Artist: Tom Howard
Title Of Album: Breathe
Year Of Release: 2007
Label: Word Entertainment, Inc
Genre: Instrumental, Solo Piano, New Age
Quality: MP3 / Joint Stereo
Bitrate: VBR kbit/s / 44.1 Khz
Total Time: 47:12 min
Total Size: 63 mb
01 - Breathe
02 - Dwell
03 - Cry Of My Heart
04 - Interlude 1
05 - Hungry (Falling On My Knees)
06 - In The Secret (I Want To Know You)
07 - Interlude 2
08 - Take My Life
09 - Draw Me Close
10 - Interlude 3
11 - More Love More Power
12 - Change My Heart Oh God
Worship music sells a ton of albums every year. However, it's always been challenging to make music accessible for corporate singing (with its limited available vocal range), and to keep the music fresh and interesting. For the most part, the format is now "dumbed down" musically...leaving it singable, but really boring. Vineyard Music Group has been in the forefront of this trend...especially sad because Vineyard pioneer John Wimber was himself a former jazz musician...and even wrote some of the label's early music, which was of much higher quality. But...as with so many "machines" that must be fed month after month and year after year...the product has a tendency to get watered down under the load. Today's worship music is filled with songs that feel half-finished...musical ideas with obvious potential, but which are unpolished jewels nonetheless.
Enter Tom Howard...arranger, composer, solo pianist...one of the brightest lights in the past 30 years of Christian music (if often behind the scenes). Beginning in the mid-Seventies, he established a reputation for fresh, jazz-infused melodies and arrangements. But after a couple of vocal albums, he's mostly been producing projects for others and in addition to recording his own instrumental albums for 25 years, including some superb solo piano music. Would he be able to bring new life to this music with his new album, billed as "contemplative worship music" and featuring popular worship favorites such as Breathe, Hungry (Falling On My Knees), In The Secret and Change My Heart Oh God?
As music which may be appropriate for your personal worship time, the album is certainly a success. Very appropriate for background listening, the music is soothing, with familiar melodies woven throughout the gentle arrangements.
For foreground listening, however...it's much less satisfying. Some of the performances feel, at times, just slightly ragged... and some of the song choices are a bit curious. Cry of My Heart, for example, is a well-written song with a special appeal to children...but its gentle reggae rhythm seems a bit out of place here. And at the same time, a number of Vineyard classics with much greater musical depth, such as Refiner's Fire and Fire of God, which would have given him appreciably more to work with, are absent. There is also an accompanying songbook for aspiring pianists available, although it seems unlikely that these arrangments would be conquered by anyone other than accomplished keyboardists.
Some original musical interludes tastefully fill in spaces between the worship selections here. But the album's one true musical gem is More Love, More Power. The song is rich and textured all on its own, but Tom takes it to yet another level. However, even on this piece, one is left wishing for string arrangments to help bring out the rich undertones.
The bottom line: Buy it for something quiet and gentle to listen to while your mind is otherwise occupied. Buy it because you're in love with worship music and like the idea of humming or singing along with familiar melodies. But if you're looking for incredible music to engage your mind, this isn't it...the raw song material just isn't strong enough here.
If that's what you're looking for, consider other great albums from the amazing musical mind of Tom Howard: Beyond the Barriers, Solo Piano, The Hidden Passage (re-released by Maranatha as Sanctuary: Shelter, now out of print again), The Harvest and hopefully, much more new music in the future! Unfortunately, none of these albums currently appears to be in print, and no trace of them is found on iTunes yet, either. Some are periodically available on Ebay.