various artists,
We Are Each Other's Angels
(PrimeCD, 2000)

We Are Each Other's Angels is a compilation of spiritual songs. Though only one song on the CD is traditional, nearly all are based on the Christian tradition. Featured artists are Jane Kelly Williams, Jim Infantino, David Folks, David Wilcox, Vance Gilbert, Richard Shindell, Chris Rosser, The Wyrd Sisters, Eva Cassidy, Christopher Bingham, Bruce Cockburn, Kirtana, Peter Keane and Chuck Brodsky. A portion of the proceeds from this CD will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, a worthy project for building homes for needy families.

This is a decidedly mixed CD. There are some really good tracks and some really weird ones. Among the former is "Inside the Dreaming" by The Wyrd Sisters. This song could be based on any spiritual tradition -- or none. "The Web" by Christopher Bingham is a song with some lovely imagery of the Web of Life. Without a doubt, the best track on the CD is Eva Cassidy's "Wade in the Water," a traditional spiritual that Cassidy sings in a manner which reminds me of a '40s nightclub singer, with lots of upright bass in the background.

Don't worry, I didn't forget about the weird tracks. Jim Infantino's "Boundaries" is spoken to no accompaniment and sounds almost like an incantation, right down to the last few lines when it breaks down into oddity. David Folks' "IMTHTIM" seems almost like the cliched bad songwriter in a sitcom. The guitar accompaniment is very nice and melodic, but the verses are hurried and the phrasing odd, although this is probably the only spiritual song that includes a physics lesson. Richard Shindell's "The Next Best Western" must be ranked as definitely weird, about a trucker who prays that he make it to the next Best Western hotel. It's one of those songs that makes the listener shake her head and say, in that bright tone that indicates that she'd really like to be doing something else, "Okey-dokey!"

A big plus for the music on this CD is that it doesn't sound as canned and plasticky as most of the music played on Christian broadcasting stations; like the twang in country music, you can hear that sort of thing right away. These pieces are for the most part upbeat, with a jazzy sort of feel to them. However, most of them are overtly Christian, as though no other tradition can be spiritual. If you like progressive Christian music and think that Habitat for Humanity is a worthy cause, then by all means pick up this CD. If you think that Habitat for Humanity is a worthy cause, but you're not sure about the music, then just write them a check and give the CD a miss.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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