STYLE: Pop RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 143135-21043 LABEL: Fair Trade Services 736211607492 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1 RELEASE DATE: 2013-09-16 RRP: £9.99
Reviewed by Elliot Rose
Following the critical and commercial success of previous albums 'Response' and 'Heaven & Earth', the Californian singer/songwriter, still only 29 years old, delivers possibly his best yet. 'The Ascension' kicks off with the energetic and somewhat folky title track whose emphatic chorus soars gracefully over its ambient foundation. A little later down the track list we come to the instant classic "This Is Amazing Grace", with a huge drum beat and simple synth riff it's sure to capture its audience, whether listening at home or watching live on stage. The real ascension, it has to be said, is by Phil's vocals in the softer "Mercy", where he shakes off the shackles of bog-standard worship songwriting for a more interesting musical and melodic approach, his voice rising well into the falsetto register, but never sounding forced or uncomfortable. For me, the strongest songs are the more atmospheric and lavish (the chorus of "Glory" in particular is mesmerising), but the gentle tunes like "Thirst" certainly shouldn't be overlooked. An impressive album which will certainly help solidify Wickham's position as an innovative worship songwriter.
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The Ascension is focused on the forward movement we are all called to make in our personal walk of faith.
Wickham's compelling vocals and spiritual sensibilities have a way of taking deeper concepts and making them instantly accessible. Producer Peter Kipley returns too, building on his long history of collaborating with Phil. Together they have created an album that features Wickham's soaring vocal range, skilled guitar licks and unexpected yet singable melodies. Wickham creates beautiful word pictures, in this case drawing on the image of each of us ascending the mountain of God.
Of course, it's not an easy climb. There are obstacles on the way and worldly distractions abound, clamouring for our attention. But if we persevere, we can find the life we were meant to have, a life in God's presence that inspires a longing for heaven.