Reviewed by Steven Bridge
Michael Sweet has a voice with a range of about three and a half octaves. Not many people know that! So say Wikipedia! Here Sweet offers re-workings of old hymns, a rather surprising concept from the Stryper frontman, who has not released a solo record since 2001. Michael says categorically, "Whether this record sells 5,000 or 100,000 copies, what it's about for me is that the songs encourage people and draw them closer to God." He adds, "If that is accomplished, then I will be the happiest man alive." I remember Phil Keaggy talking about the industry intrusiveness into the making of his 2002 'Hymnsongs' instrumental version of hymns. The result was a disappointment. The artist's creativity was stifled. It would appear that with Sweet working with long-time friend Kenny Lewis as co-producer the artistic purity of 'Him' has been protected. So although I believe we should mind the quantity, let's feel the quality. I like this album. Michael has been leading worship in church since the year 2000 and stresses the importance of worship in the liner notes and on his website (www.MichaelSweet.com). Sweet explains that while all the songs on 'Him' represent timeless standards of the Christian faith, most of them have been completely rewritten musically and melodically. "I was deeply moved by so many of the old hymns' lyrics, but I wasn't really moved by the music or the melodies," he elaborates. "I thought it would be cool to write new music to these songs that already have such amazingly powerful words." With fresh versions of classic hymns such as "Every Hour (Oh, How I Need You)", "Gilead" or, to give it it's old title, "There Is A Balm In Gilead" (answers on a postcard as to what that means), "Take My Life" and "Surrender" ("All To Jesus I Surrender"). Johnny Cash's masterful, Masterful legacy in the 2004 'My Mother's Hymn Book' is a hard act to follow in this type of thing. But for me, Michael Sweet produces worthy adaptations from the Hymnal he got hold of. And as Sweet highlights on his website homepage, "I've learned that nothing is as fulfilling as worshipping the Lord. When you worship God, it's not about you, it's about him." 'Him' has 11 songs (with the bonus "Prayer" through his website) about God with new tunes. And they do, I believe, glorify him.
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