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  The Worship Project
Artist: Jonathan Butler
Label: Maranatha
Time: 12 tracks / 46 min.

Only 30 seconds into the first track, it's apparent that Jonathan Butler sings with a smile and his sunny, somewhat reedy voice will have light R&B and smooth jazz fans something to smile about also. Jonathan displays youthful vocal gymnastics that defy the salt and pepper appearance of his hair on the album cover. His voice sounds like a more rich version of Jon Gibson, when Jon Gibson isn't trying to sound like Stevie Wonder, with a little deeper vibrato.

On this disc, Jonathan covers four classic P&W hits: “You're Worthy Of My Praise,” “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” “That's Why We Praise Him,” and “No Higher Calling.” These are mentioned first, since they are the most unremarkable songs on the disc. Some of the acoustic guitars in these tracks sound like they were not mic'ed properly, almost as if their piezo-electric pickups were plugged in directly to the board during tracking – generally considered a no-no when proper microphones are so readily available. Jonathan wrote, or co-wrote the remaining eight tracks on the disc, and these are much better tracks than the covers. There are some gems that leaves one wondering if there may have been a couple more had the four covers been replaced with four more of Jonathan's original songs.

Worthy of special mention are:

“He Is The Lord”, one of the more up tempo songs on the disc gets mention due to a series of vocal turns that Jonathan pulls off in the last minute of the song. If Oleta Adams has a singing brother, this must be him. Shivers up and down the spine!

“Don't You Worry”, with a just enough funk, just enough pop groove that should have very broad appeal and brings the message of Psalms 55: 22 and Phillipians 4:6-7 home in a smooth R&B mix.

“Falling In Love With Jesus” reminds us of our first Love in a melody and arrangement that is reminiscent of Stevie's 'Overjoyed', sans chirping bird sounds. It's a beautiful song, tarnished only by a fake harmonica solo about 1/2 of the way through the song.

“When We Pray” is a lovely gentle ballad asking for guidance in knowing how to communicate with our Lord. This one would be a great song to hear if Jonathan could sing it lead, with the Winans providing backup, each one taking a turn to offer up a piece of wisdom or request to the Father.

A couple more groovin' songs like “Don't You Worry” would have been a welcome addition to this disc. The remainder of the songs tend to be slower ballads and R&B tracks and it seems they call for some balance of tempo. 

Summary: Excepting the cover songs and the rare questionable choice of instrumentation, this is a nice disc to showcase Jonathan's vocal and songwriting chops. It's not likely the last we will hear from Jonathan Butler.

Scott Lake 10/31/2004



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