Reviewed by Paul Keeble
This is a re-release of two solo albums by the much loved lead singer of Iona as a double album package. 'Personal' is a collection of Joanne's own songs from 2008, themed around her spiritual walk and search for a deeper experience of and commitment to God. It is a fine collection of well-written songs set in thoughtful arrangements that let them breathe and of course there's that voice! It's like a more laid-back Iona album without the blistering electric guitar solos and no instrumentals or three-piece suites. All the songs are strong, but particular highlights for me are "Waiting" with its 7/8 piano figure, the Irish feel to "Dancing", and opener "More". "I Felt In Sad In Church Today" is a reflection on going through the motions on a Sunday, "We want to hurry praise away/When we've got plans made for the day/Or when we just can't face the truth about ourselves". A refreshing piece of honest questioning, which stands out all the more for its rarity of subject-matter. 'Looking Into Light' is a 1999 album of traditional hymns and songs given a Celtic treatment. This is, if anything, closer to the sound of Iona, with pipes and sweeping strings featuring (and lots more reverb!), though again sans guitar solos and prog touches. Starting with "I Heard The Voice", a beautiful arrangement of voice, strings and pipes, the tempo lifts for "My Song Is Love Unknown" with full band featuring a lovely acoustic guitar part. My favourite track is "Brightest And Best", a relatively unknown carol (also covered by John Fischer many years ago) which shines in an arrangement of various acoustic stringed instruments and voices, building through the verses with added percussion into a powerful instrumental climax. Every song is well done, though I have to admit to feeling a bit reverbed out by the end, like consuming a box of rich chocolates in one go. A great value package.
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As lead singer of Iona Joanne’s voice has touched countless lives across the globe.
Having launched a solo career in 1999 her influence and reputation as a singer/songwriter has grown. Looking Into The Light was a bold step, reimagining classic Celtic hymns with fresh insight and skill. A decade later Joanne’s album, Personal, brought listeners in to share her passion for honest, open pursuit of God.