Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Christian music has a long history of re-writing secular hits with words more appropriate for Christians. In the 19th century General Boothe and Charles Wesley were forever taking the songs heard on the streets and pubs of Britain and giving them Christian lyrics and some of them are still in the hymnals. And in recent times American band the Apologetix have a successful ministry re-writing pop and rock hits old and new. Now Britain has Echo. What this bunch of singers and instrumentalists from London and Essex have done is take 13 soul and Motown classics and given them lyrical makeovers which point the way, and often, name check Jesus. Now such an idea is fraught with danger. South Park once portrayed a hilarious spoof on pop/rock gospelisations and some of Apologetix' efforts will indeed make you wince. But the band's producer, bass-playing band member Greg Nash, has been clever in selecting golden oldies whose lyrics are very near to gospel lyrics in the first place. Indeed, some of the songs were originally recorded by Christians - Fontella Bass, the Staple Singers and Sister Sledge. And though Echo's lead singers Marie da Silva and Juliette Georges wouldn't claim to be up there with Mavis Staples, Jackie Wilson, Stevie Wonder et al, who after all are among the greatest singers ever to enter a recording studio, on the whole Marie and Juliette make a good fist of singing the songs. Another plus are the arrangements, by Greg Nash, which largely manage to keep the groove of the originals without trying the impossible task of exactly replicating the Detroit or Philadelphia house bands. There are a couple of problems. One of the five live tracks, Dionne Warwick's/Aretha Franklin's "Say A Little Prayer", suffers from a slightly flat vocal while the decision to drop much of the reggae-style groove of "I'll Take You There" in favour of a jazzier approach is, to my ears, a mistake. But on the whole 'Bought Not Souled' is a warm-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable exercise. I for one would be pleased to see the band go through their paces live when they get to play Stoke-on-Trent.
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