This album is a compilation of material from Bryant's albums Psalm and Beauty...As Far As The Eye Can See. Timbrel is Bryant's introductory release into the USA on the Rhythm House label, under the 'Rhythm of Worship' banner, along with albums by Adrian Snell and Bryant's former Iona colleague, Dave Fitzgerald. For this supposedly solo set, Bryant utilizes the services of his Iona band-mates, his wife Juliet, and a few other singers and musicians. Inevitably, the overall sound is not a million miles removed from an Iona album, which is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing depending on your point of view. But if your point of view says it's a Bad Thing, you wouldn't have read even this far into the review, would you?
By its nature--being culled from two albums--this is a mixed bag. Opener "The Lord Reigns" is a fine song, let down by a soulless vocal performance from Stuart Garrand. (Garrand's singing also mars "Do Not Fear," which features some fascinating scattershot piano playing from Mark Edwards.) Still, five minutes perseverance (or a brief trip to the forward button) rewards you with Joanne Hogg's exquisite vocals on "Christ Be In Me." Hogg also takes the lead on "The King of Love," an arrangement of the hymn "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," which wouldn't have sounded out of place on her own Looking Into Light album. Other lead vocal duties on the album are carried out by Ben Okafor, Alex Legg, and Charlie Groves. Of these, only Okafor really shines--the weakness of the others' voices really apparent when they're singing without backing vocals.
Vocal problems are avoided by having six instrumental tracks on the album. "Israel," with its fluid soprano and baritone sax melodies, world-jazz feel and slick production sounds like something Sting's band might do; "Vision of Hope" has a spacious, impressionist beauty; "Ten Drummers Drumming" is exactly that. "Dangerous Sea," however, sails too close to the rocks marked "Theatre Improvisation Workshop" and founders there. In "The Shadow of Great Wings" suggests that the band had been listening to more Marillion than is strictly healthy.
Nevertheless, the album is varied enough to contain something of interest to most listeners. Whether there's sufficient interest to warrant buying this album if you're not already a Bryant or Iona fan, is another matter.
Daren Allder 10/18/99
In a fair world, Terl Bryant would be docked simply for leaving Iona, one of the most talented bands in the U.K. Little do Americans know, however, that Bryant has been recording solo music on the side, and Timbrel is a fine sampling of it.
The songs here are drawn from two albums, Psalm and Beauty…as far as the eye can see, both of which apparently focus on Celtic-flavored worship, similar to what Iona does, but with greater commercial appeal. Bryant writes or co-writes most of the songs, and any of them would translate beautifully to a church setting. “The Battle Prayer,” for example, features a riveting tribal beat and a triumphant vocal from Ben Okafor. Other tracks, such as “Christ Be in Me” and “Do Not Fear,” are more ethereal. Bryant himself does not sing; he instead plays most of the percussion and lets others, such as Okafor and Iona’s Joanne Hogg, take care of the vocals.
Although the work here is not as lush and innovative as Bryant’s old band, Timbrel will satisfy anyone who can’t wait for the next Iona album. The one mistake here is “Israel,” a smooth jazz track unable to save itself from Kenny G comparisons, but that’s what a skip button is for.
Tommy Jolly 11/21/99
Most people are familiar with Terl Bryant for his work as drummer with Iona. Few US fans are aware that he also released two solo albums in the UK. The best of these songs from Psalm and Beauty...As Far As the Eye Can See is finally being released in the US on the Rhythm House label under the title Timbrel. The album consists of a series of psalms, worship songs, and instrumentals set to jazz, rock, and Celtic music with an emphasis on drums, of course. While not quite up to Iona, it is nevertheless a very pleasant album which excels on the instrumental and the songs with vocals by Joanne Hogg. If you are into Celtic or praise and worship, this is an album you don't want to miss.
Shari Lloyd 12/11/99