Looking Into Light


ForeFront Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


What do you get when you combine ageless lyrics and melodies with a timeless voice? Heaven on earth in the solo debut of Joanna Hogg, Looking Into Light. Joanna, who is the voice of the Celtic group Iona, has stepped out from that group to create an immensely risky - as well as satisfying - album of worship music.


Looking Into Light is a collection of hymns written centuries ago by the likes of John Newton, Isacc Watts and George Croly. In some cases Joanna wrote new melodies for them - but the true magic comes in the arrangements and the production and Joanna's breathtaking, ethereal voice.

The idea for this collection came from Joanna's father, a Presbyterian minister from Northern Ireland. Initially dismissed by Joanna, she revived the idea following the sudden death of her mother in 1997.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Borrowing heavily from Iona's "Celtic seascape" sound (Joanna went into a sea cave to record on a DAT recorder the sounds of the sea used here), these hymns come alive in new and wondrous ways while remaining true to the original hymns. I do not know how this is possible, only that it is. The first single released from the disc is the jubilant "My Song Is Love Unknown," written by Samuel Crossman with a new melody.

"My song is love unknown/My Savior's love to me/Love to the loveless shown/That they might lovely be/O who am I, that for my sake/My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?/My song is love unknown/My song is love unknown"

Other highlights include deliciously airy renditions of classic hymns such as "Be Thou My Vision," "O The Deep, Deep Love," and "When I Survey," but the crown jewel of this collection of gems is Croly's "I Ask No Dream." I've never heard this song before, but the haunting melody, written by Joanna, perfectly compliments Croly's lyrics from 1854. The song floats around inside my head on a gossamer breeze, rejuvenating me as it plays and replays over and over.

"Spirit of God descend upon my heart/Wean it from Earth/Through all its pulses move/Stoop to my weakness/Mighty as Thou art/And make me love Thee as I ought to love/I ask no dream/No prophet ecstasies/No sudden rending of the veil of clay/No angel visitant/No opening skies bright/Please take the dimness of my soul away"

There is a lot of discussion these days in the Christian music industry over just what constitutes contemporary Christian music - and what should constitute it. Much air is wasted over debating the merits of this song or that song. Tempers are raised when talk turns to counting the number of references to Jesus or God. Raging arguments erupt over whether a band is a Christian band or a band made up of Christians. Is it ministry or music? Or can it be both?

Some of the discussion is valid and needs to take place, but some of it just blatantly agenda-driven. However, I've always contended that, as a Christian, I know Christian music when I hear it - and this is Christian music at its best. Completely traditional, yet powerfully innovative.

This disc is an amazing accomplishment. Do yourself a tremendous favor and purchase it, play it for your friends, play it for yourself. Worship with it and through it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of ForeFront Records, and is used for informational purposes only.