Release Date: August 26th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Love Rain Down
- Burning in My Soul
- God Be Lifted High
- You Won’t Relent (feat. Justin Adams)
- I’ll Depend on You
- Your Love Never Fails
- Great I Am
- My God
- I Will Rise
- Light Of Your Face/Come Away
Regardless of the plethora of worship albums that release each week, and the countless original songs and covers released to radio on a constant basis, we all need to admit one thing- we love our worship songs, and whether our favourite band is Bethel, Passion, All Sons and Daughters, Dustin Krensue or Paul Baloche, or anyone else; we are always intrigued whenever an artist releases a worship album. Is it as good as the rest of worship albums I’ve heard this year? Are the cover recordings in the album just as good as the original recordings? Is there anything fresh, unique, invigorating and exciting about this new album that I haven’t heard from any worship album this year? All these questions came to the fore when I listened to Julie Elias’s second album, a worship 12 track offering complete with around 8-9 covers, and releasing August 26th 2014.
Julie has had quite a career up to this point, studying musical theatre when she was younger and ending up in Hollywood, where she guested in various TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: New York, Bones, Flash Forward, Community and more. Now focusing on Christian music, Love Rain Down is a collection of songs known and lesser-known as we see Julie deliver renditions of modern classics with a 90s sound that compliments itself and showcases something new when hearing the CCM melodies recorded in a musical backdrop akin to the 90s styles of other artists like Avalon, Jaci Velasquez or Rebecca St. James. From the anthemic title track, to one of my favourite renditions of “Burning in My Soul” and the medley of “Light of My Face/Come Away”; Julie’s upcoming album is one to enjoy if you love modern worship, with a 1990s style music twist.
Boasting 9 covers, Julie’s new worship album is certainly a must for any worshipper or worship music enthusiast, with many of today’s worship hits being covered in this 12 song project. While the music doesn’t deviate that much from the original recordings, it is the fervent passion of Julie and the light acoustics, and the 90s music atmosphere that covers the entire project, that make this album worth listening to. With a familiar guitar riff starting off “Rooftops”, arguably one of Jesus Culture’s most famous hits over recent years, we hear Julie declare with such vigour, enthusiasm and emotion about the theme of us shouting from the rooftops Christ’s love that we were freely given. The powerful chorus alone, reminding us that ‘…I shout out Your name from the rooftops I’ll proclaim that I am Yours…’; ought to be enough to listen to the track, a great album opener of a collection of songs that are, in their arrangement, one of the strongest set of popular worship songs since Sarah Reeves’s Acoustic Worship Covers Vol. 1.
Looking through the 12 song album, there are many hits that I’m sure many listeners of worship music will know. Brett Younker’s “Burning in My Soul” is expertly covered, and one of my favourite Julie Elias covers as she extends the melody and utilises light percussion and her serene voice to make the song one of my highlights on Love Rain Down; and while there’s nothing really much new when hearing “Oceans” (frankly, as much as I love the song, it has been overplayed on radio far too much lately), it is nice to hear someone else’s interpretation of this Hillsong UNITED classic. “You Won’t Relent”, one of Jesus Culture’s earlier hits, is a surprise and a welcome addition as Julie teams up with good friend Justin Adams to highlight a theme of God having all of us- the good and the bad, as we surrender to Him as an act of thankfulness and worship.
“Your Love Never Fails” (Jesus Culture), “Great I Am” (Jared Anderson), “My God” (Desperation Band), “Light of Your Face/Come Away” (Jesus Culture) and “I Will Rise” (Chris Tomlin) have all been proven hits of the past, and all bolster the lineup of the songs and the general worshipful atmosphere of the album in general. While it is “God Be Lifted High” (Kristi Brown) that becomes the odd song out of the covers (I’d never heard the song until I googled it a few hours ago), the song nevertheless showcases some of the most emotion and heartfelt encouragements we can hear on the album, as Julie lifts up Christ in full surrender with the utilisation of strong piano riffs and her ethereal and powerful vocal.
While each of Julie’s covers doesn’t necessarily give us anything new (no new stanza, no new alterations in music), what Julie does have is immense passion for worship, which can be heard in each of the songs. And while the last track felt a little disjointed (rather than a medley, it was more like 2 songs in 1), Julie did manage to keep me intrigued throughout the track, something that Jesus Culture’s versions of both ‘Come Away’ and ‘Light of Your Face’ sadly didn’t do. Similarly with “My God” (I had forgotten about Desperation Band’s song “My God” prior to hearing this); these covers highlight what it means to have a powerful worship song- one that should be enjoyed no matter who performs it. Songs ought to go beyond the artist, which is exactly what is attempted, and succeeded in Love Rain Down!
“Love Rain Down” and “I’ll Depend on You” are the two originally written tracks for the album. As spoken by Julie herself, ‘…I have had so many different seasons in my life but there is nothing better than seeing the “desert” become “forever green.” The song [Love Rain Down] talks about “painting the sky with sunshine” and “washing my spirit clean” both things that are so welcome after a drab or dark period…’ One of the most upbeat and enjoyable songs to hear on the album, Julie takes the bright and sunny mood on the melody and brings with it a sense of renewal, and revival as I see this song as one that’ll hopefully encourage listeners that we can start again after trials and tribulations- because of love, and more specifically, God’s love.
“I’ll Depend on You” talks about a topic that has been prominent in CCM songs recently- about life in between the now and not yet. Lindsay McCaul’s song “The Inbetween” on her most recent album One More Step discussed about this, and Julie also expounds on the theme- ‘…that song is not about the good or bad times, but the in between, that waiting period which I know for me is often the hardest. It takes a lot of faith to say, “God I don’t know what is coming, but no matter what, I will depend on you.”…’ A song that brings the best out of Julie’s voice, “I’ll Depend on You”, along with the title track, is one of my favourites on Love Rain Down.
Love Rain Down, regardless of how many worship covers there are on the album, is great production-wise. With powerful drums and a vocal that I reckon is one of the most underrated in the Christian indie music industry; Julie’s new album is one to treasure if you are a fan of indie worship music, CCM, pop, or a combination of the three. With an overarching atmosphere that harkens back to the 1990s, Julie’s unique representation of the songs shows us that there can never be enough renditions of worship songs, knowing that it is the songs, not that artists; that impact lives around the world. From the title track, to “I’ll Depend On You” and covers like “Burning In My Soul”, “I Will Rise” and “Great I Am”; Julie’s efforts ought to be commended and rewarded, with Love Rain Down being one of the standout albums in August 2014 so far. Well done Julie for such poignancy and vulnerability within these 12 songs!
3 songs to listen to: I’ll Depend on You, Love Rain Down, Burning in My Soul
RIYL: Jesus Culture, Avalon, Lincoln Brewster, Jaci Velasquez, Rebecca St. James