Heart & Soul

Kate Simmonds
Kingsway Music

I suppose it's pretty standard for reviews that start off by praising the packaging or the skin tone of the female vocalist that they are soon going to degenerate into hefty criticism of how the disc sounds. Perhaps so.

Nevertheless, the first thing that struck me when I handled Heart & Soul was the quality of the photographs and the subject thereof: Kate Simmonds gets lovelier as the days roll on. I know she won't mind me saying this. The clean and simple design of the card packaging is almost as attractive and promises a direct approach in the songwriting.

Sadly, there is no One Day here. Neither is there the spine-tingling, nerve-jangling Capitol Hill (I rejoice that I was there when the a capella world premier of that song was performed). But then I suppose both of these turning points have already been reached.

Now we come to Heart & Soul and discover the woman has stepped confidently beyond The Lift and The Jazz Rooms (bohemian venues in Brighton where her vice was often heard, accopanied by the outstanding Mark Edwards). These days she takes the escalator into the Holy of Holies and the Throne Room.

New, full-on R'n'B versions of numbers from In Christ Alone, (the first of the CCK albums with full congregation) sound fresh and passionate. The soaring melodies of Raul D'Oliveira's signature trumpet playing enhance We've Come to Praise You magnificently.

To Be With You is the single on the album; a must-tapper, with cool up-strum guitar chords fleshed out by genuine hammond, as hammond is meant to be performed. Jim Mullen's guitar contributes a great solo. The love poetry is simple but most effective; I had to look carefully at the gold (yes, gold) print to see the capital Y on the word You. This is a great love song between Kate and Jesus, uncompromisingly passionate. Having expressed commitment, a serving heart and gratitude in other songs, she's free here to just say 'I love you' (sorry, You). I thought at first it was for Miles. I guess it's for both of them in many ways.

Then we're back to good old-fashioned let's name the song with the first line but remind people what song it is by putting the first line of the chorus into brackets (and not for the first time on this album) congregational celebration with We Come in Your Name (You have been lifted). This is a third-person declaration of solid theology - the sort of worship songs for which Kate will be justly famous for years to come. There will always be a place for Ephesians 2:8 set to music in a worship time. Well, there should.

Kate's interpretation of an excellent sermon series based in the book of Revelation are always packed with content (I refer of course to Glory Day - particularly the version on One Day), and Adoration is no exception. A wall-to-wall scripture groove.

The title track is a marvellous expression of desire for God which starts so quietly and contemplatively that it seems to be a new departure; it's not just a personal song, and it's not the sort of congregational hat-lifter we might have expected, since this is the title track. It draws the listener from an opening statement of devotion and intimacy with God, to a place where we no longer feel like we're gatecrashing Kate's personal devotions. We've followed her into the holy place, and then forgotten about the song or the performance, having become enraptured with the Lord Jesus and his wonderful presence. I'll have to listen to it again to give you a technical comment on the music.

Hang on a minute.

No, it happened again. I keep being distracted into worshipping along. Oh, I see. That's what's supposed to happen. I wonder why it doesn't happen for me on many other albums?

And throughout the chord-invention and selection of the dancing fingers and manly five-day shadow of Mark Edwards keeps my nerve-endings on the move from the neck to all points south and back again (makes it sound like a return ticket - but it's much more like an all-day rover card). His piano playing on the hidden track is fluid and creative; his is the drizzle of raspberry coulis which so perfectly enhances Raul's cool sorbet and Kate's dark chocolate.