Exclusive Music Review: The World’s Favourite Hymns – Various Artists

When I was a kid Sundays would find me dressed in my best clothes and clutching my red music copy of Redemption Hymnal. It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t read music, it was a symbol that I was growing up, I had my own copy of our churches revered hymnbook! Times changed and Mission Praise came out in 1984 and our church adopted it as a second book of ‘choruses’ by 1989 for the community hymn-singing but rarely in the service itself! If we did sing a song from Mission Praise in the service, it was normally one that could be found in the hymnal as well!

All of these reminiscences bring me to this compilation of World’s Favourite Hymns from Integrity. They have gathered together recordings of 50 tracks of hymns that have inspired generations.

As you would expect, these tracks are gleaned from Integrity’s vast library of recordings over many, many years. It’s great to hear some familiar recordings and familiar hymns such as Robin Mark’s version of “I Stand Amazed” and Geraldine Laity’s “Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace”. This latter track had me confused because in the write-up information sent through it said this was Susan Boyle singing. They are both talented, but there is a huge difference between those two artists! Also attributed to Susan Boyle in the listing I received was the version of “Amazing Grace” from the very pure voice of Karen Beckett recorded back in 1997.

For people of a certain generation there have been no new hymns since the 1940s! However that’s not me and I am very familiar with the writing and singing trio of Keith and Kristyn Getty along with Stuart Townend. A few of their tracks appear on this compilation and add weight to the modern selection. Others are more debatable inclusions like Graham Kendrick’s “Shine Jesus Shine”, Keith Green’s “There is a Redeemer” covered by Kathryn Scott and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” performed by All Souls Orchestra , these are all fine songs, but are they hymns?

With that can of worms inserted into the can opener I shall retire to a safe distance to come to the third type of hymn on this album. The ones that take their inspiration from the hymns and incorporate bits on them into a modern song, or alternatively ones that add a modern feel to an old classic with a new chorus. Probably the best example of this is “Cornerstone” from Beth Croft recorded at Soul Survivor, this track is modelled around “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”.

These tracks can sometimes seem less powerful when you remove years of a traditional tune. An example of this is Stuart Townend’s arrangement of “It Is Well With My Soul”. It’s musically good, a fine recording, but does it fire you up like a decent tenor or bass singing the other version? Sadly it doesn’t do it for me. Other tracks don’t undergo a lyrical re-write but they have been enhanced with a modern style, or just livened up by using guitars and drums in a livelier format.

Whatever your views of what makes a hymn and what makes it a classic, these words have been sung, prayed and invested into people’s lives. Through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and outworking some have been bearing fruit for hundreds of years!

There is a lot of good theological teaching about life in this world, the teachings of Christ and the wonderful nature of the God that we serve, so we would be daft to disregard this repository of knowledge.

As a compilation this is a great collection. There will be familiar recordings where you know every nuance such as Wayne Drain’s version of “Be Thou My Vision” which I have on countless albums already, then there are the surprises, “Wholly Thine” from Meredith Andrews and “No One Like Jesus” from Michael W. Smith.

I may no longer wear my Sunday best, I don’t have the music version of the hymnal and I still can’t read music! It doesn’t matter about the projector because I can close my eyes when I sing many of these songs because they indelibly written on my heart. Apart from when someone uses slightly different wording – yes, I’m looking at you “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer (Jehovah)!”

Click the artwork below and purchase your copy of “The World’s Favourite Hymns” album today!

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