From the opening bars of Comin’ to Take Me Home (which I briefly thought was going to be a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition) to the delicate piano balladry of You Live in Me to the spirit-of-the-60s-infused Holy Revival, it’s clear we’re in for a proper smorgasbord of influences. And what a disparate mix it is!
For instance, Gypsy Carns provide Praise Our Heavenly Father, a hard-rocking exhortation: ‘Better get with the Lord’. It doesn’t forget to rock out by the end of the track after all the instruction, however! We also get Save Us Lord, which made me think of the palatable prog of Magnum with some particularly tasty guitar work.
Then we get a couple of submissions from the 42nd Street Singers. These are sweetly sung, and arranged with a fine sense of pop nous. Well-chosen harmonies provide emphasis and expression and there’s still space for some fine solo-ing, too.
Ann M Wolf provides two tracks (Dangerous and So Full a’ Tears), both highly accomplished jazz/blues-inflected numbers that sit comfortably in a vein similar to Peggy Lee. Beautifully sung and played and produced with an expensive-sounding sheen, they are effortlessly charming. The second of these really sees the vocal open up!
Clark Ford and Underground Treehouse also have two tracks on the album: the aforementioned and sweetly-sung You Live In Me and a truly innovative and beautiful version of the traditional The Lord Is My Shepherd (performed as a duet) and featuring some lovely ‘cello work.
It’s the unusual arrangement of the latter of these that reminds me to mention the ideas behind this album’s curation and creation. It’s loosely following in the footsteps of the hugely successful and influential musical Jesus Christ Superstar, and Bongo Boy Records suggest that listeners approach this collection as a musical in the same kind of way, which is a fun idea.
Country arrives in the form of Sister Shelley’s Love Will Rise. Short and punchy in its arrangement, it immediately put me in mind of the rather wonderful First Aid Kit. Some sweet close harmony work really elevates this track. ‘Jesus is the saviour / In the army of the Lord’ goes the lyric, and this is something of a call to arms, albeit one birthed by love.
Tina Sisay’s Red Light and Blue builds slowly, exploiting the singer’s lower octave range. When it then opens up, and steps up, it provides a renewed focus on the lyrics. I imagine this song is designed as a comment upon God’s love transcending the American people’s political persuasions: ‘God is not red / Nor is He blue’.
Bible Belt Blues have 3 tracks featuring on this album, and the slightly gruff, Springsteen-esque vocal and earnest delivery match up well with the homespun feel to the production and organic guitar playing. The in-your-face approach to production is hard-hitting and it’s therefore hard to ignore the messages being explored here. Perhaps the most successful of the 3 tracks is the album closer, My God, My God – where you can really feel the singer’s angst bleeding out of every syllable, and where the simple hypnotic refrain of the guitar riffs drill into your memory.
We get yet another flavour with the powerful piano pop of Mia Moravis’ Thanking God For You. It’s definitely the Wind Beneath Your Wings moment on the album!
‘Now darkness and depression / They don’t bother me / Even since Jesus / Gave me serenity’ sings Ray Materick (on God Bless You) in a manner not dissimilar to Bible Belt Blues in a riff-based rocker that drives through a tight arrangement to a satisfying conclusion.
Brian Cooney’s Nothing Greater sounds like something of a classic ballad flown in from the 1980s. Great piano work underpins some savvy songwriting and Brian’s nimble vocal does a great service to the simple, direct lyric. It actually sounds like it might have come from the stable of The Alan Parsons Project.
All in all, Consecration Revival Volume II represents praise, devotion, reverence, gratitude and love in a multitude of different musical guises. If not all of the styles float your boat, there is another song coming along before too long in this 17-strong collection. It’s difficult not to be moved by the conviction on offer.
Visit Bongo Boy Records for more information. Album art by Monique Grimme.