Prime Cuts: Prince of Peace, When I Think Upon Christmas, Peace Upon the Earth
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Hillsong Worship has broken their own record with the release "The Peace Project." Ever since 1992, Hillsong Worship has never failed to deliver at least one live album per year. Normally, the release of the recording would also coincide with the Hillsong Annual Conference in Sydney around July of each year. However, without Darlene Zschech on the helm, things have become more and more unvigilant. In 2015 and 2016, for example, their live recording came not during the time of the conference, but a few months after. This year, they have totally forego a live recording altogether, a first in 25 years. In place, they have released a studio project of 12 newly recorded Christmas tunes, of which 6 are newly written songs with 1 instrumental. Will they totally cease releasing an album of any sort next year? Well, time will tell.
So, let's start by examining the new songs first. The ballad "When I Think Upon Christmas" is this album's apotheosis. Gorgeously led by some Disney-like keys before leading us into worship where the team shows us the majesty of the Christ-child, there is a judicious balance of the stirring sentiments of Christmas and the holy awe of worship. "Prince of Peace," a ballad that benefits from Brooke Ligertwood's touch, is in the class of "What a Beautiful Name." Here Ligertwood puts her smoky vocals to great effect as she carefully unveils the wonder of who Jesus really is. "Peace Upon the Earth" is another winner in this triumvirate of ballads. This time the team steps away from convention and incorporates bars of classic music into the song; a touch that is purely genius.
"Silent Night (Savior King)" is another touch of ingenuity. Few have thought of their 2007 song "Savior King" as a Christmas offering. But when the team joins it with "Silent Night," it adds a worshipful layer to this familiar carol. "Arrival" is a tad predictable with a "Oceans"-esque mystique, but it is still quite good. Yet, not all the new songs work. "Theme of the Eastern Star" is a pointless elevator style of instrumental music that only lasts for 1 minute and 9 seconds. "Seasons" is a Hillsong Y&F contribution and it reflects their youthfulness. The song is far too individualistic in its lyrical focus. It doesn't have that seasonal maturity that goes along with Hillsong's ethos of making music for the church to sing.
The rest of the offerings, that is the remaining 5 songs, are the traditional Yuletide offerings. But the Aussie team doesn't just perform them with one eye closed. Rather, they augment each track with fresh and innovative flourishes, something worthy for every worship team to take note of. Again, shame on the team for not gracing with us with a full-length live album this year. But as a seasonal offering, this project is very good.
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