Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Prime Cuts: Shout to the Lord, Let My Words be Few, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
The idea of doing a throwback EP of re-visiting the worship songs of the 90s is brilliant. The 90s was when modern worship music was at its nascent stages. It was not as saturated as it is today, this means it's easier to spot potential and talents. Songs then seem to have greater longevity, for instance, consider how many years Darlene Zschech's "Shout to the Lord" lingered in CCLI's Top 40 then and still does today! This is because many of the songs then had melodies that have a way of etching into our minds for all eternity, how can we ever forget the tune of Paul Bloche's "Open the Eyes of My Heart"? And to have Local Sound resurrect these songs again on this new Integrity Music EP "Sunday School" is a noble and worthwhile endeavour.
Before we delve into an exposition of the EP, it's important to say a way of introduction about the trio. Local Sound comprises of Jared Runion, Garrett Tyler and Emily Wyant. They came right out of Nashville college and the young adult ministry of MyLocal615 . Prior to this release, they have had released a slew of singles and EPs of original material. Partnering with Integrity Music for the second time, "Sunday School" finds the trio re-singing the worship soundtrack of their Sunday school years. This EP thus includes 5 popular worship songs from the 90s, including the aforementioned "Shout to the Lord" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart," plus Matt Redman's "Let My Words be Few," Michael W. Smith/Matt Redman's "Agnus Dei / Heart Of Worship" and Delirious' "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever."
If Local Sound wants to provide updates of these worship staples for today's generation, a few considerations need to be taken. First, the production of the songs needs to reflect the way our music sounds today. In this regard, they have done well. They have given "Shout to the Lord" and "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" a heightened synth surroundings with really hip sounding kick drums to boot. While "Let My Words be Few" has a driving melody with crisp sounding drums something that Ed Sheeran would envy.
Second, to update the songs, one needs to take into account how worship music has changed since the 90s. Nowadays, worship music is more fluid with more spontaneity and moments of selah. How would such changes affect the way we re-imagine these classic songs? Unfortunately, other than remixing the songs with a more dance-friendly flavor, such a question was never considered. Local Sound sings these songs as one would in the 90s. If this is so, why do we need updated versions?
Third, structurally worship songs have changed since the 90s. Today's worship songs are longer with more verses, a bridge and more instrumental interludes. One would have wished Local Sound would have partnered with their label mate Darlene Zschech and write a new bridge and new verses to "Shout to the Lord." Isn't it time we have more verses to this Hillsong classic? The same goes for the rest of the songs. Also, the trio tries to do a medley of Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei" with "Heart of Worship" but they could have been even more contemporary by mashing both songs together rather than just singing them one after another.
The thought of doing a throwback record is great, but unfortunately, the execution is not. Local Sound could have done so much more to update these songs, but they just haven't thought through the process enough.