TUESDAY REVIEW – BETHEL LIVE: HERE IS LOVE

Bethel Live – Here Is Love
If you lead worship, you’ve probably heard of Bethel Live (or Jesus Culture, a youth ministry offshoot of the church.) Songs from both groups are quickly becoming standards within the modern-day worship catalog.

So far, I haven’t been a huge fan of their records, but a couple of friends recommended this one, so I figured I’d give it a shot. From the very start, I noticed a couple of things. First off, this record is much more simple than previous works. The previous album felt much more “produced” – multiple tracked guitars, auxiliary instruments, more complicated arrangements. Secondly, there seem to be more covers on this song. Even at first glance, I realized that there were quite a few songs I had heard before.

Here are my thoughts on the record as a resource for the place I serve.

MY SOUL SINGS – Have to admit, I was kinda’ impressed that a live worship record started with a relatively slow tune. This is a pretty simple “love song” to Jesus, but a good melody and some nice band work. The players on this record are great at laying back and keeping things simple. There are definitely hooks, but no one on the band is trying too hard to be prominent. The only challenge of this song is Brian Johnson’s amazing range – don’t know how many male worship leaders could carry the low verses and high choruses. But this could be adjusted by spreading out the parts to other singers.

I FOUND A LOVE – My favorite track on the record. This Ben Cantelon song has always been a favorite of mine. Again, the band pulls off a lot of sound and power without overplaying their parts – a good example for all of us! There’s an extended “spontaneous” ending that’s nice, but I don’t know that an ending like that is best for my place. I’m also so weirded out by Jenn Johnson’s “ya ya ya.”

We’ve talked a bit about Kim Walker’s constant laughter in Jesus Culture tunes and apparently Jenn Johnson has a similar vocal affectation when she sings. It’s not as distracting when sung, but this tune features her talk/singing it during the song breakdown. Yes, it’s confusing and distracting, but I’m more frustrated for this reason: there are tons of worship leaders – many of them in formative, learning stages – who are listening to this record and I’m not sure these sort of gibberish phrases help the young worship leaders. I’m afraid this sort of thing continues to promote the idea that the most important aspect of leading worship is getting up there and doing whatever YOU want/feel/like. Which is just untrue.

Maybe I’m making too much of a simple phrase, but worship leaders who make CDs have to realize that people are going to naturally try to mimic what they hear, right?

KING OF WONDERS – This CompassionArt song made a bit of a splash when it was released, but I had forgotten just how good it is. I’m not sure if this tune got a lot of church use when it first landed, but I hope more folks will give it a shot now that it’s featured on Bethel’s new release. Thematically, it deftly explains and instructs us in the idea that our worship is a response. That may sound pretty standard, but in my opinion, there aren’t enough worship songs that explain that relationship within the worship God – the dynamic of His preeminence and superiority and our response to that.

I LOVE YOUR PRESENCE – Much slower vibe, but still such great playing from the band. Personally, I’m not that big on “presence” songs. At our church, we work really hard to sing and pray and teach the idea that for those that are in Christ, there is no secular and sacred. If the Spirit of God inhabits us, every day, every second is intended for His glory. The problem with presence songs is that they often elevate a specific time – as if we’re in God’s presence at certain times. Theologically, I disagree with the premise. I don’t think the song is terrible or wrong – God’s presence is amazing! But I’d be more tentative about using this one.

YOU MAKE ME HAPPY – This seems to be a response to the previous track as a “spontaneous song.” There’s some great acoustic work here and beautiful singing, but my spontaneous worship times are really a component of our worship gatherings. Not slamming it, just stating that we don’t really do the spontaneous singing thing.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE – Song with an intriguing title brings back some male vocals. Strong melody and a good arrangement, but thematically, song is a lot like “I Love Your Presence.” There’s an idea here that we’re waiting around for God to “come down”. Probably a fun song to sing and a powerful arrangement, but since we believe God’s omnipresent and sovereign always…songs that anticipate His “coming” (not returning, but filling the room, so to speak) aren’t really a resource for us. The song is also weird because it asks a question regarding what would it sound like when Heaven comes down, then immediately says THIS is what it sounds like. Kinda’ weird.

HEALER – Yes, it stirred up controversy. Yes, it involves one of the trickiest passages to sing (Psalm 103:2-4). Yes, it requires good solid teaching and instruction when you use it. But dang it, I love this song. I’m a sucker for everything about it – melody, arrangement, passion, worship. Where I lead (and probably where some of you lead,) we need to be singing things like “I believe You are more portion! I believe You are more than enough for me!” Yeah…we’re bringing this one back.

I NEED YOU MORE – Blast from the past! This song exploded during the famous Brownsville Revival of the 90’s and I was so surprised to hear it. It’s a classic…I think. However, I’ll pass on this one. Lyrics are kinda’ all over the place, there’s a new bridge section that doesn’t really line up and the chord progression sounds, well, like the 1990’s. The tune feels weird on such a clean, modern rock album. I applaud them for reaching way back, but this one’s not much of a resource for me.

LET HEAVEN SHOUT – Great song of redemption. Melodically, the backing chords make for a nice tension. This one definitely feels the “biggest.” An anthem, for sure! The title doesn’t really seem to fit the lyrical approach, but the song is good.

WORTHY IS THE LAMB – Nice, clean guitar work and creative drum arrangement. Simple lyrics, straight out of scripture. As far as dynamics go, there’s not a lot to the song. It’s more like three good parts you play over and over. And over. If we used at my place, we’d probably do it as tie-in to another song and avoid playing for 11 minutes straight.

HERE IS LOVE – Another Redman tune! This is one of my favorite hymn remakes in the last decade and it’s good to hear such a skilled group of players and singers do it justice. Love the harmonies on this one. There’s a bit more drum finesse on this version, but it doesn’t distract. There’s an extended spontaneous worship jam at the end, but the song is solid enough without it.

That’s my take – what about you? Have you heard this project? Love it? Hate it?

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