Look Upon the Lord
Posted March 13, 2012
After 20 years as a songwriter and worship leader, Paul Baloche needs no introduction. Though not all may know Baloche's name, chances are they know his songs. Baloche generally flies under the radar, and you get the sense he prefers it that way. For this newest release, his 12th effort on the Integrity label, Baloche has enlisted the help of friends, many of whom are part of the Integrity Music family. Nine of the thirteen songs were penned with at least one other songwriter, and seven of the songs feature guest vocals, making The Same Love a real community project. Writing and working with folks like Ben Fielding (Hillsong United), Jason Ingram (One Sonic Society), David Leonard and Leslie Jordan (All Sons & Daughters), Chris and Anthony Hoisington (Brothers McClurg), Ed Kerr, Lincoln Brewster, Kari Jobe, and Kathryn Scott, Baloche sounds rejuvenated and bursting with energy. The by-product is a top-notch worship album. It's the Paul Baloche you know and love -- the sensitive singer-songwriter with heartfelt songs -- and this CD is sure to capture listeners' hearts and radio programmers' ears. So, ready or not, Paul Baloche is about to be thrust into the spotlight.
What The Same Love shines the spotlight on is Jesus. Throughout this record, Baloche has a singular mission: drawing our eyes to Jesus -- Jesus on the cross, Jesus as our Savior, Healer, and King. On the opening track, "The Same Love," Baloche sings of Jesus' unchanging love and His unrelenting pursuit of us all. The same God we read about in the Bible is still alive today and He's calling us: "The same love that set the captives free / the same love that opened eyes to see / is calling us all by name." Though it's up to us to listen, Jesus has always been calling, "calling us all to the cross." Baloche's energetic opener is the perfect way to bring the listener in.
Baloche's focus remains on the cross for the anthemic "We Are Saved," written with Ben Fielding and Jason Ingram. Fielding sings along on this track as he and Baloche profess: "We stand amazed at the work of the cross / We are saved / We are saved / Our sin has been forgiven / You have broken every chain / We are saved."
For "King of Heaven," another co-write with Ingram, Baloche is joined by David Leonard and Leslie Jordan of All Sons & Daughters. Leslie Jordan's voice pairs nicely with Baloche on this beautiful, melodic song. The two are accompanied by a bouncy banjo and are eventually joined by Leonard. The three voices mesh wonderfully, and the production layers background vocals. The end result is a passionate, joyful, earthy song that is an invitation and a prayer to King Jesus: "King of Heaven come down / King of Heaven come now / let Your glory reign / shining like the day / King of Heaven come." This lovely offering is one of my favorites on the album.
We return to the cross for the next two songs. "All Because of the Cross," a modern reworking of "Nothing But the Blood," begins with the first two verses of the hymn, then Baloche adds a new refrain: "All because of the cross we are white as snow / All because of what You've done, there's a cleansing flow / For all who come." Baloche's sight remains cross-centered with "Your Blood Ran Down." The song is a piano-driven beauty that features a lone vocal augmented by moody cello and violin. Baloche sings, "From Your head, down Your face / From Your hands to Your feet / Your blood ran down for me." It may be spare on lyrics, but it's full of heart. These two songs work well in tandem, with the thoughtful "Your Blood Ran Down" allowing the space for prayer and contemplation.
In today's troubled world, the word 'hope' is frequently bandied about. With "My Hope," Baloche reminds us that the only constant and real source of hope is Jesus. On this record, I love his voice with female accompaniment, and on this gem he's joined by Kathyrn Scott. The two passionately declare: "My hope is built on nothing less / than Your great love, Your righteousness / I will not walk another way / I trust your heart, I trust Your name / I'm holding on...I'm holding on to You."
Just when you think it can't get any better, Baloche and All Sons & Daughters present "Oh Our Lord." Musically, this folksy song recalls Paul Simon at his best. Once again, Leslie Jordan's voice is a real treat. The lyrics are beautifully delivered with great harmonies as the three sing, "We behold the rising sun / the earth awakes/ Your hope has come / We look to You, We long for You, Oh Lord / Oh, oh, oh...Our Lord / Oh, oh oh...Our Lord / How majestic is Your name in all the earth." If the lyrics seem familiar, it's probably the song's biblical backbone showing through: part of the lyric comes from Psalm 8:9. Sung in praise to King Jesus, with poetic lyrical imagery, head-turning harmonies, and a full, organic sound, "Oh Our Lord" is nothing short of stunning and sure to be all over radio!
Baloche will bring you to your feet with "Christ the Lord." He sings of the cross, the sacrifice, and the freedom from shame and fear that Jesus bought for us. The chorus is catchy and energetic: "Christ the Lord is risen today / the Lamb of God has taken our sins away / Love's redeeming work is done / Raise your voice, the King has overcome!" This anthem ought to be sung in churches across the nation come Easter Sunday.
If "Reign In Me" reminds you of something from an Aaron Shust record, you're right on target. Co-written with Jason Ingram who has produced for Shust, this one has Ingram's stamp all over it. A little melancholy and minor key, the song is an honest prayer for deliverance and healing. Calling upon Jesus as Savior, Healer, and King, Baloche sings, "With groanings too deep for words, I yearn for You / I yearn for You / With all of my weakness I come / In need of You / In Need of You / Savior, save me / Healer, heal me / Jesus, have Your way / King of Glory, reign in me / Reign in me."
On "Just Say," an outstanding collaboration between Baloche and Brothers McClurg, the lyrics make allusions to biblical moments of Jesus' healing. Listen carefully and you'll hear references to Matthew 8, "Just say the word...," and Mark 9, "Hear my humble prayer, help my unbelief." The message here is about prayer-born faith and hope. And the song contains one of my favorite lines on the album, "You will be my ark that floats me up above the storm." This tender song of prayer has enough open space and lilting melody that it starts to feel like a soothing lullaby. A definite highlight!
Next up is a song that you may have heard on Lincoln Brewster's 2010 project, Real Life. Written with Brewster, "Loved by You" has simple, straightforward lyrics, heavily featuring the refrain, "I was made to be loved by You, Jesus." While the song might be less than stirring sung by another artist, Baloche breathes life into the track with his sincere delivery.
As the album draws near the end, Baloche brings out Kari Jobe for "Look Upon the Lord," which he wrote with Jobe and Ingram. What a gorgeous song! Inviting us to look at Jesus the King, the song is musically wide-open, with mainly strings, percussive backing, and occasional piano. The vocals are breathtaking -- Kari's voice is airy and lilting. Early on, the lyrics invoke the presence of God with "Let the glory of our God from Heaven come down." Indeed, you'll swear that angels have come down as Jobe and Baloche sing: "You are good and Your mercy will endure / You are good and forever we are Yours." This song is haunting. As you look upon the throne of Jesus, you'll have goosebumps on your flesh and tears in your eyes.
On the closer, "Shout for Joy," Baloche brings you back to your feet. This is another song from Lincoln Brewster's last project, and it returns the record to where it started, looking to the cross with Jesus as Savior. It's a celebration of what Jesus did for us through Love. The chorus exclaims: "Shout for joy, for the Son of God is the Saving One / He's the Saving One / Shout for joy, see what Love has done / Shout for Joy, He has come for us / He's the Saving One."
The Same Love is Paul Baloche's steadfast, earnest offering in which he, like his biblical namesake, points us again and again to the Gospel, the good news that is Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, the album's gaze never shifts. It's all about Jesus' love for us: Jesus as teacher, calling us to the cross, Jesus as Healer, Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as King. For worship music that is genuine and leaves plenty of quiet for prayer and reflection, and for God to move, look no further than Paul Baloche.
"The Same Love," "King of Heaven," "My Hope," "Oh Our Lord," "Christ the Lord," "Just Say," and "Look Upon the Lord."
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