- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Aug
Acclaimed worship leader Rita Springer may not have the name recognition of Matt Redman and Darlene Zschech, but that could well change someday soon. A resident of Houston, Texas, where she serves as a worship leader at a church called The Encourager, Rita is another of the much-heralded "Vineyard songwriters" responsible for such worship gems as "Make Us a Prayer," "Fragrant Offering," "Moving with the Lamb," "You Said," and "Oh How You Love Me." She has a heart for women's ministry, though she's led worship for audiences of all kinds around the world. After releasing two successful independent projects, Rita signed with Floodgate Records to release the live album Created to Worship, as well as All I Have. Her fifth project, Effortless, was recorded in Winnipeg, Canada with producer and fellow Vineyard worship leader David Ruis.
Two words leap to mind when you give Rita's music a serious listen: passion and poetry. The former certainly isn't uncommon to worship music, but few artists exude passion like Rita Springer does. You can hear it soaking in her strong vocals, which often are compared to Melissa Etheridge, but can also be compared to Margaret Becker, Janis Joplin, Jennifer Knapp, and Jami Smith. Her music displays an equal helping of passion and a sincere longing for intimacy with God. Some might say this is unremarkable pop/rock that favors power ballads. I hear a band that wants to play its heart out and blend true artistry with worshipping the Lord. This is neither overproduced pop-worship nor overdone modern rock, but something rather unique that falls in-between. There are times when Rita and her band are as effective as Rich Mullins was with his Ragamuffin Band on his
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I like that Rita has an open mind about worship and art, experimenting with a variety of writing styles rather than pulling from a pre-set list of worship clichés. "Worth It All" is a powerful statement of perseverance and praise: "Around every corner and up every mountain / I'm not looking for crowns or the water from fountains / I'm desperate in seeking – frantic, believing – the sight of your face." Her words in "You Still Have My Heart" offer praise and devotion to the Lord with originality and poetry: "Oh, I sigh at your wonders / Oh, I labor for breath at your creation / Your majesty has my attention / Your sovereignty has my devotion / And you still have my heart." Like the beloved hymn "Just As I Am," there's a beautiful portrait of comfort and simplicity that carries the gentle "Just to Know," which lists things that bring us the Lord's peace: "Just to know that I can come and lay at your feet / Just to know that I won't be denied / Just to know that I can call you my home."
Rita wrote or co-wrote eight of the album's twelve tracks, though some of the album's finest moments are her interpretations of other people's worship songs. I really like her rendition of Bart Millard's "I Can Only Imagine," which is a little more bombastic than the original because of the guitars and drums (reminiscent of "Better Is One Day"). She sings a duet with David Ruis on his song "No Eye Has Seen," which expresses a child-like desire to understand God's sometimes confusing will. Though the vocals sound a little tired and the keyboards a little dated, I love that she covers Delirious' "Intimate Stranger," a beautiful song with a lovely melody that surprisingly hasn't made its way into more church services. By far one of the album's standout tracks is Rita's cover of Charlie Hall's "Holy Visitation," which absolutely rocks and is highlighted by an extensive vocal and percussion vamp that recalls Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, or Rich Mullins ("The Color Green").
Rita Springer has a gift for expressing worship in new words, as well as making an intimate connection between the listener and the Lord through her music. She has a somewhat unique ability to thoughtfully ad lib while playing, often elaborating on the emotion of the song — you can hear it at the end of many of these songs, as well as on "Spontaneous Song." Yes, it sometimes can be melodically monotonous, but it's also very meditative, like an old Latin chant. The title track is a simple and brief piano-accompanied prayer for the worship to be pleasing to God, featuring an absolutely beautiful and haunting melody. Rita titled this album