Release Date: March 10th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Heartbeat (feat. Matt Hammitt)
- My Hope Is In You (feat. April Geesbreght)
- You Redeem (feat. Matt Hammitt)
- Ever Be (feat. Emily Hamilton of For All Seasons)
- God of Brilliant Lights
- Cornerstone (feat. Jilian Linklater)
- Death Was Arrested (feat. Christy Nockels)
- Resurrecting (feat. Molly Reed of Grayson|Reed)
- My Savior My God (feat. Christy Nockels)
- Lead On (King Eternal)
“…I’ve always said that in a concert setting I want people to worship. I am always encouraging people to sing along. The biggest compliment I can receive after a concert is when someone says, ‘that was less of a concert and more of a church service, more of a worship experience.’ I’m like, ‘Mission accomplished! That’s exactly what I wanted.’ So, to have people singing along on this album is pretty magnificent. When I invited people to be a part of this recording, I wanted to make sure they wanted to worship. I didn’t want them to be just spectators. I wanted them to be worshippers. I wanted them to be desirous of entering into the presence of God, raising their hands and closing their eyes if they wanted to, and that’s how the night was. It was a genuine experience of worship…” Known for smash hits such as “My Savior My God”, “My Hope Is In You”, “We Are Free”, “God Of Brilliant Lights”, “To God Alone”, “To The Only God”, “Give It All Away” and “Give Me The Words To Speak”, as well as countless GMA Dove Award nominations and wins; Centricity Music artist Aaron Shust has ministered to us over the years with his thought-provoking, inspiring and powerful worshipful melodies and anthems, providing us with plenty of relevant topics to ponder over as we commune more and more with Jesus.
Now, after more than a decade since his first album Anything Worth Saying in 2005, Aaron has unveiled a live album just this week. Love Made A Way, consisting of 11 tracks, is sort of a ‘best-of’ project, though I say this rather loosely. With 4 brand new never-before-heard and never-been-previously-recorded songs, 4 covers and 3 other hits from years gone by; we are introduced to maybe a typical track list of what Aaron could normally sing at one of his concerts. And the result is pretty good, for a quick snapshot of Aaron’s heart for Jesus, as we are reminded through Aaron’s worshipful focused lyrics and inspiring melodies that Jesus is King and He reigns forever. Though if you haven’t heard Aaron’s music before, I suggest you start with Morning Rises or Doxology and then work backwards; nevertheless, this album is jam packed of songs you may or perhaps already are, singing on Sunday mornings at church. Not necessarily reinventing the wheel in terms of lyrical creativity so to speak; Aaron passion and zeal for our Father, Maker, Saviour and Friend, permeates the 50-minute worship experience, and is a release I’d gladly listen to again and again!
Broken down into three parts (all-new original songs, familiar original songs and covers!), we are presented with 4 songs in never before heard melodies. Releasing the single “You Redeem” late last year, Aaron vividly describes the moment we are redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ, reminding us that ‘…You redeem, You redeem, You restore what’s been stolen from me, You reclaim, You release, You rebuild with the words that You breathe…’; against a beautifully played piano and vibrant synth. A ballad at heart, Aaron’s delivery of these ever true lyrics of God redeeming us and being all powerful, makes this song one of the highlights here, together with the backing vocals of ex-Sanctus Real frontman Matt Hammitt.
While opener “Heartbeat”, also sung with Matt Hammitt, is another favourite of mine, as the energetic worship anthem, powerfully led by stirring guitars, deftly delves into the notion of God being our everything and our ‘…every heartbeat, every breath that I breathe, You’re all I need…’; and the electronic synth prominent upbeat melody “Belong”, a potential single, powerfully encapsulates the eternal truth of each of us belonging to the Father and He to us. The final brand new song is the album closer “Lead On (King Eternal)”. A lively and energetic joyous celebratory declaration similar to something Rend Collective would sing, we are honoured to be graced with Aaron’s fervent heart for Jesus once again, as he proclaims to Jesus that ‘…lead on, lead on, King Eternal, lead on, lead on, we will follow Your ways, Your truth…’, a no-nonsense and unashamed refrain that we can unequivocally declare with gusto as we devote our lives to Jesus 100%.
It’s now where we come to the rest of the album, of which some, if not all, of these tracks are entirely familiar to us. “God Of Brilliant Lights” (Morning Rises), “My Hope Is In You” (This Is What We Believe) and “My Saviour My God” (Aaron’s most famous song ever from Anything Worth Saying!) all are sung live here, and each melody is recorded to perfection, as we worship Jesus with all of our hearts, and marvel at Aaron’s songwriting and worship leading ability. Particularly in “My Saviour My God”, Aaron’s earnest encouragement that ‘…my Saviour lives, my Saviour loves, my Saviour’s always there for me, my God He was, my God He is, my God He’s always gonna be…’ is a sure and gentle reminder of God’s faithfulness and love for us. And while I would have wanted Aaron to record live versions of other past hits, such as “We Are Free”, “To God Alone” or “Give It All Away”; I reckon Aaron has chosen his three most popular and requested songs quite nicely, don’t you think?
Aaron also covers “Cornerstone” (Hillsong Worship)- previously recorded as a studio version on Morning Rises, as well as “Ever Be” (Bethel Music)- also recorded previously, this time on the EP of the same name in early 2016. In both cases, if you’ve heard the studio version, you’ve basically heard these live versions- take that as a positive or a negative, as it could be both- Aaron could be seem as dependable, and reliable, yet also unimaginative, bland and stale. Either way, these two songs are nonetheless inspiring at worst, and thoroughly engaging and Holy Spirit anointed at best.
Though the remaining two covers are sure to be hits in churches and maybe radio- there’s no doubting the presence of God flowing through these melodies here. “Resurrecting”, previously recorded by Elevation Worship, is a solid and encouraging ballad, brilliantly led by leys and synth, and sung with Molly Reed of Grayson Reed, ardently declaring that the On who was resurrected from the tomb, lives in us, and that ‘…by Your spirit I will rise, from the ashes of defeat, the resurrected king is resurrecting me…’. Yet it is “Death Was Arrested” that is the song to listen to if you could only pick one from Love Made A Way. Partly because it has already been covered so much (by Laura Story and People Of The Earth, and originally recorded by NorthPoint Inside Out!). But also because of its simple yet emotional and honest message of Jesus delivering us from sin, and arresting death, so that we can have new life in Him. With Aaron proclaiming across anthemic guitars and keys that ‘…Your grace, so free washes over me, You have made me new, now life begins with You, it’s Your endless love, pouring down on us, You have made us new, now life begins with You…’, we are glimpsed into the love and devotion Aaron has for the One who died for him personally, and died for each one of us personally as well.
“…I feel really privileged to continue to make music. I could summarize everything with one Scripture verse, it’s a new favorite of mine and I’m going to keep this for the rest of my life—Psalm 45:1. The second line says, I address my verses to the King. I don’t have any tattoos at all. I have nothing against them, but if I got a tattoo, my first one might say, ‘I address my verses to the King.’ It’s my favorite thing, not just to sing about God, but to sing to Him. He hears our praises. The Bible says He inhabits the praises of His people. He lives within the praises of His people! I consider it a super high privilege to be able to address my verses to the King. I love it!…” Aaron’s new album, which is very highly promoted, unlike Doxology which had virtually no buzz, and instead flew under the radar; is indeed one of my favourites of the year so far. While at times the album may feel a little too polished and synthesised for my liking (where were the guest vocalists? I could not hear Matt Hammitt, or Christy Nockels, Molly Reed, Emily Hamilton and everyone else…at all!); Aaron Shust’s ambitious project has nevertheless paid off, as we are reminded of God’s immense love for us and devotion to each of us, that stretches to the furthest, highest, deepest and widest part of the earth. Released in the same week as albums/songs from Greg Sykes, Daniel Bashta, Out Of The Dust, Mandisa, John Waller and Kim Walker-Smith; Aaron continues to deliver biblical truth after truth as Love Made A Way is currently within my top 10 albums of the year so far! Well done Aaron for such an enjoyable album. This will certainly be on repeat in my iTunes playlist for months to come!
3 songs to listen to: You Redeem, Death Was Arrested, My Savior My God
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Delirious?, The Afters, Sanctus Real, Building 429, Paul Colman Trio