Album Review :
Bethel Live - You Make Me Brave

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Artist: Bethel Live
Title: You Make Me Brave
Label: Fuel Music
Release Date: 4/22/14
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. You Make Me Brave (Amanda Cook)
  2. It is Well (Kristene DiMarco)
  3. A Little Longer (Jenn Johnson)
  4. Forever (Kari Jobe)
  5. Joy of the Lord [Spontaneous] (Jenn Johnson)
  6. Anchor (Leah Mari)
  7. Shepherd (Amanda Cook)
  8. Wonder [Spontaneous] (Amanda Cook)
  9. We Dance (Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger)
  10. I Belong to You (Amanda Cook)
  11. Come to Me (Jenn Johnson)
  12. We Step into Freedom [Spontaneous] (Jenn Johnson)

Residing in Redding, California; Bethel Church have been able to provide listeners around the world with heartfelt melodies and poignant worship songs full of vibrancy, life and passion for the past 4 or 5 years, with top-selling albums like Be Lifted High, Tides, Here is Love and For the Sake of the World. With songs like ‘One Thing Remains’, ‘Furious’, ‘Be Lifted High’, ‘God I Look to You’, ‘Love Came Down’, ‘This is Amazing Grace’ and ‘For the Sake of the World’; Bethel’s heart has always been to provide us with songs that can be sung in churches, both on an individual, community and global scale. With this worship movement primarily consisting of husband-and-wife duo Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, William Matthews and Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger; Bethel’s music has been able to penetrate many churches from around the world with their powerful music, with their songs being highlights in possibly every worship leader’s set list on both Sunday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Releasing their first studio album in September 2013, Bethel Music (or should I say the women who sing in the Bethel music ministry) are back, this time releasing the live album You Make Me Brave, recorded during a conference last year in Redding, California, that was directed towards women. With the result of this conference leading to a collection of songs led by women worship leaders, You Make Me Brave, whilst primarily borne out of moments communing with women throughout that time, can be just as easily applicable for anyone who listens, myself included. And while studio albums are able to deliver a crisper, radio friendly sound, it is the live album that captures the worshipful atmosphere, transferring and translating some of the worshipful experience onto a CD or digital download for listeners to soak themselves into. With worship artists like Jenn Johnson, Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger, Kari Jobe and Amanda Cook; You Make Me Brave is filled with poignant worship melodies (even the spontaneous songs) for the church, as we see an album filled with poetically relevant moments that are able to be delivered to the younger generation (teenagers and young adults). Full of explosive guitars, keyboards and powerful vocals, Bethel, along with Passion, Hillsong and Jesus Culture; have shaped worship melodies, the uniqueness of musical styles and everything else in between. From first song to last, this is an album certain to be purchased amongst other similar artists like Hillsong, Passion or Jesus Culture.

‘Forever’, a song written by Brian Johnson and made famous by Kari Jobe on her newly released album Majestic, is one of the many highlights on You Make Me Brave, sung also on the album by Kari as we hear possibly one of the most heartfelt recordings of a song that’s slowly becoming one of my favourite worship songs since Hillsong UNITED’s ‘Oceans’. Co-written by both Brian and Kari, ‘Forever’, no matter how long it is on the live recording (as it stands at a towering 12 minutes, listeners may feel like the song seemingly drags on), reminds us through vividly painting a picture of Jesus’s death and resurrection of the lengths Christ went through for us to be reconciled with Him, that ‘…forever He be glorified, forever He be lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive…’ A message of comfort is brought to the fore, and through this moment of thankfulness and declaration of God’s reigning forever, we are given one of the most vulnerable and heartfelt moments on the album. Kari Jobe is one of my favourite worship artists ever, and it was nice to hear her take the lead on arguably my favourite song of hers since ‘We Are’ back in 2012.

One of the primary leaders of the Bethel music ministry, Jenn Johnson, and her husband Brian, have together given listeners a vast amount of heartfelt melodies, from ‘Chasing You’ and ‘To Our God’, to ‘Our Father’, ‘This is Amazing Grace’ and ‘Forever’ (which Brian co-wrote with Kari). With You Make Me Brave no different; Jenn pours out her heart in 4 songs (with two of them being spontaneous melodies). One glance at the tracklisting, you can see possibly Jenn’s most poignant, vulnerable, and popular song ever- ‘Come to Me’, this time recorded with a full band compared to the acoustic treatment it had on The Loft Sessions. Daughter-in-law of pastor Bill Johnson; ‘Come to Me’ is a great standout and a certain highlight amidst an album that continues to promote Bethel’s music as some of the most accessible and easy-to-learn-in-churches music throughout these last few years. Sung from God’s point of view, Jenn cries out amidst the light electric guitars and the big pulsating drums, ‘…come to me, I’m all you need…I’m your everything…’ as listeners understand God as our source of life, hope and acceptance. With a swaying melody filled with earthy vocals and electric guitar picks, this song is a reassurance to anyone who feels far away from Christ- that He understands our lives, and is able to hold us during the times of difficulty and calamity- something that can easily be said, yet not necessarily believed until the moment when you have no one else to cling to except for Him. The urgency of the chorus rings out in my mind as we are reminded of the Lord’s beckoning, that ‘…I am your anchor in the wind and the waves, and I am your steadfast so don’t be afraid, though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength, and I am with you wherever you go…’

Segueing into ‘We Step into Freedom’, a spontaneous 90 second melody that encourages us to step into the freedom and everything that Christ has for us, ‘Come to Me’ is of the best songs from Bethel Music ever, and has been a comfort for me personally these last few years, and will continue to be a favourite of mine in years to come. Also inviting us into a 7 minute light electric guitar driven ‘A Little Longer’ as it encourages us to stay longer in God’s presence and delivers a great swaying beat and some hauntingly refreshing and powerful backing vocals, and its spontaneous counterpart ‘Joy of the Lord’, a moment of exuberance and exaltation as we witness the Spirit of God manifest as a song that is of utterance becomes a powerful anthem that brings us the theme of joy and the powerful notion of how we ought to ‘…let freedom reign, break off these chains…’; Jenn’s songs are nothing but extraordinary, and together with Kari’s ‘Forever’, become the anchor of the album both musically and lyrically.

While the rest of the worship leaders aren’t necessarily as famous as Jenn or Kari, their songs nonetheless are equally vulnerable, heartfelt and powerful. Amanda Cook, who initially had her start in music under her maiden name Amanda Falk (in fact, I initially thought they were both different people until I did my research), has been a part of Bethel’s music ministry for quite some time. While this album is the first she’s sung on, Amanda’s heart for worship and ministry can be fervently shown on each of the songs she sings. Title track ‘You Make Me Brave’ is a powerful and declaratory moment where the anthem brings us into great drums and guitars as the topic of bravery is discussed within the confides of these 6 minutes presented. As we are met to break out of our fear and into the excitement of our lives that God has planned for us, it is in the first track that Amanda encourages us to find the hope in Jesus that evaporates the fear we have when we step out and make calculated decisions. With a vocal that reminds me of artists like Francesca Battistelli, Lindsay McCaul or Dara Maclean, we are hit with a powerful chorus that describes God’s love crashing over us like a wave on an ocean crashing against a beach, with Amanda crying out that ‘…as You love, and wave after wave crashes over me, crashes over me, for You are for us, You are not against us, champion of heaven, You made a way for all to enter in…’ One of the best album beginners on a Bethel album since ‘You are Good’ on Be Lifted High; Amanda continues to invite us all into times of reflection and individual worship through her remaining three songs. ‘Shepherd’ is an intimate piano driven melody that starts out with a reflective style, that later begins to metamorphosis into a majestic guitar driven anthem, and will probably be exactly what David would sing to the Lord during his times as king. My favourite song by Amanda from the album, we are reminded that Jesus our shepherd has our best interests at heart, and that it is with fervent love for the Father that we declare that ‘…how I love You, how I love You, You have not forsaken me…this is where I want to be…’ As Amanda also segues this song into a Holy Spirit filled spontaneous track where the congregation and herself partake in the song ‘Wonder’, a moment that gives us great awe as we watch and hear how wonderful our God is, it is in moments of spontaneous worship where we are allowed to worship freely and become more engaged and attuned to Jesus and what He’s longing for us to hear.

Overall: With Amanda also declaring her faith in ‘I Belong to You’, a newly written and recorded song that provides a light rhythmic melody that celebrates the notion that we belong to Jesus and can celebrate the joy and enjoyment that comes from being completely known and loved by the Father; as well as worship leaders Steffany Frizzel Gretzinger, Leah Mari and Kristene DiMarco each leading a song on the album (‘We Dance’, a melody about dancing with reverence in the presence of the Father, ‘Anchor’, encouraging us that Christ is the anchor for our faith, and ‘It is Well’, a rendition of the hymn, respectively); Bethel continue to invite us into moments of worship in both corporate and individual ways. As Bethel return to the live format we know and love, this is a great way to experience women-led worship at its finest, as well as being an album where you can listen to, even if you have never heard of Bethel or their music ministry before. With such great songs that are church and worship focused, Jenn, Amanda, Kari and the rest of the team have showcased why Bethel are still as popular as they are now as they were when they started out. While I myself would enjoy listening to Passion, Meredith Andrews, All Sons and Daughters or even Hillsong UNITED a bit better, Bethel (and Jesus Culture) still have their place in the worship music scene, and with songs like ‘Come to Me’, ‘Forever’ and ‘I Belong to You’ becoming big favourites of mine from Bethel overall; You Make Me Brave is arguably one of the most powerful standout live albums of 2014, alongside Passion’s Take it All. Well done Bethel for such a prolific and powerful album!

RIYL: Jesus Culture, Passion, Hillsong UNITED, Kari Jobe

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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