Prime Cuts: The Secret Place (with Madison Cunningham), My All in All, Stand in Awe
Phil Wickham's "Children of God" almost didn't happen. Wickham had just come off the heels of the success of "This is Amazing Grace." This modern worship classic not only was a RIAA-certified Gold single, but the song topped the CCLI chart. This means that it was the #1 worship song sung across churches in North America. Shortly after Wickham's heightened success, Wickham lost his voice. And he needed to come under the surgical knife on what could have been a career-demolishing surgery. One and a half years later, it is by God's grace and His healing that we have "Children of God" in our hands. Sounding just as strong and bright as ever, Wickham doesn't show any signs of wear and tear vocally on this new set. Although out of concern for his future vocal health, there are still many songs on this album that soar up to Mt. Everest; something that could be damaging to his vocal chords if Wickham chooses to sing these songs night after night.
With the success of "This is Amazing Grace," the anticipation is particularly high when it comes to the album's lead single. "Your Love Awakens Me," on initial spins, doesn't stand out as an encompassing future congregational favorite. Rather, it works much better as a solo worship effort reminiscent of the Newsboys with its bright polished backing. However, easily the album's highlight is "The Secret Place." Featuring the haunting Enya-like vocals of Madison Cunningham, "The Secret Place" is an ethereal-sounding ballad undergirded by some electronic percussion. It's as if Radiohead meets Enya; this is fresh, exciting, and it's definitely something out of the box.
"My All in All" is not the Dennis Jernigan classic. Rather, it's a brand new Wickham, which finds Wickham slowing down for this keys-driven worship ballad that truly exalts the name of Jesus on the song's climatic high. "Starmaker (High Above the Earth)" is the album's oasis. Giving all things loud and clanging a recess, there's a soft dreamy lullaby-feel to "Starmaker" that is reflective, nourishing, and downright moving. "Stand in Awe," with a throwback noir to Michael W. Smith, is a standout as far as congregational worship is concern. Easily accessible even to the most tone-death with its strong and inviting melody, "Stand in Awe" as the titular suggests, finds its focus in awesomeness of God.
But not everything works. There are some songs ("Body Mind and Spirit," "Better Than Life," and "As It is in Heaven") that are far too indebted to today's worship music posturing the same beat sequence and the electronica-cum-rock style without being distinctive. "Doxology/Amen" is tad more redemptive as Wickham tags on the traditional hymn "Doxology" to a newly written song. "Children of God," on the whole, is by no means perfect. But it has far too many God-anointed moments that to miss them would be a loss.