Beautiful – Review, by Iain MacDonald

“BEAUTIFUL” BY MICHAEL HARCUS

ISLAND IMAGE RECORDS, IIR006

Reviewed by Iain MacDonald

This is the 6th album from Westray singer-songwriter, Michael Harcus and although the others have been hugely popular, the production quality of “Beautiful” lifts it onto a new plane altogether.

The theme is exactly what you’d expect. Michael is an upfront Gospel singer and there’s no attempt to disguise that. The lyrics spring from a predictably solid and largely praise-based theology, which anyone familiar with previous recordings or live performances will be familiar with. In short, it’s a celebration of life and faith and one which stands in amazed wonder at the enduring love of God. The themes are big and liberating, a bit like the God they proclaim, and the musical quality proves worthy of the job in hand.

This is a thoroughly listenable album which, though essentially led by a contemporary guitar-based sound, manages to traverse the musical spectrum from the haunting harmonies of “Your Word, Love and Grace” to the sonorous heights of title track, “Beautiful”. In between you’ll find everything from upbeat country to the gently melodic, from jazzy tempos to the raw bluesy feel of “Two Ways”. All this is polished off with an invitation to get your knees up for the final track and just let it rip with guest fiddler, Andy Cant – Sankey on speed!

It’s a fulsome and classy production with 12 tracks, which manage to blend traditional, if timeless values, with contemporary music – listen to the almost Psalmodic lyrics of “The Lord is Good” in their thoroughly contemporary setting and you’ll hear what I mean. It succeeds through the quality of musicianship and production.

Michael is also joined by his now regular musical cast of: his wife Christine, who’s written one and co-written another of the tracks; Kenneth Harcus, drums, bass and writer of a further four; and the ever-splendid Mairi Warren on piano. Phil Anderson, producer, adds piano and guitar amongst others, whilst virtually everyone is in the vocal line-up somewhere.

The album is beautifully packaged in a background of stunning landscape and seascape photos.

It will no doubt succeed handsomely in preaching to the converted and will delight all those with a penchant for Gospel music. But an album of this quality deserves a wider audience still. Spread the Word!

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