One of the Church's greatest songwriters has done it again. Here's my review of Chris Tomlin's latest record entitled Burning Lights.
Burning Lights Review
The album is a mix of both new and older songs. When I say older, I only mean just a few years old. Some of these songs have already been on previously recorded albums from the Passion conferences.
How I Do Reviews
To better understand the way I review music, you might want to read about my geeky music review method that I came up with when assessing music. That will make this review a little easier to understand. Scores are given for each song on a 0 - 5 scale - 0 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest.
For this album I'm going to do a lengthy song by song review. If you want to skip this part and see the album's total grade, then by all means scroll to the bottom...
Awake My Soul - 3.54
I think they chose the first song wisely, opening up the album with a strong anthemic song sets the tone for the rest of record. This one scores high on all my factor points, especially the accessibility factor. I was drawn in to the song right away. It also scored relatively high on the future factor scale with the Lecrae part. When a song has both a high AF and FF it's going to a good one.
AF - 4 PQF - 3 FF - 3.5 TF - 4 CF - 3.75 LF - 3
Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) - 3.41
This one is up there as one of the best on the album. It's the album's first single for obvious reasons. With an incredibly catchy and powerful chorus, it has a fresh lyrical way of describing the wonders of God's power towards those who believe. This scores high on the Theology Factor with the lyrics simply because they clearly adorn who God is.
The only thing that hurts it, in my opinion, is the bridge. My first impression was that it dropped in energy and wasn't as accessible as the chorus, which ultimately hurts the composition factor of the song (CF). It may be that because the chorus is so good, it's harder to give it a worthy bridge. It scored so well in the other categories however, that it still gets a strong rating.
AF - 3.75 PQF - 3.25 FF - 3.75 TF - 4.25 CF - 2.25 LF - 3.25
Lay Me Down - 2.08
This song has great energy from the start, but it didn't sweep me off my feet. Some of the lyrics were funny to me, like "hand on my heart" in the chorus. I think the musical feel of the song has a fun, happy element to it, but overall the lyrics didn't impress me too much, giving it a lower score in the lyric factor.
AF - 3 PQF - 3 FF - 2 TF - 2.75 CF - 3 LF - 1.75
God's Great Dance Floor - 3.54
I really, really like this one. It opens up so nicely with that Fender Rhodes, giving it a great pop feel. This song has a very high AF which is so important for songs to stick. Right away it grabs you musically and it's singable. Not sure if I would do it on a Sunday morning, but personally I've repeated this several times in the car and at home. The choruses are catchy; and how about that random trumpet!? That makes the FF go up...
AF - 3.75 PQF - 3 FF - 4 TF - 3 CF - 4 LF - 3.5
White Flag - 3.91
This one might be the best song for congregational use in praise and worship. It scored high in all areas. One notable thing is how the lyrics are both fresh and meaningful. How many "Surrender" songs are out there? Lots. Even I wrote one.
This one stands out with a really high future factor due to the freshness of the lyrics and the musical choices. No clichés. No tired melodies. This is a fantastic song.
AF - 4 PQF - 3.75 FF - 4.25 TF - 3.75 CF - 3.75 LF - 4
Crown Him (Majesty) - 3.31
I love hymns. Tomlin has always done a great job rearranging old hymns with a new refrain or bridge. This one scores high on the theology factor scale because, like I mentioned above, it clearly lifts up and extolls the character of God. That's one reason people are doing hymns again; they're theologically grounded.
I especially liked the bridge where it really takes off. My first impression was that the pace was a little slow for me, but after hearing the new chorus I understood the thinking behind the choice of tempo. This is a strong one.
AF - 3 PQF - 3 FF - 3.4 TF - 4 CF - 3.5 LF - 3
Jesus, Son of God - 3.35
This song took me back to the old passion days. It reminds me of that classic passion sound; highly accessible and perfect for church congregations - especially in the chorus.
The verses are my favorite though. They have a brilliant turnaround with the lyric, "A love like this the world has never known..." - making it score high on the lyrical factor, and composition factor because it ties to the chorus so nicely. I also enjoyed hearing Christy again. She's got a distinctive voice, and has always blended so nicely with Chris. Those kind of production choices improve the PQF (production quality factor).
AF - 3.5 PQF - 3.5 FF - 3.15 TF - 3.25 CF - 3.5 LF - 3.25
Sovereign - 3.08
Some songs are more declarative than others. When choosing songs for corporate worship, I usually lean more towards songs that speak more about God than about me. I think declaring who God is over us is paramount in our worship. Sovereign does this well.
The one line that I would have tweaked however, would be "God whatever comes my way I will trust You." I believe that we can sing that in faith, but I would've simply have said "help me trust you". Still a great song though!
AF - 3.25 PQF - 3 FF - 2.75 TF - 3.5 CF - 3 LF - 3
Countless Wonders - 2.92
This one didn't grab me at first, but it's beginning to grow on me. I would give this a high production quality factor for some of the choices with instrumentation, especially in the chorus. But I can see why they listed this one deeper in the album. Not bad, but not great either.
AF - 2.5 PQF - 3.75 FF - 2.55 TF - 3 CF - 2.75 LF - 3
Thank You God for Saving Me - 3.13
This was an enjoyable track. I think Chris is best when keeping it simple. This is sweet, accessible, and feels good - giving it a high AF. The chorus's melody and chord progression have been done several times in modern worship, but it's still great. There's a reason certain progressions and melodies have been done hundreds of times. I also think the "thank you" idea could be sung a lot more in our songs. That seems pretty biblical! :-) Nice to hear Phil Wickham as well.
AF - 3.75 PQF - 3.75 FF - 2.55 TF - 3 CF - 2.75 LF - 3
Shepherd Boy - 2.25
This one quite frankly confused me. Perhaps I'm just a little more dense, but I'm having a hard time grasping the big idea of this song. Who is the shepherd boy? Is this a Christmas song? And where does "Love is fire" come into play with shepherds casting their crowns and flying like birds in front of burning lights?
I don't know. This one is my least favorite. Production is great, but that's to be expected on a professional recording like this. Maybe there's a story behind this song and I just don't know it.
AF - 2 PQF - 3.5 FF - 3 TF - 1 CF - 2 LF - 2
This is a great record with much to offer the church. I would say this is definitely his best album so far. My personal favorites are Awake My Soul, God's Great Dance Floor, and White Flag. For the gatherings at our church, we may do Awake My Soul, White Flag, Crown Him, and Jesus Son of God.
Chris Tomlin is a gift to the body of Christ, and an inspiration to so many songwriters and worship leaders. I'm confident that this particular record will greatly serve churches and believers throughout the world. I pray God's richest blessings on Chris as he gears up for his Burning Lights Tour with Kari Jobe and Louie Giglio. I know that much fruit will continue to come from his ministry!
Again, my grading score is based on a few factors that I consider, and is graded on a scale from 0 to 5 - Zero being terrible, and five being great. Very rarely do I find a perfect five.
Taking the average of each song, the album gets a strong score of 3.13.
Obviously, this is all very subjective. This review is simply my opinion. I aim to be honest and God honoring whenever I do reviews. I haven't done a lot here at the blog, but I do plan to do more so stay tuned.
If you disagree with anything I say please feel free to leave a comment and tell me why. I'm always eager to learn something and hear other perspectives!