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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 integrity music (2)

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).

Revealing Jesus - Darlene Zschech (2013)

[Free Song Download "God Is Here" from Darlene Zschech- see at the bottom of the review.]

 We all know the song "Shout to the Lord". We all know that Darlene Zschech was its author and that she was the well-known face and voice of Hillsong Australia worship leadership for two decades.  After hearing she would be putting out a new live worship album, I was interested to hear it. Later, I heard Israel Houghton would be producing and I knew it would be a stellar musical experience. Well, I finally listened to the album. WOW!

Houghton's production and Zschech's voice would be enough for a great musical experience, but that is just the beginning here! In addition to combing the talents of these two musical Grammy winners, this album contains great songwriting/co-writing efforts, great guest vocals and the entire project is wrapped up in Darlene's genuine gifting as a worship leader. I went through this album several times. At first, I was just listening for great songs. But you can't listen long to this project before you are pulled (or hurled may be a better metaphor) into all out praise, celebration and worship.

Right from the first track, Darlene jumps into her trademark declarative, yet worshipful posture as one who is heralding an entire congregation to lift Jesus high and to acknowledge that "God Is Here". I was expecting to have to dig into the album before hitting the deep groove and great choruses, but no way! "God Is Here" is infectious and courageous-- a kind of call-to-worship song that is destined to be one of the new songs the global church will sing. Unashamed and anthemic, this song isn't fluffy proclamation, but is a powerful reflection of the Lord's prayer put into emphatic song calling on the Holy Spirit to open the gates of heaven, bring His Kingdom and His glory. The bridge is a powerful compliment to the verse/chorus prayer and answer pairing- it humbly ascents the powerful truth echoed by every creature or human to encounter the unshielded presence of the Living God as they sing "Holy, we cry holy. Hallelujah God is here!". Really, folks, this is a truly great song. A wonderful co-write by Darlene, Israel and Phil Wickham. Check this one out! You won't be disappointed!

Track 2, "Best For Me", is a rocket ship that takes off from the launch pad that "God Is Here" ends with! Israel and Meleasa Houghton write this driving song of worship, surrender and testimony and it is has all the energy you'd expect from an upbeat song from Israel. Moving into "All That We Are", another Israel co-written song with more "oohs" and lots of pop, driving bass and infectious melodies. Like many songs on this album, there is a great pop-choral backdrop to these vocals, often singing "ooohs" but doing great BGVs on all the songs is a list of stellar voices - and they sound amazing on this album.

Track 4, "In Jesus' Name", is the fourth upbeat song in the upfront section of this project and it doesn't let up the great music and melodies. Another great song from Darlene and Israel. What is most powerful about this song, though, is Darlene's amazingly personal and poignant interjection at around 5:30 in this track. Vamping down temporarily into the song bridge, she starts speaking about letting the words and scripture sink in deep to the hearts of people, letting them become prayers. And she does just that, she encourages people to let the words be sung over them. It is an unnerving song to listen to at this point. Darlene does with this song something more than affect, but tugs at the eternal longing in all of us for the consummation of God's kingdom in fullness, in a way that is reminiscent of what CS Lewis spoke about in The Weight of Glory

"In speaking of this desire...I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both."1

With this song, Darlene opens up the listener to this kind of surrender and opportunity to connect and understand the nearness of God and His desire for His people. As someone who has been touched by the pain of cancer in the lives of people I love, this song made me come to tears as I prayed for family and friends who are suffering from physical sickness and pain. I found this song to be a sound track for such prayer, asking for God's healing and calling on him for resolution of His kingdom to defeat such pain in our lives.

With the fifth track, the album takes an steep and intentional decrescendo from tempo and volume only, not from excellence. "Your Presence is Heaven To Me" is one of my favorite songs on this project. After the first four songs, you are ready for something "down", and this song is just as endearing, in its own way, as the others that have come before. Like many of the other tracks, Israel's voice takes temporary lead on a phrase and stanza here and there, making this seem much less of a "solo" project than the title of the album might imply. This song is another Israel Houghton songwriting effort along with Micah Massey. The music and lyrics are perfectly matched, as they sing plaintiff surrender in the verse into anthemic thanks in the chorus :

Nothing in this world can satisfy
'Cause Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry
Oh Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry

Oh Jesus Your presence is heaven to me
Oh Jesus Your presence is heaven to me

"Victor's Crown" is the next track and becomes the biggest anthem on this album. Starting softly, it builds into gigantic declaration of sound and lyrics that ascends to pray in mid song that anything that comes against Christ will be brought down in light of seeing Christ receive his victor's crown. This song adds a huge drum part, a gorgeous strings section and emphatic bridge declaring "You will overcome" to Christ. Very good!

After listening through half the album, you might be tempted to believe that the good songs are all done. You'd be wrong! This project contains an unbelievably well arranged, played and integrated set of songs that are comprised of an older Hillsong repertoire song (Magnificent, track 8), a rearranged hymn (My Jesus, I Love Thee, track 9), an excellent modern chorus (Your Name/P.Baloche, track 10), a deep worship song (I Am Yours/MW Smith, track 11) and a great closing song (Jesus At The Center/Houghton, track 12). If you have the special CD/DVD limited version of this it also includes versions of "Shout to the Lord" and "Agnus Dei"!

I would have to write pages more to completely explain this album. Instead, I can just give this recommendation. Go now. Get it. Really. I thought I had already heard some great albums this year, but this one is simply on another level in both musical production and a complete worship experience. This album easily gets my nod as "Editor's Choice Album" and is currently my top candidate for this years best album. I can't imagine anything beating it out, but it is still early in the year. But don't take my word for it- go listen to the audio samples online.

For churches using, all of the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio from this album 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:

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

Go check out this album folks. I am not kidding. It's ballistic.


Worshiping God!

Kim Gentes


Free Song Download "God Is Here" from the latest Darlene Zschech album "Revealing Jesus"

God Is Here
written by Darlene Zschech,Israel Houghton & Phil Wickham
Sung by Darlene Zschech

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


1. Lewis, C. S. (2009-06-03). Weight of Glory (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewi) (Kindle Locations 298-302). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.