Over a decade had passed without hearing any new music from legendary singer/songwriter Chris Rice, but earlier this year, he released an amazing split album with Andrew Ripp. Just a few short months later, he's dropping another surprise release, Untitled Hymn: A Collection of Hymns. This ten-track album may not have the most incredible album artwork or the most unique premise, but it most assuredly deserves the warmest of welcomes.
In addition to a redux of his own "Untitled Hymn," a track which Rice penned long ago, the album features a hearty collection of hymns from the past few centuries, plus a new offering at its close. Opening with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," Rice sets off on the right foot. The smooth, reflective mix is hopeful and cheery, but adds in just a tinge of melancholy. Other album highlights include the string-focused "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" and a lovely rendition of "Fairest Lord Jesus." The addition of a children's choir on "Hallelujah What a Savior" serves to mix things up in a tasteful fashion, while the true-to-form "There is a Fountain" is markedly an album highlight.
Rice's rendition of "Were You There" moves in a curiously different direction. Personally, I found it a little jarring, but I'm sure others will also be quite enthralled with his take. "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" likewise has some odd timing in the chorus but is otherwise excellent. The closing track, "Too Much I Love," is a short, new offering from Rice, and serves as a sweet, gentle, and original finale.
Ultimately, Rice does an exceptional job when it comes to track selection. Paring down the number of hymns to include is a difficult task indeed. The album carries a simple and quaint atmosphere, where Rice does justice to almost all of the selected hymns. In this sad era where artists feel the need to "breathe new life into" (i.e. mutilate, botch) Christian classics, Rice instead honors them in a refreshing manner. In fact, it's a challenge to find modern, gimmick-free versions of many of these offerings.
If you're a fan of Rice, or just enjoy quieter, traditional worship music, you'll find a lovely trove of wealth on this collection. If you're unsure, I urge you to give this album a chance; revisit the works of art and praise which defined the lives of believers for centuries. Hearing them in their original forms once more may offer you more than just an enjoyable listen.- Review date: 5/14/19, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Fair Trade/Columbia
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