Michael Schroeder – CD Review
Michael Schroeder is a diamond in the rough, rising out of America’s heartland, and doing his part to help bring his fellow believers in Christ into a new era of worship and praise. This movement, which extends beyond Schroeder’s efforts, is inspired, lively and uplifting, yet still is anchored in rich biblical truths. This is only possible by and through God which leads me to believe that this work is filled with, and inspired by, the Holy Spirit.
Schroeder’s latest CD is simply and humbly titled “Worship” and contains a mix of three re-arranged hymns and seven new musical pieces written by Schroeder. It is Schroeder’s sixth CD and in my opinion his best. As an added bonus, the set contains two CDs, one containing the music and the second contains lyrics, chord sheets, some thoughts on worship, PowerPoint charts, backing tracks and commentary for each arrangement – a nice bonus indeed. In fact, the PowerPoint charts contain background images photographed by Schroeder on his recent trip to the Holy Land that have apparently been stylized by either a graphic artist or by software. Either way, the end result is appealing.
Right from the start, as I opened the CD package, I noticed something very different. Integrated into the lyrics that are printed in the CD booklet are the bible verses that each lyric is derived from. And I don’t mean just one bible verse mentioned under the song title, I mean dozens of scripture references contained within and interspersed right there among the lyrics that are based from them. I have never seen this done before and I’ve looked at literally hundreds of CDs in the Contemporary Christian genre. It just shows where an artist like Schroeder is getting his inspiration from and where he is ultimately giving the credit to.
Michael Schroeder, to me, sounds like a smooth version of pop singer Marc Cohn who had the hit single “Walking in Memphis.” Schroeder has the same edge and tone to his voice but it’s his smooth, almost British-like under tones that really stand out and make his music very pleasing to the ear.
Following is my take on each song:
“By No Other Name” is a great “Call and Response” song to sing with your congregation and my recommendation would be to sing it responsively as Michael does on the CD with the congregation singing the responsive parts. My favorite lyric is “by no other name is anyone saved but through Jesus”. I like the use of the word anyone as opposed to using “am I’ or “are we” as most songs of this type would use.
“We Bow Down” is a rousing song of praise that begs the listener to bow down and sing along. This is probably the best suited song on the CD for use in a corporate setting and I personally can’t wait to try this one in our church. The lyrics give a variety of reasons why we should bow down to our master; which is a fresh take on an often written about song topic.
“Just As I Am” pretty much keeps the hymn melody but does so with some nice piano and cello movement. I love the line that Michael added in the chorus that says: “For all that You are, is all I am not.” I point out these minute details and some choice words because Michael Schroeder is an artist who pays attention to details and his use of the English language as guided by scripture is critically important to his mission and his music.
“Love Changes Everything” drips with Gospel content as do many other songs in the collection. It is a piece that I would reserve for your soloist and praise band. The original has some really nice piano work and it also shows that the electric guitar can be used tastefully in worship music, with distortion no less, and still be glorifying, dignified and respectful. My favorite little lyric in the song is “the Savior proved that God is love”. I also like “condemned by the ones you would save.”
“That’s My King” is an upbeat guitar-driven tune. It mostly relies on electric guitar; and shows a hint of Schroeder’s falsetto capabilities. It’s a moving song to listen to and if you’re like me, you will want to attempt this number with your praise band as well.
“The Light of the World” contains more names and titles for Jesus than I knew existed. It is also a sweet and sonorous mix of some really fine acoustic finger-picking paired with some nice cello work. It’s also a nice piece for use on Trinity Sunday. But again, I’d reserve this one for your soloists.
“Jesus is Lord” is another guitar-driven piece. This one could work as a congregational song. The chorus strikes me as especially fun to sing.
“Holy, Holy, Holy” is a remade version of the classic hymn about the Triune God called “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty.” I’m not a fan of a lot of made-over hymns because I’ve been singing these great truths for over 30 years and when I hear someone come out with a new version, invariably my reaction is “why’d you have to go and change the song?” But that’s not the case to this new arrangement. Michael has captured the essence of the song and capsulated it into a new rhythm and to be honest, I could hear this version on popular radio today. It’s remarkable what he has done to this tune. I still like the original hymn, but I like this one as well; and that’s what’s great about the inspiring work of the Holy Spirit as is evident in this piece.
“By His Grace” is an interesting piece and I particularly like the interplay between the seemingly opposed attributes of God’s grace to His holiness. Schroeder has a writing style that is unlike many of his contemporary Christian song-writing colleagues. He does not rely on the same old cliché’s that are so prevalent in this genre; all of his music has a fresh edge to it and “By His Grace” is a great example of this.
Schroeder has done a fine job on updating the classic hymn “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow” and interestingly enough, this arrangement is musically led by the drummer. It’s a toe tapper if not a foot stomper! Your congregation will enjoy singing this new arrangement but you might want to leave the chorus for the soloists.
In all, this is a must have for your musical collection. Every song is enjoyable to listen to and the lyrics are particularly personal and reflective as they draw the listener into each story.
It’s often said that the popular big label contemporary artists have to “dumb down” their lyrics so that more Christian denominations can use their music and thereby maximize sales. This is not the case for the likes of Michael Schroeder who is at home with expressing his faith and his beliefs as they are defined by scripture and his mid-western upbringings. This is a CD that you will both enjoy listening to and using in worship.
One way to use this collection in worship, even if you don’t have a praise band, would be to use the PowerPoint slides to project the lyrics and have your congregation sing along to the backing tracks. If you are new to this type of worship, you will need a good technical person to flip through the PowerPoint charts on a timely basis and it doesn’t hurt to use a choir of singers to lead the congregation in singing. In fact, have the lead singers practice with the backing track before using this in worship.
You can hear song clips to the new CD entitled “Worship” at Michaels’ website: