- God is Here
- Best For Me
- All That We Are
- In Jesus Name
- Your Presence is Heaven
- Victor’s Crown
- Yours Forever (feat. Kari Jobe)
- My Jesus, I Love Thee
- Your Name/Cry of the Broken
- I Am Yours (feat. Michael W. Smith)
- Jesus at the Centre
One of the worlds most celebrated and respected worship leaders, Darlene Zschech’s prolific and powerful songs written with Hillsong as well as her solo material has given myself and I’m sure many other listeners respect as we listen to her heartfelt and poignant songs, from ‘Shout to the Lord’, ‘All Things are Possible’, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’, ‘Pray’ and ‘Kiss of Heaven’. Part of the Hillsong team for many years since 1993, Darlene has shown us her longevity in a music industry where any time over 10 years within the music industry (let along a Christian one) is a feat in and of itself. Now releasing her fourth album Revealing Jesus after her three successful previous albums (Kiss of Heaven in 2003, Change This World in 2006 and You are Love in 2011) on the 19th March 2013, it was her collaborations with artists like Israel Houghton, Kari Jobe and Michael W. Smith that has intrigued me the most when I listened to this album. From the compelling ‘Jesus at the Centre’ and ‘Your Presence is Heaven’ to the medley of Paul Baloche’s ‘Your Name’ and her own ‘Cry of the Broken’, we are met with one of the most enjoyable live albums of the year so far (alongside Passion 2013’s Let The Future Begin and Worship Central’s Let It Be Known). A certain purchase for anyone who has loved Darlene’s previous material in the past, this album does a great job in letting the listener dwell in the presence of God without any inhibitions and insecurities. Though many may be hesitant in purchasing this album to begin with (listeners who may not take a good likening to Hillsong and could possibly make a correlation that if Hillsong’s music can seem or sound repetitive, then Darlene’s album might do that too!), Revealing Jesus still keeps you engaged and encouraged nevertheless. Featuring one of my favourite renditions of both these two Israel Houghton classics, Darlene’s strong vocals and heart for the presence of God are great additions for the album, as we shout out and declare that ‘…Jesus at the centre of it all, from beginning to the end, it will always be, it’s always been You, Jesus…’ (‘Jesus at the Centre’)
Both ‘Jesus at the Centre’ and ‘Your Presence is Heaven’ certainly are some of the highlights and songs that stand out with an initial perusing of the song lineup on the album, as these Israel Houghton favourites seemingly anchor the album with carefully choreographed and brilliantly sung duets, as Darlene and Israel perform some of the greatest renditions of the songs since their initial recordings during late 2011. With both these songs written by worship leaders Israel Houghton and Michael Massey, we are given two great anthems of praise, with one song declaring that Jesus is our centre and because of this, we can rest assured that ‘…nothing else matters, nothing in this world will do, Jesus You’re the centre, everything revolves around you…’ (‘Jesus at the Centre’) and the other reminding us of the presence of God, and the certain fact that ‘…nothing in this world can satisfy, Jesus You’re the cup that won’t run dry…’ (‘Your Presence is Heaven’). Both great songs that declare God’s splendour and majesty, Darlene delivers a great rendition for both songs. With Israel singing backing vocals on both songs, ‘Jesus At the Centre’ is a great closing song that reminds listeners where Jesus ought to be placed- at the centre of our lives. As we continue to dwell in Christ’s presence, our mindset shifts from the uncertain to the clear. Listening to ‘Your Presence is Heaven’ is certainly one of my highlights on the album, and listening to both Darlene and Israel sing against the light percussion and keyboard is a great soothing moment as listeners, collectively and individually sing to Jesus and declare His presence over our lives. Well done Darlene for such fantastic renditions of some of my favourite Israel Houghton songs ever!
Covering Paul Baloche’s ‘Your Name’, one of my favourite songs of his ever; Darlene delivers this song full of intensity and passion as the song is anchored by powerful drums and a light electric guitar strum. With the song fitting in with the album theme of God being the centre of our lives and the source of our strength, Darlene delivers Paul’s section of the medley song quite well as backing singer Barry Southgate sings the second verse of the song with a great sense of passion to present a song that is certainly one of the highlights on the album. However, while ‘Cry of the Broken’ is great as a song by itself, with Darlene declaring out that ‘…You hear the cry of the broken…’, somehow I just don’t think that the song should be even paired with ‘Your Name’. Not to discount the passion given by Darlene through these two tracks, but somehow the feel of the song shifted as Darlene started to sing a song that is more directed to singing about the poor or needy rather than delivering the same theme of a song that lifts the name of Jesus up. Maybe these two songs should’ve been separate; nevertheless, Darlene does her best to create a medley that brings to listeners some great passionate worship, even if the flow of the song is a bit off centre. Kari Jobe’s leading of ‘Yours Forever’ in the first verse and chorus is just as powerful as Israel’s in ‘Your Presence is Heaven’, and while it was originally on You are Love, this song full of electric guitar riffs that remind us that ‘…You took my place, You took the fall, You took the nails that I may live forever, live forever…’ has shown a great performance by Kari, and if I wouldn’t have known better, I may have suspected that Kari wrote the song. Originally hearing the song being covered by Building 429, Darlene’s much slower version of ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’ is a great song for hymn lovers, yet I didn’t really enjoy this song as much as I have enjoyed other hymn renditions from other artists. Maybe it was because of the song and its length and how personally I thought it was dragged on a fair bit, or if the song was slowed down dramatically and only building when the crowd participated and shouted out a repetitious phrase ‘…lift Jesus higher…’, but regardless, the song, while it could be a fan favourite amongst other listeners, it wasn’t mine.
‘Victor’s Crown’ is the first single from the album, and a great fan favourite amongst many, including myself. Written by Darlene, Kari and Israel, this simple song depicting Christ as the great overcomer of our trials and other circumstances is one that will be forever treasured and cherished by Darlene fans and fans of worship music alike, as the 7:25 minute string and keyboard prominent melody encourages us to declare that ‘…every high thing must come down, every stronghold shall be broken, You wear the Victor’s crown…’ Darlene also presents us a variety of other songs, from God being here present in this moment, faithful and able to help us in the repetitious anthem ‘God is Here’ (while great musically, it’s not my favourite on the lyrical side, with the theme of the song sounding too familiar to Hillsong’s ‘God is Able’), and declaring that Christ is the risen one through a riveting song with strong drums and a great background vocal from Israel, reminding listeners that ‘…You gave Your best for me…’ (‘Best For Me’); to a song full of plenty ‘oohh’ moments as worship leaders Jeremiah Woods and Miriam Webster give us a catchy and anthemic song that depicts us as giving ‘…all that we are for Your glory…’, a lyrical moment that ought to be treasured as summing up the theme and message of the entire album. Yet it was Darlene’s song ‘I Am Yours’, featuring Michael W. Smith on the piano and backing vocals, that I predict will really be one of the songs on the album that will become a great anthem in years to come. Written in a way that Michael W. Smith would write, Michael’s signature piano playing steals the song as we hear some of the most poignant and prolific words of the entire album. With the epic chorus starting with the words ‘…behold the Lamb of God, who takes away my sin, Lord Jesus crucified for me, this love that knows no end…’, you can hear Michael in the background, just as passionate in his vocal delivery as Darlene as we listen to the song be taken to new heights. With the only downside of the song being the fact that Michael didn’t lead much of it, this duet is certainly one of my favourite songs on the record, and shows us the great work that can be achieved with both a great worship leader and a great CCM/pop artist. Well done guys for such a stellar song and a great song sequel to your last duet, ‘The Great Day’.
Overall: Featuring some of the most engaging live music this year, Revealing Jesus gives us a great chance for us to bask in the glory of God as we hear some of the most heartfelt, confronting and comforting worship songs all year. With both ‘Your Presence in Heaven’ and ‘Jesus at the Centre’ anchoring the album as it appeals to listeners who may have only heard of these two highly publicised songs, Darlene’s powerful singing and great collaboration with Kari, Israel and Michael has given this album great rapport amongst listeners of worshipful music. While not necessarily the most publicised live album released in March (Passion 2013 and Worship Central’s albums, while of similar quality, seem to be highly marketable), Darlene’s latest album has done enough for her music to continue to inspire many listeners around the world with her heartfelt music. From the whistling anthem ‘All That We Are’ to the powerful duet ‘Yours Forever’ (rerecorded from her 2011 album You are Love with Kari leading the track that could almost be recorded as one of Kari’s own), this is an album certain to be enjoyed by Darlene or Hillsong fans, as well as others who enjoy great worship music. Well done Darlene for such a compelling album!
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Michael W. Smith, Hillsong, Israel Houghton