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Adoration: The Worship Album

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Apr
Adoration: The Worship Album
Sounds like … inspired by the success of their hit single "It Is You," the modern pop band creates four more songs that sound just like it, and combine it with covers of other worship songs and new live renditions of their worshipful singles.At a Glance … Newsboys should have taken their time perfecting this album — Adoration doesn't sound bad, but it lacks creativity and inspiration.

It's not as if the Newsboys have been absent in the last year, between the release of an acclaimed new album (Thrive), a hugely successful hit single ("It Is You," which was a number one Christian radio hit for three full months), an inspired concert DVD, a popular concert tour, and a fairly good remix album. Bassist Phil Joel even found the time to release an excellent solo album last fall, Bring It On.

Why then, in the aftermath of this flurry of activity, did the Newsboys and Sparrow Records feel so compelled to rush another album into stores little more than a year after the release of Thrive? On paper, Adoration: The Worship Album seems like a good idea. Inspired by the tremendous success of "It Is You" (which was shockingly overlooked for the 2003 Dove Awards), the band felt it was high time to release their own worship recording. After all, they've been creating excellent songs of worship long before "It Is You" — "Breathe" (not the Marie Bennett ballad), "I Surrender All" (not the classic hymn), "Be Still," "Break," and their arrangement of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" to name a few.

Like most every Newsboys album to date, Adoration does at least sound good, as co-produced with long-time collaborator Steve Taylor (who also co-wrote many of the new tracks) and recorded in the band's home studio — it's like a more live sounding Thrive. Peter Furler is a confident lead vocalist with great range, Phil Joel is a strong backing vocalist and a solid bassist, Jody Davis creates interesting guitar hooks, Jeff Frankenstein pads it all with beautiful keyboard sounds, and Duncan Phillips continues to shape himself into one of Christian music's finest drummers. The problem with Adoration is the overall album, which might best be viewed as the Newsboys' answer to the success of Third Day's Offerings projects. A combination of originals, covers, and live renditions of old favorites, this new disc feels as if it was scraped together too hastily.

As with Rebecca St. James's Worship God, some of these songs are simple rearrangements of modern worship favorites — familiar songs as performed by the artist. But even Rebecca and her producer knew enough to change their worship covers into unique, albeit predictable arrangements. Here the Newsboys are just predictable. Their rendition of Billy James Foote's intimate ballad "You Are My King (Amazing Love)" sounds exactly like every other version you've ever heard, except with Newsboys instrumentation. The same is true of "In Christ Alone," a modern Irish hymn written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, stripped here of its Celtic leanings.

Three of the other songs on Adoration are previously released Newsboys favorites, retooled for this album. Note the parenthetical in the title "Praises (Take My Hands)." It indicates that this is a modified version of the song that first appeared on 2000's Shine: The Hits album — the difference is that the verses are now completely different, written by Martin Smith (Delirious) and tobyMac, and intended to be more worshipful with a chorus that now declares "I will sing Your praises" instead of "my praises." While the mix of this upbeat song is more aggressive than its predecessor, it's little more than that. Frankly, the original's Psalm-like lyrics were more interesting and meaningful than these new words of simple surrender. Also featured on Adoration are two live cuts, which feel out of place stuck in the middle of the album — the rock anthem "Lord (I Don't Know)" and, naturally, "It Is You." Both are beefed up with backup gospel singers, yet lack the energy of the originals found on Thrive.

That leaves five all new songs of worship — an EP's worth of originality. One of them, "Adoration," is actually a Christmas anthem of praise. A ballad similar in style to "It Is You," it's a blend of ideas and words from "Little Drummer Boy" and "O Come All Ye Faithful," adding a children's choir in counterpoint to the lead vocal strains of "Come let us adore Him." There's a very beautiful and prayerful chorus to be found in "Father, Blessed Father," but Jody's guitar hook feels incongruent with the rest of the song. It gradually builds, adding a gospel choir, but because the song is so short, the Newsboys use it to transition to "Breathe" from Take Me To Your Leader (a much more effective worship song on its own). "Hallelujah" and "Great Is Your Faithfulness" (not the classic hymn) are pleasantly worded expressions of praise with uninteresting modern pop/rock sounds, though the latter does feature some awesome Bono-like screams of "how great" by Peter near the song's end.

Which brings us to "He Reigns," the album's opening track, first single, and the only song on Adoration that comes close to capturing the power and majesty of "It Is You." It's a fine ballad performed with typical Newsboys pop bombast, complete with a small gospel choir, and yet it's really more of a song about worship than a practical worship anthem to be sung in churches around the world — "It's the song of the redeemed rising from the African plain/It's the song of the forgiven drowning out the Amazon rain/The song of Asian believers filled with God's holy fire/It's every tribe, every tongue, every nation, a love song born of a grateful choir." Interestingly enough, Peter started writing the song a few years before "It Is You," finishing it for this album.

It should be clear by now that Adoration is a hodgepodge in the truest sense of the word — an awkwardly manufactured collection of worshipful remnants. Though the staunchest fans of the Newsboys may embrace it, a good number will likely respond with disappointment; everyone can probably agree that this band is capable of a far more meaningful and original worship album than this. There's not nearly enough on Adoration to get excited or inspired about — compared to past Newsboys albums or other contemporary worship albums — which is exactly the opposite of what you'd expect from a worship album created with excellence.