“Gateway Worship Voices: Kari Jobe” is a true worship album in every sense of the word. Combining the talents of soloist Kari Jobe, who has been a mainstay on the Christian music scene since her first album in 2009, with the skills and talents of the Gateway Worship team based out of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, the album is more than a listening experience – it is an opportunity for listeners to truly participate in praise along with the performers.
This latest musical offering in the Gateway Worship series will sound very familiar to most fans, since 10 of the 11 tracks come from previously released Gateway albums. The album’s final song, “My Beloved,” appeared on Jobe’s self-titled 2009 album. The album is really a compilation, so its true value is in the way the songs were chosen and arranged.
Practically every song is perfect for worshipping and singing along, and in many cases background vocalists (or is it the congregation?) blend seamlessly with the lead vocals, which Jobe often shares with a male voice.
No Sweeter Name: The opening track sets the stage for the whole album, beginning with the ubiquitous clapping at the beginning. The song begins with soft, but slightly upbeat instrumentation, including strings. With a triplet feel, the song builds, with a male vocalist coming it at the second verse and more voices coming in as the song continues to build. The song ends quietly, and at least tempo-wise, it is about as fast-moving as the album gets.
Holy Holy Holy (Savior and King): The second song puts a new twist on a classic hymn. It begins simply, with just Jobe’s voice, a little piano, and some strings. Then it builds as drums come in. A chorus that was not part of the original hymn gives the song a contemporary feel, and Jobe shares lead vocals with a male voice, emphasizing that this is more about the song than it is about the singer.
You Are Good: Another simple beginning marks the album’s third song, as Jobe shows her vocal range and ease hitting higher notes. The lyrics “You are good. Your mercy is forever” are particularly great – because they’re simple, they’re biblical and they’re true! The repetition of “Your kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever, forever” will have you singing along, even if you try not to. Like several of the tracks on the album, the song ends abruptly, perhaps to eliminate any clapping that might have come in during the original recording, if it was live.
Revelation Song: Another soft, but powerful take on a very popular and well known worship song. The song is not overproduced, but keeps things simple, adding voices throughout.
Pure: Another soft and slow song, with male background vocals coming in after the first verse. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, but God is not really named in this one, which leaves the potential for a Christian song that could ‘pass’ for a love song. At one point, the male vocalist does say “savior, savior.” Jobe’s voice is always nice to listen to, though, especially as she ends the song with, “Everything I want, everything I hope in, everything my heart cries out for” repeated three times with music and then practically a cappella at the end.
Alabaster Jar (featuring Walker Beach): Also a slow tempo. Male vocalist Walker Beach opens the song – actually, he sings the whole song, which features meaningful lyrics rendered in a heartfelt way. Jobe is just adding a couple accents, and singing along in background during choruses, along with other voices. The song is a plea for God to use us, for us to give Him all we have, even though it’s “less than You deserve.” Jobe seems to be leading a second chorus at end, singing “worthy, worthy, you are worthy, worthy is the Lord” several times, with Beach coming back in. Then he sings first chorus as she sings second chorus, almost like a round. There is great interplay between the two vocalists. The song continues after it feels like it’s over (and maybe it should be), rebuilding with Beach singing strongly, but hidden a bit by instruments, before it fades away like a worship song in church with many voices, like a choir.
We Cry Out: This track is the same tempo as all the rest – if anything, it’s even slower, leaving Jobe’s voice hanging a bit too long. It features piano only, then a few strings. The message, however, is great, featuring two Hebrew names of God: El Shaddai and Adonai . It’s hard NOT to be worshipping when you listen to this one. The song is almost 6 and a half minutes long, unnecessarily unless you’re in a worship service, really. When the song sounds like it’s over, it goes on for another minute or two, though maybe this isn’t a bad thing.
Worship the Great I AM: This is a very nice song; possibly the best track on the album, in fact. Jobe’s voice leads things off, with a little piano, with drums coming in later. The lyrics are memorable: “Glory to the Lord Most High / King of power and light / angels sing as heaven bows / earth resounds their song.” The chorus is great, and simple and there’s a nice instrumental staccato background on the second verse. The song fades off peacefully with just the piano.
You Are For Me: This is a very personal sounding song with choir-like background vocals. It sounds like we’re in on a conversation between Jobe and God. But it’s also another song that could pass for a love song between a woman and her husband. Vocals are free form at the end, like many of the songs. Seems to go on a little longer than necessary, building toward the end instrumentally with Jobe adding accents, though her voice getting lost a bit.
O the Blood: Opens with slow tempo and lone piano, bringing in Jobe’s voice with choir-like background vocals that may be, or may be intended to sound like, a congregation singing along. Very much sounds like someone leading worship in church. The song presents a clear, strong message of the cross with lyrics like, “Yes, the blood, it is my victory.” Songs seems to end, then Jobe comes back in and it builds again. Vocals get a bit free-form, in a good way. The song ends with words of thankfulness as the piano fades out.
My Beloved (bonus track): The most unique feature of this song is that it is sung from the standpoint of God doing the singing. He’s talking to the church, addressing it as My Beloved. Lyrics such as “Come away with me, my love” may remind longtime Christian music listeners of another beautiful song by Keith Green. Most of the lyrics are straight out of scripture. This touching song features some violin and ends with the lines, “You’re my beloved, you’re my bride / to sing over you is my delight / come away with me, my love.”
Anyone who likes the music of Kari Jobe and/or the Gateway Worship team is sure to love this album. In fact, such listeners are likely to already be familiar with all of the songs. While perhaps a more cynical reviewer may consider such a compilation to be nothing more than an attempt to cash in on a popular Christian vocalist, my view is that these songs, and the order in which they’re arranged on the album, lend themselves to a thoroughly worshipful experience, no matter how many times you may have heard them.
While the project presents itself as a live album, having taken 10 of its tracks from five previous Gateway Worship live albums, the tracks actually feel more like studio recordings with clapping stuck onto both ends of most, but not all, of the songs. What’s more, the clapping often comes in abruptly at the beginning of songs and ends even more abruptly as the songs finish. It would have been better to fade the clapping in and out for each track. Despite this slight distraction, the album is a wonderful addition to Jobe’s discography and is sure to find its place in Christian music charts – as her previous efforts have all done.