|Men On A Mission | Posted February 26, 2013
Calling NewSong industry veterans feels like an understatement. With 20 No. 1 songs, the founders of the WinterJam Tour have been around the block and back. During the group's tenure of more than 30 years, the lineup has seen many changes. Much like newsboys, members of NewSong have come and gone, and some have even come back again. What hasn't changed is NewSong's mission of evangelism, and music is still the vehicle they use to introduce God to those who might not know Him.
Fittingly, Swallow the Ocean begins with NewSong carrying out that mission, announcing God with energy and crunchy guitars on the upbeat "All We Need." Matt Butler sings from the perspective of a redeemed follower of Christ, proclaiming, "Now I live to tell of His amazing grace / Anybody out there searching / Jesus / Jesus is all we need."
The baton is passed to Russ Lee for the second track, "Choose to Love," which highlights personal choice. We can either erect walls or open our hearts to forgiveness and grace. Lee asks,"What if we stood with hearts wide open, ready to start again? / What if we let God's grace take over and learn to forgive and forget? / What if we choose to love?"
Butler returns to the microphone for title cut and lead single, "Swallow the Ocean (Coming Alive)." Drawing inspiration from the century-old hymn, "The Love of God," NewSong brings vigor and vitality to their performance as they sing about life in Christ. The track is a big, bold, unabashed testament to God's infinite love.
"Never Be Another" begins as an intimate tune with a pretty piano part accompanying Lee's moody vocal. But as the song progresses, the tune blossoms into a full-blown, whole-band worship anthem exalting God's supreme love, declaring "there will never be another One like You."
Billy Goodwin takes a turn at lead vocals with "In Jesus' Name," which is both a personal resolution to live for Jesus as well as an evangelistic promise to herald Christ the King to the world.
Matt Butler proves his versatility by answering his passionate performance of "Swallow the Ocean" with the tender "Who Loved You First." He encourages the listener to find comfort and forgiveness by capitulating to Christ: "Raise up your flag, lay your guard down / He'll shatter the walls that have surrounded you / You know you'll never have to thirst. / Surrender to the One who loved you first."
For a simple, straight ahead worship track, "Every Victory" delivers a powerful punch that derives its strength in equal parts from Russ Lee's soulful vocal delivery and the band's vibrant performance. NewSong recorded much of this album together in one room, and the resultant unity is obvious on this tune.
The uncomplicated, positive praise message continues with "Our Reward," which states, "All we want is more of You, Jesus / All we want is more of You, Jesus / You will be our reward and we won't stop / No we won't stop ‘til we find what we're looking for."
Crunchy, amped-up guitars return for "As It Is In Heaven" which desires the praises in Heaven to be found as abundantly on earth, and seeks to establish that kind of worship in the present: "As it is in Heaven, let it be on earth / Let every heart that's present give you the praise you deserve."
One of the most compelling tracks on the record is "Could It Be." Musically, it has a gritty, singer/songwriter feel supported by an appealing guitar riff. Inspired by Matthew 25 and NewSong's mission work in El Salvador, the lyrics are a call to service as Russ Lee asks, "Could it be / When we stand there face to face, I'll finally see / I passed You every day out on the street / Yeah, it was You there reaching out to me / Could the greatest really be the least of these?" The song reminds us that God is ever-present with those in need, and when we turn away from lending a hand, we are turning away from Him.
Billy Goodwin and NewSong bring the set to a close with the popular Getty-penned "In Christ Alone." While their effort may not supplant previous recordings of the song, NewSong brings an earnest, communal effort that resonates as it reveals the group's Christ-centered focus.
With Swallow the Ocean, NewSong offers up a solid set of songs that honor and glorify God in a musically relevant context. While the album may not break new ground, it should find great favor among their loyal following. The message is consistently positive, passionate, and focused on sharing God's love with the world.
Songwriting duties and vocals are shared within the seven-member group. With no single personality or vision predominant, the collaborative nature of the group serves as one of its strengths. The group may have changed, but the mission has remained.
"I don't want to leave any doubt of whose I am or what I'm about" sings NewSong in "In Jesus' Name." With Swallow the Ocean, the group has left no doubt that they belong to God and that their purpose is to serve Him and spread His message. Sing on, brothers!
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