Hillsong Chapel "Yahweh" - CD Review
Unplugged albums were vastly popular in the 90's – artists would strip down their songs and present them in an intimate, acoustic setting. The best of them (think Eric Clapton’s reboot of “Layla”) completely re-imagine and reinvent their songs. The worst demonstrate just how many sins the producer managed to cover.
Enter Hillsong Chapel, the latest iteration of the hugely successful Hillsong “brand”. Hillsong Chapel is essentially “Hillsong Unplugged”, and Yahweh is the first offering – a collection of favorites from the Hillsong Live and Hillsong United catalog, recorded live and unplugged in their chapel, a small (by their standards) sandstone building.
I can tell you that, having been a Hillsong fan for many years, I was excited to get my hands on Yahweh to hear how some of my favorite songs translated to an acoustic environment.
My home congregation (like many of yours) has less than 200 members and is easily overwhelmed by much of what contemporary worship has to offer. For example, “Mighty to Save” has general appeal, but folks would be lost within the layered guitars and pounding bass drum of “The Time Has Come”. Plus, I don’t have the space or worship team prepared to recreate the sound. In listening to Yahweh, my hope was that it would demonstrate the true cross-generational appeal of Hillsong and perhaps inspire my own acoustic arrangements of these songs.
Are they successful? You bet. While it’s not a home run, it is a stand-up double.
First of all, the song selection is stellar. They’ve included a nice cross-section of the Hillsong catalog featuring recent standouts (“You Hold Me Now”) and CCLI performers (“Mighty To Save”, “From the Inside Out”, “Hosanna”).
It’s definitely not a snoozer. Yahweh doesn’t fall into the trap (as unplugged albums occasionally can do) of assuming that upbeat numbers are to be avoided or used sparingly. The album flows nicely from song-to-song, moving gracefully between ballads, mid-tempo numbers, and high-energy foot-tappers.
Yahweh demonstrates how well these songs stand up to the stripped down, acoustic environment. The arrangements are multi-layered, the lyrics and vocals stand out. As is to be expected, not all of the songs respond as well to the treatment. “Hosanna” and “Salvation Is Here” shine, but a few songs (“The Time Has Come”, “From the Inside Out”, “Came to My Rescue”) do little to differentiate themselves from the originals in this setting.
If I were to fault the album, I would argue that it lacks a certain warmth. Hillsong Chapel falls just short of delivering a real living room worship experience. While 300 worshipers may feel diminutive in comparison to the 20,000+ that attend weekly Hillsong Australia services, it’s still a pretty large gathering in my book. There are some wonderfully subdued, intimate moments – just not as many as I had hoped. They don’t quite get away from that arena feeling. It’s a minor gripe but still a consideration.
Ultimately, Hillsong Chapel and Yahweh is a keeper. The acoustic arrangements are easy on the ear and present familiar songs in a different light. If this foray into the unplugged arena is any indication of the future, Hillsong has another winner on their hands.
2. You'll Come
4. The Time Has Come
5. Saviour King
7. Came To My Rescue
9. This is Our God
10. You Hold Me Now
11. From the Inside Out
12. Mighty To Save
13. Salvation Is HereComment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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