Release Date: October 9th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Lincoln Brewster- Joy To The World (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
Worship artist Lincoln Brewster, signed to Integrity Music, has had a quiet two years since 2010’s Real Life. With previous singles “Today Is The Day”, “Love The Lord”, “Amazing”, “All To You” and “Let The Praises Ring”; as well as many well-known covers; 2012 is the year that Lincoln is back, and now sharing holiday festivities, with his take on some classical Christmas carols with a worship twist- “Sometimes Christmas music can slip by as festive, and what we’re singing about can be marginalized, so with Joy To The World, I wanted to try-as often as possible…to do arrangements that hadn’t been done before…capturing a new take. Being a worship pastor, it’s challenging to keep things fresh…”! A Christmas version of Lincoln’s hit single “Shout For Joy” also makes an appearance, alongside a cover of Chris Tomlin’s “Our God”, which is music to my ears, especially when this global hit is a medley and gives a December feel! Placing a modern worship slant on some of my personal favourite Christmas melodies, Lincoln has given the church plenty to sing about, with the musical arrangement of “Miraculum” is one of the most captivating, poignant, and memorable instrumental pieces since Michael W Smith’s 2011 album Glory! A few weeks ago, I would have said that Jason Gray is a no brainer for the Christmas Album of the Year, but now I’m not so sure. Lincoln Brewster’s Joy To The World is sure to give us all something to be joyous about, especially with KJ-52 rapping in the first single!
With a very distinct guitar sound, that has become Lincoln’s trademark signature; “Joy To the World” opens proceedings, and is an upbeat raucous celebratory anthem complete with a one minute guitar solo, as we praise along with Lincoln ‘…joy to the Lord, the Saviour reigns; let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, repeat the sounding joy…’! A perfect opener to a high energy album; this is segued into the rap/hip hop inspired track “Little Drummer Boy”, which is my favourite version after Jars of Clay. With the guitar once again at the forefront, as well as plenty of pulsating drums, and a very quick tempo to dance to, it seems that this track was made for the party, as we sing about Jesus, and that we should bring Him praise as He is our Saviour sent from heaven, to give us all a chance to be with Him and have a relationship. What better way to praise His name, than sing to the baby boy born in a manger? And it always brings a smile to my face when rappers sing with CCM/worship artists- it’s been done before with Britt Nicole & Lecrae, and Group 1 Crew & Chris August; and KJ-52 seamlessly fits into Lincoln’s unique worshipful rendition of this underrated carol, as he raps ‘…while He seems so sweet, we give up the glory to God because of the greatest gift of love that was wrapped in a manger, so we lift up ‘hosanna in the highest’, we sing of You…’, a declaration to which I cry out ‘Amen’!
As a nod my head and sing along to the music, with lyrics reminding us that our talents and gifts are given to us by God for a specific purpose; I also am in awe of the last minute of spontaneous worship, with hand claps and captivating guitar riffs; a perfect smooth transition into “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”, another track with plenty of guitar solos by Lincoln. One of my favourite Christmas carols, this version is as lively as any, and I can’t help but jump up and down as I listen to this bag of danceable material! Proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and that ‘…Christ is born in Bethlehem…’, this fan favourite carol is contemporised quite well, as I thank God for His Son, and cry out in praise, as the worship anthems carry on in the track list.
“Shout For Joy”, and “Our God” round out the top five. Though nor normally Christmas songs; both songs on this album are added with Christmas-y verses and refrains, to make these worship tunes fell more at home on a Christmas album, and also to showcase Lincoln’s worshipful heart. Starting with bells and a commanding synth, with electronic percussion loops; Lincoln proclaims that Jesus is the saving one, and even adds a Christmas verse, to get us into the holiday spirit- ‘…o night in Bethlehem, heaven came to man, born the Son of God, sing out the Lord has come, oh Emmanuel, now our God is here with us…’; as we realise that because God has come to earth on Christmas; we can have new life in Him! The backing vocals and the bridge also provide a platform for worship and soaking in the presence of God. “Our God” also is seemingly flawless, and even though it seems weird hearing a “O Come All Ye Faithful” refrain in the middle of the track, Lincoln makes this odd medley work, and turns an anthem of praise into a Christmas anthem of praise- this track is a highlight as I cry out ‘…our God is greater, our God is strong, God You are higher than any other…’, and marvel at how Lincoln can take these vibrant two tracks and giving them a new outlook!
“Miraculum” is ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest of this already awesome album; as Lincoln places his musical prowess into an instrumental medley for all to hear. I would actually advocate Lincoln releasing this song as a single to mainstream radio- it’s that good, that I think it would be a good thing, for exposure, for this orchestral and guitar mash-up to be heard in shopping centres and other public places! Incorporating instrumental versions of carols from ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Carol Of the Bells’ to create a stirring and classic masterpiece; this 6 minute arrangement is worthy, and probably guaranteed in my opinion, to be played in the orchestra, or somewhere else big! An example of honest worship, Lincoln has vulnerably shown his ease at playing the guitar and showing us the side of himself that we wouldn’t normally see, which I am sure will touch many lives. As in the press release; Lincoln poured his heart and soul into this smorgasbord of musical goodness, as ‘…I hope that ‘Miraculum’ will provide a musical setting that churches can grab onto and use in their own services…’; a song that is destined to bring big things for Lincoln in the future!
What can you really say to answer “Miraculum”? There are four songs after that epic magnum opus; and none of them compare, unfortunately. However when contrasted to tracks 1-5, they are on par. Maybe “Miraculum” should have been last; however this doesn’t detract that much from the meaning of tracks 7-10. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is a electric guitar ballad, as Lincoln creates a more modern version this well-known Christmas hymn. Adding a fresh refrain ‘…Emmanuel, our God is here with us…’; Lincoln isn’t afraid to change it up, shown by the countless guitar riffs and solos introduced in all of his tracks, which holds true for “Do You Hear What I Hear” as well, a big anthemic version that has a moving crescendo and yet another added refrain, which I absolutely love ‘…The King is born to us today…our souls to save…’. Singing questions to us about whether we have seen Jesus or not, this joyous song brings me hope to those listening, that perhaps they will all understand that Jesus is here, and living amongst us, and constantly drawing people to himself! What a fantastic notion!
“O Holy Night” is probably my most favourite Christmas carol ever, basically speaking out the gospel message, as we know in vivid description how Christ was born, and how the shepherds and wise men must have felt when they heard ‘…the angels voices, O night divine, O night, when Christ was born…’! A song about how we can all come to Jesus and ‘..fall on Your knees…’ when we need to; Lincoln’s version of this timeless track is a classic and a gem; as pianos and a vibrant electric guitar riff creates an atmosphere of utter devotion to God- and it’s also nice to hear Lincoln cry out another stanza in this song, the worshipful chorus of ‘…Hallelujah…’ (written by Leonard Cohen, and originally on Lincoln’s 2005 live album), a chilling and mesmerising tune as I am swept with emotion as I fall in love with “O Holy Night” all over again, letting the fact that Jesus is Lord and Saviour sink in once again!
Lastly, “Silent Night” ends this album, and unlike the previous upbeat dance/pop/rock songs; this song is played acoustically, drawing out Lincoln’s powerful vocals as I sing with him ‘…glorious streams from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing alleluia, Christ the Saviour is born…’. While of sombre and reflective nature, and a slow tempo, as well as a guitar solo like Lincoln does best; “Silent Night” is a track that is cherished by many, regardless of religion, and is a perfect end to a well-produced and sung album!
As Christmas is a special time for spending time with friends and family; it is also a time where we can praise the One who gave us His own life for our communion and our relationship with Him! As an album, I think Lincoln Brewster has been able to give us a modern take on the carols that we all know and love, making them relevant to today’s culture; as well as preserve their integrity and message of Christmas, creating an atmosphere for uninhibited worship! From rock and rap tunes (“Little Drummer Boy”, “Joy To The World”), to glorious masterpieces of unbridled worship (“Miraculum”); Lincoln Brewster’s creations have shown me that Jesus’ presence is much better and fulfilling than any other present available! Well done Lincoln for a sublime and near-flawless effort!
- Joy To The World
- Little Drummer Boy (feat. KJ-52)
- Hark The Herald Angels Sing
- Shout For Joy (Christmas Version)
- Our God/O Come All Ye Faithful
- Miraculum (Instrumental) (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings/O Come, O Come Emmanuel/Carol Of The Bells/O Holy Night)
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Do You Hear What I Hear?
- O Holy Night/Another Hallelujah
- Silent Night
Favourite Tracks: Little Drummer Boy (feat. KJ-52), Our God/O Come All Ye Faithful, Miraculum (Instrumental) (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings/O Come, O Come Emmanuel/Carol Of The Bells/O Holy Night), O Holy Night/Another Hallelujah