In my opinion the first professional-sounding praise album was Passion’s début Our Soul’s Desire released some two decades ago. It moved the genre from blurry folkish songs to a fresh, spacious, clear soundscape where drums were crisp, keys were atmospheric and the guitars rang.
That sound still marks out the Passion brand. The world has not only caught up, but adopted their style, so that this sound is now all-pervasive.
One of the American Church’s more inspiring and boundary-pushing musicians, David Crowder, features on this, the collective’s 22nd record. His line: “I could sing a song a thousand miles long / But it won’t compare” is more creative than most of the lyrics here, but while his banjo shredding is appreciated, a lot of his work on [itals]Follow You Anywhere[end itals] is sadly quite generic. Other worship leaders include Melodie Malone and BellarivefrontmanSean Curran. Passion stalwart Kristian Stanfill features heavily, and he can write a decent song but ‘More to come’ is dragged out mercilessly. Ultimately, these ten tracks mash together and little stands out.
If you are in the middle of a crowd at Passion – an annual student gathering in the US which draws 40,000 delegates – this mildly anthemic stadium soft-rock must be highly emotional, and Stanfill’s ‘Behold the Lamb’ is stirring stuff. But back in Blighty, in your car, kitchen or lounge, the album’s constant string of lyrical extremes (“Wherever You lead me /Whatever it costs me”) feels one-dimensional, escapist and well short of authenticity.
In fact, if you listed the typical faults of the genre, you’d find most of them here in no time.
Derek Walker is an Anglican lay minister, kitchen designer and writer.