Alvin & Karl - Songs That No One Taught Us

Published Tuesday 8th November 2011
Alvin & Karl - Songs That No One Taught Us
Alvin & Karl - Songs That No One Taught Us

RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 119404-18527
LABEL: Salvationist Publishing & Supp SPS290
RRP: £13.95

Reviewed by Tom Lennie

Alvin & Karl Allison are brothers, and some readers will remember Karl's name in particular, for he served as a writer and reviewer with Cross Rhythms for a number of years in the '90s. (In the sleevenote here he even claims to be partly responsible for the discovery of The World Wide Message Tribe!) Brought up in the Salvation Army and with clear musical gifting, the brothers were part of the dynamic (and being Salvationists, truly radical) Christian rock outfit Blood & Fire in the 1980s, joining forces again in the '90s to form The Eden - later renamed The Big Picture. Since that time, both men have worked separately in many varied guises, all musical, and mainly in connection with the Salvation Army. Reuniting again after 15 years, the siblings have emerged with a batch of their own new compositions. These songs come in the form of pleasant pop melodies with hints of ragtime and folk. Their varied musical gifts blend wonderfully together - Karl is a competent songwriter - totally original lyrics that are plentiful, non-repetitious and ever thought-provoking. He also sounds good vocally, while Alvin's striking keyboard skills, along with percussion and various string and brass arrangements, are equally proficient. The duo refuse to enter the traditional vs. contemporary Christian music debate - one song showing that at the end of the day "it's the same song we sing". Other themes that emerge on this 13-song disc include the call to come to Christ "as you are", that of mission, a gorgeous, apt wedding song, and God's abounding grace - the latter coming in a gentle acoustic form. It's a well-crafted project (which features a full choir on the chorus of gospel track "You Have To Meet Jesus") and includes beautiful inserts, with a full biography of the Allison's musical involvement.

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.

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Reader Comments

Posted by Bruce Tulloch in Worthing @ 13:24 on Nov 22 2012

Groundbreaking album for SP&S, though the contemporary styles represented have been mainstream for years. Every track on this highly entertaining, amusing, thought-provoking, moving, clever collection of original songs brings something different.
Go to ‘The Song That We Sing’ for the rationale: ‘That traditional/contemporary debate was always a poor one. Turns out we were singing the same song all along.’ So ‘We’ll sing in whatever style’s around but the song that we sing is the same.’ That’s followed by the intensely moving ‘Come As You Are’, described as ‘Whosoever will may come’ with bells on.
Karl and Alvin have been around the Salvation Army scene for a couple of decades. Their outspoken rock evangelism in bands Blood and Fire, The Eden and The Big Picture wasn’t always appreciated, or perhaps understood. Yet they committed their talents to work and worship in contemporary culture. Now they’ve come home at last.
Musically Alvin is the master. From jazz pianist (think Jools Holland) to brass band arranger, from dance riffs and trance beats to cheeky samples, he pulls out surprises all the time. You’ll have to listen hard to identify all the tricks and musical jokes inside and alongside the sheer quality and range. Then he provides the simplest and most sensitive accompaniment to ‘Good For You’.
Karl’s lyrics are prolific and clever, sharply observational and deeply incisive, intelligent and provocative, born of genuine experience and underpinned by sincere, hard-won faith, they always strike chords. He has the gift of words that can be everyday and exalted at the same time. They make you smile and they make you cry, and they always point you and others to Jesus. Thanks, guys! (And yes, most of this review appeared in 'Salvationist'!)

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

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