Prime Cuts: Cry of the Broken, Alive in Us, God is Able
"God is Able" is Hillsong Live's 20th release. After the odyssey of 20 albums, many things have changed. Most noticeably is the huge turnover rate of lead worship singers/songwriters. Gone are such former contributors such as Geoff Bullock, Miriam Webster, Russell Fragar, Marty Sampson, Steve McPherson and even the recent favourite Brooke Fraser (Ligertwood). Nevertheless, this Aussie mega church has kept a few pivotal mainstays: First, they have wisely stuck on to former worship pastor Darlene Zschech. Incubus to the success of Hillsong Music, Zschech's leadership has made Hillsong Music such a phenomenon today. This is because she has the God-given ability to instill the awe of God's presence in the way she moves the church to worship. And even to this day, no worship leader can fill Zschech's shoes. Thankfully Zschech is back again on this 20th release leading two songs and single-handedly wrote "Cry of the Broken." However, her substantial subdued role relative to their earlier albums is certainly the church's greatest misstep. Second, Hillsong has never been reticent in their proclamation of their praise of God from an evangelical confessional stance. Over the years, they have been bold in dressing such a lofty message in anthemic crescendo building stadium-filling numbers. Again "God is Able" is choke full of such Godly endeavours.
Easily the best tracks here are the ones led by Darlene Zschech. While the other lead worship singers have a tendency to treat each track as though it is a concert performance, it is only Zschech who truly functions as a worship leader when she leads the congregation to be engaged in the worship of the Almighty. This is most evident on "Alive in Us"-a bold proclamation of the transforming power of Christ's resurrection. Not since 2008's "Savior King" have we heard Zschech lead an uptempo anthemic song, so "Alive in Us" is a refreshing listen. Zschech single-handedly wrote and sang "Cry of the Broken." Without the regular bevy chorus of singers, "Cry of the Broken" features just the voice of Zschech beautifully sung over a soft sonic bed of strings and keyboard. Taking comfort from Psalm 91, Zschech pours out her heart to God assuring us that our God hears the contrite. Tender, heart warming and so worshipful-"Cry of the Broken" is more than a song, it ought to be the daily prayer of every child of God.
Zschech can be heard quite prominently as she offers companion vocals to Ben Fielding on the mid-tempo "My Heart is Overwhelmed." While many worship songs today are more testimonial in nature, "My Heart is Overwhelmed" has God at its cynosure and how that changes us. Zschech's harmony vocals on the latter half of the song add so much more dimension and depth to the song. Another Ben Fielding-led song "The Lost Are Found" is also worthy of mention. A chorus building simmering rocker that explodes with a powerful bridge. The title cut "God is Able," led by current worship pastor Rueben Morgan, is this album's "Mighty to Save." Stately, bombastic and extremely catchy, "God is Able" is destined to be a future worship classic. Conspicuously missing is Brooke Fraser, and so in place of her is Annie Garratt who sings lead with Jad Gillies on the song on the somehow average ballad "Unending Love."
Over the last couple of albums, their music has moved closer and closer to that of their sister band Hillsong United. This means that they have moved closer to a rock based template with a lesser emphasis on corporate worship. Joel Houston lends his muffled voice on the Coldplay influence soft rocker "Rise," Jonathan Douglass gives a rousing shout out on the firey "The Difference" and "Narrow Road" receives a mediative read by Dave Ware. Though these are all average worship songs there is not much that sets each of these lead vocalists apart. And these songs could easily be thrown on a United disc. In short, let Darlene Zschech lead more of the songs-she is and has been the face of Hillsong Live. More importantly, she is not just a singer, she is an anointed worship leader who not only feels the songs deeply and she inspires us to worship too.