Randy Stonehill - Return To Paradise

Published Wednesday 15th November 2006
Randy Stonehill - Return To Paradise
Randy Stonehill - Return To Paradise

STYLE: Jesus Music
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Myrrh

Reviewed by Anthony Longville

When CCM devotees of a certain age turn their minds to their 20 favourite albums of all time, chances are many of them will list Randy Stonehill's 1976 release 'Welcome To Paradise' - a Jesus music classic. Stonehill was converted through the witness of Larry Norman. Stonehill was a talented singer/songwriter as Norman recognised. The CCM pioneer took Stonehill under his wing. The follow up though was some four years in the release, and by 1980 Norman and Stonehill went their separate ways. Stonehill recorded several albums in the 1980s, continuing to show his songwriting and performing skills to good effect. Pick of the bunch would probably be 'Equator' and 'Celebrate This Heartbeat'. 1989 saw the release of 'Return To Paradise'. Some saw this as a reference to that earlier classic album, and a return to that style. I must say that to these ears, I don't particularly hear the similarity sound wise. The lush arrangements of 1976 are not heard on 'Return.' but what you do get is a stripped down approach, largely acoustic, a major shift from previous release 'The Wild Frontier' which travelled the electric route. Stonehill assists Mark Heard on production. As Stonehill concentrates on that unplugged sound, the subject matter of the songs would seem to indicate that even if he has returned to Paradise he is conscious for many that is not the case. The homeless, martyrs of apartheid, the disabled, lost friends, bereaved, victims of domestic violence, fatal accident victims. In the wrong hands this could be depressing fare. And I would say at times it can be hard going, particularly on "Christmas At Denny's" and "Weight Of The Sky", but throughout the album Stonehill sows those seeds of hope, encouraging us to look to the "Strong Hand Of Love". It says a lot for Stonehill in dealing with this subject matter that he could possibly end the album on such a high note. "Ready To Go" has to be one of my all time favourite Stonehill songs, a gloriously uplifting hymn to faith, hope and love.

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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