Live albums are tricky. Sound engineering and mixing are much more complicated than in the studio, and the goal is often different, aimed at recreating the feel of a band in concert as opposed to introducing new music. Kari Jobe's Majestic therefore becomes extra-tricky, since it's a live album meant to recreate not so much a concert as a worship experience, and it's introducing all-new music at the same time.
Through 15 years of leading worship, Jobe has grown into a household name. Her 2012 release Where I Find You was nominated for a Grammy and produced a staple set of much-loved worship songs. On Majestic, Jobe ventures in several new directions. Jobe wrote nearly 50 songs in the development of the project, and included co-writes with a stellar list of worship leaders (Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Brian & Jenn Johnson, Paul Baloche, and Reuben Morgan, just to name a few). Also, Jobe presents this new music recorded live at the historic Majestic Theater in her hometown of Dallas. And that's where things get tricky.
Several of the potential pitfalls have been overcome. For starters, the sound is excellent, allowing Jobe's warm, passionate vocal to lead over just enough crowd noise to establish atmosphere and energy. The accompanying DVD is also well-done. As expected, there aren't a lot of typical concert gimmicks in the staging, but the video maintains a keen sense of the worship experience. A wide-angle camera stuck in the very back row was actually a highlight, effectively blending audience and band in a way that's often missing in concert footage.
Where Majestic falters a bit is in the simultaneous attempt to present new music while capturing a live worship experience. The biggest stumbling block is repetition. For years, that's been a common criticism of worship music, and it's one of the lines of demarcation between modern worship and classic hymns. The repetition makes more sense on a live album, and it is therefore sometimes suitable as a "resource" for a listener trying to recapture a shared experience, or hoping to participate vicariously.
However, there are times when repeated choruses, particularly in new songs, are a huge distraction. Consider the opener on Majestic, "Hands to the Heavens." Lyrically, it's an excellent song of invitation and expectation. The problem is that on the recording, it stretches to over 8 minutes. Worship leaders desiring to replicate the album version would have to use this arrangement: V1 C V2 C C B B B C C B B B B B B B B B B. Yes, the bridge is repeated a total of 13 times. It is unlikely that this repetition was pre-planned; Jobe likely comprehended the room and the Spirit and allowed certain elements that were connecting with the crowd to breathe. On repeated listenings of an album or viewings of a DVD, however, those elements tend to languish rather than breathe.
The album reflects a consistent desire for more of the presence of God, a desire that pervades the concert. "When You Walk in the Room" is another meditative song containing only these repeated words for over 3 minutes: "When You walk in the room there's nothing like it." It works better on the DVD, tucked between "How Majestic" and "Here I Am (Majesty)".
Ardent Kari Jobe supporters - and there are many - will likely not be bothered by this issue of repetition. There are several excellent songs here. The quasi-title track, "How Majestic," was co-written with Tomlin, Redman, and Jason Ingram. It paints a striking contrast between beauty and majesty in creation and on the cross. Another standout, lead single "Forever," arrives just in time for Easter. The song soars from Good Friday ("The moon and stars they wept / The morning sun was dead / The Savior of the world was fallen") to Resurrection Sunday ("Now death, where is your sting? / Our resurrected King / Has rendered you defeated"), and it highlights one of Jobe's most important vocal gifts: her ability to communicate both intimacy and quiet on ballads and power and strength on anthems.
It's interesting to imagine how this album might have sounded as a studio release. The songs are strong enough that they don't rely on a live setting with a fervent audience to communicate praise. Ironically, they might have spoken louder without the audience.- Review date: 3/20/14, written by Mark D. Geil of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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