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 Worshipmusic.com, 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. Worshipmusic.com 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.

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Playlist: Stand In Awe - Jeremy Riddle, Sheri Carr, Jan L'Ecuyer, Steve Jones, Charlie Hines (2007)

Does anyone remember what a worship CD is? The last several years, it seemed like the "Christian Music" industry had missed the point. Endless collections, remixed cover songs and CCM bands trying to detour into worship leading (but quickly moving back to performance model when the "worship thing" dried up) showed a clear misunderstanding of the foundations of what worship and praise was all about.

If you have felt (like me) disappointed by several popular CDs in the last few years, welcome you back to what a worship project should be- "Playlist: Stand In Awe" from Vineyard Music. One of the original vanguards of resourcing the church in worship, Vineyard has stayed true to its roots with great songs, while making continued strides in progressive musical production and sound with its arrangements and musicianship. The essence of a great worship song is its ability to resonate with the heart-cry of the worshiper. The "Stand In Awe" project is a wonderful set of worship songs that resonate clearly with followers of Christ.

From the opening song, Vineyard brings some of its best young voices singing its best new songs, presented with its best studio production values. Normally known for its great live recordings, Vineyard Music has its second studio production (following up from last year's "Sweetly Broken") that marks a new era of excellence for them under producer Casey Corum. Add to Casey's great production some outsanding vocals by Jeremy Riddle, Steve Jones and Charlie Hines and stellar guitar work by veteran Glenn Pearce, the mix on this CD glistens under any audiophile's microscope.

But it all begins with great songs, and this CD is chock full of them! From the infectious layered sounds of "Saving Grace" (with a live orchestra backing! Wow!) to the anthemic offerings "Stand In Awe" and "God of All Glory", to the prayer praises of "As It Is In Heaven" and "Throne of Grace", to the poured out devotional of "With All My Heart", this project has a lot to contribute your local church. Track four, "Christ is Exalted", even includes a beautiful song of Christ's life, appropriate for Christmas worship, or any time of year. No doubt contend that the title track "Stand In Awe" and "God Of All Glory" (both sung by Jeremy Riddle) will garner considerable attention from both churches and radio play alike.

But for this reviewer, all the songs mentioned thus far are supporting cast for one of the best songs presented to the church in the last ten years- "All I Have". This amazing song provides a simple, but infectiously untiring sound track for unashamed worshipers the world ‘round. To date, I have listened to this CD about 35-40 times. And yet, as I drove to work this morning, I still wept as I worshipped along with "All I Have" with the chorus echoing some of these lyrics:

"Jesus, all I have is You,
You're the hope I'm holding to...
As the heavens hold the skies,
It's Your hand that holds my life"

After receiving an advanced copy of this project just weeks ago, our church already has three of these songs in its repertoire ("Throne of Grace", "Stand In Awe" and "All I Have")! But of those songs, none has gripped people more profoundly than my new favorite song "All I Have". I am sure we will see this song redone by other CCM and worship artists, but here is your first chance to hear it and use it in your local church. A truly great offering!

In an era when music purchasers scarcely think it wise to buy an entire CD, Vineyard's new "Playlist: Stand In Awe" project is well worth it. A wise investment, providing both an amazing suite of songs and PDF chord and lyric charts to help local churches put the songs to immediate use.

Product Link Playlist: Stand in Awe / Vineyard Music

Review by Kim Anthony Gentes