Greer, Andrew. Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions. MA'M Recordings, 2012. Audio CD. (mp3 download for $8.99.) (Eight pdf charts provided via DropBox.) www.andrew-greer.com www.mam-recordings.com Andrew Greer's "Jesus Paid It All music video (H)
Page CXVI. Hymns IV. Gilbert, AZ: Page CXVI, 2011. mp3 audio download. $9.99. http://pagecxvi.com/ (H)
Artists are now contacting us, demonstrating how they are making old hymns new again.
Allow me to introduce Andrew Greer:
Before listening to this album, I knew that only one was in my Lutheran Service Book. I knew most of the others: "Down By the Riverside," "Softly and Tenderly," "The Lord's Prayer," "In the Garden," and "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Textually and Christologically they are weaker than most of the contents of LSB. The last line of a famous hymn text says, "None other has ever known." Really? Is that true? No? Then why bother singing it to the One who
On the whole, vocals and accompaniment sound mostly like a pop rock combo. Vocals are masculine, growly, and pleasantly "strained." This is unfamiliar with any of the special guests on the album. Percussion varies from song to song, from something I'd tolerate on Sunday morning to something that should be best reserved for Saturday night.
Our second album is the fourth release from PAGE CXVI.
You can listen to a preview of these tracks on the group's website. Our pre-release copy has them in a different order. We are more pleased with the new track order.
The vocals on this seven-track album are effortless and seem to defy gravity.Piano and guitar provide all the percussive quality that is necessary for any of these hymns.
Todd Hoover shared his new album and supporting documentation via Dropbox. We thank him for his generosity and creativity and encourage others to submit albums for review in a similar way if they cannot afford to send a CD and sheet music via snailmail.
I think I understand what the composer and artist was trying to do. In many ways, he succeeded in achieving those self-set goals. Unfortunately, I wrestled with his project, wondering what to make of it.
I listened to it the first time on the road to Montana. I had read his bio and the lyrics, sheet music, and his blog explanation already, but due to my driving, I couldn't follow along with the recording using those external resources while in the car. I had to listen again.
This time, I noted that the music sounded like on the recording how the composer intended it to (with the exceptions of some pitch issues and some instruments being sometimes out-of-tune with one another). I was surprised how similar it sounded to some of the Jesus People music of the 70's.
Next, I had to re-evaluate the text. I hate to say it, but they are weak in explicit Christology. Implied references to Jesus Christ are all over. Christians will "get it" in context. The word "Jesus" shows up twice. I must commend the author of the texts for making them religion-specific. These songs could not be mistaken for the vague "Jesus or my boy/girlfriend" CCM songs of the 80's, 90's, and today. One can hear questions like those from a psalmist. He gives voice to repentance.
I also have the impression that this artist is still growing. I remember the temptation of the new preacher to preach on everything all at once. There is a little of that here, The Whole Spirit. Had I the opportunity to advise him on naming the album, I would have asked him to consider the subtitle, Sanctification Songs, since the subject matter specifics seem to be more in the realm of "life and work" rather than "faith and order." I do not say this to be demeaning, for Luther himself never claimed to master the six chief parts of the Lutheran catechism, yet these lyrics fit more with the Luther's meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed than with his meaning of the Second Article of the Creed.
The final track gave me insight into the author's personal confession of faith and faith formation. The prayer sounds more American Evangelical than Evangelical-Lutheran. The isorhythmic melody used to sing the Ken Doxology owes more to the musical influence of the ELCA (or ALC, LCA, AALC, NALC, LCMC, et al) sphere of influence than that of the more rhythmic version that is common in my LCMS.
I thank Mr. Hoover for the opportunity to sample his hard work. I would encourage him to learn all he can about his Lutheran musical tradition (historical, liturgical, hymnological) as possible for information, foundation, and inspiration. I urge him to keep composing and make the best of both constructive criticism and praise.
In closing, we quote from Andrew Greer on hymns:
I grew up in church. I can't recall many of the sermons my pastor preached, or the lessons my Sunday School teachers taught, but I do remember hymns. In fact, if it hadn't been for the impact of those indelible tunes, I may have never fallen in love with music, or been introduced to God.
We urge the continued singing of hymns and their traditional tunes. We also want to hear more retuned hymnody, especially from congregations and traditions where hymn singing fell away for a generation or more.
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.