Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I can be objective - HONEST!

So I'm going to attempt to review a soon-to-be-released album by one of my favorite bands - Caedmon's Call. I got a pre-release of their newest album, "In the Company of Angels II - The World Will Sing," because they had a deal where worship pastors could preview it. I got it about a week ago and listened to it here and there - but today I sat down with pen and paper to listen INTENTLY to it!

The main things to know about this: it's a worship album. They had one out a few years back that I thought was pretty good. They definitely have some common influence with the Indelible Grace group that re-does old (and often unfamiliar) hymn texts. They also have 3 main vocalists: Cliff Young, Danielle Young, and Andrew Osenga. Cliff sings most of the songs - Danielle and Andy sing 2 apiece. They have a wide variety of songwriters - and my pre-release doesn't give song credits unfortunately. I had expected (because of the subtitle "the world will sing" and because of their previous world-music influenced album) that this album would have lots of ethnic influences - musically and lyrically. That's not the case...for better or worse.

So my overall review: I would put this on a similar level as their previous worship album - it's a good worship album (though I doubt it will be one of my all-time favorites) but it's not on as high of a level as many other Caedmon's albums. However, there are a handfull of really good songs - so I'm glad for those. As a part of the pre-release I was asked to consider how usable the songs are for corporate worship (which is already a primary criteria in my head) - but know that a lot of the review will tilt that way.

Thumbs up:

  • The lyrical content is really good. There is lots of substance and depth - without being overly wordy. The themes addressed are ones that are often overlooked in worship songs: Christ's redemptive acts - and what they mean for us, the corporate dimension of Christian worship (more than just me & Jesus), being honest about pain and suffering and putting it in perspective, etc. Lyrically speaking, there is not a bad track on this album.
  • I'm almost always a fan of re-done hymns - though it can be tricky to mess with the ones that are really well-known. Draw Me Nearer does the best job with this.
  • Andrew Osenga and Danielle Young - the songs that they sing on this album are my favorites. While I've always been drawn to songs Danielle sings (I'm self-centered, I admit, the girl songs are easier to sing) - this album makes me excited that Andy is a part of this band. More for his songwriting than anything else. I loved his songs on Share the Well - and then I decided to buy some old albums from his former band, The Normals. His song, "The Story" from this album is AMAZING. More on it later.


  • Cliff's voice - I have a harder time with it on this album for some reason. But I don't want to feel that way.

Thumbs down:

  • There is very little that jumps out and GRABS me musically on this album. We could debate how important that is - but for me - I love it when an album draws me in. A few tracks here and then are really great, but overall it's going to be one that grows on me. I think it could... This is Caedmon's Call - and I expect fun driving guitars, really fun percussion, and really fun harmonies (I NEED FUN, dangit)...or I expect experimentation. And there are just a good number of tracks that sound like they would fit right in on Christian radio (and that's all I'll say about that).

Stand-out tracks (with selections of lyrics):

Draw Me Nearer - A re-working of a familiar hymn. The music is really nice - but the best part is an added bridge where Danielle sings (almost ad-libbing): "You draw me with Your mercy, You draw me with your love, You draw me with forgiveness by your blood, etc."

Rest Upon Us - I think that this song does a good job of expressing need - but calling out to God in specific ways, expressing faith(vs. I need you, I need you, I need you, etc.). A sample of the chorus: "Holy Spirit rest upon us, breath of God touch my soul, Come unfailing love of Jesus, rest upon us, rest upon us"

Fellowship - I love the content of the lyrics - the theme is really cool - singing together about Christ's redemption but then what that means for us as a community. I love the 2nd verse especially: "We can feel His love among us; We can sing redemption's songs; We can hear the Spirit call us to a place where we belong; For His joy is in our laughter and His comfort in our grief; His love here and ever after will be the language that we speak." This song is a great lyric/music combo - and could be singable...

Be Merciful to Me - love love love the SOUND of this song. The simple piano and the percussion - plus Danielle's soft vocals - it's great. The chorus is really simple and repetitive: "Be merciful to me, be merciful to me, through shadow dark and valley deep, be merciful to me" - though the repetition of "Be merciful to me" reminds me of repeating the traditional Kyrie/Christe Eleison phrases "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy." I'm curious to see later how much of the lyrics here are original or if it's an old text.

The Story - THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG EVER. (Sorry for the yelling) Well, I don't know about ever - but I really really like it. I'm probably tainted by my worship seminary brain - and while this isn't a corporate worship song - it's a REALLY good song. But there is something about needing to be reminded of the bigger picture - that Christ is victorious. Andy's songwriting is just really great. I'm going to share lots of lyrics - because I like them, and it's my blog and I can do what I want!

  • Chorus: "Oh can tell me the story of all of Your glory,
    of Your rising again.
    Cause I'm in love with the mystery of how our sad history
    can turn out for good."
  • 2nd verse: "And the bitter man is angry
    and the angry man just thinks he's right.
    Too right to see mercy -
    but he's standing in its light.
    We can shed tears over dying -
    we can rage & fight -
    but we cannot forget that we were loved before we opened up our eyes -
    such foolish pride"
  • And the bridge - holy cow -
    "It's a shame to build our homes with bricks of fear and cynical stones.
    There is nothing left to run from, there is nothing left but..."

This is from my notes when I was listening through the album: "Andy O is the MAN"

And there you go - the album is released March 7th - and you should either buy it - or buy the top songs from iTunes. Thank you for reading...

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