A Resounding Success
Posted November 05, 2014
By SarahFine_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Saying this could possibly start a riot, but I'm going to take the risk: "God's Not Dead" is rapidly becoming the "Jesus Freak" of this generation. Definitely not in terms of innovation, but most certainly in its impact.
While we have mastermind Daniel Bashta to thank for its conception, we'd be remiss not to give the credit to Newsboys for the song's surge to fame. Their 2012 worship album of the same name became one of the biggest albums of their 25 year career, changing the way longtime worship skeptics approached the genre. Not bad for a pop quartet who faced a massive line-up change and nearly called it quits just three years prior.
Here we are again a few short years later, ready to welcome yet another album into the Newsboys catalog. However, with Hallelujah For The Cross, the band is decidedly going down the worship path once more to present us with a collection of hymns. Is this a bit of a head-scratcher following their first venture into the EDM market last fall? Perhaps, but I think the real question to be asked here is likely is this merely a God's Not Dead copycat, or do these remakes actually stand on their own?
The key word when it comes to albums like these is originality, and not only do Newsboys pull it off, they manage to do so quite stunningly. Take songs like "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "It Is Well," two of the most covered hymns of our time. Both present moody electronic undertones with a forefront upbeat vibe that attacks you with a spirit of praise. The vocal arrangements we find Michael Tait singing are some of the most unique variations of these songs I've heard in some time.
"Jesus Paid It All" is a recycled song the band released for a compilation album several years back, but ends up working here quite beautifully.
"I Surrender All" and "Holy, Holy, Holy" are two of the more traditional sounding hymns on the project, and though they don't stray very far from their roots, they still lend themselves to being well-polished inclusions.
Fans will be thrilled to hear the familiar "Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Their take on the much beloved hymn also stands as the first Newsboys 2.0 remake of one of their classics, as it first appeared on the smash Not Ashamed album back in 1992. Musically, it's the most modern sounding Newsboys offering presented here, and the additional Steve Taylor penned lyrics still cut as much today as they did two decades ago: "I was numb until You touched me, I was deaf until He heard / I was senseless till I met the One who understands."
If we're going to talk about a standout track, let's head straight to "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" and park there for awhile. If you don't walk into this track knowing it was originally written back in 1855, you'd never suspect it. Throwing it back to a former era of the band when synth pop dominated their sound, this reconstructed melody sounds more like the Newsboys we've all been wanting to hear for years. The powerful lyrics slice through the airwaves, and with guitarist Jody Davis' background vocals spotlighted throughout the chorus, this is one not to be overlooked.
Full disclosure: I walked into the idea of a Newsboys hymns album without much optimism. In fact, I was almost certain I wouldn't enjoy it. Little did I realize that Hallelujah For The Cross might just be 2014's biggest surprise. Not only does the band pull off these timeless tracks remarkably well, they manage to infuse their solid signature sound into each and every crevasse.
Let's touch on that signature sound for a moment. Born Again is arguably the strongest sonically of the Tait era, and while Restart was solid for what it was, it wasn't the Newsboys fans were used to. This hymns project reintroduces the whimsical pop vibe the band spent years perfecting. I'm happy to see that quasi-quirkiness return, and with each member of the band in perfect form, these songs display the perfect blend of old and new in more ways than one.
Song To Download Now:
"What A Friend We Have In Jesus" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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