Reviewed by Phil Thomson
Take your seats for a good old gospel knees-up from a West Coast group obviously proud of their bass lines, close harmonies and high hats. The five guys pluck their way through faintly retro late '80s funk (did I use that word?), offering up well-meaning easy listening three-point sermons in a variety of shades, but mostly grey. It feels as if they are simply going through the motions. There are simply no dynamics to the performances, no feeling - not even the theatrics and vocal pyrotechnics we have come to expect from some black gospel combos who, after all, usually have all the right credentials. Thus, the sum of the parts is nothing special, yet from time to time we get the sense that these may be great singers singing and playing (competently) very predictable songs. And there is something amiss with the production: keyboard brass, keyboard strings, keyboard flute...you get the idea; it's shallow and just a little light on ideas. I think that's a shame. I have no doubt that on the road, the Hummingbird order book is full, that their ministry is blessed, that if I happened to be in the service, I'd be reached. But on 'Life Songs' the personalities are buried, the creativity stifled and the opportunity lost. I blame the expectation of a particular home-grown church-centric genre which simply does not travel very well, particularly across the Atlantic. The give-away is the final song "America" - not one of the well known "America"s but yet another (original?) ingratiating homage to country before God. It's awkward, badly written, isn't even sung particularly well or with much conviction and sets the perfunctory tone of an infinitely forgettable album.
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