Reviewed by Tony Cummings
One of the strange sub genres of albums Cross Rhythms reviewers have had to grapple with down the years is the "artist-less" album. With the popularity of both hymnody and modern worship in the Christian community, record companies have for many years exploited this niche by assembling aggregations of instrumentalists, vocalists or both who for a session fee will run through some of the thousands of songs currently circulating in the Church. The resulting albums have ranged from muzak-imitating-art to maestros-enhancing-art depending on recording budgets and the producer/musicians used. The plus side of this particular album is that it is produced by Dan Wheeler who, over the years, has proven himself to be not only a superlative session guitarist but a gifted album producer and he has pulled in many of the crème of UK Christian sessioners namely Nicki Rogers (piano, keyboards), Mark Edwards (keyboards, accordion), Mark Prentice (bass), Mike Houghton (sax, flute, recorder, whistle) and Lucy Payne (cello). In fact it's Ms Payne's flowing, lyrical lines which offer this set's most memorable moments, bringing warmth and sensitivity to such much loved hymns as Frances Havergal's "I Surrender All" and Keith Green's "There Is A Redeemer", the latter also featuring some delightful Spanish guitar runs from Mr Wheeler himself. Other finely executed tracks are Timothy Dudley Smith's "Lord For The Years" and "King Of Kings, Majesty". Cynics may suggest that this album has precious little to do with the Keswick presented annually at the Bible week/celebration and the sleeve design is more appropriate for a Cumbrian travel brochure than an album intended to aid devotions. But such is the deft musicianship one can easily ignore such irritations and simply allow the music to bring balm to the soul.
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Reflections is the first in a new series of instrumental albums from Keswick. Taking some of the all-time Keswick favourite songs and hymns this CD paints a beautiful backdrop to devotional and quiet times.
Beautifully arranged, Reflections uses exquisite instrumentation to breathe something new into these wonderful tunes, choosing real musicians over programming and taking the time to feel each song's intrinsic sensitivity, while never allowing the layers to overpower the inherent power of the melody.