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Music Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

Back in the mid-90's Kim began writing impromptu reviews of church music CDs (worship music) so that people who were looking for CDs would have an opinion from someone who is also a worship leader and is garnering music for local church use.  Up to this point, this was rarely something that was done, because church music was revered as sacred and it was thought that any offering of that sacred worship shouldn't be criticised or evaluated.  In fact, Kim wasn't as much a critic as he was an evaluator, helping people find what fit their church. He began posting his reviews on line in a email discussion forum, called the Worship List (website).  After a while, when he helped launch, he continued that same concept of trying to help other local church worship leaders and musicians find music that might be applicable to their situations.  The reviews continued to be a part of that. went on to grow a staff of writers that would add many more reviews to the collection they have, but Kim continued to participate as a key reviewer.  This journal logs all the reviews Kim has written on worship music CDs and projects.

Kim's reviews of CD projects of worship music includes independents, label and main stream recordings, but all having to do with worship music.

Freedom - Darrell Evans (1998)

[Free Song Download "Trading My Sorrows" from Darrell Evans- see at the bottom of the review.]

Over the years, I have heard literally thousands of worship CDs. I have evaluated a few hundred projects personally, and ended up writing over 100 professional reviews. Of all the albums I have heard, I don't know of a better studio recording on a worship project than this incredible album by Darrell Evans.  It is now about 15 years since Darrell shocked the world with Freedom in what amounts to the standard in a studio worship recording. Listening to this project now, I am still overwhelmed by a sense of God's presence, still hurled into worship authentic praise, and still taking to my knees and crying right along with the sincerity and reality of the music and lyrics in the songs on this album.

I place this project even above some of the other iconic recordings such as Shout to The Lord (Hillsongs), Lift Him Up (Ron Kenoly), Hungry (Brian Doerksen), Sonicflood (Sonicflood), Intimacy (Matt Redman), Arriving (Chris Tomlin), Passion: Better Is One Day (Passion), Worship (Michael W. Smith) and others.  I recognize that some of these albums mentioned are "live" productions, but they nonetheless left an indelible mark on worship in the church worldwide.  And yet, I believe Freedom stands alone as the landmark studio recording. Why? For five reasons:

  • An amazing collection of original songs. Freedom has such a diversity of top notch songs, it is hard to believe they all came together on one project. From CCLI top song "Trading My Sorrows", to radio pop "So Good To Me" and pounding "Freedom", to blissful "Your Love Is Extravagant" and unashamed "I Am In Love With You", these songs are a trek of total abandon- but in such a package of raw lyrical passion and perfectly matched melodies and music, it's a text book for any aspiring worship writer. You won't find a writer/artist who is more at home with his work than Darrell is on this album. It feels natural because it is. Wow.
  • Unbelievable musicianship, production and artistry. It is hard to talk about the musical prowess of this album without highlighting three main points- Darrell Evan's unstoppable passionate vocals, Lincoln Brewster's unmatched electric guitar treatments, and Paul Mills' masterful production. This album breathes in a way that only a perfect synchronicity of contributors could produce. The ebb and flow of this project is a testament to everyone letting the best of their skills surface at just the right time. Just one (of many) pristine moments on this CD is the song "I Am In Love With You", which highlights what may be the best guitar solo on any worship recording ever- absolutely brilliant. There is so much to talk about in this area, it would mean walking through each song. Instead of doing that, I encourage you to simply listen to the entire album and experience the immersion of this amazing musical journey.
  • A truly complete "project" in scope, theme, and concept. Lost in the digital world of the 2010 and beyond era, is the concept of a complete "album". Darrell Evans' Freedom, conversely, is the epitome of the album concept- a perfect coalescence of songs, themes, tempos, intensity, ebb, flow and lyrics. Everything feels naturally like it fits, makes difference, and contributes to the overall work of this project.  Musicians, artists and songwriters today should listen to Freedom and consider the amazing diversity of content, that still amazingly feels like a perfect cohesive unit. Nothing wasted, but everything was risked- and it hit the jackpot.
  • Brilliant variety and balance of praise, worship, prayer and declaration. The themes of church music liturgy seem to have a ebb and flow to them over the last 40 years. Paradoxical concepts like transcendence and immanence have not typically survived being placed on a single project. Yet, this album has a breadth that is uncommon though not frankenstein in nature.  God is found to be powerful and glorified in the lyrics (So Good To Me, Freedom), and yet he is still near and comforting (I Am In Love With You, You Are My Portion).
  • Passion. Rip everything else away from this album and you would still find Darrell Evans standing in a room alone, belting out his voice, percussively strumming his guitar and singing his prayers to God. One thing you will hear ringing loud and clear on this project is the unstoppable passion Darrell puts into every word, every strum. There is not a single ounce of fear, hesitation or worry in any word, strum, beat or lyric here. Everything is so raw (I do not mean poor music, but rather uncorked honesty), it can even be a little affronting to the uninitiated. Suddenly, you realized you are in the middle of a worship time that is serious, personal, passionate. Something you would normal come to expect more of a live recording, but it is captured here in pristine form.

If you are one of the few people who haven't bought this entire album, I can't tell you with any more clarity than this- buy it. Buy it now. You will not regret it. More than a decade and a half after its release, and it still blows away almost every worship recording you hear. This is not a trip down nostalgia lane, it is a reckoning with reality- we haven't moved the needle as high as this in worship recording, and it may be a long time before we do. Serious friends, listen to it. And be blown away.

This project not only wins my "Editor's Choice Award", but is my pick for the Best Studio Worship Recording- ever! Ya, really.

Amazon Link: Freedom - Darrell Evans

Additionally, our friends at Integrity Music have also granted us permission to give you access to the audio and chord chart for the great song "Trading My Sorrows" as a free download for a limited time directly here, so you will find it below.


Review by Kim Gentes


Free Song Download "Trading My Sorrows" from Darrell Evans album "Freedom"

Trading My Sorrows
by Darrell Evans

Note: To save the PDF or MP3 files
above [Right-Mouse] click the links.


Celtic Praise - Eden's Bridge (1997)

After having customers at hound us for months- we finally were able to begin to stock a selection of Celtic praise & worship from the awesome group Eden's Bridge. Frankly, I had never heard the stuff before, but once I plugged in my first Celtic CD, I was completely blown away. The CD in question? You guessed it- Celtic Praise!

It was awesome! The Lord was incredibly present as I worshiped along to the CD. If you haven't heard Celtic praise & worship before, you will be haunted for weeks with the tones and sounds of the ethnic Irish sounds giving glory to Jesus. If you thought you liked "Amazing Grace" before, you will be blown away by this rendition. Simply heavenly.

You can find all the Celtic projects on our site, but my standout favorite is Celtic Praise.

Product Link: Celtic Praise - Eden's Bridge

Review by Kim Gentes

Draw Me Close - 25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs (2002)

Vineyard Music has done it right! Instead of putting out just another endless collection series, they sat down and looked at the seasons of grace that God has given their music and went about capturing those time frames of gifted songwriting into 4 concise double CD editions entitled "25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs". Each edition contains the top 25 songs from that era of Vineyard music (along with a few bonus tracks on each edition). Each edition also has a complete companion songbook available. Personally, as I browse and listen to songs on these discs, I am amazed at how many great songs merged from the Vineyard. Even just looking over the first era (Season of Glory) you find I Believe In Jesus, Change My Heart oh God, Isn't He, Spirit Song, More Love More Power, and so many more absolutely amazing songs-- a breathtaking tribute to what this music company has contributed to the Body of Christ. And each collection has an equally awesome set of fresh songs God breathed, not just into the Vineyard movement, but through the entire Church worldwide. If you want to get caught up with an excellent history of life changing songs, haven't heard of Vineyard music, or just want a truly great collection of songs you know, you should really get this entire collection. Normally, I am fairly disinterested in yet another collection series, but this totally takes another place. Not only is this collection amazing in song quality, but Vineyard has made it an actual worship resource to the Body of Christ by publishing companion songbooks with piano/vocal/guitar arrangements (guitar chord charts included). Finally, they were thoughtful enough to make the CDs themselves enhanced and to include printable guitar charts, overhead masters and song stories.

Product Links: The 25 Top Vineyard Series is divided chronologically into a collection of recordings representing various eras of Vineyard worship.


Kim Gentes

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