Robin Mark’s "Ultimate Collection” Album Review

Timothy YapMay 06, 2013 12:44 PM EDT


God is never risk adverse; if He were, He would not have sent His Son amongst us to be bullied, ridiculed, abused and crucified.  And to be like God, we need to be risk takers.  This is what Integrity Music has taught us. Over the years, Integrity Music did not just signed to their roaster high profile artists but they always have the keening eye to scout for relatively unknown artists.  Moreover, they have had never restricted their pool of talents to North America.  Rather, they have sought to the ends of the earth for potentials to set the kingdom of God on fire globally. In the mid-nineties, Integrity Music went all the way south to a continent called Australia to the suburban estate of Castle Hills. Never despising the fact that the Hillsong church was relatively unknown and their worship pastor Darlene Zschech was a woman (at that time Integrity never had a female worship leader), they dive in the deep end and released a little album called "Shout to the Lord." The title cut "Shout to the Lord" not only is still sung by millions every Sunday years after its release Zschech paved the way for women to lead worship.  Integrity Music did the same with Robin Mark.  Prior to signing with Integrity Music, Mark was just a local worship leader in his hometown of Belfast, Ireland. But Integrity Music saw the world singing the oeuvre of this Irish leader way before Mark was signed to sing a singular note for the imprint.

"Revival in Belfast," Mark's debut for Integrity Music, cuts through all lettuces of convention in 1999. Taking his Celtic heritage and his home church band into the recording, "Revival in Belfast" was a breath of fresh air.  Who would have thought uillean pipes, the accordion and even a whistle could exist conterminously with the traditional flare of keys, guitars and base in a worship song?  As a result, the album went on to sell so well that five years after its release, it was still on the Billboard Christian top 40 chart.  On "Ultimate Collection," five out of the thirteen tracks come from "Revival in Belfast."  The best of which are "Jesus All for Jesus," "Days of Elijah and "Revival." "Days of Elijah" remains one of Mark's most recognisable songs.  Chronicling God's mighty works across the sweep of redemptive history from the days of Moses, David, Elijah, Ezekiel and Jesus, this is Biblical theology set to an infectious groove.  "Revival," though it clocks in at a tad longer than ten minutes, does not even feel that long.  This is an example of sublime song writing where Mark shows us how to build suspense, expectation and drama into this gorgeous worship staple.  "Jesus All for Jesus," on the other hand, finds Mark just as ease in the ballad territory on what is a simple but affective worship piece of surrender to Christ.

Following "Revival in Belfast" comes 2001's "Come Heal This Land" recorded in Ireland's "spiritual" hub Armagh.  From "Come Heal This Land" comes the traditional hymn-like Not By Might" and the flute-led ballad "Everything Cries Holy."  Surprising though is that "Take Us to the River" - a fervent cry for revival in Mark's homeland Ireland - is not included here.  In an effort to replicate the success of the first installment, "Revival in Belfast II" was released in 2004.  Again a top 40 Billboard Christian album, "Revival in Belfast II" gives us one of Mark's most heartfelt ballads.  "The Wonder of the Cross" is a descriptive re-telling of the resurrection morning with a dramatic build up that finds the congregation on fire clapping with thunderous praise for the resurrected Christ.  Included here from 2007's "East of the River" is Mark's co-write with Paul Baloche "Highly Exalted." With some delightful use of the flute over a flowing 90s-styled worship template, "Highly Exalted" is a Christ centered song where the suffering and the exaltation of Christ are intricately explored.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the historic Ulster Revival is 2009's "Year of Grace." Never just satisfied with what God has done in the past, "One Day" looks forward to the day when revival will not only be restricted to a corner of Europe but to the whole world.  Fast forward to 2013, "Ultimate Collection," succinctly captures some of these highlights spanning across Mark's tenure with Integrity Music.  Two points of criticism though:  first, like all the ultimate sets released by Integrity Music there are no unreleased or new tracks.  Obviously this will disappoint the ardent fan who has all of Mark's recordings.  Second, thirteen tracks are just too few; many of Mark's albums are under represented here.  Nevertheless, this disc is a testament of gratitude towards Integrity Music for taking a chance with this Irish worship leader and taking his songs to reach the ends of the earth.  And indeed the music of Mark has reached places once closed to the Gospel-last checked, "Days of Elijah" is now available in as many languages as Arabic, Chinese and Korean.  So praise be to God for risk takers! 



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