In The Company of Angels: The World Will Sing is the soon-to-be-released latest album from my favorite musical group, Caedmon’s Call. It’s a follow-up to their previous release In The Company of Angels, which was one of the best “worship albums” when the whole worship album craze hit a few years ago. (Has it ever really died down?) While the album doesn’t release until March 7th, Caedmon’s is offering a free copy of the pre-release album to worship pastors who are willing to give them some feedback on how the music might be usable for congregational singing. Happily, I am the worship leader at Noelridge, so I requested and received my free copy last week and have been listening to it quite a bit since then. I’ll go ahead and post my thoughts here.
First, let me review it just as an album. The 11 tracks are dominated by Cliff Young’s vocals (seven tracks), aided by Andy Osenga and Danielle Young on two tracks each. The songs are primarily new material, but there are three or so that are new settings of old hymns. All in all, it’s pretty solid, though I don’t think it quite measures up to the original ITCOA. I’ll have to listen through a few more times before I can give a definitive answer there. It might be a toss-up.
Now, about the congregational singing aspect of these songs. Noelridge is a small church. Our worship team is small, we don’t have a lot of instruments, we’re not a group full of pros. Don’t get me wrong, we have some good people, with real musical talent, but we’re never gonna sound like Caedmon’s or Casting Crowns or Third Day or the David Crowder Band. It just ain’t gonna happen. As a result, for songs to be effective for congregational singing, they need to be fairly simple and repetitive musically, and not too rhythmically complex. Lots of syncopation or ad-lib material will blow us out of the water.
Given those constraints, here’s my evaluation of the usability of the songs on the album for congregational singing.
Great And Mighty – Good stuff, but really too much of a solo-type song for congregational singing. Too syncopated.
Draw Me Nearer – This one I might use here sometime soon. This is a strong tune, a very nice update to the old hymn.
Sing His Love – It’s an OK song, pretty simple lyrically, maybe too simple. Definitely too syncopated and rhythmic for us to be able to manage. I guess I’m not a big fan of this song. I just don’t like it that much.
Rest Upon Us – Here we get Danielle for a song. This is a pretty song, but the verses are far too ad-lib to be workable for congregational singing.
The Story – Here we get our first taste of Andy O. I really like this song. If it doesn’t get some serious radio play time then there’s something wrong with the folks that write the playlists. But this is really a radio song, not a congregational Sunday morning song.
The Fountain – Back to Cliff for this one. A nice song, but again, too syncopated and complicated for us to be able to manage it congregationally.
Be Merciful To Me – Danielle this time. This one has potential as a congregational number. It’s simple, fairly repetitive, and it has a good message. I’ll have to give it a shot.
I Surrender All – Cliff again. This is a re-working of the classic hymn. I really like the harmonic progression in the verses, though the melody line may be so close to the original as to be a bit confusing. The chorus is pretty good, though it goes pretty high, which would make it hard for a congregation to sing. This would be on my maybe list…
We Give Thanks – Andy O again. I like this song, I might try to sing along with it if I hear it on the radio. But I don’t think it’s singable for a congregation.
Fellowship – This one I really like. Good lyrics, and I think the song is singable. I will have to give this one a try.
Mercy of my God – I really like the message in this one, I fear that it’s gonna be too tough for my congregation. I might have to try, though, since I like the message so much.
So that’s my roundup of the album. One final note, the CD shipped with just a simple liner giving the song listing. It would’ve been nice to know who wrote the lyrics and music for each song. Not that it affects my opinions on the songs any, but as a fan I’m curious to know whose hand is in all this stuff. I guess I’ll have to wait and buy the official version in March.