Prime Cuts: Good to be Loved (with Natalie Grant), Our God Reigns (Psalm 47), Take You at Your Word (featuring Benjamin William Hastings)
Overall Rating: 2.75/5
On paper, Cody Carnes "God is Good! (Live)" is the ideal album for many worship artists. The sound is crystal-clear with no hisses or babies crying (considering this is a live recording). The production is both grand and intimate. And the duet partners (Hillsong's Ben Hastings, Natalie Grant, Kari Jobe) are a dream team. Moreover, Carnes gets to write with some of the hottest scribes in today's industry, including Hillsong's Reuben Morgan, Mitch Wong, Bryan and Katie Torwalt, Mia Fieldes and many others. In theory, the album ought to score a 5/5 rating, so why the discount?
First, the songs don't bite. Despite having Reuben Morgan as a co-writer, "Forever and Amen" is as the titular suggests, the song goes on and on. It's a nice piano ballad that opens softly building up to a dynamic chorus. The words are all Christ-centered and theologically sound. But the song doesn't register. It's as slippery as an eel; you will find it challenging to remember any bits of the lyrics or the melody. The same goes for "How Precious is the Blood." Lyrically, the song harkens back to the hymn "How Marvellous." The saddest thing is that as you listen to Carnes' "Precious," you find yourself humming to the hymn rather than trying to follow Carnes' singing.
Second, despite the cadre of top-notched co-songwriters, the songs don't cover new ground. All the topics here --- God's goodness, faithfulness, and grace --- have been recycled a million times. There's nothing wrong with repetition, but new songs need to say something "new" about timeless themes. The one exception being "Our God Reigns (Psalm 47)" where Carnes at least tries to tackle a less familiar psalm. The song starts off well, like a throwback 90s chorus, but it never takes off by the time the chorus sets in.
However, relative to his previous album, there are some improvements. At least the songs are not all dreadfully teased out piano ballads. "Take You at Your Word" (featuring Benjamin William Hastings) is upbeat and engaging. And "Good to be Loved (with Natalie Grant)" has a grungy guitar-led rock feel that is refreshing. In terms of recording techniques, budget, co-writers, and duet partners, Carnes has everything going for him. He just needs to work on his songs --- they need more hooks.