Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Album Review: "Hello Love" by Chris Tomlin
I may be one of the biggest Chris Tomlin fans out there. I've met the guy a few times, and while I appreciate Chris as a person, it's his music that really draws me in. And, it's not so much that I think he's the greatest song-writer ever, or that he has an incredible voice, or that his band is all that and a bag of chips.
The reason I love CT so much is the simple fact that, in my humble opinion, he gets it when it comes to writing songs for congregational worship...in fact, I'd go so far to say he's the most prolific song writer the English-speaking church (not counting how much of his music has been translated around the world) has seen in a very long time. Now, I realize that opinions about music are almost completely subjective, but it's hard to argue when you take a look at how much his music has impacted masses.
All this to say, whenever I hear of a new CT album being released, I become very excited. From his last album, "See The Morning" alone, our church has used no less than six songs in congregational worship over the past few years. Needless to say, we've been anticipating the release of "Hello Love" for several months now.
Having said that, I will also say that, I was disappointed upon hearing, a few months ago, "Jesus Messiah", the first radio single from this new album. I was hoping that this one song was not a reflection of the entire album...
I, admittedly, typically need a few weeks with an album to really warm up to the new stuff. And, after a few weeks, I'm happy to say that I'm very excited about this album. The overall sound is definitely different from CT's past few albums, but I believe it will be no less impacting.
"Hello Love" appears to be a more mellow and personal album for Chris than his past few offerings. Not to say that any of his music isn't written with a sincere outflow of Chris's personality and gifts, but my guess is that this album isn't going to see as much radio play as the past few and that, perhaps, that was a purposeful thing.
This album also has a bit of a throwback feel to it. Great use of a full choir in a few places, and a few songs that feel like they belong in the early 90's. You may also notice more than a few choruses and bridges that seem to be pulled straight from a the pages of Isaiah and Revelation, all of which gives the album a bit of a big, anthemic feel.
Yet, for me, there are a few songs that seem to be "fillers". "I Will Rise", "Love", "With Me" and the aforementioned "Jesus Messiah" still, after a few weeks, are songs that I'd just as soon skip than listen to. "Love" and "With Me" come across as very generic and especially feel like they were simply after-thoughts to help fill the album out to a nice dozen (plus the "bonus track"). But, as I said before, I don't believe Chris writes anything half-heartedly, and my guess is, that "Jesus Messiah" and "I Will Rise" may take on a new meaning for me in the future.
"God Of This City" really feels like the anthem that pulls this album together. CT certainly is not done having an impact on the modern church, yet, and I can really hear him making this song a very personal anthem for his own life and for this album. I do have to say, I much prefer the live version of this song from Passion's "God Of This City" album to the studio version on this album. The chord progression in the verses and lead guitar in the interludes are a big departure from what you'll hear on the live version, and I really think that they completely change the feel and emotion of the song for the worse. But, it's still a great song either way, and one that our church has already begun to sing with passion.
Other highlights on the album include:
"Praise The Father, Praise The Son" has been labeled as a "hymn" by Louie Giglio, and I would have to agree. The meter, melody and lyrics remind me of something written 75 years ago. The bridge (which is one of CT's strengths, IMO) is one of the best on the album, giving the song enough of a modern feel to give it some good grit.
"My Beloved" is probably not a song that I'll ever use on Sunday morning (as we try to stay away from singing too many romantic, "I love you" songs to Jesus), but it's one of my favorites to listen to. Another song that will remind you of an older hymn or maybe even a negro spiritual, I love the organ and the gospel choir swells that move in and out.
"Exalted (Yahweh)" is, perhaps, the strangest song on the album. The verses immediately take me back to the days when Maranatha ruled the "contemporary" worship music scene. But, the chorus and bridges and the way the song builds into using a full choir is very powerful. This is definitely one that we'll be teaching to our worship choir.
"You Lifted Me Out", not surprisingly (to those who know me) is perhaps my favorite song on this album. One of just two songs that has a "modern rock" feel (which is what I like), this song is vintage (if you consider the past 5-10 years vintage) Chris Tomlin. A song of celebration and energy, this is definitely the first song we'll be learning at our church. I especially love the bridge which, with it's scattered drum hits and Kean-esque piano, is very different from anything else on the album.
This album definitely took longer than normal to grow on me, and there isn't as much usable material for me as a worship leader than what I can normally find on a Chris Tomlin album. But, it's still well worth the purchase, especially for those who have found a lot of personal and/or professional use from CT's music in the past.