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The GatheringAlthough the premise is certainly open to debate, the City on a Hill modern worship anthology makes a pretty convincing argument that there is justice in the world after all. Indeed, for producer Steve Hindalong, who recorded some of the most critically appreciated, yet commercially overlooked, alternative Christian rock of the '80s and '90s during his stint with The Choir, the City series has to be something of a healing balm. To be sure, with three Top 10 singles, two Dove Awards, sales of over 700,000 units and one bona fide modern worship classic ("God of Wonders") to its credit, the much-lauded album set has almost surely exceeded any aspirations Hindalong might have originally held for its commercial viability.

Chart and radio success notwithstanding, for many, the COAH compendium's most distinguishing characteristic is the consistently high level of artistry that Hindalong and his changing roster of performers bring to each of its albums. And to that end, the fourth and final installment in the series, The Gathering, certainly does its predecessors proud. "Kyrie Eleison" by Leigh Nash and friends is an elegant and inspiring liturgical masterwork. Nash and Bebo Norman turn in a likewise shimmering rendition of Hindalong and Derri Daugherty's pioneering 1991 praise standard, "Beautiful Scandalous Night." Newcomers Silers Bald fall in nicely alongside Caedmon's Call for the soaring, folk-tinged "Hallelujah Never Ending." And the infectiously driving title cut bears the unmistakable stamp of a group of like-minded artists hitting their collective stride.

Lyrically, Hindalong's latest offering makes an equally imposing statement. Songs like "Come Be Who You Are" and "We Will Trust You" ("How precious is your heart, O God / Righteous and true / Gaze on me with infinite tenderness / I surrender to You") are simple, yet insightful, treatises on the believer's need for dependence upon the Divine. Andy Peterson's sweeping "Holy Is The Lord" employs a similarly effective combination of petition and praise for its gripping account of the story of Abraham and Isaac. And the aforementioned "Hallelujah Never Ending" ("Let us go forth in worship / Let us go forth in grace / Let us take to the nations a saving faith") stands as one of the most spot-on encapsulations of the Christian experience ever committed to disc.

Once again Hindalong has managed the rare feat of creating worship material that is, at once, refreshingly austere in its construction and yet breathtakingly poignant in its execution. Indeed, the fact that such a diverse cast of musicians and singers could band together to create a song set this seamless only reaffirms the intensity and focus of Hindalong's artistic vision. The City series is essential listening for anyone seeking a true appreciation of the modern worship genre, and the new record takes its place as the set's strongest and most consistent entry. A stirring consummation of Hindalong's long-standing passion for both corporate and private worship, the Gathering is a work of sublime and penetrating beauty that serves as a fitting final chapter to a landmark series of albums.
- Bert Gangl
October 2003
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