Prime Cuts: Hallelujah for the Cross, Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
Founded in 1985 in Mooloolaba, Queensland in Australia, Newsboys have become the face of Christian rock music for nearly thirty years. While many bands have come and gone; and still others have wane in terms of their output and viability across the passage of time, Newsboys seem to be going from strength to strength. With former dc talk Michael Tait at the fore, Newsboys have had experienced a resurgence when their 2010 album "Born Again" debut at #4 on Billboard 200 marking a career high for the group. This was followed by "God's Not Dead," which became the theme song and titular for the movie of the same name. The film went put faith in the market place again, opening up new avenues for Christians to talk openly about Jesus Christ again. Further, Newsboys are already signed on to be the purveyors of the music for the sequel to "God's Not Dead." In the midst of last year's highly successful "Restart" album and tour, they have not taken a breather. Now we are blessed with another brand album "Hallelujah for the Cross."
"Hallelujah for the Cross," finds the boys taking a retro step in recording an album full of hymns, with one brand new song and a hybrid song where they have meshed their own hit "Where You Belong" with the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Produced by Seth Mosley (Stellar Kart, Michael W. Smith & for KING & COUNTRY), "Hallelujah for the Cross" is not a yawn fest of churchy hymns played on organ and piano. Rather, bristling with a pristine rock and pop sound where keys, guitars and percussion are prominently positioned, "Hallelujah for the Cross" bears all the imprints of a Newsboys' record. Here again we find Michael Tait with the microphone while his musical team of Jody Davis (guitar), Jeff Frankenstein (keys), and Duncan Phillips (drums) continue to fine honed their flawless chops.
The best track off the bat has to be the album's sole original song and the title cut "Hallelujah for the Cross." With a marching beat and a set of 3-D lyrics we follow our Lord Jesus as he marched onto the Cross. "Hallelujah for the Cross" doesn't just speak of the Cross. Rather, it is a powerful GPS that allows us to journey with our Savior up Calvary's Hill again. And with an inviting congregational feel, one wouldn't be surprised to find churches singing "Hallelujah for the Cross" next Easter. One thing to note about Newsboys' approach to the hymns is that they have often accelerated the pace of some of the slower hymns. Piggybacked upon their own hit "Where You Belong," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" gets its speed notched up over an electronic synth laced rhythm. The same can be said about "His Eye is on the Sparrow."
However, not everything is accelerated. Tait takes his time to mine the depths of "I Surrender All" with a teased out introduction with some pronounced piano chops. With "Holy Holy Holy" they have adhered to its original tempo though the Newsboys' rendition sounds ho-hum rather than exciting. While "What a Friend in Jesus" gets an echo-y reverb effect underscored by an EDM undercurrent that somehow doesn't work that well in terms of updating this ancient hymn. Yet, those who persevered to the end will be rewarded with a gorgeous a cappella version of "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" where the harmonies are so good that you will want to hear them again and again.
"Hallelujah for the Cross" doesn't invent the wheel as far as the hymns are sung. Many artists with some measure of longevity will attempt a hymns album somewhere down the line. And in this regard, Newsboys are not exceptional. But kudos are in order to the band for taking the time out of their highly colorful career to record an album of treasured hymns that has the potential to appease older fans and introduce the younger ones to the church's musical trove.