Friday, May 24, 2013

Jesus, Firm Foundation: Hymns of Worship



Remakes hymns for a new generation just as 2nd Chapter of Acts did many years ago

Jesus, Firm Foundation: Hymns of Worship
Various Artists
Label: Provident
Length: 12 tracks/51:09 minutes

When the 2nd Chapter of Acts released Hymns (1986), it became their best-selling release and received a Dove Award for “Best Praise and Worship Album of the Year” in 1987. It set the bar high for the many similar recordings that followed. What makes it somewhat unique is that it appealed to fans of both pop and inspirational music.

Now come with me to 2013 and the release of Jesus, Firm Foundation: Hymns of Worship. A number of popular artists take turns creatively remaking a classic hymn. The appeal is clearly for those who like pop/rock. Guitars are in the forefront, and those looking for more traditional interpretations are better served elsewhere. Even so, each artist is respectful of the material; in particular, when words are added to create a bridge or chorus where none existed. Purists might not like this idea, but it modernizes and adds a new element. This succeeds from start to finish in making a classic sound fresh. 

It opens strongly with Mike Donehey (Tenth Avenue North), Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) and Mandisa trading vocals on “Jesus, Firm Foundation.” It works so well that I wonder if the release could have been benefited from other collaborations. As it is, each of the other hymns is handled by a separate artist.

As much as I might enjoy the resurrection of obscure but lyrically rich texts, this is a collection of widely-known standards. These artists are building on a firm foundation.

Aside from enjoying hymn releases, I wanted to review this for the opportunity of hearing Nichole Nordeman, who has not had a studio release of new material since Brave (2005). Most likely, she has been busy with parenting. She, Matt Maher (who continues to rise in my estimation) and Chris Stevens wrote a full set of stanzas to Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus. This will especially appeal to those who feel somewhat shattered by the world (who doesn’t at times?). The lyrics repeatedly encourage listeners to turn in their brokenness to Christ. Song writing has always been one of Nordeman’s strengths, and she does not disappoint, even if the music is not as compelling. I hope she continues to enrich us with her gifts.

Michael W. Smith packs several songs worth of creativity into “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” This is an effective blend of styles, which showcases his skill as a composer and arranger without taking away from the song. Kari Jobe’s singing is just right on “Be Still My Soul (In You I Trust),” which makes me want to discover more of her music. The power in the original lines remains undiminished.

One of the most interesting arrangements is “Nothing but the Blood,” by Andy Cherry. It is clearly informed by the new folk sound (Mumford & Sons immediately comes to mind). It closes with a brief instrumental segment, which is my favorite part.


It would be easy to comment further on the rest of the recording. Suffice it to say that this is worth getting if you want to experience the richness of hymns in a modern setting. Like 2nd Chapter’s Hymns, it shows the value of remaking classic songs.
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