Godfrey Birtill & Band - Ring Out Wild Bells

Published Wednesday 12th January 2011
Godfrey Birtill & Band - Ring Out Wild Bells
Godfrey Birtill & Band - Ring Out Wild Bells

RATING 6 6 6 6 6 6
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 102634-17380
LABEL: Independent
RELEASE DATE: 2010-11-12
RRP: £12.00

Reviewed by James Howard-Smith

I don't think of Godfrey Birtill as being a particularly gifted songwriter, but the core of what he does well, managing not to be the focus of his performances, is primarily achieved in his lyric writing. The simple preference of "we" over "I" helps to clarify that he doesn't write songs to draw out inner demons (as the more artistic side of Christian songwriting tends to do). His goal is plainer: just to celebrate the name of Jesus while demonstrating a prophetic mantle as sings over Europe proclaiming a spiritual awakening for the nations. The song "Frere Jacques - All Clear" uses a fragment of the well known nursery rhyme to create something that is intriguing and in its own way spiritually powerful. Elsewhere there is what you could call a protest song. "Gas Gas Gas" is almost the shortest track on the album; flashing by in barely more than two minutes it's quite easy to miss, but it deserves special attention for its lyrical daring. The second and third verses are, I believe, this prolific songwriter's finest lyrics, in which he not just angrily but clevrly assails the "McDonaldization" in the Church and the associated death of the idea of servant leadership. There's a variation of musical styles as well, though I mostly found this dry except for the opening to the title track where the saxophonist, Andrew Worsefield, reminds us for just a few seconds of Vangelis' Blade Runner score. Still, 'Ring Out Wild Bells' (the name coming from a Tennyson poem) is the Godfrey Birtill album I would recommend: not as slick as his John Hartley-produced efforts, but I think this is the man at his most interesting.

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 Phil Tyler in Wirral @ 16:44 on Jan 12 2011

The latest CD from Godfrey Birtill is a great follow up to last years "Hijacked into Paradise" and continues some of the themes from that CD but with a more focused sound and a superb brass section lead by Raul D'Oliveira. However to talk about this CD in terms of the music alone is to miss the point entirely! Godfrey doesn't write Christian 'pop songs' he writes songs that challenge, encourage, provoke and above all contain revelation and truth.
The first two tracks “We’ve Entered In” and “Glory River” are worth the purchase price alone with their statement of the truth of the freedom Jesus has won for us at the cross and the encouragement that Jesus gives us streams of living water bubbling out of our bellies. The fact that “We’ve Entered In” has some of the best brass playing and tightest drumming you’re likely to hear this year is a welcome bonus.
This is followed up with a fantastic re-working of the hymn “At The Name Of Jesus” with a rousing declaration out to the nation added in as a chorus – you’ve never heard this hymn like this before!
The track “He’s Done It All” reminds me of “Outrageous Grace”, not that they sound remotely alike, but in their simple stating of a truth we so often forget; hopefully this will have the same impact on the church as the earlier song did and help counter any teaching about earning our salvation through our own efforts!
A bit of a blast from the past crops up next “Riding On The Waves” first appeared on 2003’s album “Stand Up! Shake Yourself from the Dust” but makes a welcome return here to encourage us to flow with what the Father is already doing instead of trying to set our own agenda.
Occasionally Godfrey likes to throw the odd curve-ball in and shake things up and “Frère Jacques” does just that, he takes a simple French folk song and uses it as a tool to prophetically call for the nation and the nations to wake up to God, it’s the prayer minstrel at work again rather than the worship leader!
“Gas Gas Gas” won’t be to everyone’s taste but I love it! The old wooden rattle, associated with football years ago, was actually used in WW 1 to warn of gas attacks and this song is just the same; a warning to the church that there’s gas about! The instant gratification (McDonaldization) and consumerism of much of church-going and the dry-dust preaching and human-control from some church systems has nothing to do with Jesus and the relationship he calls us to, so stay alert!
A complete change of pace follows this with a lilting easy to sing rendering of Psalm 23 in “Though I Walk Through The Valley” and this is followed by the catchy “My Theme Song” which is probably the closest to a regular worship song on the CD.
“Daring To Believe” is both an encouragement to contend for everything Jesus paid for at the cross as well as a song of praise to our saviour and vies with the first track for the position of my favourite track on the album. The chant at the end is a wonderful football-match style statement of submission to the king.
“I Won’t Take The Bait” is an encouragement to avoid putting ourselves in places of danger spiritually and a warning not to be fooled by the devils temping bait. Short, sharp and to the point. Brilliant.
Finally we get to the title track “Ring Out Wild Bells”. Once again we’re declaring out an end to things that have held us back and that it’s a new day! This track is pretty reserved compared to how it’s often done live – but that’s probably a requirement when recording. If you hear this track live then you really should hear some ‘wild’ bells!
A little bonus track at the end rounds this terrific album out when Godfrey takes a track voted one of the worst choruses ever written and redeems it! “It’s Bubbling” may seem a bit silly but the truth in the simple lyrics is profound and the childlike joy in the track is both priceless and contagious.
If you don’t own this album you should remedy that situation immediately!

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

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