Sixstepsrecords/ Sparrow Records
Release Date: October 27 2014
Reviewed by Nelson Russia
- At The Cross (Love Ran Red)
- Jesus Loves Me
- Boundary Lines
- The Roar
- Fear Not
- The Table
- Psalm 100
- I Will Boast
- Jesus, This Is You
- In the End (Bonus Track)- Deluxe edition
- Waterfall (Tritonal Remix)- Deluxe edition
- At The Cross (Love Ran Red) (Acoustic)- Deluxe edition
- Let it Be Jesus (Acoustic)- Deluxe edition
Chris Tomlin is an award winning contemporary Christian music artist, songwriter and worship leader who have written some of the most beloved songs embraced by congregations around the world, bringing listeners a sense of hope, promise and healing. With uplifting, encouraging and honest messages delivered through an arsenal of anthems including “How Great is Our God”, “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”, “Jesus Messiah”, “Our God” and “I Lift My Hands”, Chris’s influence in the modern Christian worship have been phenomenal.
I remembered when I was a teenager, the first time I heard his music at a local church conference, not knowing who he was, but being moved whilst the youthful crowd sang the words of “How Great is Our God”. The simple yet inspiring message of the song, which celebrates all the wonders of God, His power that makes darkness ‘…tremble at His voice…’ and His constant presence from ‘…Age to Age…’, brought everyone together in praise and thanksgiving and for the first time I felt like I was singing to God. That song changed my life in many ways. Over the years many of Chris’s songs have made its way into my life. It was not until much later that I discovered the man behind all these songs. Such is the testament of Chris Tomlin’s humility, that he writes songs not for his own recognition or success, but as a way that listeners and Christians alike can channel their love for Jesus through the church. It was therefore a privilege for me to review his latest release Love Ran Red, which may perhaps be one of Chris’s most beautiful declarations of faith.
Following the heels of his highly successful 2013 offering of Burning Lights which debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, Love Ran Red embodies the theme of beating-heart faith, love and passion and it absolutely delivers in this stunning record of twelve songs, produced by long time friend and collaborator Ed Cash.
Opening the track list is “Greater”, a feel good worship anthem that from the opening lines “From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things, to God be the glory” defined the source of Chris’s musical gift and inspiration and his mission to create music that glorify God. The powerful chorus “Greater is the love of Jesus. Greater than my sin, Greater than the grave, Above all other thrones, above all other name, Greater” proclaims the power and reign of Jesus and is sure to set your spirit soaring with each note.
The first single from this chapter, “Waterfall” which has become a Christian radio hit, follows “Greater” as another epic track and one of the most lyrically substantiative of the collection. Inspired by Psalm 42:7, which expressed “deep call too deep in the roar of your waterfalls” the song speaks about seeking for and returning to the love of God, as Chris conjures the image of God’s love washing over us, with a sense of never-ending flow, “like a waterfall raining down on me” and “running wild and free”. Accompanied by an infectious rhythm of drums beating, electrifying guitar and bright piano keys while Chris chants “waterfall, waterfall”, I could not help but smile and be uplifted by this tune, which is set to make your heart pulsate and sing with joy.
The song juxtaposes beautifully with “At The Cross [Love Ran Red]”, a reverent ‘hymn-like’ ballad that contained the “centerpiece lyric” which inspired the title of this album. Poignant imagery such as “Where Your love ran red and my sin washed white. I owe all to You, I owe all to You” and the echoing lyrics “At the Cross, At the Cross” casts such a haunting and profound impression of Christ’s passion and God’s reigning mercy, that it sends me chills throughout and brings me close to tears, in this emotional and moving rendition.
Similarly “Jesus Loves Me” is an intimate and earnest song of grace and my absolute favourite track in Love Ran Red. With the stirring chorus and rich and powerful melody, we are reminded of the simple truth that Jesus loves each one of us and that the love He offers us is complete, inescapable and flows ceaselessly that, “we couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence. Couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms”. As Chris declares “He holds the stars and holds my heart. With healing hands that bear the scars”, he reassures us of the comfort and peace we could only find in God’s presence, and His grace and power of restoration. “You can’t outlive the presence of God, the love of God, and God will find you wherever you are. We can spend our whole lives learning all this grand theology of God. But at the end of the day it comes down to ‘Jesus loves me.’” Chris says. The way the song unveils itself, from the regal piano opening to the musical momentum of the electric guitar, beating drums and Chris’s flawless and passionate voice as he proclaims “Jesus, How can it be, He loves me, He is for me…”, we as listeners will leave feeling both loved and cherished no matter what trials and tribulations we face or have encountered in our lives. The first time I heard this track, I felt as though I’ve heard this song playing for more than a decade. Such is a testament of the timeless quality of this song, which I believe is set to become a worship classic sung at churches in the many years to come.
While “At The Cross” and “Jesus Loves Me” are compelling ballads, “Boundary Lines” offers a more modern and bubbly sound that embodies Tomlin’s expanding musical repertoire to include the dance genre. With poignant lyrics “My heart is a cup. Your love is an ocean. You fill me up like rivers overflowing” signifying the abundance of God’s love and how it fills us up and cannot be contained (in keeping with the theme of Waterfall) the energetic and vibrant keys, electronic effects, and powerful drum beat of this song will be sure to lift us up from whatever situation we are encountering and encourage us to move.
Propelled by Chris’s vocal delivery “Almighty” is a song that elegantly evokes the majesty and beauty of God. “I don’t think I can write a bigger song in my life than ‘Almighty’” Chris shares, “When I hear that opening melody, and that opening piano, it’s like a glimpse of heaven to me.” Similarly, “The Roar” is an explosive track, which awakens us to God’s majestic presence and how He responds to our prayer like the “Roar of the lion of Judah… the voice that calms the raging sea”. Filled with energy and enthusiasm, this electric track is a compelling song that is a reminder of God’s supremacy and timeliness. Likewise in “The Table”, we are called and invited to “feast on the table of the Lord”. With a country/gospel style vibe this easy listening track hits all the right notes.
Amidst the mighty anthems Chris has written, it is in the quietest moments of this album, in the acoustically prominent track “I Will Boast” where I believe Tomlin shines with a piece filled with raw honesty, devotion and reflection. In this track, the warmth in Chris’s voice have been pushed to the very forefront as he vividly takes us back to “the Cross where my Saviour died for me” reminding us of the unsurpassed strength and depth of Jesus’s love, the “Scars of love and scars that heal” that “broke the curse and set me free”. With Chris declaring that “I will boast only in the cross”, the song is filled with much adoration for Christ and thanksgiving for the freedom and forgiveness that we have been granted because “Only One took the nails, Only One tore the veil, Only One spotless Lamb”. The poignant lyric anchored by the simplicity of his voice, the strings and piano, was what made this track for me, purely magical and I consider one of the album’s major highlights.
In Love Ran Red, Chris Tomlin successfully offers us a potent, eclectic and engaging collection of anthems, dance tune and heartfelt ballads that is superbly simple yet breathtakingly deep and powerful, providing listeners with a truly enriching worship experience, that can be enjoyed and sung at church. Just as I felt the first time I heard his songs all those many years ago, Chris Tomlin’s gift for finding that perfect blend of storytelling and melody that could connect with people’s heart and draw people closer to God, has not faltered but has grown stronger and richer over the years. Love Ran Red celebrates and reminds us of the strength of God’s love which is as deep as a waterfall, majestic like a lion’s roar, and passionately red. I believe that both fans of Chris Tomlin and those only discovering his music can find something truly special in this album that they could add to their life’s soundtrack!
3 songs to listen to: Waterfall, Jesus Loves Me, I Will Boast
Chris Tomlin releases Love Ran Red through Sixstepsrecords/Sparrow records on October 27. A special Deluxe Edition featuring the full-length studio album and four additional tracks, is also available. See below to watch clips about Chris’s humble upbringing from country Texas, an acoustic rendition of Jesus Loves Me, and the meaning and story behind this beautiful song.
RIYL: Martin Smith, Michael W Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Matt Redman