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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Symphony in Red

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Aug
Symphony in Red
Sounds like … the modern worship of Sonicflood, By the Tree, Jason Morant, Casting Pearls, and various projects by Vineyard and Spring HillAt a glance … combining old hymn texts with modern pop/rock arrangements and newer worship songs, Symphony in Red has its moments, but needs more imagination and quality controlTrack Listing I Love You Lord Yahweh Doxology (Amen) From All That Dwells Holy Bible You Alone (My Maker and My King) Spirit of the Living God God of Grace May Jesus Christ Be Praised (When Morning Gilds the Skies) We Adore Thee (Joyful Joyful) Jesus I Come

Despite the rise of modern worship music in the last decade, some would say that Christian music needs another worship band like a hole in the head. This one isn't much different from the music of Sonicflood and By the Tree. But Symphony in Red does have some strengths going for it beyond the intriguing-though-misleading name.

Producer/musician Billy Smiley (White Heart) masterminded the band, assembling together four other studio musicians (including former Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson) with guest vocalists like Bryan Olesen (Casting Pearls) and Aaron Shust to develop a new CD series called Worship Hymn. You guessed it—modernized hymn arrangements, blending old with new. Some work better than others. "May Jesus Christ Be Praised" pairs the classic hymn text with a memorable new melody, while "Holy Bible" successfully adapts lesser-known words to modern pop/rock. But "From All That Dwells" renders the old hymn toothless and clichéd with an inferior melody and the addition of an inane praise chorus.

Smiley and company do better with more contemporary source material, which surprisingly includes reverent handling of U2's "Yahweh." Simple but effective arrangements of "Doxology" and "Spirit of the Living God" stand out, as does a faithful cover of Jason Morant's Coldplay-styled arrangement of "I Love You Lord." And original ballad "You Alone" is strong enough for addition to church repertoires.

Unfortunately, the production isn't always what it should be. Some bad synth-strings on "Jesus I Come" sound particularly amateur for a studio effort from "some of the industry's finest musicians," and parts of the liner notes are an unreadable mess in attempt to offer historical insight. The album has some rewarding moments for modern worship enthusiasts, but a little more imagination and quality control would have helped elevate Symphony in Red from a worthwhile mention to a strong recommendation.

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