The Phantom Tollbooth
Throw Down Your Crowns
Artist: Glenn Kaiser
Label: Grrr Records & Diamante Music Group
Time: 14 tracks / 51:34

In the dysfunctional sub-culture which is the Christian music industry, we don't often hold worship music up to the same standards as other musical offerings. The result has been a bevy of insipid albums showcasing shoddy musicianship and overly sentimental lyrical content. Not to mention songs often played for the most emotional effect in a forced, canned way just like bad actors butchering something that should be grandly Shakespearean in its execution. Glenn Kaiser avoids all those pitfalls. As his lead vocal singing for the trusted Resurrection Band proves, Kaiser has one of the greatest voices in rock 'n' roll whether he's pulling blues notes from his guitar, singing R&B, or jamming with his hard rock band. What's more, his reputation for integrity, both as a Christian and a musical artist, is nearly peerless. He remains a respected brother in the Lord willing to humble himself to God's call to ministry first, not someone who exploits his gifts for an easy buck and the praise of people. Best of all, this collection of worship songs, like his last one, All My Days, sprung from real worship, not a label's need for another big seller. Or as Kaiser says in the liner notes:

And what an album it is:  beautiful, reflective, and inspiring holy joy, quiet reflection and worthy worship. Kaiser combines a gentle sound that is unobtrusive yet solidly played with thoughtful, worship-focused lyrics. Of course, the real test of any worship album is whether it helps catch you up in the act of worship or not. Or more simply, can you reverently sing along? Yes!

The music has a simplicity to it that incorporates many musical forms while remaining beyond any trends. Kaiser plays all the guitars, acoustic and electric, as well as some dulcimer. A number of friends contribute everything else, including drums, bass, piano, cello, violin, sax, flute, pedal steel and mandolin. The Grace & Glory Choir drops by for two tracks, and an entire string section shows up for "Holy Fire." Whereas the musical talent here is consistently considerable, this album is not quite as creative or as diverse as an At the Foot of the Cross album or even Kemper Crabb's Vigil. It compares well to those projects in its intended effect, however, which is to celebrate, honor and praise God through quality worship songs. Throw Down Your Crowns makes an excellent addition to a collection of other meritorious projects by those forementioned artists, as well as the Michael Cards, John Michael Talbots, and Keith Greens of the world: artists who honor God by giving their absolute best in both artistry and focus; artists who don't serve up half-baked efforts for the sake of sales.

With no cheesy clunkers, every song on this collection suits its purpose well. Some seem a bit more "inspired" than others--which means they are catchier--but none of them will distract you from your purpose of praise. Kaiser reminds us in the liner notes that true worship is always accompanied by the practical service of living out our lives unto God. After all, empty worship is detestable to the Lord, and He refuses to listen to the noise arising from disobedient hearts. Surely Throw Down Your Crowns can be used as a catalyst for the Holy Spirit to move again in your hearts, causing you to render love and service.

These aren't just new hymns worth hearing, they are worth learning and singing and lifting up to the Lord again and again.

Anyone who has been to Cornerstone has had the wonderful opportunity to attend a time of worship led by Glenn Kaiser, who happens to be one of the pastors of the Jesus People USA community in inner-city Chicago as well as a part-time rock 'n' roller. (He would assure you that no matter what he's doing, he is always a full-time Christian.) For those who have attended, this album is your chance to remember that experience and duplicate it at home. For those who haven't been to the Cornerstone Festival, here is a perfect opportunity to be a part of the kind of worship experience you've been missing out on.

The worship of God is mandatory, and this album is an excellent opportunity to render your love and devotion to our Heavenly Father. Join me; join Glenn Kaiser and the JPUSA community; join the heavenly angels on high in praise of our Great and Holy God.  Amen.

By Steven Stuart Baldwin (10/1/98)