WL SongDISCovery then and now

Way back when, I had the pleasure and honor of reviewing some new “contemporary worship” CDs for Worship Leader Magazine. (I would have kept doing it, but then a new editor had new ideas, and presumably new friends he wanted to do the reviews. You get the picture.) About four years ago, I shared two of the WL reviews I wrote, and I’m planning to post a few more in the coming weeks as I ponder . . .

  • the progression of my personal, inward responses to congregational music
  • the progression of contemporary music overall, insofar as I’m able to assess it from my small corner.

This was my review of Maranatha! Music’s “Praise 19” album Glorious Father:

This is vintage Maranatha! . . . artful, authentic music through which the radiant, reigning Lord of All is worshipped.

The well-chosen lead song, “I Lift Up My Head,” has an irresistible melody. Geoff Bullock’s captivating “I Will Never Be the Same Again” (also on WL’s Song DISCovery, Vol. 13) will touch sincere hearts for quite a while. In “How I Long,” I feel the longing; the dynamic melodic contour evokes hunger to be in the Presence of the Glorious One and the Lamb. The title track and a few others have a little too much sheen to shine, but I appreciate the sensitive, heartfelt update of “Give Me Jesus,” which I first knew as an a cappella choral piece. Though it and “Nothing Can Separate Us” aren’t really in keeping with the album theme, I listened to them repeatedly. The hallelujahs at the end of “From Everlasting to Everlasting” are a wonderful, fitting touch.

I’m not sure a mere intellectual belief in a Glorious Father does one much good in the here and now. Ushering us from such detachment into a more thoroughgoing sense of utter worship — and containing perhaps the most intoxicating lyrics on the record — is “As You Truly Are”: And now burning within is a desire to see You as never before / I want to see You more exalted / … / I want to see You as You truly are.

Let me see the Father that way. And let me be changed. – Brian Casey

~ ~ ~

<em.Worship Leader, for those who don’t know, is a bimonthly, multi-denominational magazine published by Chuck Fromm (who, incidentally, received his doctorate from Fuller a few years after the inaugural issue). It features well-known pastor-types, a scholar or incisive author here & there, a lot of contemporary worship music, and very little worship music that has stood the test of decades or centuries. The magazine emphasizes how-to articles and is accompanied by Song DISCovery CDs that purport to publicize and/or release to the general evangelical public some of the best new worship music.

My understanding is that I was one of a handful of people who had all of the first 50+ issues of WL and Song DISCovery by subscription. Apparently my name got on all three demo/sample lists, whereas others only received one of the first three. At any rate, I was a loyal subscriber for years, then let my sub lapse, then picked it up, then let it lapse again. At some point, the magazine’s offerings weren’t speaking to me as much — owing mostly to judgments related to my deepening scripture investigations, as well as my decreasing tolerance for pop culture — and I couldn’t maintain interest.

However, the last two CD issues I received (early 2013) did have some songs worthy of attention. First, some negative attention for a really bad song:

Heaven On Earth

Oh, oh, Heaven,

Heaven on earth,

Oh, oh, Heaven on earth!

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

His anointing is empowering

The kingdom of the Lord is within me

And He’s calling me to the heavenlies

Words & music by David Binion/John Brockman/Joshua Dufrene

© 2009 Integrity Worship Music (adm by EMI Christian Music Publishing)/Covenant Worship Group (adm by EMI Christian Music Publishing)/Integrity’s Praise! Music (adm by EMI Christian Music Publishing)/Soul Jive Music (adm by Moon & Musky Music). All rights reserved. CCLI # 5779424

I can’t stomach even re-posting the rest of these words. This song strikes me as mere feel-good, ethereal effervescence with little logical or truly scriptural foundation. I daresay the writers of this song has less basis for their “heavenology” than I, and that’s not very much. What in the world is “Heaven on earth” for them? It certainly forms a musically exclamatory punctuate, but the thoughts here are vacuous. And how dare a writer or singer so carelessly re-appropriate a prophecy Jesus took for Himself, claiming a similar anointing and empowering. God may indeed be calling this worshipper to “the heavenlies,” but he ought to know what he’s singing about, and I somehow doubt he does.

Another song on this CD, Song DISCovery vol. 106, is titled “When Amidst the Storm I’m Shaken.” It’s a faith-filled song that I think I would sing in private devotional time if some of the syllabic accents weren’t misplaced. Still, these are very attrctive, worthwhile thoughts.

Here, finally, is a song I find quite worthy, sung by the hauntingly pleasing voice of one Stephanie Tipton (who nevertheless capitulates to hiccupped stylings over good phrasing). It may be no accident that one is drawn to words that are two centuries old. These words merit contemplation — and grateful, adoring prayer.

Here Is Love

Here is love vast as the ocean.

Lovingkindness as a flood,

When the Prince of Life — our Ransom —

Shed for us His precious blood

On the mount of crucifixion–

Fountains opened deep and wide —

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide

Grace and love like mighty rivers

Poured incessant from above

Heaven’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He will never be forgotten

Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days. . . .

Words and music by Robert S. Lowery/William Edwards/William Ree.

© 2012 HNW Music/Public Domain

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