Hillsong Live 'Cornerstone' Album Review
Prime Cuts: I Desire Jesus, Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise), Cornerstone
While many worship bands have come and gone, Hillsong Live's perennial releases have not only been top sellers but many of their songs have made their way into the song books of innumerable churches. Part of the reason of such a steely success is that Hillsong has never indulged in carnivalesquous accoutrements. Rather, their songs have always been God centred informed by the richness of Scripture. "Cornerstone," their 21st live recording, is no different. These 15 cuts (if you get the deluxe version) are just anthems of Scriptural truths made palatable in ways that the audience can sing along to in no time. However, there are a three of departures with "Cornerstone:" first, Hillsong's front lady for many years Darlene Zschech is further pushed to the background. Known for writing worship stables such as "Worthy is the Lamb" and "Shout to the Lord," Zschech did not contribute any song here. This is probably the first time since Hillsong Live's genesis that that has had happened. Second, while many Hillsong's music has been marked by Zschech's angelic signature vocals, here Zschech only sings lead on one track ("I Desire Jesus"). Other than these misgivings, the third departure is more welcomed: on this release, Hillsong have included a larger range of subjects in their songs. Topics such as baptism, the second coming, the global explosion of the Gospel are deftly dwelt.
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If you are thinking of saving a couple of bucks and only get the standard version of this disc, think twice. The best track here is only found on the deluxe version. "I Desire Jesus," a track written by Brooke Fraser's husband Scott Ligertwood, is easily the cream of the crop. Performed here by Darlene Zschech, this is a gorgeous ballad of worship that starts off with an angelic purity before building up to all stadium-cresting worship this is the type of worship music that entices our hearts to savior Jesus and his Cross intimately. Brooke Ligertwood (better known as Brooke Fraser) is back - not as a vocalist but this time as a songwriter. Her sole entry here is "Beneath the Waters (I Rise)." Ligertwood who has been known for her intricate melodic structures and the shafts of theological depth has written one of Hillsongs' most theological profound songs here. Tying together the theme of baptism and the resurrection together, 'Beneath" conveys such a truth in a powerful anthemic style. Not to be missed is the title cut "Cornerstone." Just like their previous entry "Incense/Step by Step" was an amalgamation of an old chorus with a new composition, "Cornerstone" seamlessly crafts together the hymn "The Solid Rock" with a newly composed song.
As with every Hillsong album, there are no shortages of crowd drawing bombastic rockers. Album opener "Endless Light" features Jad Gillies on lead vocals leading us into an irresistible hooky beat driven uptempo celebrating the power of God's love. Written and led by Matt Crocker, "I Surrender" has a brooding slow bluesy number about self abandonment to Jesus. Made even more beautiful and touching are the subtle harmony vocals of Darlene Zshech. Worship pastor Rueben Morgan takes up the microphone to sing about the global explosion of the Gospel via "Hope of the World." Apropos to the theme of the song, listen to how Morgan invites the audience to sing with him making this symbolically a global anthem. Zesty and really fun is album closer "Praise Him" with the delightful "whoo-oohs."
Nevertheless, with 15 tracks and having too many lead singers (especially too many male leads) the momentum is lost when we come to the last third of the album. Ben Fieldings' "Stand in Awe" has so much echo of "God is Able" that it becomes repetitive and Joel Houston's "Running" lacks the bite to make it a standout. Let's hope album 22 will find Darlee Zschech taking a more prominent lead - after all it's her voice that originally set Hillsong apart from the copious worship CDs out there. Nevertheless, "Cornerstone" is still an important block (and will be in the years to come) to worship music. Be prepared to hear many of these songs sung across churches everywhere in the next few years to come.
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