Fair Trade Services
Release Date: May 12th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Doxology / / Amen (Live)
- The Ascension (Live)
- Carry My Soul (Live)
- This Is Amazing Grace (Live) (feat. Jeremy Riddle)
- Fall Afresh (Live) (feat. Jeremy Riddle)
- One Thing Remains / This Is Amazing Grace (Live) (feat. Jeremy Riddle)
- My All in All (Live)
- When My Heart Is Torn Asunder (Live) (feat. Shane And Shane)
- Before the Throne / Yearn (Live) (feat. Shane And Shane)
- Thirst (Live)
- Revelation Song (Live) (feat. Kari Jobe)
- It Is Well / Doxology / / Amen (Live) (feat. Kari Jobe)
- I Love You Lord (Live)
Worship leader Phil Wickham, born in San Diego, California, has become somewhat of a household name in modern worship, making a name for himself since his 2005 debut amongst worship artists such as Leeland, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder*Band, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Rend Collective Experiment. With many studio albums already recorded, through the label INO Records (now known as Fair Trade Services); plenty of hit singles have resonated with critics and listeners alike, inclusive of “Grace”, “After Your Heart”, “Safe”, “I’ll Always Love You”, “Eden”, “At Your Name”, “This Is The Day”, “You’re Beautiful”, “This Is Amazing Grace”, “Carry My Soul”, “The Ascension” and “Thirst” amongst others.
Phil also recorded an intimate acoustic album, titled Singalong, in 2008, with just him and his guitar. It was such a hit, that Singalong 2 released in 2012, through his website as a free download for a month starting in May 2012, and on iTunes in October 2012! With The Ascension, one of Phil’s most popular and respected studio albums, released in 2013, and now Phil is back, with friends Shane And Shane, Jeremy Riddle, and Kari Jobe, with Singalong 3! Phil is probably one of the most ingenious and creative worshippers currently; with his songs charting the billboard and Christian music charts. The first single of The Ascension is the Jeremy Riddle co-written “This Is Amazing Grace”, and from that to the hymn like “When My Heart Is Torn Asunder” to the piano driven personal emotional track “Mercy” to the album closer “Thirst”, Phil’s newest studio release is stacked with worship songs for the church, and songs that are a must for repetition on the iTunes playlist! Well, Singalong 3 has plenty of impacting, poignant and heartfelt melodies as well, so let us see how this release compares to the previous 2 incarnations and the rest of Phil’s discography.
What is remarkable about the Singalong series, and this 3rd volume in particular, accentuated by the guest vocalists, is the profoundness and magical setting a room of worshippers can conjure up with just the lead vocals and an acoustic guitar. There is something special that occurs, when all that is played is an acoustic guitar, and the lyrics are much more poignant and moving. Starting off with a poignant version of the hymn “Doxology”, then progressing into songs from the later part of his career (from The Ascension) as well as songs written and predominately sung by the guest vocalists, Phil’s joyous infection is evident in every song- I can almost picture him smiling and singing at the same time, as the crowd even get into frenzy and a passionate enthusiasm at times, even singing over Phil, as praise to Jesus is sung in glorious abandon.
There have been many albums released in this past year, yet Phil’s third live album will probably be at the top of my best of live album list for 2015. Even if the music is simple, this album is anointed by the Holy Spirit- I am sure it will be a classic for years to come. While highlighting his professional guitar playing that is such a pleasure to listen to, Singalong 3 also shows us Phil’s uncanny ability to lead a congregation in worship, and into the presence of Jesus, that is not as evident when you hear his studio songs. Probably that’s what is great about his live stuff, and any live worship album for that matter, is that you can’t ‘fake’ or polish anything- what’s said on the night will stay on the record, as well as the passion and the experience of worshipping Jesus. Sure, you can edit the music in the studio during post production, yet with intimate gatherings such as the one held for Singalong 3, what we hear is what we get- unfiltered, unedited, raw moments of worship and adoration to our Father and Saviour, as Phil, the Shanes, Jeremy and Kari passionately give God the glory. Musically, it is simple and clear, and serves its purpose as a vehicle and a vessel for Jesus to move, as in albums like these, it doesn’t really matter about the music, as it does the lyrics. I mean, I could listen to Phil sing on an acapella album, and it would be cool, I would still get goose bumps! A look down the track list, and as well, these are very smart and appealing song choices, as Phil passionately sings his own songs and expertly covers his friend’s songs too!
The Ascension is probably my second favourite Phil Wickham album (1st is Response), so I guess it’s fitting that a fair chunk of Singalong 3 features prime cuts from Phil’s most popular and personal album of his career. If you’re a fan of one of my favourite 2013 albums, then rejoice, and enjoy these cool arrangements of soon-to-be classics. Though “The Ascension” was one of the weaker tracks on the album of the same name, with pulsating and mesmerising drum beats and ever present and reliant vocals, not to mention rowdy and energetic gang vocals and thoughtful lyrics based on the Psalms of Ascension, but also something missing on the track; this acoustic recording makes up for the studio mishap. Phil passionately sing’s God’s praise across the vibrant acoustic guitar, which to me is the best part of the song, with the crowd ardently and fervently joining in later on, as he proclaims ‘…let’s begin the climb, up this holy mountain where Your glory shines, further up, further in, just to be with you again, let us start the ascension…’.
“Carry My Soul” is segued next, with this reflective worship ballad, enhanced greatly on this album, speaks about the theme of longing to see Jesus face to face in heaven. This life isn’t meant to be our permanent home, so longing to be where our Heavenly Father is, is natural, and means that our inbuilt nature longs for something more, something different than our everyday existence. Phil puts that thought into words, and the lyrics are hence made more relevant given the scripture that it reminds me of (Matthew 24:36)- As I long for my heavenly home, I myself can sing with conviction that ‘…I will run, and I won’t quit chasing Your heart, just like David did, I’ll come running through the gates, look into Your face, oh I can hardly wait until You carry my soul, carry my soul away…’!
With “This Is Amazing Grace”, co-written with and sung with Jeremy Riddle, yet another highlight, as this number one single is stripped down and sung with abandon and utter devotion to God, Phil makes this track very accessible to the casual listener, yet maintains the worshipful nature and the vulnerability as well. With Phil clearly defining grace and love being ‘…that You would take my place, that You would bear my cross; You would lay down Your life that I would be set free, Jesus I sing of all that You’ve done to me…’; Phil and Jeremy fervently give glory and thanks to the God who has saved us and gave us new life.
The hymn like “When My Heart Is Torn Asunder”, is brilliantly sung in harmony with Shane And Shane, and reminds us about how in the troubles and hardships of life, God is there and He will never leave us. This song will definitely be big, as evidenced in the resounding chorus where we can sing out that ‘…there is hope beyond the suffering, joy beyond the tears, peace in every tragedy, love that conquers fear…’, and Phil emphatically declares that God’s promises and His love lasts forever, which should boggle the mind and ease our worries and troubles. With the final representation from The Ascension being “Thirst”, a melody hardly changed from the original recording (it’s still acoustic, just like the studio version), speaking about how God is the living water, and the well that we can drink from that won’t run dry; this song is a fitting inclusion on what already is a fantastic album, as the melody depicts how we need Jesus like water,
Other highlights on Singalong 3 include the reflective strings led poignant album opener “Doxology”, complete with handclaps and Phil’s distinct voice; the Jeremy Riddle led smash hit “Fall Afresh”, a stripped back worship anthem relaying that Jesus is the ‘…spirit of the living God, come fall afresh on me, come and wake me from my sleep…’; a spontaneous free worship version of “One Thing Remains” (also a favourite song of mine), where Phil and Jeremy contagiously cry out that ‘…Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…’; and the quiet, soothing hymn “Before The Throne Of God Above”, together with Shane And Shane’s smash hit “Yearn”, relaying that we as Christians yearn to be closer to God and burn with passion over Him, as we deepen our relationship with Him. There’s something inspiring and God-breathed about this album, especially when Phil sings together with the guest vocalists, and Kari Jobe’s “Revelation Song”, which brilliantly accentuates Kari’s beautiful and heartfelt vocals, is another explosive melody that Phil sings on as well, with the result being simply magical and genius, as we sing along ‘…holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come…’!
There have been many renditions of the hymn “It Is Well”, from Kutless, Rebecca St James and Newsboys to Michael W Smith, Mark Schultz, and Jimmy Needham, but I personally think that Phil and Kari’s haunting and captivating acoustic guitar led never before ever recorded version is quite remarkable and possibly tops the list, as I praise God and ardently cry out that ‘..whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, even so, it is well with my soul…’. The crowd passionately singing in beautiful harmony with Phil and Kari is a wonderful and intense moment on such an eclectic melody as well. The album closer is the hymn “I Love You Lord”, almost sung in acapella as Phil raucously plays the acoustic guitar, as he invies Jeremy, Kari, the Shanes and the audience to passionately lead a song which basically is the heart of the album, proclaiming that we love our Lord and we lift our voices, proclaiming ‘…let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear…’ yet it is the original song “My All In All” that impacts me the most. Quite possibly his next single on the next studio album, Phil ardently reminds us that Jesus is our everything, that ‘…You are my life, You are my love, you are my reason, You are my hope, You are my joy, You are my passion, my all in all, Jesus my all in all…’, and we are shown an everlasting truth that Jesus reigns and is Lord above all, and that He is indeed our all in all! Through creation, and situations in our lives, we can see in tangible and intangible ways, that God is here, in our midst, and working in our lives, revealing and championing in every way, His glory and His name. I am sure we can and will see Jesus if we keep our eyes open to all that He has laid out before us! Phil has created a wonderful treasure for the ages, especially in the chorus outlining why Jesus is special to us. Well done Phil for a magnificent album that builds upon the awesomeness of the rest of his discography!
Releasing an album that is simple in nature, we must not think of this as filler or a stopgap until the next full band studio album. In fact, I think Phil Wickham sounds better in an acoustic light than in the studio. In my opinion this is one of the most profound albums of the year thus far, and you certainly don’t want to miss this unique and God-inspired experience! If you didn’t get a chance to listen to Singalong or Singalong 2; this I would encourage you to start with Singalong 3! This is an album that will complement and add plenty to anyone’s music collection! Well done Phil for reinventing the acoustic worship setting!
4 songs to listen to: Carry My Soul, My All In All, This Is Amazing Grace, Revelation Song
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Meredith Andrews, Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill, Crowder
Be sure to check out Phil Wickham’s new album Singalong 3 in stores now! Also, check out Phil’s official audio slide of the new song “My All In All”!