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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 christmas (7)

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


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


Light Has Come: Advent EP - Worship Together (2012)

Advent is not a word you hear outside of traditional and denominational Christian settings a lot.  But as the recent millenium has brought so many changes, we see much of the non-traditional and non-liturgical church groups reaching into the ancient traditions of the Christian church and mining the wisdom of our forebearers in the faith. Advent literally means "coming" and refers to the season of weeks that precede the celebrated birth of Christ and God's coming earth in the flesh as the Emmanuel (literally "God with us").  The Advent as a Christian season of reverence and anticipation was only exceeded in importance by the reflective season of Lent that leads up to the holy week of the death and resurrection of Christ.

Musical worship of advent often focuses on the anticipation of the coming savior, the light rising in the darkness of this world, and preparation of our hearts for His appearing.  It is in that spirit that the recent EP "Light Has Come" seems to present it’s finely crafted songs for the Advent season.

WorshipTogether releases the "Light Has Come" EP with six modern worship songs that focus on the light, hope, glory and joy of the advent season not by headlining it with artists. Instead it chose to release a compact collection of very focused songs from its songwriters, keeping the arrangements and presentation accessible and reproducible for churches.  Recorded crisply, but with the songs as the focus, one gets the idea this was meant more as a resource to churches coming to Advent than to consumers looking for radio hits.

In fact, even the keys and arrangements of the songs flow seamlessly from one song to another. I was able to sit down with my guitar and play along with each and every song the first time through. Five of the 6 songs were keyed either in F or C (very complimentary keys), making it great to use these songs together in a worship set.

Let’s dive into the songs.

The first song "Let The World Sing Gloria" is a modern song rendering language and context for the traditional phrase "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (which is Latin for "Glory to God in the highest"). Musically, it is an ebbing verse, vaulting chorus and rising bridge which brings the ancient phrase to life.  Melodic, well written lyrics and hook laden chorus, this is the best song on the EP. You really should consider this song for the upcoming season- it is excellent!

"Newborn King" is the second track and gives a medium tempo groove to celebrating the coming of the Christ child. Again the musical affinity is crisply acoustic/rock and easy to incorporate into a modern worship set. The lyrics continue to be the language of advent and anticipatory Christmas season. Another good candidate for your Sunday mornings.

The title track "Light Has Come" is a country-ish sounding ballad that reminds me of something from Vineyard Music's "roots worship" sound with Ryan Delmore- somewhere between acoustic/pop and Mumford & Sons. Lyrically, the song focuses a modern spin on the story of Jesus' light come to the broken and weak of our earthly society and bringing God's glory through such humility.

Track five is the pop-driven "End of Exile", the most progressive recording on this collection. Well done, this song soars on power-chords flooding the chorus. It is comprised of a terse lyrical style, leaving lithe phrases such as its compact chorus:

Glorious miracle here is the end of exile
God the invisible flooding the world with light

Definitely a song to look at for the Advent season.

I will leave tracks 4 and 6 to the reader to discover, as they are laid out simply and clearly in easily reproduced arrangements and keys.

Overall, I found the Advent EP "Light Has Come" to be delightful. I especially loved tracks 1, 2 and 5, as noted above and would recommend them to any church looking for new music for the season.  

"Light Has Come" find it at Amazon or iTunes

For those who use online planning, you can also find the songs from this album, the full audio, chord charts and lyrics online in

If you are wondering where you might find some great new songs for the Christmas/Advent season, and you are in contemporary worship context, you should definitely consider the songs on this new album from WorshipTogether, "Light Has Come".


worshiping Him!

Kim Gentes


A Living Room Christmas - Sean & Aimee Dayton (2011)

One thing most of us can remember is the singing of carols during the Christmas season. Even if we aren't musical, the simple joy of listening to songs which retell both the story of Christ and the joy of the season opens us up to dig deeper into the heart of what it means to give.

As I poured over a number of new Christmas albums this season, I found one acoustic album that highlighted the warmth and heartfelt joy of the season for myself and my family- A Living Room Christmas. This new project from Sean & Aimee Dayton is exactly what the title promises- a pensive wrapping of traditional Christmas classics in the warmth of a living room with acoutic guitar, light percussion, occasional violin, and even the playful sound of a banjo for one song.  And while the feel of the songs range from deep devotion to fun, every song is graced by the georgeous voices of these two equally warm-toned worshipers.

I found myself lifting my heart in worship as this project led me on a worshipful journey of waiting and asking for Christ (in "Do You Hear What I Hear", "O Come O Come Emmanuel"), procliming the newborn declaration ("The First Noel", "Angels We Have Heard On High"), and bursting forward in all out praise ("Joy To The World"). Weaved into this family worship experience are some seasonal favorites that stay pensive and warm-hearted ("White Christmas", "Winter Wonderland").

This is a wonderful Christmas project, done with skill, while remaining appropriately understated on arrangements and instrumentation to retain a warm "living room" glow. Add to the Dayton's skilful vocals is Brian Doerksen guest vocals on "Silent Night" as well as a track from Paul Baloche ("The First Noel") and the album is a treasure of its own for this Christmas season. I highly recommend you consider this project for your Christmas collections!

Free Song Download from "A Living Room Christmas"


O Come O Come Emmanuel
verions by Sean & Aimee Dayton

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


Now that you have sampled part of this great album, I strongly encourage you to get the entire album. You can get a copy of the album yourself at :

A Living Room Christmas 


Review by Kim Gentes 


Christmas In Ivory - Ed Kerr (2011)

Christmas brings out nearly everyone in the music world. Renditions here and there, all styles and all kinds of remakes of classic songs.

What comes as a respite for me is the simplicity and beauty of music played in the excellence of a grand piano.  Ed Kerr is the veteran musician, songwriter and composer that has been gracing the Christian and worship music world for over 20 years.

Recently, I have been listening to eight classic Christmas songs and enjoying the sounds of the piano as crafted by Ed Kerr. His new release, "Christmas In Ivory", takes the iconic songs of the season and places them to inventive but classicly framed arrangements.

Are you looking for a fresh new album of Christmas music that you can put on and enjoy for hours? "Christmas in Ivory" is my recommendation for you. But don't take my word for it- check out the free song below, which is one track from Ed's album. 

Free Song Download from "Christmas In Ivory"


The First Noel
arranged by Ed Kerr

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


Now that you have sampled part of this great album, I strongly encourage you to get the entire album. You can get a copy of the album yourself at :

Christmas In Ivory (CD)
Christmas In Ivory
 (MP3 Album)

For musicians or churches interested in incorporating some of these great song arrangements in their own contexts, there is also a full digital songbook available at the same page.


Review by Kim Gentes