Jesus At The Centre is the new double live album from a man who is defining the genre of music known as ‘gospel’.
Israel Houghton, incase you haven’t come across him before, leads worship at America’s biggest church: Lakewood in Houston Texas (pastored by Joel Osteen). Israel and his group New Breed are also regulars at UK event The Big Church Day Out.
Known for his songs Friend of God, Say So and The Power of One, Israel’s cross-cultural attitude has historically resulted in genuinely original, inspirational and eclectic sounds and songs.
Although he’s been constantly releasing music since 1997, Jesus At The Centre is the songwriter’s first live album in five years. Recorded at Israel’s home church during Superbowl weekend, the team admitted to being a little concerned about whether anyone would show up. But their fears were misplaced as tens of thousands packed the huge auditorium for three days of worship.
Opening with a reading from Colossians chapter 1, the double album has a strong focus on the person of Jesus. Both discs are full of life and vibrant sound, although the second is a little more reserved than the first.
The stand out song across the two discs is without doubt Te Amo. Sung partly in Spanish and partly in English and featuring a rap from the Grammy award winning T-Bone, the song has to be heard to believed. It’s energetic, upbeat and very passionate.
We’re treated to three versions of title track Jesus At The Centre. It’s a simple worship song that can be easily played in almost any style of church.
A particular treat comes at the end of the second disc as Israel records a whopping seven songs in a back to back live medley. To Make You Feel My Love is a special surprise, not just in song choice, but the fact that it's a daddy-daughter duet between Israel and Mariah.
The combination of top songs Hosanna and Moving Forward also deserve a mention as yet another high point on the album.
With just one or two exceptions, Israel has avoided the temptation of recording live versions of studio songs. Instead he’s packed plenty of new material into well over 2 hours worth of live music. He’s also been generous in allowing others to come and lead songs. For example, Michael Gungor’s appearance to sing You Have Me is a great moment.
When Israel last released a live album (A Deeper Level), it was awarded a Dove for Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year. With Jesus At The Centre, Israel has taken his music to yet another (deeper) level. This time let’s hope he wins the Grammy. It will be his fifth. To say such an honour would be “well deserved” is a gross understatement.
There’s nothing to fault with this recording. It’s full of energy, great new songs and exceptional musicianship. What’s more, this is not just a live album, but one with true character and personality. With this album, Israel Houghton has established himself as a gospel legend.
Rating: 10 out of 10
July 31st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes