In 2000, Essential Records gave birth to what has probably become the most original and most well-crafted special modern worship project of all time. The City On A Hill series gathered a small community of talented CCM artists to collaborate on new as well as familiar worship-focused songs. The series even introduced the original runaway hit "God Of Wonders." 2003 marked the final installment of the City On A Hill series leaving room for a fine replacement.
2004 has brought about the introduction of a new Essential collaboration series entitled The Christ Trilogy featuring His Passion, His Birth, and His Life. This month, His Passion releases, conveniently coinciding with the recent release of the film The Passion Of The Christ. The problem with His Passion is that there isn't too much about the project worth buying. Despite a CD jacket that features a sample of The Passion book based on the movie and an enhanced feature with selections of scripture, there are only a mere four new tracks here. All of the other tracks have appeared on different installments of the City On a Hill projects. While this is fine for the most part, the problem is that the CD is generally be charged at the full price of a regular CD and is not really worth more than the price of most EP's. If you have any of the City records, you really don't need to shell out your hard-earned money for this one.
Taking a quick look at the new songs, the first is the oddly placed "Were You There When The Sun Refused To Shine" which is sung by a young child by the name of Maddy Madeira. While that in itself is rather cute, Maddy's voice isn't strong enough to carry the track alone, especially with many of the other big wigs on the record. The result is a song that just ultimately doesn't fit here. "Lamb Of God" by Bebo Norman and two members of Casting Crowns is so-so worship offering that doesn't really add anything memorable to the track list while Norman's other song, "Yes I Will," a duet with Joy Williams, is arguably the best song on His Passion. Finally, Phil Keaggy offers "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" which flows well with the vibe of the project but essentially doesn't stand out too much.
While I want to give the producers the benefit of the doubt, the time of release and the poorly constructed record just feels a little too much like an attempt to ride the buzz from the The Passion film. Ultimately, I really don't see the need for this album at all. If you own the City On a Hill records, you really don't need this one, however, you may want to pick it up someday when it makes it to the bargain rack.- Review date: 3/13/04, written by John DiBiase
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