Since his debut in 2003, Phil Whickam has been offering a solid hybrid of worship music with a strong influence of Britpop. Throw in Wickham's previous compelling lyrics along with a good sophomore release for INO records (Cannons) and the respected singer/song writer has some momentum built for possibly his best project yet, Heaven And Earth.
Heaven And Earth has been tagged as a vertical worship project, but that label doesn't describe Wickham's personal relationship with each song as the album catalogs his own discoveries over straight worship tracks. The few songs which would be classified as praise and worship songs solely cover one topic and actually fall behind the album in lyrical depth. For example, despite Bart Millard's (MercyMe) guest vocals, "Safe" is average musically and the lyrics are hindered with clichés. And similarly, while the message in "Because Of Your Love" is powerful, the lyrics are far from original ("Because of Your cross/My debt is paid/Because of Your blood my sins are washed away").
However, the main theme is obviously targeted at Heaven and its creator and the songwriting is satisfying, and in some cases actually thought-provoking. The opener, "Eden," isn't necessarily a longing to be in Eden, but rather, to have that relationship with our creator that Adam had with God. Though the twelve track journey takes some detours to speak on salvation ("The Time Is Now") and ponder the triumphant return ("Your Arrival"), Heaven And Earth eventually swings back to its original theme with Wickham's longing to sing his "Heaven Song."
Phil Wickham does a nice job of offering an alternative worship sound on top of his heavily Britpop-laced tunes. "Cielo" (translated as ‘heaven') has an airy artistic worship sound, while "Your Arrival" incorporates an upbeat modern worship tune. And Wickham really never stops putting a variety of tunes out on the table to spice up his already solid song writing.
From the up-tempo folk pop song "The Time Is Now," to the synth-filled pop-rock track "Hold On," to Wickham's wonderful vocal output on the title track, Heaven And Earth is stacked with an intriguing track listing which is a clear standout in the worship genre. Even "Coming Alive" is also a great attraction for Abandon fans with its alt pop beat, but the gem of the album is observably "Eden," as its flowing, piano-driven tune should draw some comparisons to Coldplay. The only drawback to the audio factor is that Wickham sometimes will put only one prominent feature into a specific track instead of fully exploring its potential.
Heaven And Earth is a great worship album. But, unfortunately, part of what makes the album great is the fact that so many of today's worship artists settle for mediocrity instead of thinking outside the box like Wickham. Wickham pulls off an excellent hybrid of interesting lyrics, great vocals and fantastic music, but it's likely that even he could have given a better effort. As it stands though, Heaven And Earth is easily one of the finest worship projects of the year and a huge step over Phil Wickham's peers.- Review Date: 11/13/09, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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