Release Date: April 1st 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Paul Baloche– Live (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Our God Saves
- God My Rock
- You Lift Us Up
- The Same Love
- Jesus, Be My Saviour
- Mighty Fortress
- My Hope
- Hosanna (Praise is Rising)
- Today is the Day
- He is Risen
- Glorious/Holy, Holy, Holy
Considered to be one of the fathers of modern worship music with his hit songs like “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)”, “Our God Saves”, “All The Earth Will Sing Your Praises”, “Above All”, “Praise Adonai” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart”; Paul Baloche has always had a great singer/songwriter skill, and the ability to provide to listeners heartfelt melodies that encourage us to sing a new song to the Lord as the melodies are used, sung and enjoyed in various churches around the world. From chart-topping albums like The Same Love, Our God Saves and The Writer’s Collection; we are able to be blessed once again with another musical offering from Paul. A live project that includes some new songs, and some older beloved tracks, this is a great gift for anyone who loves Paul’s music, and enjoys worship contemporaries like Michael W. Smith, Phil Wickham and Chris Tomlin. As Paul’s songwriting continues to flow from strength to strength, it is in the beauty of a live project where Paul’s best work lies, and with the crowd, we are able to declare out with Paul throughout the project that ‘……You are the joy of my life, You are my song in the night, there is no one as true, Jesus I trust in You…’ (“God My Rock”)
While I must admit that I thought the song list would be longer considering all of the hits Paul has had over the years, the familiar songs Paul chooses are songs that have been considered by many to be some of Paul’s poignant and prolific gems. “Our God Saves” starts off the album in great enthusiastic fashion as Paul exclaims amidst the driving electric guitars that God saves, both in our times of joy and in our times of need. A light electric guitar riff to bring the song into fruition as you hear the crowd and Paul sing spontaneously, “Our God Saves” is by far one of my favourite Paul Baloche songs and possibly one of Paul’s most underrated melodies. A song that encourages us to call on God any time we need, this anthem moves into a lesser known track (albeit known nonetheless) “God My Rock” into life, a song co-written with South African worship leader Brenton Brown. Originally on Brenton’s live album God My Rock released in 2012, this poignant melody is a declaration that God is indeed our rock and our help. With powerful drum beats and a melody anyone listening can enjoy and familiarise themselves with, Paul firmly states that ‘…You will stand when others fall, You are faithful through it all, God my rock…’ We are reminded that God is steadfast in all the circumstances we are in, and that whatever may come, we can rest assured of our identity in Christ.
“The Same Love”, “Today is the Day”, “Glorious”, “Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)” and “My Hope” are all familiar with Paul Baloche enthusiasts (like myself) and all anchor a live album full of older songs that can bring the listener back to familiarity and comfort, as well as some new tracks that can enthuse the listener with a new song to sing before the Lord. While I do prefer Lincoln Brewster’s initial recording of “Today is the Day” because of its rousing and upbeat nature compared to the looping percussion present in Paul’s slower rendition, “Today is the Day” is nevertheless a gem regardless, as we are comforted in knowing that ‘…today is the day, today is the day, I will rejoice and be glad in it…’ “Glorious” brings to life a theme of us declaring glory and thanks to God, while “Hosanna” is a call for us to lay down everything before His feet and lift Him up with glory and splendour.
It is also great to have Kathryn Scott on the live recording of “My Hope”, as we listen to both Paul and Kathryn declare that God is our hope and who we rely on, while the last familiar track “The Same Love”, the title track of Paul’s latest studio album, invites us all to rest in the fact that ‘…the same love that set the captive’s, the same love that opened eyes to see, is calling us all by name, You are calling us all by name…’ Familiarity gives us a sense of comfort as we listen, and I’m sure a great tactic from Paul to bring in more interest in the album- if all songs on there were new, I’m not sure if listeners may buy the album outright- it’s just a matter of songs you’d know on an album compared to songs you wouldn’t. Nevertheless, it does deliver a breath of enthusiasm as we hear songs we know and love delivered in a live setting.
With four new tracks to introduce into the set list, Paul spaces them out amongst the 11 tracks to provide to us a sense of easing listeners into the new songs, rather than having all of them either in the middle, near the start or the end. “Mighty Fortress”, co-written with Aaron Shust, is one of my favourite songs from Aaron’s album Morning Rises, and with such an infectiously enjoyable melody, it’s no wonder why Aaron’s version of “Mighty Fortress” is currently a single, and Paul’s version is just as enjoyable. Conveying the truth of God’s closeness in the heartfelt words of how ‘…He won’t abandon, He won’t deceive, He won’t desert us, He won’t ever leave, He’ll never forsake us, He won’t ever run, He’ll never reject us, the faithful one, Your love will remain…’, we are called to believe in the truth of God’s might- with this rendition making me enjoy the song even more. “You Lift Us Up”, standing at around 4 and a half minutes long, emphasises the jubilant enthusiasm with powerful electric guitars and a co-write from Matt Maher to present a theme of us giving thanks to God who lifts us up out of our sin and despair more times than we can count, while “Jesus Be My Saviour”, again at a similar length, is a much more subdued reflective melody with light acoustics and a Brenton Brown trademark flair as Paul conveys the truth of how we ought to pause and reflect on Jesus’s death and resurrection. The poignancy of the chorus of Paul declaring out for Jesus to ‘…be my Saviour, Jesus be my Lord, Jesus be my Saviour, be my all in all…’
With the last new song being ‘He is Risen’, a co-write with worship songwriter Graham Kendrick and the second-to-last track, Paul presents a stirring account of the resurrection of Christ, and while I may not have chosen this melody to be Paul’s first single from the album (‘You Lift Us Up’ or ‘Mighty Fortress’ would’ve been more jovial), ‘He is Risen’ nonetheless has done a great job in conveying that ‘…He is risen, Hallelujah, hallelujah, Christ is risen…’ While not necessarily your most popular or well-known resurrection song, ‘He is Risen’ is sure to become a song that becomes one of the most popular Easter songs ever in months to come. A great job from both Paul Baloche and co-writer Graham Kendrick, ‘He is Risen’ is a personal standout from Live, and one of my favourite worship songs 2014 so far.
Paul’s latest musical offering is one that will please both Paul Baloche enthusiasts and lovers of worship music alike. While not necessarily the new studio album that I was hoping for, Paul’s collection of 11 tracks still bring us to appreciate not just his newer songs, but also some of his older beloved tracks we’ve been used to hearing for so long. While songs like “Above All”, “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Praise Adonai” were missing, Paul still delivers a powerful set list, and one that’ll always showcase some of the most underrated songs within CCM worship industry right now. Well done Paul for such an inspired and enjoyable album!
3 songs to listen to: God My Rock, Mighty Fortress, He is Risen
RIYL: Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Graham Kendrick