Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW(s): Passion & Matt Boswell

Been digging into two new worship records lately. I know some of you are listening to these same projects and I'd like to know what you think.

These reviews will come from two perspectives - first, as a listener, and then as a worship leader. I'll hit the 'personal' side first and share what I dig or don't dig and then we'll look at how applicable these projects are for congregational worship.

Gravity and Gladnes (Matt Boswell)
Actually found this record through, a nice online resource for new worship music. It was only after grabbing this record that I realized that Matt's a well-known worship leader and writer.

Matt's new project is fantastic, for a couple of reasons. Worship writers find themselves in an interesting position these days. Church culture has, in a sense, been coming back to hymns. (This is where all my liturgical friends go nuts.) The problem in writing songs in a time like this is balancing all the elements - managing the poetry and theology in a way that doesn't sound contrived. As of yet, most of the "hymn-writers" we've come to know have been writing in musical contexts that also hymn-like. Not many writers are creating music that maintains the poetic/theological intensity of hymns in a musical format that would fit in during a church's worship time. Sadly, many of these new hymns come off as campy in a set that doesn't sound like anything else that team is playing.

I love the sound of this record...the instrumentation doesn't get too crazy. When I listen to this, I can hear worship teams of any size implementing these songs. Lyrically, they're about as strong as songs can be, but they're also practical.

Song standouts are "In My Place," "In Excelsis Deo" and "Jesus Died My Soul To Save." Go check it out. If you're a worship leader, you'll want the whole thing. But even music fans will dig these. Go to iTunes and spend a couple of bucks. You'll be glad you did.

Awakening (Passion)
Each release from the Passion organization is always met with great excitement and it's no wonder. They've consistently shaped the worship catalog of the country for many years.

As a long time Passion listener, I think this record is very interesting. When it's strong, it can't be beaten.

I immediately noticed a couple of things about this new work - mainly some creativity when it comes to groove/tempo. I really appreciate the straight-ahead rock "Where The Spirit Of The Lord Is" and "Chosen Generation." These songs specifically step away for Passion's signature delay drenched, four-on-the-floor tunes. I actually love delayed, four on the floor, but I can appreciate these songs working to confound expectations. Matt Redman has always been, for me, the real strength of recent Passion records. His influence is heard here on "Our God" (as a writer) and then sharing his fantastic "You Alone Can Rescue." Crowder's "Like A Lion" once again proves that there are things that only Crowder can do. It's hard to imagine any other worship leader playing a song like that, but DC*B does it expertly.

Personally, I would have loved to see this record take more chances. All of these songs are good, but a few of them feel a little worn. Even some of the new stuff ends up copying chord voicings and arrangement styles of other, more well-known songs on this very record.

I can see churches taking on the piano-driving title track and adapting Crowder's live version of "How He Loves" into their worship settings. As with most live worship records, the crowd is an integral part of the arrangements themselves, so churches would probably benefit from adjusting their attack. Unless their crowd plans on sounding like 25,000 people screaming their heads off.

If you've got either one of these records, I'd love to know what you think!