Category Archives: Inspirational UK Gospel

4 Retro UK Gospel Vibes to Mellow You Out (Part 2)

Sometimes kicking back is absolutely the right thing to do…

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

It might be just a tad too cold outside (don’t worry, summer’s on its way) or – in case you’re one of those really weird people that prefers the cold weather – I’ve got you covered (see what I did there..?)

Whatever your story is, here are four classic UK Gospel tunes to mellow you out. You’ll find links to other great songs in the series at the end of this entry.

You’re welcome.

New Direction Crew – ‘Young Girl’

To those in the know the album this was taken from, ‘In the Saviour’s Shadow’, is arguably one of the most underrated albums of its time (circa 2008).

Featuring several early gems from Stephen GP Abramsamadu (who has gone on to produce several modern classics for S.O.) ‘Young Girl’ was an excellent vehicle for Elizabeth’s voice riding over GP’s carefully arranged RnB/Hip-Hop hybrid.

Jahaziel – That’s What Friends Are For

Jahaziel’s ‘ready To Live’ album is regualrly cited as an #UKGospel classic for good reason.

The title was an antithetical reply to Biggie Smalls’ ‘Ready to Die’, and ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ is one of several popular hits from the project (others include ‘Power’ [another GP production] ‘In My Neigbourhood’ and ‘Ready to Live’)

The bilingual, collaborative ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ remains one of my favourites with its cool vibe, clear message and classic Jahaziel lyricism

London Community Gospel Choir – Sun in the Rain

I say this to anyone that’s willing to hear – this is one of my all-time favourite LCGC songs. It’s a pure feel-good, uplifting song that falls squarely in the ‘inspirational’ category and the world is all the better for its completely relatable lyrics.

This is top drawer, musical class.

Marsha Garrick – Hello

This was a big radio hit on London Gospel radio back in the day: four and a half minutes of perfect Gospel Pop like we rarely get in the scene.

It was (and arguably still is) a very usual sound for its time but a very welcome one at that – it’s songs like this that make the UK Gospel music scene one of the most interesting and diverse in the world.

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One of the most powerful songs to come out of the UK – ever…

On this day, the last day of #BlackHistoryMonth in the UK

It’s only fair to draw your attention to one of the most powerful and profound songs to come out of the United Kingdom.

A song that – to my mind – will remain relevant and moving for all time.

Gavin Holligan: ‘More Than One’

Official Video

Piano Acoustic featuring Riccy Mitchell

Stream on Spotify

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4 Retro UK Gospel Vibes to Mellow You Out

Sometimes kicking back is absolutely the right thing to do…

Perhaps you’re in the middle of a particularly stressful life moment – or maybe you’re badly in need of some time out from a decidedly knotty Rubik’s cube of a problem currently getting the better of you.

Maybe you want to chill out just because (and: why not..?)

Whatever your story, here are four classic UK Gospel tunes to mellow your troubled soul.

You’re welcome.

Earmark Collective ‘Bear the Mark’

Five years ago almost to the month (the video was uploaded to YouTube in June 2014) Earmark Collective dropped this solid, solid, solid block of a song.

Bear the Mark‘ landed with an infectious, jazzy breakbeat that perfectly complemented its hooky, smooth vocals.

The formula perfectly underpinned Triple O‘s inspired flow, while (bless the Lord for this one) the video completely did the song justice.

Talk about great vibes to soothe the troubled soul…

Raymond & Co – Crazy Faith

Taken from 2003’s seminal ‘Playing Games‘ album, this Linslee Campbell-produced gem is all sorts of flawless: from Chris Gordon‘s heartfelt lead to the tight arrangement of the deft backing vocals from Gillan Nembhard, Janine Dyer and Lisa Allen, this has ‘cool summer breeze’ all over it.

Lots of songs have been called instant classics. This is one of the few that actually deserves the definition.

Rio Young – Music featuring Da Fellowship

I first came across this song as part of Da Fellowship‘s debut (and, as far as I know, only) single. In the intervening years (this was uploaded to YouTube in January 2010) it’s been re-presented to the world as a Rio Young song.

Its superlative mellow groove belies Rio‘s stories of the harsh realities of life and living, told both observationally and in the first person.

It’s one of my all-time favourite UK Gospel non-Gospel ‘Gospel’ songs, and – once again – a great video for its time.

Nathan Prime – Knowing You

I only discovered the video to this awesome RnB classic exactly 20 days ago. I’m sure that’s partly  because even though it was released around 2002, the video was only uploaded to YouTube in 2016.

Anyway, regardless of how or why it took so long, it’s another one of those songs that’s almost universally considered a genuine UK gospel classic, and for good reason: lush musicianship, best-in-class arrangement, Nathan’s sweet, undeniable vocals and lyrics that will please even the most ardent of Gospel music purists.

So, there you go: four great songs to lower the blood pressure, calm the spirit and send you – hopefully perfectly refreshed and renewed – back on your merry way.

Go back out into the world and conquer.  You’ve got this.

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Great ‘Mainstream’ Songs from Christian Artists (Part 4)

This is the fourth instalment in the series looking at UK Gospel artists and their exploration of the world of ‘mainstream’ music.

You already know the back story: we’re still navigating the long-running discussion around how best to respond to Christian artists creating music that isn’t evangelical by default.

It’s an interesting, if somewhat ironic, state of affairs because – given the chance – the same highly critical audience might grow to appreciate what’s on offer.  But hey, that’s another blog for another day.

Meantime here are another 3 artists to check out: The Kingdom Choir, Gavin Holligan and Riccy Mitchell

The Kingdom Choir

Before that one song at Harry and Meghan’s wedding changed everything (the couple reportedly rejected 10 versions of ‘Stand by Me’ before we got the one we heard), The Kingdom Choir had been consistently doing what many exemplar UK choirs do: hit the road, do the rounds and make good music.

2018 brought them global attention (they returned from accompanying Harry and Meghan on their tour for this year’s Invictus Games in Australia barely 24 hours ago).

Anyway, long story short: The Kingdom Choir’s  album, ‘Stand By Me’ is out now.

Showcase: Stand By Me

Gavin Holligan

After signing a lucrative deal with premiership team West Ham FC, shortly followed by a debut appearance at Anfield against Liverpool FC, no one would ever imagine that a professional footballer would ever turn his back on the world of sport and find his way onto the big stage performing with Stevie Wonder, Jocelyn Brown, Aswad and Floetry, but that’s what Gavin Holligan did!

(Text taken from Gavin Holligan’s website)

Showcase: More Than One

For my money Gavin Holligan has written one of the best, racially and culturally relevant songs to come out of the UK this year.

Riccy Mitchell

Ricardo Mitchell is one of the many, many, many underrated artists that deserves wayyyy more exposure than he currently has.

I’m sure there are a whole bucketload of reasons why that is, but I’m playing my part to help rectify the situation. 🙂

According to his Facebook page he’s an artist ‘Having a bunch of fun telling stories on songs…’

Showcase: As Time Moves Along

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Great ‘Mainstream’ Songs from Christian Artists (Part 3)

This is the third in a series that looks at UK Gospel artists and their exploration of the world of ‘mainstream’ music.

You know the one: songs that don’t necessarily fall into the evangelical bracket (and we all know the long-running discussion we’ll be forever having about that).

Meantime here are another 3 artists to check out – this time it’s the ladies edition

Michelle John

Michelle John was born to sing!

Whether it was singing as a child in her local Gospel Choir or recording and touring with stars such as George Michael, Annie Lennox, Mariah Carey and Eric Clapton, the diversity of her musical background and the wide range of Artists she has worked with have given Michelle a great vision for her musical destiny.

Michelle has worked with Eric Clapton for the last 9 years during this time she has extensively toured North and South America, Japan, Asia, Australia and Europe

She’s toured with Will Young on his last 3 U.K Tours, and perform with Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow and recorded with the Phenomenal Lenny Kravitz. She also recently performed at a concert for President Barak Obama.

Michelle has also been Rita Ora’s vocal coach.

(Text taken from the Michelle John Facebook page)

Showcase: Doing Me

Michelle John Spotify profile

Sharlene Monique

Sharlene-Monique is a multi award-winning singer-songwriter, who began singing in church aged 4.

Her debut EP Destiny was released in April 2018 and combines emotive, soulful vocals with inspiring songs of empowerment, love and self-acceptance. It has been streamed over 300,000 times internationally on Spotify including Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.

(Text taken from Sharlene Monique’s Spotify profile)

Showcase: You

EP: Destiny

Rachel Kerr

Rachel Charmaine Kerr professionally known as Rachel Kerr is a British singer/songwriter, celebrity vocal coach and entrepreneur born in Walsall, United Kingdom.

She is also the CEO and founder of international performing arts academy Singercise™.

She is a member of the Grammy Award Association and a BET Music Matters endorsed artist.

Her debut EP release Back To Music, was released in 2012 and went on to win the singer her first MOBO Music Award and a 2012 Urban Music Award nomination.

Kerr has toured the US, UK and Africa opening for the likes of Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Musiq Soulchild, K. Michelle, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond.

(Text taken from Rachel Kerr’s website)

Showcase: All for You

Spotlight album: Unboxed

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5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Hear (Part 3)

when-life-gets-blurry

This series celebrates a contentious area of Christian music: the ‘non-evangelical’ output.

Over the years we’ve sadly lost far too many hugely talented creatives to the wrong side of the unwritten, but oddly pervasive law – the one that suggests every sphere of Christian creative activity has to have an evangelical aspect to it.

I’m sure you know it: it postulates all Christian songs need ‘Jesus in every line’.

Life is nuanced – and we need our creatives to fully articulate all the variables of life and living

But life is nuanced, and if there’s one thing we need from our creatives it’s their ability to fully articulate all the variables of life and living; from the blatantly obvious to the subtleties that lie within the shades of grey.

Catch up with the series so far:

Another 5 Inspirational Songs

For instalment three I’ve trawled recent releases to find some new music gems.  2016 has been fantastic for UK Gospel music, with great tunes catering to practically every music taste.

Here are five 2016 songs that deserve a few minutes of your time.

1. Bobby Bovell
Track: Love, Love (Kriswontwo Remix) ft Dennis Bovell
Find at: BobbyBovell.com


The big winner at the 2016 Jump Music Video awards (Caribbean/Reggae, Inspirational Video and Music Video of the Year), Denmark-based Brit Bobby Bovell has always plied his trade on the more intellectual side of the writing spectrum.  And – I say this pretty much every time I mention Bobby – if you haven’t already, you absolutely need to check out his fantastic debut album ‘The Emergent EcleKtic’.

Bobby’s newest release for a while offers a song on a subject that permeates 90% of popular music: love.

Love Love‘s simile-laden ode to affection and devotion is a family-blended thing as UK Dub Reggae and production legend (and Bobby’s dad) Dennis Bovell, also features.

Things are presented excellently in a fantastic 360 degree video, and the one piece of advice you need to heed is this: watch this on the biggest screen you can find – it’s well worth it.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

Paternal pride from Dennis:

‘Come in Bobby ah tell dem/(Ah my youth dat yuh know)’

2. Leke
Track: Unstoppable
Find at: JustLeke.com


From the very first second my senses were assaulted by the rapid fire, technicolour flickering of Leke’s Unstoppable lyric video, I was hooked.

I love the simple, multi-layered storytelling elements of this song.  Leke has pitched Unstoppable beyond church walls, lyrically designing it to possess as little friction as possible in an attempt to have it resonate with as many people as possible.

The language is universal, but the scriptural references are there for those that can spot it – but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t: you can’t miss the message.

Unstoppable is a song for these hyper sensitised racial, social and religious times, with its essential message of tolerance and acceptance. That message, coupled with Alex E’s synth-pop production sensibilities have the makings of a near-perfect Pop song.

There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself singing along as you watch the words unfold before you.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

I surrender my hands are up officer don’t shoot/I live to protect you but you kill me so what’s the use/Retaliate and run this crooked race/But either way love has the final say

3. Rachel Kerr
Track: One Chance
Find at: RachelKerrMusic.com

https://soundcloud.com/rachelkerrmusic/one-chance?in=rachelkerrmusic/sets/unboxed
Even if you don’t listen to much mainstream music, chances are you’ll recognise the instrumental version of Rachel’s One Chance.  It’s a derivative of Drake’s One Dance, and if you knew that you probably also know there are a staggering amount of cover versions floating about.

It’s taken from her Unboxed mixtape, a 15-track set of covers (or perhaps more accurately: a series of ‘reinterpretations’) of popular and recent RnB hits.

Unboxed is Rachel’s way of pushing back against being typecast: is she an RnB singer, Gospel artist, singer-songwriter or something entirely different?

One Chance itself is a song of self-determination, of seizing opportunity in the face of overwhelming doubt and its Gospel message bubbles just beneath the surface.  If you like this you’ll definitely want to check out the rest of the album.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

Am I just dreamer in too deep/Maybe this is too big for little old me/Who knows, who knows, what’s next for me/I know, I know, I know, He said/You got one chance and you got the key in your hand/Opportunity waits for no one/You got to hit hard, or go home: one blow

4. K Collective
Track: Downside Up ft Faith Child and A Star
Find at: KCollective.uk

K Collective’s debut EP, Volume One is one of my favourite releases for 2016.

It’s also got one of the best engineered productions of the year (not a great surprise given the team’s background: all three of K Collective in Jonathan Owusu-Yianomah, Enoch John and George Mandizha are all producers in their own right)

It also highlights one of the very best things about the UK Gospel scene: our ability to continue to expand the definition of ‘Gospel Music’.

Volume One draws from diverse music influences and you’re going to be hard pressed to come up with a simple genre definition for this one.

As with Rachel Kerr’s Unboxed there’s much to like in the release, but I’ve gone with ‘Downside Up’ because it’s got such a strong rhythm arrangement, with two of the scene’s best (in Faith Child and A Star) bringing that lyrical sparkle to things.

Downside Up isn’t as subtle in its declaration of faith as some of the other songs in this series.  Faith Child’s inspirational ‘party starter’ rallying call on the first verse sets up A Star’s proudly Christian sucker punch on verse 2.  This is excellent, positively proactive stuff.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

Change the topic/Not everyone that grew up on the streets had a rough background/Change the topic/That was your story then but I’m changing it now

(Faith Child, quoting a lyric originally performed by ICIE)

5. Isatta Sheriff
Track: City
Find at: Facebook.com/isattasheriffmusic

Isatta Sherrif (you might remember her as Tor Cesay) has always been one of the best female writers, rappers and storytellers we have in the UK.

City is replete with slice-of-life, documentary-style observations served up as a series of mini narratives about the highs, lows and baffling contradictions of life and living in London, told over its 3 minute and 52 second duration.

There’s a lot to enjoy here: the stories are visual, the canvas is wide yet intimate, and Isatta’s voice both as a writer and performer is completely assured: she knows what she wants to say, and exactly how to say it.

If you’re looking for music that’s both visceral and intelligent you definitely need to check this out.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

These youngers are precious about the streets that they live in/But they’ll smash it up the first chance that you give them/This demonstrates how confused we are socially/Is this really how paradise is supposed to be

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5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 2)

You Can Do it

This series celebrates a sometimes contentious area of Christian music: the ‘non-evangelical’ output.

Over the years we’ve sadly lost far too many hugely talented creatives to the wrong side of the unwritten (but oddly pervasive) law that suggests every sphere of Christian creative activity has to have an evangelical aspect to it.

I’m sure you know the one: it postulates all Christian songs need ‘Jesus in every line’.

Continue reading 5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 2)

5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 1)

Be a Good One

There’s no way to sugar coat this.

Over the years the UK Gospel scene has sadly lost a huge amount of incredibly talented people to the blight of an unwritten rule:

‘Christian artists should only write about explicitly Christian experiences’.

(And of course you can replace ‘write’ with practically any creative endeavour whatsoever and get the same result.  It’s a deeply-held, strongly felt conviction in many quarters).

That’s all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the totality of our human experience is, by its very definition, our Christian experience.

Exclusively ‘Christian’

When faced with the choice between either producing exclusively ‘Christian’ content (and being continually embraced by the church at large) or having a much broader creative palette that may not be as explicit on faith issues, many of our artists have had to make the hard (and often very sad) choice of opting for the latter.

I don’t know why it’s that way. It just is. Sad but true.

Fuel to the Fire

But rather than add fuel to this eons-old fire and end up with yet another (unnecessary and unending) argument, I’m going to be part of the solution with this series.

I’ll point you in the direction of some really good music that’s worthy of your time, created by people who may or may not still be ‘in church’. 

Not Prescriptive or Evangelical

These are songs that often aren’t necessarily prescriptive or even evangelical, but nevertheless have their world view informed by Christian tenets.

You’ll probably never hear ‘repent and be saved’ in these songs but the principle of ‘help your fellow man regardless of his social or ethnic background’ (for example) is pretty much straight out of the Luke 10:25 play book (that’s the story of the Good Samaritan, by the way).

Give Me Your Suggestions!

While this is a blog series based on my suggestions please send me any songs you think qualify and I’ll see if I can include them in later posts.

A Friendly Word of Warning

Now that you know where I’m coming from let’s get this show on the road.

However, a friendly a word of caution: I’m not suggesting one style of music or creative writing is more relevant, superior or meaningful than another.

In fact, from where I’m standing we need music that covers the entire spectrum of life and living.

I welcome all comments, but let’s keep it civil and open. Ultimately there’s always the option for us to agree to disagree.

Got that? Thanks.

5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out

1. Artist: Monique
Track: Colourful
Find at: Facebook.com/MoniqueMusicUK

I’ve been a huge fan of Birmingham-based Monique’s writing for years (I strongly recommend you check her entire body of work).

In this song several things come together: beautifully written words (perfectly complimented by Tony Bean’s brilliant, sun-filled production) and the classic story of Christian conversion told in the most picturesque of ways.

If you don’t know this one already, you’re about to enjoy a really good song…

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘You’ve altered the colours of my mind/To a new dimension of time/It’s eternal beyond the sky/There is more than meets the eye/Who could ask for any more? Supernatural love’.

2. Artist: Caleb
Track: Free Someday
Find at: Facebook.com/caleb.ajitena

This is one of those lyrically ambitious endeavours that tries to distil (and resolve) all the world’s problems in a 4 minute+ song, and it largely succeeds. Free Someday’s optimistic, aspirational Gospel root is pretty much undeniable.

I like that Caleb has attempted to write a timeless classic in the vein of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ (and before you crucify me for these ambitious comparisons, have a listen yourself).

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘See our brothers and sisters/Going off to war/Not knowing what they’re fighting for/Listen, if you see the things I see/Then you’ll feel the same as me/Cause things have got to get better’

3. Artist: Victizzle
Track: I Dey Fine
Find at: @VictizzleMusic

I don’t know why one of our most talented producers isn’t as visible on the Gospel scene as he once was (I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of a back story here), but one of Victizzle’s most recent releases references hard work and determination to better one’s individual circumstance.

It’s the latest in a long line of productions gaining traction under his new production collective, ‘London Boyz‘ (Remedee, Big J, Captain and Victizzle himself).

It’s a real shame Victizzle’s isn’t as active as before (if you’re reading this there’s a very high probability you know at least 2-3 really big Victizzle tunes).  I’d argue our scene is poorer for it.

Like I said: I’m sure there’s history here (I could probably find out if I really wanted but to be honest I don’t really need to).

However this what this series is about: asking uncomfortable questions to which I may not necessarily have any answers.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘Think you know/But you don’t know/I’m telling you that/I’m gonna blow/And if you don’t believe me/I’m gonna show/My mama never raised no fool’.

4. Artist: Rio Young
Track: Music ft Da Fellowship
Find at: Facebook.com/RioYoungOfficial

This is one of my all time favourite songs to come out of the UK, full stop.

Ironically I came across this via Da Fellowship’s EP (I think they only ever did this one) but in the intervening years Rio went on to put out a massive body of work.

The near-perfect groove on this hugely under-appreciated classic is from production duo Wez Er Nate (Wesley Muoria and Nathan Ledwidge at the height of their considerable production powers). I still play this on a pretty regular basis.

The song argues for music as a neutral entity, ostensibly abused by its end-user’s intention. Along the way, Rio references his mixed race background, racial tension, domestic violence, mental health and more. Totally inspirational tune.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘Music is life/But how’s it used/I mourn for you, music/Cause you’re abused/They spit at you/Rap dirty bars over your tunes/Cause of the street life/Music you’re accused’

5. Artist: Icie
Track: Whips and Chains
Find at: Facebook.com/iciemusicofficial

Icie is one of UK Gospel’s modern-day troubadours.  His narrative requires you invest time to enter his world (which I suspect limits him having a truly deserved wider audience), but what a world it is: honest, meticulous, well-observed, challenging and refreshingly cliche-free.

Whips and Chains is an ode to post-Windrush achievement, also celebrating African and Black British enterprise in a 2000s UK environment where – for whatever reason – we seem more obsessed with pointing out all that’s wrong with the Black British experience, regardless of the stellar achievements of so many young people.

Case in point: most of the people name checked (and there are quite a few) are in their 20s and 30s, from Rachel Kerr to Reggie Yates to Craig David to Jordan Dunn and many, many more.

Sure, you can argue for socio-political parity in wider society,  but – as Icie points out – young Black Britain is actually pretty phenomenal right here, right now too…

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

Local MCs turn to global icons/Front cover kids from the same place that I’m from

So there you have it: series part 1.  Let me know your thoughts (and more importantly your suggestions) for Part 2 in the comments

I’ll try and include some of them in the next instalment.

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