Chris Tomlin follows up his critically and commercially successful album Arriving with See The Morning, his fourth studio album for SixSteps/Sparrow Records. With the gold-selling Arriving still a respectable sales presence on CCM charts two years after its debut, how does Chris Tomlin follow up his most successful project yet? For better or worse, with more of the same…
With most of his well-known songs firmly entrenched within church services nationwide, it seems that Chris Tomlin has stumbled upon a songwriting formula that thrives on predictability and conformity, rather than innovation. Tomlin's songs are so ubiquitous and inherently formulaic that hearing an entire album of all-new material still rendered me with an uncanny sense of familiarity. Although innovation might have been too much to ask of this project, this sense of formulaic unoriginality, combined with consistently unexceptional songwriting, was more than enough to sink See The Morning.
As a worship album, See The Morning is unassuming at best, and downright predictable at its worst. The songs on the album sound pleasant enough at first listen, but soon all blend together due to their unwavering adherence to existing formulas. Since they all rise and fall out of the same mid-tempo worship mold, there is nothing here that will stick out after one or two listens. Some songs are also unnecessarily repetitive, as "Glorious" and "Glory In The Highest" rely a bit too heavily on their title refrains to carry the chorus forward. While Arriving was blessed with a handful of amazing singles, there isn't anything as powerful as "How Great Is Our God" or as captivating as "Holy Is The Lord" on this album.
Lyrically, See The Morning is likewise unremarkable as Tomlin spouts out undistinguished refrains of awesomeness and glory towards our Creator ("Our God reigns," "How Awesome is the Lord Most High," etc). The fact that most songs can be encapsulated neatly within their titles says a lot about the level of lyrical depth within this album. The bottom line is, we've heard this all before. Worship music isn't especially known for its creativity, but the problem with repetition this blatant is that See The Morning loses its impact with each successive listen. That Chris Tomlin resorted to giving his listeners uninspired (and seemingly re-written) versions of the same songs is disappointing to say the least, and frustrating when you know that he is capable of more.
Ultimately, this is the sound of the reigning Dove artist of the year resting on his laurels and refusing to expand beyond the predictable formula that has garnered him success (including five Dove awards) in the first place. Disappointing as it is however, this album will still no doubt still be consumed by most worship music fans looking for something safe to place in their CD players long after their copies of Arriving have been set aside due to overbearing familiarity.- Review date: 9/22/06 by Sherwin Frias
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