Twenty-one lesser-known Pet Clark songs from the years 1972-2008, five of them written by Clark herself, 11 of them previously unreleased, none of them overexposed, and only a few that feel misbegotten. That she recorded Noel Paul Stookey's "The Wedding Song (There Is Love)" in 1972 is not news. That she recorded a Tony Hatch gospel number (the title cut) two years later is. And her life-well-lived rendition of Queen's "These Are the Days of Our Lives" is as poignant as Freddie Mercury's mortality-haunted original.
"I wish we could capture what we were doing at church," says Lizotte on the accompanying DVD. "[W]e really wanted to . . . just kind of worship the Lord as we record instead of being real methodical and mechanical about it." And "kind of worship the Lord" is what he and his fellow Vineyard Fellowship worship-team musicians do: The earnestly plain-spoken lyrics and slow-to-medium tempos undoubtedly work better in corporate settings than in one's iPod, with or without the production and guitar playing of the ex-Black Crowe Marc Ford.
This two-disc collection of 60 "Hymns of Faith and Praise" (the subtitle) as performed on the John Jay Memorial Organ will not only rekindle fond memories among those reared in traditional evangelical-Protestant churches but also fan the flames until they consume the husks of nostalgia. And the presence of nearly every favorite ("Fairest Lord Jesus," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness") by no means excludes patriotic songs or "O Lord, You Are My God and King," to which William Blake fans will no doubt sing the words of "Jerusalem."
Intended as a companion to Gentle Words, the Tudor Choir's 2001 a cappella collection of Shaker-tradition songs, Simple Gifts nevertheless stands on its own. And while Shaker tunes are still well represented (the Elder Joseph Brackett-composed title song appears in three different arrangements), the emphasis is as much on eclecticism as on devout lyrics clearly sung. The composers include John Rutter and Ralph Vaughan Williams; the arrangements include those of Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland. The highlight: Elizabeth Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree."
Without the liner notes accompanying Arvo Pärt's In Principio (ECM), listeners may not easily know whether they're hearing sections of the 19-minute title piece based on John 1, the 16-minute "La Sindone" (based on the Shroud of Turin), the 17-minute "Cecilia, virgine romana" (based on the martyrdom of St. Cecilia), the five-minute prayer of peace for victims of terrorism ("Da Pacem Domine"), or any of the disc's other six works.
Neither, however, will they be bothered much by their confusion. As brought to life by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Pärt's latest compositions and/or revisions (2000-2007) are unified by a spirit of passionate austerity that can be felt whether or not one knows which piece he is hearing. And because that spirit will have listeners immersing themselves in it repeatedly, the pieces' shapes gradually emerge. Or, rather, the shape: Even "Mein Weg" (Pärt's setting of a poem by the Jewish poet Edmond Jabès) evokes the cross.