Tomlin Plugs in to Heavier Sound on Hello Love

Artist:  Chris Tomlin
Title:  Hello Love
Labels:  Sixsteps Records

Tomlin melds the familiar with new electric glimpses …

You already know what to expect:  Slowly expanding worship anthems for the church to sing all through the next few years. Some explode out of the gate, while others contemplate. But they all yield themselves to a full-throated, hands-raised worship experience. Chris Tomlin has it mastered, and multiple radio hits and Dove Awards confirm his ability.

Hello Love, Tomlin’s fifth studio LP, furthers this impressive discography, yet leans away from previous efforts just enough to give us future glimpses of what could be. Lead single “Jesus Messiah” has already taken off at radio and is a welcome change from feel-good choruses. Instead, the song relies on a simple retelling of Christ’s accomplishments on the cross and gives a solid theological grounding to celebrate.

The studio takes of “God of This City” and “Sing Sing Sing” offer predictable production. The listener, if already used to the live versions from the most recent Passion worship album, will prefer the energetic counterparts. The Watoto Children’s Choir offers a steady supply of uplifting, jubilant glee on “Love,” and the tribal pulse provides a brief respite between two decent-enough ballads (“I Will Rise” and “Praise the Father, Praise the Son”). The final build/chorus on “I Will Rise” realizes one of Tomlin’s most chill-inducing moments, which is quite a statement, considering his already impressive collection of songs.

The slight twist comes with the plugged-in sounds of a few tracks in particular. The surprising alt-rock electricity of “With Me” dazzles, showcasing Tomlin’s ability to stretch beyond the standard piano/acoustic-driven fare. A stellar back-end track, it just might become the one we point to if Tomlin continues toward this impressive direction. The trend persists on the “jump-with-me” feel of “You Lifted Me Out.” This and “Sing Sing Sing” seem an obvious live one-two punch.

Tomlin is simply at the top of his game and rides the wave through another album. And the inclination toward a heavier sound receives our applause.


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**This review first published on September 15, 2008.