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Lifestyle: A Worship Experience

  • reviewed by Jim Perry Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jun
Lifestyle: A Worship Experience
Sounds like … a more soulful, rhythm-and-blues flavored version of Michael W. Smith's Worship albumAt a Glance … The Katinas stay ahead in the contemporary worship genre with smart arrangements and skillful performances, exemplified by the terrific vocals of the Samoan brothers.

The Katinas first hit the Christian music scene with the song "Draw Me Close" on the Michael W. Smith-produced Exodus project. They quickly established themselves as a modern R&B group that sometimes dabbled in the boy-band genre but stayed true to R&B's roots in their strongest offerings. With the recent influx of worship music in the industry, it's easy to grow tired of seemingly every band releasing a worship album. But the Katinas have made a name for themselves with worship-centric concerts, so a worship album like Lifestyle: A Worship Experience is a natural outgrowth of their artistic ministry. And this is the most fun I've had listening to a worship CD since Sonicflood's groundbreaking debut album.

With Lifestyle, the Katinas offer many of our favorite worship songs of the day performed live at their home church, Bethel World Outreach Center in Nashville. The atmosphere of the recording is very worshipful and genuine sounding, completely immersing the audience and the listener in absolute Spirit-led worship. The Katinas enlist the help of several quality musicians to create a versatile, top-notch ensemble. James Katina provides the perfect bass lines, from jazz licks to smooth, slow grooves. Joe Katina supports the rhythm section with a sharp backbeat, and Greg Hagen gives us a funky, offbeat guitar style. Veteran James "Jamba" Castro plays keys, and from the low growl of the B3 to the sparkle of a Rhodes piano, he adds a lovely element to the praise-band mix. But the best part of the album is the absolutely perfect vocal harmony the Katinas provide on every song.

The group shows they're multi-faceted by offering styles ranging from R&B to funk, rock, and reggae-performing these diverse styles separately and simultaneously. They open with a solid rendition of "Mighty River." They then give us a nice twist on their hit single from Destiny, "Thank You," by performing it acoustically. "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" has a stirring backbeat and an island-reggae rhythm, making for a fresh and memorable version of the song. "Trading My Sorrows" also features an island-esque beat, and toward the end of the song they vamp on the "Yes, yes Lord" part in a minor key, which sounds really cool. On "You Are Good," they do the call and response, "God is good — all the time, and all the time — God is good," with the audience, then incorporate it into the song in a funky interlude reminiscent of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Then at the end, James Katina's funky bass licks drive them into an old school double-time gospel groove.

"I Give You My Heart" starts off with a smooth '70's jazz, Rhodes-piano groove and is the most engaging slow worship tune I've heard in a long time. Their performance of "Breathe" is the most soothing rendition I've ever heard, with harmonies in unexpected but beautiful places. "Live Your Love" has a beautiful acoustic arrangement and fades into "I Love You Lord," arguably the most popular worship song ever.

"Beauty of Your Grace" has a classic praise-band feel to it, "Jesus Chant" is a crowd-participation number that has the vibe of dc Talk's "Time is Tickin' Away," and if you thought you liked "Draw Me Close" before, wait until you hear the version here. Two studio tracks close out the album: "Eagle's Wings" is a tasteful rendition with an R &B flair (and no excessive vocal gymnastics), and my favorite song on the record is the last track, "Rejoice." This is the coolest praise song I've heard in a while, an exciting electric-guitar-driven dance-pop track in the same vein as Avalon's Oxygen album. On it they joyously sing, "Lift every voice, let the nations sing, we've got to testify, magnify, worship the King."

I absolutely recommend Lifestyle: A Worship Experience to anyone who likes praise-and-worship music, The Katinas, or both. The CD could get lost amidst all the worship projects already out there, and that would be a shame. This is one of the best I've ever heard, and word of mouth could vault this to the top of the worship selections. Every praise band should listen to this disc to hear how to combine ingenuity, imagination, and passion into a classy and memorable worship experience. It's a refreshing stretch for the Katinas, R&B, and praise and worship-and these brothers prove you can teach old songs new licks.