Ascend The Hill - Hymns: Take The World, But Give Me Jesus

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A review of Ascend The Hill’s new worship project titled Hymns: Take The World, But Give Me Jesus.

Band: Ascend The Hill
Title: Hymns: Take The World, But Give Me Jesus
Label: Come&Live
Release Date: 9/14/2010
Reviewer: Brian Higgins

Tracklist

1. The Love of God
2. How Great Thou Art
3. Rock of Ages
4. Take The World, But Give Me Jesus
5. I Surrender All
6. Hallelujah! What A Savior
7. None Compare (Spontaneous Worship)
8. Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go
9. Be Thou My Vision

As both a musician and a worshiper of God, I typically find myself in a place of want.  The songs pumped out by a Chris Tomlin or a Paul Baloche are able to stir my spirit but seem to bypass my mind.  On the other hand, when I look purely at the musical end of things, I find myself untouched spiritually and in a place where the music overshadows the God the music was made to worship.

As Ascend The Hill set out on making their album “Take The World, But Give Me Jesus,” they took the spiritually moving and intellectually gripping hymns and added a remarkable level of musicianship.  In taking on a challenge like this, there is a very tight rope one must walk.  On the one hand, the band must be creative and unique.  There is no point in releasing an album that’s already been made, but on the other hand, the hymns they set out to play are so iconic that homage must be paid to them.  Ascend The Hill has found a way to strike that balance.

Songs like the title track, “Take The World, But Give Me Jesus”, simply allow lyrics like “Oh the height and depth of mercy, oh the length and breadth of love, oh the fullness of redemption, pledge of endless life above” to speak for themselves by keeping the music low key so the focus remains the way the hymn writers intended.  Tons of creative liberties have been taken, however, they are all tastefully done.  By arranging “How Great Thou Art” in a rather unorthodox way, the verses inspire the mind so that the final chorus becomes an overflow of passion.  Leonard Cohen’s melody from “Hallelujah” makes its way into “Hallelujah, What a Savior”.  Few lyrical changes are made, but a beautiful chorus is added to the end of “Be Thou My Vision” simply saying, “Oh God be my everything, be my delight, be Jesus my glory, my soul satisfied”.

The tangible elements of the album make it good, but it’s the intangibles that make it great.  From beginning to end, it is clear you are listening to a band worship God with their talents, and not worship their talents through the guise of God.  My first listen to it was in my car during my morning commute, and it transformed that morning into pure worship of God.  From the opening drum line of “The Love of God” to the haunting closing chorus of “Be Thou My Vision”, the album simply grabs you and refuses to let go (not that you ever want it to).

Overall: This is an album that engages you from the first note, keeps you until the last one, and yet allows you to focus on the meaning of the songs, the worship of God.  If you are looking for an album that will inspire awestruck worship of God with music that will intrigue you as much as the lyrics, Ascend The Hill’s “Take The World, But Give Me Jesus” is one you simply cannot pass up.

Download the album for free off of the Come&Live! website.