Happy Day – Tim Hughes
A good friend happened to ask me the other day, “have you heard the new Tim Hughes album?” Now, to be totally honest with you, the question was a little misleading.
Let me explain.
A “new album” is by definition an album of new content. Tim Hughes’ last album release was April 2007 and you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s due to release a new album sometime soon. Unfortunately this latest effort sure isn’t it.
There is a statement you may hear floating around Firwood Church from time to time. It’s what my brothers like to call “Jonny Justice”. Rumour has it that if ever you are on the receiving end of “Jonny Justice”, not only are you to be greatly pitted, but it is also possible that you may never be seen again. Anyways, that’s how the rumour goes; I neither confirm nor deny it.
I should point out, lest you think that I’m about to unleash “Jonny Justice” in this review, that I am a great fan of Tim Hughes. I use the word fan begrudgingly because it makes me uncomfortable and I’m fairly certain that Tim Hughes would feel likewise. I’d use the word admirer but that risks strolling into the fruitier realm of descriptive words and that is something with which I am even more uncomfortable. I’ll stick with fan because it’s short and conveys the general impression that I do actually like Tim Hughes.
I’ve been in workshops led by Tim Hughes and he seems like an extraordinarily kind and warm individual. I’ve heard him talk about Jesus and it’s clear that he is a passionate and devoted follower of the Lord. I’ve been at events when he has led worship and not only is he a gifted songwriter and accomplished musician, but he is clearly an anointed worship leader. Also, I hold his album Holding Nothing Back in incredibly high regard and would strongly recommend that you purchase it. In fact, I fully intend to review it in the coming weeks because if you are going to own a Tim Hughes CD, it should be Holding Nothing Back and certainly not Happy Day.
The first problem we come to is the title: “Happy Day”. You may ask, “Isn’t that the first song on his previous album Holding Nothing Back?” Yes. Yes it is.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. There are 12 tracks on Tim Hughes’ “new” album, Happy Day. Three of those songs are from his 2004 album When Silence Falls. One of the songs is from his 2001 album Here I am to Worship. A further three songs are from his excellent 2007 album Holding Nothing Back. Add one traditional song, When I Survey, and you are down to only four original songs.
Over the years, Tim Hughes has written some absolutely fantastic songs, yet I’ve been slightly disappointed in the past when his albums haven’t always contained a lot of new material. If you’ve been to Soul Survivor or other festivals for a couple of years, usually those songs would end up on his album, with an odd older song such as Holy, Holy (When Silence Falls) and in this case When I Survey mixed in for good measure. However, when he released Holding Nothing Back in 2007, it was not only a collection of fantastic worship songs, produced to a high quality, but it also contained only one or two songs that I’d heard before. It was an excellent resource for worship leaders all over the world.
Unfortunately Happy Day is little more than a “greatest hits”. After only three studio albums (we won’t include the 1999 Reward album); this is a little disappointing. Chances are that if you have Tim Hughes’ previous CDs or a good collection of Soul Survivor live albums, you’ve no real incentive to buy Happy Day.
A fair comparison would be Matt Redman’s album, Facedown. Like Happy Day, it was a live worship recording. However, if I remember correctly, I’d only heard previously one of the songs before I purchased it, and none of the songs could be found on any of his studio albums.
To be fair, Matt Redman did also release a “greatest hits” album entitled; Blessed Be Your Name: The Songs of Matt Redman (2005). However, this was after releasing seven albums AND it was sandwiched in between the releases of original albums Facedown (2004) and Beautiful News (2006). Unlike Happy Day, it was also clearly marketed as a “greatest hits” album. Truth be told, if someone from our congregation were to ask me to recommend a decent worship CD, my first suggestion would be Blessed Be Your Name because it has such a wide range of songs.
There are, of course, some positives about Happy Day. As a live worship album it is a good listen. Most of the songs are good and it’s produced to an excellent standard which, thankfully, we’re seeing in more and more releases from Christian artists. It also contains a DVD which is worth a watch. Hughes’ band is comprised of talented musicians and everything sounds pretty great. If you haven’t bought any worship albums before then you’d probably be delighted with this purchase. It does also contain four new songs. The first being Jesus Saves which has a fantastically distinctive Stu G riff (for all those Delirous? fans) and is probably up there with some of Tim Hughes’ best songs.
The song Give Us Your Courage is a strange animal. I’d heard it on the way home in a friend’s car and when I put the album on at home for a second listen, I instinctively skipped the track because I could not bear to endure it again. However, I rebuked myself and gave it another listen.
The first 26 seconds are an excruciating experience. In fact I could go so far as to say that I hate the first 26 seconds. I may be at odds with every 13 year old in the country when I say that I don’t particularly like the Kaiser Chiefs, but I don’t really care. I don’t like squeezing my 27 year old body into skinny jeans or wearing a cap at a jaunty angle. Even more, I don’t like shouting WOAAAAAHHHH OOOHHHH OH, WOOAAAAAHHH OHHH OH, WOAAAAHHHH OHHHH OH repeatedly, because those ‘words’ don’t mean much to me. I didn’t like it when the Kaiser Chiefs did it. I didn’t like it when David Gate did it (All the Kings Will Bow) and I didn’t like it when Hillsong United did it (Your Name High). Unfortunately Tim Hughes has contracted the WOOOAAAAHHH OHHHH bug. For this reason I hate both the opening 26 seconds of Give Us Courage and the last 1 minute and 23 seconds of the song. Fear not, the track is actually quite long, so if you cover your ears for the opening 26 seconds and skip the last 1 minute and 23 seconds, you are left with a pretty good song. It’s an enjoyable melody to compliment well crafted lyrics about standing firm to proclaim the gospel, even when under heavy attack.
Another new song, Remember, is less effective. It’s OK, but doesn’t really stand out as being anything particularly inventive. It would be a “filler” on Tim Hughes’ previous albums but, unfortunately, being one of only four new songs, it needs to be better and never quite reaches the standard of Jesus Saves or Give Us Your Courage.
The final new song is We Won’t Stay Silent which touches on a similar theme to Give Us Your Courage. It calls for the Church not just to sit back, but instead to cry out to Jesus and to have a longing to see the things of God in our cities. I particularly like the melody of the chorus. The arrangement, like on the rest of the album (ignoring the woooahhh oohhhs), is flawless. Lyrically, the verses seem to be a little muddled and not as strong as the chorus, but it is growing on me the more that I hear it.
I should at least mention When I Survey, simply because it’s a song that I like very much. Tim Hughes reverts to the traditional melody, but puts his own stamp on the song by adding a bridge; all in all the track is one of the highlights of the album.
To wrap it up, Happy Day IS a good album. Almost all of the songs are good. Some of them are excellent, in fact some of them are among my favourite worships songs of all time, the problem is that I’d already paid for them when I bought Holding Nothing Back. I’d hoped that they’d be songs on this new album to rival my favourites (Everything, Happy Day & God of Justice). Unfortunately, with the exception of Jesus Saves, the best songs on this album are also the best songs on Holding Nothing Back.
If you are only going to buy one Tim Hughes album, buy Holding Nothing Back.