The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Paul Heyman
Label: ICC Records
Length: 13 tracks/48.38 minutes

Instrumental worship albums are not renowned for arousing musical interest or conveying much passion. Occasionally an album comes along to break that mould, and Paul Heyman's Covenant is such an album. Heyman is a classically-trained violinist from a messianic-Jewish background and these influences alongside some Eastern European melodies show clearly in the album's montage.

The first track is an original composition, and brings in a strong programmed beat alongside a focused Jewish violin melody. A glance at the album sleeve reveals that Heyman and his wife have actually penned lyrics to go with the piece but have left it for the listener to imagine their application to the music. Other tracks emanate from a number of pens; a number of worship standards from people like Graham Kendrick, Darlene Zschech, and Kevin Prosch are combined with some lesser known pieces, some messianic worship tunes and one further original.

The sound is filled out by the involvement of Dave Cooke (guitars/keys), Ian Price (electric guitar), Mark Prentice (bass), Bruce Pont (drums/programming), and Mike Haughton, who plays a range of woodwind and brass instruments which will be familiar to many listeners from his days with Iona.

Not all the tracks suit their arrangements. Kevin Prosch's "He Brought Me To His Banqueting Table." for example, does not quite have the melody to stand a classical violin interpretation. Nevertheless, while the general impact of the album may not be stunning, it is a gust of fresh air in its field and presents a range of musical traditions in a positive light.

James Stewart 9/5/99