Album Review :
Passion - Passion 2013: Let The Future Begin
Title: Passion 2013: Let The Future Begin
Label: sixsteps Records
Release Date: 3/12/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- God’s Great Dance Floor (Chris Tomlin)
- The Lord our God (Kristian Stanfill)
- Jesus, Only Jesus (Matt Redman)
- Once and For All (Chris Tomlin)
- Burning in My Soul (Brett Younker)
- Revelation Song (Kari Jobe)
- Children of Light (Kristian Stanfill)
- Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) (Chris Tomlin)
- We Glorify Your Name (Chris Tomlin)
- Here’s My Heart (Crowder)
- Come to the Water (Kristian Stanfill)
- My Delight is in You (Christy Nockels)
- Shout (Chris Tomlin & Matt Redman)
- In Christ Alone (Kristian Stanfill)
- The Death of Death (Charlie Hall) (Deluxe)
Passion has always been a great annual album to listen to, with their conferences led by pastor and excellent communicator Louie Giglio, and worship leaders Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels and Matt Redman promoting a message of passion and purpose as they gear every year to influence the youth and young adults of America and others around the world. With 2013 being the first year where I was to watch a fair amount of the conference footage in January 2013 live online via their Passion Live Link stream, I was very impressed with the vast amount of artists and speakers involved- I think this was the first time that they had a rap section during the conference, with hip-hop/rap artist Lecrae offering some songs during the time of January 1-4th 2013. However, the album that was a result of this annual Passion event seemed to be more heavily promoted towards Kristian Stanfill and Chris Tomlin and each of their promoted songs, with 9 out of the 14 songs sung between the two of them, when other artists Kari Jobe, Matt Redman, Crowder, Christy Nockels and Brett Younker each contributing only one song to the album (even Charlie Hall who I assumed was going to offer a few songs within the 14 track lineup was only included as a deluxe bonus track). It is sad to say that over the last few years, the Passion song choices on each of the albums has been leaning and leaning more to promoting Chris Tomlin and his songs rather than anyone else. Not that Chris’s work isn’t good, it just seems like there is a slight favouritism when it comes to which artists to place on the album. Nevertheless, a glance through the album gives us great songs from Chris and Kristian (even if around two thirds of the album is sung by them), from the Martin Smith penned ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ to the modern hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ and the Brett Younker written Kristian Stanfill sung ‘Come to the Water’. Despite a lack of promotional songs from Matt, Christy and David Crowder (songs from Give Us Rest or 10,000 Reasons?- provided they sung them on the night…) as well as artists missing out altogether (where is Colton Dixon, Lecrae or even Jesus Culture who also sang songs during the conference?); Let the Future Begin is a great album to purchase if you love songs from Chris or Kristian. While I do prefer White Flag over this 2013 album, Chris Tomlin and co. have produced a solid record (with as many highs as lows) to give listeners songs to sing in churches both now and into the future.
‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ is perhaps one of my favourite worship songs of late, being initially recorded as a tag to the Martin Smith song ‘Back to the Start’ and then later on Chris Tomlin’s album Burning Lights and then later on Martin’s last EP God’s Great Dance Floor Vol. 4. Appearing as the first track on the 2013 Passion album, Chris presents to us a song that does a great job in encouraging people to dance before the Lord. Sometimes during this time in society, we can fall prey to the notion that dancing in church is limited (or even prohibited)- just like how during the 1970s many Christians thought that the drums and guitars were the devil’s music. Dancing has always been associated with nightclubs and discos, but as Christians, we ought to be free and dance before the Lord, one of the great many expressions that we have to give to the Lord, alongside prayer, singing and just being still and knowing that God is our Father. Chris aims to rectify a belief that we may sometimes have about dancing, and for the most part, the song invites us to dance, because of how ‘…You never stop loving us, no matter how far we run, You never give up on us, all the heavens shout, let the future begin…’ The introduction of the saxophone in the instrumental bridge is a great treat, and together with the great emphasis on electric guitar solos and crowd participation as Chris stirs up the crowd to dance during the song’s 7 minute duration, we are met with an anthem destined to be one of our favourite dance worship songs for months and years to come, and certainly one of my personal favourite rousing anthems since Kristian Stanfill’s ‘Not Ashamed’.
Chris also gives us a humble rendition of ‘Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)’, also from his album Burning Lights and the first radio single that has received a great amount of airplay since when it released late last year. A great testimony to who God is and His power over every situation in our lives; we are presented with a great song about declaring God’s presence with us. Sung during the conference as a declaratory statement over those who are enslaved around the world as everyone in the dome used the anthem to speak life for these people involved in the human trafficking enterprise, Chris’s song of hope and freedom is a certain highlight for this album, let alone the whole conference time in general. One of my favourite Chris Tomlin songs since ‘Our God’, Chris then segues the heartfelt melody into ‘We Glorify Your Name’, a spontaneous song still in the mood of declaring and lifting up our hands to Christ. Seen to me as a song just sung in the moment of being lost in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the simpleness yet profound impact of asserting the name of Christ above any other, coupled with the congregation singing as one against the musical backdrop of keyboards makes the song extra special. Well done Chris for these song highlights that definitely enhance the popularity and marketability of the album, amongst Chris Tomlin fans or fans of worship music in general.
Kristian Stanfill has been one of my favourite up-and-coming worship artists for a few years since his chart-topping 2011 album Mountains Move. With is first song on the album being ‘The Lord our God’ (also one of my personal favourites on the album too!), Kristian delivers a heartfelt melody of how Christ is the ‘…promise maker, promise keeper, You finish what You begin, our provision through the desert, You see it through to the end…’ During many times in our lives, it may seem like Christ hasn’t delivered on what He has promised to us years ago, yet through this song, we are given assurance that God is a God who keeps His promises. Full of electric guitars and a same theme to that of ‘Always’ on Passion: Here for You, the message of God never forsaking us is employed in this track, and many others throughout Kristian’s musical career, and shown through other Passion songs as well. This rousing anthem is sure to give us an extra song to sing during Sunday worship services. Kristian also delivers one of the best ‘In Christ Alone’ covers there has been (third to that from Natalie Grant and Newsboys), as the modern hymn written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend becomes one of the most well-respected and popular songs of the 2000s and 2010s. Despite the lack of the second verse, Kristian delivers his own chorus to the song, in a similar way to adding a tag onto the older hymn ‘Jesus Paid it All’ on Everything Glorious. Full of passion, life, vibrancy and hope, this song that depicts the gospel personified creates another sense of wonder and awe as Kristian shouts out that ‘…I find my strength, I find my hope, I find my help in Christ alone, when fear assails, when darkness falls, I find my peace in Christ alone…’ Though many may find the additional tag disturbing and wrecking the epic-ness and hymn atmosphere the original song brings, I find the addition refreshing and something as revolutionary as both Todd Agnew and Chris Tomlin’s adapting their own versions of Amazing Grace- ‘Grace Like Rain’ and ‘Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)’ respectively. Kristian also sings ‘Come to the Water’ (originally penned by worship leader Brett Younker and on his album Come to the Water) and ‘Children of Light’, reminding listeners of how God brings our hearts to life as we continue to delve into the river of His presence (‘Come to the Water’) and that we are called to be the children of light, shining what we have to everyone we meet (‘Children of Light’). With an acoustic flavour given to ‘Children of Light’ in a similar way to ‘All My Fountains’ on Passion’s 2011 album, it is possibly the most unique and different song on the album, complete with hand claps and gang vocals. Well done Kristian for giving us some of your best songs throughout your musical career!
Though I would’ve expected Charlie Hall to be in the main song lineup instead of being relegated to deluxe album only, ‘The Death of Death’ is one of my favourite tracks as Charlie presents to us this weirdly titled song that speaks the honest truth about how ‘…at the death of death where love and justice kiss, we were born to sin and only You forgive…’ We are given a great reminder through this poetic anthem full of electric guitar hooks of not only what we have been but who Christ calls us up to be- sons and daughters of God given a slate wiped clean full of redemption as ‘…the Word made flesh and love defined…’ One of my favourite Charlie Hall songs since ‘Mystery’ and ‘All We Need’; other ‘fringe’ artists (Matt Redman, Kari Jobe, Brett Younker and even Christy Nockels) each lend one track for the album. ‘Burning in My Soul’, led by Brett, is a stirring anthem written by Brett and Matt Maher about how the fire inside of us is longing to come out, and the encouragement and love and peace that has been stored there by Christ through His work on the cross is sure to spill over to others as we witness about the change that we have had because of Christ. Christy Nockels, one of my favourite female worship leaders (alongside Meredith Andrews and Kari Jobe), offers up ‘My Delight is In You’, and with her strong vocals and a keyboard prominent musical backdrop, we are able to hear one of the best anthems she has done since ‘Waiting Here for You’. With a simple message of our delight being in the Lord for all the wonders and love He has showered over us, Christy spontaneously breaks into the chorus of ‘Refiner’s Fire’, a great respect being paid as I listen to one of my favourite 90s songs. Crowder’s inclusion on the album was a total surprise, considering that I assumedly thought that ‘All This Glory’ was going to be the last David Crowder led song sung at a Passion event, considering now that David Crowder’s a solo act, and that his music is just as good as when he was with the band (just as The Digital Age is great too!). With a reverbing electric guitar, David pours out his entire being with this melody about declaring our love for Christ, and how we want God to take our hearts and ‘…speak what is true…’ over the parts that need Him the most. Well done David for such a poignant and compelling song- pity that there’s only one Crowder song on the album amidst the flood of Chris and Kristian led songs…perhaps a Passion double disc album next year?
Kari Jobe’s famous cover of ‘Revelation Song’ also slides into track 6 on the album, and while this song is good, it is by all means overplayed, both on radio and with many artists covering the song, from Newsboys, Our Hearts Hero and Mission Six, to Phillips Craig and Dean and Melissa Greene. Standing at a long length of 8:29, the song gives us everything from powerful worship to capturing emotion as we hear Kari’s passionate performance. Despite this, something more ‘new’, ‘fresh’ or ‘different’ (like a song from Jesus Culture or Lecrae) may have been better suited to this project than filling it with a song written during the mid 2000s. Chris Tomlin’s duet with Matt Redman as they sing ‘Shout’ doesn’t necessarily seem like one (if you would call cutting and pasting Matt Redman to sing one verse on a Chris Tomlin heavy song a duet then yes, they did do a duet) and while the song offers us a great dancing song about finding our freedom in Christ, the song’s message and theme is still very similar to Matt Redman’s own song ‘Dancing Generation’ written in 2004. ‘Once And For All’, while great musically, doesn’t really add much in terms of lyrical creativity, with Chris Tomlin declaring out that ‘…we believe our God is Jesus, we believe that He is Lord, we believe that He has saved us from sin and death once and for all…’ a theme that could’ve easily been expounded upon in other older melodies like ‘Jesus Paid it All’ and ‘He is Lord’. Nevertheless, with a simple melody, Chris has managed to create a song that while, not perfect, does seem to offer a song that is sure to be sung in churches, even if I possibly wanted the song to be forgone on the album in favour of other melodies, like ‘Awake My Soul’ (Chris Tomlin w/ Lecrae), ‘Crowned’ (Charlie Hall) or ‘Alleluia’ (Jesus Culture).
Overall: While not the strongest Passion album (God of this City, How Great is Our God and White Flag are my favourite Passion albums), what has resulted from the conference in January 2013 is a collection of songs that lift up Jesus’ name, while also being enjoyable to listen to in the meantime. Some may complain at the heavy presence of Chris Tomlin (even I may wonder why other artists are only relegated to one song on the album or even not on the original version at all), it is hard to argue as we know that Chris is one of the most popular Christian worship artists there are at the moment. With anthem after anthem being presented (and many of them possibly going to be recorded on individual artists’ records in the future), Louie Giglio’s mission of raising awareness for those less fortunate has certainly gained the attention of many listeners, those who have watched the live stream link and others who have enjoyed listening to the worship movement for over a decade. While I was saddened to see them not branch out and include other artists like Jesus Culture or Lecrae into the frame, I’m glad to see Brett Younker and Kari Jobe in the lineup (even if the song is ‘Revelation Song’). Passion’s mission is simple, that listeners (whether Christian or not) are awakened to the knowledge of Christ’s love for us, and that His name and renown ought to be our one desire that our souls long for. Did this album accomplish this goal with presenting songs that remind us of our purpose? Yes! Despite the album being seemingly biased towards Chris, the songs on this album are just as poetic, poignant and compelling as others on previous albums. Well done guys for such an inspiring CD and here’s to a double CD next year (to include more artists and have a better Chris Tomlin: Other artists ratio!)!
RIYL: Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Worship Central
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3