Release Date: March 10th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Doxology (Live) (3:35)
- Angels (Live) (3:57)
- Hallelujah (Bride In White) [Live] (3:57)
- This I Believe (The Creed) [Live] (5:18)
- Keep Me Close (Live) (5:33)
- Faithful (Live) (5:18)
- This Beating Heart (Live) (6:19)
- Yours (Live) (4:37)
- Always (Live) (3:05)
- Make a Way (Live) (5:27)
- Wide Open (Live) (5:32)
- Rock of Ages (Live) (5:42)
- Give Me Faith (Live) (6:01)
Newsong have been a household name in CCM/pop/worship music since the 80’s. In fact their previous album in 2013, Swallow The Ocean is their 18th studio album, which is remarkable by any standards, given that they’ve been around longer than Delirious?, Third Day, and Newsboys! No doubt you’ve heard of the 7-piece CCM band, if not their songs, then about the band members; as lead singer Russ Lee has done his own solo stuff in the early 2000’s, and lead singer Billy Goodwin is the father-in-law of CCM pop artist Francesca Battistelli (something I just recently discovered!). But perhaps their crowning achievement is the founding of Winter Jam in the 90’s, and now an annual tour that is one of the biggest tours of the year, with many artists included in the lineup each year (along with Newsong, of course!). Winterjam is now a launching pad for up and coming new artists, as well as one of the largest first-quarter tours in the world (along with Night Of Joy and Creation Fest). Hosting the tour every year, Newsong should be very proud of themselves! As for albums though, the band is into their third decade, and though some might declare that this aging band isn’t relevant anymore, I would disagree, as they still continue to create lyrically poignant and relevant masterpieces. The latest album is Faithful which is a live CD/DVD released via Integrity Music.
From the powerful and explosive title track (which is a live music video), to the brilliant covers of “Make A Way” (Desperation Band), “Give Me Faith” (Elevation Worship) and “This I Believe (The Creed)” (Hillsong Worship); as well as the remainder of the original melodies; the microphone is shared between singers Russ Lee, Matt Butler and Billy Goodwin, and the result is 13 vulnerable, emotional and honest worship anthems that will leave you feeling refreshed and ministered to. Produced by Nathan Nockels, Faithful is Newsong at their finest, kudos to Integrity Music for signing these veterans; they’ll be around for a while yet!
With one of my favourite songs this past year being the worship anthem “This I Believe”, based off the Nicene Creed, the light piano led hymn like track is beautifully covered here, with Matt ardently and vibrantly leading the stellar track, fervently crying out that ‘…I believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, our God is three in one…’. As we are immersed into a vertical worship song bound to impact any who listen, the lyrical content is simple yet effective, and Matt’s voice brilliant as ever, as we sing across captivating keys. It’s a nice reminder of our faith and the reason we worship Jesus, without being too flowery in the language. Its accessibility is great for me, and this song feels right at home in and amongst the rest of the covers and the original material.
“Make A Way”, co-written with Jason Ingram again, is another gem of a track, where Matt earnestly reminds us that ‘…where this is no way, You make a way, where no one else can reach us, You find us…’. It’s a sobering and also comforting thought that Jesus will search for us and will find us every single time we try to run away from Him or find ourselves falling away; and I believe this necessary song is sure to strike a chord with many listeners who feel like they’re in the position of Jonah or the lost sheep in the Bible. A slow piano led ballad that builds to an epic and majestic like Holy Spirit led worship anthem; this is Newsong at their peak vocally and worship leading-wise! The final recognisable track is “Give Me Faith”, also led by Matt Butler, which is slowed down considerably in tempo, yet still is powerful and inspiring, as Matt and co. lead a stirring worship anthem, led by strings and synth; a result that is surprisingly modern and fresh, creating a 6 minute melody where we can soak in the presence of God and cry out ‘…give me faith, to trust what You say, that you’re good and your love is great…’, an outward expression of our trust in Jesus. With this version possibly more poignant and heartfelt than Elevation Worship’s version, Newsong have created a gem, and their brilliant worship leading translates beautifully to their original material.
While Matt led the three worship covers, he also lends his voice to the original song “This Beating Heart”. With the track starting off with Russ Lee emotionally and passionately outlining the gospel in detail in relation to the upcoming song, Matt then takes the reins and sings about our hearts beating for Jesus and His heart beating for ours. An emotional and heartfelt case for God’s existence in the light that our hearts can feel it, the resounding acoustic guitar heightens my enjoyment of this folk ballad immensely, as I ardently cry out ‘…this beating heart, like a drum it will beat…my soul sings for You…’.
Starting off the album with their rendition of the hymn “Doxology”; the album opener boasts Billy’s signature and distinct vocals, and an anthemic electric guitar led one minute intro that would put anyone in the dancing spirit. As the band proclaim ‘…praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost…’, the presence of orchestral instruments makes this rendition all the more enjoyable to listen to. Newsong also cover another hymn, in “Rock Of Ages”, led by Russ Lee, with the acoustic guitar and violin in the forefront. Sounding like a folk praise tune, Russ emphatically and fervently reminds us that Jesus is our Rock and that everything we desire and long for us found in Him, so He deserves all praise. With the familiar chorus juxtapositioned with brand new verses written for this project, the emotional bridge is the most impacting and explosive of the song, personally, as we hear Russ proclaim ‘…To the king of the ages, immortal, invisible, the honour and glory amen…’, reminding us that Jesus is high above any other and deserves all praise!
The energetic and vibrant CCM-esque “Angels”, led by guitars, catchy handclaps and booming synth, and possibly a single in the future; has Russ relaying that God sets us apart from even angels, and shows us things in the spiritual realm that angels long to see. This brings forth the fact that we should not take things for granted, and in fact praise God and celebrate the fact that He holds us in high regard, and as a special creation. The worship doesn’t stop there with the banjo and acoustic guitar prominent musically unique mid-tempo ballad “Hallelujah (Bride In White)”, a joyful folk tune reminiscent of Rend Collective or I Am They musically, and co-written with Elias Dummer from The City Harmonic. Russ encourages us all to sing and shout from the top of our lungs, and rejoice because Jesus is risen and we will be with Him forever in heaven after our time on Earth, a notion that should boggle the mind! Russ further cements his prowess as an accomplished and professional singer and worship leader in the inspiring title track, written with worship duo All Sons And Daughters. Led by the acoustic guitar, we are invited to proclaim that Jesus is faithful in everything He does, leading to the unashamed assertion that ‘…when the whole earth shakes and the mountains quake, I won’t be afraid cause You are faithful, falling on my knees, You are holding me…’, a magical moment of praise in a song destined to be sung in churches everywhere soon; while Eddie Carswell and Russ deliver a powerful duet in the acoustic guitar only “Always”, sung in God’s perspective, reminding us that He is with us always, even when we don’t feel His presence or when things are going badly in our lives.
Three songs are led by longtime worship leader and Newsong founder Billy Goodwin. “Keep Me Close” is a piano pop mid tempo melody co-written with Matthew West, where Billy emotionally outlines to God that ‘…You are the God who makes a way, when there is no other way, keep me close, keep me close, keep my close to where You are, I will fix my eyes on You, in Your presence I’m made new…’, an assertion that we all should emphatically declare also, as we long for Jesus to be near us in any situation that arises in our lives. Driven by contemplative and reflective piano, Billy’s emotional heartfelt prayer “Wide Open”, a 5 minute moment of openness and vulnerability, is sung to God as we remind Him that our hearts, minds, eyes, ears and every part of us are open wide to the things that He wants for us and the plan He has in store for us. Yet what I found to be the most enjoyable and impacting melody on the album is the piano led contemplative and comforting ballad “Yours”, sung by Billy, and also with guest vocalist Riley Enquist. Lyrically simple, we are presented with an earnest, no-nonsense, simple prayer, outlining that we need Jesus more than anything; it’s a song I can listen to all day on repeat and not be bored or tired; kudos to Riley, Billy and everyone else for creating a Holy Spirit filled and God breathed moment of unbridled praise!
While 2013’s Swallow The Ocean may not be the most lyrically creative or musically challenging album out, Faithful is in another category all together, as these worship anthems are probably some of my favourite worship songs of 2015 so far! It’s great to hear Matt, Russ and Billy sing songs and reinvent themselves over the years, and evolving their style to stay relevant yet also never wavering in their faith and their heavily Bible based lyrics. And with Nathan Nockels at the helm, you know that what you get will be an exhilarating ride and honest melodies of praise to Jesus. That’s exactly what you get. Will the album win any awards at the Doves? I think it should! Does it matter, given that Newsong aren’t bothered by accolades like that? Personally I thoroughly enjoyed this album, and I think that even if you aren’t a Newsong fan, this album can still be meaningful for you. I guarantee that you will come to love this musically brilliant and diverse group, and if there is one album you should listen to from the veterans if you haven’t heard any- it’s Faithful! So what are you waiting for? Be ministered to and worship along with Newsong, for the duration of the 13 tracks and beyond!
4 songs to listen to: This I Believe, Faithful, This Beating Heart, Yours
RIYL: Jason Crabb, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Phillips Craig And Dean, Steven Curtis Chapman