Release Date: August 19th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- You Amaze Us
- Oh Our Lord
- At the Cross
- More and More of You
- Be (My Heart, My Hands, My Voice)
- Just as I Am
- Soon and Very Soon
- Oh the Blood
- I’d Rather Have Jesus
- The Old Rugged Cross
- Victory in Jesus
- Nearing Home
- In the Garden
- We Must Not
Having recorded many albums since 1999, vocal trio Selah have given us and unveiled many heartfelt melodies and soft piano pieces with the intention of ushering us into communion with Jesus. Songs like “I Look To You”, “You Raise Me Up”, “All My Praise”, “Bless The Broken Road”, “I Turn To You”, “You Deliver Me”, “I Will Sing Of My Redeemer”, “Wonderful, Merciful Saviour”, and “Hope Of The Broken World” all captivate and inspire us, giving us reason to praise God and celebrate our freedom in Him. Allan Hall, Todd Smith and Amy Perry each sing eloquently, powerfully and beautifully, praises to Jesus, as well as bringing to the fore words of encouragement and impact. Signed to Curb Records, Selah release their new album next week, on August 19th 2014, called You Amaze Us; with a mixture of original vertical worship songs, covers and traditional well-known hymns. As Todd, Allan, and Amy once again wow us and show us their brilliant vocal melodies and harmonies, I am once again swept away in wonder and awe, as the Holy Spirit’s presence is evident on every track of this 14 song, 1 hour duration. Now with an album clearly divided in three (the originals, the worship covers and the hymns); how would you even assess or make a sound conclusion? Well you look at it all holistically- out of the 14 tracks, 4 are hymns and 5 worship covers, and each of the three vocalists lead their fair share of tracks quite perfectly and majestically.
Immediately off the bat, Paul Baloche and All Sons and Daughters’ “Oh Our Lord” stands out, and Todd’s earnest, passionate vocals carry the song, and perform it justice. As Todd’s soaring and stirring vocals proclaim that Jesus’ name is majestic in all the earth, this vertical worship anthem, which is less reliant on instruments and focusing more on the vocals of Todd and Allan and Amy as backing vocals (as opposed to guitars in the other two versions); has God praised throughout despite the circumstances in our lives. As Todd, Allan and Amy eloquently proclaim that God’s name has power, over all others, we are presented with the truth, that the name of Jesus can be used for comfort, and also for a reminder that He is on our side, as sung in the bridge, that ‘…Oh Your name is a light in the darkness, oh Your name is the word of truth, oh Your name, oh Your name…’. The song then breaks out into an all praise anthem in the bridge; it’s such a powerful song that will be sung for many years to come in many churches everywhere.
Another interesting cover is “Soon And Very Soon”, originally by Andrae Crouch, and this time sung in African, inspired by Todd Smith’s parent’s work in the Congo when he was younger. Completely sung in African (Kituba actually), this song definitely transcends language barriers, and is sure to be enjoyed by those who do not understand the language. As we know it’s a worship song to God, that’s really all that matters! “O The Blood” (Gateway Worship), “In The Garden” (Watermark) and “At The Cross” (Benji and Jenna Cowart) are the other worship covers- with two of them led by Amy, and “In The Garden” being spilt between the three vocalists. As Amy has previously shown us in her solo album Glory All Around, she can definitely propel a song into greatness, and maybe timelessness, and that’s definitely the case here. Thematically, “At The Cross” speaks about how Jesus paid for all of our sins, and lyrically this song is teeming with imagery which enhance the piano ballad-turn-epic orchestral track in every way. As Amy fervently and passionately cries out, singing the simple words of the chorus (my favourite part of the track), that ‘…at the cross, Your glory bore my shame, at the cross, You suffered in my place, You gave everything for us…’, there’s such a peace and calmness that wash over me, as I dwell upon the sacrifices of Jesus because of His love.
“O The Blood”, a slow paced piano only song (until the bridge where we hear more instruments joining in culminating in a epic crescendo led by guitar and a chilling choir), also where Amy ardently outlines and sings about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that ‘…what a sacrifice that saved my life, yes, the blood, it is my victory…’; is another highlight, and is where she shines the most vocally, and transports us into a place where we can worship God without any inhibition. “In The Garden”, a piano only song, originally led by Christy Nockels, the final cover, has Todd and Amy singing in harmony; and though my favourite version is the upbeat original by Watermark, this version, though is sombre and primarily for reflection, and is in still powerful, and I dwell upon the eternal truths of God.
Known for including a fair amount of hymns on their album, this album is no exception once again as Selah brings us 4 well known songs, and put their own spin on them. “Just As I Am”, complete with an added chorus, brilliant sung by Amy, is one of my favourite renditions of the timeless hymn, along with MercyMe, Nichole Nordeman, Carman and Shaun Groves, as Selah focuses on the fact that we come to Jesus broken and poor, yet He accepts and loves us just as we are, in the moving chorus. With “I’d Rather Have Jesus” (Todd eloquently singing and inspiring us in this piano ballad that he’s rather have Jesus than anything and everything in this world), “The Old Rugged Cross” (a piano-jazz infused semi-upbeat melody about thanking Jesus for the cross), and “Victory In Jesus” (one of the most enjoyable renditions of hymns on this album, as the band channel their inner country/soul/funk genres, like artists newworldson and needtobreathe, singing joyously about how we are set free in Jesus by the blood of the Lamb) rounding out the hymns; it’s very evident that Selah’s prowess as a vocal trio is very potent and impacting, and sure to excel further in the coming years ahead.
The last 5 songs on the album are original brand new tracks- and these are just as powerful, comforting, confronting and challenging as any other in their career. “Nearing Home”, musically and lyrically identical to Allan Hall’s version on his most recent solo album, depicts the faithful life of Billy Graham, as Allan outlines the legacy that he lived as he glorified Christ though his speeches and crusades, while he earnestly and patiently waits for the day when he can meet his family again in heaven; and songs like the stirring piano led confronting ballad “Be (My Hands My Heart My Voice)” and the worshipful piano and strings focussed “More And More Of You” depict a faithful life of following Jesus no matter the cost, and a prayer of gratitude and thanks respectively, where we earnestly and honestly cry out ‘…Holy Spirit, give us revelation, healing visitation, nothing else will do…’ respectively. Yet it is the album opener and ender that are two of my favourite songs on the album, and by Selah ever, and is my favourite opener and closer since “Closer To Your Heart” and “In The End” by Natalie Grant on Hurricane in 2013!
“We Must Not”, written by Todd and Ed Cash, and produced by Ed also, was inspired by the book the Insanity Of God by Nik Ripken, and the take home message of this mid tempo guitar led ballad is that we need to be bold for our faith, and stand firm for Christ, sharing the gospel, and not keeping it from anyone, even if it costs us our lives. Many of the disciples were killed for their beliefs, and this song tries to actively encourage us to have a faith as strong as that- that we are not willing to waver and compromise anything, even if we are isolated and driven out as outcasts. That’s a confronting and challenging notion and one worth pondering over.
Though it’s “You Amaze Us”, the title track and first song on the album that grabbed my attention wholeheartedly and made me excited in the first place. It’s probably one of the standout tracks of 2014 by any CCM/worship artist, and is basically the cornerstone lyrically and thematically of the album. Written by Jordan Molilowski from The Afters, as well as Matthew Adcox and Dauglas Fowler, the song is a timely reminder of God’s faithfulness, and is about hope and safety in Jesus- that He is with us and that He will never leave us, as He guides us through our situations, and circumstances. To me, the words of the pre-chorus ‘…when our world is shaken, when our hope is broken, still you are God of all…’ and later on in the bridge ‘…all the glory and honor belongs to You…’ depict what the album is about, thankfulness to God because of his faithfulness and that He keeps His promises. Well done Todd, Amy and Allan, it is this album that is sure to be a favourite of my come the year’s end- maybe in my top 25 or 30 albums…
Releasing their first album in 3 years (well worth the wait!), Selah seem to be more than filling part of the void left by Avalon, another vocal group who have been absent from recording for the past 5 years. what Selah add to the CCM market, is soothing and beautiful harmonies and melodies, as each of the three vocalists Todd Smith, Allan Hall and Amy Perry sing to perfection, and deliver us some of the most popular and respected hymns and covers, as well as giving us originals sure to stand the test of time as well. Releasing on the same day as albums from Amy Grant, Colton Dixon, Lincoln Brewster and Lindsay McCaul, the predominantly piano led and focused ballad heavy album, though not to everyone’s tastes, as some may prefer rock music, is well worth at least a listen- you may find yourself surprised at how much you enjoy the album, as you sing along with Selah praises to God. Well done guys, I can’t wait til your next album, which will be awesome!
4 songs to listen to: You Amaze Us, Be (My Heart, My Hands, My Voice), O The Blood, We Must Not
RIYL: Natalie Grant, Michael W Smith, Avalon, Jason Crabb, Bebo Norman