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Beautiful News

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Dec
Beautiful News
Sounds like … the anthemic Brit pop/rock style of Delirious, Coldplay, and Tree63, with worshipful choruses as catchy as those of Chris TomlinAt a glance … the modern worship pioneer offers one of the strongest albums of his career with Beautiful News, which stays on point with a consistent and stirring message of hope for troubled timesTrack Listing Beautiful News You Never Let Go Shine Take It to the Streets Yes and Amen A Greater Song Blessing Thank You for Healing Me Fearfully and Wonderfully Made All Over the World When All Is Said and Done If You Know You're Loved Beautiful News (reprise)

Matt Redman may not be a hugely successful "Artist of the Year" type like Chris Tomlin with a Gold-selling album or a headlining tour to his credit, but the British worship leader is a true pioneer in modern worship, and his songs are at least as influential as those of his American counterpart, if not more so. Yet while Tomlin's music is still relatively new, mostly written in the last five years, he has consistently introduced new material to the church in that span. Redman started strongly in the mid-'90s with several classics ("Better Is One Day" and "The Heart of Worship," to name just a couple) and remains an essential songwriter ten years later. But aside from "Blessed Be Your Name," his songs have generally failed to ignite in recent years.

He sure hasn't been idle in that time: performances worldwide, Passion worship conferences, a deal with EMI's hugely successful sixsteps Records, not to mention assistance in planting a new church south of London. But something's been missing in his recent output. 2002's Where Angels Fear to Tread suffered from formulaic production and lacked strong hooks. 2004's Facedown wasn't much better, favoring repetition over memorable songwriting. The excellent live retrospective Blessed Be Your Name only reminded us how strong Redman's earlier work was, begging the question of when his newer songs might ever again reach the same caliber.

The answer is today and the album is Beautiful News. Inspiration for the title comes in response to the dark news of this world, pointing to the good news of Jesus to remind us that we're part of something far greater under our Creator's reign. It's not often that a worship album provides a steady theme through most all of the songs, but this one manages to stay on point with its stirring message.

Moreover, Redman's sound is revitalized by the efforts of production team Doubledutch (Robert Marvin and Josiah Bell), whose previous credits include tobyMac and Mat Kearney. Yes, it's very much like the Brit pop/rock of Delirious, but that's where Redman is most comfortable. He still writes in a way that keeps the songs sounding like his own without seeming derivative or hackneyed.

Things kick off with the celebratory title track, inspired by John 3:16 and demonstrating Redman's talent for a catchy song. (A notably dark and bluesy reprise of the song is nearly unrecognizable at the album's end.) Redman collaborated with Martin Smith (Delirious) for the very rocking "Take It to the Streets," a great song for closing worship with thanks to its mission oriented lyrics. Smith also co-wrote the upbeat "All Over the World," first heard on 2005's Passion album How Great Is Our God, with a strong chorus and lyrics that touch on the continuous praise of all creation. "Blessing" is another Brit rocker, though not as strong despite its praise of a loving and generous God.

The remaining tracks are ballads, and there are a lot of them, most similar to Delirious and Coldplay. Though they bring much sameness to the table, they're also the album's highlights on their own. Thematically similar to "Blessed Be Your Name," the radio single "You Never Let Go" builds upon somber piano atmosphere to effectively find hope in response to fear and sadness. "Yes and Amen" is a simplistic-but-smart expression of surrender and affirmation to God's will, and it's gorgeous how it carries on as it would at a live worship event. Believers will really latch onto "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" because it's simple to sing; derived from Psalm 139, there's a nice touch making musical use of a 16-week-old baby's speedy heartbeat.

It's hard to say how well "Thank You for Healing Me" will translate into a corporate worship setting with syncopated rhythms in the melodies and medical imagery in the lyrics, but it's nonetheless an interesting metaphor for our salvation: "The disease of my soul was spreading/Eating me up on the inside/Keeping my heart from Your new life/And I see now where I was headed/For there is no cure that can save us/Outside of Your mercy Lord Jesus." Closing with the simple piano ballad "When All Is Said and Done/If You Know You're Loved," Redman beautifully summarizes his album's overarching theme: "As I walk this broken world, tune my life to heaven's song, for I am Yours."

While this is not the most innovative worship music out there, for me worship music is at its best when it's practical to the church—memorable, meaningful, and easy to sing. In these qualities, Redman shares a gift with Tomlin and Smith, providing imagery, melody, Scripture, and depth that's closer to a hymn than a praise chorus. It's one of Redman's strongest efforts to date, and it's beautiful news indeed.

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