Review of William Murphy III’s “God Chaser” Album
Day in and day out we are bombarded by billboards and Internet pop-ups enticing us to purchase the latest model of Lexis or to covet the latest ipad or to visit the hottest dating site on the web. Though these apps and services may promise some sense of thrill and gratification, they ultimately won't be able to satisfy that insatiable emptiness God has shaped in us. The panache, rightly advocated by Murphy, is not in chasing after these idols but God himself. Not only does Murphy articulate this scripturally-warranted truth through this new record, but he practices it. If you were to visit Murphy's church, where he serves as music director and pastor, you will find that the offering precedes anything in the service. This is because if we truly profess to be God-chasers we need to prove it first and foremost with our wallets. Thus, when it comes to Murphy's latest record, God Chaser, the same bold authenticity he demonstrates as a pastor permeates throughout these songs. God Chaser is Murphy's major record debut for RCA Inspiration, following two previous independently (though successful) released records All Day (2005) and The Sound (2007). Thus far, God has blessed this effort when God Chaser dropped at the lofty position of number three on the Billboard Gospel chart last week. And lead single "You Reign" is already reigning in the top 10 slots of the accompanying singles chart.
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Recorded at Murphy's own church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, God Chaser features 13 cuts recorded live with Murphy on the lead backed by a solid sounding and spirited choir. Since Murphy first make his mark by penning (and singing) Shekinah Glory Ministry hit single "Praise is What I Do," it is not surprising to find Murphy co-penning or penning 10 out of the 13 cuts with one significant cover - a Gospel take of Darlene Zschech and Hillsong's "You Are My Strength." The title cut "God Chaser" sets the theme of the record where Murphy expresses (with great spiritual fervor) his heart's cry to God: "My heart is desperate for you. My hunger extends beyond my reach." Easily the most memorable cut here is the lead single "You Reign." Not only just does "You Reign" have an infectious hooky chorus, it is in Murphy's words "a prophetic song." It is declaration of faith where Murphy proclaims God's reign over each and every area of our lives. "In Your Hands" breaks away from the traditional Gospel template, as Murphy sways to a rhythmic reggae groove and virtuosic bass line that calls to mind Israel Houghton at his best.
"Write a Song" shows another side of Murphy. Not only does he excel in singing and writing, this pastor is also an genious worship leader too. "Write This Song" has a deliberate impromptu feel where Murphy trades lines with his congregation and choir creating a family atmosphere as if it is collective effort in crafting this worship piece. He does it again in "Nothing Can Take My Place" to lesser effect. On the ballad front, "Praying for You" is arousing ministry piece where Murphy prays for people who have been struggling for years. The song starts off well but it is let down towards the end with far too much ad lib on Murphy's part. Those who long for a similar reprise of "Praise is What I Do" will Be delighted by "Make Me Righteous." The reprisal version even features a vocal guest spot by current powerhouse Tasha Cobbs.
Nevertheless, the gem here is "You Are Strength." This song first appeared on Darlene Zschech and Hillsong's seminal Savior King CD. Over the years, many artists have covered the songs of Hillsong but few could refrain from carbon copying Hillsong's original take of them. With a slow teased out introduction and a worshipful call and response with his choir, "You Are My Strength' sounds more Murphy than Hillsong. This is just the way to make a cover glow with originality.
Murphy shows again and again that he is not only a stellar singer-songwriter he is also a gifted interpreter of songs. And throughout this record, he uses this skill to help us channel the course of our race in life. Through these 13 songs and the help of the Spirit, we are encouraged again to chase after the one who truly matters --- that is, God and Him alone.
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