Classic Worship Albums — ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE (Hillsong)
There’s no confusion about what made every church in America start using these Australian songs in their worship service: “Shout To The Lord” was a global phenomenon. A hit song the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.
It might seem strange to focus on an album that was released years after “Shout To The Lord” became a mega hit. But if you’ve ever worked in a church, you know that things tend to move slowly.
And even though Hillsong’s big hit was in every church in America, it took a little while for us all to become actual Hillsong fans. And I think this record perfectly captures that moment when American churches big and small sat up and took notice of these albums from Down Under.
I’ve spent the past few days listening through the album (all 15 songs) and as much as I would love to break it down track by track, I’m not sure I have the time or creativity to keep you interested for that long. So instead, I want to focus on a few things that the album does consistently that I believe made it so conducive to congregational worship at the time.
SO MANY VOCALS: This doesn’t have anything to do how many people are singing on the album. (Worship albums do that now..albeit fake, usually.) When I say there are “so many” vocals on this album, I mean that there are very few solo vocal moments. Yes, you’ll hear a soloist now and again, but the majority of these songs have multiple people singing the whole time.
I can tell you from personal experience that when this album was released, most worship albums (at the time) had one or two singers with the occasional crowd noise or group BGVs. And this is why I believe that churches in America gravitated to the ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Because it sounded like church.
To the worship leader in a church full of volunteer singers (and probably a choir) this album sounded like a dream come true — songs that everybody sings.
ORCHESTRATION: This is a close second. Hillsong was unique in that their music was adapted by all kinds of churches. It wasn’t just the hip, modern contemporary churches singing these songs. It was churches with choirs AND ORCHESTRAS.
This album is filled with horn hits and string parts. I don’t know if Hillsong planned any of this, but by making their arrangements orchestral, they tapped a demographic of churches that, historically, had been reticent about “worship choruses.”
Churches could buy sheet music…actual sheet music that their people could play and this made Hillsong a tremendous resource for the “blended” church.
ALL THE KEYS and CHORDS: I don’t know how many people know this, but at the time, Hillsong was known for its musical proficiency. Songs moved between keys, they used jazz voicings and Gospel chops and elaborate string compositions.
This meant that the music of Hillsong was a CHALLENGE. You couldn’t really learn these songs in an afternoon.You had to have practice and you had to work hard and churches liked how hard these songs were. I think it subtly built teamwork into local churches because they had to get over any pride or ego to make these songs work.
JOYOUS, but NOT ROCK: This to me is the sneakiest part of Hillsong. This is the thing none of us noticed at the time. The songs were upbeat and big. Yeah, they were a little showy. The were probably a little too produced. They were big huge songs. But they weren’t rock n’ roll.
This was another challenge in the early days of worship music. Churches all over America were terrified that their services would turn into rock concerts. It saddens me because it seems like they were right. American churches have adopted concert tropes for so long, half of us don’t even know it can be done different.
But Hillsong was safe. They weren’t “tame,” necessarily, but they weren’t rock. And churches could benefit from the power and excellence and popularity of the songs without compromising or selling out to a perceived “negative” modern worship movement.
The album is dated. There’s plenty of material that just would not work in most churches these days. And yet these clearly noticeable characteristics I’ve mentioned aren’t out of style. We would do good to get back to some of the very things that made ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE such a breakout hit.
*You can hear more worship thoughts on my podcast…Average Everyday Worship Leader.