Friday, September 5, 2014

Music Review: You Amaze Us by Selah

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Originals and Hymns blend well to lead us in worship
Cons: I’m not impressed with “Nearing Home”
The Bottom Line:
Old and new mixed well
For a worshipful release
With focus on God

New Songs and Hymns Blended Together to Worship Our Amazing God

Selah started their career with discs that were almost all hymns.  The last few releases, they seemed to get away from that, releasing songs that were still worshipful but original.  With You Amaze Us, they are back and with a good mix of the two that will thrill their fans.

The disc starts out with the new songs.  In fact, it starts right out with the title track, “You Amaze Us.”  The verses are about the times in life that we see God work while the verse is a soaring call to praise God because He is worthy.  It might be a bit simple, but it is wonderful, and the catchy melody and mid-tempo music is likely to get stuck in your head.

If that song hasn’t already lifted your spirit in praise, the next one will for sure.  “Oh Our Lord” is actually even more likely to get stuck in your head and is just as fun to listen to as the first track.  The chorus comes directly from Psalm 8 and is just a simple declaration that our God is worth of praise.  The verses marvel in how God displays His majesty in nature on a daily basis.

When I was reading the track listing, I assumed that the third track was the hymn “At the Cross.”  While it does borrow a few lines from the hymn on the bridge, it’s actually a brand new song that marvels at the contradictions of the cross.  As the second verse puts it, “Dark and sacred hill/Where violence purchased peace/The innocent was bound/To set the captive free.”  This is a bit slower with Allan’s piano forming more of a basis of the song than in the first two tracks.  The lyrics are just wonderful, and I can see this being added to worship services across the country.

I was actually surprised at some of the hymns they recorded on this disc.  It’s hard to believe they hadn’t done “Just As I Am” or “The Old Rugged Cross Yet.”  They continue their tradition of putting together wonderful renditions of these classic hymns.  They are still familiar enough that you can sing along the first time through, but they are also different enough to keep you coming back for more listens.  They’ve added a new chorus to “Just As I Am” that really captures the spirit of the familiar verses.  While that song includes guitar and drums, they go much simpler on “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” which just has piano and cello, and “The Old Rugged Cross,” which just has piano.  Not that “The Old Rugged Cross” is a traditional take at all.  It’s got a jazzy feel to it that is tons of fun.  It’s nothing compared to “Victory in Jesus” which they really spice up and leave with a “cool, funky, bluesy sound” (Amy’s words from the booklet).  It is a blast to listen to, and I was nodding along the first time I heard it.

One tradition the group keeps up in having at least one song that includes lyrics in Kituba, the native language where Todd grew up as a missionary kid in Africa.  This time, that song is “Soon and Very Soon,” and I knew they’d switch to Kituba as soon as I heard the opening notes.  They give it a very tribal feel, so the switch from English in the first verse is very natural.

About the only song I don’t like is “Nearing Home.”  Allan actually recorded it on his recent solo disc, and I didn’t care for it there, either.  It’s a tribute to Billy Graham, and it bothers me for that reason.  I was also bothered when Newsong did something similar two decades ago, so at least I’m consistent, right?  But it’s easy enough to skip it.

The disc ends with an interesting song.  “We Must Not” is actually a song written from the point of view of someone in the parts of the church that are being persecuted today to us in the American church.  It’s actually a great plea for prayer and to remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ as we strive to reach the world with the gospel.  Even more convicting is the part that asks not for safety for them but boldness and for the souls of their persecutors to be saved.  So often, songs that try to tackle a subject like this feel more like a guilt trip, but this one challenges without the guilt, and I really like it.

I’m so glad I started listening to Selah’s music a couple of years ago.  You Amaze Us is another amazing disc filled with songs that will help you worship God.  What more could we want?

CD Length: 1:02:00
1. You Amaze Us
2. Oh Our Lord
3. At the Cross
4. More and More of You
5. Be (My Heart, My Hands, My Voice)
6. Just As I Am
7. Soon and Very Soon
8. O the Blood
9. I’d Rather Have Jesus
10. The Old Rugged Cross
11. Victory in Jesus
12. Hearing Home
13. In the Garden
14. We Must Not

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