Review: Come Alive – Bethel Music Kids

Bethel Music is known for their passionate worship songs filled with talented vocals and powerful lyrics. Recently, Bethel released a kid’s worship album called Come Alive. Come Alive contains popular songs such as: “One Thing,” “You Make Me Brave,” and “This Is Amazing Grace.”

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Bethel Music Kids offers listeners an energetic renditions of worship songs that are known and loved by many Bethel Music fans. If you’re a fan of traditional Bethel Music and you have kids, this CD would be perfect for you. It allows your kids to listen to good, wholesome worship songs but in a tempo and feel that they would enjoy. The songs are remixed with an exciting techno sound.

The positive message in each song along with the more upbeat and modern vibe to each song allows for kids to want to sing and dance along. Bethel Music Kids version of “One Thing” offers an exciting and fun feel to it with a child voice singing the lyrics of the well-known Bethel Music song.

Talented children sing the vocals whether it is a lead part of an adjoining chorus of kids singing praises to the Lord. The Bethel Music Kids’ vocals are no less impressive than the regular worship leaders that sing with Bethel Music.

If you are looking for quality, fun worship music for your family to listen to, then this would be a great CD for you. Videos of the songs are available to watch on Bethel Music YouTube page.

Come Alive is available at Amazon and iTunes.

Hilary ParrAuthor: Hilary Parr.
You can follow Hilary on Twitter at @hilary_parr.

Review: I Am N – Voice Of The Martyrs

You may have of the book I Am N by Voice Of The Martyrs, which contains stories of Christians under severe persecution. Integrity Music has partnered with Voice Of The Martyrs to create a soundtrack for the book.

The album is a compilation of mostly familiar worship songs like “The Same Love” by Paul Baloche and “All The Poor And Powerless” by All Sons & Daughters. In fact, if you’re a fan of modern worship music, there’s a good chance you have most of these songs in your music library already. But you should buy the album anyway. Why? Because it’s an easy way to support a worthy cause, since the proceeds will be used by Voice Of The Martyrs to support persecuted Christians.

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It’s worth noting that the album does include a great new song: “We Stand As One,” performed by Greg Sykes and written especially for this compilation. It’s a powerful song about standing together as believers, and together with Christ.

You can learn more about about I Am N at their website.

I Am N officially releases on Friday, February 12.

Review: Inheritance – Audrey Assad

Every now and then, a worship album comes out of left field and sounds nothing like a typical worship album. And Audrey Assad’s Inheritance sounds nothing like a typical worship album, despite being packed with songs that many will find familiar. There are no big guitars, no crashing drums, no dotted eighth note delay. The primary instrument is Assad’s voice, interpreting some old hymns in an entirely fresh way.

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In her own words: “I knew that Inheritance had to be much more than me going into the studio and simply doing pretty renditions of hymns we all know and love. I couldn’t be satisfied with that—I had to make something both bright and dark—colored honestly with my own doubts and weaknesses, so that the Lord who inspired these songs could be even more visible in it. Inheritance is an offering I am humbled, privileged, and challenged to make—and I pray it will be a gift to anyone who hears it.”

“Ubi Caritas,” the opening track, sets the tone for the album as a whole. It’s ethereal and vaguely dreamy, which are two attributes you could apply to rest of the songs as well.

From there, Assad launches into the familiar “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but in a way you’ve probably never experienced it. It starts out sparse and beautiful and eventually becomes expansive and majestic by the end.

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Another standout track is “How Can I Keep From Singing,” and no, this is not the Chris Tomlin you do at church. This is a song from the 1860s and Assad truly does it justice.

She also includes one of my favorite songs of all time: “It Is Well With My Soul.” I’ve heard renditions of this song that bring something new to it, and I’ve heard renditions that are just plain awful. This one is pretty amazing. It’s just exceptionally well done. Rather than rely on my writing skills to describe it, check it out for yourself:

One last song that deserves a shout out is “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” You know how in movie trailers, they’ll often use a “dark and gritty reimagining” of a popular song? It happens a lot, and it’s pretty effective. And that’s the best way I can describe this song. It’s a “dark and gritty reimagining” of the song, but better than that makes it sound.

You probably won’t sing these songs in church – at least in these arrangements. But Inheritance is an album that every worship leader should listen to. These are traditional songs of the church done in a decidedly non-traditional way.

Inheritance releases officially on Friday, February 12, 2016.

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Review: Outrageous Love (Live) – Noel Robinson

Integrity Music is making Noel Robinson’s Outrageous Love (Live) available here in the United States, which means I was blessed to check out a preview copy. It’s been available in the UK for a few months, but it releases here on Friday, January 22. And this high-energy album is one you don’t want to miss.

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Right from the intro of the first song, the stellar horns announce that this is not the kind of album you’ll want to sit and listen to passively. You’ll want to worship and maybe even dance a bit. The other thing I noticed immediately is that for a live album, the mix is very well balanced and the band is really, really tight. The music is put together so well that I didn’t even notice that the first track is over six minutes long!

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In fact, the whole album passes quickly. So much so that you wouldn’t guess it’s over 90 minutes long (at least in the Deluxe incarnation). From the passionate, heartfelt “Rain,” to the island-influenced sound of “Let The People Say,” this album is enjoyable and engaging from start to finish.

Outrageous Love (Live) is available at Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

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Review: The Union, Vol. II – Mat & Nicole Crisp

On January 1st, Mat and Nicole Crisp released their sophomore album The Union, Vol. II. If you are looking for beautiful, well written worship songs that have depth and meaning to them look no further: Mat and Nicole Crisp’s latest album is a stunning work that you will fall in love with from the first song you hear.

Mat Crisp is the Worship Director at LifeCentre in Canada and his wife, Nicole Crisp, is a music teacher and also a worship leader at LifeCentre; they have committed their lives to the local church. The Crisps recorded their first album in fall of 2012.

unionvoliiThis EP, The Union, Vol. II, offers listeners four original songs and one rendition of the beloved hymn, “I Stand Amazed.” The original songs are easy to learn and wonderfully written congregational worship songs with a heart and a story for Christ and what He is to us.

Musically speaking, Mat and Nicole Crisp’s are incredibly talented vocalists and offer beautiful harmony throughout their songs. Each song has a beat and a feel that does not overpower the lyrics. The voices and the meaning of the lyrics are center stage in each song.

Lyrically speaking, these songs are songs that the church could be singing in no time. They are beautiful anthems to God expressing to Him how we feel. “Unto You” is about what we do in His presence. It’s a great reminder to all worshipers that we should be gazing at Christ at all times. This is a worship song that has the potential to become a popular congregational song, you do not want to miss hearing this song or the whole album.

The track “All I Need To Know” is another great anthem for worshipers. This song is all about the things we need to know about God. It is a wonderful reminder that God, who knows all things, has a plan for His glory. We as humans do not always know all the things about the situation but God always has a plan and a purpose. The bridge sings out, “for Your glory God,” a simple but powerful message.

If you are looking for powerful worship songs with great vocals, be sure to check out Mat and Nicole’s sophomore album. They mix a classic hymn and several new songs to compose a great album every Christian will want to listen to. These songs have been on replay lately and you will be blessed by their work on this album.

The Union, Vol. II is available at Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Hilary ParrAuthor: Hilary Parr.
You can follow Hilary on Twitter at @hilary_parr.

Review: Have You Heard – Stu G

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Stu G helped to define the sound of modern worship. From his influential guitar work with Delirious? to his songwriting contributions to the music of the church, his fingerprints are all over the place.

Which makes it even odder that he only ever released one solo album… and a limited one at that. In 1995, Stu G put out Have You Heard? on about 500 cassette tapes. To celebrate that recording’s twentieth anniversary, he’s re-mastered and re-released Have You Heard?

And it’s great.

“Come Like You Promise” kicks off the album with huge drums and a guitar line that still sounds fresh twenty years later. The slightly distorted vocals give the song an edge that really underlines the desperation of someone asking Jesus to return.

But it’s not all big drums and loud guitars. Another standout is “Wilderness,” a beautiful acoustic piece about God’s provision. And the title track is an unabashed pop song with traces of country.

Now, those who are obsessed with great guitar tone should listen to the closing song, a live version of “Come Like You Promise” that just sounds amazing. The guitar goes from subtle tones to drowning in effects and it all sounds great. I’ll be spending countless hours with my pedalboard after listening to this.

Have You Heard releases on Friday, December 18. You can pre-order on Amazon.

Review: Ancient Of Days – Alexon Music

Alexon Enfiedjian recently released his first worship album in over six years, titled Ancient of Days, with seven incredible worship songs. According to Alexon’s website, these seven songs are about God’s sovereignty in the middle of chaos and trials. This description stands true and is noticeable through the real and raw lyrics on the songs on Ancient of Days. In the midst of many worship songs that aim to sound upbeat and light hearted, Alexon Music brings worshipers a CD full of songs that are honest and that dare to ask the questions many Christians think.

While these songs are raw and real, they also speak life into those troubled times by reminding listeners that God is constant and here for them. The song “Wait for You Here” is the perfect example of this honest lyric writing that Alexon has brought. The chorus says, “in the middle of my mess, I will wait for you here. I don’t want to be alone, I want to know you are near.” These lyrics echo feelings that most Christians have prayed at some point in their journey.

The whole of Ancient of Days is a wonderful diverse album that contains softer, slower worship songs that are more upbeat. Each some has a different feel than the one before. This album shows the diversity Christian worship music can offer. With great vocals, nice guitar parts, and lyrics that are just repetitive enough for a listener to catch on, these songs could quickly become songs that the church could be singing.

The song “Guide Us On” has a feel that is reminiscent of an All Sons and Daughters song. “Guide Us On” has a great message coupled with a great beat that leaves the listener wanting to hear more. The message of this song is asking God to lead the way and show us the path.

“We Know Your Love” is a song that is easily remembered by its beautiful piano part that plays during the chorus. While some instrument parts often seem to overpower the vocals, “We Know Your Love” is a great example of musical parts that really enhance the song overall. But while the music of this song is great, the lyrics are just as good: “We know Your love is an anchor for our soul,” should be the cry of every Christian’s heart.

The track “Come Restore Me” shows a message of asking God for forgiveness and asking Him to restore the hearts of His people. Each song on this album is wonderfully written both musically and lyrically. Alexon’s honesty and heart for Christ is apparent through these seven songs. They are offerings and proclamations to God. Check out Alexon’s website here. Buy Ancient of Days on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon!

Review: Blessed Assurance: The New Hymns Of Fanny Crosby

It’s almost like something out of a movie or novel. A hundred years after her death, Fanny Crosby is still gifting the church with music. A collection of unpublished lyrics was recently recovered at Wheaton College on scraps of paper, envelopes, and legal paper. And they had her initials on them.

From that discovery grew this project: Blessed Assurance: The New Hymns Of Fanny Crosby, featuring Crosby’s lyrics with new music written by some of today’s best worship songwriters, like Paul Baloche, Michael Farren, and Jennie Lee Riddle, among others. The result is a collection of brand new hymns with solid lyrics and modern music. In fact, this album is rapidly becoming my favorite collection of hymns.

The album starts off with “We Are Waiting” by All Sons & Daughters, complete with the perfect harmonies you’ve come to expect from them. From there, the collection moves to New Life Worship’s “Not Be Moved,” with an old-timey feel and an incessantly catchy chorus.

Honestly, it’s tough to choose a standout song on this collection. From those drums at the beginning of “In Life And Death” to southern gospel feel of “I Have Found A Priceless Treasure,” the whole set is decidedly modern but with one eye firmly focused on the past. I loved the piano-driven intro to “Hallelujah [King of Glory]” that gives way to its huge chorus and the Civil Wars-esque sound of “All Is Well.”

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Elias Dummer’s “I Never No Never” starts to bring the album to an emotional close, only to give way to the bluesy, stomping barnburner that is “Where Could We Go” by The Blind Boys Of Alabama.

Blessed Assurance: The New Hymns Of Fanny Crosby is available at Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

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Review: Brave New World – Amanda Cook

Released in late September, Amanda Cook’s Brave New World is an engaging and lush album of worship music. It’s all very atmospheric and ethereal – you won’t find the common dotted-eighth-note delay here.

Even from the very first line of the opening track, “Heroes,” Brave New World sets itself apart as a different kind of worship album: “Let the heroes rest; Let the striving cease.”

That’s just one example of the intriguing lyrics of Brave New World. Here are a couple others.

From “Mercy:”

Oh, Love, Great Love, fear cannot be found in You
And there will never be a day
You’re uncertain of the ones You choose

From “Kind:”

You are not a tyrant King
You do not delight in suffering
Your power doesn’t compensate for insecurity
‘Cause You are not a tyrant King

From “Pieces:”

Unreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild, Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, It’s unashamed
Your love is proud, to be seen with me

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Normally when I review an album, I like to let it play in the background while I do my day job, but Brave New World made that tricky, because the lyricism, combined with the gorgeous melodies, kept demanding my full attention. The whole album just hangs together beautifully.

There aren’t a lot of congregational showstoppers on this album, but for an amazing time of quiet, personal worship, this album is a must-have.

Brave New World is available at Amazon and iTunes.

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Review: #LETSGO – Planetshakers

It always amazes me how much music can affect your emotions. From the opening strains of “LETSGO” from the new Planetshakers album of the same name, you can feel that something special is about to happen.

It’s an opening that sets the tone for a powerful, engaging, live worship set. The title track kicks things off with a bang, and a bit of synth. But about a minute later, the chorus arrives, bringing with it just a touch of funk. I didn’t expect it, but I liked it.

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The album is a great mix of congregation-friendly worship songs and performance-oriented songs. It’s pretty easy to imagine an excited church raising their hands to chant along with “You, You, You!” on “Nobody Like You.” And it’s just as easy to picture them singing along on “Stepping In,” an intimate ballad that features one of my favorite lyrics from the album: “I lean into Your love.” It’s easy to sing and easy to follow.

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On the performance side, check out “Born To Praise,” which embraces its pop sound with very cool syncopation. And if you play music at all, you can’t help but have massive respect for the bass player after listening to that one.

The album closes out with “I Just Want You,” a quiet number with simple but sweet guitar work.

With a healthy blend of performance and congregational songs, #LETSGO is one you should add to your library. #LETSGO is available at iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.