** CLASSIC CHRISTIAN ALBUM ** Don Moen “Ultimate Collection” Album Review

don moen

Prime Cuts:  I Offer My Life, God Will Make a Way, He Never Sleeps

Moen, in his heart, was/is a Godly visionary. When he was the Creative director and later president of Integrity Music, he made worship music an integral part of contemporary Christian music again. Signing acts such as Ron Kenoly, Bob Fitts, Lenny LeBlanc, Paul Wibur, Paul Baloche and the jewel on the crown, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong, worship music as a genre was revived by Moen. Especially with Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong team, what Moen had done was bring the music of a local Australian church to the Global center stage. And Hillsong literally set a new paradigm for worship where praise music is no longer stiff, old-fashioned and "church-y." Rather, in the presence of God, we can dance, lift our hands and sing to songs that are contemporary, spiritually nourishing and fun.

During his tenure at Integrity Music, Moen produced eleven albums in the Hosanna! Music -series selling a cumulative total of over five million copies worldwide. Moen was also the first artist on the label whose worship album "Give Thanks" sold so many copies it quieted naysayers who used to pummel worship music as un-sellable. Over the years, Moen as a recording worship leader has given the church a large swath of its songbook with classics such as "God is Good All the Time," "Give Thanks," "Praise Looks Good on You" and "God Will Make a Way." Without any unreleased songs though, "Ultimate Collection" celebrates the milestones in Moen's effulgent career from 1986's "Give Thanks" to 2008's "I Believe There is More."

With only fourteen tracks, many of Moen's previous albums are understandably bypassed. Perhaps a tad too many, but four of the songs here are taken from Moen's most successful "Give Thanks," with two cuts taken from "Thank You, Lord," "I Will Sing," "Eternal God" and one selection each is lifted from albums such as 'Blessed the Lord," "I Believe There is More," "Emmanuel Has Come" and "Hiding Place." One of Moen's distinctive marks is he makes worship sound so effortless with his smooth tenor over string-laden adult contemporary catchy tunes. From the album "I Will Sing," "Here We Are" has that straightforward baring our souls before God simplicity. Yet, Moen never makes us feel uncomfortable - when he leads us into God's presence through this ballad there is nothing but peace. For those of us who have grown up in the 90s, how many of us have used "God Will Make a Way" as our soundtrack in times when we were at our wits' end? Whether it's in the quiet hours of the morning waiting in the hospital or the depressing afternoon when we have been turned down from a job, the words "God will make a way where there seems to be no way/He works in ways we cannot see" still bring so much joy and comfort.

Another characteristic of Moen is that God has gifted him to be a memorable songwriter. There are many good songwriters out there, but with the passage many of their songs do not last. Even to this day, phrases from Moen's repertoire are still regularly quoted. How many of us have been to churches where the greeting by the worship leader goes along these lines of "God is good." And we respond, 'All the time." Such a liturgical response was first coined by Moen on "God is Good All the Time." This is a song Moen co-wrote with country music mega-star tunesmith Paul Overstreet. Overstreet was the one responsible for crafting the Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge," Alison Krauss' "When You Say Nothing At All" and Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen." Here Overstreet and Moen brought in the country two step into 'God is Good All the Time;" God's goodness has never been so delightfully danceable. Moen's golden fingers again worked the magic with his Christmas album "Emmanuel Has Come," one of the very few festive efforts to win a Dove Award. Lifted from that record is "I Offer My Life," this is a slice of heartfelt worship that boasts a gorgeously melodious tune. Another song that has weathered well is the bold and affirming ballad "I Am the God That Healeth Thee."

Hands down, the song most associated with Moen is "Give Thanks." Though Moen is a songwriter par excellence, "Give Thanks" was not written by Moen himself. Rather, an almost obscure little worship chorus prior to Moen, "Give Thanks" was given a makeover with that Moen touch. Moen's string-laden version with his Godly earnest delivery make this tune one of the most sung worship song in churches these days. While many worship leaders can only reach certain demographics, Moen could reach a cross-section. You'll find seniors singing to "Give Thanks" on Thanksgiving Sunday, moms and dads praying to "He Never Sleeps" and youngsters rocking to "Mi Corazon." Such an effort in drawing such a vast demographic of worshippers together through music is rare. Only a truly gifted worship leader can do this, and Moen is one of them.


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