This is the latest live worship album from Freedom Church in South Carolina. This album is a bit unusual in the way that it is arranged, it's a concept album with a main message that runs through the middle of this worship experience. Split into 3 'acts' the tracks reflect "The Groom", "The Bride" and "The Wedding" with each part introduced with it's own track, the latter two of these are instrumental. The whole idea is around Christ and the Church and the way that the Bible describes the relationship in the form of a wedding.
Interestingly the first track, "Forever Alive" is about being the bride, and the way that as a church we are forever alive as God pours His love into us. This is about the change that happens in us as people when we accept Christ, but it's a very 'vertical' song, it's very 'us' centred. The light guitar and the male vocal is very pleasant, but the song seems to lack any real depth. The next track corrects that as it focuses on the incarnation of Jesus from the first few words. "Christ the Lord" doesn't stay with that image of the birth of Jesus, but moves into Jesus helping us in our lives and the natural response of worship. "Always With Me" focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit and his faithfulness to us. This is a very relaxed song despite the passion used, the music building slowly as the worship leader takes lines from Psalm 23 reminding us that in the hopeless situations that we face, God is more than able to help us. Part of the relaxed nature of this track leads to it's 8 minute length, or it might just be a lot of repetition! "Revival" sounds very similar, this track is a longing for personal revival, with a work of the Holy Spirit and a closeness to God.
The second act is meant to be about "The Bride" and the instrumental, although short, is beautiful. "Finished At The Cross" is a track that follows the same fairly laid back approach to worship, although leading in more with the keys. This is another track that is quite repetitive, but again builds up nicely bringing in the electric guitars and becomes a song of celebration.
Some of these albums have a preach or an inspirational thought towards the end of the album, this time it comes halfway through and it's a track in it's own right, rather than being added to the end of a music track. The Pastor here gives an inspirational couple of minutes about the separation (veil) between God and Man which has been torn away through Jesus. In all honesty when playing this album, this track will get skipped, but it does a good job of putting the album into context.
The beautiful vocals of "The Veil" continue the thought, but like so many tracks here it's just too long, with too much repetition. It might be different in the 'moment' but listening on an album it's definitely about double the length that it needs to be! "A Little Longer Here" is probably my favourite track on the album, and no it's not just because of the classic chorus in the middle, but it considers that in 100 or 1000 years the things that are so important today won't be significant anymore. That and the fact that it's beautifully sung, plus it has a chorus of "When We All Get To Heaven", but that's not the only reason!
After the instrumental for 'The Wedding' there are a final 3 tracks. These are good, reflective tracks leading with "Wild and Free" which I quite enjoyed and then it was back to a long repetitive track in "Glory Rising" (another 8 minute track!). The album rounds out with "You Deserve" which is musically the most varied track on this album. Moving away from those light guitars, this one has a bit of a driving beat and keeps things succinct at just under 4 minutes.
So you may have worked out that this album has a few tracks that could do with being trimmed, in my opinion. The songs rarely seem to scratch the surface of the deep topics that could be considered in this theme, there are a few that feel a bit deeper. A lot of this album is about us, and our reaction to God rather than singing about God Himself and the wonder and majesty of Jesus. Musically many of these songs sound similar and even when trying to listen intently I found myself drifting away from the lyrics because they were so repetitive, but that meant that songs could change and because of the similarity I hadn't noticed!
On the positive side, I think all the vocals were good. Perhaps some extra variation could be useful here and there, but generally pleasant voices to listen too, some of the female vocalists stood out compared to the men, sorry guys. I love the fact that they are trying to do something different with the arrangement and concept of the album, but unfortunately for me it didn't feel like they really followed it through. The Pastor speaking in the middle was probably one of the highlights, but it's not something you would want to listen to over and over again. I think there is more to come from this church and I hope that the next release can fulfil more of the potential!