Prime Cuts: Praise Him! Praise Him!; Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It; Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross/In the Cross
Though Fanny Crosby was blind since she was a little child, she had 20/20 vision when it came to seeing her Savior. Crosby, like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley before her, has enriched our vocabulary of worship with her hymns. Rightfully touted as the "Mother of the hymnal," Crosby has written over 9,000 hymns, many were birthed out of her own struggles and pain. As a result, many of these hymns have an authencity and realism that make them eternal. They have also become paradigmatic to the hymns of the Revival Movement led by Moody and Sankey. Her songs such as "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," "Blessed Assurance" and "Rescue the Perishing" were the soundtrack as literally thousands came forward to accept Christ in these revival meetings. Though it has been a century since Crosby's death, her songs still continue to inform our worship. Many of her hymns still sound as engaging and fresh as tomorrow's news.
Thus anticipation was high when Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (EHSS) announced they were doing a tribute album to Crosby. Released under the most enterprising StowTown Records, "The Favorite Hymns of Fanny Crosby" is a treat. Here EHSS have gathered 8 of selections from Crosby's songbook and they have given these paeans the EHSS patented touch. Nevertheless, before we delve into an exposition of the record, two matters of acute disappointment need to be expressed. First, this is a fairly short album with only 8 songs; with a running time that clocks in at only around 31 minutes, this is certainly on the shorter end of the time spectrum. Second, with 9,000 Fanny Crosby hymns, EHSS have only restrained themselves to Crosby's more familiar offerings. One would have wished they were more adventurous in unearthing one or two of her more obscure compositions.
Nevertheless, despite the griping, this is a fabulous album. Instead of bringing the showbiz glitz and big orchestrated sound expressed in their previous Broadway album into this record, the backings to these hymns are pretty earthy. "Blessed Assurance," for instance, gets a rootsy Chris Stapleton backing with all the rustic instruments in display. While many are often tempted to imbue "He Hideth My Soul" with a heavy dose of strings, EHSS instead turns this hymn of trust into an old spiritual with a haunting organ to boot. In the process, they bring out an organic and heartfelt yearning for God that is genuinely moving.
The combination of piano and flute in the intro of "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross/In the Cross" is just gorgeous. EHSS get into their worshipful best in the slow and pensive "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior." And to hear the layered harmonies from the team is simply heaven on earth. Giving a Celtic twirl to "Praise Him! Praise Him!," you can't help but singalong with EHSS on what is the most lively (and danceable) piece on the record. "Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It" continues the dance which is so apropos to the song's jovial message of being redeemed by Christ.
For those unfamiliar with Crosby, this record is a fine introduction to some of her most treasured works. And to those who adore the writings of Crosby, this CD will provide many opportunities of worship and they will open us to new avenues of appreciate these hymns again.
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