Sounds like … soft pop arrangements of favorites found on numerous other worship projects by Michael W. Smith and Vineyard.At a glance … A Deeper Faith II would be too predictable to mention if it weren't for the solid pop production and a few impressive song choices.
Whether or not you appreciate his music, you have to admit John Tesh has one of the most interesting resumés in the entertainment industry. He's been the co-host of "Entertainment Tonight," a sports commentator, a composer, a radio personality, and now a worship leader and author. His new book, The Power of Prayer & Worship, outlines his transition into the role of worship leader at his home church and offers some keen observations on the importance of worship. (The book also includes a 10-track disc of new instrumental compositions not available anywhere else.)
A Deeper Faith II follows last year's best-selling foray into worship music. And like Michael W. Smith's popular Worship albums, the Deeper Faith discs don't offer much in the way of originality or innovation. It's essentially 12 worship songs performed in Tesh's particular brand of soft pop, interspersed with Scripture readings. Produced by Tom Laune (the Passion albums, Point of Grace, R.E.M.), it is likeably crafted and handily performed by studio musicians. Tesh's fine singing voice is featured on one song, and his keyboard work is woven throughout, but it's his gift of arrangement that is primarily on display here.
As such, A Deeper Faith II features going-thru-the-motions covers of "God of Wonders" and "Hungry." There's a stirring rendition of Chris Tomlin's "We Fall Down" and a rather impressive performance of Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine." Two songs by acclaimed Vineyard worship leader Brian Doerksen are included: a routine version of "Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)" and a long overdue updated cover of "Light the Fire Again." Tesh's arrangement of Tree 63's "Joy" is simplified for better or worse; the second verse has been changed into something you'd more expect in corporate worship, and an interesting-but-tricky guitar riff has been ditched in favor of a more straightforward pop/rock style. Certainly a fine collection of beautifully arranged worship songs here, but it's nothing that hasn't been heard on innumerable other available albums.
Ah, but Tesh does offer a few curve balls. One is a cover of Chris Rice's "And Your Praise Goes On," a wonderful worship song that surprisingly hasn't been covered more. This version is much less ethereal than the original, favoring acoustic instrumentation of piano, percussion, accordion, and mandolin. Another highlight is a less rhythmic but no less effective arrangement of 100 Portraits' "I Will Not Forget You," best known from the underground worship classic Enter the Worship Circle; it too is an oft-overlooked and passionately worded expression of praise. Tom Lane's "Pour Out Your Spirit" is but one more lost gem revived on A Deeper Faith II, rendered with an appealingly soulful groove.
And then there's the album's first single, "Bring Me to Life," certain to generate a lot of attention and worthy of offering John Tesh a round of applause for his boldness. The song was penned by mainstream rock band Evanescence, which initially made some claim to Christian faith, only to later slam the Christian music industry and claim that their spiritual beliefs aren't present in their music. Still, "Bring Me to Life," a smash radio hit for Evanescence, is loaded with spiritual imagery—and Tesh clearly recognized its worship potential as a modern-day Psalm of sorts. Tesh is one of the last artists you'd expect to cover this song, but he transforms it beautifully, stripping it of its electric guitars and rapcore elements, yet remaining true to the original in an unplugged pop arrangement with a hint of Latin. Windy Wagner gives a vocal performance that rivals Amy Lee's.
Is one cover song enough reason to recommend an album? There's actually nothing to recommend against on A Deeper Faith II, other than the fact that most of the album has been done to death elsewhere—Songs 4 Worship, WoW Worship, iWorship, etc. If only Tesh were more inventive in all his song selections and arrangements; if only he aimed a little higher and put those compositional skills to good use. In fairness, though, one can only do so much with a well-liked worship song; there's a fine line between alienating listeners with a radically new arrangement and boring them with the same old thing. There's something to be said for a man who sincerely desires to be "useful" to the church, and considering how much the public still craves a well-made worship album, A Deeper Faith II is bound to be a hit.