Prime Cuts: Hope of All Hopes, There's a Song in the Air and Above All Else
You can't judge a book by its cover. This adage is particularly true when it comes to New Hope Oahu's debut Christmas release for the enterprising DREAM Records. With a silvery words typeset against a black background, "Hope of All Hopes" looks more like one of those "20 of the Latest Pop Songs" compilations than a festive offering. There are no decorative mistletoes or flashy angels or illustrative manger scenes. Other than the star with its laser beam glow, there's not much in terms of the album's cover that screams, "Christmas." But, looks are deceiving. This is, in fact, one of this year's better Christmas releases.
"Hope of All Hopes" is judiciously balanced in terms of offering both originals as well as the more familiar carols. And unlike many other efforts, the originals actually are in par or even better in terms of the songs' quality relative to the covers. Though often marketed as a worship band (and there are definitely some tunes geared towards corporate worship), on this record, the band actually branches out to incorporate some more jazzy instrumentals as well as more devotional (and personal) pieces.
Before we delve into an exposition of the individual tracks, it's apropos to say a word of introduction about the team. New Hope Oahu is listed as one of the top ten most innovative churches in America with Outreach Magazine listing them as one of the "top five churches to learn from." New Hope Oahu's previous 3 albums have each charted on The Billboard Overall Christian Music Chart, with their last release, "Greater Together", debuting at #1. The Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts has also recognized New Hope Oahu's albums as "Religious Album of the Year" for the past 3 years.
Fans who have loved the combustible sounds of New Hope Oahu's powerhouse worship would love the title cut "Hope of All Hopes." Sizzling with lots of hot electric guitar riffs and layered keyboard sounds, "Hope of All Hopes" is a great worship opener to chase away all the winter blues as God's firey presence is ignited. But not all is loud and busy. "There's a Song in the Air" and "Above All Else" are gorgeous reflective piano-led pieces, both of which are perfect soundtracks for our personal worship and reflection. While the hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" often can be performed at a dirge-like pace, the team does livens the carol up with a Pentatonix touch meshing it with the modern classic "Mary, Did You Know?"
Senior pastor Wayne Cordeiro makes a surprising appearance by offering his Wayne Newton-esque to "Silent Night." The team breaks away from predictability by offering instrumental takes of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Greensleeves." Of interest is with the former, DeShannon Higa offers a jazzy Dave Koz-saxophone-led version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that is particularly soothing. "Hope of All Hopes," in short, is atypical of New Hope Oahu's repertoire and of the average worship Christmas album. It brims with ingenuity, creativity, and passion.