Graham Kendrick’ “Worship Duets” Album Review
To say that Kendrick is a veteran in worship music is an understatement. According to his website, Kendrick already has 38 albums under his belt. In fact, way before many of us were born in 1971, this British-born worshipper had already released his debut record "Footsteps on the Sea." However, it was only in 1990 when Kendrick achieved International acclaim with the Integrity release "Amazing Love." One of the tracks from that album, "Shine Jesus Shine" became viral among church goers. And today "Shine Jesus Shine" perennially surfaces when people's favorite hymns are polled. Together with other worship staples like "Knowing You," "Meekness and Majesty" and "Lead Me to the Cross," the name Kendrick is now almost coterminous with Wesley, Watts and Crosby. Twenty three years after "Amazing Love," Integrity Music is still proudly behind the release of Kendrick's 38th album "Worship Duets." Instead of resting on his laurels, Kendrick has the forward vision of nurturing younger artists. Kendrick could have thrown his weight around by barging his duet partners to sing his compositions. Rather, he has encouragingly brought each one to his side by mentoring them, co-writing and singing with them. And his list of co-writers and duet partners is nothing short of staggering: Hillsong's worship pastors Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan, Stuart Townsend, Rend Collective Experiment, Michael W. Smith, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman, Desperation Band's Jon Egan & Delirious' former lead Martin Smith.
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Not only are Kendrick's duet partners impressive, so is the man behind the project producer Nathan Nockels (33Miles, Chris Tomlin & Passion). Nockels certainly has lived up to his credentials when he has given this record a soft-rock contemporary feel so befitting of Kendrick, yet giving enough leverage for Kendrick's dueting friends to express themselves. From such an acme list of duet partners, it is difficult to pick one's favorite. However, brimming to the top is Kendrick's duet with Hillsong matriarch Darlene Zschech's "That Name." Observant fans of either artist will remember this is the third time Zschech has had cut a duet with Kendrick. Among the trio of duets, "That Name" tops the list. A Jesus-centered piano-led ballad Zschech and Kendrick celebrates Christ by taking some of His appellations and applying each to us: " Jesus, Rock that breaks me/Jesus, heals, remakes me/Jesus, friend and brother." The runner-up favourite has to be Zschech's fellow worship leader Reuben Morgan's "Keep My Eyes on You." It's hard to go wrong when Morgan who co-wrote Hillsong's "Mighty to Save" and "Cornerstone" joins forces with Kendrick to craft this moving ballad of trust gently calling to mind Psalm 141:8.
One of the reasons why Kendrick is such an endearing worship leader is that he does not chase after the latest bleep or fad or even the latest technological sound. Rather, on his duet with Matt Redman "Hymn of the Ages," Kendrick goes for what elevates a worship song into its classic status: Scripturally woven words centered around the Throne of God accompanied by a tune written that moves the congregation from being entertained to being participants. "Saving Grace" a piano-driven ballad typical of duet partner Michael W. Smith also contains a touch of hymnody from Kendrick. Delirious' front man Martin Smith is on fire when he blasts through the power packed anthem "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." Paul Baloche gets two chances to duet with Kendricks, first the peppy "He is Risen" and the second being the worship ballad "What Can I Do?" After listening to "He is Risen," one can't help but notice the resemblance of the chorus to Baloche's earlier song "Hosanna (Praise is Rising)."
The only song that comes out of the vault is one of Kendrick's better known compositions "The Servant King (We Give Our Lives)." Here label mate Rend Collective Experiment adds a folk-ish layer to this hymn that is going to be destined to be use in numerous altar call moments across churches in the months to come. Nevertheless, the query arises, besides Darlene Zschech, why were no other female artists brought in to duet with Kendrick? What about Integrity label mates such as Jesus Culture's Kim Walker or Christine D'Clario? Or even producer Nathan Nockel's wife Christy? Maybe, this is Kendrick's way of leaving room for a second instalment of "Worship Duets." With the first volume being so good (especially the Zschech and Morgan duets), the second volume certainly begs to be recorded.
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