All the People Said Amen

Matt Maher

Essential Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


Worship albums are tricky business. By definition, worship is an act of submission, whereas performance quite literally spotlights the performer. Worship depends upon listener participation to be effective. whereas artists are rarely content to just play the hits. Worship is about the object of the music; a concert is about the music itself.

So crafting an effective worship album, one that highlights an artist’s abilities without seeming disingenuous in intention, is a difficult tightrope to traverse, one has left any number of Christian artists bruised by the experience. With And All The People Said Amen, Matt Maher finds not only the perfect balance, but his best album to date.

Much of the album reads like a collection of his greatest hits, with crowd favorites like “Hold Us Together,” “Alive Again,” and “Christ Is Risen” anchoring things. However, the live setting gives these familiar tunes new energy, and the recordings wisely avoid some of the annoying tics that have made me skip many a live worship song (eight-plus minute runtimes, extended crowd singalongs, and lengthy mid-song homilies top the list of pet peeves.) The mix on these songs is perfect, and the band brings a welcome looseness that brings out Maher’s charisma as a performer.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Other live performances are less familiar, but worthy companions to the hits. “On My Way,” while perhaps the least ‘worshipful’ track, is pure fun, and the jam session at the song’s conclusion is both well earned and a blast to hear. “Turn Around” is another raucous crowd-pleaser, with the enthusiasm of both the performers and the audience coming through on the recording. And “Adoration” slows things down, showing that both Maher and his band don’t need to be blowing the amps out to be effective.

Most unique on an album that is admittedly not pushing a lot of boundaries is “It Is Good,” a joyous, Jewish-influenced jam that gets its lyrics from Psalm 92 but its energy from the performance. Maher’s personality and connection with the audience are at their finest here, and when the time comes for an extended dance break (you read that right), you find yourself wishing you’d been at the show where the song was recorded.

In addition to the live offerings, the album contains four studio recordings, all of which have received their fair share of airplay on Christian radio in the ensuing years. “And All The People Said Amen” and “Burning In My Soul” are bluesy rockers that will have you tapping your toes, while “Lord I Need You” and “Mighty Fortress” let Maher’s poetic lyrics and piano playing do the work. All make for worthy additions to the album’s live offerings.

And All The People Said Amen finds Maher at the peak of his powers, leading worship with the charisma of an experienced performer and the focus of a trained worship leader. Few worship artists are better able to distinguish between when its time to rock and when its time to lift hands in surrender. If you only buy one Maher album, this is the one.

Rating: A

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