Reviewed by Andrew Rolfe
Ratatouille is a Pixar Studios cartoon film about a rat who can cook. I won't spoil the plot for you but there is a scene where something happens to a character and they are suddenly transported back to a warm, comfortable childhood. The sun is shining into the kitchen of an idyllic cottage and an industrious and kindly mother is pottering around, as mothers were wont to do before office careers and microwaves. Something similar happened to me as I listened through this album. Mr Lowry sounds like the male vocals in an old Bing Crosby film. I could almost see Fred Astaire waltzing the life out of Ginger Rodgers. I could almost here my nana whistling to the accompaniment of the boiling pans and sizzling sausages with 1940s music ballroom-dancing out of the kitchen cassette player. Talk about feel-good music: I was practically floating away to join the rehearsals of Singing In The Rain. Saying that Southern gospel veteran Mark Lowry has a great, perfect pitch, solo-savvy singing voice is as obvious as saying that ducks don't sink. So here are some other brushstroke sentences to paint the feel of this hymnody album: a collection of easy-to-sing-a-long-to hymns with enough nostalgic big band backing to turn your iPod into a 2nd World War valve radio; you'll hear keyboards in amidst the cellos and violins of the orchestra but no old church organs creaking away, which might displease the hymn purists, but fits perfectly the yesteryear, happy-go-lucky sound the guys were looking for. From Paul Johnson the producer: "Mark, being the gifted storyteller that he is, sings these old lyrics like you're hearing them for the very first time," and, ". . .since these songs are standards from a previous era, I wanted to create orchestral settings. . . from that period when the world seemed more optimistic and full of hope.". From Mark Lowry: "I wanted to start this project with the one that really represents my journey (I love to tell the story). . . There is nothing I'd rather talk about than Jesus and what he's up to," and, "I hope you enjoy listening to them half as much as I enjoyed singing them." This is an album for cleaning the house to: it adds to the refreshment of cleanliness and puts a spring in your step no matter the season. All in all I can't fault it. From the 'worn look' cover sleeve featuring a big old car that could come from a Dean Martin props collection to the comments from the producer, you are left with no doubts about what to expect: and it delivers the goods. Over the years Mr Lowry has recorded numerous comedy videos and CDs. Although this album doesn't contain any witticisms it serves to highlight his other vocal talent: singing. Sit back, put a log on the fire and a pair of granddad slippers on your feet and enjoy some old school spiritual refreshment.
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