On Youth Revival Acoustic, Hillsong Young & Free strips back the production and touches of EDM from their original 2016 release, Youth Revival, in favor of more laid back, intimate arrangements, to mixed results.
Let's start first with what does work: the tracks, "I Only Wanna Sing," "When the Fight Calls," "Never Alone," and the addition of the medley "I Love You Lord/Passion." "I Only Wanna Sing" gets the best treatment of the bunch as Young & Free radically redesigns the feel of the song without losing or changing the melody. A piano and soft harmonies are utilized to draw the listener into this intimate prayer. It also has some of the meatier lyrics, such as are present in the verse: "This is no performance / Lord I pray it's worship / empty words I can't afford / I'm not chasing feelings / That's not why I'm singing You're the reason for my song." The chorus goes on to confess, "I only wanna sing / if I sing with everything / if I sing for You my King / I can't imagine why / I would do this all for hype / 'cause it's all to lift You high." "When the Fight Calls" continues the mellow, worshipful tempo with reflective lyrics like, "You've overcome this world with love / and made my fight your own / I lift my eyes and throw fear aside / And sing out into the night." A simple sparse keyboard, along with gentle lilting female vocals, carry the song "Never Alone," and although the lyrics of the chorus become repetitive, they set up the bridge to feature the powerful phrase, "My soul revived in your broken hands / Gracious blood hold my sin and shame." The familiar chorus of "I Love You Lord" is paired with Young & Free song "Passion" to good effect, and it has an adlibbed, spontaneous feel to it. While this may cause some listeners to skip over this track, the mood of the previous five songs has been set, and it works together well, helping the listener to feel like they have been at a live performance all along.
There are only two things that hold this release back from being a truly great addition to the worship genre. First, the fact that of the ten tracks, only eight of those feature new arrangements, or arrangements that differ enough from originals. Secondly, when hearing that an album is being given the acoustic treatment, especially one like band Young & Free, it produces certain expectations of instrumentation and feel. While many tracks did this effectively, "Real Love," "Falling into You," and "Where You Are" didn't quite live up to the expectations of this reviewer. By and large, it feels as though this album would have been better suited as a five to six song EP rather than a full-length release. The radio edits of "Real Love" and "Falling into You" are largely unnecessary, as they don't differ enough from newer mellow arrangements or even from the original sound, to be included in this set or purchased again for those already owning them.
Hillsong Young & Free show the potential of great versatility in that their songs could be sung by sweaty middle-school students jumping around, or stripped back for the acoustic feel with an adult congregation. With this promise and the possible pairing of the more upbeat dance elements and the slower acoustic songs, they could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.- Review date: 4/11/17, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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