Vivienne Neville, Liz Clarke, Jackie Morris Bates, Mary-Kathryn – What A Friend We Have
1. Incense of Praise (Mary-Kathryn)
2. Up Close and Personal (Vivienne Neville)
3. Beautiful One (Liz Clarke)
4. What Sin? (Jackie Morris Bates)
5. Only One (Mary-Kathryn)
6. Angels (Revisited) (Vivienne Neville)
7. A Mother’s Love (Liz Clarke)
8. Jesus Is Mine (Jackie Morris Bates)
13. What A Friend We Have In Jesus (All)
Following the worldwide digital release in February 2014 of the charity single “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” by Plankton Records artists Vivienne Neville and Liz Clarke and Nashville-based artists Jackie Morris Bates and Mary-Kathryn, Vivienne was keen to explore the possibilities of releasing a compilation album featuring tracks by all four ladies and the end result is the “What A Friend We Have” album.
The album includes two previously unreleased tracks from Vivienne. From Liz there’s a song previously only available as a single and a song from a long since unavailable independent EP. None of Jackie’s songs have previously been available digitally and Mary-Kathryn has included three wonderful tracks from her exstensive back catalogue. Mary-Kathryn’s exciting news is that she is releasing a brand new (and long-awaited) album ‘Wonders In The Deep’ in the Autumn/Fall of 2014.
The ‘What A Friend We Have’ album consists of 3 solo tracks from each artist highlighting the style and talent of each of them. Topping off these solo tracks is the afore-mentioned “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” that features all of them performing together with all money raised from sales (downloads and streams) of this particular track still going to the good causes that the single continues to raise money for.
It’s an hour of great and varied music. The ladies are great trans-Atlantic friends with the main thing uniting them in their lives, musical work and journeys being their love for, and relationship with, Jesus – so the title of the album was obvious, as well as being the main theme of the songs running through the album.
Four female singers have joined forces for a new compilation album titled ‘What A Friend We Have‘.
‘Incense of Praise‘ opens like the soundtrack from a Bollywood movie, with that classic Indian musical sound. Mary-Kathryn’s coaxing voice gently helps the song to swirl around with the heavy bass and drum beat interspersed with exotic eastern instrumentation. Vivienne Neville is next up with ‘Up Close and Personal‘, the warming musical backing track and echoey vocals produce a full sounding track, moody and inspiring and bordering on bluesy. The always brilliant Liz Clarke doesn’t disappoint on ‘Beautiful One‘. Her strong clear voice guides the song along effortlessly. Jackie Morris Bates’s ‘What Sin?‘ opens with a moving piano piece before her theatrical vocals deliver some stirring lyrics, “What sin? It was gone the very minute you confessed. Buried in the sea of forgetfulness.” As the album approaches the middle, ‘Only One‘ makes an unexpected entry, with electro-sounding synth bleeps floating around in the background as Mary-Kathryn unleashes a stunning track filled with modern beats and funky riffs.
With so many enjoyable tracks, it would take far too long to describe everything on offer in this exceptionally pleasing album. But in short, there’s ‘Angels‘ with it’s excellent use of percussion, the french-cafe feel of ‘A Mother’s Love‘, old-school style ‘Jesus Is Mine‘, and the tingling delicateness of ‘Tehillah‘ which builds into an Enya-style Lion King extravaganza. The wonderful piano playing, as Viv returns with beautiful ballad ‘Don’t Be Afraid‘, is another album highlight, as are the electric and acoustic guitar combos on Liz’s ‘It Will Be Alright‘. I love the way Liz’s voice just grows and grows in strength as the song progresses.
The classy sounding ‘In The Middle Of It All‘ leads on to final track ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus‘. This most well known of classic hymns is given a new style and tempo as singer after singer turns up to give their interpretation in complimentary styles. Gone is the predictable feel of the song, and in its place is a wall of atmospheric music and warming vocals – providing highs and lows, power and passion, and most of all a sense of praise. It makes for a truly incredible end to this very special album. 4 stars – Louder Than The Music (UK)
Plankton are Britain’s longest running Christian record label and the outfit based in London’s East End are to be congratulated for putting together such an intriguing compilation. ‘What A Friend We Have’ follows on from the charity single that Britain’s Vivienne Neville and Liz Clarke and Nashville’s Jackie Morris Bates and Mary-Kathryn released in February – a Celtic-cum-country-tinged version of the hymn penned in 1868 “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”. Now their recording is a perfect bookend to this compilation of solo tracks. Vivienne’s “Up Close And Personal” (one of two tracks previously unreleased) with its shuffling rhythm and mellifluous vocal is a delight while Mary-Kathryn’s tracks, taken from her ‘Dreams & Visions’ and ‘One Spirit’ albums – both raved about in Cross Rhythms years past – all still sound great, particularly “Only One” which unexpectedly speeds up at the close to become a Celtic-tinged romp. Not everything works quite as well but with a generous playing time, the few slight misjudgements don’t stop this being a very attractive showcase of some fine female singers.8/10 – CrossRhythms (UK)
When these four ladies got together to record the charity single “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”, earlier this year, Vivienne was keen to explore the possibilities of releasing a compilation album, featuring them all. This release is the result, and what a fine album it is too. Mary Kathryn opens the album, with the far-eastern sound of ‘Incense and Praise’. There’s lots of drums to give a hypnotic rhythm, and also a sitar, that is pleasing ion the ear. As an opening song, it’s really catchy and very strong. Vivienne’s first contribution is the euro-pop ditty, ‘Up Close & Personal’. This song reminded me a lot of German duo Swimming With Sharks, and her voice, reminiscent of singer Annette Humpe. The song itself is about finding that personal relationship with God, and the love that it brings. All four of the ladies present three songs each, and Liz Clarke’s best, for me, is the lullabye ‘A Mother’s Love’. Her vocals are so sweet, and the marriage with the accompanying accordion is pure delight. There’s a gospel style about Jackie Morris Bates’ ballad ‘What Sin’, while later on, she provides a swing number, called ‘Jesus is Mine’. Both are very listenable. Mary Kathryn returns with more eastern sound of ‘Only One’ (which I wasn’t too keen on) and the chanting ‘Tehiliah’, which is simply beautiful. The album ends with the charity single, and brings to a close, a quite exquisite collection. 9/10. – Never For Nothing (UK)