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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Wonderful Mercy

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Feb
Wonderful Mercy
Sounds like … standard Vineyard Music pop/rock with an occasional smattering of South African cultureAt a Glance … the lyrics on Wonderful Mercy often are a little too simplistic, and the music would benefit from more South African influences, but overall it's a fair collection of worship songs.

One of Vineyard Music Group's greatest strengths is how they spread worship music around the world, and how they document it as a recording for all Christians to hear. The worship label seems to have ended its Winds of Worship series, but the world continues to worship with various projects, primarily from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The latest, Wonderful Mercy, hopes to earn similar recognition for the Vineyard worship leaders in South Africa.

I wish these albums had a stronger world-music sound to them. British worship is very similar to American worship, with hints of Euro-pop sophistication and Celtic elements. Canadian worship falls somewhere in between the Americans and the British. But with South Africa, there's an opportunity to really delve into different cultures. To be sure, Wonderful Mercy does deliver on a few tracks. "Show Your Power" and "Further Up (Aslan's Call)" in particular have the same American/African blend as Paul Simon's Graceland. "Mmoloki Warona (Our Redeemer)" has a more westernized jazz-pop sound, but as you can tell from the title, it still features a South African chorus. Tthe decidedly less African "Wonderful Mercy (Psalm 139)" has a similar jazz-influenced pop sound. At the other end of the spectrum is "Nkosi Sikelel Afrika (God Bless Africa)," which is completely South African in sound and lyrics. Good stuff, but it would be nice to see a more consistent South African presence throughout the album blended with the usual Vineyard style in such a way that preserves the culture while westernizing it just enough for the majority of listeners.

Too bad most of the other eight tracks on Wonderful Mercy are pretty much standard Vineyard Music in sound … though that's not all bad. This album's big contribution to worship will likely be "This Day," and solid Delirious-meets-Michael W. Smith-styled pop/rock song that recalls "With or Without You" by U2. "This Is Your Song" also has a pleasant Matt Redman sound to it, as does the simple pop of "Bring Me Back," which is reminiscent of Vineyard worship leader Brian Doerksen's work. There's also a soulful, gospel-like cover of "Moving With the Lamb," a popular Vineyard song made famous by Rita Springer in recent years.

Wonderful Mercy is a fair worship album from Vineyard, and I probably would recommend it more highly if the lyrics didn't ring so hollow to me. This is an old debate, but I'm the type who prefers hymns that express God's majesty and greatness with scripture and poetry, rather than shallow worship choruses that focus too much on what we're going to do. I don't even mind that too much if the lyrics complete a thought process, such as with the classic "I Love You Lord." In contrast, this album's "Safe in Your Hands" relies on the lyric "Father I worship you" far too much for my comfort. Likewise, "This Is Your Song" seems to focus on the line "Here I am to worship you, put all my fears aside," and "Something Happens" just seems too simplistic: "Something happens to me when I bow down to worship you / So I worship you Lord whenever I can / I will fall to my knees, though the world doesn't worship you / I will love you with everything that I am." Songs such as these seem to me more like a call to worship, instead of the act of worship. I recognize, however, that the Body of Christ is comprised of a diverse culture of worshippers. If lyrics such as these register with you and bring you closer to God, I can't criticize them too much. What we can agree upon is that Wonderful Mercy features a collection of mostly new songs of praise that sometimes displays a solid blending of two musical cultures.