Prime Cuts: A King Like This, Bethlehem, Adore
Chris Tomlin's Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship is the go to album as far as congregational worship over the festive season is concerned. Though the market is saturated with seasonal outputs every year and though it's almost mandatory for every artist to release a Christmas album somewhere along his/her career, few are the Christmas songs made for congregational worship. Tomlin whose pen has supplied the vocabulary and scores of countless worship services with staples such as "Love Ran Red," "Our God, "How Great is Our God," he is back with his festive debut Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. The titular is most revealing, this is an 11-track record made for the service of the church. This is arguably the CD's chief strength.
The strength of this album is that many of these songs are going to work its way into the soundtrack of many worship services in the years to come. Already making its way into this reviewer's church Christmas repertoire is the worship ballad "A King Like This." Capturing melodiously both the majesty of the Christ-child as well as the palatability of his incarnation, "A King Like This" is both intimate as well as Christ-exalting. "Adore" has all the melodic arrays of a Tomlin ballad (a la "Love Ran Red" and "Jesus Messiah"). And the choir which gives the chorus a more substantial backing creates an inviting atmosphere that calls forth the worship in us.
Worship leaders who get tired of just churning "O Little Town of Bethlehem" year after year may check out Tomlin's newly written "Bethlehem." Just like the hymn, "Bethlehem" is a show and tell worship number where Tomlin gets us up, close, and personal with the Christ-child in the stable in Bethlehem. "He Shall Reign Forevermore" is lifted as the album's introductory single. One can grasp the reason behind the choice with one listen. It's an anthemic worship piece that traverses through from the softer notes to those high and glorious crescendos. But at the end of the day, "He Shall Reign Forevermore" borders on the safe and cliché side.
Besides the brand new songs, Tomlin also does what is quite a prevalent move these days, that is to weave a new song into an old hymn. In this regard, Tomlin does an A+ job with "Midnight Clear (Love Song)." Here "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" becomes not just a song about Christ but it becomes a song of love to Jesus. Kristyn Getty, on the other hand, doesn't add much to "Silent Night" and Lauren Daigle would be better off doing one of Tomlin's original rather than a rehash of "Noel." Precisely because this CD is made for congregational singing, Tomlin is not as creative as say MercyMe (on their newest Christmas album) with his re-imaginations of the old carols.
Bearing all the marks of Tomlin's worship albums, "Adore" carries on Tomlin's rich legacy of making music for the church. If you are looking for songs made to be sung as worship pieces to God, this is a treasure trove.