Prime Cuts: God, You're So Good (Kristian Stanfill & Melodie Malone), Ghost (Crowder), More Like Jesus (Kristian Stanfill)
Overall Grade: 4.75/5
Passion's latest album "Whole Heart" is as big as the crowd that came to its live recording. A conference that is designed to minister to youngsters in high schools and universities, the event had drawn in over 32,000 students this year garnered from 35 countries. This album, a live recording of the worship music at the conference, is just as big. Featuring a mammoth team, this album features lead vocals from the who' who of worship music, including Matt Redman, Crowder, Kristian Stanfill, Tauren Wells and Melodie Malone.
Nevertheless, conspicuously missing from the recording this year are regulars such as Christy Nockels, Hillsong UNITED, and Chris Tomlin. Though UNITED'S Brooke (Fraser) Ligertwood did appear at this year's conference bringing the house down with the rendition of her Grammy winning hit "What a Beautiful Name," one wonders why none of Ligertwood's songs are included.
Personnel questions aside, this year's release ranks highly as one of the team's best. The strength of this effort lies in three areas. First, Passion has incorporated the familiar with the new. Often most worship albums which comprise of completely new entries take a while for the listener to warm up to. But by mixing some familiar musical spots within the corpus, the accessibility of the album is accelerated. Passion does this by including their rendition of Bethel Music's "Reckless Love" and All Sons & Daughters' "Great Are You Lord." And they have also done this with the sublime "God You're So Good" which is a new ballad built upon the children's chorus "God is So Good."
Second, Passion is iconoclastic as far as recycled clichés and musical platitudes are concerned. Case in point being Crowder's "Ghost." Thanks to Stephen King, the word "ghost" often has a spooky, devilish and negative connotation. But Crowder re-defines this noun by viewing it under the lens of the Cross. In many ways the fact that Jesus died and rose again are prime materials for a horror story. But this "ghost" story does have a positive (and glorious) spin when we know that this is our Lord who has come to save us. If there's an award to be given for the most original worship song, "Ghost" is a worthy candidate.
Third, no song is ever excellent unless it has a strong melody. Though there are a few songs that are less propitious, but many of them are top notched. Stanfill's "Whole Heart" sounds like a worship classic-to-be with its gorgeous build-up to its anthemic chorus. While many worship songs deal with being blessed by God, Stanfill's "More Like Jesus" speaks of self-surrender that is made even more poignant by setting at its precedence Christ's own sacrifice.
After a few hit and miss with their last few releases, Passion has come back with a bang. Energetic, original, quasi-familiar, and filled with the Spirit's presence, this album underscores all the requirements for a great worship album. A record not to be missed!