British Christian music veteran STUART BARBOUR has released a stunning concept album 'The Journey'. Helen Knight thinks it's a classic.
It's been a long and fascinating musical journey for worship leader, stage performer and record producer Stuart Barbour. A pop gospel band Sivan, who toured the UK, ala Summer Holiday, on a double decker bus (1991); a solo album for Steve Flashman's Soapbox outfit (1992); a gritty Huey Lewis-style band Stuart Barbour & The Powerhouse (1993); a move into worship culminating in the 'When The Music Fades' album with David Lyle Morris (2001); and now most impressively of all, a breathtaking concept album which could only be called 'The Journey'.
Comments Stuart, "I want the songs to stir the heart of the listener and be a catalyst to a life changing moment. I never want anything I do to be half hearted. 'All or nothing.'" If that is the reaction this most gifted singer/songwriter wants then he has to look no further. If you are anything like me you will probably be able to point to a couple of CDs in your ever growing collection which evoke such an emotional reaction that you have to consider the affect before you press play again. The first time I listened to 'The Journey' I had that reaction. Yes, I do tend to feel choked at old men being generous to their grandson in sweet adverts, and I still can't watch ET without bursting into uncontrollable sobs. But this was one album that was so spiritually imbibed that I could literally feel how special it was. Yes, I know I should just leave this kind of gushing reccommendation to the reviewer and should retain my professional objectivity. But who can actually remain objective about music? Anyway, I'll get on with what I'm supposed to do.
It was after the 'When The Music Fades' album that God planted a seed in Stuart's mind for a new project and the desire to work with the Powerhouse guys again. "The idea came together when I shared my idea for the album with Steve Doherty from Kingsway, he came up with the title 'The Journey' and handed it over to Caroline Bonnet (the one time CCM singer now working in her new A&R role at Kingsway). The album evolved from there. Caroline asked Sue Rinaldi to look at the lyrics and write some words that will link the whole story together. We then had to think of someone to read them." Enter Alvin Stardust. "A few years back I set up a studio with my neighbour Alvin Stardust. I produced an album for him and we wrote a number of tracks together. When one of Alvin's guitarists left his band, I started playing guitar for him. I asked him if he would read the parts and he was up for it. The session went so well I even got him to duet on one of the songs with me.
"The album took six months to write and produce," continues Stuart. "The songs just kept flowing from day one. I produced them initially at my own studio on Pro Tools. We then took it to The Orange Room in Newhaven and got Colin Walker involved who brought in Mark Edwards, Carla Hayes and Kev Jameison. We also had the Prague Symphony Orchestra on a couple of tracks." 'The Journey' is a modern day Pilgrim's Progress, a soundtrack to life combining deeply inspirational songs of worship, intimate poetry and narration. But 'The Journey' is more than just an album; it has already toured a number of venues including various schools. "The reaction was amazing, they sang their hearts out (lyrics always on screen) and were worshipping, possibly without even realising it."
"I think we are in very difficult times in the UK," says Stuart. "Reading the papers, it seems that society is starting to break down, justice doesn't appear to be making sense. This can lead to desperation; I have no easy answers, but I do know that in times like this we need to lift God's name high and proclaim to the whole nation, 'There Is Only One God'."
Not only does Stuart's new album give him considerable kudos, but he is also on tour playing the principle part in The Scottish Tattoo.as a 70-year-old man fully kitted with wig and beard! It is a story of the massacre of the Macdonalds at Glencoe by the Campbells and is a celebration of the Scottish culture. When you don't find Stuart busy in the studio, acting on stage, and leading the worship at his church you may find him purging his excess energy, with his amp on full blast, playing in Alvin's band at a '70s shows here and abroad.
However fun it is to play with Alvin and who could resist run-throughs of cod glam pop smashes like "My Coo-ca-choo" and "Jealous Mind", Stuart's first passion is somewhere else. "Worshipping God through music is where my heart is. It is also a way to reach people and touch their heart, which is why I take every opportunity I get to go and sing. I spent many nights in pubs singing and performing songs that didn't mean anything to me. Now when I lead worship I find it very moving to sing words that I really mean. That is something I will never tire of.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.