Prime Cuts: In Jesus' Name, Victor's Crown, Magnificient
The name Darlene Zschech is synonymous with worship music. Fronting the worship of Australian mega church Hillsong for years, Zschech has had revived the popularity of live congregation worship music since their 1996 breakthrough album "Shout to the Lord." Where worship used to be rigid and dull, Hillsong has taken the stiffness out of it by stripping away the "weirdness" of raising our hands and dancing up and down before God's presence. With worship favorites such as "At the Cross,""Hosanna," "Worthy is the Lamb," "Made Me Glad" and "God is Able," Darlene Zschech and her Hillsong camaraderie make worship music zestful, memorable and engaging again.
However, despite selling over 12 million records, releasing 20 live albums, being nominated for countless Dove Awards and having "Shout to the Lord" enlisted by many hymnbooks alongside the timeless canticles of Wesley and Watts, Darlene Zschech has never released a solo live worship album. Though she has released three superb solo studio albums, Revealing Jesus is her debut solo live worship record. Recorded at the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 28 and 29 of last year, Zschech has outdone herself. This is truly a seminal work!
Though Revealing Jesus utilizes the Hillsong template of panoramic, built-for-stadium anthems (and who can blame Zschech, since most of Hillsong's records were helmed by her), it also adds a welcoming nostalgia with the inclusion of a couple of revamped hymns and Hillsong oldies. Also, Grammy Award-winning producer Israel Houghton and superstars such as Kari Jobe and Michael W. Smith are able to give this record an added dose of variegated flavor.
Though it's only February, it's safe to say that Revealing Jesus towers as one of the best worship records released this year for at least three reasons. First, and perhaps most foremost, this disc is Jesus-centered. Never reticent about whether or not the mention of the name "Jesus" will sell records - or not - Zschech makes sure that each and every track here is about Him. This is what every worship album ought to be patterned after. Jesus never gets more glorified than when Zschech sings about Christ's finished work on the Cross with the newly penned single "Victor's Crown."
And if there is going to be a follow-up to one of those explosive, anthemic-building ballads in the vein of "Mighty to Save," it's "Victor's Crown." It's majestic and powerful, and when Zschech deftly sings "At the cross the work was finished/You were buried in the ground/But the grave could not contain you/For you wear the Victor's Crown," a thousand hallelujahs would not be enough. On the other hand, "God is Here" is a full-pelt opener which hurtles along a flurry of urgent, spunky guitar riffs and flailing drums with Zschech singing of her desire to reveal Jesus and "seeing him face to face." Vocally, this Hillsong matriarch has never sounded stronger and it is a treat to see her tackle such a propulsive barn burner again.
Second, "Revealing Jesus" is an important album because it reveals the pastoral heart of Zschech. While few artists are not that generous to share the microphone unless they are singing with a mega star, Zschech shares the spotlight on numerous occasions with her backing band. She truly lives out the coda of the title of her former book The Great Generational Transistor when she has her protégé Barry Southgate handling most of the vocals of "All That We Are." Interesting, though, is that the "whoa" echoes and thundering drums of "All That We Are" have a striking resemblance to Hillsong's "Running." When Zschech shares the microphone with Kari Jobe on "Yours Forever" (a re-recorded track from her You Are Love Deluxe album), she reminds us of the times she would sing with the then-inexperienced Brooke Fraser (on "Hosanna" and "You'll Come"), tenderly nurturing her to maximize her God-given singing potential.
Third, these songs demonstrate that Zschech is more than just a singer, she is truly a worshipper. Instead of just singing on "In Jesus' Name," Zschech takes the time to minister to the women gathered that night who were suffering from cancer. And when she sings about how God fights for us over this bombastic spiritual warfare anthem, you can't help but feel ministered to. Another highlight is her take of the old Hillsong oldie "Magnificent" (originally from Hillsong's Blessed). Adorned with some angelic sounding harp and gorgeous strings, "Magnificent" is such a ministering moment that one can't help but bask in the goodness of Jesus. Even when Zschech does the hymn "My Jesus I Love Thee," she doesn't let an opportunity slip by when she turned the ending of the old church favorite into a time of proclaiming her love towards Jesus. All in all, Revealing Jesus lives up to its apt title. Here Zschech reveals Jesus in all his beauty and glory; but more than that, she also reveals her heart - a heart that beats with love and worship for the King of kings.