Adrian Snell - Alpha & Omega 30th Anniversary Recording

Published Tuesday 14th November 2017
Adrian Snell - Alpha & Omega 30th Anniversary Recording
Adrian Snell - Alpha & Omega 30th Anniversary Recording

RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 167622-26266
LABEL: Independent

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

In case you're new to the history of Christian music I should explain that during the '70s and '80s Adrian Snell was the most consistently popular singer/songwriter in the European Church. His music moved from the Jesus music era (Adrian even having albums released in the US through the pioneering Maranatha! Music) until in the '80s he'd developed into a purveyor of ambitious concept albums that brought elements of classical music, progressive rock and sometimes, in their theatric sweep, even seemed to touch on stage musicals (think Les Miserables). In 1986 he recorded 'Alpha & Omega' for Word UK with the biggest budget Word had ever spent on a British recording (UK Christian albums had up until then been recorded for laughably tiny budgets). Such commitment payed off for both Word and Snell and 'Alpha & Omega' went onto be the best-selling Christian music album in Europe, even outselling America's top CCM artists like Amy Grant, Michael W Smith and Sandi Patty whose album were flooding into Europe's Christian bookshops. That was somewhat ironic in that, on hearing 'Alpha & Omega', American CCM record execs and radio programme controllers showed not the slightest interest in giving it US exposure. And to be charitable 'Alpha & Omega' was light years from the easily digestible and sometimes vapid music which had come to dominate US Christian radio.

In Europe it was a different story. Countless Christians "got" 'Alpha & Omega', enjoyed its epic grandeur and dazzling musicianship and embraced the triumphant, disturbing and challenging sweep of its lyrics. Performed first in Israel and then in cathedrals, churches and concert halls across Europe, many church-goers found the work to be truly significant in their lives. The 1986 recording of the work, recorded in studios in Leeds, London and Eastbourne, featured the All Souls Choir directed by Noel Tredinnick and some fine Christian musicians like Dave Fitzgerald, Neil Costello and Dave Bainbridge. But the album was to some extent a product of its time. Vast improvements in recording technology over the last 30 years meant Adrian wished a new recording of his work could be made utilising this technology. Amazingly, without big budget record company help, this has now been achieved and 'Alpha & Omega: 30th Anniversary Recording' has been recorded and released. How this mountain was climbed is explained in Adrian's sleevenote. "Unexpected to me, in the last couple of years an increasing number of requests, challenges and invitations have been received to perform Alpha & Omega again. The more time I spent revisiting the songs, the more I understood the groundswell of feeling - that this work has as much to say in 2017 as it did in 1986. The music, the songs, the themes and challenges could just as easily have been written for our times. And so we committed to a series of Alpha & Omega concerts in October 2016. Importantly, I was in no doubt that we needed to renew the work musically too. This led to the decision to make a completely new recording that would be based on the live concerts and then completed in the studio in the skilled production hands of Dave Bainbridge, who had also been a co-producer of the original album. I am truly thrilled by the result."

So will be many who bought the 1986 album or who witnessed one of the live performances old or new. Sonically, Bainbridge has done a wonderful job. Taking the live recordings made at Zwolle, Veenendaal and Rotterdam and with skilled overdubbing, editing and mixing Bainbridge has developed the nuances and dynamics of these remarkable songs and arrangements. Snell has never sung better. Dare I say it, the choir directed by Maarten Wassink sounds ever grander than the All Souls ensemble of the '80s and musically, the album is packed with delights. The goosebump-inducing way the choir enters on "Man Of Sorrows", the crisp bass and drums drive on "I Am The Way" and the delightful soprano sax fill played by Dave Fitzgerald on "Nobody Listens" all impact the listener. In fact, having Iona musicians like Fitzgerald, Bainbridge and Van Essen have ensured that the musicianship demonstrated on the Anniversary Recording consistently surpasses the original. Only the lack of the sublime Joanne Hogg on the album is a disappointment. The 1986 release featured Joanne making her recording debut on the haunting "Child Of Darkness". (Joanne was, of course, within four years to go on to front Iona formed by Dave Fitzgerald.) Although Sera van der Viver does a perfectly adequate job in singing "Child Of Darkness" (in a style rather resembling Sarah Brightman), she's no Joanne Hogg. But this is the only minor disappointment in this revitalised new version. I must make a comment about the poetry and at times prophetic power of 'Alpha & Omega' lyrics written by Phil Thomson. Be it the 2017 relevance of "The Nations Rage And Fall" portraying God's wrath awaiting the kings of the earth who "plot in vain against the Lord and against his Chosen One" through to the tender-hearted "He Lives In You" ("I am your God and I will hold you/Safe in my embrace/Child, you have come to me in repentance/Now you will see my face") these are words to touch deeply those who take them to heart. The same can be said of the whole album.

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.

Interested in reviewing music? Find out more here.

Reader Comments

Posted by louis hemmings in Dublin @ 18:14 on Nov 14 2017

What a wonderful review, drawing from many aspects of Adrian's piano pioneering and lyrical passion.

Adrian's music has helped me worship God and also helped me keep the faith, in the midst of turbulent domestic dramas.

Recently I wrote a homage to this composer, who I have followed from his auspicious beginnings in the late 1970s, with 'Fireflake'

A few CR readers may be interested to read how Adrian's music impacted me over the decades, and why.... s-the-future-if-its-not-the-one-who-made-us/

Posted by Steven Whitehead in Buckinghamshire @ 17:04 on Nov 14 2017

Is it really thirty years? I remember seeing this live in Torquay, having driven a minibus load of CU members from Exeter University. It was a staggering performance although I never thought the cassette (that's how long ago it was) was as good as the concert - although I did replace my cassette copy with a CD and it sounds like I should do so again.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.


Connect with Cross Rhythms by signing up to our email mailing list

A Step Change...
Cross Rhythms Media Training Centre
Artists & DJs A-Z
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Or keyword search


Courts of Praise
Get close to God, be extravagant in declaring your love for Him in our Prayer Room