Prime Cuts: Sole Love, Only the Cross, I Yearn for Your Presence
Overall Grade: 4/5
This album presents to us a buffet of food for the soul. In a time where the cacophony of noise around us zaps our souls of their spiritual nourishments, Jubilee Worship's "Only the Cross" is an oasis. Rather than draining us with more ear-popping percussion and endless recycled clichés, "Only the Cross" is a ruminative record utilizing the keyboard as its core instrument to soothe the soul and bring about "selah" to the vexed mind. In short, these 10 newly recorded songs are not for the hurried. They are meant to be draw us into the presence of our Father in ways that are theological thoughtful and melodically rich. "Only the Cross" is a Mandarin-language worship album performed by various lead worship leaders of the team. Nine of the entries here are originals with the reprisal of the hymn "This is My Father's World" added as the album's postscript.
Apparently, "Only the Cross" is Jubilee Worship's debut Mandarin-language worship album. Jubilee Worship is part of Jubilee World which seeks raise a globally diverse and eclectic body of musicians, dancers, actors, and members purposed to serve God throughout the globe. As an organization, they have had schools where students can be trained in song, dance, and all other forms of expression found within the performing arts and media to worship God. Together, the students often come together for Jubilee Worship nights for worship. "Only the Cross" is the outcome of such worship evenings together.
Wasting no time on any superficial floss, album opener "I Yearn for Your Presence" is an AC-styled pop number that finds Jubilee Worship gently rocking us into the hope-filled presence of Jesus Christ. The 90s-styled big ballads "Only the Cross" and "Sole Love" are the album's nerve center. Featuring the sounds of a prominent keyboard, these couple of worship numbers slowly and gloriously expound on the Gospel over well-crafted melodies that climaxes with some heartfelt responses that gets at the gist of what worship truly is. Giving a more contemporary node via the use of a percolating drum machine is "Let Us Pray." While "The Year of the Jubilee" is Jubilee Worship entering Hillsong Y&F terrain with the use of jangly guitars and zany basslines.
However, there are a few factors that discount this album's premium. First, the worship leaders on tracks such as "Normal" and "The Dream" lack conviction. Maybe it's the dearth of experience, but when you are leading worship you have step up to the moment and sing your heart out. One gets the feeling that several of the vocalists are far too reserved to express themselves. The redemptive moment comes with "This is My Father's World" where the lead vocalist really got hold of the moment and sings with a holy abandonment. Second, the enunciations of a couple of singers ("Only the Cross" and "We Will Love Each Other") are not clear enough for us to discern what they are singing especially in the verses. And often their voices are overshadowed by the overwhelming keyboard sounds.
Considering that "Only the Cross" is the team's debut record, such quibbles are not devastating but they definitely can be worked on. Nevertheless, this is still an excellent debut --- solid theological content with music that feeds the soul in Godly proportions. Not a bad combination for what a worship album ought to be.