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I Love Your Presence - Click to view!Anointing, as a Biblical principle, is misunderstood by far too many outside of and within the Church. Little discussed in practical terms, it is the inspiration, or breath, of the Holy Spirit on an individual's life and giftings; thus, the more hours spent in practical learning and skill sharpening, the more there is for the Spirit to breathe on and mold. It is with that premise that projects like I Love Your Presence should be viewed: makeovers of popular songs in a "reflective intimate assembly" or a "charged live atmosphere" (depending on whatever angle the marketing department uses). As it bears upon this Vineyard UK release, the setting really does give some perspective, as I Love Your Presence was recorded during England's annual Doing the Stuff summit for worship leaders. Undoubtedly, much went on during that weekend with workshops and talks, and the true gist of it comes from a Mike Pilavachi quote (included on the album): "He is the center of worship, and how dare we ever make us the center of worship." Such Biblical understanding should permeate any such gathering; yet, building upon that, many also believe that God desires an energetic, new song from His people. Elevating the worshipers' sight to the Maker and Creator, "I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121)" is impelled by a cheering crowd with prayerful hope, and features an all-too-common annoyance in the worship genre: a female alto who misses her notes just enough to be noticeable. Taken aback by its layers of acoustic delight, one cannot resist "Hallelujah," the Brenton Brown/Brian Doerkson single that lauds the mountainous, steady, amazing love that God showers on His children. Tracks 3-4 begin the altar music that typifies I Love Your Presence, enrapturing for conference attendees doing "carpet time," but quite ho-hum to listeners with any track record at Sunday services. James 1:17 serves as the basis for "Father of Lights," less musical and flowing than the Bible verse itself, while "Who is This" beckons Jesus to steal hearts in a shaker-centric tune. Returning to the discourse on anointing, I am pained to count the acquaintances (even local) who could improve on these musicians' parts; no doubt God used what was there, but what remains unplayed and unsung because guitarists, pianists, etc. are chained to some bullheaded perceptions of what "congregational music" is? Naturally, most in the nontraditional Vineyard movement would agree, and "All Who Are Thirsty" reaffirms that core nucleus of daily desperation for God, the Life-Fountain. "I'm singing You this song ~ I'm waiting at the Cross" professes Kathryn Scott in the year 2000's lasting addition to modern hymnody, an earnest, lasting "Surrender." The conglomeration of leaders—including Nigel Briggs, Sharon Heap, and Mike Frye--keep it in 'neutral' for the album's closer, "I Love Your Presence," conversing with God about tranquility, completion, and His eminence. If to "vividly capture the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit" was the point (as the packaging suggests), Vineyard UK can add another stellar success to its canon; unfortunately, I Love Your Presence shows deficiencies on the technical, musical side of things.
- Josh M. Shepherd

Surrender - Click to view!Given international attention with their significant debut project, the UK Vineyard group attempt to recreate Hungry's buoyant spirit and Celtic/contemporary balance on Surrender, with varied results. Reading the lyrics is a worship experience in itself, as every song is a dynamo of willful glorification directed to God in an intimate, meek manner; their backing instruments aren't always as stunning. Showing musical maturity, both upbeat refrains "Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)" and "For Me" speak of the unchanging, surprising love that's available and enduring. Inviting listeners to involve themselves in this journey, track four dramatically develops questions of doubt, strength, and identity, finding resolve "When You Call My Name." Key changes and smooth guitar solos escort "With You" to a warm, unashamed place of fulfilling relationship with Christ. While certainly Biblical and adoring of God, "At All Times" and "We Will Be Together" lose something in Sharon Heap's vocal delivery, with the messages of faith and unity coming off terribly trite. This is offset by the creative decision to have two (sort of) title tracks, the first an unhurried, guitar-based "Surrender" of dreams, personal rights, and comfort. "And I surrender to You ~ Lord, I'm yielding all I am to You..." declares the "Devotion" chorus, written and sung by the same voice as on "Hungry," Kathryn Scott. Her exquisite voice, paired with such poetic wording as "You are tender Saviour, righteous offering" and an understated acoustic groove, make "Devotion" a cornerstone single of the album. A simple "I love You" repeat says much on "You Are My King," a glad melody written in 1991 by group mentor Brian Doerkson (who takes a back seat on Surrender and is sorely missed as worship leader). Irish ullian pipes and a slow, tempo-setting percussion back Michelle Langan on "All that I Need," a flight over ancient and modern musical landscapes that holds close to the Father for all knowledge and assuredness. Alluding to us as God's sons and daughters, the eleventh and final song teaches that open affection, weak dependence, and ultimate trust are "What A Child is Meant to Be." Though clearly second best, Surrender mounts an awe-inspiring portrait of Love Almighty in a jagged, irregular frame of praise.
- Josh M. Shepherd

hungry [falling on my knees] - Click to view!Craving a close, face-to-face relationship with God, hungry [falling on my knees] combines the youthful zeal of a 20-something worship team with the experience and oversight of Vineyard songwriter Brian Doerkson for a free and fresh atmosphere of drastic devotion. Kathryn Scott's clear soprano carries the title track and opener amid a strong backup of drums, piano, and electric guitar chording, declaring, "Jesus, You're all this heart is living for." The swift melody "Your Name is Holy" capitulates to "Humble King," a sincere admission that speaks of God's plan in the process of brokenness. Following the lively "There is No One Like Our God" hungry changes gears for an organic series of choruses that stress the all-importance of the Lord invading our narrow mindset and daily routine. Song #5 pleads for our Creator to "Make Your Home in Me"; "Child of God" announces need for God's fathering love; utilizing Irish flute, "Be the Centre" passes through a summation of the CD's intent—namely having Jesus alone as my hope and song. The college students and leaders' state of liberty on hungry gives you the impression they're not out to impress, just worship; piano, guitar, sax, and indeed all instruments are at ease in making their solos a sweet aroma of praise that reaches the heavens. The opening of "All Creation" samples several soundbites before settling into "the music of our soul's delight," featuring a percussion-based bridge breakdown. Were you to define it as "one who does something for the pleasure of it rather than pay," 'amateur' would describe the uninhibited tone of hungry [falling on my knees]'s lyrics, from "we lay our pride on the floor" to "I give myself unreservedly." The delicate lines of "I Surrender" cut into the jumpy, jazz-based horn and a cappella follow-up to "The Rhythm of Heaven." A live (i.e. no keyboard, overdubs) jungle drum part succumbs to "Only You" 's desperate grasp for the Father's touch in the resolve "Say You'll stay, say You'll stay," which prominently spotlights a dramatic violin/electric guitar solo section. "Refuge in You" and "You Are a Holy God" break any remaining dark clouds in statements of adoration and transparency. Ending with a piercing mix of the Vineyard staple "The Air I Breathe," hungry is the only worship CD is recent memory that encapsulates 13 never-before-recorded songs...and each is so incredible. Because of this and it being a cross between a studio album's excellence and a live concert's emotion, I will long be a proponent of hungry [falling on my knees], an anointed effort of virtually unknown worshipers.
- Josh M. Shepherd
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