Hillsong UNITED – The White Album

the_white_album_hillsong_united

Hillsong Music Australia

Release Date: March 3rd 2014 (Digital/CD)/April 29th 2014 (Vinyl)

Reviewed by Joshua Andre

Hillsong UNITEDThe White Album (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. With Everything (Tim Yagolnikov Remix)
  2. Scandal of Grace (Chad Howat Remix)
  3. Like an Avalanche (Eric Owyoung Remix)
  4. Aftermath (Chislett / Tennikoff Remix)
  5. A : Ft?r?ma : ? (Stacy King Remix)
  6. Hosanna (Tim Yagolnikov Remix)
  7. All I Need Is You / Came To My Rescue (Medley /Lark Remix)
  8. From the Inside Out (Black Rodeo Remix)
  9. Search My Heart (Solomon Olds Remix)
  10. The Stand (Jeremy Edwardson Remix)
  11. Oceans (Lark Remix)
  12. Love Is War (Darren King Remix)
  13. Where Feet May Fail (HXLY KXSS Remix)
  14. Relentless (Young & Free Remix)

One of the most popular, respected, prolific and inventive worship movements of all time; Hillsong Music, which has been around since the ‘90’s, frankly need no introduction at all. They’re the biggest church in Australia; their music touching the lives of many locally and globally. Since its inception, this young worship team (now with worship leaders Reuben Morgan, Joel Houston, Jad Gillies, Matt Crocker, Taya Smith and more) have carried on the church’s mission and vision to lift the name of Jesus above all others, and time and time again the worship movement soars to the top of the Christian charts, and their songs are probably the most sung in churches around the world, even though at times I may roll my eyes at some of their cheesy lyrics. Releasing live albums very year in July, it is the Hillsong UNITED team who release studio albums every year as well, around February; that really capture my attention. In fact, though these guys churn out 3-4 albums every year, they are still the most popular Christian movement in the CCM and worship market today. And since Aftermath and ZION, Hillsong UNITED have been reshaping and reinventing the worship and dance genre more and more.

So what do I think of the remix album The White Album, which has plenty of radio hits and fan favourites reimagined by some of today’s sought after DJ’s, producers and musicians? Though it seems as if most artists these days are jumping on the bandwagon of remix albums, with Capital Kings, TobyMac, Mandisa, Superchick, Britt Nicole, Group 1 Crew, Sanctus Real, Everfound and Third Day all having their songs redone in the past 5 years; Hillsong UNITED’s release of The White Album is sure to please, with many standouts, as the musical creativeness of each track dos not detract away from the overall message and lyrical poignancy.

Looking over the track list, almost every song is familiar, and it is because of this fact (that Hillsong used their most popular songs to reimagine), that I was excited to see how my favourite Hillsong songs would stack up as a remix/re-recording. With almost every track driven by synth and keys, and given an atmospheric club dance feel, the album heavily rooted in DM is sure to be a great fit for parties, and fans dancing in the mosh-pit. While there are many different styles of remixing covered in this 14 track topsy-turvy musical journey, as there are many, many remixers, ach on has done Hillsong very proud.

“With Everything” and “Hosanna” are both mixed by Tim Yagolnikov from Kye Kye, both styles are on opposite ends of the musical spectrum. “With Everything” is a high octane, fast paced ball of energy, as synth and guitar collide with fervent lyrics of worshipping God, in a frenzy; to create an album highlight and a song destined to b popular (in fact there’s a music video of the remix!); and “Hosanna” is more subdued, as the track is led by ethereal and haunting keys, with Brooke Fraser’s voice still captivating and moving, as we lift our hands and worship our king. But both songs mixed by Tim are still distinctively Hillsong, albeit with a few ‘out-of-the-box- alterations that strike me as very progressive, and that’s a good thing to preserve authenticity. “Aftermath” is featured here twice, with the first a more upbeat pop/rock/dance infused version, with drums and guitars in the forefront, and the second a 2 minute soothing, calm, instrumental track led by keys and mixed by Stacy King from Eisley, and both versions bring something different toe the fore- both are enjoyable and inspiring.

The mega-hit “Oceans”, brilliantly led by Taya Smith; the epic anthemic prayer, and declaration of Jesus’ sovereignty, delves into the fact that we can call upon Jesus’ name, and rest in the hope and security that we are God’s and He is ours. On this remix album, the song is present in 2 incarnations, a softer, acoustic version (Lark Remix, led by piano and electronic drums) and the completely unrecognisable much more musically chaotic “Where Feet May Fail- HXLY KXSS Remix”, which only contains the bridge and distorts Taya’s vocals during the instrumental parts, yet is nevertheless Holy Spirit anointed. Having exploded over the past year, taking off in a way unlike no other Hillsong song in recent years, it’s no surprise to s this song mixed twice, still keeping the message intact and is just as powerful and poignant as the original 9 minute worship anthem.

Some songs from Hillsong on their studio albums are a bit ordinary, and there is no exception here. Singles “Scandal Of Grace”, “Like An Avalanche”, and “Search My Heart” are also present, with Chad Howat from Paper Route, Eric Owyoung from Future of Forestry and Solomon Olds formerly from Family Force 5 remixing these tracks respectively; and though these songs are not bad, there’s nothing ground-breaking. Aside from the smart Nintendo like piano sounds against the backdrop of “Scandal Of Grace”, which I think is quite cool, the rest of the instrumentation is a bit weird at first impression, although I am sure the rendition will grow on me. “Like An Avalanche” suffers from a bit too much electronics in the chorus, however in this version, Jill McCloghry are at the same time more enjoyable in the verses, as her pristine voice complements the instrumentation…a bit weird, huh? “Search My Heart” is a fine mix from Solomon, with the music not veering off dramatically form the original, but rather taking some old elements, and twisting them in a nice way. Yet the continuous reverb, repetition, and multiple voices of Joel Houston, does grate on my nerves slightly after multiple listens. But all in all these three songs are still deserving of their place in the line-up. Maybe if I look at these tracks in 5-10 years, I’ll have different viewpoints.

With “From The Inside Out” sounding like an epic orchestral anthem, driven by synth and strings (which in my opinion, enhances the live version, yet still doesn’t live up to for KING & COUNTRY’s superior cover recording); the chilling and relaxed piano and drum led medley of “All I Need Is You” and “Came To My Rescue” flowing together quite nicely and giving me goose bumps as I soak in the presence of Jesus; and Jeremy Edwardson’s rendition of “The Stand” (with verses and the bridge swapped around!) adding another layer to it musically, with synth bringing the lyrics of surrendering to God fully, to the for, as we worship in abandon, giving out lives completely over to Jesus; it is the sublime and exquisite “Love Is War” and the fun and bouncy “Relentless” that brings a smile to my face. On par with the studio recording, Darren King’s rendition of “Love Is War” raises the bar of this song to another level, as synth, electric guitars, and heavenly vocals all work together in harmony to create a God-breathed version that praises Jesus for who He is. On the other hand, “Relentless” is a great way to end a genre-bending and defining album, by highlighting the enjoyment and fun in this Young And Free remix, complete with a guest vocal of Melodie Wagner. With our toes and bodies guaranteed to tap and move respectively in this lyrically relevant and musically enjoyable dance anthem, I am left marvelling at the genius of Hillsong UNITED. They have created an album so different and refreshing, yet so Hillsong UNITED as well.

Personally I thought that a remix album from Hillsong wouldn’t work very well, however these remixes have proven me wrong considerably. I must admit, when I first saw the press release for the album, I was confused and excited at the same time; however this batch of alternative interpretations of old songs, works, as it shows us that Hillsong Music is constantly evolving, and showing us more and more welcome surprises. Hillsong certainly aren’t slowing down any time soon, and though some fans may absolutely love this album, and other critics may bypass it due to it being a ‘Hillsong album’ and also as there are in fact many Hillsong albums releasing in a year; for me this particular record has me eagerly anticipating and excited for future Hillsong albums (all incarnations!), especially No Other Name releasing in July! Hats off to all the remixers and everyone involved, this album is due for many more spins and rotations in my iTunes playlist!

3 songs to listen to: Relentless, Oceans, Hosanna

Score: 4/5

RIYL: David Thulin, Capital Kings, Jesus Culture, Desperation Band

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