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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Sep
Sounds like … favorite hymns and worship anthems, including songs by Casting Crowns and Chris Tomlin, sung in a simple a cappella styleAt a glance … though Zoe Group's voices are pleasant, the arrangements lack variety and inventivenessTrack ListingBlessed Be the NameHoly PraiseForeverBlessed JesusSo Are You to MeLord Have MercyWho Am I?For All You've DoneAll Who Are ThirstyStillYour Grace Still Amazes MeCome Ye Sinners, Poor and NeedyHear Our Praises

On the heels of their live label debut When the Music Fades, under the name of ZOE Worship, the since renamed Zoe Group returns with a new studio effort, Desperate. This nine-member, mixed voice a cappella group performs worship songs from a pure and simplified approach. One has to admire their desire to bring modern worship to small churches unable to launch a sophisticated music program of their own, and their wish to bridge contemporary and traditional worship styles.

Problem is, like their last album, Zoe Group is missing something … and I don't just mean instruments. The simple a cappella rendering works well for hymns like "Blessed Jesus," "For All You've Done," and even Steve Merkel's semi-liturgical "Lord Have Mercy." It also sounds fine when lead singers are accompanied by four-part harmony on tracks like "So You Are to Me" and a cover of Casting Crowns' "Who Am I." The style falls flat, however, when the sparse four-part arrangements are imposed on rocking modern worship classics like Chris Tomlin's "Forever" or Matt Redman's "Blessed Be the Name." Some songs lend themselves well to be sung as a hymn or chorale, but others need instrumentation to drive them—unless you get creative with the arrangement.

Therein lies the problem. Though sung beautifully, there's hardly any variety to these vocal arrangements, which lack inventiveness and rely too much on basic four-part harmony. Zoe Group would benefit from some more thoughtful arrangements that flow, creating counterpoint to the melody and a sense of time. Instead, all nine singers are usually singing together in rhythmic unison, leaving some occasionally long gaps as they take a collective breath. Breaking worship music down to its simplest components shouldn't also have to oversimplify creativity.