"Above all powers/Above all kings/Above all nature/Above all created things..." Over the years, how many of us have been ministered to by this worship gem "Above All?" The song almost did not exist if its co-writer Lenny LeBlanc had not received a wakeup call from Jesus Christ. Way back in the 70s, LeBlanc was wallowing in the glitz and glitter of the rock n' roll lifestyle akin to many secular artists. As one half of the duo LeBlanc and Carr, LeBlanc had a major hit "Falling" in his hands. In fact, "Falling" was such a phenomenon that it was named one of Billboard's all time top 40 songs. By this time, LeBlanc and Carr have already been fronting magazine covers and gracing the glamour of stages across television shows. The duo really hit the jackpot when they were invited to tour with rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, in 1977, tragedy struck when the Skynyrd's plane infamously crashed and burnt. Somehow the travesty shook LeBlanc up. For the first time, he began to feel disfranchised about the music business. Then the second part of God's wakeup call ensued. One day, LeBlanc received an unexpected call from a friend of his who used to be a drug smuggler. He left LeBlanc aghast when he told Leblanc that he had given up the debaucheries of life and he had become a Christian. After reading a Bible sent from this ex-druggie, LeBlanc finally gave his life to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, LeBlanc never could leave music behind; he began channeling his musical muse to crafting Christian songs and leading worship in church. After a few records with Heartland Records and Maranatha music, LeBlanc finally signed with Integrity Music. 1991 saw his breakthrough into the worship market with "Pure Heart." Then, his career began escalating as churches embraced his songs one after another as worship staples. Songs such as "Above All," "There is None Like You," "We All Bow Down" and "I Believe," became staples. And, 17 albums later, we finally have "Anthology: The Best of Lenny LeBlanc."
"Anthology: The Best of Lenny LeBlanc" is not your typical greatest hits collection. There are two brand new cuts written specifically for this collection, "Unchained" and "Hope." And the remaining eleven cuts are re-recordings of LeBlanc's most sought after songs adorned with a skimpier acoustic makeover. As expected the lion's share of the songs come from 1999's landmark worship record "Above All." Two entities each are taken from the 2002's "One Desire" and 2010's "Love Like No Other." The title cut from 1996's "The Bridge" also finds a spot. And for nostalgic sake, LeBlanc has also re-cut his biggest secular hit "Falling." One thing of note of is: unlike Casting Crowns recent acoustic record, these thirteen songs here are mostly acoustic guitar based. Many of them are not even accosted with any drums. And even if they are used, the percussions are gentle and light. "Above All," for instance, is so stark that it only features LeBlanc and his guitar. Yet, with or without instruments, LeBlanc still gives an affecting rendition. When he sings of Christ "as a rose trampled on the ground" you can't help but feel a thug at the heart strings. After all these years, when it comes to describing the incomparability of Christ, "There is None Like You" still sublimely does the job better than any modern song out there. Though not as well known as the two aforementioned songs, "Rainbow Song" is LeBlanc at his poetic best. With just the gentle coaching of the acoustic guitar, "Rainbow Song" finds LeBlanc using a kaleidoscope of images to depict his yearning heart to worship God.
Outside of his stellar career record "Above All," "We All Bow Down" (from his album "One Desire") is another worship favorite. The strong but simple melodic structure cued with lots of memorable lines (my favorite being "Losers and winners, saints and sinners will one day see His face") make "We All Bow Down" a timeless classic. Another thing praiseworthy of LeBlanc is that he has a knack for writing story songs. Such a talent certainly allows LeBlanc to take abstract theological concepts and make them come alive. Likening faith to a story where he had to cross a wobbly bridge while fishing one day, "The Bridge" puts teeth to abstract truths of Scripture. "You First," a song he first wrote for country artist Mac McAnally, gives flesh to the notion of sacrifice as LeBlanc strings some moving stories together.
Those of us who did not grow up with the music of the 70s are gratefully served with a new take of LeBlanc's big secular hit "Falling." Gentle, thoughtful and deeply romantic, it's no wonder this love song has stood the test of time. However, standing alongside all these mammoth staples are the two new tracks: "Unchained" and "Hope." They are by no means ropey but alongside LeBlanc's signature songs, they pale in comparison. On the whole, "Anthology" is a relaxing, soothing and mostly worshipful. This disc is perfect for those who like to sing to God along with LeBlanc in the quiet hours of one's morning devotions.