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Artist: Michael Sweet
Label: Infinity Music Distribution
Time: 10 tracks/42:33 min

Well, its time for another big name in Christian Music to release a “worship” disc. Michael Sweet, of Stryper and many solo projects, has added his own unique spin to the worship genre.  For quite a while, most new worship projects threw a couple of originals in with some covers of the same worship songs we have heard a million times before. Lately, the rage has been to do modern worship arrangements of old hymns.  Sweet has taken this tactic, thus the name Him for his newest disc.

Sweet was not content to do what others have done. Sweet elaborates on his thoughts by stating that he “…was deeply moved by so many of the old hymns’ lyrics, but I wasn’t really moved by the music or the melodies.  I thought it would be cool to write new music to these songs that already have such amazingly powerful words.”  Your reaction to that statement will tell you your probable reaction to this disc.  If you are excited about hymns rewritten to sound like Michael Sweet songs, you will be extremely happy with this disc.  If you are curious to hear it, you will find a mixed bag of fun updates and disappointing missteps.  If you are horrified by the idea of removing the classic melodies, you will not even make it through a single listen to the disc.

Opening song “At Calvary” is an upbeat romp, celebrating the idea that “mercy there was great and grace was free.”  Michael also delivers a nice ballad version of “I’ll Remember You.” There is some nice instrumentation that makes “Gilead” (an update of “There is a Balm in Gilead”) another standout track.

The sounds are crisp and clear, yet a little sterile and synthesized, as you would expect from a Michael Sweet disc.  Sweet doesn’t push his voice all over the octaves, instead staying in mostly comfortable ranges (for him).  The music is good, but mostly unremarkable, serving as a nice backdrop, but usually not adding much to the songs.

Ultimately, how much you like Him has less to do with how much you like Hymns, but how much you like him (Michael Sweet).  Myself, I was curious and found a mixed bag.

By Jonathan Nelson

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” This quotation from Jesus, as recorded in Matthew Chapter 24, sums up the sentiment recorded in the 10 worship tracks laid down by Stryper co-founder and frontman Michael Sweet on his first solo project in five years, Him.

Inspired by the timeless lyrics he read in hymns, Sweet set out to re-energize the comforting words contained within the yellowed pages of a
hymnal by adorning them in new robes: big drums, swelling keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, and Sweet’s sincere vocals.

The album reflects a more worship-oriented, musically gentle Sweet than he exhibits with his longtime band. Unfortunately, while there is passion behind the effort, and the idea of reworking old hymns can be successful (see Cush’s brilliant Spiritual EP1 and the recent Jars of Clay effort Redemption Songs), Sweet’s album may only serve to soothe his aging fan base with an album full of power-ballad-style worship songs. Perhaps this is what thirty-to-forty-something Stryper fans are longing for at this point in their life.

RIYL: Queensryche, Stryper’s power ballads, Petra

Greg Adams

The first thing that struck me about Michael Sweet’s new CD Him is the energy. The first five tracks are full of life without guitar riffs obscuring the lyrics.  The guitar driven tunes demonstrate excellent balance between the singer and instrumentalists. Dickie Paris’ beats on the opening track “Calvary” do not compete but accompany. What a great way to familiarize the youth of today with great old hymns by putting a new face on them with fresh arrangements. This is a solid pop rock tune that is not irreverent but instead revives words that have gathered dust for too long.  “Alleluia,” “Every Hour,” and “I Know” have great but not overbearing rock riffs.

I made a very interesting observation while spinning this disc. When listening to “I’ll Remember You” I thought the organ montuno sounded familiar and after a few minutes deliberation I still couldn’t quite pick out which George Michael song I was recalling. After searching through my memory banks and audio files I pulled up Michael’s “One More Try” and gave a listen to Sweet’s “I’ll Remember You” after the introductory percussion beats fade away. Whether it was coincidental or by design it would be an understatement to say the two are similar.

Fortunately for us this is the only comparison that can be drawn between the two Michaels. Sweet’s “I’ll Remember You” is a gentle prayer of gratitude to our savior. Most people would be hard pressed to recall the last time George Michael was gentle or thankful.

What is great about Him is Sweet the frontman for Stryper has delivered a refreshing vibe and he doesn’t take the easy way out by opting for CCM syrupy hooks. 

The only thing I would have done differently with this album is picked a different tune than “Still” for Sweet to sing on track seven. It sounds like he is really stretching unnaturally to hit some of the higher notes. Having said that I am neither a singer nor a vocal coach and I am simply offering a layman’s opinion. 

“Take My Life” has a beautiful heavily draped strings introduction and is followed by a simple acoustic guitar accompanied by Sweet’s (dare we say it?) sweet vocals. He is much more within his range with this song than the previous one and it allows the listeners to totally immerse themselves in both the music and the words. The strings created by Peter Valentine and LeRoix Hampton are warm and beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful songs to come our way in 2006.

Who would ever have thought that one of the pioneers of Christian rock music would provide a soothing prayerful rendition of “Surrender” that is as beautiful and gentle as anytime you have heard these words,  “All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live/”

This is Sweet’s fourth solo effort and just as was the case with his previous CDs Him has been critically acclaimed. What comes through more than anything else is the sensitivity of both the artist and the producers. Sweet co-produced this CD with Kenny Lewis. Sweet’s guitar chords are supported by bassists Lou Spagnola and Tracy Ferrie. 

This is an album that should appeal to listeners of all ages who are serious about communing with God. 

As Sweet says, “Whether this record sells 5,000 or 100,000 copies, what it’s about for me is that the songs encourage people and draw them closer to God,” he says. “If that is accomplished, then I will be the happiest man alive.”

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved 10/19/2006

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 


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