Process of Illumination
Album review by Paul Obrey, CrossRhythms Reviewer Rick Stokes - a Kiwi son of Fijian missionaries - has a great testimony. Christian upbringing, secular music industry and all the drugs and trappings that this brought, then the prodigal returns to God and back into the music ministry. The depth of the character developed through his experiences show in this recording. Driven by accomplished acoustic guitar, this album tells stories. It took four years to complete, in six different studios. 'Playground' is a gentle and uplifting biographic song which suggests how Rick's background has shaped his character, 'Night Comes' a beautiful reminder of the great promise of God's return. We also have rock and roll ('Keep On Walking'), a few Martyn Joseph-esque tunes, a protest song against TV and some Scripture put to music. At points it could seem a little laboured or meandering, but if you enjoy listening to a relaxed storyteller rather than a focussed speechmaker, then you'll appreciate this lovingly crafted album by an excellent songsmith. Album review by Tom Lennie: It's seven years since Rick's debut recording appeared - an original-sounding worship disc that had a feeling of spontaneously capturing something of God's presence. 'Process of Illumination' is in a sense a musical progression from that, as the New Zealand singer/songwriter moves on to more performance-based songs, thus allowing the extent of his musical creativity to be better realised. This is a true 'collection' in that songs were composed over a span of 16 years, with hardly any two originating in the same year! With interesting story-in-song lyrics that contain not a hint of the cliched, Rick truly catches the imagination, especially by conveying images of nature, such as mountains, birds, sea and caves, with which habitat Rick clearly feels a God-inspired affinity - this shows up too in his inspiring sleeve photos. Though 'Keep on Walking' is a funky slice of old fashioned rock'n'roll (with delightful bv's), and 'TV Land' is a quirky, tongue-in-cheek 'protest song' against our love of 'the box', the main musical style here is piano- or acoustic guitar-based ballad, in which Stokes weaves his thoughtful way with sensitivity and spiritual direction. I especially love the nostalgic ponderance of 'Playground', and the delicate keyboard and vocal tones on 'Ships'. References to the Divine are inferred rather than overtly posited; though on the closing 'You remain', Rick can't resist a short gentle refrain of personal adoration. Relevant to particular themes, a host of additional tools are deftly employed, including saxophone, violin, cello and Hammond. All come together to form a rich mix of appealing sounds and observations. A fine album indeed. Tom Lennie Writer/researcher living in Edinburgh, Scotland.