Release Date: April 2nd 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- See A Victory
- You Don’t Have To Fight, Stand Still
- In Jesus Name (feat. DOE)
- I Am With You Be Still (feat. Adrienne Bailon Houghton)
- Goodness Of God (feat. Cristabel Clack)
- Accepted (feat. Onaje Jefferson)
- Reckless Love
- Moving Forward
- Emmanuel, You Are Worthy (feat. Naomi Raine)
- How Great Medley, He’s A Wonder (feat. Chandler Moore)
- Risen (Feat. Mariah Houghton)
Last year marked Israel and New Breed being together 20 years. We celebrated by doing Feels Like Home but it wasn’t with a crowd…just us. Easter at Coachella will mark our first time in 14 months to worship with a large crowd. We’re so excited to experience an in-person outdoor worship event together. We have so much to be thankful for! Gospel/r&b/worship artist Israel Houghton, famous for hit songs like “Friend Of God”, “Your Presence Is Heaven”, “You Are Good” and “Jesus At The Center”; is one of the most inspiring, encouraging and inspirational worship artists I’ve heard within the last few years. His comeback album in 2018- Road To DeMaskUs, is an album where he was probably the most vulnerable… and this project really cemented me as a fan of his music and albums as a whole. If you want to read my review of the release, you can do so here; but let me tell you that Israel is now back with another new release- his worship project Feels Like Home Vol. 2, the follow-up to Feels Like Home Vol. 1. Also recorded live from Israel’s sister-in-law’s home in New York (with each vocalist and musician undergoing COVID-19 tests and quarantining as well prior to the worship recording), Israel’s latest project (as the same with the first live album) was born out of Israel’s idea to stream worship services remotely during the early part of 2020, the height of COVID-19 in America. Though Feels Like Home Vol. 2 , like its predecessor, is still lengthy in terms of album duration according to casual fans (though worship enthusiasts will reckon that this release isn’t long enough!); Feels Like Home Vol. 2 is full of heart, passion for Jesus as well as an air of honesty, raw emotion and vulnerability. Sure, the project is not as compelling as worship albums from Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, Kari Jobe, Meredith Andrews or Passion; but Israel and co. really do a professional and sublime job- and I find myself gravitated to many tracks here, as I worship alongside Israel, praising the living God.
“Worthy”, a partial cover of Elevation Worship’s song of the same name, is first, and jumps out of the gate with a bang! Essentially a mash up between an on the spot spontaneous free worship track and Elevation Worship’s compelling and reflective worship anthem; Israel and the rest of the vocalists usher us into unbridled and fervent worship with our Creator once again- and this opener certainly sets the tone atmosphere-wise for the rest of the album. “See A Victory”, also a cover from Elevation Worship, is one of my favourite worship songs I’ve heard recently- and Israel superbly covers this with professionalism and passion, declaring that ‘…there’s power in the mighty name of Jesus, every war he wages, He will win, I’m not backing down from any giant, ’cause I know how this story ends…’; while “You Don’t Have To Fight, Stand Still”, eloquently relays to us that we do not need to fight our battles, because Jesus Christ has won the war, and He can fight them for us. “In Jesus’ Name”, a heartfelt and passionate duet with up-and-coming worship leader DOE, is by far the pinnacle of the album in my opinion, with a theme similar to H.E.R.’s “Hold Us Together”; while Israel’s wife Adrienne Bailon Houghton leads vocals on the contemplative piano led melody “I Am With You Be Still”, whereby we hear a song sung from God’s perspective, declaring that He is with us and we need only to be still- similar in theme to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still And Know”.
Immediately after these ballads, we are treated to an emphatic worship anthem, as Cristabel Clack, previously on American Idol in 2013, lends her vocals on the Bethel Music track “Goodness Of God”. Relaying that because Jesus has been faithful and good to us in the past, we can authoritatively cry out His goodness; this melody is as iconic as it is timeless, and Israel and co. have recorded a brilliant cover here in my opinion. “Evidence”, the Josh Baldwin penned worship tune, then follows, as Israel and his friends transition into a more free-flowing spontaneous type of track; while “Accepted” features Onaje Jefferson, and details the extravagant and endless love Jesus has for us, so much so that He has invited us all into His presence, to the Table, and that it doesn’t matter who we are, what we’ve done, where we’ve been- Jesus loves us and we’re accepted. With that in mind, this song only speaks about God’s love, which doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want to because ‘God will forgive me and love me’. This dichotomy between love and being fair, just and right… is for another post all together (or perhaps no post at all!), but let me say that God’s love for us is boundless and knows no end. Even if we fall away and never return, He will still love us and He will still chase after us. And as this song reminds me of the parables of the prodigal son and the lost sheep… Israel has delivered a song full of hope and assurance, as we are confronted and comforted by the fact that we’re loved unconditionally, and we just need to accept that Love and follow Jesus, in order to live a full and satisfying life.
“…You know how certain songs come with their own set of reverb so to speak? This is one of those songs for me. It speaks to the very fabric of my life. Past, present & future. The visuals that this song paints, God’s furious reckless unstoppable love, grace, redemption & unrelenting mercy for us. Wow! I mean… there’s no wall You won’t kick down- lie You won’t tear down…? Come on… what a picture of our God. In my most reckless moments He matched and overwhelmed that recklessness with a crazy reckless love of His own. This song…. It has impacted me so much that I chose to make it the lead single for my new upcoming release…I’m excited about it. I’m excited about sharing the freedom that comes with being transparent and surrendered to the force of God’s favor. This song certainly helps to underscore that in the most poignant way. Get ready to download it and let that reverb and echo of His presence wash over you as well…” A glance through the rest of the track-list finds me immediately gravitating towards “Reckless Love”, a cover from Cory Asbury and only sung here in its bridge and chorus. And from the above quote from Instagram, one can tell just how excited and passionate Israel is about the song, which is greatly evident in his confident delivery of the lyrics. As Israel earnestly and unequivocally makes this melody his own (the chorus and bridge!), he authoritatively cries out across vibrant guitars, and alongside an engaging gospel choir, that Jesus is a pursuing God, that He will not rest until we are found, that there is nowhere He would go where He would not find us. Thematically reminding me of Psalm 139, as well as Sarah Reeves’ “Nowhere”; we are definitely blessed by Israel’s version of an already explosive mega-hit, that has gone global. Note that we will blog about Cory in the coming months… keep your eye out that that later on this year!
Following on from the spontaneous free worship component of “Reckless Love” is “Moving Forward”, a passionate track that declares that we are going to follow God forward into wherever He is leading us; while Maverick City Music worship leader Naomi Raine joins Israel for a heartfelt and powerful declaration of “Emmanuel You Are Worthy”, essentially the gospel in a 12-minute song. As we heard the story of Jesus, his birth, death and resurrection being laid out for all of us to hear; there’s no doubt in my mind that this melody will win you over if you’re not a fan of Israel Houghton yet. Chandler Moore (“He’s A Wonder”) and Mariah Houghton (“Risen”) then take over vocals- and lift this already stellar album to even more lofty heights, with the Holy Spirit permeating through every track, and ushering us into effervescent praise to our God and King.
One could think that after Israel’s marriage unfolding in 2015, as well as his termination from the staff at Lakewood Church (headed by Joel Osteen), that he could’ve called it quits and retired from music altogether. However that isn’t the case- and the result is the exquisite, brilliantly recorded Road To DeMaskUs. While Cory Asbury should be proud that his song “Reckless Love” is circulating the globe at a quick and frenetic pace; Israel Houghton should also be proud, of doing this song justice on the 2018 album, and subsequently creating an album worthy of multiple listens on iTunes- reminding us all that it doesn’t matter the genre of an artist, as long as they are praising God and drawing people into His presence. Israel’s first album in 3 years reminded me why Israel is such a respected icon in the worship music industry, and I feel that the latest album Feels Like Home Vol. 2 (as well as Feels Like Home Vol. 1) confirms this statement as well. Releasing the project on his newly launched District 11 music label (yet another new label which continues on his new chapter); Israel can be proud of his efforts, and I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for this coming year for Israel. Well done Israel, you have recorded this exemplary project to perfection!
3 songs to listen to: In Jesus’ Name, Accepted, Emmanuel You Are Worthy
RIYL: Kirk Franklin, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, Mary Mary, TobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Kierra Sheard, Donnie McClurkin, Natalie Grant