A band closely associated with a previous era returning to the musical fray has a few problems when it comes to recording a new musical calling card, something to underline that this is more than just a bank balance driven, rose tinted, nostalgia trip. New material finds you ignoring your obvious selling point and the power of your back catalogue but a straight out greatest hits collection brings nothing new to the table. The Christians, however, as their deftly crafted, hard centred, soul-pop songs indicated first time around, were always smarter than most. So the idea of a reimagined and rerecorded collection of their best known numbers seems the perfect way for the recently reconvened band to make their presence known.
Sings and Strings does what it says on the tin, a greatest hits package but one made up of new recordings. That in itself shows a commitment to the here and now, a willingness to not merely rely on past glories but this album is even better than that. This hits package is set to the distinctive vocals of original frontman Gary Christian, joined by band members for the last decade Joey Ankrah and Neil Griffiths, but largely driven by piano, the eloquent strings of The Echo String Quartet and the harmonies of the AMC Gospel Choir, and it works brilliantly.
Their music has always been seeped in soulfulness and melody, and driven by an elegant dynamic which lends itself to such a rendering, and it is a reimagining which keeps the beauty of the songs front and centre but just dresses them in more exquisite musical trappings. The band were once described as “The Temptations in ripped jeans, producing gritty-centred songs in a sugary vocal shell,” this is the sound of those ripped jeaned soul boys all grown up. Ideal World in particular moves from poignant pop to transcendent classical grandeur with effortless ease, Harvest For The World is a sumptuous vocal cascade yet retains its original sassy groove and Forgotten Town seems even more lyrically effective and hard hitting being stripped to its vocal core.
The Christians have never really gone away, though recent years have seen them slip from many peoples mind, but this collection, which underlines their ongoing 30th Anniversary tour reminds us that they wrote some brilliant songs, songs which lend themselves to this brilliant make over. Even if you have the songs from back in the day, Sings and Strings really adds another dimension to the bands musical heritage. And if you are new to the band and looking for a way in, this is the perfect place to start.