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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.

Entries in cd (66)

Still Shining - Andy Park (2016)

"Still Shining" is an enthralling 9 track celebration of Christmas through the sounds and styling of worship songwriter Andy Park. After listening to it completely through a few times, the songs don't begin to wear on you- they lift you. I'll be playing this 'round the clock for the season. Here are some highlights/notes on a few individual songs from the album:

The Wonder of it All- Original song. Acoustic guitar based tune with regular band and a crisp vocal sound. Feels like a James Taylor ensemble. 

Comfort and Joy- Original. The angelic proclamation to the shepherds is re-envisioned in a jazz /blues  tune.

Still Shining- Another original. A song about both the guiding star that led the shepherds to the Person it represents- the Shining Star of the universe, Jesus. Easy listening (think Neil Diamond) and congregational possible song.

Star of Wonder- Rework of the classic . Beautifully rendered acoustic guitar based song that soars with note-perfect flute and vocal backgrounds.

Come Let Us Adore- Acoustic guitar rendering of the classic song "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". Beautiful instrumental intro. With small group choral joining for 2 verses. Simply gorgeous. 

Joy To The World- A thoroughly joyful instrumental rendition of this Christmas standard. Great strings on the acoustic guitar and mandolin with swelling violin in a light acoustic/bluegrass tune.

The production and artistry here is crisp, clean, beautiful and unmistakably Andy. When you listen through the whole thing, you'll feel refreshed. For me, personally, it drew me closer in to the advent pulse and rhythm. It definitely wins my "Editor's Choice" designation.

It's available on Amazon ( but you can get it directly from Andy as well, here:


Go get it, friends. Really.


Review by Kim Gentes


Coming Alive - Dustin Smith (2014)

Coming Alive - Dustin Smith

[Free Song Download "Who Is Like Our God" from Dustin Smith- see at the bottom of the review.]

Every time a new project comes out, I hope to find one thing - great songs I can use in my local church. The new album "Coming Alive" by Dustin Smith is a treasure trove of those kinds of songs.

Songs that speak truth. Songs that are singable. Songs that can be the anthem of our local church, and the hearts that comprise it.

The project starts off with the declarative "Coming Alive", the title track song that quickly becomes a thankful praise and a deepening prayer as you enter into it. The lyrics are straightforward, passionate and thankful. 

You rescued our lives and lifted our heads up
You opened our eyes to see all Your goodness
You came in like a raging flood
Overwhelming us with Your great love

But even in that thankfulness, the lyrics remain God-ward and prayerful in posture.

We're coming alive, we're coming alive now
So breathe Your life into these bones
So we can run to Your light and sing of freedom

I love this opening song. It brings the listener in touch with the sensibility of this project as a place of overflowing wonder- something birthed from a heart that is renewed. And in our cynical, tired world (and sometimes church) we are thirsty for the message of God's refreshing love coming to revive us.

Passionate Modern Psalms - Without collapsing into cliche, these paradoxial twin concepts of thirst and refreshing become the synthesizing theme of this album, which is evident as you listen to plaintiff prayers and thank-filled anthems like "Coming Alive", "Extravagant Love", "Breathe On Me", "Come Rushing In", "We Want To Know You", "Home", "Eyes Like Fire" and "Surround Us Now". Dustin Smith is clearly a person who has been to the desert, and has found the spring of eternal life Jesus promised to the woman at the well in the fourth chapter of John's gospel account. Smith relies on the Psalmic formula of honest need and heartfelt prayer that always capitulates to an extravagant response of thankfulness.

Singable Songs - Above all, each song is singable and I absolutely love that about "Coming Alive". It has placed melody and lyrics at the center of each composition. While the musical production of this project is top notch and beautiful, each one of these songs stands on its own as memorable song your congregation can learn and sing and it does not rely on musical arrangement primarily to be considered for your Sunday morning worship list.

Live Recording - That isn't to say there isn't some spontaneity, energy or musicality in this project. In fact, this album bubbles over at times with an honest spontaneous fervor that gathers the songs into an experience of worship rather than just a collection of songs. Listening to "He's Alive", "Breathe On Me" and "Come Rushing In" makes it clear that Dustin is just as intent on worshiping God as he is in recording an album.

Surprising - Even when the lyrics and tone of the songs take a more intense flavor, they remain constantly scripture-centered (as in "Eyes Like Fire" which is based on a poignant combination of Gospel, Psalms and Revelation imagery). And, even those songs, we find the melodic and singable qualities stand strong.

My favorite songs on this project are "Coming Alive" (melodic and anthemic for use in any church) and "Eyes Like Fire" (vivid lyrical imagery) ! This is a faith-filled album with gracious and thankful language placed on singable melodies. Excellent!

Amazon Link:

Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Our friends at Integrity Music are giving away this free mp3 and chord chart for the song "Who Is Like Our God" written by Dustin Smith, Michael Farren and Chris Clayton! Check it out below!

Free Song Download "Who Is Like Our God" from the album "Coming Alive" by Dustin Smith

Who Is Like Our God - Dustin Smith (mp3)

Who Is Like Our God
by Smith, Farren and Clayton

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.

 "Coming Alive" Already in

All the songs on this album have been pre-loaded for subscribers who use for their worship planning. You can include these songs in your set planning this week! If you are a member, simply login and find it in the song database, or under "New Songs" link. If you aren't a member, you can check out for free for a month (more info here).

The Rock Won't Move - Vertical Church Band (2013)

[Free Song Download "The Rock Won't Move" from Vertical Church Band- see at the bottom of the review.]

Right from the first song, the latest album from Vertical Church Band is an uplifting and crystal clear sound track of modern worship with pristine studio production and inspiring songs.  "Found in You" is a pounding opening track that declares

All we wanted, all we need is found in you
Found in you
Jesus every victory is found in you
Found in you

With a melodic anthemic chorus, power chord vamps and large group vocals this song immediately feels like it would suitable for either main church or youth worship settings.

The second song "I'm Going Free" continues the  triumphant theme singing:

Glory, glory, hallelujah! He threw my shackles in the sea
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Jesus is my liberty!

Another celebration praise song that both sings well and will be an upbeat favorite. The title track follows up as the third song on this album. This song is a unique melody and memorable chorus that uses brief references to "On Christ the Solid Rock" as the basis of it's theme. Again, the chorus is anthemic and the music perfect rock styled arrangements harkening to that Hillsong or Hillsong United formulae.

"Worthy, Worthy" starts off as a softer worship tune, highlighting the beautiful voice of Meredith Andrews. But the song soon becomes a powerful worship anthem as well, this time echoing the Revelation based heavenly chorus including part of the Sanctus refrain of :

Holy, holy is Lord God Almighty
Worthy, worthy is Your Name

What I love about this song is not just the glorious melody and vocals by Meredith Andrews but the lyrical acknowledgement of the limited understanding we truly have of the sovereign God, when she sings:

Though we cannot comprehend such a mystery
Just the little you reveal is compelling us to sing

This is an important acknowledgement that needs to be pointed out in our songs lyrics- that while we strive to worship with our minds, we must not clothe our musical liturgy in certainty to the exclusion of the mystery of God.

Track five, "I Will Follow", is a country-rock styled tune that reflects a seriousness of devotion via lyrics that point us to commitment to follow Christ beyond the circumstances, good or bad. The next song, "Strong to Save", revisits more triumphant lyrics with the theme and chorus surging back into the rock anthem mode.

And so it goes for the lions share of this project- a resonate theme of trust, strength, and triumph in our strong and mighty God. Songs "Strong God", "Only Jesus Can", and "He Has Won" wrap up the album highlighting hope and victory as the major themes of this project.

The album is a well produced collection of inspiring songs with the clear aim of declaring the strength and singing of this victory of God. Several songs are very usable for corporate worship, and there is good bet that your church could find something off of this album that would inspire and encourage for your times of praise. I thought the album was excellent production and basically the perfect balance of presentation with "church usable" songs.

Conversely, the sounds and arrangements on this project constantly kept going into "we want this song to be the next church rock anthem" mode. Certainly, the songwriting was better than average, but only "Worthy, Worthy" felt like it might be capable of being widely adopted in the broader church. After that, "Only Jesus Can", probably has the second best "leap off the page" strength, simply because it contrasts stylistically to the rest of the album and might get some more consideration because of it. Something about this album was brilliant, probably the underlying sense of a lot of good songs. But at the same time, it felt like the producer kept trying to hit a home run on every song rather than let the album breathe. I have no doubt this church is the real thing, and the leaders represented here are the genuine article. But some songs are just good, and they don't have to be hits. Perhaps we should just let those average songs bump up against the great songs (and not try to make them great anthems) so that an album has a life that is more than a producer swinging for "The Next Greatest Worship Hits for Cool Churches".

For this reviewer the stand out song on this project is easily "Worthy, Worthy", partly because of the brilliant contrast of Andrews' stellar female vocals but also because the song is lyrically and musically more diverse than most of the other tracks' straight-ahead, rock anthem approach. Don't miss that song!


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Our friends at Essential Worship are giving away this free mp3 for the song "The Rock Won't Move" by Vertical Church Band! Check it out below!

Free Song Download "The Rock Won't Move" from the Vertical Church Band

The Rock Won't Move
by Vertical Church Band

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.


The Neverclaim - The Neverclaim (2013)

[Free Song Download "My Soul Longs" from Neverclaim- see at the bottom of the review.]

About a year ago I was listening to fresh sound of worship from a live recording at a Vineyard youth conference. One of the main voices on that project was Jeremiah Carlson. You could tell then that Jeremiah and the band, called the Neverclaim, were just starting to make their passionate sound and infectious songs known. This last month the inaugural album from the Neverclaim was released through Provident/Essential Worship. The project is great!

But more than just a great music, Jeremiah and the Neverclaim are the real deal- real worshipers who lead just as passionately in a small group of a handful of people as they do in front of a crowd of thousands. While living in Franklin, TN I had the chance to hear Jeremiah lead worship at Franklin Vineyard earlier this year, and they poured their hearts and music out with great encouragement to the local church gathered there.  This last summer I also had the chance to be at a large conference where the Neverclaim led worship daily for the youth and also in a final night of worship with a 3000+ adults and youth. In each of these contexts, The Neverclaim was focused on glorifying God and inviting the gathering to surrender their hearts to Christ. Whatever else we may say about "worship bands" these days, it is important to note what the focus of these groups are, and I am delighted to say that these guys are more interested in lifting up Jesus than "making their mark" in the music scene.

This project launches with the great song Revival, a melodic song with punched-in electric guitars, power chord vamps and a memorable chorus. The chorus exposes the thoughtfulness of Jeremiah's writing- the lyrics are compact and powerful, drawing together the commitment of the believer, the supremacy of Christ and the hope for change at the hand of Jesus- the change we call "revival"-

We were made for such a time as this
When every knee will bow and tongue confess
Jesus Christ for who he really is- revival, revival!

Musically, this is well arranged anthem rock displaying the benefits of a studio well used- great layered guitars and tight vocals that highlight the musical advantages of this group. And that advantage starts clearly with Jeremiah's soaring vocals that highlight every song on this project. Supporting the vocals is a mashup of power chord guitar movements and picked or strummed acoustic (with occasional banjo/mandolin flourishes as well). Of course, a regular collage of rhythm (drums and bass) hold time step duties and a keyboard rounds out the sounds for this ensemble.

Track two and three are strong songs as well, with undulating verses and big choruses. Track three, Pearl of Great Price, has an especially strong devotional theme, once again wrapped in some great vocals from Jeremiah. I loved the surrendered language of this song, whose simplicity makes it a nice candidate for use in local churches:

I give everything, everything
You're worth everything to me
I give everything, everything
Cause You gave it all for me

Track four is a gospel/choir-esqe track that intros with a humble mandolin/banjo/acoustic guitar/slide guitar feel and a hand clapping roots groove. This, again, accompanies the lyrics well, which speak of community and calling out in prayer for God to "steal the hearts" of our communities from the depths of despair and darkness that the world has gripped them in. Carlson, in a co-writer with Scott Krippayne and Tony Wood, brilliantly effuse passion and prayer, singing:

Would you steal their hearts as You call their name
In a broken world, tryin to do the same
Would you let them see the majesty of who You are
Oh Lord, would you steal their hearts

It's hard not to start clapping, join in singing and want to set this track on repeat for a very long time! 

Track five is the acoustic radiated song, My Soul Longs, which begins like a Mumford & Sons tune, and carries acoustic strumming of guitars, banjos and mandolins throughout- all the while being pitched into glory with Jeremiah's heartfelt vocals and some thundering guitars, drums and bass! I love this song! By the time it gets to the bridge/refrain "He's comin' back for His bride", I dare you to try to sit still and not jump in and worship at the top of your lungs! It was pretty much impossible for me and my family whenever this song hit the speakers!

The album is not all power punch and glory, though. There are moments of settling in, and simple reflection on God's goodness and majesty- Be Lifted Higher is one of those. Though it takes off in the chorus the way other tracks do on this project, it is a brilliant song that breathes the praise of God as a framework into which we should address the "King of Kings".

Track nine retreats even further into a folk/roots/rock undertone, settling the ethos of the project into a southern rock sound with Sweet Sweet Mercies. Like many songs on this project, what seems like a simple single idea turns into some soaring chorus vocals on lifting power chords. Once again, I couldn't turn this track off. Brilliant!

There is more to discover here, but I will leave some tracks for you to consider with your own ears and hearts. One thing I noted as I "chewed" on this project- the more I listened, the more I loved it.  It is not an album that can be listened to once and you've emptied it's cache of goodness. You will return to it many, many times, as I have. And after weeks, you'll still find yourself finding it in your playlists on itunes player or spinning the old polycarbonate plastic in your car (that old thing we used to call a CD).

Worship leaders and musicians will find a lot to collect here on this album, and the songs I've highlighted here are good first options to consider. While the ranges are a step or two higher than most congregations will want to venture in corporate worship, some are spot on for that 3rd or 4th song when everyone is singing fully and voices are warmed up. Also, your youth groups will love any of these song selections, even done in the original keys here.

This album is a wonderful debut album for the Neverclaim with lots of thoughtful lyrics, great music and mountain top vocals to lead you through. Don't skip over this album. For all these great reasons it gets my nod as an Editor's Choice Award album. Great work Jeremiah and the Neverclaim!


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Our friends at Essential Worship and Vineyard Publishing are giving away this free mp3 and chart for the song "My Soul Longs" by The Neverclaim! Check it out below!

Be sure to chime in and let us know what you thought (post comments) and you are welcome to share this with friends on Facebook and twitter with your friends. 

Free Song Download "My Soul Longs" from the Neverclaim

My Soul Longs
by Jeremiah Carlson

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.


God's Great Dance Floor: Step 1 - Martin Smith (2013)

Over 15 years ago, I remember listening to the cardboard-packaged CDs from the UK called "Cutting Edge 1 & 2" and "Cutting Edge 3 & 4". As I heard "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble", "I Could Of Your Love Forever" and "Find Me In The River" my heart soared, arms lifted and tears welled in my eyes. I remember feeling that finally someone was playing my music. In that moment, I knew that "church music" was changed for the rest of my lifetime. Those albums, and the songs on them, were the first fruits of a crop of fresh worship that was to come from the UK, heralded most prominently by the worship leaders/songwriters Matt Redman and the incredible band Delirious1.

Delirious' leader singer and main songsmith, Martin Smith, has come full circle of that place - writing new songs from and for the local church. Reading a recent biography of Martin Smith, it sounds like he is stepped into a time of community in a local church plant in his native UK. It is from this seedbed of connection and community that Martin and his songs have re-emerged in this new album "God's Great Dance Floor: Step 1".

The opening track is a pop arranged song that stirs the worshiper with the appropriate title "Awake My Soul". Smith's voice and sensibilities jump right onto this album by bringing you into a place worship right from the start. The next song sounds like the 90s-captured sound from U2 inspired songs with the 16th note hihat and delayed electric guitar reverb setting the progressive groove of "The Fire Never Sleeps". In the midst if this upbeat celebration, Smith returns to his worship language of surrender, singing "burn oh my soul" out passionately and intensely.

"Back to the Start" is the third track, alternatively subtitled "God's Great Dance Floor". This song was the title track from the recent Passion conference live CD (and serves the same purpose here) done by Tomlin, Redman and Crowder to great effect. Here, Martin Smith gives us the crisp presentation of a tight arrangement, that has every bit as much energy as a "live" version. I really enjoyed this lengthy track that explodes into at least three different modes of energy and arrangements. Joy-filled and celebration-ready!

The album leans way back with "Waiting Here For You", a piano ballad in which Smith declares that he will wait for God, lift his hands and adore the Lord of all creation. With solemn "Alleluia" this song soars in peaceful surrender, the pop-ballad music gently percolating underneath the cleanly sung lyrics. A beautiful, glorious, song of surrender. Track five keeps the pensive mood, and opens up confession of brokenness and loss, ultimately reconciling such painful things in the providence of God to carry us through. Powerful. The track "Safe In Your Arms" is a prayer song, echoing the themes and lyrics from Psalm 23 with the resolution that "I am safe in Your arms". These last three songs form a deep pool of worship in the stream of this albums river of praise, perfectly fit in the mid-point of this experience.

Once making the corner passed "Safe In Your Arms", the tempo picks up once again, running into track 7 that overlays the metaphor from the old song "onward Christian soldiers" into a commitment song to encourage believers to surrender their lives and bring the love of God through acts of mercy and justice to the nations. While Smith is unafraid to use this metaphor, I wonder its usefulness in the international church today, which would be quite sensitive to this imagery being associated with Church.

The next track is called "Jesus of Nazareth", another song which seems like it is taken from a themed children's song, and turned into an "adult song", this time with full country/roots treatment of drums, guitar and even banjo, all plucking along to the cut time, until the very end where the song ends oddly with a rock exit. Track nine, "Catch Every Teardrop", sounds like a Christian radio heart-touch song, evoking both confession and prayer in this melodic and catchy tune. It would seem out of place on this largely worship-oriented project, but Smith draws on his already established thread of confession and prayer to make this fit and highlight his story-telling side. The last song uses allusions to David ("shepherd boy, singing to a choir of burning lights") mixed with Smith's personal call to sing to God and invite others into that song as a way to express "love is a fire!".

The entire album is delightful, starting with praise filled celebration, deep pools of worship and ending with songs of life and commitment to God's call. A thoughtful, engaging and uplifting project. Check it out!


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


1. I use the simple name Delirious in this article, though they were branded as "Deliriou5?" in their official marketing and naming.