Favorite Worship Albums of 2006
In recent years, our annual picks for the year's most impressive worship albums have touched on reworked hymns, promising new talent, and cutting edge projects that redefine offering praise through song. But between October 2005 and September 2006—our "fiscal year" for making these picks—we've seen a welcome return by many of the influential veterans of worship music from over the last twenty years, recapturing many of the same songwriting qualities that first allowed their work to ignite the hearts of churches around the world.
As always, this particular list remains unranked to avoid favoring one worship style over another, keeping the focus on the diversity with which we can glorify God through music. Our selections—made by Russ Breimeier and Andree Farias, both worship leaders in their own churches—are based on creativity and practicality, favoring projects that balance artful expression with accessible songwriting that can be easily embraced by congregations or inspire personal quiet time.
Paul Baloche (Integrity)
Breimeier: Though he's made several major contributions to church music libraries over the last twenty years, including "Open the Eyes of My Heart" and "Above All," Baloche has labored to create a fully satisfying worship collection … until now. This is a strong and consistent mix of traditional, contemporary, and modern styles, with writing assistance from Matt Redman, Don Moen, and Brenton Brown to name a few, plus vocal support from Sara Groves and Kathryn Scott. A Greater Song is a greater album from one of the greatest worship writers around.
Farias: His modern worship standards notwithstanding, I for the longest time pegged Baloche into the inspirational/contemporary side of worship music, alongside colleagues Moen and Lenny LeBlanc. This is his long overdue induction into the ranks of modern worship, and in the transition, his gift of corporate penmanship remains intact. So much so, you'd be hard-pressed to find a song here that can't be incorporated into your own church's worship repertoire. A Greater album, indeed.
Brenton Brown (Sparrow/EMI)
Farias: Brenton Brown's songs have consistently charted on the CCLI alongside colleagues like Paul Baloche and Brian Doerksen for nearly ten years. It's taken that long to release his solo debut, and based on the strength of the original expressions of praise found here, you can't help but wonder what took him so long. With creative production and an ear for strong melodic hooks, this is the type of album that's sure to appeal to fans of Passion and tailor-made for the collegiate set.
Breimeier: Probably an even broader demographic than that. Brown combines the skillful writing of Doerksen with the melodic strength of Chris Tomlin, the thick pop production of Michael W. Smith, and a pleasantly warm, nasal vocal reminiscent of Brent Bourgeois. "Lord Reign in Me" and "Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)" remain his most accessible and popular tunes, but they're sure to be joined by more. This album has a lot to love for worship and pop/rock enthusiasts alike.
Farias: This UK band may have pioneered modern worship in the early '90s, but over time they've struggled to craft an album that balances their stadium-sized rock dynamics with their heart for worship, usually favoring one over the other. The Mission Bell finally reaches some equilibrium and is one of the band's better releases for it. Add to that themes of evangelism and urgency, and you've got one of the most purposeful rock/worship records of late.