Prime Cuts: Never Lost, Every Battle, You Never Change
"Mama Bear" that's what Rita Springer has been affectionately been called. Springer is one of the few veteran worship leaders out there that is still able to stay current and is still be able to influence the next generation. In our culture which has sadly favored the young and the beautiful, there is little room for yesteryear's icons. Thus, many of Springer's peers (e.g., Marty Nystrom, Ron Kenoly, Geoff Bullock, Bob Fitts among others) have been forced to take an early retirement. Springer almost did join the retirement queue way back in 2011. After the release of her preceding album "Playlist," her recording company folded. And Springer was quite contend never to release another album. But not the Holy Spirit; He did convict the singer-songwriter otherwise.
"Battles" is therefore a labor of love. Though the Holy Spirit gets the most credit in being the album's catalyst, the worship teams at Bethel Church and Gateway Church have been formidable in upholding their support of Springer. "Battles" was finally recorded live at the Gateway Grand Prairie Campus, backed by volunteers from both worship teams. Springer, who has been known for writing worship classics such as "I Have to Believe" and "Worth It All," co-wrote or wrote all but one song. As for her co-writers, she has enlisted some of the heavyweights in the genre and they include Mia Fieldes, Daniel Bashta, Jenn Johnson, David and Nicole Binion and Steffany Gretzinger.
Vocally, Springer is sublime. Like Kim Walker-Smith & Jenn Johnson, Springer has a full-bodied voice that feels deeply the passions she has for Jesus. And she has a unique way of expressing them that comes across as authentic and heartfelt. Opener "Every Battle" sets the thematic direction of the record. It is an anthemic invocation for Jesus to be the squad commander of every of our battles. Teaming up with songwriter Catherine Mullins, "Never Lost" continues on this victorious theme. Like the Hebrew prophets who summon up nature to witness the Lord's mighty acts, Springer sings: "Wind, listen to the sound of power on my lips. / Jesus has broken the curse. / He has never lost a battle."
However, honesty needs to prevail: there are fundamentally two drawbacks as far as this album is concerned. First, the album is clogged down with far too many similar sounding ballads. Take "Defender," "Our God is With Us," "There is No Striving," and "You Have Control" as examples. All of them begin with the same synth sound, have the similar chord structures, revolve around the same theme(s), and are dreadfully devoid of any poetry or Scriptural allusions. Most jarring is that repetition seems to be taken to the extreme on many of the songs. Here's an example of how one thought ("you never change") gets tortured with endless recycling: "You never change / You remain the same / You never change/We walk / We run if we have to / To come where the waters are clear / We jump into Your love / Because You remain the same / You never change / You remain the same / You never change for me."
Second, did Springer make "Battles" for the church to sing? Besides spending her time wrapped up with her teams from Bethel and Gateway, has she ever been in a smaller church in the United States of America? With such fluid melodies and songs that mostly lack hooks, how can the average pew seater in these smaller sized churches latch on to any of these songs? Springer may have a huge worship team that sings with her. But not the worship leaders of these churches. Can these songs really serve the majority of Christendom?
"Battles" does begin with a great concept. A couple of songs here are stand-alone masterpieces. But that's about it. The rest of the songs just flow one into another. The co-writers don't help, the songs sound the same.