Prime Cuts: Awake My Soul, King of Kings, He Shall Reign
Overall Grade: 5/5
40% of CCLI's Top Worship songs bear a Hillsong copyright. This means that almost half the worship soundtrack of the churches in North America have their origins in Hillsong Church. Not only are their songs, such as "What a Beautiful Name," "Who You Say I Am,"and "Cornerstone," the currency of today's worship music, their songs defy the passage of time. After more than 20 years, Hillsong's "Shout to the Lord" is still lingering in CCLI's Top 40. And some hymnbooks have even included this Darlene Zschech composition in the same canon as hymns written by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. Precisely because of the ubiquitous nature of their songs, every Hillsong Worship release is vitally important. Safe to say, with Brooke Ligertwood on the helm, "Awake" is bound to continue to enrich and vilify the worship of God's churches.
Among the 11 new worship songs (track one "Dawn" is merely an instrumental interlude) five of them are bound for classic status. Already making into the constant repertoire of many worship teams is the Brooke Ligertwood, Scott Ligertwood and Jason ingram co-written single "King of Kings." Slamming naysayers who often criticise Hillsong for a dearth of theological depth, "King of Kings" flourishes with a careful re-telling of the Gospel narrative climaxing in a trumpet outburst: "Now this gospel truth of old/Shall not kneel shall not faint."
While many worship songs are emotive expressions of an empty mind, this is not so with "Awake My Soul." This Brooke Ligertwood-penned ballad situates us into the temple of God in Isaiah 6 as we witnessed afresh what worship is really like. The vivid use of the Isaiah's language makes this song extra rich: It's the sound of the Saviour's robe/As He walks into the room where people pray/Where we hear praises He hears faith. Teaming with her husband Scott and Chris Davenport as co-writers, Brooke Ligertwood shines again with "From Whom All Blessings Flow." Building new verses around the ancient hymn "Doxology," the song gives added reasons why the triune God needs to be praised.
Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan score a double touchdown. The first being "He Shall Reign." The song essentially borrows its hook from Handel's "Messiah," crowning the worship of God as depicted in Revelation 4 and 5 with a majestic enthronement. "See the Light," the other Morgan/Hasting collaboration and last of the pentad of classics, is a rapturous anthem capturing the joy and excitement of seeing Jesus for who He really is. The rest of the songs may not be of the same level of sublimity but they are by no means ropey. The Taya Smith-led "Upper Room" is a creative spiritualisation of Jesus' final meal with his disciples; while Joel Houston's "Bright as the Sun" has a poetic ring that is enthralling.
Of all the worship albums released this year, "Awake" is one of the most important ones. Many of these songs will make its rounds into the worship setlist of countless worship teams. Glad to say, these songs are by no means frivolous. Rather, they are the results of careful studying of scripture, close refinements of congregational hooks, and creative expressions of doctrines that sing and sting.