Sounds like … several of today's most respected worship artists join together to lead worship in front of more than 70,000 people at the 2001 Creation FestivalAt a Glance … yes, we've all heard these songs before, but not at this level of musicianship and passion — truly a glimpse of heaven.
At first glance, you'd think this is an album I wouldn't like, because of an already crowded modern worship market — twelve modern-worship favorites we've already heard on other albums and compilations. But for what Creation Worships lacks in creative song selection, it makes up for in spades with the quality of the performance. This concert was recorded at last year's Creation Festival in front of more than 70,000 guests, the largest of all the summer Christian music festivals in the United States. Leading the morning worship service for the weekend was a group of Vertical/Integrity artists who came together as a single band: Paul Baloche, Lincoln Brewster, Rita Springer (of Floodgate Records), Jami Smith, and Lamont Hiebert (from the band Ten Shekel Shirt). All of these artists are accomplished guitarists (except for Rita Springer, who plays piano), and they are complemented by other terrific musicians, including producer Brent Milligan on guitar. The effect is much like the popular City on a Hill series or Michael W. Smith's Worship album, with artists uniting for the sake of praising their creator through musical excellence.
The album's first half features artists performing the songs you'd expect. Lamont Hiebert starts things off with "Meet With Me," which rocks with more passion and authority here than on his own band's recording. Paul Baloche then takes over with his beloved worship song, "Open the Eyes of My Heart," which is somewhere between the mid-tempo of his original version and the pounding drive of the popular Sonicflood cover. I've never been crazy about Jami Smith's rock rendition of "Lord Reign in Me," which makes her sound a lot like Jennifer Knapp, but it's still a pleasure to listen to here with such a talented band and energetic setting. Lincoln Brewster then sings a duet with Paul Baloche — "The Power of Your Love" — followed by a strong performance of Lincoln's driving modern-worship hit "Take Me Higher," which culminates in the awesome sound of the audience singing the chorus. Jami Smith follows it with her roots-rockin' "Your Love Is Deep," which was featured on her Home album from last year.
Then things take a more unexpected turn for the second half of Creation Worships. Lincoln and Paul join voices again for a beautiful version of Delirious's worship ballad "Lead Me." Rita Springer, who sounds a lot like Melissa Etheridge here, takes the stage to lead everyone in a passionate rendition of "Breathe" that's almost as powerful as the original Vineyard version and also features an incredible guitar solo by Lincoln Brewster. Paul follows by leading the audience in a rousing version of Darrell Evans's "Trading My Sorrows," and the high-octane rock energy of this performance may surpass any version of the song I've heard so far. Rita Springer then begins Paul Baloche's "Above All" with a couple minutes of spontaneous and improvisational worship at the piano, before launching into the beautiful ballad (it's interesting to note that this was recorded before Michael W. Smith made the song famous). The album then closes with an exciting cover of "God of Wonders" by all of the artists on the album, effortlessly transitioning into the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" after the end applause.
Creation Worships is a 62-minute recording that feels too short — which is definitely the sign of a good album. I consider this to be equally as good as the popular Passion recordings, featuring a variety of artists performing their own songs and the most beloved modern-worship songs in front of a large audience. While the Passion albums sound as though they went through a lot of studio post-production work, this recording has a more simple and clean live feel that probably sounds exactly the way it did to people who were actually there. On top of that, the performances are first-rate all around, particularly Lincoln Brewster's vocals and skillful guitar solos, Rita's passionate singing, and Paul's sure and steady worship leading. I've been asked a few times about the title, whether or not the 's' in Creation Worships is a typo. I'd say no, because worship is intended to be a verb, not a noun. My hope is that the inspired and energetic performances on this album make worship a verb in your life too.