One of the best aspects of music festivals is being exposed to a variety of bands. At Revelation Generation festival last weekend, I was encouraged by a few people to check out a worship band called Ascend The Hill. After watching only a few minutes of their set, I was hooked. Ascend The Hill recently crafted an album of hymns titled Take The World, But Give Me Jesus. Now, when I heard that it was an album of hymns, I admit I was a little bummed. It seems like every worship band is covering hymns these days. But Ascend The Hill’s renditions are so different (especially rhythmically and melodically) from the originals that they take on a new life entirely.
Take The World opens with “The Love of God,” which could easily be mistaken for an original modern worship song (I actually had to look this one up in my old, dusty hymnal to make sure it was a hymn). “How Great Thou Art” is one of the highlights of the album. The first few choruses have tense melodies that gain momentum throughout the song. After the bridge, the tension is released with a final build, creating a powerful chorus with the original melody. The album then shifts styles to a roots-y, acoustic rendition of “Rock of Ages.” What was one of my least favorite hymns instantly became a gem. Continuing in the somber vein, the title-track starts out quietly but builds to a resounding cry, “Take the world, but give me Jesus!”
I never liked the melody of “I Surrender All,” but Ascend The Hill’s version makes it listenable for me. “Hallelujah, What A Savior” begins with ethereal guitars and synths, and as with several other tracks on the record the hymn gradually builds into a tremendous chorus. “None Compare (Spontaneous Worship)” is the only original track on the record. As its name suggests, it’s spontaneous worship and an addendum of sorts to the previous song. Following is the most lyrically stirring hymn on the record. “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go” was written in the 1800’s by George Matheson, who had a Job-like story. The most poignant lyrical passage of the hymn is the third verse, “Oh joy that seeks me through the pain/I cannot close my heart to thee/I trace the rainbow through the rain/and feel the promise is not in vain/That mourn shall tearless be.” The final track is the popular hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” After a slow build with soaring vocals, the hymn closes with a choir backed by a cello and acoustic guitar.
If you’re the type of person that finds yourself dissatisfied with the lack of creativity in modern worship today, Take The World is the album for you. This album (like other Come&Live! albums) is free, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to listen to it. Go download it at http://www.comeandlive.com