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Chris Tomlin, And If Our God Is For Us...
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Chris Tomlin
And If Our God Is For Us...



Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 11 tracks: 50 minutes, 52 seconds
Street Date: November 16, 2010
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To anyone who has followed CCM for a while, it's no secret that worship leader Chris Tomlin is a staple of the genre. He's one of the core artists of Louie Giglio's Passion conferences and the writer of numerous well-known praise anthems, and his songs hold a major influence in both radio singles and Sunday morning set lists. Earlier this year, he debuted some new music on the Passion: Awakening live album, including the radio hit "Our God," the source of the title for his sixth studio album And if Our God is for Us... For better or worse, these new songs are just what listeners familiar with his style would expect: a set of emotional, mid-tempo ballads, with a few upbeat tracks mixed in.

It's a challenge to translate the emotion and experience of corporate worship music into a studio album, as shown in the opener, "Our God." This familiar radio single is a thundering anthem that's powerful in its live form, and the new studio version doesn't deviate from the original too much, except for a more produced sound and the addition of some heavy strings. But somehow, between the stage and the studio, some of the original electricity is lost. Still, the rallying cry of "And if our God is for us / Then what could ever stop us?" makes a strong statement to set up the rest of the album.

Most of the songs fit Tomlin's established praise ballad formula, but there are a couple of tracks that experiment with a pop-oriented sound, and one in particular that stands out from the rest. "I Will Follow" is a surprising tune with its strong piano-based rhythm and catchy chorus. Lyrically, it's still vertical, but feels more like a personal statement than a congregational song ("Who you love, I'll love / How you serve, I'll serve / If this life I lose / I will follow you..."). Sure, it's not exactly groundbreaking, but as a well-produced pop song it really shines. "Majesty of Heaven" also stands out with a nicely layered, thick sound and is the first track to feature the lovely voice of Christy Nockels singing backup harmony. At the midpoint comes "No Chains on Me," a fun, upbeat tune (probably the most energetic on the record). Unfortunately, its electronic beat, while definitely an experiment in style, doesn't really fit so well, and it comes off a bit forced and strange after a few listens.

For the second half, the record settles back into Tomlin's signature style of emotionally-charged balladry. "Faithful," a duet with Christy Nockels, is a highlight that showcases her skills as a vocalist, and the final track "Awakening" (also previously found on Passion: Awakening) serves as a beautiful, somber finish. But other than that, the final six tracks blend together so much that they start to sound alike and drag the album out. While they may connect in a live setting, it's hard to engage these songs on a personal level in a studio recording. Perhaps it's the nature of this genre of songs written for the church, designed to bring a group of people together in worship. Standing alone on a disc, canned in a studio, what could be powerful and emotional feels like the same arrangements and spiritual, yet distant lyrics that deliver the same messages without reflecting the author's personality or depth.

And if Our God is for Us... is not a bad album by any means. There's something admirable about Chris Tomlin's ability to pen so many new songs to move congregations, and no doubt more than a few of these will find themselves rising to the ceilings of mega-churches before long. But with recent albums from artists like Gungor and John Mark McMillan redefining what worship could be and raising the standards for musical artistry and lyrical depth, And if Our God is for Us... pales in comparison. It's tough to change what works, but it might benefit Tomlin to stretch a bit creatively, perhaps even step out of the worship leader role to try some new things. For now, casual listeners may want to pick up the singles from this record, but check out some of this year's other offerings for something more innovative.

- Review date: 11/14/10, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
A Second Opinion
Stars
Chris Tomlin really has the gift of creating catchy choruses that everyone can sing along with. However, he's also the master of writing music that virtually sounds the same from album to album. Some people might love this, for others… it drives them crazy. Either way, no one can deny that he's got something to say to the church and his message is very clear in And If Our God Is For Us. The album opens with the previously released and already covered by other artists, "Our God." While this has been a very good song for churches and even radio stations, it gets an epic overhaul with orchestral strings. This might be received as an improvement but, in all honesty, it's getting old. This isn't to say the song is bad; it's just been repackaged too many times within a year. Other songs like "I Will Follow" and "Majesty of Heaven" lend more to the pop side of Tomlin's abilities. They also have an 80's flair and percussion sounds similar to that of Phil Collins. The music really is the strong point of these tracks though; the lyrics feel like they take the back seat when it comes to importance as they sound like every other song on adult contemporary radio. The album also features classic Tomlin sounding tracks like, "I Lift My Hands," "No Chains On Me" and "Lovely." As stated earlier, this will either be the best part or the worst part depending on the listener. Ending the album is another previously released track, "Awakening." This actually concludes Tomlin's latest offering beautifully as the passion in the writing, and even in the production, is very evident. Sadly, the album as a whole is difficult to process due to its fluctuating quality. It has a few good highlights, but most tracks feel unoriginal or just repackaged. This album will be a huge blessing to churches looking for good corporate worship music, but for private worship? Not so much. You might be better off just purchasing only a few tracks from your favorite Mp3 music provider. - Ryan Barbee, 11/14/10

 

. Record Label: Sparrow Records / Sixstepsrecords
. Album length: 11 tracks: 50 minutes, 52 seconds
. Street Date: November 16, 2010
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: iTunes (Deluxe Edition)
. Buy It: Amazon.com

  1. Our God (4:44)
  2. I Will Follow (3:39)
  3. I Lift My Hands (4:37)
  4. Majesty Of Heaven (4:44)
  5. No Chains On Me (3:52)
  6. Lovely (3:54)
  7. The Name Of Jesus (4:16)
  8. All To Us (6:19)
  9. Faithful (4:44)
  10. Jesus My Redeemer (4:41)
  11. Awakening (5:22)

    Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks:
  12. Our God (Acoustic)
  13. I Will Follow (Acoustic)
  14. Majesty of Heaven (Acoustic)
  15. Where The Spirit Of The Lord Is (Acoustic)
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