Release Date: August 26th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- It is Finished
- My Redeemer
- Jesus, Healer
- Each Day
- New Creation
- God, You are Good
- You are My Rock
- You Were, You Are (Can’t Contain)
Everyone knows “God of This City”- even if they don’t know Bluetree. Made famous by Chris Tomlin on Passion: God of This City and through his 2008 Hello Love album; people may not necessarily know the men behind the song. Bluetree, from Northern Ireland, are one of my favourite worship bands in Britain (alongside Delirious? and Rend Collective) and one of the most unique and interesting worship bands, alongside Rend Collective, in the current modern CCM scene. Releasing their first label debut with Worship And Justice (26th August) on Integrity Music (they released two albums prior to this upcoming one); lead singer Aaron Boyd and the rest of the band continue to deliver poignant songs and emotive tracks through this new musical offering- and while a fair amount of tracks- 6 out of 10, have been re-released on previous albums, it is their freshness in the re-recording of them that will draw in new listeners who may not have heard Bluetree prior to this year. While at times I felt that Bluetree were rushing the re-recordings (the lengths of the tracks are considerably shorter), the album nonetheless provides us all with a great snapshot of what Bluetree are about, and give us a few sneak peeks of new and fresh material, and something to look forward to from the band in months and years to come.
6 out of the 10 tracks on Worship and Justice are re-recordings, with 5 tracks from Kingdom alone. While to the outside observer it may seem like a money-ploy in order to bring their most loved melodies from previous albums and re-record them for their label debut, the band nevertheless deliver great renditions, even if I’ve heard many of the songs previously. “Jesus Healer”, the first single from Kingdom and a standout here on this new album, is given a unique makeover, shortening the song virtually by a minute or so, omitting the guitar introduction, and quickening the melody a fair bit. While I felt that the song was a little fast for my liking (I still enjoyed the Kingdom version the best), what this version of the song nevertheless brings is something new, even though the song itself is old. Speaking about the gospel story, of how Jesus died to bring freedom to humanity from the separation that was to be our fate for all eternity; “Jesus, Healer” is simple, and while a tad on the short side, still warrants a place on Bluetree’s Integrity Music debut!
The first track on Worship and Justice, “It is Finished” tells us a story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, affirming with fervour, heart and passion the things that we as believers in Christ declare to be true. While the song readily does away with the two minute instrumental introduction (full of guitars, drums and electronics) that was present on Kingdom; the song nevertheless is a great rendition, and one that is much more radio friendly (which could be a sign that it would be a single in the future?). As Aaron powerfully sings out that ‘…it is finished, the cross has done it, the work is over…’, we collectively declare alongside him, that Christ has done what we could never do- that the work that should’ve been ours to accomplish was already done with both Christ’s death and resurrection!
Bluetree introduces 4 more re-recorded songs aside from “Jesus Healer” and “It is Finished”, each one of them uniquely different from the original recordings, yet having the same atmosphere as we reflect on new ways to express old songs. The faster-paced guitar driven “Rest”, is a song that encourages us to rest in Christ’s arms whenever we are tired or weary, while “You Are My Rock” (simply titled “My Rock” on Worship And Justice) is quickened to unveil an anthemic melody that brings to life a theme of us realising how unfathomable Christ’s love really is, and “Each Day” (a song that is in fact lengthened compared to the original recording), is a song that reminds us to declare God’s praises on a daily basis in whatever task we do or undertake.
It is the album closer, “You Were, You Are”, that receives the drastic makeover, yet nevertheless remains one of my favourite songs on the album. Incorporating a guitar sound instead of electronic keyboards, Aaron imparts to us one of the most worshipful songs that I’ve heard of the last few years- all we can do is join in the praising of God’s name, knowing that ‘…even rocks cry out your praise…’. It’s something to consider- that even if we don’t praise our Father, creation, and even the rocks, will. With powerful words in chorus that ‘…You’re far beyond all understanding, measureless in all Your glory, God You were, You are, You’ll always be…’, Bluetree have carved out a winner, and a song destined to be one of Bluetree’s classics in years to come!
With the four remaining tracks newly recorded for Worship And Justice, Aaron and the rest of Bluetree show us what is to come for the band in some riveting new material. “My Redeemer Lives” boasts a powerful electric guitar undertone as Aaron invites us all to embrace God the living redeemer as one where we find our peace and place our trust, knowing that ‘…in You I see the Father, in You I find my peace…’, while “Magnify” invites the unique instrument of the sliding guitar to take centre stage and bring a country-worship style of genre to the forefront in a song that brings a message of magnifying God high above any other.
Both “God You Are Good” and “New Creation” round out the new material, both bringing a sense of vulnerability and an encouragement to the church (with hopefully these melodies being some of the many Bluetree songs sung around the world). “God You Are Good” shows us the countless ways God is good in our lives, even if we may not necessarily see it to begin with, and is one of my favourite songs on the album, while “New Creation” highlights the piano in the 5 minute melody to assert the hopefully encouraging truth that ‘…I was dead, but now I am alive, I was lost, You opened up my eyes, and at the cross, you beckon me, with a hope for eternity…’
One of my favourite U.K. bands alongside Rend Collective ever since Delirious? disbanded; Bluetree’s newest offering of 10 tracks under the banner of Integrity Music is an album to be enjoyed by many worship enthusiasts around the world. With Delirious? producing songs that have revolutionised the worship music genre, from “Majesty” and “History Maker”, to “My Soul Sings” and “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?”, songs like “God of This City”, “You Were You Are”, “Jesus Healer” and “God You are Good” are sure to be sung by generations of Christians as the years go by.
As spoken by Aaron himself, ‘…I think the church finally understands that our entire lives are an act of worship in the Kingdom of God. When we sing on Sunday mornings, that’s an expression, but when we go to work, when we go to school, when we are smuggled into a country to go and encourage the underground church, or minister to prostitutes—that is all an act of worship, individual to God…’ In light of this quote, the album takes a special meaning, with the songs hopefully a vessel for us to engage more with God. A great worship album at heart, Worship and Justice is an album that’s certainly a standout in August 2014.
3 songs to listen to: God You are Good, It is Finished, Jesus Healer
RIYL: Delirious?, Matt Redman, Rend Collective, Chris Tomlin