 'My God Is So Big',, and others since they first heard it. There were songs that were new to us , as well as old favourites. A lyric sheet with actions is also provided. Many of the songs are performed by children, and the arrangements are creative and intelligent, therefore appealing to children and adults alike. The only track which did not work for me was a jazz version of 'The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock', where the style was so laid back that I could imagine the wise man falling off the rock with boredom. However, this is a small criticism of an album which I shall definately buy for my pre-schoolers. 9/10. Gill Laird. (January 1999)

JULIA PLAUT : Thank You God For Snails. (Kingsway : KMCD2209)

Following the marvellous "God's Wonderful World", Julia Plaut and friends present another selection of old and new songs, arranged for classical instruments, and with 0-5 year olds in mind. It's a long time since I was a 5 year old but the first listen had me taking a trip down memory lane to when my own children where that age. The recipe for success is the same as before, easy to learn, repetitive lyrics, simple tunes, and a whole host of actions to use by the frantic Sunday School leader. "Clap Your Hands" is as good example of any, with lyrics that encourage the children to "Clap your hands…wave your arms…God is good". Praising God for animals is sung to an old nursery rhyme tune and there's even a version of "O Come Let Us Adore Him". It's difficult to say which songs are the best but, all in all, this is truly a God send to group leaders of the said age group. 8/10. (May 2000)

JULIE LORD : Diamond Nights. (Private Cassette Recording : £4.99 from 15 Glenhurst Drive, Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5SH).

Here's a first for me, a CCM artist presenting an album of well known secular hits. The former evangelistic singer with Crossfire and Heart & Soul has now turned her talents to entertainment , but is suitabley 'at home' in either church or club environments. "Pearl's A Singer" would not have been my choice for an opener as Julie doesn't really seem at ease with this song. However, her impressive renditions of "Crazy" and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" soon make you realise why she is such a popular artist. The musical backing is the same that she uses for live gigs and the quality is very good. Julie's vocals seem to suit certain types of song better than others and chart toppers like "Walk on By" and "Smooth Operator" produce far better results than, say, Michelle Gayle's "Sweetness". What this album lacks in original content, is made up by freshness of Julie Lord's approach. 7/10. (October 1997)

JULIE LORD : Lifetime. (CD Only £13.99 from: New Dawn Music, 1 Beech Close, Towcester, Northampton, England, NN12 6BL).

It might seem like a lifetime since Julie recorded the first notes for this album but the wait has, truly, been worthwhile. If we've questioned production quality on a limited budget recently, then this is the album that sets the standard, and hats off to all those behind the scenes. From the moment the title track's saxophone hits the speakers, you know that you are listening to something special. With a sultry vocal that reminds me a lot of Sade and, at times, Annie Lennox, Julie simply caresses each number to bring out the best. The lyrics are strong too, like "Forbidden Fruit" that warns how fickle the temptation of an extra-marital affair can be. Featured in two different mixes, Andy Curtis' keyboard skills shine and add real texture to an already well crafted song. If you've ever watched those b&w movies who's background features the 'lounge singer', then "Even Now" is purpose built. Lovely piano, super sax break and a great bluesy guitar. It's hard to try and pigeon-hole Julie's style but if you take a large helping of Blues, mix it with some Jazz and R&B and you may be getting near. Just once or twice I felt that a song didn't quite reach it's potential but, maybe I'm just being a little picky. Closing with the exquisite "Peace of Mind" this is a fine debut release. 9/10. (June 1999, Album of the Month)

JULIET TUNER : Let's Hear It For the Pizza. (Sticky Music : GUMCD34).

Yes, I had to look twice at the title too! I didn't know quite what to expect so I treat this meal like a hot curry - with care. Instant favourite was the opening track 'Dr Fell' which, I think, is about falling in love with Mr Right, who then turns into Mr Wrong. Wow, the lyrics are tough to get my teeth into. 'Greedy Mouth', is it rape? Juliet is a new Irish songstress who appeared at both Greenbelt and the Edinburgh Fringe last year. The music behind each song is quite simple and, on quite a few of the tracks, barely more than just an acoustic guitar. 'Pizza and Wine' tells a love story, while the durge-like 'Purely Platonic' follows yet another relationship. Juliet's voice has the typical Irish traits to it and she's obviously quite a talented writer, even if can't quite understand all the lyrics. It's no wonder she's building up a strong reputation on the folk circuit. Juliet Turner is certainly a name to watch out for in the future, a sort of Mary Black with attitude. 7/10. (February 1997)

JUST WORSHIP : Jesus the Start of It all. (ICC : ICCD65730)

Just Worship is one of a range of resource materials produced by Causeway Prospects to promote Bible teaching and worship among people with learning difficulties. The man behind this album is Tony Phelps-Jones, who writes all the songs on this 17 track album. The songs themselves are built around short, catchy tunes, with easy to remember words. Take, for instance, the opening "We Are Here Together". It's only 4 lines long, but works really well. Similarly, "The Father Himself Loves you" and "God Loves You Just the Way You Are" follow that same path. I think that this album will have limited appeal but it's great to see that this very important void is being filled. "God's Love is Great" had me singing along and I also liked the tropical feel of "I Will Sing & Dance For You" If you'd like to know more about Causeway, visit the web site at www.prospects.org.uk 7/10. (September 2002) Forward to the next archive
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