All About Our New Album, Without Our Aid

Zac HicksConvergence of Old and New in Worship, History of Worship and Church Music, Hymns Movement News & Reviews, Songwriting, Worship Theology & ThoughtLeave a Comment

RELEASING TUESDAY, 9.13.11

Without Our Aid is the second full-length release of Zac Hicks + Cherry Creek Worship, out of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver, CO.  Their debut album, The Glad Sound, was their first hymns project, released in 2009, and between that time and the present, Zac has contributed to three other compilation projects with Cardiphonia: The Psalms of Ascents (March 2010) , Hymns of Faith: Songs for the Apostles’ Creed(October 2010), and Pentecost Songs (June 2011).

VISION

Without Our Aid is an experiment in songwriting for the sake of building bridges between two current camps in modern church music—the so-called “hymns/rehymn movement” and mainstream modern evangelical worship.  The album’s aim is to combine the energy and vitality of the modern worship sound (made most popular by groups like Passion and Hillsong), with the depth, theology, and historical connectedness of Christian hymnody across time.  From a songwriting perspective, the two do not easily go together: hymns are usually written in through-composed verses, while modern worship songs tend to have three and sometimes even four unique sections (verses, choruses, bridges, and “surprise” refrains or endings).  Though hymn purists might decry the liberties taken in bending and arranging the original hymn-texts, and though modern worship connoisseurs may consider the texts too verbose and archaic, our passion for greater growth and unity convinces us that Without Our Aid is a unique and worthwhile project.

STYLE & PRODUCTION

The goal of Without Our Aid was to create an album which sounded live in order to capture that more tangible “moment” of corporate worship.  It is not a live album in the true sense, mostly because our current setting does not have the bandwidth to be able to pull off a live recording.  However, the recording was pieced together in the “live” setting of our reverberant, 900-seat, traditional sanctuary, employing ambient mic techniques for all the major instruments.  A backing choir of approximately 20-30 voices sang through the album multiple times; those sessions ended up being powerful times of worship themselves.
Stylistically, Without Our Aid is best characterized as a “modern arena-worship” record—big drums, driving electric guitars, layered synths, crowd noise, and a live “congregational” sound.

TITLE

The title, Without Our Aid, is from the second line of one of the album’s feature songs, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Psalm 100),” which reads:

Know that the LORD is God indeed

Without our aid He did us make

We are His folk, He doth us feed

And for His sheep He doth us take

It is a statement about the posture of the album as a whole.  The good news of Jesus Christ begins with our acknowledgement that we are helpless and that God accomplishes all He does “without our aid.”  Every song seeks to make much of Christ and point to the beauty and power of His gospel.

IMAGERY

The images are composites from original photography of the Berlin airlift in post-World War II Germany.  The scenes depicted are of Berliners, having been cut off from supplies by the Soviets, receiving “aid from above,” with large planes dropping a few tons of cargo into the city at a time.  The album’s cover is a blend of two iconic photos depicting the helplessness of the people amidst war-torn rubble, juxtaposed with the joy at the arrival of aid.  The people to the left are chanting, rejoicing—nearly “worshiping.”  The raised hands of that group are intended as a double-entendre of common modern worship album imagery of the congregation in the live worship setting.

The photography symbolically conveys our utter depravity and need of God’s aid from above through Christ.  Unless aid comes down, we will perish.  The entire album is black-and-white, save the color red, the color of blood, sacrifice, and aid.  The main Christ-symbol is the red plane.  All of these symbols summarize one of the main themes of the album—the gospel of the saving work of Christ, superintended by the Father, applied by the Holy Spirit.

TRACK FLOW

The order of the tracks is very intentional.  The album is meant to flow, from top to bottom, like a worship service.  On the back of the album, the headings over each song or song-section help illustrate the Trinitarian flow and structure of the album’s “liturgy.”  View the back of the album.

“All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Psalm 100)” is the winner of the Church of the Servant 2010 New Psalm Contest.

“Firm and Unmoved are They (Psalm 125)” was part of a collaborative project of setting the Psalms of Ascents to new music, hosted by Cardiphonia.

“Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”is probably the one stylistic departure from the rest of the album.  It’s genre is best described as “disco-rock,” and is intended to convey the freeing joy of Christ’s salvation and all its benefits.

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