Sounds like … worship as musically diverse as the congregation it
represents, incorporating elements of gospel, soul, pop, hip-hop,
rock, jazz, funk, and R&B.At a Glance … while none of these songs are likely to become
worldwide worship standards, Oasis Praise presents a refreshingly
original and energetic album that still inspires.
The growing interest in worship music has led to increased production of praise albums in the last five years. With what seems like at least one new worship album available every week,
praise and worship has become its own genre. With so many worship
albums available now, it's forced us to consider them more
critically. Why purchase an unoriginal, mediocre worship album
when there are plenty of good ones to be found?
Along those lines, the worldwide Christian church doesn't need prominent artists recording recycled worship songs. Not all Christian musicians and songwriters have the gifts to be worship
leaders, so why do we need more albums of originality from worship teams and worship songwriters praising the Lord with their own unique artistry?
The albums from Hillsong Australia (home of worship leader Darlene Zschech) are perfect examples of church centered worship. Oasis Christian Center (www.oasisla.org) is another, located in what used to be a movie theater in the middle of Hollywood,
California. Established in 1984, pastors Phillip and Holly Wagner
are fond of saying that "the church is the artist." Exactly
right, which is also why we won't review every worship album
available. Besides there being so many, we don't want to get
into the business of critiquing a church for worshiping however
they choose to. We do want to call attention to those few special
worship albums that bring something a little different to
believers everywhere, and Oasis Praise's Bring It On certainly qualifies as that.
Oasis Praise is noteworthy for its diverse and kinetic worship, captured here on a lengthy live album that is infused with the same energy as Australian worship band Planet Shakers. The
difference is that Oasis Praise has more of an emphasis on funky
gospel pop than youthful modern rock. The opening track, "Are You
Ready," is enough to let listeners know they're in for something
different, with its unique blend of teen dance pop, gospel, funk,
and R&B. A similar sound is carried over into the following
track, the upbeat jazz gospel of "So In Love." The saxophones are
among the standout instruments on Bring It On, featured
especially on this track and the fusion jazz funk of "I'll Never
Be the Same." Beginning with something like a classical piano
sonata, "So Good" soon kicks into an R&B-flavored gospel groove.
"Rain Down" is pure Latin pop, highlighted with piano, brass,
percussion, and flutes. In contrast, "Overcomer" is driven by a
heavier gospel rock sound, and the syncopated jazz pop of "I
Could Never Live Without You" is especially catchy.
In addition to such a diverse range of praise and worship, Bring It On also features a number of sweeping ballads that run between seven and nine minutes in length. While many of them have the same gospel-pop sound as R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," some do stand out. The lushly arranged "Fields of Mercy" (recently
covered by Sandi Patty on her Take Hold of Christ album) sounds more accessible as a song of worship here rather than a pop performance piece. The powerful "I Can Do All Things Through
Christ" and the majestic "My All" are both nearly as inspiring,
but "To Dwell in Your Presence" is all too routine. "Focus" is an
example of a potentially poetic lyrical title that has been
written as a worship cliché: "I focus my eyes on You/I look to
the heavens/I come to worship you/I've come to sing Your
praises/For You, O God, are holy/I lift Your name on high/Forever
I will praise You/I focus my eyes on You." Haven't we seen these
words in at least a hundred other worship songs?
It's doubtful that any of the songs on Bring It On are going to be remembered as worship standards that make their way into churches around the world, but the energy is contagious, with enough here to interest listeners looking for a fresh praise album. The sixteen-member worship team at Oasis Christian Center is indeed a talented bunch. Primary worship leader, co-producer and songwriter J.D. Webb has a particularly impressive voice very similar to that of pop star Jon Secada. The album is simply recorded, and sounds as though you were sitting in the theater. In other words,it's adequate, but the overall sound is a bit boxy and the
instruments aren't all clearly mic'd. Still, it's the diversity
of this church and its repertoire that keeps it interesting,
resulting in a worship album that is far more original and
spirited than the majority of what's available.