Prime Cuts: Saving Me, Cry of the Broken, Under Grace
It is not unusual for worship leaders to step aside from their usual roles and record solo studio projects. You don't have to look far but at Darlene Zschech's affiliated Hillsong Church; here the examples abound. Key worship leaders such as Brook Fraser, Marty Sampson, Miriam Webster and even Rueben Morgan have all indulged in solo endeavours. Considering Zschech's longstanding stature as one of the leading voices and writers in contemporary Christian worship, it is somehow surprising that "You Are Love" is only this worship pastor's fourth solo record. However, unlike many such side projects where personal and testimonial songs are in spades, "You Are Love" is strictly a worship album where all these 11 cuts have the grandeur of God at their cynosure. Despite the record bearing the moniker "Darlene Zschech," these songs do not sound out of place with the music Zschech and her Hillsong team are putting out. This means these songs are tailored not just for individual devotion but they could easily be used for congregational worship. Akin to her Hillsong discs, these 11 cuts are anthemic, engaging and filled with a servant heart directed in humble worship.
Having written worship classics sung by millions across the globe each Sunday such as "Shout to the Lord," "Thank You for the Cross" and "High and Lifted Up," it is no surprise that the movers and shakers in the Christian industry clamber to work with Zschech. "You Are Love" flashes a red carpet of who's who including Michael Gungor, Paul Mabury (Hillsong), Marty Sampson (Hillsong), Pete Kipley (MercyMe), Ryan Taubert, Josh Telford and Israel Houghton. Nevertheless, Zschech never allowed such stardom to get to her. Rather, putting herself in the background these tracks here are Biblically informed seasoned with a Godlike passion that is contagiously worshipful. Lead single "Under Grace" is a gorgeous ballad where Zschech sings about God's grace over our failings tagged with the heartfelt cry, "these are the tears of the one who knows grace." More heartfelt moments abound with the piano driven ballad "You Are Love" a God-centered track that could be a Zschech classic in no time.
Fellow worship leader Israel Houghton has a hand in co-writing with Zschech on three entries. The best among the trio of their collaborations is "Saving Me." Co-written by Houghton, Zschech and Michael Gungor, this is an infectious uptempo ode to God for his salvation. Listen also to Zoe Jewel's (Zschech's ten year-old daughter) delightful singing with her mother in one of this year's most catchy tunes out there. "I Will Wait," a song that Zschech debut with Houghton at the recent Hillsong Conference, is a slow worship ballad. Just like many of Zschech's ballads, the chorus explodes into a prayer to God for greater awareness and obedience to God's leading. This is indeed powerful God centered worship at its finest form. Not quite as stellar is the mid-tempo "Hope for Humanity," a song that combines social justice and worship together, issues close to Zschech's heart.
Two older tracks have been resurrected: "Cry of the Broken" first made its appearance on Hillsong's most recent "God is Able." On this re-take, Zschech's version is a little longer with an extended bridge augmented with rockier guitar riffs. While "Face to Face" addresses Christ's second advent; this time round finding Zschech in duet with Australian idol alum Barry Southgate on the hope of one day seeing our Lord with our own eyes. If there are any quibbles, it is that this album is far too ballad driven. A few more uptempoes like "Saving Me" would have made the disc peppier. Nevertheless, if you are looking for some serious worship music coming from a seasoned leader who breathes and lives worship "You are Love" will not disappoint. With Zschech taking a lesser role in Hillsongs' latter releases, to have a full disc of her singing her own music is itself a blessing and a delight.