Prime Cuts: Offering, Once for All, Our God Saves
Overall Grade: 5/5
When the popularity of worship music was in its nascent stage, Integrity Music had the foresight to release a series of worship CDs under the Hosanna banner. The series was to enrich the church in her worship by offering a new collection of songs every three or four months. As a result, this series launched the careers of the future juggernauts of the genre including Darlene Zschech & Hillsong Worship, Graham Kendrick, Jack Hayford, Don Moen, Marty Nystrom, Paul Wilbur, Bob Fitts, Ron Kenoly and many others. However, after more than two decades, only two of the original signees are still actively recording for the imprint, they are Darlene Zschech & Paul Baloche. Thus, to see the release of Baloche's "Ultimate Collection" is indeed a testimony of Baloche's tenacity and viability.
Despite the changes in the execution of worship music over the last twenty odd years, Baloche has a way of laying down his stake with the ever-flow of fresh and engaging worship songs. So, after all these years, what's the secret of Baloche's success? Baloche knows how to hold the perfect pitch between memorability, depth and diversity. First, many of us who have grown up in a contemporary worship singing church will immediately be able to hum to Baloche's staples such as "Your Name," "Our God Saves," "Above All," and "Same Love." Simply because these songs all possess indelible and distinguished hooks that have a way of lingering in our memory banks.
Second, Baloche is not a memory-lingering tunesmith, he's also a poet deeply immersed in rich evangelical theology. One of the most ruminating lines Baloche has had ever written come from "Your Mercy," the title cut from his last studio album: "Your loving kindness/Leads me to repentance." The line by itself is so loaded with the Gospel that it deserves a full sermon or even a book to unpack. Then you have the immortal "Above All." Though many songwriters have written about Christ's sacrifice for us, it is Baloche's sublime use of a "rose trampled on the ground" image to speak of the ignominy of the Cross that allows him to sing within our heart's chambers.
Third, there's diversity in Baloche's extensive ourve. Whilst many lesser songwriter are tempted of re-using the same template that first brought them success, Baloche throws away all predictability in every tune he crafts. He can easily excel on the propulsive "Our God Saves" as well as the majestic "Glorious" as well as the contemplative "Your Name." Though all three compositions bear Baloche's name, they do not sound anything like sonic siblings. Moreover, Baloche is not afraid of tackling taboo issues. Offering is a topic that many pastors dread to preach about, but not Baloche (as in "The Offering" and "What Can I Do").
What "Ultimate Collection" does is that it gathers together 15 of Baloche's most popular songs from his 1998's "First Love" album all the way to 2016's "Your Mercy," with the bulk coming from his latter works. Though fans may gripe over what has been left out, but this is a fairly overarching effort with most of his best known songs included. If you have never owned a Baloche album, this album is a great way to start.