REVIEW OF CHRIS TOMLIN`S `BURNING LIGHTS`` ALBUM
What is about Chris Tomlin that has made him one of the most influential global worship artists around? Across the world each Sunday, churches are using the songs of Tomlin such as "Jesus Messiah," "Our God," "Jesus My Redeemer," "How Great is Our God" as soundtracks for lifting up the name of Jesus in worship. Recently, as an indication of Tomlin's international worldwide influence, his hit "Our God" was recorded in a quadruple of languages namely Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin. And such a pandemic streak is not about to end any time soon with the release of "Burning Lights." "Burning Lights," Tomlin's eighth solo studio record, is definitely going to continue to even aggrandize this sweeping phenomena. Central to Tomlin's success is that he is at heart a worshipper of the Almighty God. As a result via his songs he is able to capture the grandeur of God by building up to anthemic heights of explosive praise yet embracing simple but ear catching riffs that the casual listener could sing-a-long with. Also, his rich and even-keeled tenor with flourishes of strong emotional intensities (not unlike Matt Redman) is a surplus. Further, unlike many singer-songwriters who are quite hesitant to share the song crafting pie, Tomlin is humble enough to write and build on the contributions of fellow writers. This time round on this new disc, we find notable writers such as Phil Wickham, Matt Maher, Ed Cash, Matt Redman and the ubiquitous SESAC Christian Songwriter of the Year Jason Ingram co-writing with him.
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Never one to rest on his laurels, with "Burning Lights" Tomlin continues to provide the church with new and future worship classics. It is not difficult to see why Christian radio and churches are already warming up to the lead single "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)." The instantaneous appeal of this song is found in the song's emotional transparency. Tomlin is vulnerable enough to admit that life is tough often plagued by all kinds of fears. Yet, in the midst of such angst, he challenges us to look towards how God surrounds us with his hordes of his angels. Such a Godly gaze will dispel our fears that right before the song ends we would already be brimming with praise before God. This is truly what Godly worship is all about. Concurrent with Hillsong's recent single "Cornerstone" where a new chorus is strung onto an old hymn, "Crown Him (Majesty)" finds Tomlin resurrecting the timeless hymn "Crown Him with Many Crowns" tagging onto it a newly written chorus. Adding to the beauty of this re-constructed hymn is the inclusion of Kari Jobe's vocals on the second verse. And listening to how she soars with Tomlin to the song's majestic climax culminated in the final verse is just heavenly. With some crisp strumming of just the guitar over the first half of the song, Phil Wickham joins Tomblin on the folky "Thank You for Saving Me."
Tomlin not only gives us his usual high-charged pop/rock worship staples, he also comes with a few surprises. Though first appeared on Delirious' former lead single Martin Smith's ep, "God's Great Dance Floor" gets a Brit-dance makeover. Starting with just the synth before the brass band breaks out, "God's Great Dance Floor" finds Tomlin dancing with charm on this catchy Smith-Tomlin composition. Stirring too is "Awake My Soul"-here Tomlin stretches his musical boundaries to include a hip hop sermonic midsection by rapper Lecrae. Recalling how the Spirit resurrects the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, Tomlin calls upon us to be fully alive in Christ. And no Tomlin would ever be complete with his signature ballads. Here the ballads are strangely delegated to the second half of the CD ("Countless Wonder," "Shepherd Boy," "Jesus, Son of God" and "Sovereign"). The best among the quartet is "Shepherd Boy." With a piano underpinning joined later by a choir and some gorgeous arrays of strings, "Shepherd Boy" is prayerful devotional to take what seems to be our insignificant lives and lay it for the Master's use.
Important to note is that not all the 12 cuts here are new. In fact, 3 songs here have already appeared in 2012's Passion album ("White Flag," "Jesus, Son of God" and "Lay Me Down"). Other than "White Flag," they are the weakest inclusions here with "Lay Me Down" being a refurbished (and extremely busy) worship number. Nevertheless, "Burning Lights" is certainly a landmark worship album not just in 2013 but in any year. Songs on this disc are going to be heard endless in churches over numerous languages across the world. But more importantly, just as Tomlin is a worshipper at heart, these songs will continue to transform us from being lovers of this world to be true worshippers of the Almighty God.
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