Mike R. Schuster “Singalongs and Pseudohymns” Album Review
Prime Cuts: To God All Praise and Glory, Almighty God, To You, O God
There's not a hint of hyperbole in the title of Mike R. Schuster's new album "Singalongs and Pseudohymns." You don't have to be a tunesmith in any sense of the word and you will find yourself singing along to these 12 offerings in no time. In a sonic milieu where the melody has often played second fiddle to polytechnics and the hippest guitar riffs, this is one of the few albums out there which thrive of great and memorable melodic structures. With the first half of the titular explained, the second portion "pseudohymns" needs some unpacking. This is an album of pseudohymns beause eight of the twelve cuts here utilize the lyrics of ancient hymns, many of which are quite obscure. Schuster has dusted off these ancient words by dressing them organically with newly written tunes.
Schuster is a worship leader and singer-songwriter and a Compassion Canada Artist who resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Other than this new release, Schuster has previously released "To The World" (2011), and "Together" (2006). This Canadian worship leader has had been privileged to lead worship and play at events such as the CCCC National Convention, Promise Keepers, Willow Creek Arts Summit, and other conferences and retreats. He has shared the stage with Jon Bauer, Jon Buller, Matt Brouwer, Colors & Tone, Luke Dowler, High Valley, Dan Macaulay, Chris Bray, Amanda Falk, Tim Milner, Dan Nel, Jacob Moon, Chris Janz, Randy Stonehill, and a host of other Christian Artists.
Stylistically, Schuster adopts a breezy Eagles 70s-rock meets Garth Brooks 90s country execution that certainly gives album open "As We Gather in His Name" the propulsive drive that it needs. Worship leaders looking for a great set opener do not have to look farther than "As We Gather in His Name." Showcasing his mettle for creative imagination, Schuster has literally transformed the old-fashioned pipe-organ driven "To God All Praise and Glory" into a country-styled worship that has an irresistible melody. Catchiness take a life of its own when Schhuster takes on Fanny Crosby's "To God Be the Glory" (now titled "Praise the Lord") and gives it a country funk kick that truly puts the joy back in these sonic heirlooms of the church.
Fanny Crosby's words gets a new lease of life again with "Able." Do yourself a service and listen to the words --- God's sovereignty has never been more palatable than the way it has been expressed in this hymn. "All I Need" is to be noted for its simplicity and its gorgeous guitar backing. A remake of Henry Francis Lyte's "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken" written in 1824, the greatest utility of "To You, O God" is in the profundity of its words: "Perish every fond ambition, all I've sought or hoped or known; Yet how rich is my condition! God and heaven are still mine own."
With our propensity to love ourselves more than God, songs that give God our full attention are rare these days. "Almighty God" is one of those rare exceptions. Based on lyrics derived from The Psalter circa 1912 with a new chorus written by Schuster, this song definitely deserves to be sung across churches worldwide. "Singalongs and Pseudohymns" in sum does live up to its titular. The songs with their infectuous melodies are definitely made for the church to sing along to. And with words so rich, profound, and thoughtful, worshipping to these songs certainly give our praises Godly heft.
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