|Jesus is Revealed | Posted March 20, 2013
You can't help but think of the golden years of Hillsong when you hear the name Darlene Zschech. During her tenure as the worship pastor of Hillsong Church, she saw the music of her local church become a global phenomenon.
So after the rise and explosion of Hillsong United, the planting of several Hillsong churches across the globe, and her handing off worship pastoring to Reuben Morgan, what's left for Darlene Zschech?
It seems like her job is the same as it's always been: Declare Jesus in worship and bring people to His throne. She's doing what she does best in her latest live album, Revealing Jesus.
A spirited, victorious Celtic-like chant introduces the album on "God is Here." Darlene's signature voice sings, "Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see you... Jesus be revealed." The upbeat song appeals to all the senses, praying that the Lord would use our eyes, hearts and ears. "We draw near to see Jesus face to face," is the thesis declaration of this song, and for that matter, the whole album.
"Best For Me" begins with a triumphant guitar riff that sounds like early Hillsong United. The pogo-friendly song retells Jesus' triumph over death and declares believers' allegiance to Him. "I live to testify / I live because You died / And I give my all to You / You gave Your best for me!" It's funny how United has become so subdued and chill, and the older generation of Hillsong (of which Darlene is part) has the high-energy, rock-infused corporate worship songs.
Whistles and "ohs" introduce "All That We Are," another uptempo United-like tune that worshipers of many generations could sing. "What a sacrifice / You laid down your life / To save a sinner's heart like mine / I surrender all / All to You my God," Darlene sings in the subdued bridge.
The first "throwback"-sounding song is the funkier-than-expected groove-laden "In Jesus' Name." In this one, Darlene reflects on the supremacy of Jesus, declaring, "God is fighting for us / God is on our side / He has overcome, yes He has overcome / We will not be shaken / We will not be moved / Jesus You are here."
Revealing Jesus was produced by fellow worship-leading powerhouse Israel Houghton, whose songs and vocals make appearances on the album. Houghton lends his vocals on "All That We Are," and on the contemplative and beautiful "Your Presence is Heaven"--which he wrote. Both dramatic singers, Zschech's meat-and-potatoes worship leading meshes well with Houghton's Gospel-infused style, even on more meditative songs like "Your Presence is Heaven."
"Victor's Crown" is a multi-generational, unifying praise chorus that has more than a tip of the hat to ‘90s-era Hillsong. The song is passionate, building and congregational. The bridge is particularly inspiring and empowering, and bears one of the most powerful lines in the entire album: "Every high thing must come down / Every stronghold shall be broken / You wear the Victor's crown / You will overcome, You will overcome."
Kari Jobe's unmistakable voice leads out on "Yours Forever," marking a rather compelling, powerful pairing of praise powerhouses. (Enough onomatopoeia?) When Darlene takes over on the second verse, you immediately notice the contrast of voices, and it's a good one. In opera, singers are either classified as "lyric" or "dramatic." Both serve a purpose in music, and in this song, you quickly realize that the lighter "lyric" sound of Kari Jobe works well juxtaposed with Darlene's "dramatic" vocals.
But that doesn't even capture the worshipful experience the chorus provides: "You took my place / You took the fall / You too the nails that I may live forever / You rose again / You made a way / You broke the chains and now I'm Yours forever / I'm Yours forever."
"Magnificent" is one of those songs that you don't necessarily sing corporately in church. It's a subdued, violin-driven piece that is suited for private reflection or some kind of artistic expression, like a dance. "You are magnificent eternally / Wonderful, glorious / Jesus / No one ever will compare."
The old hymn "My Jesus I Love Thee" gets a Zschech-up, with a new guitar riff, piano accents and violin ambiance dusting off the 19th century refrain. Most of the song is in the soft, quieter realm, but in typical Darlene fashion, it crescendos to a fever pitch of passion and praise.
"Your Name / Cry of the Broken" is a medley that weaves in and out between Paul Baloche's "Your Name" with Hillsong's "Cry of the Broken," painting a picture of God's love and saving power for those in direst need.
The anthemic and choral "I Am Yours" reunites Darlene with Michael W. Smith, as they sing, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away my sin / Lord Jesus crucified for me / This love that knows no end / Your love has set me free / To You I give my all, I am Yours!" It's a powerful declaration, especially in the bridge as they sing the words of Revelation 5:13: "Blessing and honor / Glory and power / Be unto Him."
Houghton's "Jesus Be the Center" ends the album with a more delicate--yet equally powerful--Zschech treatment of the song. Houghton provides accenting background vocals, but here Darlene's voice really shines and produces the kinds of spine-tingling moments we all remember from her early days in Hillsong.
Darlene Zschech isn't here to reinvent worship. She's just here to worship. And she isn't just talented at it; she's anointed. There's a distinction there, isn't there?
The words of Revealing Jesus are simple; there's not really anything new, lyrically speaking. But can we ever really get tired of singing of what Jesus did for us? Should we ever tire of singing about the love of God and the hope we have? Darlene doesn't think so, either. So while lyrically things are kept pretty simple, Darlene's passionate delivery proves that there's nothing else worth singing about that could compare with the simple truth of the Gospel.
In an age where sometimes in Christian music--and even in worship songs--it's hard to find the name of Jesus, Darlene delivers unabashed, unhindered praise to the King of Kings in profound, relevant fashion.
Darlene has proved that she's still relevant in worship music--and not just to the generation who first was introduced to her at Hillsong.
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