Release Date: February 17th 2017 (Digital)/March 24th 2017 (Physical)
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Glorious Day (Kristian Stanfill)
- Worthy Of Your Name (Sean Curran)
- How Great Is Your Love (Kristian Stanfill)
- Build My Life (Brett Younker)
- Holy Ground (Melodie Malone)
- Heart Abandoned (Kristian Stanfill)
- Forgiven (Crowder)
- Your Cross Changes Everything (Matt Redman)
- This We Know (Kristian Stanfill)
- Rule (Hillsong UNITED and Crowder)
- God Of Calvary (Chris Tomlin)
- Worthy Of Your Name [Studio Version] (Sean Curran)
- This We Know [Studio Version] (Kristian Stanfill)
- Beacon [Music Video] (Jimi Cravity)
For those of you who have just been introduced to the Christian music scene, and are unaware of what the mission and vision of Passion Conferences is (one of the most popular worship movements currently!), then today, or at least sometime in the near future, is when you need to start becoming more in the loop, as you check out this popular group of young worshippers on fire for Jesus. Comprising of many Sixsteps Records artists and others, inclusive of artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, Crowder, Melodie Malone, Brett Younker and Jimi Cravity to name a few; these men and women of God come together to worship God in January and February every year at key and prominent U.S. cities, with the conferences directed at university students. With the annual event launched in 1997 by Louie Giglio, now one of the key pastors of the conference each year, the band now performs in conferences in Atlanta Georgia around New Year for their recording of their annual albums released in March; and these guys tour around the world as well!
Passion keeps its heart for students and their related ministry rooted in Isaiah 26:8- and I have always loved the annual Passion albums. In 2016, the group took a break in recording live albums, and instead unveiled a studio project called Salvation’s Tide Is Rising, with inspiring melodies and heartfelt anthems present- from the energetic, vibrant and eclectic title track, to Christy Nockels’ powerful worship anthem “Your Grace Amazes Me” to Brett Younker and Melodie Malone’s duet of “Remember” and Kristian Stanfill’s heartfelt cover of “Good, Good Father”. Surprisingly, this studio album was much loved by critics and listeners, so guess what the 2017 annual album Worthy Of Your Name is like? Yep, the band is going back to what is tried and true. Another live album, after the successful experimentation of a studio recording. Releasing on the same day as albums from Colton Dixon (Identity) and Hillsong Young & Free (Youth Revival Acoustic), this worship album is a must for fans of Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Desperation Band!
Immediately a glance through the track list brings my attention to the two singles that were heavily promoted since the beginning of the year. Kristian Stanfill leads the Jason Ingram led melody “This We Know” (previously recorded by Vertical Church Band on their album Frontiers), and on Worthy Of Your Name, Kristian has beautifully crafted a welcome and enjoyable version of one of my favourite worship songs I’ve heard in a while. A song definitely able to and hopefully making the transition from radio to the Sunday morning setlist in churches everywhere; this song is simple in its lyrics, reminding us all that ‘…this we know, we will see the enemy run, this we know, we will see the victory come, we hold on to every promise You ever made, Jesus, You are unfailing…’. Led by stirring keys and guitars, this mid-tempo worship ballad shows us that God is true, that everything we know in our hearts and in the Bible is true, and that we can rest in the knowledge that the devil has lost the battle and Jesus Christ has won the war.
Yet it is the second single from Passion, the title track, that I reckon you all should listen to if you only listen to one song from Worthy Is Your Name. Led by Bellarive front man Sean Curran (does this mean that Bellarive have split up?), and written by Sean, Brenton Brown and Brett Younker; what Sean has done is to take that signature Bellarive flair and translate it into a live modern worship setting with passion. The result- nothing short of brilliance and flawlessness. Seriously. Probably my absolute favourite song of 2017, Sean takes the theme of declaring God’s worthiness, holiness and faithfulness, and runs with it, taking the theme and declaring simple lyrics, reminding us of the eternal truths, yet also not making the track boring with cliché lyrics. Not your average track by Chris Tomlin which will undoubtedly be played countless times on K-Love Radio (no offence to your songs, Chris!), “Worthy Of Your Name” is destined to be a hit for listeners and critics alike, as we hear passion and enthusiasm ooze from Sean, as he eloquently reminds us that ‘…You’re my author, my maker, my ransom, my Savior, my refuge, my hiding place, You’re my helper, my healer, my blessed redeemer, my answer, my saving grace, You’re my hope in the shadows, my strength in the battle, my anchor for all my days, You stand by my side and You stood in my place, Jesus, no other name…’. With Passion also dropping radio versions of both “This We Know” and the title track (featured as album closers!), it is these two songs that anchor the album musically, lyrically and thematically.
Speaking of Chris Tomlin (in relation to the fact that “Worthy Of Your Name” isn’t like your average Chris Tomlin track!), the successful and popular worship artist, who previously led Passion albums, surprisingly only has one offering on this release. Yet what a song it is! Probably a song suited to be sung at church services during Easter, and a fitting anthem to be included here, 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. As Chris reminds us all that ‘…by His wounds I am set free, by His blood I’ve been redeemed, the great divide He crossed for me, oh, praise the God of Calvary…’, we are assured that Chris isn’t going anywhere, and hopefully on future Passion albums, he can share the lead on more songs like albums past. So who has ‘replaced’ Chris as the ‘king of Passion albums’? Kristian Stanfill of course! Apart from “This We Know” and its radio studio version counterpart, Kristian offers up 3 more tracks, with each being just as poignant, inspiring and powerful as many other worship anthems this year. Is this a sign that Kristian will lead future Passion albums from here on out?
The album opener “Glorious Day” is a celebratory, joyous melody something akin to what Rend Collective could record, with banjos, ukuleles and electric guitars abound for us to dance and move to, as Kristian fervently and enthusiastically declares that Jesus is the One who has set us free, that ‘…You called my name, and I ran out of that grave, out of the darkness into Your glorious day…’; while the Phil Wickham written “How Great Is Your Love” may be repetitive in the choruses, yet what it lacks in originality lyrically it more than makes up for in passion, as Kristian joyously cries out that ‘…from the heights of heaven, You stepped down to earth, innocent perfection, gave Your life for us, we are amazed, we stand in awe, for we have been changed by the power of the Cross…’. The final Kristian Stanfill representative on Worthy Of Your Name is “Heart Abandoned”, a reflective, contemplative, and subdued piano led slower tempo ballad. As Kristian earnestly and unashamedly recounts that all he wants and longs for is Jesus, asking Him to give him a heart that aches for Him, that longs to be closer to our Lord Almighty, to His desires and everything Jesus wants for us, he also asks God to rid ourselves of every other selfish thought, that Jesus can take away the gold and silver, representative of every earthly desires. All in all, Kristian had led this Passion record quite well, and if future albums continued this trend of more and more of Kristian, and less and less tracks from Chris; then I’d be a bit sad (cause Chris Tomlin is such a great artist!), but confident that the future of Passion albums won’t die, as Kristian is indeed a quality worship leader, evidenced here on Worthy Of Your Name.
The rest of the album features tracks from the rest of the Passion crew- Kristian’s ‘support staff’ if you want to call it like that, and each of these offerings are equally as poignant and encouraging as each other. One of Crowder’s more recent hits “Forgiven”, from American Prodigal, eloquently reminds us of the fact that we are indeed forgiven from everything we have done and everything we are yet to do, relaying across simple yet effective synth and keys that we are forgiven, that we can ‘…say goodbye to every sin, you are forgiven…’; while Crowder combines with Hillsong UNITED to deliver a rousing duet in “Rule”, a near-flawless guitar led rendition of one of my favourite songs from Empires. As Crowder and Matt Crocker beautifully trade vocals and sing together in perfect harmony, we are presented with the encouragement that Jesus rules the atmosphere, that His name is sovereign over all- a fact that should bring us peace and comfort in any and every circumstance.
The lone Matt Redman representative is the inspiring Easter themed heartfelt worship ballad “Your Cross Changes Everything”, co-written with Chris Tomlin and Jason Ingram, where Matt ardently reminds us that the power of the cross means that our whole world view is changed as we worship God because of who He is and what He has done, as we are glimpsed into the fact that the writer of hits like “Blessed Be Your Name” and “10 000 Reasons” still has relevance today in worship music. While Brett Younker is also present here with the acoustic guitar driven grandiose worship anthem “Build My Life”, a Chris Tomlin-esque melody standing tall at nearly 8 minutes, as Brett ardently cries out and declares God to be holy and that He is ‘…Jesus, the name above every other name, Jesus, the only one who could ever save, worthy of every breath we could ever breathe, we live for You…’. Yet it is the Melodie Malone led “Holy Ground” that is my favourite song from the album. Co-written with Brett Younker, Jimi Cravity and Mia Fieldes; “Holy Ground” is a vibrant and earnest prayer to Jesus, asking Him to ‘…show us Your glory, in wonder and surrender we fall down…show us Your glory, let every burning heart be holy ground…’, and is also another heartfelt and poignant worship anthem and prayer. Melodie’s vocals remind me somewhat of Kari Jobe and Lindsay McCaul, and those are pretty passionate and worthy worship leaders for Melodie to strive to be like in the future! Fervently reminding us that God deserves all the praise, this is indeed one my favourite song on Worthy Of Your Name, alongside the title track. It’s only a matter before Melodie is signed to a label (it may not even be Sixsteps Records!), and she’s certainly an artist to keep your eye on in the coming years!
With the studio album Salvation’s Tide Is Rising musically different to live albums previously, we were given a glimpse of what Passion would sound like. And the answer is exactly the same- Passion’s heart is still the same- to bring glory to God in whatever setting they’re in, and to spread the gospel in whatever way they can. In that sense, it’s fitting that this album Worthy Is Your Name is live once again (except for Jimi Cravity’s music video “Beacon”, the final song on the album!), reminding us that this is a movement that does what works for them, and will continue to give God the glory for however long God continues to put the calling on Louie and Shelly Giglio (after all, Passion is Louie’s brain-child and what God called and is still calling for him to do and be a part of!) There are many standouts on this album, so many fantastic worship leaders on fire for Jesus- in fact, every song is a highlight for me, just like last year’s. With artists like Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill, Chris Tomlin and Crowder, as well as relative newcomers Brett Younker, and Melodie Malone; Worthy Of Your Name is an album that deserves to be bought on iTunes by many people; I guarantee those who love worship music will love this record! God deserves all the praise for this spectacular album, and then some more!
5 songs to listen to: Worthy Of Your Name, Forgiven, This We Know, God Of Calvary, Holy Ground
RIYL: UNITED, Kari Jobe, Paul Baloche, Michael W. Smith, Jesus Culture, Planetshakers