Monday, February 1, 2010

Great CD: Hymns Ancient and Modern


Well, now that my 15 minutes of fame are up (the feds picked them up today), I can get back to blogging and studying for the NANC exam. (Just until Thursday, when we have an assault and battery jury trial. Fun times.)

Amid the numerous genres and sub-genres of "Christian music" available today, (including hardcore and the oxymoronic "Christian emo"), my personal favorite style are the theologically-rich hymns of centuries past put to modern musical arrangements.

My taste in CCM has definitely evolved over time. I think the first album I bought as a Christian (now I'm dating myself) was Michael W. Smith's "Go West Young Man". Either that or "Eye 2 Eye". I remember he was sporting a mid-eighties George Michael hairdo at the time, even though it was already the early nineties. (Christians always seem to catch onto secular trends a bit late). I still like Smitty, but primarily for his heartfelt worship songs - hearing him sing "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" frankly doesn't do much for me. But he does have a tremendous passion for God and an amazing voice, so his "Worship" and "Worship Again" CDs are among the most played in my car.

This past year or so, I have been getting to like Chris Tomlin more and more - I first saw him on the "Amazing Grace" video trailer ("Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone"). The bridge Tomlin added to John Newton's anthem changes the tempo a bit, but lends itself well to congregational singing. My two other favorite songs performed by Tomlin are "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (Raise Up the Crown)", originally written by Edward Perronet in 1780, and his rendition of Isaac Watt's "Joy to the World", also from the 18th century.

This CD includes Tomlin's "All Hail the Power" and a number of other famous hymns performed by contemporary artists. An Amazon editorial review explains, "While the modern worship movement has revolutionized Christian music, lead worshippers realized that in their zeal to write cutting-edge church music they forgot the songs that were cutting that "edge" once upon a time." I couldn't agree more. The Passion artists who sing such classics as "All Creatures of Our God and King", "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" give all glory and honer to God, where it belongs, rather than sliding into the man-centric trap of many CCM praise songs.

And they do it to an upbeat tempo, which uses both acoustic and electrical guitars, rather than pipe organs. Come to think of it, our church's praise team does an excellent acoustic "Be Thou My Vision", which would sound nice on a CD like this. So many hymns; so few CDs!

Interestingly, "Hymns Ancient and Modern" also features an interpretation of "Hail Gladdening Light" (Phos Hilaron (Φῶς Ἱλαρόν), which is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside the Bible (I believe it dates back to the second century, if not before that). One translation of the lyrics is as follows:

O Gladsome Light of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father, Heavenly, Holy, Blessed Jesus Christ! Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening, we praise God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For meet it is at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise. O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.
Now compare that poetry to the following:

We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river

We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
We're gonna dance in the river
"Yeah"
We're gonna dance in the river
"Yeah"
We're gonna dance in the river

Everybody dance now

And yes; I'm aware Chris Tomlin authored those lyrics. I like him better when he's singing real hymns....just a matter of taste, I guess.

Anyway, if you enjoy contemporary praise and worship music, but just wish it had more of the theological depth and reverence of the older hymns, this is the CD you've been waiting for. It also has a calming, uplifting effect on the spirit when you are stuck in rush-hour traffic jams. Rock on.

2 comments:

4simpsons said...

Thanks for the tip! I love the old hymns in different forms. I visited my daughter's church and the praise band had some "louder" versions of O Come O Come Emmanuel and others. Loved it.

Barbara said...

Here's another one, I happened upon on WretchedRadio and downloaded from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Exalted-Worship/dp/B0031RBG16/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1265459526&sr=301-1

Except for Kirk Cameron's somewhat slow and monotonous tone in his reading, the whole thing is just wonderful, and true worship.