|Don Moen: Uncharted Territory | Posted March 31, 2012
Don Moen, the renowned worship leader, is releasing his first worship project in three years, Uncharted Territory. The album, I have heard, sounds like a lot of his old stuff, but I have never listened to any of his music before, so honestly I have no clue if it sounds like his old music. This album is filled with great, and encouraging lyrics, as well as melodies that remind me of a lot of the great 90s hits. With that being said, this album for some reason has not been able to keep me listening. I like some of the songs on the record, but after a while it starts to all kind of smear together. A lot of the components on the album are great, but the one thing that is lacking to me, is the fact that most of the songs are not very catchy. I never find myself singing any of these songs, which is unusual, in that usually there is at least one song on a CD that I get stuck in my head.
"You Will Be My Song" is probably one of my favorites on the album. It speaks of how God is always there for us, and knows exactly what is best for us. The lyrics are very encouraging, and are a great reminder in this pessimistic world. The song reminds me of a lot of Michael W. Smith's old hits; it definitely takes me back to when I first started listening to 90s Christian music. "Somebody's Praying For Me" follows that up with, what I believe, is the best song on the album. It is one of the more catchy songs on the album, with a great lyrics that talk about how great it is in the hard times of his life to know that somebody was praying for him. He talks about how he could really tell when someone was praying for him, and that it made a huge difference.
Moen did a cover of Jesus Culture's famous song, "Your Love Never Fails," as the fifth track on the record. I have loved this song every since I discovered it this past Summer, because of how great the lyrics are and the fact that the instrumentals behind it are especially strong. The song is all about how during the hard times in our lives, God is always there with us, and His love never changes. Moen did a pretty good job with this song, and is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album. "Lord Have Mercy" is another track that feels a little more like the 90s, and is a decent song. His voice sounds pretty good on this track, but it feels like it might be missing a little something.
"My Portion You Will Ever Be" is one of the top tracks near the end of the album that continues on the theme of the rest of the album, which is that God is there with us no matter what the situation may be. If there is one thing that Moen is great at, it is writing lyrics and encouraging people through his lyrics. This song, along with the others, is very uplifting to listen to.
One of my least favorite songs, is the next to last song, "Thank You Jesus." I really like the lyrics, but the beat and how it is delivered feel like those really cheesy 90s songs that got old to me after the first 100 times of hearing them. It has that signature organ and a little bit of a choir, and feels a little out of place to me. The last song, "Burn," recovers pretty well though, with a really slow song that feels like the right song to end the album with. The song talks about Christ leading us and making us His own and allowing us to serve Him.
I am so torn with this album, because there are some really good songs on it, but at the same time I do not find myself wanting to go back and listen to it other than the purpose of reviewing it. I think if you like Don Moen, 90s music, and maybe even Michael W. Smith, then you will probably like Uncharted Territory. It is not one of my top albums of the year, but it definitely has some great lyrics and a few pretty good songs on it as well. If you are on the fence about the album after reading this review, I suggest going and listing to some previews of it on iTunes. The highlight tracks, that I would suggest listening to are, "Somebody's Praying For Me," "Your Love Never Fails," and "You Will Be My Song."
Favorite Song: Somebody's Praying For Me
Favorite Lyrics: "We lift a song in the light of our need for You are able always in all things and in this moment we fall at your feet. Lord have mercy." (From the song "Lord Have Mercy")
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from The Christian Music Review Blog. Click here to visit today!
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|Shelter in the Storm | Posted March 27, 2012
After nearly 30 years in the industry, in many ways Don Moen is starting over. In 2007, with over 20 years experience as a songwriter, producer, and executive at Integrity Music, Moen resigned. He began a new venture, Don Moen & Friends Productions, a platform from which he hosts Don Moen & Friends, a weekly radio program, as well as online podcasts and worldwide worship events, most recently in India, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, and Ghana. Uncharted Territory, his first record in three years, almost didn't happen. His resignation resulted in some strained and severed friendships and business relationships, and a period of personal doubt which caused him to lose the desire to write songs or sing. Eventually, he found his voice again, used Kickstarter and the support of friends and listeners to fund the project, and formed a partnership with in:ciite media to release it.
Moen’s prayer for the songs on Uncharted Territory is that they will “help people offer sincere praise to God, even in the most difficult situations.” So, with a project born out of his own period of darkness, Moen seeks to offer hope to others who find themselves in a similar place.
The title track, “Uncharted Territory,” is a confessional inspired by Psalm 137 that speaks about feeling lost and afraid while surrounded by darkness and chaos. While the verses are questioning, “Where are you, Lord?” the choruses remember what God has already accomplished, asking Him to “teach me how to pray / teach me how to praise / even in the darkness / teach me how to sing your song.” The theme of finding refuge in God continues with “You Will Be My Song,” which reminds us that God is always with us and will always provide.
On the vulnerable “Somebody’s Praying for Me,” Moen explores the power of prayer. He writes about a time when his faith was shaken and he grappled with not knowing how to pray or praise. But suddenly he felt bolstered, and he intuitively understood that it was the prayers of others that were holding him up.
The upbeat “Great Things” is energized by the inclusion of a Celtic fiddle and bouncy drums. Lyrically, it is a straight praise song: “You alone have done great things / I can’t boast of anything / Mighty One and King of Kings, Jesus.” With a sing-along refrain, this song is sure to be a favorite.
“You stay the same through the ages / Your love never changes / There may be pain in the night / but joy comes in the morning.” So Moen sings of God’s unchanging love on “Your Love Never Fails.” The remake of this Bethel Worship songs is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and it should provide comfort and assurance to many.
“Lord Have Mercy” is a prayer set to music. For those who are brokenhearted, ashamed, afraid, failing, hurt, and otherwise struggling, Moen entreats, “We lift a song in the light of our need / For You are able always in all things / And in this moment, we fall at Your feet / Lord, have mercy.”
Appropriately, Moen follows “Lord Have Mercy” with a pair of songs that touch on the merciful sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. First comes, “Ransomed,” a worship song celebrating Jesus, who “made a way for me to enter in.” It’s significant that the lyrics speak of Jesus’ ransom in both past and present tense, because the Savior continues to save us today as He did on Calvary.
The emotional “Divine Exchange” asks us to visualize the crucifixion with lines like “Oh, hear the scoffer mocking / See the Savior’s tears,” and at the same time give thanks for the “divine exchange” that the cross embodies. In an interview, Moen explained the exchange like this: “Jesus took everything bad intended for us and gave us everything good that was given to Him as the Son of God.”
While differing musically, thematically the next two songs feel like Moen’s personal Psalms. “My Portion You Will Ever Be” and “No Fear” both employ biblical language to underscore that God will always provide for and protect us. A brief analysis of “No Fear” uncovers words from verses in Psalms 27, 43, and 119, as well as Isaiah 43. As support for the argument that with God on our side we have nothing to fear, nothing is more effective than looking to God’s word. “No Fear” even concludes with a recitation of Psalm 23.
Moen sings about the unconditionality of Christ’s love on “He Loves You.” The tune is fittingly simple and sweet: “He loves you, just because He loves you.” Moen follows this number about grace and love with a tune of thanksgiving, “Thank You, Jesus.” The Motown feel of the musical arrangement, complete with Hammond organ, is very enjoyable. Don’t be misled, though; Moen’s vocal are decidedly more James Taylor than Stevie Wonder.
Uncharted Territory closes with “Burn,” Moen’s impassioned plea to God to deepen his love and faith. “Burn away my virtues,” he sings. “May there just be You in me.” This line resonates with me. We often like to think of virtues as redeeming qualities we have developed or refined in ourselves. But Moen reminds us that even these good pieces of us are actually God. And with “Burn,” he recognizes that, in the end, the only thing of eternal significance is God, so he asks the Lord, “Write me into Your great story.”
With Uncharted Territory, veteran Don Moen presents an album of hope for the broken, lost, and hurting. Musically, the album may not appeal to all. This collection of songs is more suited to inspirational radio than pop. It’s not the kind of material you’ll find yourself sliding into the CD player of your car on a road trip. Instead, it’s a record you’ll pull out on a night when you seek shelter from the storms of life. You’ll find comfort, hope, and the unfailing love of Jesus, a Friend with no equal. This is what the artist sought to accomplish with this project, and since the album leads the listener into the arms of the Lord, Don Moen should consider it a success!
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