I’m starting an experiment with this post, to write about some of my favorite worship albums. There is so much good music produced every year, but we favor the latest and greatest over music that meant something to us just a couple years before.
This and any subsequent articles are not meant as reviews, critiques, or anything other than simply sharing music that means something to me. (If nothing else, it will be a nice break from the how-to’s.)
We’ll start with what would seem to be one of David Crowder Band’s less celebrated albums, Church Music.
I love this album. Some reasons why:
- All the programming. DCB was always at the forefront of computer technology in worship music, but they took it up several notches for this record. Every member of the band got a programming credit.
- Its uniqueness. This album is different, even by DCB standards.
- The transitions. Each song transitions to the next, making this a continuous album. Some of the transitions are as musically interesting as the songs themselves.
Now about the songs…
With an album title like Church Music, one might think the David Crowder Band was returning to its earlier roots and congregational anthems like “O Praise Him.” Listeners find early on that’s not the case, but “Phos Hilaron (Hail Gladdening Light” is actually a setting of one of the earliest known church hymns. Its minor key and distorted electronic elements set an appropriate introduction to the rest of the album.
“Alleluia, Sing” is the album’s obligatory yet satisfying DCB anthem. Favorite lyric: Like a song rising up / In your heart filling up / Like a heart’s not enough / For this love, for this love
If track 1 was the introduction, “The Nearness” says, “go.” Synth arpeggios and heavy guitars (check out the riff at 3:08) are predominant. This track is also the first appearance of another welcome oddity for a DCB album: a female vocalist. It’s Lacey Sturm, former lead vocalist for Flyleaf, the first of the album’s two connections with that band. Even in the context of this innovative record, Lacey’s performances (on threes songs if I’m not mistaken) are a breath of fresh air.
If you had one song to capture the essence of the David Crowder Band, “Shadows” might not be a bad choice. Here is a song that could be used liturgically, explores a theme often neglected in evangelical circles, and flawlessly combines acoustic guitars with synth programming. It’s basically everything we love about DCB in one track. Favorite lyric: Life is full of light and shadow / Oh the joy and oh the sorrow
“Eastern Hymn” is just okay for me. It rocks hard, and the half-time, accordion-infused bridge is nice. It gets a little repetitive, and I could do without the last a capella rep of the chorus. What’s really nice is the transition into…
…and “SMS (Shine).” Seriously, the transition is superb. If “Shadows” captures the essence of DCB’s music, the “SMS” self-produced, stop-motion music video captures the fuller breadth of the band’s creativity. These guys were a collective juggernaut. If you’ve never seen it, check out the video as well as the four-part behind the scenes look.
This is my favorite section, and “The Veil” and “We Are Loved” (my favorite song on the album) provide a one-two punch. Speaking purely as a fan, this is simply great, satsifying music. Favorite lyric: We are loved / And it’s quite enough that we are loved
Interestingly, the band included two covers on this album and put them back-to-back at the heart of Church Music. “All Around Me” covers the Flyleaf single. The piano doubles the vocal on the melody (as on “SMS”), which I’m not sure I love, but it’s interesting.
Of course, “How He Loves” was written by John Mark McMillan, and this recording did much to promote a well-deserving song. There was much ado about Crowder’s request to change “sloppy wet kiss” to “unforeseen kiss.” John covered the situation pretty well here. I find it all pretty funny, personally. Congregational music should serve and enable the congregation’s response, and songwriters need to release their songs for this to happen. I think both David and John handled the situation honorably, but any hand-wringing it caused others was silly.
Now that we’re through the meat of the album, “Can I Lie Here” transitions us to the party section. Its lyrics simply state an childlike and intimate security in the presence of God. From there, three of the next four tunes are unabashed fun (how many worship albums include a disco funk track?).
As this post has already grown pretty long, let me wrap up with this. The end of the album turns out not to be a conclusion, but rather an extended transition…back to track 1. It’s the perfect non-ending to an album that begs to be listened to as a whole, over and over.