Glorious CD review – Worship Leader Magazine November 2009
Posted on November 3, 2009 by Paul | 1 Comment | Jump to Comments Box Below
By Jeremy Armstrong
In truth, Paul Baloche’s albums live under the weight of containing the next great worship song for the American church. How’s that for pressure? Worship leaders and pastors around the world look to him as an exemplar in worship songwriting and in the art of leading congregations with a nuanced mixture of authenticity and skill. So on a new release, how does an artist with this type of expectation live up to the public persona and satisfy the demands of the situation?
If Glorious is any indication, he simply creates the devotional prayer-songs that are true to his own heart. In synch with his musical history and his various writings, trainings, and teachings, Glorious, Baloche’s eighth collection of worship songs, is filled with prayers directed to God in what will become the heart cries of congregations around the world.
This approach stands out in contrast to the Christian artist who tends to prefer ruminations on God or musical stories meant to inspire listeners toward personal devotion. Glorious isn’t just about God, it is primarily directed to God. And with this, Baloche’s greatest strength is still intact: a devotional drive where music becomes the emotional and intellectual medium in which the people of God look Him in the face and bare their hearts in adoration, hope, and awe. Baloche is a worship artist, and Glorious is Baloche hitting his stride.
Are there any surprises on Glorious? Musically, it’s the familiar worship stew of towering anthems that magically break down to simple melodies and instrumentation accessible to both musicians and worshipers. As well, there are no massive leaps in recording ambition. But there is something surprising-every song on Glorious is completely solid. Each one, track after track, you will listen and think, Yep, I’ll use that one at some point. Paul Baloche has done more than release a CD, he has fitted the Church with a full set list of prayers that will musically form the hearts of congregations for years to come.
High marks also come in the category of tune sense and its marriage to worship theology 101. The title track opens the record, rife with visual imagery and the mystery of the resurrection: “Look inside the mystery…,” “See the empty cross…” “See the risen Savor…,” “My eyes have seen the glory….” Baloche and co-writer Brenton Brown waste nothing in this song and worshipers will be drawn into the beauty of intentional poetic songwriting set to a gorgeous anthem.
Another standout track, “Wonderful God” follows the pattern of, first, transformation and justification (“[You] changed a heart as hard as mine”), then moves on to the appropriate response (the chorus where we proclaim that He is a “Wonderful God”), then the second verse flows into the continual grace of sanctification (“The beauty of Your strength draws me once again to stand before You now and sing”), then our response repeated in the chorus (“Wonderful God”), and finally the bridge takes us in a new direction: His unfailing love now and forever.
The musical feel on the whole is down-tempoed guitar-driven balladry. One of the snappiest songs, “You Have Saved Us,” kicks off with a hard-hitting bass riff but then gets pulled way back in the mix, one can only assume to avoid the Hillsong United comparisons. But it reflects the production values of the release: solid and safe. the Ringing guitar riffs throughout work as support motifs rather than solo moments, and with the Larry Mullen Jr. drum drive there is an unmistakable, if not unforgettable, early-U2 fire adding fuel to Glorious.
The “live congregation” studio recording is also a strength on the release. It’s not hard to imagine people singing along with each of these prayers, but with the recorded congregation-choir, there’s no imagining necessary. With co-writers like Brenton Brown, Lincoln Brewster, Michael W. Smith, Jason Ingram, Rita Baloche, Meredith Andrews, and Ben Gowell, this collection of worship songs is truly a collaboration worthy of attention.
A Pastor’s Point of View
Paul Baloche is a worship artist who truly possesses “an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary” (Isa 50:4 NIV). From the countless modern classics he has given the church, to his newest offering, “Glorious,” he continues to deliver worship moments that are utterly singable, heaven-focused, and scripturally enlivened. He manages to do all this without being shallow.
The more you sing his music, the more you find, layer after layer-a perfect parallel to the journey of knowing the Christ that he so joyfully sings about on Glorious.
This CD takes us on a hopeful, faith-building and perspective-shifting journey; it offers songs both to gird and strengthen us in our time as God’s people on a broken earth (“We Will Hold On,” “Shaken”), but it also raises our eyes to the glorious, matchless, and all-too-often neglected reality of heaven (“Almighty”). The particular songs that will surely be sung in congregations around the world will be as varied as the congregations themselves, but I imagine both “Glorious” and “Just to be with You” being in heavy rotation in our own church body. “Today Is the Day” is a perfect service opener, ringing out the clarion call that our God is here now, and that today is the day to open our hearts to His Voice.
I could speak of the strength of the layered harmonies, lyrical images, top-drawer production, and hooky choruses on “Glorious,” and all of it would be true. Yet none of those things would be what make this worship artist unusual. Paul Baloche’s uniqueness has always flowed from an innate ability to speak the language of the heart and the language of heaven simultaneously. And he does this in a powerfully simple way, where the average man, woman and child can join in, sing along, and be reminded that we serve a loving God Who is, indeed, “Glorious.”
This article appeared in Worship Leader Magazine. To subscribe: http://www.worshipleader.com/subscribe