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  Album: Hallelujahs
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Rocketown Records (2003)
Length: 14 Tracks (55:33 minutes)

In light of the masterful 1998 Rocketown Records multi-artist Exodus project, together with Michael W. Smith's similarly lauded Worship album from 2001, expectations for Hallelujahs, a 14-song, praise-oriented compilation featuring members of Smith's own Rocketown Records roster, are likely to run understandably high.  Given that the collection's 11 previously-released tracks draw from an artistic stable which boasts 23 Number One songs, nearly 40 Dove Award nominations and some 2.5 million units sold, it comes as little surprise that the anthology delivers no short supply of appealing, well-written material.  Watermark's "Gloria" offers an up-close look at Nathan and Christy Nockels' infectious, rock-solid pop sensibility.  Ronnie Freeman's "Come to the River" is, at once, reverential and expansive.  And the wonderfully understated "Grace, Mercy and Peace" serves as the perfect vehicle for Christine Dente's magnificently lilting and ethereal singing voice.
If the better share of the release is buoyed by the same sublime thread that ties the abovementioned entries together, it is, at the same time, pervaded by a prevailing sense of sameness that tends to weigh down its lineup of mostly slower, piano-based ballads, particularly on repeated listens.  Likewise, the new, live renditions of "My Jesus I Love Thee" and Dennis Jernigan's "You Are My All in All" come across as listless and perfunctory, at best, while Chris Rice's in-concert reprise of the title cut offers only minimal variation from its album-opening studio counterpart.  That said, fans of the artists represented will probably take a shine to the greater part of the Hallelujahs project.  Listeners who already own most of its material, or those looking for more eclectic or upbeat fare, however, may be best served by looking elsewhere.

Bert Gangl 7/21/2003


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