Prime Cuts: The One We Love, Our Salvation, Power in the Cross
Derek Johnson's "Real Love" is a six-pack worship album without a single ounce of fat. Never one to waste words, each of these 12 cuts is given a careful workout where they are so trimmed that they are unequivocally focused upon the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. If you are looking for a worship album of brand new songs that doesn't mince its words but present the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a full-barrel perspicuity and with a heartfelt passion, "Real Love" is the real beef. With his bluesy-rock edge vocals that calls to mind John Mellencamp or a much-clearer and liver Bruce Springsteen over his well-crafted tunes, Johnson joins the stellar ranks of artists that have their albums released by Jesus Culture Music, such as Bryan & Katie Towalt, Justin Jarvis, and Andrew Ehrenzeller.
Formally a worship leader at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, Johnson relocated to the Sacramento area where he joined the Jesus Culture team. Ardent fans of the Jesus Culture movement will recognize that Johnson contributed four cuts on Jesus Culture's "Emerging Voices" CD. Two of those four offerings resurfaced here on "Real Love," namely "I Belong to You" and "Glory Come Down." With a pulsating percussive line wrapped around the sizzling pop tune, "Our Salvation" gives praise to the Lord God Almighty for the gift of salvation for all of us. Easily the buzz song of the album is also the lead single "The One We Love." Calling to mind Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons," "The One We Love" has that classic worship song aura about it that you know it's going to be a mega worship favorite in no time. Further, lines such as "1,000 songs and 1,000 praises could not lift high enough the name of Jesus" are so worshipfully inviting that it's a challenge not to sing along with Johnson.
With "Power of the Cross," Johnson takes the pace down on this pensive soft rock ballad that details with great clarity what Christ has done for us on the Cross. Though there may be many worship songs that give expression to the salvific work of Jesus on the Cross, it's the applicable details of this song that makes this easily one of the Johnson's most important compositions. On the ballad front, "Made to Last" is another entry worth savoring. Again the song's nuanced details reveal what a fine tunesmith Johnson is. "Glory Come Down," formerly found on Jesus Culture's "Emerging Voices" disc, has a more ethereal feel but veers a little on the side of tedium.
While most of the songs here are crafted with the worshipper in mind, the title track "Real Love" could appeal even to non-believers. With an inviting vibe and never overwhelming, Johnson gently but firmly invites us in to embrace the love of Jesus like never before. Thus, this album is not just a sublime worship album, but it's lifts Jesus up in such a way that even non-believers may find their hearts strangely warm when Johnson revels so deeply in our Savior's love.
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