Release Date: April 30th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Band of Sons (Andrew Ehrenzeller)
- Shores (Bryan and Katie Torwalt)
- Yahweh (One Sonic Society)
- Sing On The Battlefield (Kathryn Scott)
- Anchor (Jimmy Thorpe)
- Brought To Life (Patrick Mayberry)
- Running After You (Chris McClarney & Stu G)
- Song of Solomon (Martin Smith)
- All The Praise (Anthony Skinner)
- Time To Be Well (Jenny Simmons)
- Virginia’s Getting Married (Dreamseed)
- Forever (Abandon)
- He Is Our Refuge (Common Hymnal feat. Chris Jackson)
- Believer (Kristene DiMarco)
- Satisfy My Soul (Marc James (with Brenton Brown))
- Born Of God (Justin Jarvis)
- There Is Grace (Lara Landon)
- Commodity (Remedy Drive)
- Obsession (Martin Smith)
One-off special event albums have more often than not resonated greatly with me, with albums such as Glory Revealed, It Takes 2: 15 Collaborations and Duets, My Hope: Songs Inspired By The Message and Mission of Billy Graham, Jesus Firm Foundation: Hymns Of Worship, and Gotee Records: 20 Years Brand New, all thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring, with the selection of artists spot on and fitting for the purposes of all of those aforementioned albums. This month, a new special event album released, titled Reverence: An Offering– this time inspired by Hebrews 12:28 and with the Fuel Music project focusing on song and artist discovery.
“…this is an amazing collective of worship songs that honor the God of heaven, and from artists that have given voice to a multitude of worshippers in churches around the globe…” Out of the gigantic 19 track album, 17 songs we have never heard before (that’s right- ever!) and most are indie, up and coming artists to look out for in the coming years on the worship and CCM scene. With the sole purpose of this album to expose us to music we may not have heard on the radio, because it doesn’t fit the mould, or it’s in a totally different genre to the radio format; Reverence is sure to please many listeners, as we dig deep and find at least one song, maybe two, within the plethora of songs (totalling over 80 minutes!) at our grasp on this one disc. It’s certainly an album I will listen to again and again, and would be my pick for special event album of the year for the 2015 Dove Awards!
Immediately a glance through the tracklist sees some familiar faces, some newer artists, as well as some artists making a comeback! Martin Smith, of Delirious? is the only artist who presents us with two tracks (“Obsession” and “Song Of Solomon”) and both are quite magical, as Martin’s vocals are as compelling and inspiring as ever. Driven by the acoustic guitar, “Obsession” is not as hard hitting nor epic sounding with a massive amount of instruments, like the Delirious? version recorded in 1997. But rather, it is a soft, reverent prayer to God, letting our Maker that our hearts burn for Him, and a song of thanks and gratitude that ‘…You wrap around me like a winter coat, You come a free me like a bird…’.
“Song Of Solomon”, previously on Jesus Culture’s live 2012 album, and Martin’s 2013 album God’s Great Dance Floor Step Two, on the other hand, is a piano led slow tempo worship anthem, a simple melody that is God breathed and Holy Spirit anointed, turned into a epic orchestral Spirit filled moment near the end. As Martin sings to the all-powerful and mighty God, that we are all frail, and need God, and that ‘…over the mountains and over the sea, here You come running, my Lover, to me…’; the song reminds me of how a man loves his wife, yet this kind of love is only a fraction to how God loves us. The anthem of surrender and admission of brokenness is very potent and poignant, as it highlighting the aspect of God as Healer, and that He is the one who knows our every need. Despite all we have done, He still ‘…comes running to hold me til it’s light…through the darkest night…’. That is pure unconditional love right there!
Worship is indeed the heartbeat of the album, and there are plenty of tracks that bring this assertion to the fore. The first four tracks all lift God’s name on high, and remind me of His faithfulness. Andrew Ehrenzeller’s acoustic guitar led country infused ballad “Band Of Sons” depicts God’s immense of love for his children regardless of our choices, and One Sonic Society’s Chris Tomlin cover of “Yahweh”, a slower paced, is much more subdued guitar led anthem, where we exalt God’s name on high, singing that ‘…our hearts are Yours forever…Your name alone be exalted…’. The bubbly and upbeat pop tune of Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s in “Shores” is a modern worship anthem that is built in the CCM radio format, that surrenders everything to Jesus, and to me is musically different than any other of their songs, but sure to bridge the gap between worship lovers and pop lovers. Kathryn Scott’s new single “Sing On The Battlefield” from her upcoming album of the same name, is a piano led ballad encouraging us to sing to and praise God in every situation we are placed in, no matter if they are good or bad; and is one of my favourite songs on this entire project, particularly when the last refrain of this song is the main chorus of the well known hymn “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”. Well done to these artists, as the first few tracks always need to make a good impression, and I feel that they have done that here.
As for the rest of the track list, I am once again amazed at the calibre of songwriters and worship leaders. Anthony Skinner leads us in communion with God in his new worship song “All The Praise”, a prayer of thanks led by stirring keys, as we direct all the praise to God as He is our everything and He is faithful. Marc James and Brenton Brown (both vocally sounding like Mark Stuart from Audio Adrenaline here) have also unveiled the electric guitar led mid tempo worship melody, outlining that God satisfies our soul, that no other love can compare, while new Jesus Culture artist Justin Jarvis, who releases his debut album at the end of September, offers up “Born Of God”, the musically ethereal and soft piano led folk/acoustic/country flavoured ballad, reminding us that Jesus is born of God, that ‘…You live and You died, what a love, what a sacrifice…’.
With the album also boasting many more worship anthems, from the Chris McClarney led mid tempo piano ballad turned electric guitar offering (complete with Stu G brilliantly the guitar) where Chris powerfully cries out ‘…my soul thirsts for You, I need You, would you break through?…’ (“Running After You”); the debut song premiere from Common Hymnal– the pop song “He Is Our Refuge”, where we remember how Jesus is our refuge, our shelter, and our Saviour, and ‘…the God in whom I trust…and praise Him all you saints, how wondrous is His grace…’ (I am quite amazed at how similar the lead vocalist sounds to Matthew West and Phil Wickham); and Kristene Di Marco’s hit “Believer”, a folksy acoustic ballad reminding me musically of JJ Heller, that speaks about how God is the best believer in us, that He always has our backs all the time no matter what we have done; I am once and again marvelled by the extensive talent of worshippers and vocalists in the industry today!
Jimmy Thorpe and Patrick Maybury (“Anchor” and “Brought To Life” respectively) are two indie artists, who join this formidable and emphatic lineup, and it can only help them hone in on their craft and help their fanbase, being on a compilation with season and respected veterans. While “Anchor” is a strings and acoustic guitar led mid tempo vertical worship song about Jesus being our anchor and our standard to live by, with Jimmy’s soaring voice very captivating and reminiscent of Jonny Diaz (this song would do really well on adult contemporary radio!); the more pop and guitar prominent upbeat tune “Brought To Life” by Patrick (vocally similar to Josh from Abandon and now Audio Adrenaline) literally grabs my attention and has me dancing and moving my feet. A celebratory tune, Patrick declares that Jesus has raised us from the grave and has brought us back to life; and with such a firm and sound subject matter in this first song, there’s something about this young man of God that makes me excited for his future music career.
While most of the album is rooted in vertical worship to Jesus, and songs about Jesus, there are a few that are also firmly planted in the CCM market, just to give us variety and familiarity. Jenny Simmons, Lara Landon, Abandon and Remedy Drive all offer up pop/rock tunes, and remind us that worship is a lifestyle, and doesn’t have to have the crowds of Hillsong, nor the epic build-up of Jesus Culture that goes for 5 more minutes than it should- songs of worship are just between us and God, no matter the genre- as worship is a lifestyle. “Time To Be Well”, a acoustic guitar pop/folk tune with a heavy bass riff undertone, is led by Jenny (the lead single on her brand new EP releasing sometime in 2014, as an accompaniment to her book releasing this year as well), and is from the perspective of the crippled man who was lowered into a house to be healed by Jesus. His friends had enough faith for him, and this positive and upbeat melody is an allegory for today’s society, where we can rely on the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ if we ourselves are struggling. A thoroughly enjoyable and encouraging melody; Abandon continue the adult contemporary pop with “Forever”, driven by the electric guitar and explicitly delivering the gospel. Also reminding us of the beauty of heaven when Jesus comes back, that there will be a day when ‘…all the scars will break, will break, and all of us will see His face, His face, all creation will awake and over all the earth His love will reign forever…’; it’s such a reassuring track that just tightens our security in Jesus Christ, and reaffirms what we believe as Christians.
While Remedy Drive’s rock anthem “Commodity”, thematically similar to Switchfoot’s “The World You Want”, the title track from their confronting new album of the same name, intended to give us awareness of human trafficking, also tries to bring out the compassion in us, as well as grit to step out and actively make a difference, helping those in situations where they are trapped, physically and spiritually; Lara Landon’s “There Is Grace”, the lead single of Lara’s untitled new album releasing soon, tries to sum up the concept of grace in a 4 minute piano melody. And Lara accomplishes this feat quite well, letting us know simply that grace is Jesus paying the price of death when we should have borne the price instead. It is because of God’s grace and unconditional love that we are saved, and that fact boggles the mind many a time. A brilliant addition to a very strong album, these pop songs, while seemingly out of place on a worship themed album, only enhance the quality of the album overall, and remind us that God can and will be glorified through any meaning.
“…one of the goals of this entire project is discovery, with the artists on the project committed to sharing REVERENCE with their collective contacts via social media, significantly bolstering the opportunity for connections to be made between those that appreciate worship music and these artists and songs that may never be discovered otherwise…” While the only nit pick was the selection of Dreamseed’s “Virginia’s Getting Married”, a folk/rock tune where lead singer Brenton Brown sings about a friend he knows who is getting married to the love of her life (thematically it is out of place!); the overall mood of Reverence: An Offering is one of celebration, because God is here and is with us and for us. as this album has two purposes, in that it glorifies God and also introduces us to more newer artists; it’s clear that Fuel Music has done their job effectively. A moving and heartwarming album full of many, many genres; this compilation album is sure to be on my iTunes playlist, or on my phone, for many months or years ahead. Well done to all the artists involved, you all should be proud of yourselves for a thorough and fantastic job!
5 songs to listen to: Sing On The Battlefield, Song Of Solomon, Time To Be Well, Forever, There Is Grace
RIYL: Rend Collective Experiment, All Sons and Daughters, Paul Baloche, Michael W. Smith, Jesus Culture