|CompassionArt - CompassionArt|
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Reviewed by Tony Cummings
There have of course been numerous times in the past when Christian musicians have contributed tracks for albums with all proceeds and royalties going to help the world's suffering and even a few projects where musos have written material specifically for such projects. But unquestionably this is the most lavish and highest profile charity album the Christian community has ever come up with and Delirious? ex-lead singer Martin Smith and his wife Anna are to be thanked for the whole CompassionArt vision which brings together such an impressive array of musical talents to raise funds for, in the words of the back sleeve, "the poorest of the poor." Not that there's anything poor about the music here. Recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios it's a sonic feast and considering the myriad of voices and stylistic approaches gathered together here there is a surprising degree of musical coherence - which is often the quality lacking on various artists projects. Take for instance the opening track and the radio "hit" of the album, "Come To The Water". Bringing together American worship leader Chris Tomlin, the anthemically voiced Martin Smith, gospel star and preacher Kirk Franklin and Africa's Watoto Children's Choir isn't the kind of musical coming together you would imagine meshing marvellously together. But the relaxing of A&R rigidity, not to mention recording contract stipulations, has resulted in a glorious, spirit-lifting anthem that deserves to be heard far beyond the confines of Christian radio. There are plenty of other tracks here which rise way beyond the sometimes stylised output of CCM and contemporary worship music. "King Of Wonders" sung by Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Joel Houston; "Lead Me To The Rock", performed by Paul Baloche and Lakewood Choir; "We Won't Stay Silent" - Tim Hughes and Steven Curtis Chapman; "Friend To The Poor" - Leeland Mooring and Andy Park; "Let It Glow" - Toby Mac and Kirk Franklin (a track of almost punk rock intensity); and "So Great" - Michael W Smith, Israel Houghton, Christy Nockels and Lakewood Choir all deserve to be listened to time and time again. If the CD is a feast to the ears, the accompanying DVD is hugely interesting for those, like me, fascinated by the creative process that goes into recording an album. A fly-on-the-wall documentary of the week long songwriting workshop at a retreat in Scotland which was the kickoff point for CompassionArt, Day One had its first truly memorable scenes when Michael W Smith, Matt Redman and Tim Hughes gathered in a side room and came up with a song after an hour of "talking together", nearly an hour of "panicking" and a few minutes of composing together. Even in its raw form the song "Highly Favoured" (memorably sung on the album by Amy Grant and Michael) is a gem. Throughout this never less than interesting film of the week there are numerous memorable fragments of interview - Graham Kendrick talking about dealing with creative ego, Bishop Graham Cray flagging down the importance of the whole CompassionArt project and Israel Houghton's insight of God's heart breaking for the poor and oppressed intercut with scenes of a day trip to the breathtakingly beautiful Glen Coe and harrowing footage of third world poverty. There are funny scenes as well - Americans looking decidedly uncomfortable in kilts dancing at a ceilidh; someone breaking into a snatch of "As The Deer" after gazing at a majestic stag outside their retreat's window. Then the DVD moves on to footage shot at Abbey Road. Maybe four of them doing the Beatles walk across the famed zebra crossing smacked a little of Japanese tourist cheese but apart from that director Andy Hutch hardly misses a beat. Chris Tomlin flies in to add his vocals; Survivor's Les Moir points out the impossibility of recording a top quality album at the rate of four songs a day; and then on again to footage shot at Kampala (a place that is, as Martin comments, "a long way from Abbey Road"). It's there the Watoto Children's Choir add their final recorded magic to the wonderful tracks assembled by the CompassionArt team. The DVD also contains the video for "There's Always A Song" (sung by Martin Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and the Watoto Children's Choir). I defy anyone who hears this beautiful anthem and watches the faces of those African children not to be moved.
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|Martin Smith (Delirious? frontman) found himself sitting in 5-star hotel rooms, then going to the slums to minister to the poor. The dichotomy of it all hurt him to the core. He decided to give back what he has: a microphone, a platform and the ability to write songs, and asked 11 friends to join him and do the same.|
Remarkably, his friends, who happen to be among the most well-known and gifted songwriters in the world, all cleared their schedules and joined him for a songwriter's retreat. Together the songwriters account for at least 42 million albums sold, 82 No. 1 songs, 10 GRAMMY Awards, 118 Dove Awards, two Stellar Awards, two American Music Awards, and 98 current CCLI Top 500 songs.
14 of those songs are revealed on the CompassionArt album, but bigger than that...all the proceeds ever raised by these songs will forever go to help the poorest communities around the world.
The songwriters will not receive a penny. 7 genres defining vocalists have joined the group of 12 to sing on the album.
And the story continues as people respond to this act of kindness...
Paul Baloche, Steven Curtis Chapman, Stu G (Delirious?), Israel Houghton, Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Andy Park, Matt Redman, Martin Smith (Delirious?), Michael W Smith, Chris Tomlin and Darlene Zschech.
Kirk Franklin, Amy Grant, tobyMac, CeCe Winans, Leeland Mooring, Joel Houston, Christy Nockels.