Prime Cuts: 10,000 Reasons, How He Loves, It is Well
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Instrumental albums are tricky to review. This is because people have variegated expectations as to the functions of a non-vocal worship record. There are some who want these songs to serve as the background music as they iron their clothes or cook for dinner or cruise in their cars. Then there are others who just want to use such songs as means of relaxation. Then there are others who use these offerings as worship opportunities to meditate and quietly hum along during their devotional times. Then there are still others who study the technicalities of how each instrument interact with each other, appreciating the slightest musical nuances an electric guitar can create.
If you belong to the last category, you will unequivocally give "Still: Volume 3" a 5 star review. This album is a musical work of art where experimentation, innovation, and creativity meet. The Creak Music - which comprises of Seth Talley, Brad King and David Leonard (formerly of All Sons & Daughters) - is given the lofty task of re-imagining the familiar hymns and songs of worship music with a couple of new ones thrown in. Instead of slavishly following the original scores, they have re-written many of these worship songs while still keeping the original hook.
On certain tracks, the trio have blistered with excellence. Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons," in their hands, is no longer a big stadium pop extravaganza. Rather, it's transformed into mid-tempo bluesy piece with serpentine Prince-like electric guitar riffs circling around its melody. The hymn "It is Well" sounds like a latter-day Mark Knopfler composition: languidly tempered and richly soulful. Mark McMillan's "How He Loves" gets a complete make-over. No longer sounding maudlin: the Creak Music has dressed this ode to God's love with fresh syncopated beats and haunting synth riffs. Meanwhile, All Sons and Daughter's "All the Poor and Powerless" gets a metallic nu-folk uplift that actually sounds really cool.
But not everything works. Cory Asbury's "Reckless Love" has such a universal appeal because of the intimacy God shows in searching "recklessly" for the lost sheep. However, by surrounding the song with metallic-sounding percussion and angular-sounding electric guitar sprints, the song is somehow robbed of its intimacy. Moreover, if your purpose of buying an instrumental album is to hum along in your quite moments, you will be lost when it comes to Hillsong's "Cornerstone." The song is so deprived of its original hook that it doesn't sound remotely like the "Cornerstone" we are used to. Ditto with "Amazing Grace" and "Just as I Am." And why are these two hymns so short, clocking in at less than 2 minutes each?
Thus, the utility of this record depends on your view of what an instrumental worship album serves. If you are here to appreciate the creativity of how new sounds can be created out of older songs, this album is perfect for you. However, if you want a singalong, the songs here are too radically re-imagined for you to get any bearing. And if you want songs that just serve as means of background music or for relaxing, this album does have such moments.