Release Date: March 3rd 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- When We All Get To Heaven (*)
- Nothing But The Blood (*)
- Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
- My Jesus I Love Thee (*)
- Blessed Redeemer
- At Calvary (*)
- Praise You In This Storm
- Sweet Hour Of Prayer (*)
- If We Are The Body
- I Surrender All (All To Jesus)
- Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
- Beulah Land (*)
Well, I guess it is that time of year again. Every couple of years or thereabouts, Casting Crowns releases a new studio album, and every alternate year, another kind of album, such as a live album, an acoustic album, or in this case, a hymns album. The newest Casting Crowns album Glorious Day: Hymns Of Faith is more of a compilation album (of 6 older songs and 6 brand new recordings) than a full blown studio project, but nevertheless, Casting Crowns’ albums, no matter the format, do garner divided opinions, and also commercial acclaim and huge chart topping numbers. I guess you either love the band or don’t, and I’m in the camp that love the band- my love for them and their ministry increasing after seeing them live in 2012 in Sydney, where they spoke about their heart for Jesus, and I heard stories behind their songs. The band is pretty successful, with most of their albums now certified Gold or Platinum, and there’s plenty of radio singles and Dove Awards etched to their name. But for some reason they are criticised for their lack of innovation, creativity, and there have been some reviewers throughout their career even trying to bring them down in their review to make a point.
Though I do agree to an extent that musically, they’re not as adventurous as artists like David Crowder, Andrew Peterson and Rend Collective, of late there’s been something about this 7-piece outfit from Georgia that keeps me transfixed and captivated, which I found out in 2012 when I saw the band live in early 2012- their heart for Jesus is overflowing, and the fact that some band members have other jobs at the church is pretty cool too. Mark Hall has developed into a brilliant song-writer and it’s clear that these humble men and women of God are here to stay. So how does the new hymn album stack up, on a release date that Third Day will surely dominate in sales, with their new studio album releasing also? While others may be hanging out for and longing for a possible sequel to The Acoustic Sessions Vol. 1, these hymns are sure to minster to your soul, and bring you all closer to Jesus.
6 out of the 12 songs are tracks we’ve all heard before, so let me gloss over them briefly. “If We are The Body” and “Praise You In The Storm”, two of the band’s biggest singles ever, are present here in their acoustic incarnations, and what better 2 songs from the Acoustic album in 2013 to include on this new project? “Praise You In The Storm” is driven by the piano and strings, and reminds that no matter if we are in our trials, or the good times, that we can praise Him in all circumstances. With the powerful and impacting words of the chorus ministering to us in the times when we need encouragement the most, what I believe makes “Praise You In The Storm” timeless, and a fitting inclusion here, are it’s ever relatable lyrics, that are sure to impact anyone in a rough spot. As Mark brilliantly sings out the words ‘…You are who You are, no matter where I am…’, I am filled with peace and I am reassured that God is in control of everything in my life, inclusive of the things that don’t go according to my plan. While “If We Are The Body”, originally upbeat rock anthem driven by guitars, is now more of a subdued reflective piano-only piece; a complete turnaround from what we would expect. Still, it’s nice to hear this song in a new light, and the message of stepping up, and welcoming all people into the body of Christ, and not allowing ourselves to believe our preconceived ideas about other people; is all the more noticeable in this revealing and intimate, fresh eye-opener.
The title track, also featured on the 2009 album Until The Whole World Hears, is shortened by a minute as the radio version is present. Still impacting and powerful after 6 years, “Glorious Day”, inspired by the hymn of the same name, has Mark passionately and emotionally crying out the eternal truths, that ‘…living, He loved me, dying, He saved me, buried, He carried my sins far away, rising, He justified freely forever, one day He’s coming oh glorious day…’, an assertion that reiterates that God’s love for us stretches to eternity as evident in His death and resurrection, a fact that should boggle the mind every time we listen to this moving and inspiring melody. Driven by electric guitar and keys, the mid tempo ballad is right a home amongst the hymns, and Casting Crowns should be proud of this song in particular and the others as well!
“Blessed Redeemer”, also from the 2009 album, carries on with the same theme of God’s unending love, as Megan Garrett leads this piano led reflective and contemplative ballad, and vividly describes the night Jesus was crucified, similar in theme to Carman’s “This Blood”. As Megan emotionally relays that Jesus was ‘…wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding, dying for me…’, we are met with the awe and wonderment that Jesus died for each of us. If there was one other person living on Earth over the entire human history, God will still die for that person…let’s just dwell on that for a second.
The final 2 tracks we’ve heard before are the traditional piano only melody “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and the altered and reworked “I Surrender All (All To Jesus)”. Though “Tis So Sweet” is not one of my favourite hymns of all time, the short but sweet melody from Mark and co. has me appreciating the song a bit more, as we are given a gentle reminder that ‘…Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er, Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!…’, that God’s faithfulness and fulfilled promises in the past are reasons alone to trust Him in the hard times. “I Surrender All” is an interesting hymn rendition in this case, as Casting Crowns complete change the melody and add their own chorus. While the song is impacting, I couldn’t help but feel like the song was disjointed musically, even though the lyrics were impacting, especially the chorus in which Mark declares ‘…all to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give, I I will ever love and trust Him and in His presence I will live, I surrender all…’.
Speaking of altered songs, one song of the completely new tracks recorded for this album is “Nothing But The Blood”, which is also altered beyond recognition! But unlike “I Surrender All” which to me was slightly out of place, this rendition is probably better than the original. Driven by an explosive ukulele, we are virtually introduced to a brand new song, sung like a country infused ballad. As the earnest and honest chorus reminds us about the blood of Jesus, that ‘…Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood…’, the theme of God’s faithfulness because of His sacrifice on the cross carries on as well. Well done Casting Crowns for a well thought out version that is executed brilliantly!
The lesser known hymn “When We All Get To Heaven”, the soft, laid back and piano led ballad and the album opener, also includes vibrant strings, as Mark and Megan share vocals and fervently remind us that we will praise God forevermore when we all are in heaven, while the haunting and mysterious mid tempo electric guitar led “My Jesus I Love Thee”, along the same lines as “Set Me Free” musically, is where Mark and co. unashamedly express their unending love for Jesus, against the backdrop of strings and a gripping and captivating instrumental bridge. The acoustic guitar driven original song “At Calvary”, while not a timeless hymn, could be in a few years’ time, as this potential single and guitar led mid tempo melody and account of Jesus’ death yet again once again paints a picture of a God who loves us immensely that deserves many, many listens, as Mark eloquently cries out in the chorus ‘…there Your mercy and your grace was free, there Your pardon multiplied to me, there my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary…’.
While “Sweet Hour Of Prayer”, a lesser known hymn led by keys and Megan’s captivating voice, somewhat was a little too standard musically, and wasn’t as interesting as the other songs on this album; the album closer “Beulah Land”, a piano only song made popular by Jason Crabb as well as The Gaither Vocal Band, is the perfect way to end a unique and inspiring album, with the meaningful lyrics providing us hope and a reason to keep pressing on through the hard days, as we long for a forever home we’ve never even seen, and long for the day that we see Jesus in heaven!
With such a divide on the people who love Casting Crowns and the people who don’t, there’s no mistaking that you’ve got to respect the band for the ministry that they’re involved in. With profound lyrics, inspiring music, and such biblical truth and a heart for Jesus, the band is just getting started, in my opinion. With Glorious Day: Hymns Of Faith being one of their strongest to date (alongside Thrive and Come To The Well), I am interested and intrigued in the forthcoming records, as well as a potential new acoustic album. Though you may not have a similar viewpoint to me, and you could be indifferent to the band from Atlanta, Georgia; Glorious Day: Hymns Of Faith is sure to minister to everyone, so, I’d suggest you jump in and buy this when it releases (which is…now)! Well done guys for a stirring and motivational record that will be on my playlist for many years to come!
3 songs to listen to: Nothing But The Blood, At Calvary, Beulah Land
RIYL: Third Day, Newsboys, MercyMe, Sanctus Real