“I’ve been singing songs about being a child of God since I was three years old,” Phil says. “I know that phrase. But it went from a Sunday School idea to this massive, freeing truth. Maybe because I’m a dad now. I equated my love for my kids to the God who is love – who created love. He loves me like a father. I found so much freedom and hope and peace in this fresh realization of my standing with Him as a child.”
Given a new sense of passion and freedom, Phil sat down to do what had proven so difficult just a few months earlier. He sat down to write some songs.
“I started writing songs out of this reawakening in my heart,” he says. “I still didn’t know if I was going to be able to sing a whole record of them. But I had a freedom and a lightness in my heart. That’s why I called the record Children of God. The way I feel about the record, that excitement and freshness, I feel like it’s my first record all over again. I feel refreshed. I have a new sound and a new heart. I can’t wait to get on the road and play these songs.”
That zeal is evident on Children of God’s first single, “Your Love Awakens Me,” a rollicking, massive worship anthem with an unforgettable chorus that dares you not to dance along. “I feel like my heart’s been reawakened to passion and purpose.That’s where the song came from,” Phil explains. “I definitely wanted the lyrics to be very communal in a way that wasn’t specific to my situation, but is specific to everyone’s situation who is going through something hard. The music coupled with the lyrics and celebrating God’s love and wanting more of Him – I hope that will inspire people.”
Sometimes it’s easier to get into an album when there is a good story behind it as it reveals the inspiration behind some of the tracks and breathes life and understanding into it. It means an album hasn’t been churned out just to meet a deadline or a contractual obligation. For Phil Wickham the story is crucial to this brand new album.
Phil has been on the Christian music and worship scene for a while and he has always written excellent tracks, but his last album, “The Ascension” gave him something of a breakthrough. His song “This is Amazing Grace” caught fire and ran through church worship in the US and was also certified Gold through the RIAA. It was at this point that Phil lost his voice. He needed surgery on his vocal chords, as with all surgery it had risks associated with it and it could have cost him his career as a singer. During this period Phil felt God close to him and knew that he was a child of God and that was the inspiration for this album.
If you are worried that Phil will no longer stretch his vocal chords to reach those high notes out of fear because there are plenty of moments on this album where he reaches and hits those heights! Phil starts off the album in a reflective fashion as he brings his “Doxology //Amen”, glory is firstly given to God and the music entwines with the vocal at the start of this album.
“Better Than Life” brings us back to the style that we expect from Phil Wickham, a lively track about God’s love which heads along at quite a pace with quite an electro-dance feel. There is no new ground being broken on this track or the first single “Your Love Awakens Me” either in style or lyrics. Both songs have their merit but didn’t enrapture me as anything particularly special.
It is the fourth track on this album that brings the real life, changing the sound and collaborating with the fantastic Madison Cunningham. I have been aware of Madi for some time as she has been leading worship at Creation Fest (Wadebridge, Cornwall – August) with her Dad, Scott Cunningham, for a number of years. Here she brings a great haunting vocal quality to this track, here the higher melody is complimented with the lower vocal from Phil really lifting this track. “The Secret Place” really is the stand-out track on this album.
There are a few songs on this album that are strong lyrically but get lost in the electronica mistiness and the similar percussion patterns. In fact, as with “The Secret Place”, it seems that it is necessary to get the best from Phil by putting the brakes on the Electro Dance Style and bringing in a softer sound and allowing Phil’s vocals to come front and centre. For me it is the lyrical content that Phil really excels in, he has a great voice but it is too often drowned out by the musical accompaniment. “Starmaker (High Above The Earth) is exactly what I want more of. This is my second favourite track which burns it’s simplistic style into your brain as you listen to the clever song-writing ability displayed.
After “Starmaker” we are teased with a very loud intro to “Children of God” but the music backs off as the song starts, but then builds up again for the chorus. “Stand in Awe” is a pure worship song, once again doing away with the Electronica, it is just the keys, drum and vocals and the overall effect is a combination of Matt Redman and Michael W. Smith. This gives us a very accessible track for corporate worship and could be the song from this album that people will become most familiar with.
Phil rounds out this album with a lovely track called “Spirit Of God” which once again shows off the reflective side of this album. This is another song that would find a strong acceptance within church services. It doesn’t quite have the same impact as “Stand In Awe” but it is a soaring worship track with a great heart and dedication behind it.
I think that there are about 5 really good tracks on this album but the rest won’t set the world alight, the songs are not really distinguishable. On many of the tracks the mix feels like Phil is fighting to be heard and this is not a good sound. This album is drowning in electronica and strangled by drum loops, stripped back with some interesting instrumentation Phil Wickham is one of the best songwriters and worship writers around, there are glimpses of this but there needs to be more. I am going back to listen to 2009’s “Heaven and Earth” instead!