REVIEW OF NEWSONG’S “SWALLOW THE OCEAN” ALBUM
Newsong does not chase after the newest hit song. Rather, they are God chasers. In 2001, after being in the Christian music business for over 20 years, Newsong suddenly exploded far beyond the Christian music scene and became a worldwide phenomenon with one little song called "Christmas Shoes." Originally released as a bonus track on their 2000 CD "Sheltering Tree," little did Newsong realize this festive song had a way of topping the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for three weeks, zoomed right up the country singles chart and caused a stir on the pop chart? Not only that, the public was so moved by the song's narrative (about a little boy who wanted to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mom) that a series of novels unfolded, followed by two top rated CBS TV movies from which Newsong provided more music for the soundtracks. Nowadays, "Christmas Shoes" has become a seasonal radio staple and the song has since been re-recorded by Brian Free and Assurance, Jason Yeager, Eric Dodge and the Starlite Singers. Many a lesser artist in the shoes of Newsong would have used their expeditious fame to venture into more verdant forays of recording a hit country or pop record. But not Newsong; the passion of these Godly men has never been for greater fame but steadily proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus through their music. And even without "Christmas Shoes," Newsong has made their mark with 20 number one Christian singles, 8 Dove Awards and more than 1.5 million records sold. "Swallow the Ocean" is the group's 20th album. Just like the credo of their 19 preceding records, this is a solid worship record where the Lord and His truth are at the album's centerfold. Yet, this is not to suggest that this album is stilted, recycled and predictable. In order to keep the song fresh, youthful and engaging, they have brought in three sets of producers including Seth Moseley (Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline), Chris Stevens (Sanctus Real, TobyMac and Mandisa) and Paul Mills (Bluetree).
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"Swallow the Ocean" features 10 new cuts with one Keith and Kirstyn Getty cover "In Christ Alone." The best among the group's originals is the title cut and lead single "Swallow the Ocean." This is a wrangling triumphant slab of praise to the greatness of God performed with such explosive electricity that when Eddie Carswell sings, "I'm coming alive with You/I'm coming undone with You/I'm coming away with You," you can't help but want to praise along with them. Tutored perhaps from their own life experiences, the irresistibly catchy "Reward" spells out the group's philosophy where Jesus (and not the hit records or the applause of fans) is the reason for their labor. "All We Need," the album's opener is the slick and jangly praise jam number embellished with lots of "whoa-oh" chants calling to mind Hillsong's "Praise Him." With surging guitar lines, a staccato of drum beats, and the boys' alacritous pleas "As It is in Heaven" is a prayerful imploration to God to work out His will on earth.
Over the years, Newsong have garnered a large coterie of ballad lovers with songs such as "When God Made You," "Light Your World," "Arise My Love," and "It's Not Far." And such tender-hearted fans need not worry as ballads abound. Cannily set to a memorable melody "Never Be Another" is a gorgeous love song to Jesus embellished with flourishes of heart- stealing piano riffs. "Who Loved You First" allows the boys to explore their more vulnerable side as this song is a plea to all of us to let go of our defenses and let Jesus heal us. Pause for more worshipful respite with "Could It Be." "Could It Be" is different from the other ballads as it has a sparser and more acoustic country backing celebrating God's sometimes unnoticed presence and grace.
Cover songs are not foreign to the canon of Newsong. But of all the songs they cold tackle why on earth did they choose the Getty's "In Christ Alone"? It's a great modern hymn but it has been far too done. Further, Keith and Kirstyn Gettys just resurrected this ode to the sole saving power of Jesus on their latest record this time as a duet with Alison Krauss. Up till this day, no one can match Kirstyn Getty's take of this song and this includes Newsong. Other than such cruces, "Swallow the Ocean," as the title suggests, is a magnanimous and voracious attempt to feast on the goodness of God. And those who have tasted of the Lord via this record will find him sweet and satisfying!
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