Monday, November 09, 2009

Review Week (#1)

This week, I'm reviewing an album each day. I've recently come across quite a few good projects and I want to spread the word.

Paul Baloche - GLORIOUS
At first, I didn't like this record. While I could appreciate the creativity and the quality of musicianship, I just couldn't connect with the songs on a personal level or as a worship leader who's on the lookout for congregational songs. There were a couple of songs that I enjoyed and repeated quite a bit as I listened, but for the most part, I felt like this record just wasn't made for me.

And then, something changed. I caught some of the Integrity YouTube videos where Paul was talking about the "New Testament" nature of these songs and that intrigued me. I tried one of the songs in our youth service and it seemed to work well with the band. I started focusing on the back-half of these songs - looking at the where the songs take us gave me real appreciation of how we actually got to those anthemic endings. And suddenly, I was in love with this project.

The record has an aspect that's very "now." There are numerous musical elements that seem very prominent in pop music today. That's not to say that Paul's previous works have been old fashioned or out-of-touch; but this record does seem much more aware of musical trends and making those trends work within the framework of what Paul does best. Standout songs like "Shaken" and "Wonderful God" are marked by Baloche's renowned command of scripture, but they also land in a musical groove that, in my opinion, we've yet to hear from earlier records. His version of "Today Is The Day" is rocked perfectly with a strong element of U2 in the guitar tracks and a slight nod to Coldplay in the rhythm section. "To The Cross" seems to take a page from so many pop acts these days, focusing on feeling spontaneous and raw. Most listeners will be able to envision what a standard "worship arrangement" would do to that song in particular and will most likely appreciate the sparse nature of the song.

In addition, every song come through in a way that's instantly attention-grabbing. For me, taking a better "long view" of the record means that song intros that seemed only technically proficient in the beginning now connect to the larger picture of the whole song. It means that having a better appreciation for what's happening lyrically and thematically also encourage me to elevate the signature hooks and identifiers within each song.

Long time Baloche fans are probably going to love this record in much the same way. They're going to put in the time to ponder these songs and work through the parts of the project that are surprising and new. I think that people new to Baloche's music are going to love it from first listen - its cool factor is instantly obvious.

As with any major label record, there are a few songs that might not be as easily adaptable in a congregational setting, but the majority of these songs are almost instantly implementable. There's strong scriptural content here and an excellent mastery of dynamics. Don't know anybody else who handles band dynamics like Paul and his crew.

Five (out of five) stars on this one!