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Favorite Worship Albums of 2004

  • Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
Favorite Worship Albums of 2004

Like all of Christian music, worship is a diverse genre. Some albums are designed for use in congregational settings, others for seeker-friendly audiences or personal times of worship. Yet while these albums—and artists—approach things differently, they all ultimately serve the same purpose of glorifying our Creator.

Because of this diversity, we don't ranked our annual list of Favorite Worship Albums. We're not looking to elevate one form of worship over another, but simply to share 12 of the finest praise albums from the last year.

Eight of this year's 12 albums are associated with Integrity Music, but that's just a matter of excellence, not favoritism. Selections are based on quality of songwriting and arrangements, practicality of music in various settings, and achievements in production and performance.

Our favorites (listed in alphabetical order by artist's last name):

World ServiceDelirious? (Sparrow/EMI)

Read the original review here.

Would any list of the year's finest worship albums be complete without the latest from Delirious? This band has remained true to its worshipful roots while alternating between congregational and creative albums. World Service offers a little bit of both, returning to anthemic sing-alongs that characterized Delirious' Cutting Edge days while also offering the aggressive U2-styled modern rock heard on their more recent albums. "Rain Down" and "Grace Like a River" both have readily recognizable choruses, and "Majesty (Here I Am)" is an instant prayerful classic. These guys have always been great, and this is exactly the sort of album we've come to expect from them over the last ten years.

TodayBrian Doerksen (Hosanna!/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

Here's one that offers a bit of everything. Doerksen has quietly become one of today's most important worship writers of the contemporary church, and here he presents a mix of creative hymn arrangements ("Great Is Thy Faithfulness"), old favorites ("Refiner's Fire," "Creation Calls"), and new originals ("Today," "Fortress 144"). The genres are varied between the traditional and the modern, with diverse sounds that include guitars, keyboards, a rhythm section, a jazz ensemble, and two choirs. All of that without even touching on the visual arts and the brief teaching monologues—you'll need to see the DVD to catch those treats. This is almost surely a glimpse of what heaven's like, with everyone going beyond music to lend a hand in contributing to and experiencing true worship with the Creator.

Worship with Natalie Grant & FriendsNatalie Grant (Integrity)

Read the original review here.

We are a diverse body of worshipers, and it's reflected through the variety of sounds and styles represented by various denominations and the slew of worship albums released each year. This outstanding album brings it all together. A longtime labor of love for Natalie Grant and her husband, producer Bernie Herms, Worship successfully offers a fresh and diverse mix of old and new, including gospel ("Come into This House"), pop ("Breathe on Me/I Need Thee Every Hour"), R&B ("You Are My All in All"), funk ("Let It Rise"), and Latin ("Crown You With Praise"). And don't miss the ingeniously over-the-top rendition of Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei." Great arrangements, stunning musicianship, amazing production, and enthusiastic performances—this album is your invitation to the party.

Bigger Than My ImaginationMichael Gungor (Vertical/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

How many times have people been off base comparing Christian artists to the sophisticated and jazzy acoustic pop of John Mayer? Well here's someone who actually sounds like him—vocally and on the guitar. Perhaps too much so, judging by the cool "Neon"-styled remake of "Meet with Me" and a wild solo instrumental rendition of the "Doxology." Place Gungor's considerable musical skills and likeable sound in a worship context, and it's hard to believe that this newcomer hasn't received more attention in the last year. If nothing else, you may have heard the upbeat "Friend of God," co-written with producer Israel Houghton and slowly on the rise with contemporary churches. That's only the tip of the iceberg on an album that effectively balances art, worship, skill, and songwriting all around.

Grace in the WildernessEoghan Heaslip (Vertical/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

What a tremendous leap forward for Heaslip since his 2003 debut. Before, he merely sounded a little like fellow UK-leaders Matt Redman and Tim Hughes. Now he's come up with an album that outdoes both of their 2004 releases by avoiding getting bogged down in modern rock production or charismatic repetition. Grace in the Wilderness more effectively tackles the theme of worshiping in the valley times of life than other similar projects this year. It's chock full of songs that are strong, substantial, and catchy-"King of the Ages" is just too melodic to go unnoticed! And many will also appreciate the blend of modern with traditional, heard in covers of the "Doxology" and "Amazing Grace," as well as Neil Bennetts' hymn homage, "Great Redeemer." Heaslip's entered the major league with this one.

Live from Another LevelIsrael and New Breed (Integrity Gospel)

Read the original review here.

Israel Houghton and New Breed bring us an impressive two-disc concert set from mid-2004. Live from Another Level is truly an eclectic worship music experience, offering a nice blend of gospel, pop, funk, and other styles without straying too far in any one direction. It's like listening to Earth Wind & Fire and Andraé Crouch and Stevie Wonder all at once. No small feat, but the incredible New Breed band is up to the task, displaying tremendous versatility. The same goes for Houghton's spirited worship leading and the enthusiasm of the backing choirs. All of that goes to explain why this album captures live energy on a recording better than most.

AbandonJason Morant (Vertical/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

If you want more modern worship a la Delirious, try this debut from worship leader Jason Morant, which at times surprisingly even outshines the UK band's latest album. Passionate about keeping the art in worship music—not relying on the same guitar riffs, lyrical rhetoric, and three chords—this 23-year-old has come up with the year's second most creative worship album behind Something Like Silas' Diving Invitation. The songs are perhaps too personalized for group singing in most churches, but young adults will quickly warm up to the Brit pop sound, as well as the poetic expressions of praise. Plus anyone who can reinvigorate the simple praise chorus "I Love You Lord" into an imaginative Coldplay styled arrangement is certainly worth paying attention to.

SatisfyKathryn Scott (Vertical/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

Many of you know her as the woman who originally sang "Hungry (Falling on My Knees)," and some of you might recognize her as the primary worship leader on the landmark worship album Hungry. Hungry for more? Recorded live in her native Ireland, Satisfy is the young talent's first solo album—it won't be her last. Those who have enjoyed pop/worship albums from Darlene Zschech and Rebecca St. James will find plenty to appreciate here. Scott's voice is just as inviting, and like Brian Doerksen, she offers a good mix of congregational-friendly tunes that draw from the traditional and the contemporary. "At the Foot of the Cross (Ashes to Beauty)" and "Breathe on Me Now" are two of the original highlights.

Divine InvitationSomething Like Silas (Sparrow/EMI)

Read the original review here.

Hailing from San Diego, where they still lead a progressive worship service for young adults, Something Like Silas is the coolest band to enter the worship scene since Rock 'n' Roll Worship Circus. Blending the atmospherics of The Violet Burning with the energy of David Crowder Band and some Delirious for good measure, this band manages to create an arty sound that is still accessible ear candy. Lyrically, SLS is adept at making the listener think and feel as they give praise to the Lord. This may not be the ideal corporate worship album, but it is a terrific alternative worship album.

ArrivingChris Tomlin (sixsteps/EMI)

Read the original review here.

Any new worship director looking for songs to launch a modern worship service should probably start with this guy. Tomlin has quickly gained prominence as a world-renowned worship leader, contributing nine songs in the last five years that have charted in the CCLI's Top 500. Arriving is sure to continue that track record by introducing a few more to the list—"Holy Is the Lord" and "How Great Is Our God" for sure. The secret seems to be simple songs of praise driven by unbelievably catchy melodies that people can learn to sing instantly in a corporate setting. The album also doubles as an enjoyable pop/rock experience, but this goes beyond a single recording. Tomlin's songs will endure in the Church for a long, long time.

DwellVineyard Worship (Vineyard)

Whatever happened to Vineyard Music Group? Despite worship music's popularity, the once-leading label dramatically decreased output in 2004. Fortunately, one of the year's releases was this little treasure, which named Worship Album of the Year. Featuring the Vineyard Cincinnati worship team, this album comes close to past essentials like Hungry and Winds of Worship 12: London. There are some strikingly beautiful and dynamic songs, and there's quality writing and production all around, including the title track, "More Than Ever," and "Love Me Like You Do." Plus, a bonus DVD packaged with Dwell offers useful resources to worship leaders. This is an album for people serious about original contemporary worship music.

Make It GloriousTommy Walker (Hosanna!/Integrity)

Read the original review here.

Tommy Walker combines the pep of Hillsong Australia with the pop style of Steven Curtis Chapman. While Israel and New Breed lean slightly to the gospel side of worship, Walker's similarly eclectic music tends to favor more of a jazz/funk-influenced adult contemporary sound. And yet this worship leader—responsible for gems like "He Knows My Name," "Mourning Into Dancing," and "These Things Are True of You"—still hasn't garnered the attention he deserves. This new album revives his retro-sounding "Prepare Ye the Way" while introducing wonderful new anthems like "Heavenly Touch" and "Jesus We Celebrate Your Fame." A recent missions trip inspired the African-flavored "I'm Not Ashamed." If you haven't yet discovered Walker's music, this album's a good place to start.

Check out our "Best-Of" Archives to see other lists from previous years.