The songs of Matt Redman have been sung in Sunday morning worship services and small group Bible studies for more than ten years now, but few of the singers could probably tell you who wrote the song they are singing. This, to a worshiper like Redman, who has made a career choice of lifting up the Lord, is most likely okay.
An Englishman, Redman's songs were first introduced to American audiences (and song books) via a cover of "The Heart Of Worship" on the first Sonicflood album back in the late 90's. Since then, "Better Is One Day", "Blessed Be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go" have taken up permanent residence in worship services. Sing Like Never Before: The Essential Collection offers new (and mostly improved) versions of some of Redman's best loved songs, and a few new offerings.
Of the updated versions and new material, "Better Is One Day" fairs the best, getting a rework that drops the familiar drum pattern that traditionally opened the tune and adds some Coldplay-esque strings and vocal patterns. "Our God" (co-written with Chris Tomlin) also fairs well, with Redman dropping the somewhat cheesy synths of the Tomlin version and emphasizing the lead guitar and driving beat. New song "Love So High" suffers from a sameness of Passion conference songs that can at times be interchangeable. And, it is hard to criticize such a well meaning song as "Twenty Seven Million," which admirably addresses the horrific crime of human trafficking, but as a stand-alone song it comes off about as well as other well-meaning "awareness songs" like "We Are The World" or "Do They Know It's Christmas" did back in the 80's.
What is unfortunate about re-recording a few classic songs is that the original versions of other well-known tunes sound a bit dated and boring by comparison. This is the case with "Blessed Be Your Name," which is an undeniably powerful song, but suffers in the live version offered on this collection. This song has fared better in covers by Tree63 and the Newsboys. Likewise, "The Heart Of Worship" was actually much better done by Sonicflood back on their first album.
This collection's best moment is the opening track "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)" from which the record gets its title. With hints of famous English hymns like "Amazing Grace," "Come Thou Fount" and the recent "How Deep The Father's Love For Us," "10,000 Reasons" resonates with its choir-like background vocals and uplifting refrain. It's another career highlight from Redman, and a wonderful addition to the hymnal book.
Sing Like Never Before: The Essential Collection is, in the end, a mixed effort, offering great updates of well-loved songs on one hand, and uninspiring versions of great songs on the other. Redman and his record company will no doubt continue to offer greatest hits collections; in the future, perhaps a complete rework of all his best songs might be the ideal direction to go in.
- Review date: 11/18/12, written by Tincan Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com