Pursuit of God, Tommy Walker - CD Review
The new album Pursuit of God by Tommy Walker is a unique project in two ways: First, the sound is different than we have previously heard from Tommy. Secondly, this project has a specific goal in mind, a specific purpose. While this is true for most albums, the focus on this album is new in concept. This album was created specifically for and was inspired by AW Tozer’s classic “The Pursuit of God.”
As a part of that focus, the overall flow and format of this album is different than some may expect. Each song corresponds to the chapters in the book, and after each song track there is a narrative track, with the narrators (Kathy Christopher, a pastor at Tommy’s church; and Kevin White, an actor best known as the voice in the movie Rudy) reading portions from the book itself, as well as offering prayers that help lead into the next track.
The hope is that this will be an album that is truly listened to, reflecting on the lyrics of the music and the words from the narration. I found myself most impacted by the prayers, which were set up nicely by the narrative reading, and allowed me to prayerfully enter into worship with the following track.
The biggest difference, musically, between this album and past Tommy projects is the very prominent orchestration. The Azusa Pacific Orchestra, largely led by concertmaster Ingrid Chun, contributes the rich and lush sounds that only a 60 piece orchestra can provide. We also hear a primary focus on acoustic guitar, with only a couple tracks showcasing the classic Tommy electric guitar tones we’ve all grown accustomed to.
The album opens with ‘Who Are You’, a softer track that introduces the listener to a soft touch from strings and simple acoustic picking. Some may consider this a somewhat “slow” opener, especially compared to some of the “kick in the pants” openers we’ve all heard on other albums. However, this particular approach seems particularly appropriate considering the reflective and prayerful tone of the project as a whole.
'Earnestly (We Want to Know)’ follows and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. This is another simple arrangement, with the acoustic guitar at the forefront and orchestra adding texture. The bridge of the song is by far the most dynamic portion of the song, with the vocals singing in an anthemic and rhythmic way “we want to know,” “we want to see” and “we want to find.”
The third track, ‘Just You’, introduces us to Tommy playing the harmonica, which he only recently picked up as a tribute to his father.
The fifth track, ‘Taste and See’, is by far my favorite. We get a more interesting dynamic from the get go with this tune. The bridge has some great syncopation which lifts the dynamic of the song, and we see the electric guitar take on a more prominent role as the song progresses - this contribution adds a great layer of color to the overall sound.
If you don’t find yourself involuntarily moving your head to the pulse of the bass on ‘You Are Here’, then you may want to see a doctor. I should also note that the harmonies from the backing vocals on this track almost sound too perfect. If you have a thing for nice harmonies, you will dig this.
The rest of the album continues with the theme of orchestration and acoustic guitar, with some nice touches here and there. For example, the Latin-style guitar flares during ‘Take Your Place’. In fact, the guitar solo during ‘Take Your Place’ is by far my favorite. The strings coming out of the first chorus and at the end, providing a flurry to end this song with a punch, are also by far the most effective and dynamic applications of the orchestra on the entire album.
The only criticisms that some may find with this project are twofold: First, some will find this album to sound a bit old fashioned, particularly due to the emphasis on the orchestration. Secondly, the instrumental during the ‘Create in Me Prelude’ doesn’t seem to naturally flow into the following track, ‘Create in Me’, potentially leaving the listener a little confused as to its purpose.
Aside from those two items, any listener who either appreciates A.W. Tozer’s “Pursuit of God” or enjoys listening to reflective, prayerful and meditative music with an open heart should enjoy this project.
I encourage you: Set time aside for this album when you first listen to it. Sure, this will be great to listen to in the car on your way to work or anywhere else. But the real joy in this album will come when you, the listener, are able to drown everything else out and really zone in on the lyrics in the songs, and words and prayers during the narration. Start there, and I promise that the music will come alive – from the stunningly beautiful instrumentation during the narrations, to the orchestral touches and acoustic guitar textures that carry you through the album.
All in all, I hope you are propelled to engage on your own personal pursuit of God. (Quick note, Lead Sheet Plus charts are available for all songs at www.lifewayworship.com)
-Review by Chris OlsonComment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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