Fair Trade Services
Release Date: May 3rd 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Great Things
- You Cannot Be Stopped
- Anthem / Great Are You Lord
- Tremble / What A Beautiful Name
- Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) [feat. Brian & Jenn Johnson]
- Living Hope [feat. Brian & Jenn Johnson]
- Till I Found You
- 10,000 Reasons [feat. Matt Redman]
- Highest Praise [feat. Matt Redman]
- Heart of Worship [feat. Matt Redman]
- KOMH / HGIYL /. OPTN
Phil Wickham has a knack of delivering great acoustic albums. Just look back at his music career for a second. You have the acoustic albums Singalong 1 (acoustic versions of songs from albums Phil Wickham and Cannons), Singalong 2 (acoustic versions of songs from albums Heaven and Earth and Response) and Singalong 3 (acoustic versions of songs from album The Ascension), alongside Children of God: Acoustic Sessions. In each of these volumes, it’s just Phil, the acoustic guitar and these songs, making the experience much more intimate and compelling. For as long as I remember, hearing these renditions on all the Singalong albums, as well as the recent 2016 acoustic album, makes me enjoy the original songs all the more. This further proves the fact of Phil’s ability to take a song and strip it down to just acoustics, creating a space for the Lord to move and speak, thus making much of his songs and his discography more impactful and encouraging because of these acoustic renditions. Quite possibly one of my favourite worship artists of all time, alongside others like Meredith Andrews, Paul Baloche, Christy Nockels, Tim Hughes and Chris Tomlin; Phil Wickham has continued to impress with every album that releases, and as the years go by, we see a sound that has been refined and matured as Phil delivers songs that are as poignant as they are seemingly out-of-the-box musically and hence, in some ways, underappreciated in the scope and realm of worship music as a whole. While artists like Chris Tomlin, Hillsong (all its facets), Jesus Culture and Bethel Music are the most popular at the moment; it is nice for Phil to come along and inject some kind of life and vitality into the worship music genre. Not that the worship music genre is a bit of a drag, yet sometimes, it needs someone to come to present to us a new kind of how worship music can be portrayed…and Phil Wickham has done just that throughout his career.
Singalong 3 released in 2015, so I guess it was only a matter of time that Singalong 4 would eventuate. Since his high-profile and well-respected album Living Hope unveiled to us in late 2018, Phil unveiled to us earlier on during the year a stripped down rendition of a collection of some of the songs from Living Hope, entitling the acoustic project as Living Hope: The House Sessions. The project released in January 2019 featured some of Phil’s beloved tracks from the 2018 project, and re-imagining them in a house setting, with acoustic instruments and a place where people gathered to worship God in a setting not frenzied with big percussion and guitars. Now here we are in May, and we receive to us Singalong 4, which is similar, yet different, to The House Sessions. While the January 2019 project was an acoustic setting, complete with acoustic guitars, keyboards, light percussion and an overall subdued sound (yet still keeping the overall musical structure of each song)- the songs on Singalong 4 just attribute to it Phil the singer (plus other guest vocals, like Matt Redman and Brian & Jenn Johnson), the acoustic guitar…and that’s it. Just the acoustic guitar and the vocals- and while for some people it could be hard to worship along to just these two elements, I find myself enjoying the songs even more when it is stripped down to that level. Because when its just the acoustic guitar and the voice, there’s nowhere to hide. There’s no reverb or autotune to feel safe behind, nor are there any electric guitars or drums to loop over the track in post-production if something doesn’t turn out right on the night. And maybe, just maybe, there is a greater sense of worship and a moment where everything is down, and all our gaze is to the Father; as we worship alongside these renditions on Singalong 4.
Writing authentic, powerful, heartfelt and emotive songs for us to contemplate and dwell upon, Phil’s music in a holistic sense is an embodiment of vocal effects and an electronic undertones, yet on Sinaglong 4 with just the vocals and guitar, it is in fact Phil’s charisma and enthusiasm that oozes throughout each track with his distinct trademark voice anchoring each melody, making this acoustic album one of my favourite acoustic albums by any artist in a long time. And as we look at the album and be reminded of the great songs that Phil has contributed in the realms of worship music over the years, we are given a great snapshot of worship over the last few years or so. Songs like ‘Great Things’, ‘Anthem’, ‘Tethered’, ‘Living Hope’ and ‘Till I Found You’ were all standouts (both personal standouts and just standouts in general) on Living Hope, and it is no surprise that all these songs are given the acoustic treatment by Phil. New song ‘You Cannot Be Stopped’, initially recorded as a duet with Jesus Culture vocalist and solo artist Chris Quilala; is also here on this acoustic album, and is arguably one of my favourite songs of 2019 thus far. Then you have the throwbacks- ‘Great Are You Lord’, ‘King of My Heart’, ’10,000 Reasons’, ‘Heart of Worship’, ‘Tremble’, ‘What a Beautiful Name’ and ‘Forever’; songs that have touched hearts of worshippers around the world- thus, there is something for everyone with Singalong 4, and is a must for anyone who loves worship music, period; even if you haven’t been an avid follower of Phil’s music recently. Phil’s music is infectious, enjoyable and heartfelt, and even if you haven’t heard much of Phil’s muic prior to hearing this album, then anyhone who is a ho-hum fan of Phil’s will, I’m sure, become a definite one come the end of this album!
Phil strips everything away on Singalong 4, and with just his acoustic guitar and his ethereal voice, we are reminded that in this album, a song is much more than the music behind it, that sometimes, and I mean just sometimes, the electronics and unique effects that come with a song can be a distraction, and what an acoustic album serves (especially all of Phil’s acoustic albums) is this- are we still enjoying the songs as much now with just the acoustic guitar as we were with a full instrument setting? I’d like to say yes, and most of the time it is. In fact, 99% of the time, in my case, I have enjoyed the acoustic renditions to the same extent, maybe even more, than the original recordings. Being much more intimate, the lyrics are highlighted and the passion more evident in an acoustic song compared to its full band counterpart.
Over the last decade and a half or so (his first studio album Give Me The World was an independent one made in 2003), Phil continues to present poignant songs of praise and perseverance as this new set of songs- the songs on Living Hope; are some of the most emotive and energetic I’ve ever heard Phil perform in his whole career. In fact, he has created acoustic albums aplenty over the years with is various Singalong albums, and thus, Singalong 4 is nothing new. Still, it is great to hear Phil’s new interpretation of his most recent songs, with this album being a must-have for anyone who has been fans of Phil’s music previously, or if you are a fan of worship music in general. One of the most vulnerable and powerful collection of worship songs I’ve heard in 2018, Living Hope gives rise to Singalong 4, and this new acoustic album continues to remind us, if there’s never been enough reminders already; of the ever-needed presence of Phil within the CCM industry- the worship music industry is enhanced by Phil and his continued and proven music, now more than ever! Well done Phil for such a grounded and emotive acoustic album. Looking forward to the next official album release, whenever that may be!
3 songs to listen to: Living Hope, Tethered, Great Things
RIYL: Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Passion, UNITED