My Thoughts on a Great Worship Album- “We Proclaim” by Ekklesia Music
I’m a music lover, not a music critic. So when I want to review an album it is because I like it and want others to as well. Such is the case with We Proclaim by Ekklesia Music. It is a production of the music that Joshua Spacht has written and arranged for Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida.
This album is a journey. It starts and ends in specific places and is a tour de force of gospel contemplation. Profound theology put into interesting phrasing sung by gifted voices backed by some of the most creative orchestration and arrangements I’ve ever heard… that is the best way I can describe it. The album moves from a defined beginning to a reflective end. I like listening to it from start to finish. You don’t want to “shuffle” the order. If you love the gospel and good music, this record will live in your CD player and be repeated in your iTunes.
Here is what I enjoy about the individual tracks.
1. In the Beginning
The word “epic” has been overused in recent years, but it is the right word for this track. Wow, just wow! If you want to put John 1:1-5 to music it needs to be big. And this song (actually anthem) is huge. Dramatic strings flow seamlessly with aggressive percussion to create what feels like a soundtrack to the Creation event. The vocals have such a full range of dynamics that the choir’s voices sound like they are floating on a cinematic soundtrack. The drums at 3:33, chased by the strings are awesome. And the closing seconds are the way a piece like this is supposed to end.
2. A Mighty Fortress
I’m not always a fan of changing the melody of a familiar song. But this one works. The original music is like a march, but this arrangement is more of a celebration. Josh Spacht’s voice is among my favorites. And it really cooks on this track. The new melody makes you think freshly about the words. Got to love the hammer dulcimer too. I think Martin Luther would like this rendition.
3. Called by Your Name
By the time you get to this song, you wonder if you are listening to the same album. But that is what makes the project so enjoyable. It defies genre assignment. These lyrics are drenched with gospel truth beautifully sung by Kristie and Jerry Wragg (father-in law and daughter-in-law). This song has really tight transitions. Excellent bass and drum rhythm flow. Lots of movement in this tune between full orchestration, breaks with vocals and loops, and parentheses with an acoustic guitar floor. I have heard Jerry sing for years. He is as good as I’ve heard him on this song.
4. Behold the Lamb
I don’t know where to start on this one. This song is the Everest of the album to me. I have loved this song since the first time I heard it on an old PDI album. Mark Altrogge wrote a classic for my soul in this song. And Josh has taken a simple, sweet ballad and turned it into a symphony worthy of Carnegie Hall. First thing you notice is that it is not in a normal time signature. Josh took a 4/4 song and put it into 7/8 time with minimal change to the melody. Genius! The piano works as a trellis around which a masterpiece grows. Everything about this song works: movie-score strings, intense choir pushes, a crunching phat electric guitar, accenting chimes, Josh’s vocal and Mark’s lyrics make your imagination stare at the cross. My iTunes account tells me that this song is in my top 5. Enough said.
5. Sweet Sacrifice
Putting this song after Behold the Lamb is perfect. If ever a song were sung perfectly, Meghan Baird does so here. Every time I hear this track, I find that the simplicity of it launches me into the complexity of the hypostatic union (that Jesus is both God and man). And the melody is a soothing application of gospel truth to my heart. Great bass and piano work. Turn the lights down, get a cup of tea, close your eyes and let Meghan take you to the cross. The line, “Darkest hour in all of time as the angels watch you die” gives me chills every time. Beautiful song, deep lyrics, compelling melody.
6. Of the Father, To the World
It is no secret to anyone that knows me that John Martin is one of my favorite singers. So having his voice weave this complex melody into a simple sound is really cool. This song grows from an acorn to an oak in five and a half minutes. It is a giant crescendo, both lyrically and musically, with a great key change. The chorus/refrain is catchy and will have you humming it for days. I love the break with just John and the choir. Rich theology couched in an invitation to worship.
7. We Proclaim
Again, excellent strings! And the string and brass combination in the intro lets you know something big is coming. Jessica Fleming (daughter of Jerry Wragg) nails this difficult vocal. There are so many interesting things happening in the background it will take you a lot of trips through it to appreciate them all. The background choral vocals really make this track move. And yes, it has a bit of a Broadway musical ending.
8. Titus 2:11-13
Scripture put to music, is there a better combination? Two great voices, Josh and Meghan, combine to make this so irresistibly beautiful. I heard this song as a chorus in Josh’s church years ago and instantly wanted the music. He wrote the music to nicely match the meaning of the text of Titus 2:11-13. Dramatic orchestral swells and soft breaks serve to put this text of Scripture securely in your memory. I love this song. It serves kind of like the credits at the end of the movie telling you what to do with what you just heard. This would be a great chorus for your church to sing. [Josh, please put more Scripture to music!]