CD Review: Mark Bishop & Forget The Sea – self-titled

CD Review: Mark Bishop & Forget The Sea – self-titled

Mark BishopLabel: Sonlite Records
Producers: Jeff Collins & Mark Bishop
Songs: You Love Me Anyway; Baptize Me In The Rain; Take To The Sky; The Son Is Shining; I Will Sing; Pick Me Up And Carry Me; You Are, You Are; Tinderbox; Sometimes God Whispers; Everything I Give; Ordinary Average Autumn
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5)

Mark Bishop has shifted from a solo format to a group format, joining forces with a band billed as Forget The Sea. Vocalists in addition to Mark include Courtney Isaacs and Haley Bishop (Mark’s daughters). John Isaacs (Mark’s son-in-law) provides percussion. Other band members include Josh Rison (guitar), Chris Withrow (bass guitar) and Russell Funk (keyboard).

Forget The Sea apparently caused quite a stir behind closed doors after they took the stage at the 2015 National Quartet Convention. As I wrote in my NQC report last fall after seeing their performance, “They made me think of a church youth band. The talent is there, but it’s still raw. They’re in the process of figuring out their sound.”

I remember the NQC crowd clapped politely, but seemed a bit unsure of how to take them. After NQC, I didn’t expect the convention to condemn the group, but that’s more or less what happened. When folks who bought the webcast went to watch the archived footage a week or so later, Forget The Sea’s main stage performance had been deleted as if it never happened. Now, this group certainly looks and sounds different from the average NQC quartet or mixed group, but they did nothing to deserve that sort of treatment. Other groups have made similar unexpected stylistic splashes without this sort of backlash during convention week. Jason Crabb’s presented a 1950s themed set in 2014, for example. If nothing else, Forget The Sea’s performance was a welcomed dose of variety that got people talking, even if the reaction wasn’t 100% positive.

At any rate, I’m here to review the CD, so I’ll get on with it.

If this CD only had Mark Bishop’s face and name on the front of it, you wouldn’t notice that much different about it aside from two songs where he isn’t the primary vocalist. Musically, this is certainly a different spin, but Mark has explored different styles and concepts in the past. (Check out 2008’s Fields Of Love.) With Mark’s vocals front and center most of the time and with Mark co-writing all the songs, there’s a sense of familiarity that existing fans of his solo work should appreciate.

The opening track, “You Love Me Anyway,” is rhythmic and a bit heavier in instrumentation than you might expect. “Baptize Me In The Rain” has a toe-tapping feel and a “na-na-na” vocal bit on the choruses like you might hear a youth band sing at a summer concert festival. One of his daughters has a step-out line on the third song, “Take To The Sky,” but again, Mark is the primary singer. The “na-na” hook returns on the fourth track, a slower selection titled “The Sun Is Shining.”

Courtney steps behind the microphone for “I Will Sing.” The chorus is repetitive, lacking lyrical variety. The song follow the modern worship chorus formula; it builds up to a big climax, drops most of the instruments out for some dynamic contrast, then brings the repetitive chorus back. The lyric for “Pick Me Up And Carry Me” is also somewhat repetitive, but it makes up for it with a quicker tempo featuring an quirky accordion and a banjo in the mix. The result is a catchy musical setting for a lyric that might have otherwise come across as blah.

The biggest two highlights of this CD appear at the seventh and eleventh tracks. “You Are, You Are” features a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment with Courtney returning to deliver a compelling vocal performance. “Ordinary Average Autumn” has a similarly simple accompaniment and features Mark in his traditional storytelling role.

Fans of Mark Bishop’s solo material should consider buying this CD. It’s different, yes, but it’s really not AS different as you might think. The audio product is more polished than the live performance I witnessed by the group at the National Quartet Convention last fall when I said they appeared “raw.”

I wish more of this CD had been done in the stripped down style of “You Are, You Are” and “Ordinary Average Autumn.” That’s not just a musical observation. Some of the lyrics on other tracks are just way too simplistic. With all things considered, this debut CD by Mark Bishop & Forget The Sea lands at 3 1/2 Stars on a scale of 1-5 Stars.

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Category CD Reviews, Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

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  1. Reply January 07, 20:54 #1 randallhamm

    It’s going to take me awhile to get used to this. But it’s their first effort, so one shouldn’t judge harshly. It’s different, yes, but it took awhile to get used to Marks solo stuff following the Bishops. I like that he’s trying to shake things up and a good first effort.

  2. Reply January 08, 17:46 #2 Chris Unthank

    I think it’s a pretty strong debut and a welcome change to this genre of music. Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

  3. Reply January 11, 09:03 #3 Stephen

    I was just glad to see a full band on stage at NQC. The Bowling Family and Mark Bishop were two of the sets I enjoyed the most. There are a lot of talented people in SG, but many don’t use those talents. The night I went we saw The Collinsworth Family and I don’t think Kim didn’t even played the piano. I would personally rather hear groups like Greater Vision when Gerald plays the piano and Rodney plays the bass. It may cost a little more to have a pianist or other accompaniment, but I think that it would inject some new life into this genre we all love so much. A lot of people can sing….to soundtracks with BGVs on them. It takes talent to sing and play and do those things well. I comment Mark for involving his two daughters and bringing something new for us weary listeners to hear something different.

  4. Reply January 12, 23:26 #4 nkeithwaggoner

    I really like this album. Very different, yet pleasing. Personally, I don’t see it going over like gang-busters with most Southern Gospel fans, but I was surprised with how much I liked their sound. I hope that they make it. I would like to hear another album from them.

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