Category Archives: CD Review
Elevation Worship recently released their newest worship offering Only King Forever which is 14 tracks and a full 73 minutes of worship. If you have heard Elevation in their previous albums, you will not be surprised at the sound.
If you are unfamiliar, I would encourage you to think of groups like Hillsong United, and Jesus Culture. Elevation has a strong stadium feel like those groups do. One small change to the band on this album is the addition of James Duke who has been the electric guitarist for people like John Mark McMillan, Matt Redman, and Jason Upton. With James serving in the worship team at this church, he brings a bit of experience and a new element to the overall tone, whilst at the same time blending well into the overall dynamic of the group.
Track four and five really stood out to me. “Grace So Glorious” and its Reprise are beautiful piano driven ballads. The song itself is a beautiful response to the beautiful grace afforded to us in the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Reprise features a brilliant exhortation from Elevation’s Pastor Steven Furtick. Both blend together so well that it serves as a reminder that the fervent preaching of the Word of God is as essential to our worship as the song itself.
Since I featured a ballad last, this time let me feature an upbeat praise track. “Mighty Warrior” This track is about the Lord as our mighty warrior. It’s driven, strong, and passionate. It’s the kind of song you can shout as well as you can sing. This is a great track that with a full band has the potential to blow the roof off. I honestly just sat and listened to it a few times through just to enjoy it and get myself pumped.
The last two songs I discussed were male lead, so let’s look at a female lead song, “Everlasting Father” This song is lyrically sweet, and has the simple feel of a beloved old hymn, while allowing for the modern flourishes. Now, I know this sounds cheesy, but I love that this was lead by a female. The lyrics are the type that a man or a woman can sit behind the piano and sing well, but something about the feeling of a precious daughter singing this to her father just pulls on the strings of the heart. This is a beautiful ballad that I hope is not overlooked as quaint. It may be my favourite track on the album.
Since I try to be honest in my reviews and share the good and bad, I want to point out the one glaring flaw I see in this album. It’s actually the same flaw I saw in the last elevation album. I do not see anything here that puts a trademark on Elevation’s worship. There is no bad song on the album, but none of them have a unique identity that screams THIS IS ELEVATION. I feel like you could give these songs to Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, or Kari Jobe, and they wouldn’t sound different. Elevation has some amazing members in the band, but they still feel like they are another band in the genre, searching for their identity.
I want to be clear and say that I really enjoyed this album, and think it was well worth listening to. There are some songs on here that I intend on learning. The album is available on itunes and if you are looking for new worship, this is a great album for you. It will encourage and inspire you. It will also give you a new group of songs to add to your repertoire.
Worship Leader Tim Timmons just released his newest worship album “Cast My Cares” If you do not know him, you ought to check out his website http://timtimmons.com and read about his testimony. Tim has been diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, but instead of fading away, he has pushed even harder to trust God and advance the message of the kingdom. “Instead of me just putting out more “cool” Christian music, I want to draw people into the movement of Jesus. There’s an awakening, a revolution that I want to spend my one and only life committed to.”
The second track on the album really struck a chord in me. The Chorus begins “You’re my revival song You start where I belong On my knees, on my knees” and that is such a true statement. Revival doesn’t begin with a Powerful Service, but a Pray from a surrendered soul. As you listen to “Starts with Me” you really hear the heart of someone who is not waiting for everyone. You hear the song of someone who will run hard after the Lord no matter what. This is the kind of song we need a song that spurs us to be starters of revival.
This album is filled from front to back with songs that will resonate in your spirit. I am only highlighting a few, but each one on the album could be your anthem. Each one could become the song that resonates in your heart. So Listen to this album, let these songs wash over you and soak in the heart of Tim as he pours everything he has out.
One of the standout tracks of the album is “For Your Glory” which sings about how everything is for the Glory of God. I love the simplicity of the pre-chorus which says, “Even darkness cannot hide Your shining. Even shadows cannot change the truth” The song does a great Job of building you up whilst simultaneously putting your focus on the Glory and Majesty of Christ. This is an excellent song that will fit well into your church service and draw you more into Glory driven Praise. Praise that isn’t about a good feeling, but about a recognition of the Glory of God.
Another track that really spoke to me was the track “Holy Unafraid” which is about how through the Blood of Christ we are made victorious, more than conquerors, our fear is removed, and we walk in the Blessings of God. I love the first line of the chorus, “So we pray, pray, pray Would You shake our souls awake.” Because sometimes there is a truth that The Bible tells us, but unless the Spirit awakens us to it, because He is the spirit of Truth, than we miss out on it.
All of the songs on this album are good, and I could explain why each is worth it. What I want you to know most is that these songs are the sound of an overcomer. When you hear these songs and you let their melodies wash over you, they aren’t just worship songs they are songs of victory; songs that cause faith to rise up within you. I recommend these songs, they are simple and singable. They are designed as anthems we can grab onto together and praise the Lord as the Body of Christ. I want to thank Matt Reed who has been a friend of mine for a while for providing the review copy.
Today Carlos Whittaker, or @Loswhit as he is know to the twittering world, released His new album “Fight” today. For those who do not know Los, he is the father of two beautiful girls, a hilarious son who they adopted from Korea, and he is the founder of Ragamuffin Soul. I really like los. I follow him on social media, and I read his website regularly. He previous album “Ragamuffin Soul” was excellent so I was excited to check out His new offering.
Fight is a bit of a departure from his previous album. This album uses a lot more of the synth key tones. This is becoming a trend lately with Artists like Benjamin Dunn and the Animal Orchestra, Hillsong United, and others all releasing worship albums that have strong use of the synthesizer. To be honest I don’t mind this trend, but it doesn’t often wow me.
Fight is a ten track album. Rather than discussing each track, I wanted to point out a few of the songs that I really enjoy and then some of my overall thoughts on the album. One track that I really liked was “You Made A Way” This upbeat praise song was excellent, and it drips with Hope. The whole focus is to open our eyes to Jesus as our Hope and rock, and how He is drawing us to Himself, and made a way for us to be united with Him. This track really encouraged me in my spirit. The simplicity of the bridge struck me. “You will never leave us. Oh how You love us.”
It is followed up with my next stand out track. “You Bought Me.” This track grew on me. I didn’t like it the first run through because I thought the synth pads seemed out of place. However as I continued to listen through the album a few more times it really grew on me. This song features some amazing vocal work by Carlos. I really loved his soft tone here. The song is a psalm of thanksgiving, thanking Christ for purchasing us. I love songs of Thanksgiving. This one is something I am actually wanting to arrange acoustically to fit in my church services. It is a slower song, but the instrumentation is very dynamic with subtle builds that really draw your focus in.
I really liked the song “Don’t Give Up.” It had the ambient guitar feel that is found in a lot of worship, however it really makes this song fantastic. I love this tune because it is all about how awesome Jesus is and how He alone sustains us. It is softer, but it builds well and has a great bridge, “You’re the air that I breathe. The Life that I lead, from you. The song that I bring. The Life that I lead is worship.” I could sing that for a long time. I really love it.
The final Highlight I want to point out is the acoustic bonus track. “In The Arms (Acoustic)” This albums lets you hear it both ways. The electronic version didn’t really do anything for me, but this acoustic version is actually my favourite track on the album. It is amazing what arrangement can do for a song. This song in its acoustic form has a vibe similar to rend collective experiment, with claps, guitar, group vocals, and a bright over all feel. I love the hope in this song. “You will never forsake or desert us.” It is another one that I want to add to my rotation.
Overall, I thought this was an average album. I think the lyricism is great, but the musicianship at times felt like it was trying too hard to be trendy and that somewhat turned me off. I know that a few of these songs will have good radio appeal, and that is great because it will help Los gain more exposure. I give this a solid 3.5 stars. I do believe that it is available on Spotify. I would recommend you check it out. You might love it. One of my main issues is that stylistically I didn’t love the feel of the album, but you might love the synth key tones.
Special thanks to my friend Matthew Reed for sending me a prerelease review copy. Thanks to Loswhit for the opportunity to check out His new album. I always love seeing people creating new worship music, because it is them expressing their heart in relation to God.
C.S. Lewis was a narrative genius, and through his writings many have found deep understandings of the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. One such person is Musician, Author, and Theologian Benjamin Dunn. Dunn is the front-man for Benjamin Dunn and the Animal Orchestra, (Formerly Benjamin Dunn & Friends)
I have followed Dunn’s music for many years and have a vast collection of his works, from His early days experimenting with Techno in worship on the Albums “Under The Influence” and “My Addiction,” to his more 80’s pop ballad feeling “Love Cloud” and more recently “Circus of Love” and “The Hymn EP”
So needless to say, I am a fan. That is why I was overjoyed when I got my hands on His latest release. “Fable.” This album is a natural progression musically for Dunn. Fable is a collection of songs that tell the tale of a scandalous grace. Each song is rooted in the works of C.S. Lewis who explained grace about as well as any man could.
This album expands the vibe of “Circus of Love” by incorporating more of the experimental sounds and synth work. This shows how the band has really come together and found a collective voice.
My Name Is Eustace is a great opening to the album. The whole focus of the song is the transforming Love and Grace of God while holding to the Narnian imagery of transformation and the breath of the Lion. While it is not traditional congregational music, it is a profoundly deep worship song while being up beat and filled with Joy.
Joy is a major theme in the music of Benjamin Dunn and the Animal Orchestra. The premise is that God has poured so much grace and love upon us, how can we not overflow with Joy. That theme clearly drips on each of the songs which separate themselves from alot of the music that is being written today with is ironic, reflective, and at times downright depressing.
Sail To The End is a song that I absolutely love. Its a song about a heart on a journey. A heart that is looming closer to the Kingdom of God everyday. A heart that is naturally being drawn into the God’s country. It borrows imagery from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and absolutely brilliantly expresses the deepest longings of the human heart.
When We Were Young is one of the happiest songs on the album and just gets stuck inside your brain and it longs for a time when we were younger and we hadn’t been corrupted by all the cares and distractions of the world. I love it because that is always one of my favourite parts of the Narnia mythos. No matter how old you grow in Narnia, you are always a child and when you return to the natural place you have learned so much but your youth is restored.
I wish I could give you a play by play rundown of the whole album but I know that there are strong chances that what I was feeling and what God spoke to me through this album are different even that what was intended, but that is the beauty of art. This is an artistic album and not just another cookie cutter piece of recording. There is something to be said through the music that just tears at your heart.
Clothed In Skin is easily my favourite song on the album. I remember a few months ago before the album was released Benjamin did a video blog on youtube and I heard two lines from this song. “Father of Lights, You made us one. You poured out Your love when You poured out Your Son.” That was the only line from the song he included in the blog and I was hooked, it was stuck in my brain like a little ball of bliss that was waiting to be fully unpackaged. When the album came, I can say that the song did not disappoint. It is one of the greatest songs on Grace and the Power of the Cross that I have ever heard. It tackles the power of the cross as a moment of victory and joy, that oozes with love. Each drop of Blood Jesus shed was liquid love that has been passed down into our bodies to redeem us and bring us back into the kingdom of God reconciled and set free. SO POWERFUL…
Benjamin Never disappoints musically and you cannot help but be overcome with bliss when you listen to any of his music. Check out his website. Joy Revolution
You can buy Fable from his website, or purchase it on itunes.
I don’t know why, but I feel special. A little over a year ago, I had the privilege of introducing those of you who read this page to a worship Leader named Will Retherford. Here are some of the things I said about this awesome man of God.
“…More than music, Will is also passionate about missions. He is on staff with the Oral Roberts Missions department. Will is also working to purchase supplies for a children’s home in India through the sale of his first album titled “Awake.”…”
So with that kind of character, it is not hard to believe why I would love Will and his heart. Well, last month while I was in India myself, I got an Email from my Good friend Matt Reed who introduced me to Will a year ago. He told me that Will has another CD about to come out. “Walk” I knew that as soon as I was back in America I needed to promote this. I didn’t have to listen to it to know I would love it.
When you know someone who has the heart and charecter of God, you know before the album is in your hands that it is going to speak to you. When I finally got the new tunes in my ear, I was pleased from the first 30 seconds. With this album, Will continues to grow as a musician. There is still a strong influence of musicians like Gungor, and that is fantastic. Will, Gungor, and others like them are blazing down a sonic trail that looks to redefine the way we worship.
The Album begins with the track ‘Arise’ which is about the love, power, and grace of God to save. But its more than a discussion, its a call and response. It is God tossing out the free gift of Salvation and the Church arising and saying WE WILL CARRY YOUR MESSAGE! This is a great song for the church to use to motivate people to evangelism and missions. On top of all the lyrical message and content, the song has a catchy feel that makes you naturally fall into the song. It will be buzzing in your head even after you turn the album off.
I love the vocal harmony in the second track ‘Seasons’ absolutely stunning. But more than the simple yet powerful reminder of the power of the love of God just drips with His love. It reminds me of when I first listened to the song “How He Loves” by john mark McMillan, and I found myself singing the song and falling more and more in love with Messiah. This song needs to be in the church, because the Love of God needs to be in the church.
I could run down each and every track on this album and tell you why you need to listen to it, but that would take a ton of time. So at this juncture I want to remind you that Walk is available Right now on iTunes…
‘Rescue Us’ and its instrumental follow up ‘Out of the Muck and Mire’ is another standout track, although it is probably not the most congregational in the album. It is one of the deepest in terms of its message and its heart. It is a song that recognizes the depravity of Man, The Human Heart, and The World at large. It is a song that cries for a Saviour to come and rescue us. I love the dichotomy within the song, switching in the verses from “will You rescue us?” to the past tense on the chorus, “You have rescued us.” It shows the inner struggle of man, who has been given everything necessary for salvation, yet still struggles with His own humanity and carnal desires. But in the end the answer is and always was Jesus, and acceptance of Jesus means accepting his Rescue which he has already provided for you. So powerful.
I love the catchy nature of ‘Narrow’ it is just a delightful song. I know that is an odd adjective, but that is the best word I can find in the English language. This song delights in God and how we will continue to run and follow after Him and His plans. It begins with a contrast, where Will is asking the Lord if He will leave if we turn and run or fail, but then it flows into the grace of Jesus who never leaves us and always pursues us and stick close to us. Such a delightful song.
Let me end my discussion of the songs with the tune ‘Let it Come’ This is another happy sounding song that is just covered with the presence of God. Its a joy filled call out for the Messiah to return. The Chorus is fantastic. They just cry “Let it come” over and over and then end the chorus by crying “The Spirit and the Bride say come” This song is entirely the cry of a Lover who is longing for the one she loves. Christ is coming, but are you eager for His return? Are you lovesick for Him? This song shows Will’s heart as one who is lovesick for The Christ.
For more information about Will and his music. Check out his Website. Follow Him on Twitter. Watch him on Youtube. Listen on ReverbNation. But Most Importantly Buy his music on Tunes. You will be very glad you did.
It is also my privilege to share with you “Awake” Will’s EP from last year which is now free and download-able from Noise Trade.
Today The Worship Community featured my review of Jesus Culture’s new Double Live Album : Awakening on the front page of their site. This is exciting news for me and I just wanted to share. To read the full article, click here.
For those who aren’t that interested in the full write up here is a brief summary. With 16 tracks and almost 2 hours of Live Jesus Culture worship. This album is a winner. It features Chris Quilala & Kim Walker-Smith heavily, but also includes Jake Hamilton, Kristine DiMarco, as well as Bryan & Katie Torwalt. All three are newcomers to the Jesus Culture recordings, but have their own albums on the Jesus Culture / Bethel / Kingsway label. The highlight of the whole album in my eyes was Kristine DiMarco’s masterful rendition of Will Regan & United Pursuit’s Break Every Chain. There is not a single song on the album that feels out of place. It is a good mix of new songs and old songs. So you may recognize a few and will want to learn a few more.
With that in mind, I want to leave you with this video of Kristine DiMarco. This is not the recorded version from the Album but her warming up for the live recording by practicing this song. Even in the practice you can really feel the power and presence of God all over this song.
Radiant Worship releases their newest Album “Boldly Close” this October. This is simply their best album yet. Most people do not know Radiant worship, but it is likely that you have heard their song You Are Holy (Isaiah 6) which has been covered by Bryn Wadell of The Ramp, Ian McIntosh of Jesus Culture, and Christ For the Nations among others.
Boldly Close is the Eighth release from radiant but shows a marked change. This album is a step up from previous albums in terms of its production value. It still keeps the raw emotion that has kept Radiant Worship a mainstay on my ipod for years.
This album starts right with passion dripping from the first two songs Lift The Veil and You Are The Christ. To be honest it took a while to get past these two, I kept them on repeat for a while. Lift The Veil begins the album with a heart cry that takes the form of a song. It is a cry from desperate Christians who want to see their God. It is a great song that has almost a mystical feel to its intro. Rather than coming in with 16th notes and a 4 on the floor feel, it begins with an arpegiated picking pattern and soft vocals. It explodes into the chorus, and then draws back with the verses that build you up into the rest of the song which gets huge. The song is simple in its lyrics but rich in scripture, theology and passion. This will be a great song that I would recommend for any worship leader.
You Are the Christ is a heavier song, but it is a declarative song. It is declaring the Jesus is THE CHRIST and he is the SON of the Living God. This is a song of confession song that really builds you up by reminding you He is. This is a great opener for a Sunday morning service, because its bold, but it is rich in truth.
The Real Fire is a little break in the album where Radiant frontman and ministry Leader Richy Clark begins to ask Jesus for the Fire, not just a feel good fire, but the real fire that burns sin and the flesh. It’s a powerful part of the CD, and even though it’s not a song I thought it was so powerful I wanted to share about it in the review. We as Christians need to be willing to pray like this, but after we pray we need to be willing to burn even though it’s hot and it hurts.
Track 8 is the familiar You Are Holy (Isaiah 6) despite having recorded this on a previous release they chose to add it here, and there are minor tweaks to the songs instrumentation but nothing significant because this powerful song doesn’t need to be fixed or changed. I have been listening to this song since about 2007 and it still brings me to my knees on a weekly basis. I play it on Sunday mornings and it draws the congregation in like nothing else I play. Why? It’s the simplicity of the song. Its Isaiah 6, we see him, and we acknowledge his holiness, and then we acknowledge our utter lack of holiness which requires God to burn us with the coals and cleans us. This is a song YOU NEED TO BE USING! If you aren’t you need to, its just too powerful to pass up.
The Album clocks in at an Hour and 5 minutes, and the last 12 are simply spontaneous worship. They titled this flow of the spirit The Worthy Selah and it is a fitting title, because the main theme of the flow is simply laying to worth and honor onto the Lord. It isn’t the thing you are likely to reproduce, but if I could learn to play some of this I would, but it was a moment. The beauty of a moment is that it happens and then it moves on to make way for the next moment. This flow was a reflection of What God was doing in the room at the time, and even if listening to the recording you can feel the presence of God all over it.
You want this album. Even though you do not know who Radiant is, you want this, because this is different worship than the same predictable worship you are used to. Its raw, and passionate, its pure pursuit of the King and is on my list of the best worship albums of 2011. It will be available on itunes 10.1.11
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided a review copy of this album by Richy Clark, who is the leader of Radiant Worship.
I could simply say you need to buy “Ghosts Upon The Earth” because its Gungor, and that should be enough. After their last album, “Beautiful Things,” Gungor went from a worship artist, to a worship juggernaut. Once again they smash it out of the park, showing the world that you don’t need dotted Eigth delay to worship God. When most worship is becoming stale and repetitive, Gugnor stays fresh.
“Ghosts upon the earth” is not a congregation friendly worship album. That is why I love it. I don’t see many of these songs climbing the CCLI charts. This album is not worship meant for you. This album is Gungor, as a band, as people, crying out to God, and walking a journey with God and Man.
I was in love with this album before the first track Let It Be was even finished playing. It was a beautiful artist rendition of Creation. It showed God singing creation into existence, and brought out the power of every word that comes from his mouth. The song builds to its crescendo, but rather than coming back down, it just ends. This sets you up for the rest of the album by saying that Creation was only the beginning of the journey.
Another thing to love about this album is the instrumentation, and musical diversity. Gungor is the type of band that doesn’t hold to a style. They simply pour out the pieces of their heart and it becomes a song. Some songs hold more of a bluegrass or folk feel, while others go Ambient or even more rock sounding. It is this diversity that made Gungor popular with their last Album “Beautiful Things” and they continue to build on that trend here.
Two more songs that stand out (as if there are any songs that do not stand out) would be Brother Moon, as well as Crags and Clay. These two show the majestic Glory of God through his creation, and show Gungor engaging in worship alongside the heavens in a similar fashion to David’s words in Psalm 104.
While Wake Up Sleeper is a song that truly energizes, draws, and encourages you, by walking you through the beatitudes and the side of Jesus that “Brought Good news to the Poor, and Liberty to the captive. However, just as they do this, they turn the direction right after with Ezekiel, a song written from Ezekiel 16. From God to a rebellious, and obstinate bride. Everything that Gungor does is purposed and powerful, and the order of the songs takes you through the ebb and flow of human emotion.
There is a journey in worship; a path that takes you from brokenness to healing, and right into the presence of God. Most albums take that path the same way, and end up having a similar feel and sound. Gungor doesn’t like the path, because it is someone else’s path. They lead you through the woods blazing a new trail, finding a different way than others, but they bring a freshness that comes with Pioneers. If you aren’t a Gungor fan yet, then get off the highway and walk in the woods with Gungor for a while, you will become a fan.
I know this isn’t a normal album review, and to be honest that is because this is not a normal album. You need to get your hands on this, lock the door, unplug the phone and internet, and just immerse yourself in this album. Reexamine how we do worship, because that is exactly what Gungor does with this album.
I am including the EPK Video for this album which is out now. Pick it up in stores or online.
Not too long ago, you will remember that I did a review on the Blog about a new worship album from Matt Reed. Well, Matt emailed me the other day and asked If I would be able to review an album a good friend of his, Will Retherford. I of course couldn’t turn down an opportunity to engulf myself in a new worship album. So I agreed. Before I review the album itself, I wanted to share a little about Will, and who he is.
Inspired to pursue music at a worship concert, Will Retherford has passionately honed and shared his gift since he was a young teenager. Today, he not only writes his own music, but also leads worship at Oral Roberts University. A junior at ORU, Will hopes to someday combine his talent as a singer/songwrit er with his major in marketing.
More than music, Will is also passionate about missions. He is on staff with the Oral Roberts Missions department. Will is also working to purchase supplies for a children’s home in India through the sale of his first album titled “Awake.”
Now that you know a little bit about who he is lets discuss the music. Musically this whole album seemed reminiscent of something like a cross between Gungor (which, come on, is awesome) and Switchfoot. In fact, at various points on the album, I thought I was listening to Jon Foreman.
This album has a few songs that are easily singable and great for a congregational setting. The opening track, Image is one that would fit well in the church setting. When you listen to it, it can seem a little intimidating with the complex fingerpicking on guitar, the xylophone, and the horn section, however if you just listen to it lyrically and follow the main melody, you begin to see a simple song that allows the listener to bask in the beauty of being made in the image of God. It calls us to rise up and sing to God because he is seen in all he has created.
He transitions this into Fill our Hearts which features Lisa Gungor. This is a song that some churches could do in a worship setting, but others would find hard. Musically it is a simply uptemo song with a driving acoustic guitar and a steady drum beat. However, there are a few points where Will’s lyrics seem to speed at you like a freight train. This is most evident in the second verse. It wasn’t a problem for me, however in a congregational worship setting, I could see some who do not like it because it may feel like they are rushing through the song. Lisa Gungor adds great vocal backing as well her phenomenal skills in the piano. I love how the last minute of the song, they are simply singing “Fill our Hearts” but it builds to a major crescendo. Then it drops back to just the piano with a soft percussion that fades away as the song ends.
The title track off of this album, Awake is one that I really like. It was an intense song that had phenomenal dynamics. It really ebbed and flowed and drew you in deeper. This is something I have been trying to teach my team the past few weeks, and that might have added to love for this song. This song is more of a body ministry song, it calls the believer to awaken, and it encourages them of their identity. Becuase of this, the song really ministers to you on a personal level, but might not be one you use in the congregational setting. Musically it relies heavily on a fingerpicking pattern that is just beautiful. But then other things like the drums and the electric guitar come in and out as needed to help build the song and draw it back down.
Though I fall actually hooked me at the intro before Will had even began singing a single word. It has very simle soft picking on the acoustic guitar, but behind that there is a smooth ethereal electric guitar that is floating on some volume swells and it sounds great. This song is a short Lyrically this is a song that is easily sung. The primary line of the song is simply “Though I fall, I will stand again. Though my troubles will not end, I won’t forget the Love in your scarred hands.” This would be a great transition song in a church setting to help you move from one into another, but it is a short song and thus really would need to be paired with something else to fit well into your setlist.
I love how will sets the mood for his next song No Words. It begins with a simple strumming pattern on the acoustic guitar and xylophone to give you a much more reserved, relaxing feeling. Will sings this song with a little extra breath in his lungs to give it a more withdrawn feel that draws you into the song more. The song is a declaration of love for the Lord. Professing our desire and our love, and our sheer need for him. As the song progresses it builds into a bridge that has a harmonica, banjo, and Will and friends simply singing “Whoa-uh-oh…. whoa-uh-oh.” to the end of the song. used the term Will & friends there strategically because this song reminded me of something I would head Benjamin Dunn & Friends doing. It would fit well into their style. While this might seem like a song that is not a strong candidate for congregational worship, I would actually place it near the top of that list. The simplicity of the song, both musically and in its message make it a great fit for the church.
Hope is perhaps my favourite song on the album musically. It begins with a very fast piano pattern with some soft violin. Its almost a dichotomy between the two. Because the piano feels fast like it should be a driven song, but the violin keeps you down in the softer and slower worship end. The tension adds something unique to this song. The song sings of the darkness of humanity without the lord. However the song speaks of the Hope that comes when Jesus comes. It shows the glory of his arrival and asks him to grant us peace.
Will closes this album with one more catchy song Beautiful Feet is from the scripture from Romans 10:15 that speaks of the beauty of the feet of those who carry the gospel. It is a missional call out to God to send us into dark places in the world as a lightbearer. This is a song that would fit well int he worship set of a missional church, but it is a song that is focused on us, and our call to be a light. So some might find it too man centered. It personally love the song and it gets me pumped, especially in the instrumental interlude where the song builds and builds and then the voices come in simply singing “I Will Go” before one last run through the chorus.
William Matthews is one of the worship leaders on staff over at Bethel Church in Redding, California. He shares worship duties with the likes of Brian & Jenn Johnson, Kim Walker-Smith, Jeremy Riddle, and Chris Quilala. To say that he is in good company would be an understatement.
Often times when you are in the middle of a group of respected leaders who have multiple CD’s, the temptation to shrink back can set in. This is not the case for Matthews. Instead of fading into the background, he came to the table with songs that really inspire. In 42 minutes William Matthews’ Hope’s Anthem covers the musical spectrum.
Right off the bat Matthews comes swinging with “Deep Cries Out.” This song was featured on the latest Bethel Live album Be Lifted High. Therefore I will forgo the full review of the song since it has been out and reviewed by many others before.
In “This One Thing” William shines with a steady drum beat and simple piano chording. The song serves as a declaration that as psalm 27:4 reminds us, “One thing I desire…” This song calls for the presence of God and his Glory to be manifested, and declares that Where he is, is where we want to be.
Track 3 “We Believe” keep the tempo back up with a steady rock ballad feel. The song is about Believing in the word and promises of God to Save, Heal, and Deliver. To trust that when he said our nation would be healed, he meant it. This is a powerful song of declaration, and is perfect for encouragement and the edification of our fellow believers who often forget to believe.
“Hope’s Anthem” is the title track and should be familiar to Bethel Worship fans as it was featured on Bethel’s last live album Be Lifted High. The song is great, but since it is not a new song, I will not give you a full rundown.
“So Good To Me” is a song written while William was a background vocalist with Cory Asbury over at IHOP-KC. This song will be familiar to many, but Matthews manages to make it fresh and new giving it an urban gospel feel while still holding to the original grooves of the song. I actually much prefer this version as opposed to the original recording, and this is the song I was most looking forward to off of this album.
As you might expect “The Lord is My Shepherd” is based off of Psalm 23. I stand by my belief that this particular passage of scripture is the most used in worship, and probably has at least twice as many songs using it as any other scripture in the whole Bible. This is however a great version, it utilizes an acoustic guitar tapping and playing the style of slap guitar that was made famous through the movie August Rush. Lyrically it pretty well follows straight through the scripture passage with a few minor stylistic edits. This is going to be a tough one for many people to try and cover as the advanced nature of the acoustic technique will hinder a lot of people from trying.
“I’m Free” has the sound of a 1950’s tent revival, and there is no apology in it. With southern Gospel, Pentecost, and Country music all deep in the roots of this song, Matthews proclaims of his freedom which is most evident in the Chorus, “I’m Free to be, I’m free to be who I am, I’m free to love the One Who came and died for me.” I listened to this song on repeat for a hour and still didn’t tire of it. I do not believe it is possible for someone who listen to this, and not want to jump, dance, shout, and get their praise on.
Matthews tricked me with the track “Bridge Over Troubled Water” The title is a classic gospel song, and so I was expecting a cover of the classic gospel hymn. However just when you think you know something you find out you know nothing. This is not a cover, but a completely original song with the same title. This is a great song that just has groove. I can’t quite put my finger on a proper description of that groove other than to say that this song has it.
Matthews keeps that groove while dialing down the tempo in “My Great Reward.” The chorus of this song is absolutely tremendous. “Jesus You are my great reward. You are the prize worth living for. So I’ll trade it all to love you more, My Great Reward.” This chorus just resonates deep with in my spirit. The bridge of the song is also fantastic and really has that R&B feel.
“I Just want You more” begins with soft pads and Matthews passionate vocals bringing the listener into this song, you almost forget that not even thirty seconds you were having a hoe down while some guy on a guitar is chicken pickin’. As the song finishes the first chorus a simple, stead piano line comes in that really adds to the worship tone of this, really pulling the listener into a deep worship. As the second chorus leads you into the bridge the drums and guitars begin to build you into an intense place of worship without losing the depth that you already were in. Lyrically this is a simple song as the main lyric of the song is “I want you more.” But in all honesty this lyric is truth and if it really is your hearts desire, then you do not need to be fancy, you just cry out for him.
This is a brilliant debut from William Matthews. He comes out swinging and proves at his young age he is able to worship with the best and can really help you get your praise on whilst still taking you into deep worship and the presence of an almighty God. This is well worth a buy. The Album is due out July 26th which gives you time to get some money ready. This is one you will really want to have in your rotation. Full Disclosure, I was given digital copy of this album by the folks over at The Worship Community with the purpose of reviewing. I am grateful to them for allowing me the opportunity to hear this great offering.