Album Review: “Grace” by BYU Vocal Point

Grace - Vocal Point
Built on the success of "Lead Thou Me On: Hymns and Inspiration," "Grace" is an exploration of the deeper breadth of Christian musical styles.

BYU Vocal Point is at it again, this time with their tenth album, Grace. Built on the success of their previous spiritually based album, Lead Thou Me On: Hymns and Inspiration, Grace can be seen as an exploration of a deeper breadth of Christian musical styles. Regardless of your preferred musical style, Grace has something for you. Let’s start at the top.

I Can Only Imagine

Probably one of the most recognizable Christian songs of the modern era, it has been covered by more artists than I care to imagine. With a song that has been certified quadruple platinum, it can be hard to beat the original. Bart Millard’s vocals, mixed with the lyrics make for a perfect combination that strikes right to the heart of a person. Others that have tried to change too much of the original version, have pulled away from some of the feeling that the song imbues. Vocal Point builds on that original sound, blending in their signature a Capella sound, making for stirring rendition of this song. While I am on the topic of this song, if you haven’t watched the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” I highly recommend it. My children often request to watch this movie over and over again. It’s the compelling story of Bart Millard and his path to writing this song.

Come To Jesus

“Sometimes the way is lonely, and steep and filled with pain. So if your sky is dark and pours the rain. Then cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus and live.”

The Untitled Hymn, also known as “Come to Jesus,” was the third track on Chris Rice’s album, Untitled Hymn:  A Collection of Hymns. This song has a soft almost lullaby feel to it. Arranged by Rob Dietz, whose credits include NBC’s The Sing Off, The Late Late Show with James Corden and Pitch Slapped, this version is a slightly up-tempo cover with Vocal Point’s traditional harmonic blend.

Hills and Valleys

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the One who set me there. In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there.

When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own. When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone!”

This remake of Tauren Wells 2017 hit, stays pretty true to the original version of the song. On his YouTube channel, Tauren explains the story behind the song. This was a bit of a gem for me, as I have never heard this song before and was immediately captivated not only by the message, but the rhythm of the song. Now, I can’t confirm this, but the person singing lead on this song sounds a lot like Conlon Bonner, who is an alumni of Vocal Point. The listing on the song however, does not credit who is singing in each song. If it is Conlon, it’s a nice Easter egg for Vocal Point fans.

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

This cover of “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” doesn’t venture too far from the version we sing in our congregations, although there are a lot more dynamics in the vocal sounds. I like the arrangement of the song. I could definitely see a version like this being sung in a stake conference, or for some sort of special fireside. If you’re looking for something more traditional, then this song definitely should hit that spot just right for you.

What A Beautiful Name

Originally performed by Hillsong United, “What A Beautiful Name It Is,” can easily be placed among my favorite contemporary Christian songs. The epitome of a modern worship song, What A Beautiful Name It Is, won 2 Dove awards for Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year in 2017. It then went on to win a Grammy in 2018 for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. Fronted by none other than David Archuleta, this version has a slightly faster tempo than the original. David fits naturally into the VP lineup and sounds like he has been singing with them for years.

Peace In Christ

This song should be very familiar to Latter-day Saints, as it was the 2018 Youth Theme song. The song written by Nik Day and performed by McKenna Hixon has been viewed nearly 2 million times on YouTube and has been covered by a myriad of Latter-day Saint artists. This song has another Easter egg for VP fans. The lead vocal on the track is none other than VP alumni Jordan Hale, whose distinct tone carries through the song.

“It honestly felt like I was back home. Singing in that group always had a special feeling. Now, after having left the group to graduate, I feel so lucky that I got to be back on an album, singing again in the group that changed my life so much. It was unbelievably fulfilling.”

– Jordan Hale

Fear Is Not Welcome

Fronted by gospel and contemporary Christian singer Brian Courtney Wilson, this song is a stirring declaration especially in a time when fear and uncertainty abound.  Wilson, who flew out to Provo to record this arrangement of his song with Vocal Point, said, “It was a beautiful experience. You could feel that something special was being brewed. I’m looking forward to seeing what fruit it bears.”

According to Church News, artistic director, McKay Crocket said the collaboration was prompted by a desire to reach across denominational lines and combine voices to sing about Jesus.

And in my opinion what they created was a wonderfully soul-filled song and sound which resonates on a deep level.

When He Comes Again

That’s right, Primary friends, there is even something for you on this album as well. On page 82 of the Children’s Song Book you can find this classic song. Vocal Point’s version doesn’t drift to far from what you are used to hearing in Singing Time. Well, besides with adult voices instead of children’s voices.

I Feel My Savior’s Love

If one Primary song wasn’t enough for you, than you’re in luck. Page 74, “I Feel My Savior’s Love” comes to life in this simple cover of the song.

Gentle Savior

“Gentle Savior, lead me on. Let Your Spirit light the way. Gentle Savior, lead me on. Hold me close and keep me safe.

“Gentle Savior” is the seventh track on David Phelp’s fifth studio album, Life is Church. While most might not be familiar with Phelps, some may have heard of the Gaither Vocal Band, of which he was a part of from 1997 to 2005 and again from 2009 to 2017. Phelps has won twelve Dove Awards with the Gaither Vocal Band. He is also a four-time Grammy Award nominee. Some may even be familiar with Phelp’s soaring tenor voice in this Gaither Vocal Band rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Vocal Point’s arrangement sticks pretty closely to the soft harmony of Phelp’s original version.

Amazing Grace

What could you say about “Amazing Grace” that hasn’t already been said? This is one of the most popular Christian hymns of all time, and is sung hundreds of times over each year throughout the world. Vocal Point did a great job hearkening back to the gospel roots of this song, by accentuating their signature sound with a gospel choir. As to the ending of an album, this song couldn’t be more perfect.

Overall Take Away

If you are looking for an album to not only lift you up, but broaden your selection of worship music, then I highly suggest Grace. While they did cover a large swath of different styles of Christian music, the one I saw missing was the Christian rock area. This could be a harder area to cover with a capella, so I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by not seeing something attempted in this arena. That being said, current member Yaphet Bustos did perform a rock style praise song in the last Youth Music Festival, so that is slightly related.

I think the tracks chosen for this latest in VP’s quiver of albums, fit the overall tone and Christ-centered imagery of Grace. I’d love to hear your feedback. Which song is your favorite? Is there a song you wished they would have added? Hit us up in the comments and let us know.

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