Saturday, 22 May 2010

Phil Wickham- Heaven & Earth Album Review

Phil Wickham is a Christian singer and songwriter from California. Heaven & Earth is his fifth album, released in 2009.

~~~CD COVER~~~
The cover of the album is very much different to the ones we have seen previously, those being in dull colours. This is a bright, colourful cover, with a close up of Phil Wickham. "Heaven" is definitely portrayed, but not really "Earth", although the colour definitely reflects the more upbeat nature of this album.

The album contains twelve tracks, all written by Phil Wickham himself:

1. "Eden" 4.5/5
The first song of the album being called "Eden" definitely speaks of "Heaven" and gives great imagery of the Garden of Eden. The lyrics are synchronised into an upbeat and catchy song of a more pop nature and in a contemporary Christian genre that sets the tone and mood for the rest of the album.

2. "Coming Alive" 3.5/5
"Coming Alive" has hints of the Phil Wickham we've heard from "Cannons". This song has a "Delirious?"-like verse that transcends into an upbeat chorus. Again, it sounds more mainstream and appeals to a wider audience.

3. "Heaven & Earth" 4/5
The introduction to the album title song sounds like euphoria, and definitely has that mystery- the verse has a classic Phil Wickham feel. The bridge section is addictive where it goes: "take me somewhere higher". The chorus takes a while to get to (at two minutes), but after that it has a sheer brilliant sound.

Behind the song of "Heaven and Earth":

4. "The Time Is Now" 3.5/5
A cheery and quirky start that sounds likely folky brings back a guitar sound we haven't yet heard on this album, but is very limited. It has a stripped back sound and lets Phil's voice shine through- an interesting song that gets better as it progresses; the chorus is exciting and joyful.

5. "Hold On" 5/5
"Dance" and a synthetic sounding intro starts what is one of the best songs on the album. It is upbeat yet strong in sound and voice. Again, it has a "Delirious?" feel to it. Although it sounds mainstream, there is quirkiness and uniqueness that can be found every now and then. Nonetheless, I love this song!

6. "Safe" (featuring Bart Millard) 4.5/5
A slightly softer song that breaks into a stronger chorus. The lyrics are encouraging and comforting. Again, the sound is more synthetic, upbeat and cheery. The dynamics increase gradually as the song progresses, an aspect that we often find with Phil Wickham's music, and it definitely works well here, building up into a beautiful song.

7. "I'll Always Love You" 4/5
Initially I wasn't too fond of this song, but it has definitely grown on me. The verse has a unique song and the chorus is strong, initially soft, but the second and third choruses are really powerful and strong. It is beautiful lyrically, with a line "You are Heaven I am Earth" perhaps explaining the album cover.

8. "In Your City" 4.5/5
A typical contemporary Christian sounding verse explodes into an exciting chorus. This song again has great imagery about Heaven and the sound of it is as exciting as it "looks".

9. "Your Arrival" 4.5/5
A weird sound starts this song. . . a bit like an airport PA buzzing... which detracts slightly from the exciting verse which turns into an upbeat pop sounding chorus- a happy and joyous sound.

10. "Because Of Your Love" 3.5/5
Again, here is a song with a more guitar based backing which has been rare in this album thus far. A soft and stripped back song that is slightly out of place musically; lyrically it is great.

11. "Cielo" 4/5
Cielo means Heaven or Sky in several European languages. An angelic sounding intro turns into a ballad sounding verse. There is a slightly mellow tone which turns into a more exciting one as the song progresses... the melody, lyrics and everything is great.

12. "Heaven Song" 4.5/5
The last song on the album is another guitar-found song. It is soft and simple, with beautiful lyrics- a bit Chris Tomlin sounding... It is a beautiful finish to the album.

TRACKS TO LOVE: Hold On, Safe, In Your City

The album is extremely focussed in the message it is trying to convey. Heaven is a recurring theme we find in many of the songs, and the admiration of God and the imagery we get from the lyrics is phenomenal.

"Heaven and Earth" has a very different sound to "Cannons". This is even more mainstream and has an overall pop / synthetic sound, opposed to the stripped back, simple guitarring we are familiar with. By no means is this bad; it shows that Phil Wickham is extremely diverse, and this side is just as exciting as the guitar side. Nonetheless, I prefer the guitar sound of Phil's previous albums.

Overall, this is arguable Phil's best album to date. Despite fewer POWER tracks (songs that I just LOVE and catch onto upon first hearing) on here than "Cannons", the overall message, themes, sound and coherency is sublime. Most of the songs are extremely good, and there is a degree of variation and change so we won't get bored easily. I am eager to see how he will top this- perhaps a combination of the guitar and the synthetic sounds.

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