Artist: Lincoln Brewster
Title: Joy To The World
Label: Integrity Music
Release Date: 10/9/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Joy to the World
- Little Drummer Boy
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- Shout for Joy
- Our God
- Miraculum (Instrumental)
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Do You Hear What I Hear?
- O Holy Night (Another Hallelujah)
- Silent Night
Famous for his rendition of ‘Everlasting God’, as well as other chart-topping radio singles like ‘Let the Praises Ring’, ‘Majestic’, ‘Today is the Day’, ‘Love the Lord’ and ‘Reaching For You’; Lincoln Brewster has been one of my favourite worship artists, infusing such intense passion as he plays his electric guitar with enthusiasm, with listeners from around the world in awe of his musical ability (personally, he’s one of my favourite electric guitarists ever, aside from Stu G. from the now-disbanded worship group, Delirious?); but also of his vibrant and energetics songs, all with a focus of praise and worship. Readying for his first Christmas album release titled Joy to the World, this album is certainly joyful, with renditions on classic carol favourites, a couple of worship songs in Chris Tomlin’s ‘Our God’ and his own original worship melody, ‘Shout for Joy’ (originally on Real Life), as well as a 6 minute electric guitar instrumental track, featuring bells, cymbals and big drums as Lincoln incorporates as many as 5 or 6 Christmas carols together to create an epic track worthy of placing it as one of my favourite instrumental tracks ever (second to Michael W, Smith’s ‘Hibernia’). Reminding listeners that Christmas is a joyful season, Lincoln places a central importance on this season of happiness, family and understanding the gift above all, God’s Son to the world- a joyous experience beyond any other. With much of the Christmas melodies sung year after year, it is understood that ‘…sometimes Christmas music can slip by as festive, and what we’re singing about can be marginalized…I wanted to try-as often as possible-to make the music sound like what the lyrics were saying…arrangements that hadn’t been done before, a record with a modern edge…’ With ‘Little Drummer Boy’ as his first Christmas radio single, Lincoln pairs up with rapper KJ-52 to record a stellar infusion of pop, rock and rap, leading into an album full of genres (from Christmas, worship, pop and instrumental) as my place this Christmas album as one of my favourites (along with Jason Gray’s Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy) of 2012!
Starting off the album with a rousing rendition of a classic Christmas favourite, ‘Joy To the World’, Lincoln prepares us for an album full of joyous melodies, drums, electronic synth undertones, as well as his trademark guitar sounds. As I sing along with this traditional hymn ‘…joy to the world the Lord has come, let earth receive her King…’, I am reminded of how wonderful the day must’ve been for all that were involved: Mary and Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, even the innkeeper must’ve felt joy if (or when) he discovered that the baby born in the manger was the Son of God. Wikipedia relates the word ‘joy’ mostly to ‘happiness’, but I reckon joy is so much more. Joy is being content and knowing that no circumstance will lead us to defeat or destruction, knowing that ‘…He rules the world with truth and grace…’ Featuring an awesome guitar solo (almost present on every song on the album), Lincoln excels at what he does best- playing electric guitar to create driving melodies that hook in even the uninterested of listeners, the ones that may not enjoy that much instrumental music. ‘Joy to the World’ then segues into ‘Little Drummer Boy’, the album’s first single and one of my favourite renditions of this track that was once associated with Jars of Clay (the Christmas carol that this Tennessee band is famous for!). Featuring a rap by KJ-52, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ incorporates an infusion of regular drum beats with thrilling electric guitar hooks, and though only 2:55, Lincoln and KJ-52 create a gem of a song. Reminding listeners that the gift that we bring to the Lord during this holiday season is rather the abilities and skills that we have rather than physical presents ‘…I’ll play my drum for Him…’ KJ-52 reminds us that ‘…while He seems so sweet, we give up our glory to God because of the greatest gift of love that was wrapped in a manger, so we lift up ‘hosanna in the highest’, we sing of You…’; creating a worshipful atmosphere as free worship permeates the back half of the song through guitar solos, claps and KJ-52 creating wonderful background rap noises to proclaim this song as one of the best renditions ever of ‘Little Drummer Boy’. Well done Lincoln and KJ for this rap-praise track filled with intense energy and infectious enthusiasm!
‘Oh Holy Night’ has always been one of my favourite carols (if not my favourite of all!), reminding creation of the night ‘…when Christ was born…’ A worshipful sense as we sing about how we fall upon our knees in reverence and honour as we respond to our King in the only way we can; Lincoln crafts a gem of a song, highlighting the song’s worshipful presence as he creates a piano undertone filled with an eerily refreshing electric guitar sound worthy of appreciation and admiration. The words ‘…chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name, all oppression shall cease…’ remind me of the ongoing fight against slavery and oppression, and how in Christ, we are all free no matter what our circumstances are. Adding to the song is a worshipful chorus stanza of ‘Hallelujah’, written by Leonard Cohen, yet adapted by Lincoln in 2006 to resemble a more worshipful focus, titling the song ‘Another Hallelujah’. The transition with this worshipful one word sung to Christ ‘…hallelujah…’ into this powerful anthem starting off with ‘…fall on your knees…’ is one of the greatest highlights of the album, as I fall in love with the Christmas carol even more, understanding through the bells and electric guitars that Christ is King!
‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ is a gutsy feet-jumping anthem with plenty of trademark Lincoln Brewster guitar solos to set the song up as a declaratory praise melody as Lincoln declares ‘…joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies, with the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem”…’ From awe-inspiring instrumental bridges to the tag at the end ‘…glory to the king…’, Lincoln’s rendition of this fan-favourite is sure to rouse up the dancing spirit in all of us as we celebrate the day of our Lord’s birth. Ending the album is the ever-prevalent song ‘Silent Night’, sung by many people regardless of religious affiliation. As Lincoln starts the song with a slow electric guitar sound coupled with a rhythmic drum beat, Lincoln places on his ‘Matt Hammitt’ hat to marvellously sing this treasured carol, a sombre and fitting end to an album full of energy and passion; as we sit back and soak in the Christmas story, and how ‘…heavenly hosts sing ‘alleluia’…’ when they appeared to the shepherds on that day 2000+ years ago. Well done Lincoln for this reflective song, one that is cherished and remembered for centuries, and will be for years to come, by many listeners around the world!
Placing all his musical experience into one awesome track in ‘Miraculum’, this instrumental melody standing at a long 6:20 in length incorporates carols from ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ‘Carol Of the Bells’ amongst more to produce a well-polished and anthemic medley of songs worthy of playing in the orchestra. With no words, this tune is a pure example of worship, as even with no words, Lincoln is able to translate a worshipful presence that is sure to touch people who may not have heard about Christ, or not have been that receptive to Him in the past. This ‘…three-movement instrumental…’, Lincoln show his hopes for the instrumental track, and how ‘…I hope that ‘Miraculum’ will provide a musical setting that churches can grab onto and use in their own services during the holidays…’ How I long for this track to be played in the background in shopping centres as the holiday season draws near, with this song certainly deserving enough to propel Lincoln’s album to the forefront as he battles with Jason Gray (in my opinion) for Christmas album of the year at the Dove Awards 2013. ‘Shout for Joy’ and ‘Our God’ are also included on this album, and though typically worship songs (‘Shout for Joy’ on Lincoln’s Real Life album and ‘Our God’ a cover of the famous Chris Tomlin song); each melody on this album is given a Christmas flavouring, and also some added lyrics to commemorate the holiday season fast approaching us. ‘Shout for Joy’ starts with bells and an eerie keyboard, complete with remix-type percussion loops, as Lincoln leaps into a joyous decree, adding his own Christmas verse- ‘…o night in Bethlehem, heaven came to man, born the Son of God, sing out the Lord has come, oh Emmanuel, now our God is here with us…’; complete with ‘oh, oh, woah’ backing vocals, creating a great worship track that is able to slot perfectly in the album lineup, enhancing its chances of critical and commercial acclaim. Similarly with ‘Our God’, Lincoln performs an almost flawless version of the Chris Tomlin classic, and while it may take a while to marry ‘…o come let us adore Him…’ over the bridge of ‘Our God’, Lincoln is able to turn this already powerful anthem into one fit for the Christmas holidays- with listeners fully immersing themselves in the knowledge that ‘…our God is healer, awesome in power, our God…’ Well done Lincoln for these two tracks, each giving a new, fresh and vibrant approach to already great melodies!
Overall: Christmas is a time for celebration, reflection, spending time with family and friends, and also with the One who came to give us His own life; so we can retain ours for all eternity. Lincoln Brewster’s Joy to the World is able to place a modern spin on timeless Christmas carols, creating an atmosphere for praise and worship to occur with a joyous spirit. From rock melodies like ‘Little Drummer Boy’ to instrumental creations like ‘Miraculum’, Lincoln’s 10 tracks of hope and declaration is able to show the listener the best that the season of Christmas has to offer, with the physical present the precursor to the ultimate present of His presence in our lives. Jason’s album in Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy will have some stiff competition with Lincoln’s album, as listeners from around the world soak in the reality of how ‘…the child, the child, sleeping in the night, He will bring us goodness and light…’ (‘Do You Hear What I Hear’) From carols to worship tracks, Lincoln’s 10 track album of joy, cheer and worship is one of my favourite Christmas albums ever! Well done Lincoln for maintaining each carol’s integrity, while also making each song relevant to 21st century society, as individually and corporately we proclaim ‘…and if our God is with us, that what can stand against…’ (‘Our God’).
RIYL: Paul Baloche, Matt Hammitt, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder*Band
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3