Prime Cuts: Ever Close, Control, Prayers to the King
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Highlands Worship, the worship collective of the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, has been making waves within worship music since their 2012 debut Place of Freedom. Some of their songs such as "Jesus You Alone," "Now I Need You" and "Places of Freedom" have made it into the soundtracks of many churches' worship. Now, they have returned with their fourth full-length record Prayers to the King. Produced and co-written by Highlands Worship's Chris Griffin and mixed by Chris Greeley (Bethel Music), Prayers To The King also features nine songs co-written by legendary Hosanna! Music songwriter Lynn DeShazo ("Ancient Words, "More Precious Than Silver," "Be Magnified," etc.).
As the titular suggests, these songs function as prayers written for the church to sing. With the lyrical focus fixated on God and with lots of reflective moments, these are the highlights of the record. "Ever Close" sets the template for the record. Sparse in its backing, the spotlight on the lead singer's breathy vocals as she draws us into God's presence. Not to be missed too is "Control;" a call to abandon our grip on life to God. "Prayers to the King" has an immediacy and intimacy that are precious.
Despite some brighter moments, the overall grade of the album gets discounted for three reasons: first, all the songs sound similar. Ten out of ten of the tracks here are ballads and they all progress along similar melodic lines. All of them start off slow and soft then they crescendo at the chorus with a meaningless bridge tacked on. To add to one's listening agony, the songs all clock above the 5-minute mark with one even venturing into the 8-minute ballpark.
Second, the words leave a lot to be desired. There's little or no poetic or/and Biblical depth to any of the songs. Many of them are just colloquial expressions of prayers to God. This is an awful reflection not so much of the worship team but the preaching ministry of the church. Has the teaching of the church been so aloof that nothing registers with these song writers when they pick up their pen to write? Third, will these songs stand the test of time? Many of the entries barely have a melody: ask anyone (not from the collective) to listen to the album a few times through, can you honestly even remember a single tune? Or do they just all flow together into one song that runs for over an hour?
There are far too many worship records that sell because they are connected with large churches. No doubt this record has already been grabbed copies by the truck load, but if this album were made by an independent worship collective--- will this album even see the light of day?