Let My Words Be Few
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Following in the footsteps of 4Him and countless other Christian artists, vocal trio Phillips, Craig and Dean are the latest to contribute to the seemingly endless praise and worship craze. Nevertheless, their selections for the album are surprising. One might expect adult contemporary worship songs from PC&D, whose members are all pastors. But five of the six cover songs are of a more modern flavor—in fact, they're songs my church youth band regularly performs, even the same arrangement! Let My Words Be Few exposes a more modern-sounding PC&D than usual, but at the same time they've taken some of the edge off these songs when compared to the original recordings.
Three of the covers were written and popularized by Matt Redman, which says something about the worship leader's gift for writing. Commenting on the impact of Redman's music, PC&D member Shawn Craig says, "His songs are touching the hearts of believers everywhere. It's amazing how his words connect with people." Deserved praise for Matt, but it also makes the case for picking up his CDs rather than this one. The primary reason for buying Let My Words Be Few is to hear PC&D's interpretation of other people's worship songs. "Let Everything That Has Breath" features some nice ethereal keyboards and punchy brass, and the well-known "The Heart of Worship" is basically a programmed version of the song. The title track features some pleasant string and guitar work, but it was the original Redman version that caught my ear with it's simple stripped-down feel. Other covers include "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship," a solid arrangement with a little more programming than the versions most people are used to, and a slick, driving cover of Paul Baloche's "Open the Eyes of My Heart," which sounds a lot like a toned-down version of the one popularized on SonicFlood's album.
The remaining four original songs on Let My Words Be Few are not as strong as the six cover songs in terms of songwriting. They have the typical PC&D sound to them, but are clearly vertical in lyrical intent. My favorite of the original songs is "The Voice of the Lord," which has a simple and beautiful melody I could easily envision a congregation singing. Also notable is "Your Grace Still Amazes Me," which may be a bit much like your usual adult contemporary ballad, but is nevertheless very singable. Saying these four songs are inferior to the covers on the album is mostly a reflection of my individual taste. No doubt fans of PC&D's high-production adult contemporary will enjoy them, and they're definitely appropriate for use in worship.
The real question that needs to be asked is why does an album like this get made? I'm not questioning the sincere desire to give praise to God, nor am I saying it's a badly performed album (far from it). I don't mean to single out this trio and Sparrow Records, but why does a ten-year act like Phillips, Craig and Dean put out a worship recording now? And why fill it with covers of songs that appear on many other recordings? The simple answer seems to be because it's popular right now. I think artists and record labels need to step back and seriously ask themselves, "How will THIS worship project best glorify God and help others worship him better? Am I contributing something that enhances worship or sells albums?"
As always, PC&D's vocal blend is terrific and producer Nathan Nockels (of Watermark and the Passion recordings) does a fine job, but most of the songs on this album aren't as good as the original versions (readily available on many other CDs). Perhaps the impetus behind this recording is to expose the PC&D demographic to the more modern praise and worship songs out there and to make it more palatable to them—on that level, perhaps the CD is justified. But as a worship leader myself, I'd be far more interested in a collection of ten original praise songs by PC&D to be implemented in church. In that case, if just one or two of those ten songs were well received and widely used, then the project would be a success. Praise and worship is more popular than ever right now, and I'm as pleased with that as anyone. But which is more worthy of our money and better enhances worship—a collection of brand new songs that offers new ways to express our hearts to God, or yet another collection of renditions of popular praise songs? Those who agree with the latter, and of course fans of Phillips, Craig & Dean, will no doubt want to check out this new project.