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Hello Love

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
Hello Love
Sounds like … the modern worship of Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Shane & Shane, and Lincoln Brewster, not to mention the Passion worship albums that Tomlin participates inAt a glance … Hello Love has its fair share of strong new worship anthems sure to be embraced by the church, though much of the album also sounds as if Chris Tomlin is rehashing old ideasTrack Listing Sing, Sing, Sing Jesus Messiah You Lifted Me Out God of This City I Will Rise Love Praise the Father, Praise the Son God Almighty My Deliverer With Me Exalted (Yahweh) All the Way My Savior Leads Me

He's one of Christian music's best-selling recording artists with several radio hits and Dove awards to his credit. He's also one of the world's most revered worship artists, excelling at writing songs for the church that are easy to pick up yet hard to forget. When you put it all together, it's no wonder that Chris Tomlin has become one of the biggest artists in Christian music, but such success makes it easy for fans of worship and Christian pop to lose perspective through raised expectations.

Tomlin's fifth studio recording Hello Love is in many ways more of the same compared to his previous albums. Is that good or bad? Some say that someone of Tomlin's caliber should push himself and revolutionize his sound, but since that's never been his goal as a worship leader, is it a realistic expectation? Others believe Tomlin should offer more of the same since his music has served the church so well over the last decade—practically speaking, does the church truly benefit from more of the same?

Truth be told, there's validity to both sides of that debate. Even the first radio single "Jesus Messiah" has drawn mixed reactions, some calling it another catchy Tomlin classic, with others saying it sounds exactly like his past work, little more than an excuse to build a song around the word "Messiah." Personally, I see it as overly familiar, yet an accessible ballad that beautifully explains the Son of God's sacrifice.

Other songs are similarly mixed. "Sing, Sing, Sing" is a song of praise similar to plenty other driving rockers from modern worship in the last decade, particularly Tomlin's own cover of Jon Abel's "Awesome Is the Lord Most High." Yet lower it several keys (like most Tomlin songs) and the average contemporary worship service will readily embrace it. The same could be said of "You Lifted Me Out," a catchy rocker based on Psalm 40, but stylistically identical to the past work of Tomlin and numerous others. For that matter, "I Will Rise" was intended as a response to grief reminiscent of "It Is Well with My Soul," and indeed it borrows lyrically from that hymn and others. But while it's short on original lyrics, there's no denying that it's a beautiful and worshipful response to death, offering the hope of resurrection through Jesus.

For those wanting something sonically different from this worship leader, Tomlin and longtime producer Ed Cash do kick the sound up a notch in some spots. "Love" is a musical highpoint with an African Children's Choir bringing something different to the mix, adding up to a joyous anthem with some meaty verses about the nature of love: "It heals the sick, comforts the weak/Breaks the proud, raises the meek/In this life no guarantees, but there is love." There's also "God Almighty," which relies on a cool rhythmic hook carried by drums, piano, and strings—maybe not the sort of thing the average church will replicate, but the song offers one of the Tomlin's strongest choruses to date with lyrics borrowed from "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Speaking of which, Tomlin seems at his best on Hello Love when echoing classic church standards. Listeners might be surprised to learn that "Praise the Father, Praise the Son" is in fact an original, not a cover of an old hymn—like "In Christ Alone," it's one that nearly any church could embrace, regardless of worship style. "Exalted (Yahweh)" resembles some of the worship choruses from 20 or 30 years ago by Integrity and Vineyard, familiar in a good way and adaptable to many settings outside of the Brit pop feel here. And as with his reworked versions of "Amazing Grace" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," Tomlin has teamed with Matt Redman to transform "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" with a sweet new melody and an added chorus.

I'd be remiss in failing to mention "God of This City" as another highlight, a hopeful and timely anthem by Irish worship band Bluetree, previously heard on the Passion album of the same name. Stylistically it resembles the writing of Redman, grounding worship in realities of the world we live in. But that said, Hello Love also has its share of forgettable tracks, namely "My Deliverer" and "With Me," which both feel comparably repetitive and plodding.

If I sound like I'm on the fence, it's because I am. This album is not as good as Arriving or See the Morning, but perhaps things would be different if Hello Love released before them. Those looking for new songs for corporate worship will still be pleased, and might want to consider the special worship leader edition of the album, which includes a second disc of sheet music and chord charts. Anyone expecting something that pushes the creative envelope of worship music like David Crowder Band won't find it here. Sure, it'd be nice to hear Tomlin push himself, but he's always been a pioneer, not an innovator, writing within the comfort zone, not outside of it.

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