Lifelong Worship – Self-Titled Album (January 1, 2018)
Lifelong Worship is a music ministry initiative from the Florida Hospital Church, featuring musicians and songwriters from their congregation. This is perhaps one of the more complete, well-rounded, and polished efforts I’ve seen from a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in terms of crafting a musical release collectively. Hopefully, this sets a precedent for other musically-inclined churches to do the same. It seems like this church has a thriving music program that takes the development and maximization of its talent seriously, which is an enormously needed dimension of music based discipleship. For that, I applaud Lifelong Worship for making strides in that direction.
Onto the record itself. The opening track is a fairly creative re-imagination of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”. It is heavily modernized both in terms of vocal production (just barely obvious autotuning). The arrangement is interesting and manages to squeeze the lyrical meter mostly unawkwardly into typical 4/4 time phrasing. The arrangement generally works, although the added chorus “Oh my God, my God, you’re my God” feels astonishingly simplistic compared to the rest of the song. Whether it’s a good contrast or an awkward departure, I’m not sure.
But in terms of departures, the rest of the album is a showcase of stylistic meandering. The immediate follow up to the opening track is a Bossa-Nova inspired arrangement of “Take My Life”. Each song seems to change genre: a reggae song, a country song, a gospel song, a rock song, a piano ballad with string accompaniment, an adult-contemporary style soft rock/pop rock tune, and two mandolin-laden folk songs to close the album.
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The total experience of the album is a bit scattered. Production-wise, it sounds pristine, well recorded, well-mixed, and possibly a little over-polished. In terms of style, there is no consistent sound that holds the album together. There is no “Lifelong Worship” sound, per se. Each genre change plays to the genre tropes almost exactly. Add to this the frequent change of lead vocalists, and this record plays more like a playlist or a compilation than an actual album by one group.
This is light criticism, and the album has its own share of strengths. Particularly, the original songs are significantly stronger on their own merit than the hymn remakes. The fact is that this album does meet a need within Adventism for more high quality music recordings, and for stylistic variation that is often too lacking. Whether or not this album stands on its own as an adventurous, artistic piece is only one concern. The usefulness of this album in a church setting is a significant boost to how I’m going to rate it, even though it’s far from a contender for my album of the year.
Cheers to a genuine and valiant effort!
(To be honest, I was going to rate this album a little bit lower, but the thought did occur to me that this is the exact kind of thing that would work really well as a “spice up” for a church service. So hey, I can change my mind. Plus, I don’t want to discourage people who I think are genuinely doing a good thing and taking steps in the right direction, even if I didn’t dig the music personally that much. I’m going to have to give something a bad review soon though, because everything I’ve done so far sits above a 5, and if I keep this up too long it might seem like I just give everything a pass. What could I review and actually rip on a bit? I saw one request on Facebook for “1941 SDA Church Hymnal.” Hmm..)