Release Date: October 21st 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Good Good Father
- Impossible Things (feat. Danney Gokey)
- God of Calvary
- He Lives
- Glory Be
- Come Thou Fount (I Will Sing)
- Yes and Amen
- All Yours
- First Love (feat. Kim Walker-Smith)
- The God I know
- God and God Alone
- Kyrie Eleison (feat. Matt Maher, Matt Redman & Jason Ingram)
Known amongst critics and listeners as possibly the pioneer of modern worship music, Chris Tomlin has penned probably some of the most meaningful and sought after (by the church) worship melodies. Songs like “Forever”, “We Fall Down”, “The Wonderful Cross”, “How Great Is Our God”, “Our God”, “Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone”, “Indescribable”, “Holy Is The Lord”, “Famous One”, “Enough”, “Jesus Messiah”, “I Will Rise”, “I Lift My Hands”, “God’s Great Dance Floor”, “Whom Shall I Fear?”, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Waterfall” are just a snapshot of some of his most famous and popular hits around the world. When one hears a Chris Tomlin song, guaranteed sound and biblical lyrics are front and centre, as well as an inspiring message and a Holy Spirit infused melody. Although some critics and listeners may reckon that Chris’s music at times is a bit cliché and ‘the same’ all the time, and at times I do tend to agree with them. So when I heard that Chris was releasing a new studio album Never Lose Sight I had to hear what all the fuss was about. See I love Chris Tomlin’s music- to tell you the truth I can’t get enough of it. But other listeners may have their other personal preferences, and may like other genres. And that’s ok. And though it’s been about 5-6 months since the album released, that did give me enough time for me to mull over these 14 heartfelt, honest and personal melodies. So what is my verdict? Let me break it down a bit further…
Releasing the first single of the album last year, “Good, Good Father” kicks off the album in typical worshipful Chris Tomlin fashion, with a big heart for Jesus and eternal truths begging to be heard. Opening with a gentle acoustic guitar, Chris ardently relays that Jesus is a good Father, with the simple melody reaffirming the belief that God loves to provide and lavish His children with good gifts, that ‘…You are perfect in all of your ways, You’re perfect in all of Your ways, You are perfect in all of Your ways to us…’. Not as poppy or rocky as Zealand Worship’s version, and just as laid back and worshipful as Casting Crowns’ rendition, Chris has provided us with a worthy version, of a song extremely popular by listeners and critics alike! Second single “Jesus” follows, and is aptly titled, as Chris recounts the reasons why Jesus is who He says He is, and what is so great about His unending qualities. Relaying that it is Jesus who ‘…walks on the waters, who speaks to the sea, who stands in the fire beside me, He roars like a lion, He bled as the lamb, He carries my healing in his hands…’, we are encouraged and inspired to live a live to the fullest and to the potential that He has placed inside of us, not because of who we are or anything we can do on our own, but because of who He is and what He can do in our stead. Well done Chris for these engaging and poignant opening two melodies that frankly set the tone for the rest of the album.
The rest of the album carries on in typical Tomlin fashion, with plenty of rousing ballads, CCM/pop radio friendly melodies, and ardent worship tunes fit for singing on Sunday mornings at church. And like with many Tomlin songs, some engage me more than others. Like current single “Home”, which opens with light electric guitar and pulsating drum beats, as Chris does his best to describe what heaven would be like, and how it is our only home we could ever have and fully know and love. Reminding us that someday ‘…I’m goin’ home, where the streets are golden, every chain is broken, oh I wanna go, oh I wanna go, home, where every fear is gone, I’m in your open arms, where I belong…’, Chris eloquently makes heaven something that we can look forward to. Jesus will be there and that alone should be enough for us to long to be in his presence for all of eternity.
Sandwiched between probably the two most inspiring melodies on the album, “Impossible Things” on the other hand, sadly doesn’t match up to my expectations I have of this song, particularly when Danny Gokey is singing as a guest vocal as well. The song feels a tad forced and flat, although I am sure the intentions of Chris are there, and pure. Execution-wise, this track misses the mark, even though the radio friendly anthemic ballad gently reminds us that Jesus is the One who has done impossible things, and continues to do so in our lives.
Probably a song suited to be sung at church services during Easter, the hymn like piano led ballad/worship anthem “God Of Calvary” is simple in its message yet quite effective, as Chris inspires us to praise the God of Calvary, simply because He is, that He rose from death and conquered the grave, taking on all of our sins and making us blameless, perfect and spotless in His sight. One of the strongest songs in Chris’s discography thus far, “God Of Calvary” segues into “He Lives”, yet another ‘downer’ so to speak. Not in the sense that the track brings off sad vibes or is too reflective or anything like that- it’s just that it’s the same musical structure, and has the same themes of the previous song. “He Lives” is another Easter themed melody, yet “God Of Calvary” is superior in every way. Is it criminal for me to think of Matt Maher’s “Christ Is Risen” and Paul Baloche’s “He Is Risen” when listening to “He Lives”? And to think that these two aforementioned melodies are far more enjoyable that something that seems like Chris going through the motions. Not to be cruel, but that’s what it sounds like.
Thankfully “Glory Be” and “Come Thou Font (I Will Sing)” follow are more than make up for the little hiccups. With the former being a simple yet thoroughly enjoyable toe tapping, worship melody about us giving glory to the One who was and is and is to come (something that I can imagine Rend Collective proclaiming and declaring!); it is the latter melody that captures my attention the most. “Come Thou Fount (I Will Sing)” is a modern take on the timeless hymn, and though simplistic and never quite straying away from the original hymn (except for the addition of a new chorus), Chris’s earnest vocals is enough for me to be more than fully immersed in one of the most underrated hymns I’ve ever heard. Though probably not reaching the status of “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” any time soon, it’s great to hear Chris tackle another hymn instead of him being forever typecast or stereotyped as ‘the guy who gave ‘Amazing Grace’ a makeover and no other hymn’!
While the guitar led southern gospel/country inspired melody “Yes And Amen”, something that I envisioned Matt Redman to record (and nope this isn’t the same song from 2006’s Beautiful News, although that would have been nice!), is a tad repetitive and a bit confusing as Chris declares that ‘…faithful, You are, faithful forever You will be, faithful, You are, all Your promises are yes and Amen…’ (because sometimes God says ‘no’ or ‘wait’ to a particular prayer that we want answered- or maybe Chris is singing about the promises God has already said yes to… it’s a bit vague and ambiguous!), and the heartfelt electric guitar led “All Yours” fervently proclaims that everything in the creation is his, that ‘…it’s all Yours, the day and the night, the earth and the sky, God it’s all Yours, every breath we’re taking in, we pour out again in worship…’ (a pretty standard Tomlin song, but nonetheless enjoyable, even though it is somewhat forgettable…), the duet with Kim Walker-Smith “First Love” ends the standard edition of the album with a bang. Not that the song is loud, raucous and celebratory, but rather the opposite. The reflective acoustic guitar ballad is perfect for personal worship, as both Chris and Kim gently remind us that Jesus is our first love, that everything we need is in Him, so we can worship Him with total abandon and freedom, and in essence, would be the perfect ending for an album full of highs, a few lows, but nonetheless the same Chris Tomlin heart for Jesus we have come to know and appreciate over the years since “How Great Is Our God”.
But if you haven’t got enough of Chris is this new album, then never fear as the deluxe edition of the album provides us with three exclusive songs. “The God I Know” is a CCM radio friendly electric guitar led ballad, where Chris passionately reminds us that the God he knows is the God who is for us, who is never against us, and who always keeps His promises, that ‘…the God I know, will make a way, whatever comes, whatever I face, the God I know, is strong to save, He is the Lord, He conquered the grave…’, while the worship ballad “God And God Alone”, probably one of the most CCM melodies on the album, passionately reminds us of Jesus’ sovereignty, with Chris eloquently recounting that ‘…we lift You higher, higher, God and God alone, Your name be louder, louder than any other song, You are forever seated on Your throne, You are forever God and God alone…’. Yet it is the final song on the album “Kyrie Eleison” that is truly Holy Spirit anointed. With Chris singing in harmony perfectly with Matt Redman, Matt Maher and Jason Ingram, the deluxe edition of the album ends with an eternal truth that Jesus is the One we can all worship and adore, because of the fact that ‘…Your name is great and Your heart is grace, Kyrie Eleison, over all You reign, You alone can save, Kyrie Eleison…’.
Over the course of his ten plus years as a singer and a worship leader, Chris Tomlin has given us great and powerful songs that many churches are singing right now all around the world. And now, we are given the chance to hear Chris sing some more powerful worship tunes. With many songs from Never Lose Sight, including “Jesus”, “Home” and “Good, Good Father”, already performing well on the radio charts, the most recent album should be a great addition for any avid Chris Tomlin fan, and for others as well- it doesn’t matter if Chris isn’t exactly your favourite artist, there is enough on Never Lose Sight for me to personally say that this album can appeal to a variety of listeners who enjoy worshiping Jesus! Though containing a few mishaps (“Impossible Things”, “He Lives”, “All Yours”), this is on the whole an album to savour, and I cannot wait to hear what Chris has in store next! Well done Chris and co. for such a great worship experience.
5 songs to listen to: Jesus, Home, God Of Calvary, First Love, God And God Alone
RIYL: Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Kristian Stanfill, Chirsty Nockels, Kari Jobe