TUESDAY REVIEW – THE CLASSIC CITY COLLECTIVE

The Classic City Collective – Leave Your Guns With The Usher

Winning the award for most creative title for a worship project, Leave Your Guns With The Usher is the new release from Classic City Community Church in Athens, Georgia.

This “collective” idea seems to very hip with musicians of the church these days. “Band” has been replaced with a much more open-sourced, “community of artists.” Heck, lots of bands are even putting “collective” in their names. After listening through this new project, I can safely say that the whole record definitely reinforces the collective aspect – the record is a varied mix of styles and musical approaches. I guess when you get that many artists in one room, there’s bound to be variety!

A little note before we take it track-by-track…due to the abundance of styles and offerings within the worship genre, the notion of a CD review can be hard to pin down. I review records on this blog as a worship pastor within a local church. As I listen, I’m evaluating the songs as they would relate to, bless and instruct my own congregation.

IN THE ARMS OF GOD – This swampy, lo-fi modern day Psalm is pretty captivating. Phrasing and timing are very creative. From a straight up a songwriting perspective, the tune is stellar. As a worship tune, I’m not so sure. I think worship teams would need to straighten out the verses just a bit to make them more singable and the tune’s bluesy nature definitely makes it more of a “gospel” song that a modern worship tune.

NO GREATER LOVE – Maybe the best worship tune on the record. Landing somewhere between the best of Sarah McLachlan and Sixpence None The Richer, this one feels much closer to what most churches are probably singing – the big, rock ballad. There’s good poetry here and it supports strong, scriptural theology. It’s one of those great songs that paints a clear picture of Christ’s love. Female vocal on this one is really nice.

GOD ON HIGH – Another song with some strange pauses, but overall a nice offering. This one comes off like some of the stronger Hillsong songs that have been more hymn-like in recent years. Since it’s a studio project, there’s no screaming throng, which benefits this one. I’m sure it’s powerful in front of a few thousand, but I like the focus of this studio version.

A MIND AT PERFECT PEACE – Opens with more lo-fi stylings. A nice warm Stratocaster picking part over a drum loop establishes a light, airy vibe for this one. This is a remake of a hymn from the late 1800’s. Throw in some chimes and a cheap organ patch and you’ve got a simple chorus of praise. I dig the take, although I wonder if the music is a little too “light” for lyrics like this: By nature and by practice far / How very far from God! Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him / through faith in Jesus’ blood. I do commend the players for not trying turn this one into a rocker. It’s perfectly paced.

DARKNESS TURNS AROUND – I’m pretty sure Tom Petty didn’t write this bluesy, minor-chord jam, but he could have. This appears to be a song “to” the Devil that refrains with a declaration of trust on the Father. It’s a great sentiment and very obviously exalts God’s power, but in the end, it feels kinda’ silly. Sorry.

SET MY MIND ON TRUTH – The acoustic and xylophone chorus builds on Phillipians 4:8 and James 1:17, but also has a Psalm-like elements of asking God to help in relation to attacks of the enemy. Arrangement is nice, by lyrically jumps around a bit.

AT YOUR FEET – A beautiful song of confession and need to rest at Jesus’ feet. Nice electric piano and string parts here. It’s a nicely written song, but I think it’s stronger as a performance piece.

ALL REJOICE – As best I can tell, this is intended to be the second part of the previous song, “At Your Feet.” I like that it’s a response to things that have been said in the earlier song. As a standalone piece, it would probably be redundant and seems to intend to get emotive quickly.

MY OFFERING – A strange combination on this one. Lyrically, the song is great. The concept of every part of us already belong to God is an helpful, instructive thing for a church to sing. Arrangement is solid, but I expected a bit more vocal power as the song progressed. However Classic City Collective does continue to show a real skill in creating compelling songs that don’t resort to quite/loud/quiet cliche.

LOVE’S LEFT STANDING – More jazz-minded players will love this intro. Female vocal on this tune is really nice and the chorus is hard to forget! Lyrics on this one lean more poetic than pastoral on this one. A good, creative tune, but would be a hard one to integrate into congregational singing.

GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS – I’m already a sucker for this song. Do it with fingerpicked electric guitar, I’m all the more into it. This seems to be a “cover” of Lincoln Brewster’s version of the familiar hymn. Whereas Brewster’s version is more jazzy and emotive, this version is more folky and free of embellishment. Having done the Lincoln Brewster arrangement, I have to say that this newer take feels a bit more at home in a Sunday morning set.

YOU’VE HAD WHAT YOU NEED – A good performance piece to close out the record. Written from God’s perspective, this acoustic number features some nice, ambient stringed textures to reinforce a heavenly view of the lives we’ve led. I like the scriptural references in this one.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this record. It’s creative and interesting and even challenging in places. As a project to listen to, it’s really strong. As a resource for my own congregation, however, it doesn’t really stand up. I’d say two songs are probably instantly implementable into my praise band, and probably four others could be added with some serious adjustment.

After quite a few listens, I find it hard to believe that this record is intended to be a congregational worship CD. To my ears, it’s too varied and nuanced to fit that label. I think these musicians brought their most honest and creative songs and created a collection. Not really a resource for my church, but worshipful and creative.

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