If there’s one word that sums up the Message 20 CD it's “nostalgia”.
Featuring 20 songs celebrating 20 years of ministry in Manchester and beyond, the new compilation mainly showcases songs from The Worldwide Message Tribe, but also includes more recent material from Blush UK, Andy Smith and LZ7.
The album is arranged in a rough chronological order with the first track, Revival being taken from 1993 and the final track, The Answer being released just last year.
Today Andy Hawthorne is known for his charismatic personality, books and teaching. So hearing him rapping and shouting along to 90s pop music does take you by surprise. For those who remember the days of The Worldwide Message Tribe, the nostalgia factor kicks in. For everyone else, it takes some getting used to.
Second track Alleluia contains more fierce rapping from Mr Hawthorne and a catchy chorus made up of nothing but the word “alleluia”. Backed by a host of keyboard, synth and drum sounds the song was unmistakably composed during the early 90s.
Along with Alleluia, I’m on my way to Zion is also taken from the 1992 album, Dance Planet. Featuring a sound inspired by Take 6’s early albums, the song took the band by surprise when it reached number one in the US’s Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) chart.
Other than the aforementioned nostalgia factor, there isn’t much on offer so far. But that changes with one of the band’s earliest songs, The Cross.
The song was written with the intention of creating a track for the end of the band’s show that would calm everyone down, and challenge them with the gospel. Musically and lyrically the band had hit the spot.
By track 5 we’ve hit 1995 and a great dance based tune called The Year of the Lord’s Favour. By this point, the band had grown a fan base and reputation across Manchester. The stage was set for WWMT’s biggest hit.
Jumping In The House of God may have been released in 1996, but the song remained so popular that when the band re-launched with a new line up as The Tribe, it was re-recorded.
Writing in the CD notes Andy Hawthorne reflects: “When it was thrown together in the studio we had little idea how bananas the young people would go as they were encouraged to stick their hands up and jump out of their skins in praise. Undignified? Yep, but as far as I’m concerned totally biblical. I do think God really enjoyed this one!”
1996 was a significant year for the band as their track The Real Thing was featured on Radio One. After Warner Brothers in the States picked it up, the band received phone calls, often in the middle of the night, asking for remixes of the song. “I’m going to make you very rich”, the A&R guy promised. That never happened, but the song did become a top 10 dance his in the US, and it’s easy to see why.
Hypocrite was released in 1997. The lyrics are based on Romans 7 and Paul’s struggle with sin while the music shares some similarities with The Prodigy! Not exactly a match made in heaven, but surprisingly, it works.
Tracks 11 and 12 were recorded live at Planet Life in the year 2000. Performing at Europe’s largest regular worship event, Andy Hawthorne reads Philippians 2 before the band launch into their cover of Chaka Kan’s hit “Ain’t Nobody”.
The idea for the remix came from Emma Owen who writes “Being a true Essex girl growing up in the eighties…my fave song was ‘Aint Nobody’. So one wet winter week in school with The Tribe I decided to rewrite the verses and challenge Deronda to sing the chorus and of course she nailed it!”
Released in 2001, Take Back The Beat was the groups final album. The opening track on the release was Generation Rising. The song has deep lyrics, in-your-face beats and heaps of attitude.
The final 5 songs don't match the earlier brilliance of many of the The Tribe's songs. It’s a mystery as to why Breathe by Andy Smith was included on the compilation. Taken from a New Wine live album, the soft rock worship song is the total opposite to the other 19 tracks.
Sunshine by Blush UK is a little closer to the album’s earlier style. Not Alone was inspired by the band’s visit to Haiti. While the meaning and message is admirable, musically the song lacks weight.
After The Tribe ended in 2004 and each of the band members went their separate ways, Lindz West started a new band: LZ7. This Little Light hit number 26 in the mainstream chart and enjoyed airplay on VH1 and Radio One.
The final track is by Twelve24, a new band managed by ex tribe member Tim Owen. All Message artists have done schools work, and Twelve24 are no exception to that rule. The sound may have evolved since the early 90s, but the message has stayed the same.
Like all trips down memory way, there's some embarrassing moments. Some of the lyrics and sounds contained on 20 are poor to say the least. Not all of the songs stand out for the right reasons.But perhaps that's part of the fun?
With the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, we can laugh and joke about what was cool in the early 90s. In and amongst the occasional badly written song is a gem. A suprising number of these songs have stood the test of time. If you've never heard of the WWMT this probably isn't the CD for you. But if you're a fan of "the good old days" and spent your teenage years "jumping in the house of God", look no further than this.
Rating: 5 out of 10
March 22nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes