If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that, even at the relative beginning of my career as a pastor and worship leader, I want to be a part of God’s work in mentoring and raising up the next generation of pastors and worship leaders. Every other week, I meet with a bright young man, Robert, who I believe God is calling to ministry in some capacity. Every once in a while, we have an assignment. This one was for Robert to use some of the analytical tools we’ve been discussing to review a new worship album. I encouraged him to review the important criteria for choosing worship songs and to take a look at some of my reviews. After processing a few drafts, this is what Robert produced. He did a great job. Feel free to comment!
I like to say that this album is a cotton candy album. It is sweet and good but its volume is largely disproportionate to its density. Jesus Culture itself is actually a series of conferences which started in 1999. Out of these conferences came the Jesus Culture music which has its sights on sparking a revival of God-fearing, Jesus-glorifying Christians on a global scale. Come Away is a live album.
The music in the album was comfortably overshadowed by the lyrics. The musical arrangements never distracted from the text being sung. Towards the beginning of the album the music felt one-dimensional and wasn’t a whole lot to write home about. However, there was a noticeable progression in the complexity of the music as the album played. The first track kicked the album off with a repetitive, four-on-the-floor rhythm accompanying solid, down-stroking guitar chords. The 4/4 with down-strokes lingered with nearly the entire album broken up by a few of the songs which had dynamic rhythm, volume and guitar riffs such as track three, “You Are My Passion” (one of the two strongest tracks). The album closed with a pointed rhythm and a lightly syncopated vocal refrain. This closing track felt the strongest of all ten tracks. Mostly because the much repeated refrain was musically interesting enough to keep from becoming monotonous, but at the same time not so interesting that it was distracting from the words. Come Away’s music felt typical of most modern worship: sincere, bright and easy to pick up for Sunday morning.
In the textual territory, the album was full of strong and largely vertical worship lyrics (vertical worship=talking to God; horizontal worship=talking to creation about God) . One could step behind these lyrics and worship with them sincerely. However, they did not really delve into fresh aspects of God’s glory. The album was full of a lot of stock “christianese” such as, “Come into my heart,” and, “You’re so amazing, God.” I mean that not to say that they did a bad job, but rather that they only said what one would expect. My other critique for the text of the album is that the words are extremely “seven-eleven-ish” (one phrase repeated over and over). This is not bad, however there is a demographic which finds it difficult to worship with such repetition. There is nothing within the lyrics which is theologically unsound or out of context (both biblical context and contextually with the rest of the lyrics: no random, disjointed phrases). Some of my favorite lyrics on the album were from track six, “Freedom Reigns,” which talks about the freedom gained from Christ. The song’s refrain is,
If you’re tired and thirsty, there is freedom
Give your all to Jesus, there is freedom.
These lyrics stuck out to me particularly because they draw a synonymous line between God’s grace and freedom. Most of the words are pointed directly at God, praying for Him to bring a passion for Christ to the youth of this generation. All in all, the text is solid.
As a final summation, Come Away is an album full of good 2-3 minute worship songs. Unfortunately, every song was an average length of 7:45. This made the songs feel overly repetitive and “fluffy” (except for the final track, “One Thing Remains”). I like the album and commend Jesus Culture for their work in bringing this music to the table