Dluxe's World

Saturday, May 20

Review: Worship God Live (Sovereign Grace)

It seems that I'm constantly blogging about stuff which is entirely out of my area of expertise. That's at least partly due to the fact that I can only speak with authority on three things: Eating, Sleeping, and Music.

So, for once I'm playing from strength and posting a review of a CD.

Our church has been using music from the people at Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) since 2001ish. Their songwriting is marked with musical interest and theologically compelling text. In a musical landscape that can often lack depth, the SGM team are huge blessings! (The same could be said for the I-Grace folks, too!)

Therefore I was excited to to receive a copy of SGM's latest project, Worship God Live, which was recorded at Covenant Life Church over a couple evenings in early 2005.

Short summary: Those of you who know me will know that musical compliments are not easily wrenched from my lips. So when I say that the CD is fantastic, that should ring as high praise. Lemme breakdown my comments (briefly) into 4 areas:

Lyrical Content/Beauty: I approach worship theologically (and honestly think you should, too). I want to hear and sing things that preach to my heart about the God I am worshipping. The songwriting challenge is to write meaningful lyrics which remain both 'attainable' for the congregant and musically sensible. The tunes on this CD all balance that tipsy scale beautifully.

Here's a couple examples, just to give you a flavor of what I mean. First, check out this opening lyric from the song "Grace Unmeasured".
Grace unmeasured vast and free
That knew me from eternity,
That called me out before my birth
To bring You glory on this earth...

Grace amazing pure and deep
That saw me in my misery,
That took my curse and owned my blame
So I could bear Your righteous name.

The chorus which follows is, to me, one of those shivery, sublime musical moments... But that's another section of the review. Another wonderful lyric is the opening verse and chorus of the anthem-atic "Perfect Lamb of God":
The light of day was cloaked by night
And heaven closed its eyes
Wrath unspared for countless sins
The guiltless crucified
Hands of kindness driven through
Back on splintered beam
The holy curtain torn in two
Atonement made for me.

Hail the perfect Lamb of God
A kingly ransom paid
When You, my Lord, were slain
Love unrivaled, here displayed
Calls my heart to praise
The perfect Lamb of God

Just... Beautiful... I've walked into the office with red eyes more than a couple times because I was just singing that song in the car.

Music Performance/Musicianship: One fun memory of college was recording demo cuts for music company arrangements aimed at junior and senior high music programs. I learned that a good band can make even mediocre/simple music sounds pretty good. Excellent musicians almost always make excellent records.

In this regard, the teams Sovereign Grace recorded really are something. It's obvious that CovLife has drawn some very individually talented players. Yet the musicians each understand the specific role they have to play in the ensemble and execute it wonderfully. This maturity, displayed in serving musically rather than showing off, is an encouragement and makes for a wonderful recording.

Musical Composition: I spent a fair amount of time praising the lyrics of these tunes, but the melodies and arrangements are wonderful. Every melody is singable, catchy, and elevates the lyric (which is the whole point, according to Russell Murray*). The two songs I mentioned previously, "Grace Unmeasured" and "Perfect Lamb of God", are standouts in this regard. Another highlight is a resetting of "O God Our Help in Ages Past" by Mark Altrogge.

I would also urge you to check out the wonderful string arranging in "Surrender All" as well as a absolutely sublime female vocal lead. You can click here for samples of all these tunes!

Production: It's nice to have a worship album that's not over-produced... The production work here is tasteful and simple. Each part has a voice in the mix and the assembled whole is clear, clean, and relatively even.

One of the things that makes Sovereign Grace so cool is their servant hearts... All the sheet music for the songs (lead and piano sheets) are available for free download from the store. As I mentioned before, they've also posted song snippets that play a full verse and chorus. What an awesome service to the 'rest of us'... especially for prepping for rehearsal!

I could find a couple things to gripe about if pressed, though I'd really be nitpicking. In the interest of being 'fair and balanced', I'll throw 'em out there: In one tune, the backup vocal fills are a little overdone for my taste, though your mileage may vary. There's also a couple spots with exposed vocals where it sounds like they tried fix something (tuning, perhaps?) in post and the result is a 'warble-y' sound. Because of the otherwise sharp production, these jump out to the ear.

Nitpicking aside, I would highly and eagerly recommend this CD to anyone who wants a little worship music in their library. For a church worship leader who's looking to add some meaningful news songs to their book, this CD will provide plenty of tunes for the future. We've been listening since early March and have already added 4 of the tunes to our set lists. And I'm confident that three or four more will be added in short order.

Congratulations to Bob and the Sovereign Grace team on such a beautiful offering! And thanks to them for blessing us with the fruits of their ministry!

*Russell Murray taught my first music history class in college and was a great friend... I remember at least a week's worth of lectures on text painting and the relation of music to text. Given the rarity of music blogging on here, I thought the shout-out was appropriate. So, here's to you 'remurray'!

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2 Comments:

  • If you're in the business of lending out your CDs, I'd love to take a listen and see if I can observe the same excellences that you have!

    By Blogger PatL, at 9:05 AM, May 22, 2006  

  • If you're in the business of lending out your CDs...

    You have to pry it out of Eva's CD player first.

    Don't forget, you can give a listen to samples here.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 10:22 PM, May 22, 2006  

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