Its hard to review an album this good without sounding over-enthusiastic. As an occasional visitor to Rhema Bible Church in Johannesburg, I have always been impressed by the well organised and professional manner in which their band leads praise and worship. There are certain songs that just dont sound the same without a brass section, such as Ancient of Days.
This album doesnt have the cosy, intimate Vineyard sound, even though there are moments of delicious intimate worship. Its much more like the Hillsongs sound, but yet its unmistakably African, upbeat and anointed. Praise Africa is an excellent title for this album series, and it embodies the excellent greatness of the vision that God has given to the folks at Rhema in Johanensburg.
The introduction begins with a reading of Psalm 67: 3-7 by Victor Masondo, who was part of the pioneering, prophetic group Friends First during the dark days of Apartheid. It launches immediately into Praise Africa, complete with big African drums, ululating women, and guitar playing born of this continent. The mood soars with the flute playing, and expands with jazzy strains of the brass section, providing a tapestry of African sounds. It epitomises the vision of an awakened church in the post-Apartheid era: You are the salt of the earth ... Africa praising God, Africa back to God!
I found Great is the Lord to be a bit clichéd and shallow, but it probably sounds better in a live worship setting than as a recording. The next song also starts off a bit too rose-coloured, with the drums a bit too dominant, but once the brass section kicks in, the worship mood grows, and by the end of the song I was back into worship mode. I Love You has a smooth dreamy quality about it, like the end of a Disney movie. It breaks into delicious spontaneous singing, which should have been allowed to linger, but fades too soon. The next song lingers on in a dreamy mood, but doesnt seem to go anywhere.
Jesus Youre King picks up the journey towards the throne room of God, and one gets a real feeling of people wanting to drawn near and touch the Lord. It includes some more extended spontaneous worship and prayer.
The second part begins with the masterful Under the Shadow, which is powerful, anointed and supremely confident of the love and mercy of God. It is probably the best song on the whole album because of its confident simplicity. The party really gets going with Let Us Rejoice, which has the joyous upbeat sound that gets the entire auditorium jiving. You have to be dead to keep still during this song! And the fun doesn't stop there: In the Morning Hour is another jubilant song that gets the whole congregation involved. The recording doesnt sound as exciting as when it is played live, but you can always crank up the volume a bit more.
Glorious Lord refocuses on worshiping the Lord, and Come Worship has a reverent, intimate quality that is as smooth as swiss chocolate. The arrangement includes some beautiful flute playing that adds to the sense of adoration and love. The words are sung with the tenderness of a holy kiss. In comparison, Lord of Lords sounds a bit average, but it is a wonderfully devotional song that you'll probably end up singing through the day.
The album ends with the climactic Forever ... which is has a few simple words that are sung over and over, building on each previous time, like climbing steps up to the very throne of God. It holds out the promise of what heaven will be like, spending eternity adoring the Lamb that was slain.
I recently had the opportunity of seeing the video, and listening to the CD on a really good sound system, and I was horrified. The production of the entire album was done in 5 weeks, and it shows. The live sound is flat, and would have benefitted by some extra overdubs and remixing. The video is so busy that it is completely confusing. Many of the camera shots are badly composed (such as the headless sax player or the legless lead vocalist singing in the dark), but everything is much too busy. At one point there are gumboot dancers and aerobics dancers doing their thing at the same time, and the picture cuts between them and 3 other views so quickly as to be dizzying. The strobe light doesnt help either. There is just too much happening at once, and the overall effect is to divert ones attention in five competing directions, instead of being able to focus on what is going on. Small wonder that some of the singers look out of breath at times. Rather buy the CD, unless you like rollercoaster videos.
The views expressed are the personal, subjective opinions of the reviewer. If you disagree with a review, write us another review, and we will publish it as well.
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