Prime Cuts: Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord, Forever Good, Call on the Name
Paul Wilbur brings an indispensable component to worship music often overlooked by today's worship songwriters. Wilbur allows us to see through his extensive discography that our faith finds its roots in the Hebrew Bible. And that our worship shouldn't be ethno-centric in the sense that we forget that God's loves peoples of all nations, particularly the Jewish people. Ever since his inaugural Integrity Music debut "Up to Zion" in 1991, Wilbur has had been championing these concerns over classic songs such as "Kadosh," "Song of Ezekiel," "Lord God of Abraham," "Shalom Jerusalem," and more popularly, "Days of Elijah." Borrowing traditional Jewish instruments like the shofar with Yiddish-influence tunes augmented by Hebrew phrases lifted from the Hebrew Bible, Wilbur shows us that worship music should be informed, influenced, and compelled from both the New as well as the Old Testament. Thus, listening to Wilbur not only opportune for us moments of worship, but it also enhances our appreciation of the Old Testament.
Ever since 1991, Wilbur has been part of the Integrity Music imprint, a fleet that few can claim. Twenty five years later, Wilbur is back again with "Forever Good." "This newly recorded studio album finds the 65 year-old worship veteran partnering with producer Dan Needham with whom he worked on his last critically acclaimed album, "Your Great Name." And he is again partnering with a community of songwriters that includes Dove Award winners Michael Farren and Don Poythress and longtime collaborator Steve Merkel with whom Paul recorded the groundbreaking albums "Shalom Jerusalem" and "Jerusalem Arise." Endearing also is the fact that Wilbur's own daughters-in-law Sharon and Malki also join the scribal team for this record.
As with every Paul Wilbur record, you can expect those thumping, guitar-heavy, burly calls to spiritual proclamation of Yahweh's victory over His foes. This time around "King of Glory," a song co-written by Wilbur with Michael Neale and Don Poythress, lead this charge. The explosive war-like chorus is what we have come to love from Wilbur. Amy Grant's name may long be associated with the classic "El Shaddai," but Wilbur's "Shadows of El Shaddai" comes close to that lofty status. Never resolved to simplistic tropes, "Shadows of El Shaddai" thrives on the song's attention paid to the specific events in Scripture where God has demonstrated his power.
"Lechu Neranena L'Adonai" continues Wilbur's passion to connect worshippers to the Hebrew Bible. But with entire verses and the chorus completely in Hebrew (with no explanations), this may be a challenge for the average congregants to pronounce (and hence sing along) and understand what they are singing. "Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord" works much better. It still retains the Old Testament Hebraic flavour but it's also much more accessible to modern non-Hebrew reading listener. And the song's hymn-like melody is just so worshipfully inviting that it makes you want to worship along. Ditto for "Call on the Name."
The title track "Forever Good," written by Michael Farren, Steve Merkel and Brian Campbell, finds Wilbur at his most heartfelt moments. Simple in its lyric content and melodic structure but yet so faith affirming, this stellar worship proves that one doesn't have to be too clever to be effective. Twenty five later, it's a blessing to see Wilbur still so committed to the cause of rooting worship in both Testaments of Scripture. "Forever Good," in short, lives up to its titular.