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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Rise Up

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Feb
Rise Up
Sounds like … the powerful husky vocals of Ashley Cleveland, Melissa Etheridge, and Jami Smith, leading passionate worship similar to that of Jason Upton, Charlie Hall, and Darlene ZschechAt a glance … though a stirring example of Springer's gifts as a worship leader and songwriter, Rise Up is probably a little too homogenous and repetitive for anyone other than her most devoted fansTrack ListingRise UpIn Christ Alone/Nothing but the BloodI Want the JoyCome All Ye Who Are WearyDeep Calls to DeepMy HeroLily of the ValleyYou Give Me LifeThis Was GoodYou Still Have My Heart

There's little doubt that Rita Springer is one of the most gifted worship leaders to arise over the last ten years. Her awesome vocals are beautifully dynamic, ranging from a tender whisper to a powerful cry. Lyrically, Springer is capable of poetic imagery and personal expressions that glorify God while cutting to the heart of the worshipper. The passionate worship leader also has a unique gift for improvising songs on stage at the piano. These talents add up an intriguing blend of artistry and worship not heard often enough.

In 2000, Springer realized a longtime dream by starting the Fragrant Oil women's conferences with a team of speakers and worship leaders. Rise Up is in essence a soundtrack to one of those conferences, recorded live in Glorieta, New Mexico in April of 2003. It also provides an opportunity to hear live worship versions of songs from her critically acclaimed 2002 studio release, Effortless. There are two versions of Rise Up: a double disc sold at conferences and, eventually, the Fragrant Oil web site, and a single disc version available to the public in February 2004.

Both albums begin with the soulful title track, made edgy with the dramatic band stops and funky riffs; it's a good song that's a little overlong, taking too much time to develop. "I Want the Joy" is a rocker from Effortless reminiscent of Cutting Edge-era Delirious. It closes with some fine improvisation by Springer, and then segues into a straightforward rendition of "In Christ Alone," which in turn segues into an a cappella sing-a-long of "Nothing but the Blood." From there, Springer offers a pair of prayerful "spontaneous songs" with "Come All Ye Who Are Weary" and "Deep Calls to Deep."

"My Hero" is the only new Springer composition, a simplistic and repetitive ballad that here bleeds into Vineyard worship leader David Ruis' "Lily of the Valley." Then Springer dives into the evocative and powerful "This Was Good," which displays her writing at its best. Stripped to just piano and vocals for this arrangement, she follows the powerful song with Shane Barnard's simple ballad "You Give Me Life" and closes the single disc with the gentle and stirring praise of "You Still Have My Heart."

While the single disc is over an hour long, the double disc set runs close to two. Whether or not those extras are worth it depends on your personal tastes and experiences. The primary difference is that the two-disc set includes a few extremely charismatic, emotionally rendered prayers and spoken teaching from the conference—it may appeal to those who have attended Fragrant Oil, but the casual worship listener will likely be disinterested or even uncomfortable with it. There's "'North & South' Cry," another spontaneous song that runs more than 10 minutes that's made more interesting with its strong "Better Is One Day" percussion.

The double disc version offers six more songs that are generally more of the same-live tracks from Effortless like the powerful "Holy" and the typical "Worth It All," the upbeat Stuart Townend rocker "The King of Love," and an unremarkable rendition of David Crowder Band's "You Alone." There is, however, a fine cover of "Made Me Glad," the moving ballad by Miriam Webster from Hillsong Australia's Blessed album. The best extra—and therefore the primary recommendation for the 2-disc set over the single—is a performance of James Huey's "When I Think About the Lord." The gospel sound infuses some much needed variety and energy, so it's a shame it wasn't included on the abridged album.

All in all, you miss out on some good stuff if you go with the single disc, but you almost get too much with the double. Either way, both are extremely homogenous, and it doesn't help that they include some of Springer's more repetitive and monotonous songs. The focus here is not on her songwriting or production, but on her passionate and intimate style of worship. As such, Rise Up is not as good as Springer's previous releases, though it is still more original and worshipful sounding than most other albums in the genre. If you've enjoyed her previous work, the album generally doesn't disappoint, but if you're new to Rita Springer, you're better off starting with Effortless or All I Have.