Modern worship has been thriving for years now since artists like Delirious? and Sonicflood helped pave the way for its recent surge in popularity. But its popularity has also lead to a flood of projects and albums that essentially are a lot of the same songs performed in the same style, with little variety or creativity. It's when a few artists do something different that a worship album can really stand out from the rest. But the mere fact a worship album may be mostly recycled material (in either song or just sound), does not render it useless. These records are worship tools for the masses, but will never satisfy everyone's tastes for worship music.
The Hillsong United band is Australia's number one worship group. Their new release follows their previous records More Than Life and To The Ends Of The Earth and presents twelve brand new songs. At first listen, it's pretty straightforward what kind of album United's Look To You is. Standard vocals, generic drum beats, and upbeat musical accompaniment set against the vibrant and bold praises of thousands of worshippers. The problem with a lot of live worship albums is they often possess an "I guess you should've been there" feeling. It's easy to feel a little out of the loop while listening to other's experiences of a particular Spirit-filled evening, but it can also be the springboard for your own personal experiences.
Look To You opens with "Salvation Is Here," which immediately sets the tone for the record. Lyrically, United has its heart securely in the right place, but musically gets lost in the sea of worship bliss. "All I Need Is You" slows the tempo drastically for a more delicate ballad that shows the stronger side of the United team, but the song suffers from some monotony before it draws to a close. "Shout Unto God" is more successfully anthemic, while "There Is Nothing Like" takes a more melodic approach, making these songs album highlights. The album closes on a high note with a powerful cover of Rich Mullins' classic "Awesome God."
United makes their audience as much a part of their worship set as their band is. While this makes for a loud and unified choral feel, it tends to allow the band leading the set to be drowned out almost entirely at times. Using the audience more as subtle background accompaniment may have strengthened a few songs, but many seem to have a bit of a muddled sound, particularly when the songs get more lively and call for more crowd participation.
All in all, Look To You is pretty much your standard live worship fare. Fans of their previous efforts will no doubt enjoy this release, especially since the album is primarily all new material. Major kudos to the United team for writing their own songs, but a few felt somewhat familiar despite being originals. Simplistic in delivery, but still worth a listen, don't be surprised to hear a few United songs in your church on a Sunday morning in the near future. I'd like to see more originality in United's songwriting and performance. It'd be ideal for the songs to exhibit worship completely through voice, music, heart, and spirit, all the while pushing the boundaries of artistry. But until then, there's Look To You.- Review date: 5/1/05, written by John DiBiase
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