Thursday, October 6, 2011

REVIEW: "My Soul Yearns" by Vineyard UK

Vineyard has a long and rich history of bringing accessible praise and worship music to the church.  When I say “accessible,” I mean they write music that most musicians can pick up, learn, and sing/play in their local congregations.  Melodies are catchy, vocal range is accessible, melodic intervals are manageable, and the instrumental dynamics allow for other arrangements.  My Soul Yearns continues Vineyard’s focus of bringing music for the church by the church.  According to their website, this album “is an authentic expression of how God is moving with Holy power through the Vineyard UK & Ireland movement where worship is one of its cornerstones.”

My Soul Yearns features 4 worship leaders, each leading 3 songs at the 2011 Vineyard National Leaders Conference.  Carly Billingham, Dave Miller, Samuel Lane and Joe Blustin bring Vineyard UK’s passion for Jesus Christ from UK/Ireland to the US.  Here is a song-by-song breakdown of this 12-song live album:

1.  My Soul Yearns opens with a prayer to “galvanize us by the power of your Spirit to make a mark on this land” and a spontaneous worship moment.  It’s a cry of love to Jesus expressing that we belong to him and our souls yearn for him.  Samuel Lane leads this powerful worship song expressing the love of God and the reason we worship him.  It starts off slow but builds to a powerful chorus when the drums and guitars kick in.  This title track sums up the rest of the album.  We long for his Sprit to do the work in us first so we are empowered to go out into the world.

2.  Hear the Sound starts with a light upbeat rhythm that builds to a strong chorus.  It’s definitely a praise and worship song – recognizing the holiness of God giving him “glory and honor, thanks and praise.”  The dynamics add to the cries of the believer’s heart to hear the sound of our worship.  Led by Dave Miller, the melody is very singable for most vocalists, and can easily fit with various styles depending on the dynamics of the local worship team.

3.  Love Rain Down gets to the heart of the motivation of our “mission.”  We cannot and should not go out until we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We cannot give Christ’s love away until we are filled with his love ourselves.  It’s a great way of poetically expressing the greatest commandment overflowing to love for our neighbors.  “This is our prayer that your love and your power would come like an ancient day, so your word will be heard and history is made as lives are changed” beautifully expresses the Great Commission.  The chorus (“Love rain down, fill us up and send us out to the cities and towns, one by one to see your kingdom come”) then expresses the need to be filled with the Spirit before being “sent out.” Carly Billingham’s voice adds to the purity and innocence of the song.  I highly recommend adding this song to your music library.

4.  Jesus Name speaks of the beauty and wonder of the name of Jesus. Joe Blustin leads this song with a richness of worship.  It’s a great worship song, good range, easy melody to learn, and great dynamics.  There is an ebb and flow to the worship going from a smooth flow in the verses to a strong chorus.

5.  The Lamb Has Conquered is an anthem-like song that celebrates the work of the cross.  It starts off kind of soft but it picks up to a strong chorus.  There is a section of the song that’s only drums and vocals, making it sound like a march to the drums.  In essence, this song expresses the Gospel, including the coming kingdom.  Dave Miller leads this powerful song.  It’s wonderful.  I highly recommend this song for a Sunday set list.

6.  Lift Up His Name (Part 1) is a short “spontaneous worship” time.  While the music is playing, people sing as they feel led by the Spirit.  For those who are unfamiliar with spontaneous worship, the congregation sings their personal praises to the Lord while the band plays simple chords and leads.  Vineyard has been doing this for decades, and many worship teams have emulated their desire to allow people to sing their hearts while the band eases back.  This portion of the song is only 1:05 in length, so it’s a pretty good feel for how spontaneous worship sounds.

7.  Adore Him is a ballad that includes a bunch of theology.  It takes what we know to be true of God and puts them in a teachable song yet it also includes a chorus that encourages others to adore the Father because we know these things to be true.  Using Romans 3, Colossians 3, Ephesians 3 and Psalm 119, Samuel Lane leads this worship song expressing our desire to come adore him by singing “To our God, To our Father, Be the glory, forever and ever.”

8.  Sweetly Broken is a great song of surrender and redemption. “At the cross you beckon me, you draw me gently to my knees, and I am lost for words, so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, holy surrendered” beautifully expresses the heart of the believer.  Since Christ’s love pursues us, we’re brought to the beautiful brokenness as we follow his ways. Joe Blustin leads this great worship song.  I highly recommend this for congregational worship.

9.  Lift Up His Name (Part 2) continues the spontaneous worship from Part 1 into a song called “I Will Worship You.”  It’s a good song of surrender and a cry of worship.  Spontaneous worship songs are difficult to make recommendations for set lists because of their nature.  As with most worship songs, I encourage worship teams to allow their creativity to come out when arranging worship songs.  As long as the lyrics connect with the team and the congregation, go for it.

10. I Respond is a song of response to the cross.  It’s pretty straightforward of a “sinner” recognizing what Jesus did on the cross, and “I respond to your invitation.”  It has standard theological lyrics using phrases like “Wash me white as snow” and “you died on the cross.”  It may make a good song during an alter call. Carly Billingham leads this beautiful worship song.

11. Jesus, You Reign honors Jesus as our king.  It is a great song to lead into a spontaneous worship time with a good range for vocalists and easy melody for congregations to learn. Joe Blustin leads this song with the music starting off soft yet dissonant, and clears to a worshipful chorus.

12. You Are is a ballad that recognizes Jesus for who he is with lyrics like “You are the risen one who died to save … You are my God.”  It also expresses a willingness to hand over our lives to the Savior with lyrics like “You breathe new life into these dry bones again.”  Since it’s a piano-driven song, both traditional and contemporary worship services can use this song to express how Christ refreshes us when his presence is near us.  Carly Billingham leads this worship song.

Most of the songs in this album I would consider more “adult contemporary” or “easy listening” compared to other modern worship artists.  All the songs have melodies that are easy to sing along since the vocal ranges are obtainable by most vocalists.  Vineyard has a reputation of writing songs that are easy to sing and easy to arrange for most worship teams.  Every song in My Soul Yearns makes a great addition to a worship team’s library and I highly recommend downloading this album to add to your music library.  It has theology, poetry, and beauty.  Enjoy!

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