Hillsong Chapel Hillsong’s objective is to counterbalance their epic, arena-rock sound with something more intimate. If you’re looking for new Hillsong material, you won’t find it here. All their songs are repeats from...
A Beautiful Exchange
Hillsong Worship Hillsong continues to prove itself to be a juggernaut in the worship music industry. Now long ago in modern worship years, worship leader Darlene Zschech put Hillsong on the international map with "Shout...
Passion Worth getting it? If you're buying this album for personal edification, get it. You will be encouraged. If you're a worship leader looking for congregational material, save money and just buy the few songs...
Great songs, needs more depth and theological reflection | Posted October-26-2010
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars Great songs/heart, excellent production...Needs more depth and theological reflection, June 5, 2009
This review is from: A_cross//The_earth:Tear Down The Walls (Audio CD)
It's been a pleasure to buy a copy of United's latest work. I've been processing it, listening to it in my car, and dialoguing with a few friends about it. I've been looking on United's site and reading some posts to get some context for its creation. Thank you, Hillsong United, for another beautiful offering to our Father in heaven.
I would like to review the album with some positive comments and then some constructive feedback. Hopefully it will bless the Church and worship leaders to be discerning about the songs they utilize in their worship services.
What I love, more than anything else about Hillsong and Hillsong United recordings is their attempt to aurally capture the corporate worship setting. The lead vocals are always very tucked, and one hears easily the swell of many voices (whether choir or congregation) coupled with lots of verb to give it that "in-house" feel (I know many of them are actually in-house and the reverb is actual house acoustics). I also appreciate that they have an arsenal of different lead singers, helping play down the notion of a "celebrity frontman." Not every church has the resources to have multiple worship leaders and lead singers, but it's a blessing when they do.
The musical production is outstanding. It's the unique, "signature" Hillsong sound, with creative electric guitar and synth work. The electric guitar/synth line (at least that's what I think it is) on the opening track has that beautiful tension of familiarity and uniqueness (oh, so enjoyable).
The album title is creative in its double-entendre, and therefore it's a powerful umbrella to encapsulate a powerful album.
The best song on the album: "Desert Song." As a person who, even at a young age, has had to endure some heavy suffering, I have a tender spot in my heart for any song whose theme is, basically, "even when God has ordained suffering for me, yet I will praise Him." "Desert Song" does this. More than that, "Desert Song" has a unique, yet singable melody and chord structure, and has a nice flow and movement. We will be using "Desert Song" at our church.
Another great song: "Soon." The church needs more songs that focus on the eschaton. We get so caught up in the now, and yet Christ's resurrection and down payment of the Holy Spirit has sealed for us a future that we need to be continually aware of. "Soon" does this. Among modern worship songs, it is rare in its second-coming focus. It's a sweet, beautiful song.
(It's interesting that the two songs I most like are sung by Brooke Fraser. I can't find who wrote these songs [come on Hillsong, don't make it this hard], but my hunch is that she wrote these two. Why? She wrote "Hosanna," which is full of biblical allusion and theological reflection. And these two song seem to come from a similar mind. In general, I find Fraser's writing a cut above the other Hillsong lyricists.)
An overall observation of much of United's material, across their many wonderful albums, is that their lyrics tend to be disjointed (logical coherence is one of my criteria for choosing worship songs...see my article on criteria). From line to line, I sometimes have a hard time making the immediate logical connection. I understand that some songs are intentionally "impressionistic" (such is the case with the hymn on our album, "Light After Darkness," by Frances Ridley Havergal), but when it happens for much of the material, I have to pause and ask the question of how healthy it is for churches to speak to God with such hiccupped communication. For instance, here's verse 2 of "Freedom is Here:"...
For the full review, go here:
Redman's at the top of his game! | Posted October-26-2010
My recommendation is that worship leaders and worshipers alike should buy this album. My three favorite songs, which I hope to use at my church, are "You Alone Can Rescue," "How Great is Your Faithfulness," and "Remembrance."
I must say I've been following Redman for a long time--since the late 90s. His early albums were great. In the 2000s, Where Angels Fear to Tread was a powerful album for me, mostly because, well before it became famous, "Blessed Be Your Name" became a heart-song of mine as God took my wife and me through the valley of the shadow of death. After Angels came Beautiful News, and I must admit that I was disappointed in it. My expectations were probably too high, but too many songs seemed either unsingable, too bland, or attempting too much chordally/musically. We Shall Not Be Shaken is, in my mind, a few large leaps back up "great worship album" hill.
As I've said about every album Redman has put out, We Shall Not Be Shaken shows Redman to be a worship leader who actually reads His Bible. His songs, while existential, are filled with Bible quotes, Scriptural allusion, and theological depth. In this respect, he seems to be getting better with every subsequent album.
The production on this album is great...better than previous collections. There is a nice sonic variety within the pop/rock genre. Electric guitars aren't monochromatic. Some songs are piano-driven rather than guitar-driven. There are U2 and Coldplay overtones here and there, and I'm hearing a more noticeable use of sampling/programming/looping than what has been on previous albums. There are more mid- and up-tempo songs (which, personally, I find harder to write [with any substance] than slower songs). Redman's voice has never been a flashy one. In many ways, I view him as the Rich Mullins of modern worship, in the sense that his recordings are admired not because he's a virtuoso vocalist but because he writes incredible texts. And there's something refreshing about a "straight up" vocalist every once in a while. You can tell Redman is a worship leader rather than a performer. (I like Brenton Brown's recordings for a lot of those same reasons.)
Gospel-Centered, and God-Centered
I praise Redman and this album chiefly for its gospel-centeredness. Too many worship songs ignore the gospel, probably because the whole concept of gospel-as-entrance-ticket (but not as our ongoing source of sustenance and sanctification) is still pretty prevalent in evangelicalism. So, that Redman continually points to the life and work of Christ, and that he roots our worship in God's finished work in Jesus, are necessary correctives/emphases for mainstream evangelical worship. The album is a gospel-centered album...
Read the rest of this review at: http://www.zachicks.com/blog/2009/8/25/review-of-matt-redmans-new-album-we-shall-not-be-shaken.html
Great for personal listening, so-so for corporate worship | Posted October-26-2010
Worth getting it? If you're buying this album for personal edification, get it. You will be encouraged. If you're a worship leader looking for congregational material, save money and just buy the few songs worth evaluating (see the song-by-song analysis below).
Songs I would most likely end up using in worship: "You Alone Can Rescue" (Redman), "Our God" (Tomlin).
Accessibility: As usual, their sung keys favor tenors and altos (singing in nearly the same vocal range), alienating the bass and soprano vocal range. But good worship leaders should have the musical ability to re-set these songs in accessible keys (and if they don't, they should think about getting some musical training or else choosing a different vocation...because they're not serving the church well when they lead these songs in the recorded keys). Once the songs are set in congregation-friendly keys, the majority of them are accessible and singable for most congregations.
Theological depth: Passion still cannot stand up to the great hymns of the faith, but the longer they're around the more their songs progress to being God-centered rather than human-centered, with a stronger gospel focus. There is still a lack of substantive reflection on one major part of the Christian experience--suffering. Where one of my friends had described the texts and styles coming from Hillsong United as "adolescent," I would comparatively describe this latest collection from Passion a bit more mature (20s, early 30s?) with some deeper songs that push the average upward. Whether they know it or not, the Passion folks still reflect a charismatic/Pentecostal theological perspective in the way they choose to express, experience, and request God's presence.
Musicality: As always, superb. I would characterize the style as modern, yet conservative, with a slight edge. They are not as experimental with rhythm, electric guitar work, synth sounds, and song structure as, say, Hillsong United, but they aren't remaining stuck in the same stylistic forms that they were using on the previous albums (I keep comparing them to Hillsong United, so it's worth pointing out that United actually made it on this album). Musically, Tomlin's "Our God" is enjoyable to me, especially for its bridge and musical interlude (see below). The album is well-produced and polished, as always, and they've included more of the congregational "sound" (background voices) than in previous albums. Probably because of the influence of Hillsong United, there are more congregational "whoa's" (I don't know what else to call them); they appear on several tracks. I personally like this (to me they serve the biblical function of "shout of praise") but I know that it seems to many in the church like pointless, rock-concert frivolity. Still, could congregational "whoa's" be the new version of call-and-response antiphonal singing? Ancient-future, baby!
For the full review, including a song-by-song analysis, go here: http://www.zachicks.com/blog/2010/3/15/review-of-passions-new-worship-album-awakening.html
Great Album! Still room for some theological improvement | Posted October-26-2010
Hillsong continues to prove itself to be a juggernaut in the worship music industry. Now long ago in modern worship years, worship leader Darlene Zschech put Hillsong on the international map with "Shout to the Lord," and they have never since faded in influence over Western evangelical worship (and they have decidedly broken into non-Western international contexts, as well). Hillsong is a Pentecostal megachurch, so all their worship music is colored by their charismatic heritage.
Worth Getting It?
Yes. With each passing listen, it ministers to my heart more and more. It blesses me most when I am listening to it with devotional intention. Unlike some past Hillsong albums, I'm finding much less to raise an eyebrow at theologically. Modern worship songwriting still needs to understand the difference between songs and expressions which are a part of private, devotional worship and songs which are intended for congregations. So, again, for the personal listener the album is great, but not every song translates into the corporate worship experience (I recognize that all these songs have for Hillsong, but I respectfully disagree that some should.)
Songs I Would Most Likely Lead in Worship:
Tier 1: "Our God is Love," "The One Who Saves," "Thank You"
Tier 2: "Open My Eyes," "Like Incense / Sometimes By Step," "The Father's Heart"
(Read comments in the song-by-song analysis below for further explanation)
The New Face of Hillsong. This album is a testament to what is happening in the worship leadership down in Sydney. With the maturation of the first generation of Hillsong United worship leaders (United is Hillsong's youth, college, and young adult expression)--Joel Houston, Brooke (Fraser) Ligertwood, Jad Gillies, and Matt Crocker--we're seeing them graduate into Hillsong-main and appear on albums like this one. This transfer was also evident when I saw Hillsong United here in Loveland, CO several months back. Houston and Ligertwood were there, but they were also giving air time to some newer, younger faces. But personnel is not the only thing transferring from Hillsong United to Hillsong-main.
Musicality. This album witnesses a stylistic blend of the more adult-contemporary, mainstream sound of Hillsong with the gritty, adolescent fervor of Hillsong United. You could either call it a more pumped-up Hillsong or a more mellowed Hillsong United. Pick your poison. The clues are in the more edgy electric guitar work (e.g. the more punk-style opening measures of "Open My Eyes" or the detuned, feedbacky outro to "Believe"), the more aggressive United-style drumming (lots of tom-work and a more constant use of the kick drum on solid eighths or sixteenths), and a lot more ambient, "experimental" sounds from the guitars and keys. However, the regular Hillsong vibe penetrates in many of the melody lines, vocal harmonies, and familiar chord progressions. Musically speaking, then, the album is beautiful...
Accessibility. To my ear, Hillsong has always been more accessible for congregations than Hillsong United. If they're highly synchopated in their vocal rhythms, there's enough consistency to make it catchable in short order. A Beautiful Exchange is a very singable album (with the caveat that every song could be transposed down a few steps). Vocal lines are melismatic, without too many leaps in awkward places. If there are leaps, they are textually appropriate. However, it's one thing to sing these songs, and it's another thing to play these songs. I regularly underestimate how hard it is to reproduce the dynamic and ambient fullness of their musical sound in our worship context...
Theological Depth. Theologically, Hillsong has always focused on the basics...the essentials. Therefore, in every album including this one, we'll hear a lot about the cross, salvation, healing, and its interpersonal intersection with the individual Christian. This is a beautiful thing! Though I don't feel anything is flat out erroneous, I have commented in the past my discomfort with Hillsong's triumphalism--victorious proclamations of what I can do with my faith for God. Of course triumph is a reality of the Christian faith, but we must never put our stock there. We must put our stock in the Gospel...
For the full review and a song-by-song analysis, visit: http://www.zachicks.com/blog/2010/7/5/album-review-of-a-beautiful-exchange-by-hillsong.html
No new songs, but helpful to hear Hillsong stripped down | Posted October-26-2010
Hillsong’s objective is to counterbalance their epic, arena-rock sound with something more intimate. If you’re looking for new Hillsong material, you won’t find it here. All their songs are repeats from previous records.
However, there is one thing valuable and unique about this album for worship leaders to note. I often hear from musicians trying to incorporate and play Hillsong material in their churches that the arrangements are too dense, and the average band can’t live up to the gusto of Hillsong drumming and electric guitars. There’s a beauty and musicality in what Hillsong can accomplish, but I agree that commoners like us feel inadequate when trying to achieve the dynamic, intense, and ethereal prowess of the Aussies.
Yahweh provides a peak into a more “realistic,” average modern worship instrumental sound. The recordings sound pretty raw, which makes me think that, unlike Hillsong main, United, and Live, there isn’t as much overdubbing going on after the live recording on this album. I hear rough vocal harmonies, stronger presence of acoustics in the mix, and perhaps some slight rhythmic imprecision. The fact that these are all known, previously recorded songs actually makes the aforementioned “imperfections” more remarkable. Here we have the Hillsong artists themselves showing us how their own music can be done differently. And that’s valuable.
For the full review, go here: http://www.zachicks.com/blog/2010/10/25/review-of-yahweh-by-hillsong-chapel.html