Title: The Great Awakening
Label: Essential Records
Release Date: 9/20/11
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- The Great Awakening
- All Over the Earth
- Chains Hit the Ground
- I Can See Your Love
- I Wonder
- Not Afraid Anymore
- I Cry
- Holy Ghost
- While We Sing
- Unending Songs
With radio singles like ‘Count Me In’, ‘Follow You’ and ‘Tears of the Saints’, Leeland have reinvented the worship genre, creating heartfelt moments of ministry, while simultaneously crafting places of uncomfortableness and confrontation. The Great Awakening combines both; songs of praise and adoration through the humbleness of ‘I Wonder’ or ‘The Great Awakening’, as well as the ever challenging ‘While We Sing’ or ‘Pages’. I have always enjoyed Leeland Mooring’s songs, ever since his writing style when he and Michael W. Smith wrote most of Michael’s 2006 album, Stand. Earning much praise and commercial success in the form of Grammy and Dove nominations, their fourth studio album has impacted my heart the most. With a hunger for God and a song-writing maturity beyond his 23 years, Leeland has achieved a feat that will certainly place sceptics and fans along the same page as they both look towards the bands 5th album sometime in the near future.
‘I Wonder’ was a surprise for WOW Hits 2012. When the list surfaced in July 2011, the single hadn’t even reached radio yet, and I was eagerly waiting to see if the song warranted a selection on a compilation dubbed ’30 of today’s top Christian artists and hits’. As I listened to the song from July onward, I was able to assure myself that ‘I Wonder’ did deserve it’s place. Speaking about how it is creation that shows how marvellous and wonderful God really is, Leeland sings out the simple truths of his realisation ‘…I’m in awe at the majesty of who you are, Your love is a seal that burns inside my heart, all of the day I want to be where you are Holy Father…’ against the acoustic backdrop of guitars, strings and keyboard. As we listen to him exalting the God Most High, we gain a wonderful insight into how something so simple musically can create a song so powerful, with lyrical richness that places Leeland in one of the premier spots in worship music today. As Leeland cries out to God, proclaiming that it is His awesomeness and the enormity of what He has done that has caused him to fall down in wonder and adoration, we are swept up in the moment also. What a wonderful track for the first single!
‘The Great Awakening’, the title track, is a call to awaken our eyes to the wonder and majesty of God. With only a stanza repeated throughout its 3:06 duration, complete with gang vocals throughout a softly acoustic setting, the song is just as powerful as if it had 3 or 4 stanzas. The instrumental arrangement is a musical highlight; transforming what seems as a repetitious lyrical hook to an awesome worship experience, as people from all around the world fall to their knees and awaken to the glory of God. ‘All Over the Earth’ also depicts this very lyrical theme. With a guitar and percussion intro that steadies the wandering heart to focus on worship, the refrain ‘…oh, we give You praises, for You alone are holy, Jesus, Your name is greater for You alone are holy…’ shows the listener Leeland’s heart of praise and proclamation. Though at first glance it can seem like this lengthy track is filled with over-clichéd lyrics and simple musical arrangements; Leeland’s passion is infectious, and at the end of the song, I have come to appreciate its uniqueness. We are to be the light and the salt, to people all over the earth, with this song further encouraging us to show God’s love in our sphere’s of influence.
Along with the reflective melodies come upbeat joyous songs that allow the listener to just jump out of their seat and start praising God. ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ are examples of such tunes. ‘Holy Ghost’, together with its driving guitars and rising percussion, is destined to be a church favourite as Leeland sings out ‘…from my head to my toes, Holy Ghost, fill me up…’ This is a Holy Spirit song, as we are urged to let God into the deepest places that only ourselves have access to, knowing that with the Lord’s power, we can ‘…do greater things than You…’ Sometimes it can be scary to know that we can do the same things that Jesus did, walk on water, heal the sick, feed the 5000; even raise people from the dead. But we are assured that we aren’t alone in this world; that God is with us even when we feel afraid. ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ builds on this concept, together with unique guitar riffs and a dynamic drum beat, hoping to awaken the feeling of courage in some of the most timid of souls. As Leeland announces the first line ‘…I feel Your lightning waking me up from the sleep of my timid soul…’ I am reminded that we have nothing to fear, with the Lord beside us. As the song progresses into a declaration that ‘…I’m not afraid anymore cause I am running with Your fire, Lord…’, Leeland’s passionate execution of the lyrics grows with every line sung, as he shows the listeners that God is the only one that can calm our innermost fears.
‘Pages’ is a confronting track if there ever was one, and with that and ‘While We Sing’, listeners are challenged to grow as Christians. Starting with a mesmerising guitar riff, ‘Pages’ begins with the lines ‘…when I stand before God’s throne, nothing hidden, nothing unknown…’ and right from the beginning, Leeland imparts to the listener that God is ever knowing, and what we do when we think no one is looking will be uncovered, if not now then at judgement day; giving a new meaning to how we should act on a private basis. This song, though confrontational, should be motivating, as we strive everyday to be like Christ. A similar track to ‘Pages’, ‘While We Sing’ challenges listeners to live our lives as an act of worship not forgetting the hungry children around the world. Complacency can attack anyone, and through lyrical poignancy, Leeland tackles the avoided subject of being accountable for our action, that ‘…While we sing…the hungry roam the streets…’ Confrontation should spur along change, understanding our parts to play as we live each day to proclaim God’s glory. These two songs can either be distressing and avoided or used as catalysts to live less selfish lives. How are we going to respond? Finally, ‘Unending Songs’ is a fitting song to finish a record all about awakening to the beauty of Christ. As Leeland’s vocals soar above the string infused melody, we are prompted to sing along, to sing ‘…unending songs…’ to the God of creation. What a fantastic way to end a lyrically enriched journey into passionate worship.
Overall: There is a line within ‘Chains Hit the Ground’ that has summed up what this album experience has been; ‘…I remember the nails that you took for me when you died in my shame and iniquity; Jesus, You have set me free…’ As I reflect upon this, I am marvelled at the musical ability of Leeland, and how as a band, they are able to express this fact that we are set free by the God who died for us. A worship experience that earned them a Grammy nomination for best Pop/Gospel album of the year; this album together with Phil Wickham’s Response and Kari Jobe’s Where I Find You have proven that the modern worship genre can move forward when likes of Michael W. Smith, Paul Baloche and Chris Tomlin move from music to another area. Kudos to Leeland, for creating such a thought-provoking album!
RIYL: Phil Wickham, Sanctus Real, Kari Jobe, All Sons and Daughters
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3