Reviewed by Tom Lennie
This venture sees Chris Eaton and John Hartley (and, on some tracks, Gareth Robinson) pick 13 from Charles Wesley's abundance of classic hymns, completely rewrite the melodies, while getting a bunch of diverse Christian musicians to perform the ageless lyrics in contemporary musical styles. The aim is to show that "while 250 years have passed since Wesley's songs were first shared, they remain as powerful as ever today". There's certainly a great line-up of varied and talented artists, including former Tree63 frontman John Ellis, Brian (and on another track Jenn) Johnson, worship pastors at Bethel Church, Redding, California; Jesus Culture's songsters, Chris Quilala and Kim Walker-Smith and Brenton Brown. As has been well-proved, the Methodist writer's theology throughout is thoroughly orthodox, and his poetic lines both beautiful and ponderous. While I was previously aware of a number of these hymns, it shouldn't have surprised me that I would be unfamiliar with others - after all, the guy left a legacy of some 6,000 of them! There's some worthy inclusions, among my favourites being Quilala's "Jesus, The Name High Over All", Aaron Keyes', "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today" and Leigh Nash's "Praise The Lord Who Reigns Above". Standout, to my ears; definitely most anthemic/upbeat, is Tim Hughes and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives", with new poignant chorus. It's hard to say that these new versions are better than Wesley's originals, but they do offer something fresh, and that's to be welcomed. They also bring to light some ancient songs that have been largely overlooked by the Church. It's a pity that most artists here have adopted a pop rock format for their chosen pieces, however, other styles, including simple acoustic, might also have been gainfully employed on some of these 13 great lyrics. For great lyrics they are, and, all in all, these modern makeovers do them justice.
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When it comes to fathers of the modern worship movement, some of them are way older than you’d think. Take Charles Wesley: prolific, profound and as powerful today as ever. Love Divine is a new compilation that unites this great father of worship with some of his descendants.
Tim Hughes, Leigh Nash, Brian Johnson, Aaron Keyes, Chris McClarney and others unite to put new tunes to some of Wesley’s greatest hymns. From I Know My Redeemer Lives to O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Love Divine shows that while a quarter century may have passed since Wesley’s songs were first shared, they remain as powerful as ever today.