Sounds like … a more subdued jazz-pop worship version of Delirious with similarities to Vicky Beeching, Sarah Kelly, and Rebecca St. James
At a glance … despite some dated-sounding production values, UK band Phatfish brings a fresh and artistic spin to modern worship on their latest recording
Most people give a blank look when I mention the band Phatfish, and that's understandable since 1999's Purple Through the Fish Tank was the band's only official release in America. And though that album did earn them a greater following overall, it wasn't enough for them to succeed stateside. But they've pressed onward back in the UK, going on 13 years as a band. Phatfish's devoted fan base considers them one of the best worship bands on the planet—as influential to the British modern worship scene as Delirious, Matt Redman, and Tim Hughes. That's a fair assessment based on Guaranteed, the band's first album of all-new material since 2003.
It's apparent from the opening riff of "Pouring Out" that Phatfish is not your average worship band. The band (now a foursome) offers some nicely textured grooves with a sophisticated keyboard and guitar blend. There's a faint jazz influence on their overall pop sound, with even a Euro-reggae blend and catchy lyrical phrasing on "Best Thing." Which all helps build appreciation for simpler tracks like the worship ballad "Amazing God." The album benefits from such stylistic ebb and flow.
Louise Fellingham's vocals are as lovely as I remember them from '99, somewhere between Olivia Newton-John and the softer side of Sarah Kelly; you can also hear the influence she's had on Vicky Beeching. And her husband Nathan (the drummer) has a knack for artistic expressions of scripture that remain true to the source material. The rich pop of "Who Else Could I Run To?" borrows from the Psalms without repeating them, and "Pouring Out" smartly draws from Philippians 2 to yield a more in-depth worship song.
Guaranteed could have benefited from stronger production values (as Purple did back in '99—"Holy, Holy" is amazing). The dated rhythmic punches of "Come and Behold" are reminiscent of Michael W. Smith's Project album, and "This Year" echoes a young Twila Paris, keeping the music from sounding as modern as it should. Also be aware that this seems less an album of congregational-friendly anthems than an album of enjoyably pop-styled worship music—more Delirious and David Crowder than Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. It still goes to show that Phatfish is one of the UK's best-kept secrets, and a band that truly warrants proper distribution in the U.S. (The album is available through the band's official website.)
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