Prime Cuts: Psalm 92 (It is Good), Once for All, Your Mercy
Other than Darlene Zschech, Paul Wilbur and Graham Kendrick, Paul Baloche is the only worship leader from the Integrity Music's Hosanna to be still recording for the imprint. Such a lengthy tenure with Integrity Music speaks volumes of Baloche's ability to stay current and find fresh vocabulary and expressions of worship. One look at the album's liner notes reveals Baloche's secret. Rather than resting on his laurels, Baloche refused to be defined just by the past. Thus, for his latest Integrity Music release "Your Mercy," Baloche ventures to share his pen with younger songwriters and artists such as Meredith Andrews, Aaron Shust, All Sons and Daughters, Aaron Gillespie and Matt Redman. As a result, there is a contemporary currency to these newly crafted songs, making them sound fresh and rejuvenated. Yet, they are not bereft of the seasoned depth and theological titillation only a capable veteran like Baloche can imbue.
During the time when worship music started getting some traction with the buying public in the early 1990s, Baloche was one of the pioneering worship leaders on the label's roster. Releasing his inaugural record for the Hosanna Series, "He is Faithful," Baloche's name soon became synonymous with worship music in 1992. Ever since, he has had written songs that have formulated the soundtrack of the church's worship with classic staples such as "Open the Eyes of My Heart," "Above All," "The Same Love," "Hosanna," "Your Name," "Glorious," and many other CCLI top songs. Over the years, Baloche has received numerous Dove Awards, including Song of the Year in both the 2002 and 2003. Twenty four years later, when many of his peers have already retired, Baloche releases "Your Mercy."
"Your Mercy" departs from Baloche's previous efforts in the sense that it has abandoned the loud, the overproduced, and the cluttered. Taking the adage less is more, the album adopts a warmer acoustic sound. Most evident of such a change is the album's opener "Psalm 92 (It is Good)." Featuring the soft peddling of wooden instruments over an irresistibly catchy tune, "Psalm 92 (It is Good)" brings out an affecting glow to this ancient Psalter. "Once for All," co-written by Baloche and Matt Redman, bears all of Redman's fingerprints. If you love Redman's worship songs with all of their big hook-laden choruses, "Once for All" will get immediately get a two thumbs up. Despite the scribal input of Aaron Gillespie, "I Will Worship You," as the titular betrays, is on the non-descript side.
The title cut and lead single "Your Mercy" doesn't immediately strike us as first single material, yet after a careful listen, the words will astound you. Every line of this song is tweeter worthy with "your loving kindness leads me to repentance" being a favorite. "Songs of the People," a co-write between Baloche and Michael Neale, is also the title song of Prestonwood Worship's current record. Baloche's version is more subdued quipped with a Rend Collective-esque accent. "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (We Turn)" is essentially the hymn of the same title with new verses written around it. But one has to tip our hats to Baloche for investing his soul into it giving new life to this great hymn.
However, the album is not free from the filler syndrome. "Peace on Earth" is an exercise of lameness. With the numerous songs about peace coming both from Christian and secular songwriters, "Peace on Earth," like many others, fails to ignite our consciousness due to the overabundance of recycled clichés and unconnected ideas. The same can be said of "We Come to You Jesus." Nevertheless, despite these quibbles, "Your Mercy" is still an album worth investing in if you like well-crafted worship songs that exude an affecting warmth.