Release Date: August 19th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Live to Praise You
- Made New
- There Is Power
- On Our Side
- You Never Stop
- Let it Be Known
- Sinking Ships (Rescue Has Come)
- Whole Again (Come Alive)
- Shout It Out
It’s been 4 years since worship leader Lincoln Brewster has released a new studio album. Possibly one of the most energetic and enthusiastic guitarist around ever, Lincoln’s passion for worship is shown in any album he records, and his new album Oxygen is no different. On the back of his successful Christmas album Joy to the World, arguably my favourite Christmas album since BarlowGirl’s 2008 Home for Christmas (as well as being my most favourite Christmas album to be released in 2012); Lincoln has given us 11 songs in his new album- and while at times his singing style differed to suit the pop-electronic musical landscape that dominates Oxygen (compared to the more worshipful albums of the past), the album as a whole is nothing less than inspiring, enjoyable and heartfelt. Possibly even the best guitarist I’ve heard next to Stu G. (guitarist of One Sonic Society and ex-guitarist of Delirious?); Oxygen, alongside Crowder’s Neon Steeple, Bellarive’s Before There Was and Rend Collective’s The Art of Celebration, is one of my favourite worship albums of 2014 so far!
Released in June 2014, “Made New” is the first radio single from the album, and a great way to be re-introduced to Lincoln after a 4 year hiatus (not including the Christmas music that he made in 2012). A song that encourages us to believe the fact that God makes us new in Christ as we believe into His death, resurrection and new life for all creation; Lincoln’s powerful voice testifies to the lyrical comfort that ‘…You hold my head up, You remind me who I am, You hold my head up, I’m alive in You again, I’m made new…’ Such power in simple words, Lincoln’s music has always given the church a new song to sing in the presence of God, from “Today is the Day” to covers of “Salvation is Here” and “Everlasting God”. “Made New” is no different. With the song having special significance to Lincoln, with the melody being borne out of the news of his wife’s cancer (and now her subsequent remission), Lincoln’s sturdy and unwavering voice shows us that God always makes us new in every situation, even when we may not believe or understand it when we’re in it.
“Live to Praise You” and “There is Power”, two songs that are some of my own personal standouts, are the two melodies (there could be more between now and the release date of August 19th) that are shown in their entirety as audio slides on the IntegrityMusic Youtube page. From first listen to “Live to Praise You”, the first song on Oxygen, you have a picture that Lincoln’s new album will be unlike anything we have ever seen or heard- and this is quite true. Boasting more of a pop/dance flair still with worship and adoration to Jesus at its core, Lincoln enthusiastically proclaims that ‘…everyday we live to praise You…’ amidst the signature electric guitar strums and the high-energy atmosphere, not only in the album opener but throughout the whole album.
“There is Power”, while shown as a ballad, still exhibits similar poignancy and enthusiasm as Lincoln makes a well presented statement of there being ‘…power in the name of Jesus, there is power, power in His name…’ A song poised, certainly if I was picking them, to be a radio single later on during the year, Lincoln gives us a song to both sing in churches and sing individually, an anthem equally as enjoyable as “Made New” and even more congregational-worship friendly. Befitting of the album title, “Oxygen” gives us a statement we must understand- that Jesus is oxygen to our souls spiritually just like how oxygen is for us physically. As Lincoln proclaims amidst the powerful guitars and steady drum beat that ‘…You are life, every breath, You’re the heart that’s beating in my chest…I need You more than oxygen…’, we understand that just like the heart cannot last too long without oxygen, we can’t survive without Christ and His love in us.
Lincoln covers Worship Central’s hit “Let it Be Known” (written by London worshippers Nick Herbert and Tim Hughes), and with a powerful electric guitar solo in the middle and the omission of the rap section that seemingly distorts Worship Central’s live rendition, Lincoln’s passion that oozes throughout the track elevates his version to my favourite of the song. A simple song that exclaims God’s name to be known in every place around the world, it is because of God’s love that we can declare that ‘…nothing can stop us now, no one can keep us down, we’ve found our voice again…no need for fear and shame, there’s power in His name, c’mon let freedom reign…’
Lincoln also produces themes of us believing that ‘…God is on our side, now and forever…’ in the electronic and big drum beat prominent “On Our Side”, God reaching down to where we are as He never stops pursuing us where we are at (“You Never Stop”), while “Heartbeat” continues the theme of thankfulness to God in a slower ballad-like melody with the nice touch of electronic beats as Lincoln emphasises on the fact that he longs for God to ‘…unite our hearts to beat for You alone, fortify our hope in the faithfulness You’ve shown…’. “Whole Again (Come Alive)” is the longest song on the album, and with a heavy piano presence, this Lincoln and Mia Fieldes written melody is one of my favourite reflective songs from Lincoln since “The Power of Your Name” on Today is the Day. A song about us being whole again in Christ as we believe and trust in the processes God uses to do just that, Lincoln still manages to fit in his trademark electric guitar solo into a song that could’ve otherwise have been fine without it, yet made the song move to another level because of it!
The 3 minute “Shout it Out” ends the album with upbeat goodness as Lincoln encourages us to shout out God’s praise, yet the real gem comes in the story-song of “Sinking Ships (Rescue Has Come)”. Clocking in at only 3:20; Lincoln uses every inch and cm of the seconds to tell us a poignant story of God jumping overboard to rescue us just like how a captain rescues his drowning crew. Told from the point of view of Christ (or even sung by Lincoln to a mate- the ambiguity makes the song much more relatable to both Christians and non-Christians alike), Lincoln urges listeners to ‘…hold on tight, your ship is going down, in the storm of life, I won’t let you drown; it’ll be alright, now if you just hold on…rescue has come…’ A standout song (and possibly a song that’ll fly by the radar come release date) and one of my favourites, not only of Oxygen but of Lincoln’s career so far; “Sinking Ships” is one song to listen to, if you could only listen to one song from Oxygen!
If I have discussed this fact in a roundabout way but never hit the hammer on the head, let me do so now- Lincoln Brewster is a fantastic worship leader with an immense and prolific electric guitar skill that makes his ability to transform worship songs akin to how Stu G. enhances every Delirious? and One Sonic Society track he is on. Giving us equal amounts of enthusiasm, emotion, heart, passion, poignancy and worshipfulness within these 11 songs, Oxygen is an album that’ll bless whomever listens to it, even though on the surface, it can seem like more of a dance/pop offering than worship. Something for everyone, Lincoln infuses dance, pop and worship, with a nice undertone of electronic music, to cater for a wide variety of people who love these music genres, and continues to assert my statement that he’s one of the most underrated worship artists on Integrity Music within the last few years. Well worth the wait for 4 years, Oxygen is a great follow-up album to Real Life and perhaps one of my favourite worship albums of the year alongside Bellarive’s Before There Was!
3 songs to listen to: Sinking Ships, There is Power, Live to Praise You
RIYL: Phil Wickham, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong UNITED, Tim Hughes