Friday, March 10, 2017

Brian & Jenn Johnson: After All These Years Review


Brian & Jenn Johnson are no strangers to modern worship music. As the son and daughter-in-law of Bethel Church in Redding, CA’s senior pastor Bill Johnson, Brian & Jenn have been leading worship at Bethel Church for many years. They have released two projects as a duo (2001’s Undone and 2006’s We Believe) and have been featured on all of Bethel Music’s albums since that time. Together, their hit worship songs, such as “One Thing Remains,” “Forever,” and “Chasing You,” just to name a few, have become world-renown and sung in churches all around the world. Now after over ten years, Brian & Jenn release their third album together, aptly titled After All These Years.

With a strong message about God’s faithfulness, After All These Years differentiates from any project Bethel has ever released in that it was recorded to a full 80-piece orchestra! Light electronic drums complement Brian & Jenn’s flawless vocals, which, together with the strings, gives this album more of a soaking worship feel to it. It allows the listener to sit back, relax, and bask in the presence of God.

Jenn Johnson opens up the ten-track album with “Mention of Your Name.” With an electronic harmonizing of Jenn’s vocals, this track builds strongly with electronic drums by the powerful chorus, though it first begins with little more than strings and synthesizers. The lyrics instantly brought to my mind Philippians 2:10-11, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Jenn powerfully sings, “At the mention of Your name every chain will break/ I know everything will change/ Jesus/ Just a whisper of Your name/ You silence wind and waves at the mention of Your name.” Especially poignant is when Jenn sings, “You’re just a breath away!” nearing the end of the track.

“Only Jesus,” sung by Brian, instantly caught my attention for its beautiful lyrics, which reminded me of Psalm 23. Brian softly sings in the chorus, “Let my heart want for nothing but You, just You!/ The riches of this world could never satisfy/ Let my heart want for only You!” “Gravity” follows, beginning with a bit of a haunting sound mixed with deep piano sounds. It is much like “A Little Longer,” lyrically, as Jenn reminds us that, while we often get caught up in the things of this life, one glimpse of Jesus is all it takes to leave us in awe and wonder. She ends by softly singing, “I can rest, ‘cause it’s all in Your hands/ Sovereign You are!” For the way this track builds, and for its message, “Gravity” is one of my personal favorites off this album.

Following are two tracks led by Brian Johnson. Almost the same musically as the preceding track, “I Won’t Forget” is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us – how we are forever changed because of the sacrifice He made for us. “Mercy and Majesty,” was surprising to me, as it begins with Brian softly playing the acoustic guitar, but verse two brings a light disco tempo, making it the most upbeat track on the album. Lyrically, Brian sings, “I once was blind but now all I can see is Your mercy and Your majesty” and reminds us that we are indebted to Jesus forever. With light piano, “Here I Bow,” led by Jenn, is a breathtaking track that beautifully puts into words intense gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and asks how could we do anything less than give Jesus our all? With thankfulness ringing through her voice, Jenn powerfully sings, “Right here and now, be glorified/ God of Heaven and earth/ God who brought me back to life/ I am Yours, forever Yours!” This track is magnificent!

Declaring “Through the power of the cross I am free,” follows “Greater Than All Other Names,” which, although on a softer note, reminds me very much of “Forgiven,” and other of Brian’s moving songs about the cross and redemption. He also leads the title track, which begins by reminding us of God’s mercy throughout the beginning chapters of Genesis. I love how Brian takes it from there to remind us that God is still faithful to us today after thousands of years of history! We don’t hear any drums in this title track, but there are energetic strings which help to remind the listener that “The God who was and is to come has been the same for me.”

At first listen, “You’re Gonna Be Okay” instantly was my favorite off After All These Years, led by Jenn Johnson. Describing a heavy heart without a will to go on, Jenn exhorts the listener, “Hold on, don’t let go/ Just take one step closer/ Put one foot in front of the other/ You’ll get through this/ Just follow the light in the darkness/ You’re gonna be okay.” This track definitely gives hope to the listener and reminds them “just remember that you are a fighter” and “You’re stronger than you know.” The album After All These Years then closes with “For the One.” With light drums and piano, this track is so touching, as Jenn’s high vocals sing a prayer to God, that we would be people possessed by the Father’s love and give that love to the needy and broken: “Help me to love with open arms like You do/ A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth/ Oh that when they look in my eyes they would see You/ Even in just a smile they would feel the Father’s love.” A prayer of my own, these lyrics really resonated with me. Completed by accompanying harmony from Brian, this track puts a perfect ending to the album.

It took me a few listens to warm up to the new sound of Brian & Jenn Johnson as it was very much different from anything ever published by Bethel. But a few listens later, my conclusion is that After All These Years is a stunning album that proclaims God’s faithfulness, reminds the listener of the finished work of the cross, and what that looks like in our everyday lives. Beautiful strings mix with piano and sometimes acoustic guitar or light drums, but every track builds wonderfully, leaving the listener in awe and wonder – not just because of the stunning music, but because of the love of God and His faithfulness to us. This album is must-have for those looking for worship albums to pray in their quiet time with God!

Rating: 4.5/5
Release date: January 27, 2017

Track listing:
1. Mention of Your Name
2. Only Jesus
3. Gravity
4. I Won’t Forget
5. Mercy and Majesty
6. Here I Bow
7. Greater Than All Other Names
8. After All These Years
9. You’re Gonna Be Ok
10. For the One

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