Jars of Clay take Shelter in community

Jars of Clay - The Shelter

Jars of Clay: The Shelter, Essential

The latest effort from these Grammy/Dove award winning veterans is focused on community. So for this album, they invited friends to join them in both writing and performing folk, acoustic and rock songs. The results are intimate, profound and original.

The Shelter features appearances from 15 fellow artists, including: Brandon Heath, Third Day’s Mac Powell, Amy Grant, Sara Groves, and Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North.

Highlights here include ‘Out of My Hands,’ about letting God be God; ‘Small Rebellions,’ about random acts of kindness and living out our faith; mid-tempo rocker ‘Eyes Wide Open’; and the anthemic title track, where Dan Hasletine sings: “The tears aren’t ours alone, let them fall into the hands that hold us.”

delirious? Farewell Show, Survivor/Furious

There have been many great live albums and greatest hit projects from delirious? over their 17 years as a band. But this Blu-ray release, recorded live in London, is probably their best. It is an emotional journey through the band’s catalogue of music, captured at their final concert.

It is like a trip down memory lane for the modern worship movement, as they perform live renditions of ‘Happy Song,’ ‘Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble,’ ‘Thank You for Saving Me’ and ‘Shout to the North.’

Highlights include the return of original drummer Stew Smith for a drum duet on ‘Investigate’; and the high octane versions of ‘Rain Down,’ ‘Deeper’ and ‘Solid Rock.’

The album concludes with all of the Delirious family – wives and children included – gathered onstage for the final bow, making the whole experience feel intimate and personal. But the true gem to be found here is in the extras: the acoustic worship ‘Cutting Edge Show.’

WOW Hits 2011, EMI/Sony/Word

Featuring 30 songs on two CDs, this compilation marks the 16th two-disc release in the platinum-selling series that compiles the best songs from today’s top Christian artists.

This time around features Casting Crowns’ ‘Until The Whole World Hears’; TobyMac’s ‘Get Back Up’; Third Day’s ‘Born Again’; Amy Grant’s ‘Better than a Hallelujah’; and Steven Curtis Chapman’s ‘Heaven is the Face.’

These veterans appear alongside several talented newcomers. The highlights include Francesca Battistelli’s ‘Beautiful Beautiful’; Tenth Avenue North’s ‘Healing Begins’; Needtobreathe’s ‘Lay ‘em Down’; Brandon Heath’s ‘Love Never Fails’; and Matthew West’s ‘My Own Little World.’

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: A Tribute to The Cathedral Quartet, Gaither

This high energy and spirited southern gospel quartet go back to their roots to cover songs from the Cathedrals – the group that first inspired them to sing.

It’s fitting that this group, which has helped to break down the traditional walls of their genre, would choose to honour the music of this legendary quartet.

Although they stay true to the melodies and harmonies that made these songs great, they offer them up with some dixieland, mariachi, a cappella and good ol’ gospel renditions. Highlights on this 21-song disk include ‘Wedding Music,’ ‘This Ole House/When the Saints Go Marching In’ and ‘Oh, What a Saviour.’

Musicians offer CompassionArt to restore hope

CompassionArt, Sparrow / EMI

Compassion Art CoverCompassionArt is described as “a charity that joins the dots between art and poverty… restoring hope and igniting justice.”

In January 2008, project founder Martin Smith and various Christian music luminaries crafted songs during a retreat in Scotland. Soon after, at Abbey Road studios in London, the vocals were recorded.

The resulting CD/DVD package features 14 new songs and a 50-minute documentary; all proceeds from the songs go directly to combat poverty worldwide.

Standout tracks include ‘Come to the Water,’ ‘There is Always a Song’ and ‘You Have Shown Us.’ The only downside is that the diversity of artists — including Kirk Franklin, Amy Grant, CeCe Winans, Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche and Steven Curtis Chapman — makes for a somewhat disjointed effort. compassionart.tv

Newsboys: In the Hands of God, InPop

Expectations were high for the Newsboys’ 13th studio album. Their first one in three years, it marks the last with Peter Furler as lead singer.

It’s a little odd to listen to a new album that only has current lead singer Michael Tait doing backing vocals on a few tracks. There are a handful of great songs, like ‘The Way We Roll’ and ‘Glorious.’

Furler’s vocals are in top form here, but his songwriting lacks the wit we have come to expect, despite co-writing with Steve Taylor. Some songs come across as a little serious and dull; and it wasn’t necessary for one lyric to refer to Celine Dion’s music as “the soundtrack of Hell.” In addition to that misstep, the total length of 37 minutes left me feeling a little short changed. newsboys.com

Mandisa: Freedom, Sparrow

One of the most successful Christian artists to be discovered on American Idol , Mandisa returns with her sophomore album — one of the best of the year. Standouts include ‘My Deliverer,’ ‘Not Guilty’ and ‘Definition of Me.’ Ballads showcase Mandisa’s amazing vocal abilities — especially on ‘You Wouldn’t Cry (Andrew’s Song),’ written for a friend whose baby boy was stillborn.

Stellar production by Chris Stevens (tobyMac) and Brown Bannister (Amy Grant), and co-songwriters such as Cindy Morgan, Ronnie Freeman and Matthew West, make this a perfect pop record — with lyrical substance. mandisaofficial.com

Jonny Diaz: More Beautiful You , INO Records

Diaz has a hit with this debut, offering intelligent acoustic pop. At times, this singer/songwriter reminds me of Chris Rice, with his witty — yet profound — storytelling. The title track is getting abundant radio play, with a much-needed message about self-image, inward beauty and self-worth.

Songs like ‘Stand for You’ show that the catchy pop hooks here are equally matched with insightful lyrics: “In a world that tries to water You down / Where beliefs cannot be spoken too loud / I’ll stand for truth / Where they claim Your way isn’t wide enough / And they do their best just to cover You up / I’ll stand for You.”

Other gems here are ‘See The Wind,’ ‘Prodigal Like Me’ and the bonus song, ‘The Opener’ — a hilarious take on being an opening artist for a big touring star.

jonnydiaz.com

Third Day’s Revelations ‘snapshot’ is a must-have

Third Day Revelation

Third Day will soon play to thousands of fans in Abbotsford

Third Day: Live Revelations, Essential

THE 35-city spring leg of Third Day’s ‘Revelation Tour’ will conclude May 9, as they become the first act to appear at Abbotsford’s new Entertainment & Sports Centre. Also onstage will be double-Grammy nominee Brandon Heath; and Revive, a new Australian band.

Mac Powell and the guys will be offering some classics, alongside new hits like ‘Call My Name’ – and the title track from their critically acclaimed 10th CD,Revelation.

That album was this year’s Dove Award winner for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year; this makes an even two dozen Doves for this talented group. The band has also racked up 26 No. 1 radio singles, three Grammy Awards and an American Music Award.

The newLive Revelations CD/DVD, rather than going with your typical live concert footage and placing token backstage footage in the extras, offers up a 75-minute documentary. It seamlessly blends the powerful Third Day concert experience with exclusive behind-the-scenes moments, truly giving an ‘all access’ glimpse into the lives of the band.

Both the CD and DVD give only a ‘snapshot’ of their typical concert, showcasing only nine songs – recorded at multiple cities on their Music Builds tour, in support of Habitat for Humanity. A highlight – unfortunately only included on the CD – is the cover of U2’s ‘When Love Comes to Town,’ which features Jars of Clay and Switchfoot.

But it is the DVD that is a must-have for any fan – with transparent moments offstage, balancing life on the road with family commitments. Cameras were allowed not only backstage and on the tour bus, but also in their homes – to show us how much their lives are not like ‘rockstars.’ thirdday.com

Chris Tomlin: Hello Love, SixStep / Sparrow

On Tomlin’s fifth studio recording, he once again offers up modern songs of worship for the church – which will be sung for years to come. Much of the CD seemed instantly recognizable upon first listen – in some cases due to his ability to write the perfect melody; but also because the driving ‘Sing, Sing Sing’ and the soaring ‘God of This City’ first appeared on the 2008 Passion CD which took its title from the latter song.

Other highlights here include a reworking of ‘All the Way My Saviour Leads Me’ (with a little help from Matt Redman); and ‘I Will Rise,’ a worshipful response to death, offering the hope of resurrection through Jesus. But the standout track is ‘Love,’ featuring the African Children’s Choir. christomlin.com

Lincoln Brewster: Today is the Day, Integrity

Although certainly a respected worship leader, songwriter and guitar player, Lincoln Brewster has yet to become a household name like many of his contemporaries. But his first all-new studio album in six years will certainly change that. Not only is his songwriting showcased here, but his playing on the rocking ‘Let Your Glory Shine’ is astonishing. Other highlights include the bluesy gospel-rocker ‘Give Him Praise,’ that features some guest vocals from Israel Houghton; and the shimmering guitar-pop ballad ‘God You Reign.’ lincolnbrewster.com

Kari Jobe: Kari Jobe, Integrity/Gateway

For 13 years, Kari Jobe has contributed to live albums for Christ For the Nations.’ At her current post as associate worship pastor at Gateway Church in Texas, she sang the stirring anthem ‘Revelation Song.’ Now this seasoned worship leader has released her self-titled debut, which combines scripture-based lyrics with singable melodies. Co-writers include Chris Tomlin and Paul Baloche.

The album was produced by Ed Cash, who takes a subdued approach that is a far cry from the mega-church worship many associate with Jobe – and the results are stunning.

Inspirational ballads here invite reflection rather than outward corporate singing, on songs like ‘I’m Singing,’ ‘Joyfully,’ ‘My Beloved’ and ‘You are for Me.’ karijobe.com

CeCe Winans: Thy Kingdom Come, Puresprings/EMI

For her eighth solo album, Winans offers a powerful set of familiar hymns and worship songs, draped with lush strings.

Recently she was awarded a Grammy in the ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Album’ category.

Winans seamlessly combines the vocals, melodies and musical elements — which have made her one of the most popular and influential artists working in contemporary gospel — on songs like ‘Bless His Holy Name’ and ‘Waging War.’ Her smooth pop/R&B signature sounds weave their way throughout this epic collection of 14 songs. You may not be singing them in church, but they are certainly vertically focussed. cecewinans.com

Hillsong Kids: Follow You, Hillsong

The pioneer of great worship albums for kids is back again. In 2004, Hillsong KidsJesus is My Superhero brought together high energy songs written with kids in mind alongside favourites from the Hillsong songbook.

Once again, the songs are available on CD or DVD — with the latter offering resources to help kids learn the words and actions. Highlights include ‘Take it All,’ ‘Trust & Obey’ and ‘All of the World.’

The only problem is that, with a new album releasing every year for the past five, the creativity and excitement enjoyed with the first few albums is starting to fade. But they’re still the best kids worship CDs available out there. hillsongkids.com