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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Oct
Sounds like … a somewhat diverse blend of programmed pop/R&B worship that resembles Anointed, Avalon, and Hillsong AustraliaAt a glance … Parachute Band's eclectic musical palette and vocal skills are a little overshadowed by the conventional writing and simplistic worship rhetoric.

Parachute Band comes to us from New Zealand, where they started in 1996 as the house worship band for the annual Parachute Festival held every January. Not that "parachute" holds any significance ("it's just a nice sounding word"), the band became committed to introducing new worship songs to the church—first in New Zealand, and then around the world. They've since released five albums that have sold more than 200,000 total copies (low by industry standards, but fair for a worship artist), and scored a radio hit with "All the Earth."

I'm not sure I've seen a group so reluctant to identify its members and roles. Like their previous five releases, Glorious shows its three core vocalists (Wayne Huirua, Chris de Jong, and Libby Huirua) in various photos without really identifying them in the booklet. You'll find their names credited as songwriters for some tracks and for the vocal arrangements; Wayne also plays guitar and Chris keyboards. Most of the sound involved programmed pop arrangements, though they are joined by drummer Geoff Mason and touring bassist Adrian Le Pou. And while the band members do write some of their own songs, they rely just as much on the music of other worship writers from New Zealand and around the world.

While the production values for Parachute Band have been lacking on previous releases, they've improved with every album. As usual, this worship team has never confined themselves to a single style, and that's part of their appeal. Glorious begins with the joyously rowdy R&B funk of "So Sing," the album's most energetic track, which sounds a bit like George Clinton fronting En Vogue in a call-to-worship praise song. It's followed by the enjoyable programmed pop/rock of "Almighty," which is almost as strong as their popular rock anthem "Reason" was a few years ago: "Baring all, I stand here before you/All my hurts exposed/In the depths of my despair, I cry out to you/Make me whole." From there, the Parachute Band runs the gamut of soulful R&B ("All That I Need," featuring Israel Houghton), soaring euro-pop balladry ("High Above"), and blues-gospel ("Glorify Your Name"). "King of Love" even features a beautiful pipe organ—a real one, not a synth—in combination with the pop worship sound.

If only Parachute Band's songwriting were as wide as the scope of their instrumentation. More often than not, they sound like New Zealand's answer to Hillsong Australia and Anointed (i.e. a soulful, worshipful Avalon). "Forgiven" sounds exactly like "Made Me Glad," "I Adore," and a slew of other worship ballads from Hillsong. Lyrically, it reads less like complete thoughts and more like clichéd expressions of grace: "Forgiven, forgiven/Your precious blood, beautiful love/Forgiven, forgiven/Unending grace, opened a way/A way for me." Likewise, "Consume Me" has many of the same weaknesses with a melody very similar to "Forgiven" and a lyrical flow interrupted by a few too many "Lords." Granted, these are passionate expressions from the heart, but not all worship songs are created equally. Most of what's found here is pretty simplistic and clichéd.

Your enjoyment of Parachute Band hinges on your expectations of worship. If you don't agree with criticism that much contemporary praise and worship sounds the same, you're more likely to appreciate this group. After all, they offer strong vocals, a passionate heart for worship, and increasingly improved production. Those qualities are enough to recommend Parachute Band to the average praise and worship listener, but they're also enough to recommend 90% of the worship albums available to consumers today. If only there were something more unique to offer here beyond typical worship rhetoric and conventions.