Sam Ock and John Rhee are a duo of Korean musicians who are out to praise the Lord. Ock has been gaining some notoriety over the last couple of years. Ock is a worship leader, has been releasing solo material, is involved with the hip-hop group AMP (who released a crazy good EP last year), and has even shown up on some guest spots. Ock now pairs with the younger John Rhee, with some help from Yuris Yoon, to provide their take on some classic hymns. The album, entitled Laus Deo, is Latin for "Praise be to God." While Ock is known to rap, and do a solid job at it, you won't hear any hip-hop in this collection.
Laus Deo starts out rather bodly with a cappella vocals on "Come Thou Fount." As the song continues to build, so does the instrumentation. No instruments turn to a lightly picked acoustic, which builds to a lightly picked electric on top. The vocals also build as well and feature some great sounding harmonies between all three voices, Yoon included. Yoon's voice really helps to set the song off as her voice isn't overpowering, but instead fills the gaps nicely. The beautiful and soft instrumentation found in the opening track, as well as the spot-on harmonies, continues throughout the entire project. Most of the songs included are extremely popular hymns that are still sung in traditional worship services all over America. While "All Creatures of Our God and King" isn't as widely known as something like "Nothing But the Blood," the version provided by Ock and Rhee really stands out amongst the more known hymns. Aside from "Faithful God," a mid-tempo number, all of the renditions are slower in tempo. However, the more dynamic and powerful "It is Well With My Soul" likely has the most energy and serves as a great closer.
The vocals and harmonies present on Laus Deo are really tight. The music itself is beautiful, and while not overly complex, it's executed nicely. You will be hard-pressed to find a better compilation of re-imagined hymns than Sam Ock and John Rhee have recorded. Being aware of Sam Ock's talent, I was personally expecting a solid record, but Ock and Rhee exceeded any expectations I had. Even though the music is enjoyable, a little is deducted for a lack of overall diversity. If you are fan of hymns, or are just looking for some soothing music to put on and reflect to, Laus Deo would be an excellent choice. Soft piano and acoustic guitar, wonderful vocals, and even better harmonies make Sam Ock and John Rhee's joint effort a fabulous listen.
- Review date: 12/18/14, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com