Normally, I shudder at the thought of reviewing a greatest hits album, simply because everything that needed to be said has pretty much already been said and I would rather spend time and space on these pages telling you about some great new artist, or new collection of songs from a well-loved worship group. But when Paul Baloche releases a greatest hits album, we must pause and take notice.
Rarely does a Sunday go by where one doesn’t hear a song written or co-written by the “worship leader of worship leaders”. Songs like “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Above All” have stood the test of time and still find a spot on the top 100 worship songs list over at SongSelect.com even though they are around 20 years old. Yet, as the style of church music has changed, Baloche and his writing have kept up with evolving church culture because Paul is, and has always been, a true worship leader rather than a recording artist. He doesn’t write music to win Dove awards or to get radio play or to sell out concerts, Paul Baloche writes songs for the glory of God and so that people can connect with their Savior in a deep and profound way.
His greatest hits album, The Ultimate Collection is more than a nice stroll down memory lane, even though all fourteen tracks are the recordings from their original albums. Rather, these songs take us on a musical journey through the years as it mirrors the contemporary worship genre from 1992 to present day.
We hear a younger and smoother Baloche vocal on tracks like “Above All”, “Offering” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” which brings us back to the classic days of piano-led Contemporary worship, and I couldn’t help but smile as I reminisced about all the times and places I have led these songs myself and how God’s people were impacted by them.
Paul has always written songs of Biblical substance. From the confessional exploration of God’s forgiveness in “Your Mercy” to the celebration of Easter victory in “Glorious”, Paul Baloche’s understanding of Biblical theology and its importance in modern worship has always been evident, and I thank him for reminding the church what is truly important when song writing.
“Our God Saves”, “Once For All” and “The Same Love” all speak of the unchanging heart of God who is head over heels in love with us. “What Can I Do” closes out the collection appropriately reminding us that the best way to thank our God for His faithfulness is to give our lives as an unending “hallelujah”.
Paul has always put Christ at the center of his songs. If you examine his writing style you will notice that most of his songs are centered around what God has done for us, and then our response follows, not the other way around. His simple yet complex melodies are humbly written with the casual worshiper in mind, with arrangements custom built for average church musicians, and the church is better because of it.
One cannot but wonder if this album is a bit of a farewell from Baloche and friends, since it has been a few years since a new album (that isn’t redone Christmas Songs) has been released, and his main bandmates, Carl Albrecht (Drums) and long-time guitarist, Ben Gowell have since moved on to other projects, with only Michael Rossback remaining from the core group. Paul will always be a worship leader, but If this is the sunset of an amazing writing and recording career on behalf of the Church, I want to say, “Thank you, sir. You are an inspiration to us all. Well done good and faithful servant.”