Reviewed by Tony Cummings
First, a bit of history. When they were an offshoot of California's Calvary Chapel Maranatha! Music could make a claim to being the founding fathers of the whole modern worship movement. Their 'Praise' series of albums (which went on for an extraordinary 21 volumes) not only brought the church-going public contemporary sounding recordings of songs written for the purpose of worshipping God but as publisher of most of those songs were the primary source for new worship material. However, down the years things changed. Other important sources of worship songs (including America's Integrity Music, Britain's Thankyou Music and Australia's Hillsong Music) effectively broke Maranatha's near monopoly and this, coupled with the label/publisher being sold to Word Records, meant that in recent years Maranatha! have been just one more company releasing recordings of their own copyrights and cover versions of other songs. However, after languishing for a number of years as a minor Word label, Maranatha! Music have come bouncing back to enjoy massive sales with their 'Top 25' and 'Top 50' series. The focal point for these releases has been the regular lists put out by the copyright licensing organisation CCLI which give an indicator of the most popular modern worship songs currently circulating around America's churches. In their 'Top 25 Gospel' series Maranatha! have licensed the original source recordings from the big black gospel companies. But for the modern worship albums they've simply got one of their in-house producers to record covers of the worship hits. So here you have producer Dave Archuletta (whoever he is) putting together versions of songs originally written/recorded by Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Israel Houghton, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Jeremy Riddle, Michael Gungor and dozens more. The versions are reasonable enough with adequate (if unnamed) lead singers and arrangements which are professional replications of the originals though trying to listen to many of these 50 tracks at one sitting is almost bound to bring words like "dull" and "routine" to mind despite the adoration and passion expressed in many of the lyrics. But then, most people would just select their favourite songs. If you're happy with rather faceless worship music you will want to check this one out.
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