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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.

The Fire - Samuel Lane (2013)

[Free Song Download "O My Soul" from Samuel Lane- see at the bottom of the review.]

With subtle motion and smooth tones begins the "The Fire". Like the starting crackle of a freshly lit hearth, this is how Samuel Lane begins to fuel the fire that is this new album from Vineyard Records UK. The intro song, "Take Me With You", doesn't rip a hole out of your speakers. Rather than pouring gasoline onto a bursting bonfire, it sparks, rumbles and gently ignites the rhythms, vocals and instruments that will build into a warm and engaging experience of songs and lyrics that call out passionately to God.

Rolling from that into "Fiery Love", Sam takes the intensity up ever so slightly, building the anticipation nicely from the intro song into this prayer language song, which calls out:

Lift me from my grave and hold me up
With hands that hold the stars, with fiery love
Holy Spirit come, and light me up
With hands that hold the stars, with fiery love

The song rises to a powerful thundering of passion before receding into track three, "O My Soul". Here, Lane ebbs this project back to a rumbling and humble surrender of worship, with dynamics and rhythms that perfectly fit the song lyrics. And this peeks engagingly into big refrains of "Oh my soul, praise, praise Him!" Wonderful!

And so it goes with this album-- ebb, flow, rise, refrain, response, recede and restart the progression. This is not a formula, it seems, for Samuel Lane. It feels more like a discourse of authentic prayers, each one drawing closer to the person of God and surrendering more deeply the person of the worshiper. I have to admit, I was struck by the intimate language and conversational approach that Lane takes on some of these songs. But it is not a nonchalant cavalierism that reduces worship to a "Jesus-is-my-boyfriend" song collection. This is serious, but intimate. God is great, yet He is near. He is the Father which calls and invites us, and Lane has given us real language and theological strength that hold the tension of humanity and its broken, suffering children seeking a holy and mighty God, who deigns to call Himself Father to each of us.

Musically, this project stays tethered to the acoustic foundation that would place Lane in his living room, strumming and picking his guitar. Several songs swell with electric and rhythmic sensibilities and instrumentation. Some songs drift completely into country, even blue-grass/roots sounds complete with banjo and steel string guitars and brushes on the snare drum. But rock is never completely shut out of these tracks. "You Are With Us", "Lead Me Home", and "Glorious" remind us that Vineyard music, both in the US and abroad, has its origins in the rock generation of the 60s, 70's and 80's, whose anthemic soaring progressions still beat in the musical heart of the modern church.

In a way, this album is the most deeply "Vineyard" project I have heard in a very long time. Certainly, it has nuances of the church movement's musical heritage (along with the modern touch of "Mumford & Sons" splattered occasionally). But more than that, this project harkens back to the days when Vineyard music was the vanguard of intimate prayer language in the global church's worship song repertoire. Lane unlocks something reminiscent of John Wimber in his sensibilities and clarity about how scripture can collide with music. And he revisits the eloquence of rhythm and voice that Scott Underwood brought to the mid-90's through his songs and recordings. But at the core of this album's "Vineyard-esque" traits is the lyrical canvas that Samuel Lane paints on- unafraid of our relationship with God the Father, Holy Spirit and Jesus the Son.

I enjoyed this album immensely. And each listen has only increased my appreciation for Lane and love of these songs. After 4 complete journeys through this album, I can tell you there is a lot here and many more hours to spend. Treasures were spent gathering this album together and there are treasures more to be found for anyone willing to listen completely through this entire journey of intimacy, honesty, prayer, surrender, rhythm and joy. One of the best thematically based albums I have experienced in the last 10 years.

For churches looking for great worship songs, I have two suggestions to start with from this album. First is "Father", the fourth track on this album. It is one of the most arresting lyrical prayers I have heard put to a sonic pallette. Truly engaging and easy to place in the deepest part of your intimate worship sets. Second, is the building and upbeat song "You Are With Us". This song is a rolling celebration of God's immanence and the joy of assurance that comes with being in the very presence of the very God. Really, this is a very good song and deserves a listen by almost every congregation doing modern worship styled songs.

Because of the strong songs, excellent thematic elements and seamless threading of all musical elements from top to bottom, this album gets my endorsement as the latest awarded "Editor's Choice". Don't hesitate to get this project, try it with your church band and use these songs!

For churches using, all of the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the system song database. If you are not part of and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.

Amazon Link:


worshiping Him!

Review by Kim Gentes


Free Song Download "O My Soul" from Samuel Lane

O My Soul
by Samuel Lane

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

Many thanks to my friends at Integrity Music / Vineyard Music UK for allowing us to offer this free song download for a limited time.  KG..

The Invisible - Daniel Bashta (2013)

There is no substitute for passion. You can create sounds, play music and mimic emotion. But real passion comes through in a way that goes beyond all those. If I had to sum up Daniel Bashta's work on his new project "The Invisible", the word would be- passion.

A breathy pop voice, energetic motion in the arrangements and inventive twists throughout the album brings Bashta's ideas of reaching for the ear of God onto the audio canvas of the ten tracks of this album. Lyrically, Daniel almost completely relies on first person language in his prayer-like songs. Only one song is sung in the third person (the title track) and this is revealing. Bashta's passion for a person-to-Person connection with his Creator bleeds all over the prayers, thanks and declarations in this collection. Even anthems of invitation in which Bashta calls us all to join his call to worship with "we all cry holy" in Behold the Lamb, he returns to first person prayer language :

Yours is the kingdom Yours is the power
Yours is the glory forever and ever
Yours is the kingdom Yours is the power
Yours is the glory forever amen

Many of the songs on the album are inviting for church use.  The arrangements used on most of them build in ascending steps (it almost becomes a predictable pattern on this project), but all are welcoming to local church use, (as with so many high production worship albums today) if not in perhaps simplified form. Some great songs on this album are "I Want It All", "Let Hope In", and "Behold the Lamb". But my absolute favorite was the title track "Praise the Invisible"- its hard not to love the reimagining of the invisible, immortal and incarnate language glorifying the Trinity as Father, Spirit, Son. Great historic language as part of a powerful surrender to the Holy God.

Stylistically, this album scans a wide but enjoyable range- from symphonic swells to acoustic guitar drones to scattered banjo picking to piano driven ballads to hand clapping living rooms of worshipers. But it all feels real, fits the songs and creates focus towards the listener pointing their hearts to heaven. This is a very, very good album, and honestly, it surprised me. I was expecting something eclectic, but did not expect something accessible. 

For churches using, all of the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the system song database. If you are not part of and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.

Amazon Link:


worshiping Him!

Review by Kim Gentes


Power In Weakness - Chris Lizotte (2012)

Part of my work requires me to listen to music. I mean a lot of music. Over the last 15 years, I've sampled literally thousands of projects- a sample is what I call a cursory initial scan to determine whether to take time for a full listen. Of those thousands, I've listened to several hundreds of CDs all the way through (hearing every track, completely). Of those several hundred, I've felt strongly enough to write about 90 reviews, of which I've highlighted just 22 as my "Editor's Choice" selections. Make that 23.

When I sat down this last week to hear this CD, I knew Chris Lizotte could write worship songs, and that he was a great voice with a solid acoustic guitar touch. But as I listened to "Power In Weakness" I found myself being emotionally moved. Song by song. Moved. Disarmed.

The longer I listened to the album the more I heard the prayers Chris was singing begin to rise up from of my heart, and I began joining with him. If nothing else, this album is about providing a place for others to join in the safety of surrendered peace with their voices echoing Lizotte's plaintiff prayers. And that is what I found myself doing the more I listened. Joining in. My shoulders feeling as though, for a moment, the weight of the world was lifted off. Not because my circumstances had changed, but because I had a prayer for a moment that could be mine.

Lizotte never expands the palette too far on this project. It is laid back acoustic, roots, with some bluesy tinge and the odd electric guitar dirtying up the texture. Spice that with some occasional hammond organ and gospel background vocals and you have the mixture that is Lizotte's "Power In Weakness". The arrangements and instrumentation sound like you are sitting in a living room, maybe with a few good friends, who are pouring out their hearts to God. Nothing to extensive, but nothing lacking.

This song is clearly not intended on being a collection of "Sunday morning" choruses, yet it still does contain a number of usable tunes for those looking for prayer-styled songs. Three songs stand out as possible candidates in that regard- "Peace In The Middle of the Storm", "I Love Your Ways" and "You Know My Name". My favorite song on this album was "You Know My Name", not only because it is the most singable and most memorable hook, but because it has the most engaging corporate nuance.

This album is full of honesty. Nothing extra. But it is beautiful, clear and unwilling to leave you without giving you several opportunities to surrender your stress filled day to the sense that God waits to hear your voice sing out in prayer to him. This is a unique and emotive album that gets an "Editor's Choice" not just for what it does with music, but for what it doesn't do as well. It doesn't overload itself with endless and varied arrangements, myriads of lyrical themes and layers of sounds. It stays as what the title declares- "Power In Weakness". Very well done.

For churches using, several of the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the system song database. If you are not part of and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


Burning Lights - Chris Tomlin (2013)

It's been just over 2 years since Chris Tomlin released the Grammy Winning "And If Our God Is For Us..." album.  And here we are with another new project from Chris Tomlin- "Burning Lights". Beginning as a spectacular album, "Burning Lights" has several sparkling new songs, but also has a few "average" tracks as well.

The first 5 songs are not only great songwriting anthems, but are presented in musical vibrancy that tops any work Tomlin has done in the past. The arrangements, style and rhythms found here are smart and successful experiments in broader worlds into which Tomlin has been relatively cautious.

The songs "Awake My Soul" (anthem rock with hip-hop lyric overlays), "Lay Me Down" (rock touched with a bit of Lumineers/Mumford and Sons) and "God's Great Dance Floor" (pop-dance worship that actually doesn't sound cheesy) are almost ecstatic in their energy and vibrancy- all while staying on task of being songs the church will want to sing in the style of modern liturgy. My nod for best song on this album, both lyrically and as a church anthem, is "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)". This song has all the excitement of the other top tracks on the album with its dynamics and guitar hooks, but it also possesses the most singable melodies and lyrics on the project, all wrapped into a glorious rock worship anthem.

After the song "White Flag", the songs empty out to simple worship ballad arrangements.  Kari Jobe duets with Tomlin on the hymn "Crown Him", and this works not only as a listening experience but as a worshipful arrangement of this classic hymn- with a new custom Tomlin chorus, of course. The next several songs continue to strip back the instruments in ebb/flow arrangements throughout. Some may conclude that these last five songs are the slower ballads that are left more barren to allow churches to adopt them as is. But I would contend that these melodies and music are simply not as compelling on the last five songs as the first six songs on this project. The lack of arranging on the final songs simply excentuates those properties.

Be that as it may, this album has many excellent songs. You will find several to be of interest to contemporary churches who already like Chris Tomlin songs and style. Musically and creatively, "Burning Lights" is Tomlin's best album to date, eclipsing even his debut "Arriving" in creativity. Again, do not miss "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)"- it is the best contribution on this project!

For churches using, the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the system song database. If you are not part of and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


We Have A Savior / Christmas Music - Hillsong (2012)

As is my practice lately, before listening the album, I grabbed my guitar, capo and pick. I went into my office, turned on my computer, and logged into I found most of the album with chord charts, lyrics and audio. I went through the album in real-time, with the charts in front of me, playing along. After playing through 7 songs, I was worshiping along, loving the music and in the thankful mood of Christmas- glorifying God for the gift of His Son!

After learning (and loving) about half a dozen songs (and arrangements) from the album, I then put down my guitar. Leaned back and closed my eyes as I listened and worshiped along with the album. And what a joy it was!

The project starts in a bubbling cadence with the Christmas favorite "O Come Let Us Adore Him". I have always loved this song, as it represents a wonderful merge of Christmas themes and worshipful surrender language for the part of the celebrant. Next comes a banjo framed revision of "Joy To The World". The song itself is very simply arranged and clearly sung, with the banjo plucking and choral vocal meanderings edging the main sections of the song. Beautiful!

The third track is a new Christmas original from Hillsong Music. Again, the sound of percussive rhythms and banjo plucking shows how extensive the influences of recent bluegrass, roots (a la Mumford & Sons) sounds have penetrated into the modern worship writing/recording. "Born Is the King" is a celebration of joy that everyone can stomp their feet and lift their heart in thanks to God for His gracious gift!

Track five shares an extended and appropriately clear rendition of  "O Holy Night". Stripped away to its perfect balance of emptiness (in the beginning) to full aria (near the ending sections), Hillsong musicians and vocalists don't try to reinterpret this sacred worship song of the season, but simply sing it to it's joyful fullness. Excellent!

The title track, "We Have A Savior" (of course, in Australia, it is "We Have A Saviour") is an ebb and flow 6/8 call to worship song. It is as infectious as it is haunting. Wonderfully thoughtful music that holds the structure for these glistening lyrics and more:

A child has been given
The King of our freedom
Sing for the light has come
this is Christmas

Each of the songs on this Christmas worship collection are wrought with attention to their acoustical and lyrical beauty. I loved every sweet line, even the unchanged renditions of ancient favorites are beautifully done.  One especially unique song was the very rustic rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"- in which case the rustic is referring to banjos, clap percussion, tamborines and violins. 

My favorite song here was the magnificent "Gloria (Angels We Have Heard On High)", not only because it retains the undaunting power of its original form, but is not overproduced into an unaccessible peice for local worship teams. This is a fine line and Hillsong perfects the balance nicely.

If you are a local church looking for worshipful songs and arrangements that will definitely work for Christmas- "We Have A Savior" has literally a dozen songs you should listen to. Every track on this album is worthy of the Christmas season! As a worship leader, I played along with the entire album (guitar, capo and pick in hand) and had no trouble with the complexity or arrangements! There were few songs that definitely were written for female lead vocals, but nothing could be more appropriate for a nice mixture in your Christmas worship selections.

For churches using, most the songs, chord charts and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the system song database. If you are not part of and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes