Fair Trade Services
Release Date: March 25th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Children of God
- Starmaker (High Above the Earth)
- The Secret Place (feat. Madison Cunningham)
‘…a year and a half ago I lost my voice and was forced to have surgery on my vocal chords with the risk of not being able to sing professionally again. During the difficulty of that season, God spoke the simple yet massive truth into my heart that He loves me. That He loves us. That we are first and foremost His children. That whatever may come our way we are His children. That whatever we may be faced with we are His. Out of this new found sense of identity many of these songs were written. They are a response to His love, and a call to others who have lost sight of or have never heard this truth. We are His. We have nothing to fear. We have only hope in front of us. We are the CHILDREN OF GOD…’ Phil has always been one of my favourite worship artists of the modern worship music era. Alongside other singer/songwriters/worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Meredith Andrews, Paul Baloche and Audrey Assad; Phil stands tall as he writes authentic, powerful, heartfelt and emotive songs for us to contemplate and dwell upon. Now a seasoned veteran after 5 albums under Fair Trade Services and one indie album way back in the day, Phil enters 2016 with a new album Children of God dropping April 22nd, and while it has been a few years since his last project (The Ascension was released September 2013), the fact that Phil is even singing now is a testimony and a miracle in and of itself.
It is when someone travels through an ordeal like this that they are appreciative, and usually their next work takes on a whole new meaning. It was like that when Matthew West went for vocal surgery, and the album borne out of that experience, Something To Say is one of my favourites out of all of Matthew’s career. Similarly with Phil, Children of God, just from hearing these 3 tracks on the Noisetrade sampler, is sure to be one of, if not my favourite, Phil Wickham album to date. With a lot of vocal effects and an electronic undertone to his tracks (quite possibly an album with the most electronic looping out of any album he has done), Phil’s charisma and enthusiasm that oozes throughout each song with his distinct trademark voice anchoring each melody is certain to make Phil’s upcoming album one of my favourites in 2016 thus far.
With only three tracks, this Noisetrade sampler gives us a snapshot, albeit a small one, into what we can expect on Phil’s forthcoming release, and if this is any indication about how Children of God will be, then we are expected to be in for an amazing ride of emotive melodies, heartfelt enthusiasm, and a whole lot of songs that’ll impact and encourage, thus eagerly anticipating Phil’s new album to be his best to date. “Children of God”, the title track and first song on the sampler, is as electronic as they come. As Phil opens up a new avenue to travel upon (dance-worship), the execution in this track is nothing short of sublime. Full of energy and hope, Phil relays the theme of us being children of God no matter what the circumstance. Irregardless of our past, our present and our future expectations of what we believe this life will be, Phil gives us a timely reminder, that ‘…we are believers, all our hope in the Risen One, and we are soldiers, we’re fighting with faith and love, and we are pilgrims, on a journey to reach our home, standing together, we are the children of God…’ A call for unity and standing together in our core faith and belief in Christ the Risen Lord, “Children of God” leads into “Starmaker (High Above the Earth)”, a 6:44 melody that takes a while to build up, yet once it is in full flight, Phil presents to us quite possibly his most vulnerable track on the sampler.
Singing about the star-maker is in fact a humbling moment, where all attention is not on ourselves, but on the One who deserves all our praise, and is worthy of everything we are and everything we give. With a piano introduction, and Phil trying his best (and at most times succeeding) at singing the high notes, Phil (and all the vocal echoes that sing along with him) give testimony to the starmaker and creator, and how “…I can’t look away, I am captivated, what else can I say, but sing in adoration, You are holy, You are holy, high above the earth…” The most electronic song on the noisetrade sampler, Phil ventures into new territory (as with any singer/songwriter over their career) as this transition into worship music with an electronic edge is welcomed, not only by myself, but I’m sure by many of Phil’s fans as well. Usually songs that are of a great length (5:30 and beyond) seem to be lost with me at times, yet Phil’s song has kept me interested throughout the whole track length. With soaring drums and an angelic choir bringing about the last chorus in a Delirious?-esque fashion (think songs like “My Soul Sings” and “King or Cripple” where the instrumental music brings about the end of each song), “Starmaker” is as enjoyable as it is inventive.
“The Secret Place”, track 4 on Children of God, is the last track on the sampler, and boy was I in for a treat as I listened to Phil’s duet with newcomer singer Madison Cunningham. In fact, dare I say that the song should be called “The Secret Place” feat. Phil Wickham, by Madison Cunningham? Not that I am complaining, rather I like Madison’s voice, and reckon she’ll be a mainstay in the music industry in the future. In fact, Phil’s ability to hit the high notes has made me thinking that he and Madison sound very similar vocally in this track. A song about us singing a love song to God, where we poetically declare that we are ‘…running to the secret place, where you are, where you are, I’ll sing to You of all the ways You stole my heart, stole my heart, cause better is a moment that I spend with You than a million other days away, I’m running, I’m running, I’m running to our secret place…’, both Madison and Phil make this song a standout and highlight on the sampler, and most certainly on Children of God when the album drops April 22nd. In a similar vein thematically to Matt Redman’s “Better is One Day”, expect this song to be in circulation either on radio or in Sunday morning services in months to come. Kudos to Phil for such a powerful and energetic track, as we see him venture into a musical territory that is certainly new for him, yet was executed with much poise and grace, making Phil and his music one of the most underrated this side of the 2010s.
‘…I started writing songs out of this reawakening in my heart [as a result of the vocal surgery]. I still didn’t know if I was going to be able to sing a whole record of them. But I had a freedom and a lightness in my heart. That’s why I called the record Children of God. The way I feel about the record, that excitement and freshness, I feel like it’s my first record all over again. I feel refreshed. I have a new sound and a new heart. I can’t wait to get on the road and play these songs…’ Despite the long length of time between albums, Children of God, or rather at least the sampler on Noisetrade, is well worth the wait. With songs like “The Secret Place” evoking a love-song style, and “Starmaker” reminding us that we are indeed created by the star-maker, and thus humbling us to the point where us and our desires and needs fall into the background; Phil continues to present poignant songs of praise and perseverance as this new set of songs are some of the most emotive and energetic I’ve ever heard Phil perform in his whole career. Should you listen to Children of God when the album drops at the end of the month? Listen to the noisetrade sampler to make a well-informed decision. Can’t wait till April 22nd, and here’s to much success and lives changed because of these songs in the upcoming weeks, months and even years ahead!
3 songs to listen to: All of them
RIYL: Jeremy Riddle, Bethel Music, Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe, Matt Redman