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Kiss of Heaven - Click to view!Darlene Zschech, producer of Hillsong Music Australia's albums, goes solo on her newest worship project, Kiss of Heaven. She sacrifices the energy of a live audience for the polished quality of studio-work, and she writes songs exemplifying her own expression rather than those of a congregation. Darlene makes a distinct break from the Hillsong Australia projects, embracing a pop sound similar to Rebecca St. James. Yet at times I find myself missing the group-worship present on the live recordings.

Don't get me wrong, the CD has its moments. "Heaven on Earth," sings of a speaker finding a new way to live: "Rags to riches so they say / She got her break and she found her way / I admit this may sound strange / This girl is dancing a different way / If they only knew how you've mended / My broken wings, now I'm flying." It's an encouraging tune for anyone wondering if they can indeed change their way of life. "Faithful" sings of God's omnipresence in the lives of those who put their trust in Him: "Your favour is surrounding me / Your word is lighting my way / You're faithful to deliver me / Your glorious love leads the way to salvation." This track reminds me of songs found on Hillsong albums such as Hope and Blessed, and it culminates with a delicious piano solo that blends well into the string introduction of "Beautiful Savior," a revisit to the classic hymn. My only complaint for "Beautiful Savior" is the second verse, where Darlene drapes the song in samples and drum loops, throwing the listener out of the gorgeous theme created.

Darlene even sings a love song to her husband of 19 years called "Everything About You." It's friendly enough to be heard on mainstream radio stations if it gathered enough exposure, and the guitar riffs work well throughout the song. I just wish she had branched out and reworked some of her wording to reflect images unique to her relationship with her husband. Many women can sing "The way you laugh / The way we dance / The way you hold my hand / The way you kiss / The way you look at me" to their lovers. But what exactly are these ways? I'm not asking for Darlene to become overly personal in a song made for general listeners, but I longed for particular details so often missing in contemporary love songs.

Darlene tries original musical moments in the re-recording of "Shout to the Lord," her most popular song. She modulates the key both up and down in the middle of the chorus, incorporates strings, guitars, and drums to form a slightly different rhythm, and adds a bit more words and a strong choir. I can understand her desire to freshen-up the tune, but after hearing the song about two hundred and eighty-seven times since its release, I had to skip this track.

The most energetic song is Darlene's cover of U2's "Walk On." Martin Smith of delirious? fame sings backup (but on the same melody as Darlene, only an octave lower). And even "energetic" is a bit of a stretch, because the song still wallows in the light singsong quality of the pop theme dominating this recording. But who can really fault Darlene... U2 is U2. Can anyone really re-record their melodies and find success?

Perhaps if you're a devout fan of Avalon and Twila Paris, you'll enjoy the pop music and the lyrics that lack original imagery. The lyrics bothered me the most, simply because the traditional images found in worship music have become so popular and over-done in the Christian music scene. I desired new ways to sing about age-old truths, and I felt that Darlene didn't branch out enough in lyrical creativity. She also has a challenge since she's known worldwide as a worship leader, not a pop solo artist. This album didn't impact me nearly as much as the ones in which she serves as one of many vocalists, yet the intention of Kiss of Heaven wasn't to recreate a Hillsong Australia night of worship, but to stand as one woman's demonstration of praise. If listeners focus on that purpose, then Darlene Zschech has fulfilled that role.
- Hollie Stewart
January 2004
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