Prime Cuts: Christmas Offering, Your Name, Joy to the World/Our God Saves
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Is Paul Baloche stuck in a writer's block? It seems that every other year, Baloche has had a Christmas album released. "For Unto Us (Christmas Worship Live from London)" is the third offering in what seems like an endless cycle of Christmas projects the veteran worship leader has had been pushing. There's nothing wrong with Christmas albums per se. But there's actually no newly written song on this set. This album is merely a live recording of a select of songs garnered from his two former Christmas releases. And to make matters worse, the live recordings are not that radically different from the studio versions. Other than the mandatory clappings, some audience participation, and some impromptu comments in between songs, this is almost a replica of the studio versions. This begs the question: if you have owned both Baloche's Christmas albums, is this release even worth the effort?
Moreover, in order to warrant a live worship recording, the artist needs to demonstrate excitement and passion that the studio versions cannot capture. Sad to say, Baloche doesn't sound quite as enthused as his clapping audience on "Hark the Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory/Emmanuel." In fact, on "Silent Night" the congregation sounds more engaged than Baloche himself. Nevertheless, the female lead vocalist of "Your Name," who has a striking similarity to Darlene Zschech (who also cut an excellent version of the song), is superb. Not only does she show a command of the song, but she inhabits each note with her presence and passion.
Part of the album's downfall is that the songs are dated. Though Baloche tags his own songs to the Christmas carols, giving us to respond to God's truth in worship, but the originals themselves are old. For instance, "Christian Offering" is indeed a heartfelt surrender to revelation of God in the Christ-child, but the song is already 14 years old. Baloche must have sung this song for the umpteenth time that it becomes a challenge to generate much excitement. The songs are great, but they have run their courses.
If Baloche has had reached a writer's block, why not sing songs written by his peers? Why not collaborate with some of his label mates such as Darlene Zschech or Corey Voss or even his son David Baloche to craft newer songs? Why not do an Easter collection centering on the Cross and resurrection rather than yet another Christmas CD? The options are endless, so it is behooving why Integrity Music gave this project a go ahead.