|No Crisis Here | Posted December 01, 2011
It's been a fruitful season for Society Revival Music Group. Label CEO, Jerel Paul Bland aka Rel Paul, released his debut solo project Spoiler Alert on November 1st. Just a week prior came Crisis Worship, the first offering from Pavilion Towers Worship. Here the label exec/music artist/songwriter/pastor shines the spotlight on his place of worship, Pavilion Towers, and its gifted worship leader, Cortney Joi. Listening to Spoiler Alert, it was clear that Rel Paul not only has a strong musical vision, but also an intense passion for the Lord. I was so impressed with Spoiler Alert that I became curious about Crisis Worship. Then, when I read Cortney Joi's biography and discovered that she is a walking miracle (having survived being hit by a drunk driver going 100 mph), I knew that I had to hear what she had to say.
Just as Rel Paul has a clear vision, so does Pavilion Towers. The label was right to release both records virtually in tandem. Spoiler Alert confronts the listener with the need to make a choice in the battle between good and evil, and presents Jesus as the only option. In other words, Spoiler Alert is evangelical--it draws people to Christ. Crisis Worship shows people how to respond to Christ--it brings them to their knees.
Crisis Worship opens with a short spoken introduction from Pastor Rel. He defines crisis as the turning point. Quoting Proverbs 24:10, he suggests that crisis should keep us ready, waiting, and listening. To present the current state of our world, he invokes John 3:19, people running from God's light into darkness. "Society," says Rel, "is in need of revival. And at the heart of revival is recognizing that we are in crisis. When you begin to recognize that you are in that place, the proper position, at that time, is worship."
On that note, Cortney Joi begins to gently sing praises to Jesus in "No One Like You." With the lyric, "You stepped into time to pay my crime," she gives thanks for the Savior's sacrifice. After the first verse, the rest of the Pavilion Towers chorus joins in and all proclaim, "There is none like You...There's no love like Yours." Appropriately, the next track is titled "Yours." It's another praise song, giving "glory and honor" to God and surrending everything to Him: "My hopes and my dreams -- Yours, Yours / My plans and my needs -- Yours, Yours."
By track four, "It's In You," a worshipful atmosphere has been established and the record hits its stride. You'll find yourself singing along, "You are more than my strength, more than my friend / You are Alpha, Omega, Beginning, the End/ You are Holy. Move in Me. All that I do it's in You." Without God, the song declares, we are lost. We need God. And when we acknowledge our need for Him and think about the gift He gave us and the way He loves us, we naturally want to give back. The outstanding "I Want To" vocalizes this gratitude. "I'll worship cause I need to. And I need to, cause I have to. And I have to, cause I love You. And I love You, cause You loved me. You loved me, so You died for me, and You died for me, so I'll live for You. And I'll live for You cause I want to...." On and on the cycle goes, and with each repeated chorus, the listener is moved deeper into worship. At over seven minutes, the song is extended, but it never grows tired. After the four minute mark, Pastor Rel steps in to talk about David and encourage us to be "after" God's heart. The song soon resumes its infectious chorus, bursting out passionately as the music explodes with a guitar solo. Cortney Joi then wraps up the song with a quiet, "I'm after you...."
Track 6, "Send Me," is a declaration of willingness and readiness to do God's will: "Send me, I'll go. Wherever Lord, I'll go...Send me, I'll go. To distant lands and seas. Here am I. Send me, I'll go." The song also reminds us of our role: "We are the generation that will change the nation." The drum beats pound like a beating heart--a heart beating in rhythm to God's call. "However You Come" follows with a beautiful piano intro, drum beats, and ambient sounds as Cortney Joi invites the Holy Spirit to descend: "Burning deep, burning free, burning passion, burn in me. However You come, please just Spirit fall." A favorite of mine, this song perfectly captures our almost desperate desire to be wholly consumed by God's fire. You'll find yourself singing along with the communal chant, and Cortney Joi's final a capella "I want more" will be a prayer on your lips.
Pavilion Towers seizes the moment as Cortney Joi moves into the prayerful "Great God." This intimate, meditative song is short and sweet, but it serves as a wonderful chance to pause and pray. The quiet mood continues in "Consumed," which has a gentle, breathy vocal over a pretty melody. It lists virtues like mercy, wisdom, love, and forgiveness, attributing these to God. The song is an aural depiction of a peaceful kind of jubilation. The lyrics very cleverly use the phrase "I am." Cortney Joi states "I am rejoicing," "I am forgiven," "I am a winner", etc., as she counts her many blessings, concluding with "because of You." She then turns the phrase from herself to God as she sings, "I am Yours and You are...the Great I Am."
Gentle songs continue as the album encourages you to sustain your prayerful posture. "Delight In Me" sings of God's love, the lyric capturing our astonishment that He would love us so extravagantly: "Here I stand, bowed before Your throne, singing songs of love to You, God. Filled with joy at the mere beauty that You take delight in us." Cortney Joi's voice is beautifully tender, and she uses it to great emotional effect on the vulnerable "Broken Pieces." I was moved as the song's verses related a personal journey of drawing closer to God. Nowhere is her voice more expressive than on the bridge: "Piece by piece, chip by chip, I'm letting You have my centerpiece, my broken core, my everything. And I'll sing in the shadows of Your wings, God. You heal all broken pieces." By the song's end, I had tears in my eyes.
The album continues with praise number "All Hail the King," and "Heaven on Earth," which continues the imagery of the King and His Kingdom. Cortney Joi sings about her wonderment as she contemplates Heaven: "I can't believe that if I just believe, I'll get to see the glory of the King." She urges us: "Let's prepare by joining with the angels." Rel Paul guests on the tune which has a little hip/hop flavor and an occasional hiccup to the lyric. "We need a little Heaven on Earth," Cortney Joi asserts, "I'mma worship like Heaven's on Earth." This is another sing-along moment on an album packed with choruses that encourage participation.
"Free to Praise" opens with a pretty piano melody worthy of Michael W. Smith that blossoms into a lovely offering of praise and thanksgiving: "O, how I love to say Your name (Jesus). O How I love to give You thanks. Thank You for grace and mercy. Thank You for dying for me."
The penultimate track, "I'll Never Leave," shifts the album into a moodier sound. But the minor key notes capture our doubts and fears, and the song's chorus reminds us of Jesus' promise: "I'll never leave you alone." It's a song about suffering, but suffering with Christ who suffered for us. We need the reminder this song provides when we are feeling deserted and forsaken, for because of Jesus' faithful promise, we are never truly alone. And nothing can separate us from His love.
It's only fitting then, that Crisis Worship ends with "Love of My Life," an energetic, passionate love song sung from our point of view as the bride to Christ. Rel Paul makes a rapping appearance as Cortney Joi sings, "I know You are the only One that I forever truly love." As the song comes to a close, she avows, "Because of You I'm finally believing that I can do anything, as long as I have You." Here the album abruptly ends, but it leaves us in the perfect position: grateful dependence.
With Crisis Worship, Pavilion Towers Worship brings their A-game. Over the course of this 80-minute CD, Pavilion Towers creates and sustains an intimate, prayerful, passionate worship experience. With this project, Cortney Joi, who shares writing credit on ten of the songs, showcases both her terrific, emotive voice as well as her strong, melodic songwriting. After my husband listened to the CD, he called it "both soul stirring and soul quieting." That's the best way to describe it. Rather than direct you to certain songs, I would encourage you to listen to this album in its entirety. And since time spent worshiping the Lord is never wasted, it will be time well spent!
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