CD REVIEW: “Love Divine – Charles Wesley Songs for Today’s Generation” – Various Artists

***Disclaimer – This review is based on the perceived usefulness of the lyrics & arrangement for congregational worship in the small church.  

1.  I Know That My Redeemer Lives (★★★★) – This song is a fantastic start to the project.  Very useful song for modern congregational worship (especially churches with a strong rhythm section.  Strong lyrics, great new chorus, and packed with energy.

2.  Rejoice the Lord Is King  (★★★☆☆)  – In my opinion, the edginess of this arrangement doesn’t lend itself to much flexibility in the local church context.  It would be hard not to do this with full-on electric guitars.  If your church is into progressive modern worship, you shouldn’t have an issue.  If you are blended church, this song may be a little difficult to pull off. (Original hymn #302 – 2008 Baptist Hymnal.)

3.  And Can It Be (★★★★★) – A great modern arrangement of a timeless classic.  One of my all-time favorite Wesley hymns.  There has been a need for a singable version of this song for a long time.  The old melody was significantly outdated and difficult for most congregations to sing based on the large and uncharacteristic intervals.  This song will be in my praise team library soon! (Original hymn #250 – 2008 Baptist Hymnal.)   

4.  Jesus We Look to Thee (★★☆☆) – I think the arrangement is a little too alternative for small church congregational worship.  Might work better in a more progressive context?

5.  Jesus Lover of My Soul(★★★☆)  – Call me crazy… but I believe that we should sing “minor key” songs in worship from time to time, rather than telling everybody to be happy all the time.  This whole “check your troubles outside the door and get lost in worship mindset” that I hear a lot of worship leaders employ is unhelpful and unbiblical.  No, bring your cares & burdens to Jesus – Who has overcame them through the Gospel!  The Psalms are packed with the full range of human emotion and I think we should give voice to both joy and lament in times of worship (when appropriate).  That being said, I am curious whether this would be well received in most of our churches?  Tempted to try it. (Original hymn #167 – 2008 Baptist Hymnal).

6.  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (★★★☆☆) – I personally like other versions of this song better but this would definitely be a strong song for modern worship.  I guess I just think of this song as a meditative Christmas anthem?  Anyway, the chorus is crafted well with the overall theme and feel of the song.  (Original hymn #176 – 2008 Baptist Hymnal).

7.  Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above (★★★★☆) – Love this song!  The long melodic / lyrical run in the chorus may be a bit of a challenge for more reserved congregations.  A great song of praise appropriately centered on the name of Christ!

8.  Jesus The Name High Over All  (★★★ ) – I was unfamiliar with this hymn before hearing this arrangement but I really like it.  I always struggle to find upbeat songs that say something of value, this song continues a pattern of good lively songs!

9.  O For A Thousand Tongues (★★★ ) – Another solid arrangement of a timeless classic.  Not my favorite on the project but would still be effective in congregational worship. (Original hymn #136 – 2008 Baptist Hymnal).

10.  Love Divine (★★☆☆) –  I find this arrangement pretty but not real accessible for congregational worship.  Would be a beautiful solo piece.

11.  Christ The Lord Is Risen Today (★★★ ) – I like the mysterious quality to the arrangement but I am not a big fan of the arrangement.  Personally seemed kind of ho-hum for a song about the resurrection of Christ.  Wish it was more energetic, reflective of the lyrics.  (Original Hymn #270 –  2008 Baptist Hymnal)

12.  Christ Whose Glory Fills The Skies (★★★ ) – Another hymn I was unfamiliar with.  The arrangement is kind of boring.

13.  Of For A Heart To Praise My God (★★★★★) – Great song to end with!  A very singable song and an amazing prayer for congregations of all sizes to sing.  The title itself should be our prayer everyday!  This would be good in corporate worship and even a great addition to your personal daily worship time!

OVERALL:  3.5 stars

I believe this is a very good project and recommend you purchase a copy for your collection.  There were several really good marriages of biblical lyrics and complementary arrangements.  There were also several songs that were just okay in this department.  I feel that if you can get 3 ‘reaaaally’ good songs out of a project for congregational worship it is a good CD.  I think at least 5-6 would be worth doing with my congregation.

Charles Wesley left an indelible mark on Christian hymnody and I am grateful for these artists updating the timeless songs in a way that serves the church.  I also appreciate how they also revived lyrics of songs that were otherwise not in circulation, not just the classics.  I like that most of these songs could be done by a strong rhythm guitar player along with some auxiliary percussion if your church doesn’t feature a full modern worship band (drums, electric guitars, etc).  Very useful!

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