Wednesday, September 12, 2007

CD Review: In a Little While (by Mark and Stephen Altrogge)

I love the guys at Sovereign Grace Ministries. I love the way the do stuff – and especially the way they write songs.

Disclosure: Several years ago we took a family vacation in Indiana, Pennsylvania so that we could attend a worship service at Lord of Life Church. LOL (recently renamed, Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA) is pastored by Mark Altrogge, and after singing this brother’s songs for many years I had a desire to “see him in action” at his home church. We had a great time of fellowship.

Back to the review: Mark and his eldest son, Stephen, were asked by SGM to put together a joint project – songs written and sung by father and son. You can read various interviews of the Altrogge’s at challies.com and at Bob Kauflin's Worship Matters.

When I first heard of the project, I was thrilled. I don’t think Mark has published a song yet that I have not profited from, and Stephen’s “What a Glorious Mystery You Are” is one of our church favorites. My disc finally arrived in the mail and the whole family has been enjoying it for the last month.

There is a fairly broad range of musical genre in the compilation, from driving guitars to a banjo. The songs centre on the cross and thematically you might be able to lump them all into the “encouragement” category (or, as the web advertising says, they “reflect the hope found where daily life meets biblical truth.”)

Like so many of Mark’s earlier songs, they combine pithy lyrics with very singable, yet not boringly predictable melody lines. I think that may be one of the real gifts to Mark that has traveled through the genetics to Stephen. I have always thought that good worship songs should have an almost “jingle-like predictability / learnability to them, without being mundane and boring. Congregations full of a wide range of singing abilities need that – and the Altrogge’s deliver on this album.

The signature song is a wonderful and interesting musical arrangement with lyrics that bring hope by considering heaven. “And we will see Your face with our own eyes / We will gaze with our own eyes / Full on Your glory, never have to look away / In a little while, a little while...” That thought, “never have to look away” has been one pondered and profited from in the Martin home.

Stephen opens the album with the rocking, At the Cross: “At the cross our debt is cancelled / Paid in full when Jesus died / At the cross our souls are ransomed / Purchased with the blood of Christ / At the cross our sin is conquered / Heaven’s gates are opened wide at the cross.”

I think my favorite song so far (this is so subjective, I know!) is Mark’s “All I Really Need.” This song is one of those really nice matches of lyric to music and its simple message such a fresh and needed reminder: “All I really need is Your grace / All I need to know is You are near me / All I need is You / All I really need is Your grace / All I need to know is You are for me / All I need is You...” What a great thought!

The overall musical quality of the CD is top notch, although I did find a couple of numbers sounding very similar to the Christmas CD “Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. This might have been due to Sal Oliveri producing both projects or just the instruments used in recording? I don't think it takes away from the recording in the end.

One funny feature of this CD is its unique likeness at several points to a couple of songs off the “That Thing You Do” soundtrack. The first one to notice this was my 6 year old son! It took him a while to explain it to us, but the boy was right! Which is a very ironic twist in this story.

The day after our great visit with the Altrogge’s in the stately-named Indiana, Pennsylvania, we left for home. Well, home for the Toronto-bound means a trip through, Erie, PA... birthplace of “The Wonders” – that iconic, fictional band of the cult classic, “That Thing You Do.” Weird!

Anyway, this is a project I highly commend to you. The songs on this disc are great to sing at your church, with your family, in the car or anywhere else. And like everything that comes from SGM, they will exalt Jesus Christ our Saviour. What could be better than that!? Buy it and be blessed!

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You can download free audio song samples, free sheet music and free lyrics from here.


Buy individual tracks here.