When Morning Gilds The Skies, by Joni Eareckson Tada, John MacArthur, Robert & Bobbie Wlgemuth, and The Master’s Chorale
The fourth cd of a series , the middle two of which, as they deal with Christmas and Easter songs, are not on my radar to review, this album seems like it is made up of the leftover tracks that weren’t included in the first three albums. Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of excellent and worthwhile hymns out there, and as someone who greatly enjoys listening to and commenting on hymns from time to time , I have no problem listening to another album from a group that did so well the first time around. That said, the bar for expectations was set far higher for this album than it was for the first, when I did not realize how good the singers were. It should be noted as well that this cd accompanies a book of the same title . A track-by-track review follows:
Lead On, O King Eternal: A rousing and sentimental song with lovely harmonies opens this album, and lets the listener know that even if this hymn may not be familiar to all listeners, it is sung with the skill the group has shown before.
My Jesus, I Love Thee: This is another sentimental song, although this one is definitely more sappy than most of the other similarly sentimental songs sung, which suffers a bit because the female solo part stands out a bit too much from the harmony.
How Firm A Foundation: This song of rousing confidence in God has, appropriately enough, the excellent tenor of John MacArthur leading the way. It is interesting how someone’s worth as a Christian thinker can be increased by a lovely singing voice that allows them to make their point in another medium besides writing or preaching.
Amazing Grace: This familiar song from former slave trader and general ne’er-do-well John Newton is sung with a great degree of stateliness here. There are no gospel inflections or flourishes to be found here, and no reason why anyone should expect them from the previous songs sung by this group.
When Morning Gilds The Skies: A beautiful, if somewhat obscure, song, the harmonies between the male and female vocals are quite touching here, making this a somewhat unexpectedly affecting song that ends in some truly amazing chords.
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah: The music to this hymn sounds a bit too much like “Deck The Halls” for my taste, but the music is sufficiently perky to be worthwhile for even a children’s chorale.
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling: This is a song that could easily have ended up sounding terribly sappy but is redeemed by some excellent harmonies as well as some stellar music with strong brass instruments that keep the song sounding like a rousing march.
More Love To Thee, O Christ: This song features a bit too much solo female singing, which makes it sound a bit dull when compared to most of the other hymns on this cd. It is a shame that the group didn’t stick to what they do best, and that is sing together in close and lovely harmonies.
All The Way My Savior Leads Me: This unfamiliar song is sung with a degree of sweetness that makes it a touching one, the sort of hymn that would likely be sung by some of the female vocalists of my acquaintance who enjoy singing soprano solos.
Holy, Holy, Holy!: For a dodgy Trinitarian hymn, this hymn is sung with a surprising degree of sweetness. Alas, its content greatly detracts from its worth.
When He Cometh, When He Cometh: This song about Jesus’ coming not only manages to avoid controversy over issues of prophecy, but with a children’s chorale, it manages to sound particularly sweet and lovely.
He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought!: The album closes on a note of confidence and faith, and features excellent harmonies and a somewhat old fashioned setting. If you like most of the music from the group so far, though, this one will likely be quite alright.
Although some of the lyrical material of these songs veers into the skit on South Park where Cartwright made Christian songs out of love songs sung instead to Jesus Christ, and although one of the hymns is inappropriate because of its content, the album is almost as enjoyable as the first one of the series, which is to say that there is a lot of material here worth exploring for one’s own local congregational choir if one is so inclined.
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