Various Artists – Love Divine, The Hymns Of Charles Wesley
We review a lot of hymn projects here at the blog. I caught Bob Kauflin’s review of “Love Divine” a few weeks ago and decided to check it out.
Quite a few notable “names” from within both the worship world and CCM radio lend their voices to this project, which is headed by John Hartley and Chris Eaton (both well-known producers in their own right.)
I really liked Bob’s review, which you can read here, and I’ll try not to copy all the same stuff he said! Let’s take it track-by-track!
I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Tim Hughes) – perfect, four-on-the-floor opener for this tune. Hughes and company know how to dynamically structure a song. Nice electric piano riff gives the song some nice space that eventually morphs into a straight ahead rock song with a nice, simple chorus. I don’t know of anybody in worship world who does straight ahead rock like Tim Hughes. It’s a great affirmation song, packed with a nice linear theology of Jesus as our rescuer.
Rejoice The Lord Is King (John Ellis of Jesus Culture) – The song pairs an old-sounding melody – dig that II chord – with a sprawling, bluesy, Beatle-like vibe. The song is a simple direction for worship of our King, but the feel of the song feels a little too frantic.
And Can It Be (Jason Roy of Building429) – Among the many adapted version of this Wesley tune, this one stands out. Instrumentation is scaled back, leaving lots of room for this phenomenal melody. The lack of a refrain or chorus section makes the song feel a little long. Listening through this, I’m reminded of what this song has been done so much…this song is a perfect example of why the poetry of hymns still stands the test time.
Jesus, We Look To Thee (Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture) – Even though it opens with an indie rock intro, this one is a strange, downbeat folky tune. The song feels a bit better once the brush & snare pattern kicks in, but the melody and phrasing are still unpredictable. It’s nice to hear Kim Walker-Smith on a studio song, though…she’s got a great voice and it’s nice to hear in a non-live recording setting.
Jesus, Lover Of My Soul (Chris Eaton) – This orchestral, almost-operatic is quite a departure from the modern rock approach evident in the other tunes. Minor-key piano, thick strings, stacked vocals. Lyrically, the song is a unique lament that gets pretty emotive by the end of the song.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Brian Johnson of Bethel Live) – This is a good melody and a good rock song. But in my opinion, it’s hard to beat the original. I like this one, but not as much as the one that Charles wrote. This is a good reminder that these old dudes knew what they were talking about.
Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above (Leigh Nash) – If you’ve been wondering if Leigh Nash still has it, let me help you: SHE DOES. This is a nice, bouncy waltz with an instantly singable melody and a great “list song” that reminds us of the many things that we can thank God for. I like the size of this song, but this one would also work as an awesome “unplugged” tune.
Jesus The Name High Over All (Chris Quilala of Jesus Culture) -I’m not sure why this nice, laid back tune starts with such a chaotic wash of song…it’s a weird opening. Chorus arrangement is great – a fresh collection of chords that build nicely. But this far into the record, I wish some of them wouldn’t all go to EPICROCKBALLADPOWERHYMN…my ears are getting tired.
O For A Thousand Tongues (Chris McClarney) – Remember the kooky synth patches that U2 used back when they went crazy for a couple of albums? This one starts with that. As I mentioned earlier, lots of these songs are good, but this one doesn’t do justice to the original.
Love Divine (Jenn Johnson of Bethel Live) – Even if this wasn’t good, I’d still listen to it because of Jenn Johnson’s voice. It’s nice to hear a strong, female rock voice handle a mellow song like this with a restrained power. The tune’s pretty wordy and the melody is ambitious, but it’s a nice reprieve from all the rock tunes so far.
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today (Aaron Keyes) – I love Aaron. He’s a great worship leader with some of the most amazing scriptural recall I’ve ever seen. This tune has a great chorus section, but I’d rather hear it as it’s own song. There’s also some weird dissonant stuff in the verses of this version that felt pretty distracting.
Christ, Whose Glory Fills The Skies (Mark Roach) – I loved the bouncy, Jason Mraz-quality of this tune. As it builds, there’s a cool organ feel that adds some “church” to it. Piano players will dig the approach on this one. This one follows a hymn-model and doesn’t seem to have an additional chorus section written in.
Oh For A Heart To Praise My God (Brenton Brown) – Maybe the strongest tune on the record. Wesley’s strong melodic abilities are evident here. The tom-heavy drum approach works great here and this song is a clinic on wise, sparse electric guitar playing. The more I listen to it, the more confident I am that this is a song your church should be singing!
There’s good stuff in this record. As something to listen to, it’s got depth and creativity and will definitely keep your ears interested. As a worship resource, I’d rate it about a 7. The remakes of the familiar stuff don’t take the songs anywhere and most of the songs are probably more produced than most praise teams can pull off.
With some work and some rearranging, I’d say four or five of these would work in most any congregation.