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JFH Music Review

Third Day, Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship

Third Day
Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Worship / Pop / Pop Rock
Album length: 12 tracks: 38 minutes, 43 seconds
Street Date: March 3, 2015


Believe it or not, despite their penchant for writing and performing well-known worship tunes, ("Your Love O Lord," "Offerings," "My Hope Is You"), Third Day had not yet delivered a whole album's worth of original worship music until now. Lead Us Back is their first collection of all-new praise material, and with a cinematic and slightly liturgical feel, the album finds the veteran southern band in a fine place.

Starting with a call to worship, "Spirit" rides a soundtrack-like wave of instrumentation (rolling timpani's, ethereal keyboards) that leads to Mac Powell and a chorus of voices pleading for the leading of the Holy Spirit in life. This haunting, yet simple opening is an impressive beginning to a cycle of songs that occasionally brings the guitar fire, but leans more on excellent songwriting and unique instrumentation to bring life to the music. Lead single "Soul On Fire" is a rousing gospel number that is served well by the vocal presence of worship artists All Sons And Daughters, and gives notice that Lead Us Back is both an uplifting set of tunes, and a community effort. "Your Words" begins with a hammer dulcimer (an instrument made famous in Christian music by the late, great Rich Mullins) that adds a nice, melodic texture to the voices of Powell and female worship artist Harvest Parker. With guest appearances from Michael Tait, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant--with background vocalists including David Crowder, Michael Gungor, Sarah MacIntosh and Daniel Bashta, among others--Lead Us Back brims with energy and classic rock excitement (something that has been lacking a bit on the band's last couple of releases). It's the addition of all the multiple gang vocals on many tracks, and the guest vocalists that give this album its punch, and shows that twenty years in, Third Day is capable of mining new territory artistically while staying true to the core of what they've done for so long.

But the excitement on Lead Us Back is not necessarily from a return to electric guitar bombast, something that might have been present if this album had come around fifteen years back in their history. Rather, it comes from a slightly cinematic approach to the music, with a theatrical use of strings and orchestration to move the song list along, and a sense of drama and storytelling that serves the worship theme well. In "Victorious," the most intense instrument is a pounding piano, but the track is no less powerful for it. The guitars are turned up a bit in "Our Deliverer" and "He Is Alive", but overall, the music is balanced and well-shaped. "I Know You Can," "Father Of Lights" and "The One I Love" round out the set list nicely and close the album with a meditative feel. "One I Love" harkens back to "I've Always Loved You" from the band's classic Time record, and ends Lead Us Back with a quiet, reflective piece that finds Mac Powell's singular baritone in solid form.

Lead Us Back is an excellent example of a worship album, that is, a collection of songs that fit around a theme and are tailored musically and lyrically to fit together as a whole. The album might not bowl over the listener (particularly the ones looking for Third Day to return to its bluesy, alternative rock days) upon the first listen, but if given a chance and listened to as a whole, Lead Us Back proves to be a great worship piece and a mid-career highpoint in a veteran band's catalog.

- Preview Review date: 2/15/15, Review Date: 3/1/15, written by Alex Caldwell of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

On the surface of things, the new outing from Mac Powell and his cohorts doesn't sound all that different from most of what currently rules the roost on Top 40 Christian pop radio - standard 4/4 time, relentlessly mid-tempo rhythms, and the occasional chants of "whoa oh oh;" all tied neatly together with an almost too-clean production. And, yet, despite all of this, the album as a whole turns out to be much greater than the sum of its less impressive parts.

Using the now ubiquitous pop/worship genre as a foundation, the band peppers that base with the occasional touches of soul-inflected gospel, austere folk-pop, Americana, and country-rock to create a work that, despite its near-instant familiarity, sounds as if it could have been written at just about any point during the last 20 or so years - a facet which makes one tend to think that folks may well be listening to it two decades from now.

If the debut Third Day effort was the band's Southern rock tour de force, Time was their country-rock triumph, and Come Together their consummate pop project, then Lead Us Back is the group's definitive worship statement - one that arguably equals even the landmark first Offerings project. Indeed, with its indelible melodies, joy-filled lyrics and that indefinable something that catapults it above its contemporaries, this is the sort of record that many a listener will use as a soundtrack to their own personal revival.

Some albums sound as though their creators deliberately and carefully crafted a set of songs for the benefit and enjoyment of the listening audience. Lead Us Back, on the other hand, is the sound of those same audience members walking in on a song leader, worship team and choir, blissfully unaware of the outside world, singing and playing privately to their God. And it is this characteristic, perhaps more than any other, which renders the new record, understated and seemingly run-of-the-mill as it is, such an absolutely unique and beautiful work. - Review date: 3/2/15, Bert Gangl



JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

Veterans in the industry, southern pop rockers Third Day are continuing their legacy with a solid worship album called Lead Us Back, an album that shows that you can be radio-friendly and make great music. Of course, this is nothing new for Third Day, as they've been doing this with ease for years. Songs like "He Is Alive" and "Victorious" really capture their southern gospel roots, while "Our Deliverer" shows the anthemic nature of this beloved band. What I found to be some of the most enjoyable moments of Lead Us Back came in some of the more atypical songs for Third Day. "Maker," a personal highlight, really reminds me of Phillip Phillips in almost every sense, from the guitar lick to the hook, and even to the vocals a little; of course, Mac Powell has an extremely recognizable voice, so you know what it sounds like already. "I Know You Can" is one I have a hard time describing, but it's really upbeat and poppy, and one of my favorites. "Father of Lights" is another highlight, with a sound that I can only describe as a combination of Young the Giant and The Lumineers. Marvelous. Lead Us Back has its fair share of terrific songs, though there are a few here that aren't too entirely memorable. Regardless, this is an album to pick up this year. - 3/5/15, Scott Fryberger of

I nearly groaned when I heard that longtime CCM favorites were releasing a worship record, considering how the market is saturated with such music today (some exemplary, but mostly forgettable). But Lead Us Back reminds us all, this reviewer in particular, that it is (usually) silly to question those that have shown time and again to be impressive artists. "Spirit" gets off on the right foot with a quasi-gospel choir and subtle world influences, and supporting choral vocals remain strong through "Soul On Fire," "Your Words," and, indeed, throughout the rest of the album. I cannot say there are true standouts ("In Jesus Name" comes the closest due to the great guest vocals), but thanks to its reliance on rich instrumental textures and very decent songwriting, no track comes close to a dud either. Lead Us Back is no groundbreaking project, but it is an excellent worship experience from start-to-finish that manages to stay interesting and musically relevant all the way through--without being forced to relying on gimmicks, bombastics, or clichés to do so. - 3/10/15, Mark Rice of



. Record Label: Essential Records
. Album length: 12 tracks: 38 minutes, 43 seconds
. Street Date: March 3, 2015
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: iTunes (Deluxe)

  1. Spirit (3:15)
  2. Soul On Fire feat. All Sons & Daughters (3:18)
  3. Your Words feat. Harvest (3:59)
  4. Our Deliverer (3:08)
  5. He Is Alive (3:32)
  6. In Jesus Name feat. Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant & Michael Tait (4:25)
  7. Lead Us Back (1:21)
  8. Maker (3:24)
  9. Victorious (3:40)
  10. I Know You Can (3:05)
  11. Father of Lights (3:23)
  12. The One I Love (2:21)

    Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks:
  13. Soul On Fire - Live
  14. Born Again - Live
  15. Children Of God - Live
  16. Trust In Jesus - Live
  17. Your Love Is Like A River - Live
  18. Mountain Of God - Live
  19. Follow Me There - Live
  20. Offering - Live
  21. Arise O God (studio recording)
  22. Praise the Invisible (studio recording)
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