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Response, Phil Wickham - CD Review

By Ed Rotheram on October 04, 2011

There seems to be an encouraging oneness to many of the worship albums that have been released in recent months. God is igniting an awakening in our hearts, one that would see His Spirit pour out over all of us, and see Heaven invade earth. In the opening track of Phil Wickham’s new Response album, we see this message of yearning carried through with “Heaven Fall Down”:

“As our praises rise, may Your Presence fall,

Heaven, Heaven Fall Down Spirit, Spirit pour out on us all now”

As He reveals Himself through His Presence, the hearts of His people have little choice but to respond to Him with praise and adoration. This message is repeated throughout the album, that our worship is a response to a God who is longing for His people to cry out to Him.

In a similar vein to the opener, Phil’s version of “At Your Name” (co-written with Tim Hughes) carries the message that we see time and again throughout the Bible - that at the mention of Jesus’ name, light comes to dark places, angels bow and praise resounds. This version is a little quicker and rockier than Tim’s version on his recent Love Shine Through release - it actually shares more similarities with the live version that Worship Central produced on their worship night in London earlier this year. The simple arrangement of guitar, bass, drums, and keys, coupled with an anthemic chorus, lends itself perfectly to congregational worship - this one has become a firm favorite in our church’s worship sets.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is the lively “This is the Day”. Stylistically this is very heavily influenced by the more recent Coldplay sound - think X&Y meets Viva La Vida and you’ll get the picture. Although this song could easily come across as being fairly complicated to reproduce in your home church, it is actually built on several layers of texture, and I could see this being fairly easy to strip back to a more acoustic-led sound.

Somewhat ironically, “All I Want Is You” reminds me of U2 in their Joshua Tree era. A strong looped drumbeat sits well with a subtle backing of bass and keys, with a progressive chord sequence that guides you through the track. The subtlety on this track is something to admire - the guitar is constantly providing little licks at the end of vocal lines that keep the song going, with the layering of the backing vocals in the choruses working equally well.

One of the key dilemmas facing prominent worship leaders such as Phil must surely be how to keep songs interesting and new, while making them accessible to church worship teams. “This Love Will Last Forever” sits, in my opinion, right in the middle of this debate - the words to the song are great for congregational worship, and yet one can’t help but feel the song may sound somewhat predictable if the delayed guitar riffs in the song were removed, or even modified. It will be interesting to see how this song plays out live over the coming months.

I must confess I’d not listened to much of Phil’s studio work before this - though the strength of this album has now seen me purchase his entire back catalogue. I like his sound, and his songwriting has a quality and a richness that one can only stand back and admire. This album fits wonderfully into the fold of current worship albums - a worthy addition to a great year for worship releases.

-Review by Ed Rotheram

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