New CDs from Tom Booth, Jackie Francois, Stephen DeCesare

Captured, Your Kingdom is Glorious, Songs for the Journey
by Matthew Baute, Susan Bailey, S | Source: www.gvonline.net

Tom Booth – Captured

Reviewed by Matthew Baute

Tom Booth has long been one of the leading composers and recording artists active in contemporary Catholic music today. Listening to his latest CD Captured, it’s easy to understand why. This recording is a finely crafted work of art, filled with songs that will inspire and challenge the listener to a deeper faith and a more authentic walk with Christ.

Right away the opening track “Can We Love?” asks if our faith means more than simply attending Mass on Sunday or listening to P&W music in our car: “Can we lay down our lives? Can we wear his crown of thorns? Can we drink the cup that he drinks?” These thought-provoking questions are an important reminder of what our faith must ultimately be about – Christ transforming our hearts with a love that inspires us to reach out to serve others.

“You Stand Knocking” is a standout track, with an anthem-like refrain that will surely find wide use at Masses and at XLT Eucharistic Adoration prayer services. This song could easily find its way onto mainstream CCM radio, as that industry continues to discover the wealth of contemporary Catholic music and musicians like Matt Maher, whom Tom Booth mentored for many years.

Another favorite track is the finale, “O Salutaris Hostia, O Saving Lamb”, which adds a new refrain to the traditional Eucharistic exposition hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. It’s a wonderful trend that contemporary Catholic composers like Maher and Booth have been following, introducing the musical treasures of the Church to a new generation of listeners. Indeed, there is much for all of us to gain from revisiting lyrics and melodies that have stood the test of seven centuries.

My favorite track from Captured is a song that I first heard on the Steubenville Youth Conference 2007 CD. “Come Holy Spirit”, driven by the artist’s fine nylon-string guitar playing, a lush string arrangement, and stunning vocal harmonies, is reminiscent of the prayerfulness of John Michael Talbot’s music. On first hearing this song I was brought to a place of deep reflection and peace. This contemplative piece is juxtaposed with several upbeat and rocking songs on the disc, making it an interesting listen from start to finish.

The songs on Captured add to an already-impressive repertoire of music that Tom Booth has gifted to the Church, a body of work that has nourished the faith lives of many across the country and around the world. Thanks for the gifts, Tom, both old and new.

You can purchase Captured at www.spiritandsong.com/store/music/20739

  Jackie Francois – Your Kingdom is Glorious

Reviewed by Susan Bailey

I first heard of Jackie Francois on the SpiritandSong Commons compilation CD singing “My Soul Rejoices,” a lovely song based on the Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke. The refrain was unusual and memorable and her voice was very pleasing. I found myself wanting to hear more.

I was very glad to receive a copy of Jackie’s debut CD, Your Kingdom is Glorious, and I was not disappointed.

Let me first say that I am a big fan of Jackie Francois’ voice. It is clear yet full, strong and expressive – a voice, frankly, I wish I had. But Francois is not just a singer – she is a very capable songwriter as well.

The aforementioned “My Soul Rejoices” is a fine example of her songwriting and appears on Your Kingdom is Glorious. Francois has written a fine variety of songs ranging from upbeat pop songs such as “Holy Are You, Lord” and “Joy” to the softer sounds of “God My Father” and “Be Forgiven.”

Her treatment of chastity in “For So Long” was very noteworthy, avoiding the usual clichés for lyrics based solidly on scripture.

Your Kingdom is Glorious is an album I will listen to again and again. You can purchase your copy through the SpiritandSong website at www.spiritandsong.com/artists/jackiefrancois/discography.

 Stephen DeCesare with Christiana Rodi - Songs for the Journey

Reviewed by Sally Bolderson

If you are attracted to the strong sounds of well trained classical voices, you will enjoy this offering entitled “Songs for the Journey” from St. Martha’s Church of East Providence, Rhode Island. It’s an interesting mix of standard classical songs such as Schubert’s “Ave Maria”, Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” and Mozart’s “Exultate Jubilate” along with songs that lean to this side of contemporary such as “How Beautiful” and “Prayer of St. Francis. There are also several original compositions by Stephen DeCesare.

Stephen DeCesare along with Christiana Rodi are the two soloists on this CD who are obviously trained vocalists. They are able to bring across the depth of the classical pieces as well as the sincerity of the more contemporary songs.

The original songs written by Stephen DeCesare have solid messages of our faith and draw very closely from actual scripture. One song in particular “Magdalene” is a song which intersperses narration of the scriptures of Mary Magdalen washing the feet of Jesus with musical dialogue alternating where Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s comments in her defense. The song “Choose Life” has a very strong message of contemplation where the pregnant woman has a conversation with Jesus about what to do and in response of her question, he states that she should “choose life.” The alternating voices of male and female in these songs although logical in the text, made me feel as though I was listening to a musical. There wasn’t enough information on the CD inserts to indicate if this might in fact have been the case of music to go along with a skit or play setting.

All in all, Songs for the Journey is a solid CD although the classical pieces were pretty predictable in the Catholic music repertoire almost to a fault as they are encountered on many CDs. I felt at times the strong voices and the background music weren’t always in synch in regards to volume compatibility. The original songs were thought-provoking and blended in well with the known classical pieces. The strong vocal power carries this CD and will provide the listener with good listening on the whole.



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