Hosanna! Music: 8×8: The Best of the Best

Not too long ago I did an interview with Integrity Music’s original in-house producer, Tom Brooks who was responsible for producing more than 100 live recordings in Integrity’s Hosanna! Music live worship series. Beginning officially in 1985 with “All Hail King Jesus” (led by Kent Henry), Hosanna! Music and the sound of Tom Brooks’ production defined the sound of modern worship music in North America through the rest of the 80’s and much of the 90’s. These live recordings were extremely influential in determining what many churches would sing during this era and even still today. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the interview, I have included links at the end of this post.

During the course of my interview with Brooks I identified eight worship leaders who became “regulars” in the Hosanna! Music series, all of which did at least one (if not more) projects produced by Brooks. These eight worship leaders recorded the most projects in the Hosanna! Music series: Don Moen, Kent Henry, Graham Kendrick, Ron Kenoly, Marty Nystrom, Randy Rothwell, Bob Fitts and Paul Baloche. By nature of their frequency, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to suggest these were some of the best-selling worship leaders in the series. I thought it would be fun to highlight one album from each of these worship leaders that was influential, memorable or even trend-setting. Although not all of these were produced by Brooks, most of them were and they represent some of the best projects in the Hosanna! Music series between 1985-2000. Here we go!

Give Thanks – Don Moen (1986). This was the seventh album in the Hosanna! Music series and re-introduced the church to Don Moen who had previously established himself as an artist in the 1970’s and early 80’s as a member in Terry Law’s group, Living Sound. Out of all of Moen’s projects this is the one he is perhaps most known for, mostly because of his close association with the title track (penned by Henry Smith) and by virtue that it was the first Hosanna! Music album to achieve Gold status in the United States. In many respects, it was this project that solidified Integrity Music’s influence in modern worship music.

Noteworthy Cuts: Give Thanks, Worthy, You are Worthy

Glorify Thy Name – Kent Henry (1986). This was one of six projects Kent Henry led in the Hosanna! Music series. Henry could be regarded as the “grandfather” of the series, having led on the first official Hosanna! Music release, All Hail King Jesus in 1985. Hosanna! Music projects were released on an eight week cycle and this one, the eighth in the series, followed the success of Don Moen’s Give Thanks. Glorify Thy Name was equally as popular. The track list could double as a setlist for what many contemporary churches were singing in the late 80’s. Out of all of Henry’s projects for Hosanna! Music, this one contains the most songs in one project that were adopted by the church for regular Sunday rotation.

Noteworthy Cuts: You are Crowned with Many Crowns, We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise

Crown Him – Graham Kendrick (1991). By the time Crown Him was released, Graham Kendrick, a worship leader from the UK, was already well known by American churches largely because of his association with the March for Jesus movement. This evangelical movement was noted for “tearing down the four walls of the church” through the concept of public praise. Like previous projects released by the Kingsway label in Kendrick’s native UK, Crown Him was the official soundtrack for the march in 1991. A compilation of Kendrick’s compositions slickly produced, this project showcases a well-seasoned songwriter and worship leader with beautifully crafted melodies and theologically rich lyrics. One listen through this album and it’s easy to see how this project likely influenced other young UK worship leaders like Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Martin Smith. The Brits know how to craft a singable melody!

Noteworthy Cuts: From The Sun’s Rising, Here is Love, All the Glory

Lift Him Up with Ron Kenoly (1992). This album marked a turning point in the Hosanna! Music series. For one, it was the first album to feature a picture of the worship leader on the cover. Musically, it was a full-blown foray into R&B and Gospel. Whereas Brooks had dabbled in blending this genre on previous Hosanna! Music projects, this was an unapologetic dive into the deep end (just listen to “Call Him Up”!). With an all-star cast of musicians and a seasoned worship leader at the helm, Lift Him Up is a high octane worship experience from beginning to end. In some respects, this album set the pace for where worship music would head in the 1990’s. If you listen to some of the Hillsong releases throughout the 90’s, it seems likely that they were influenced by this project. With its solid set of well-penned songs, flawless brass-laden arrangements, powerhouse choir and vocalists, it’s no wonder Lift Him Up still reigns as the fastest-selling worship album of all time.

Noteworthy Cuts: Lift Him Up, Mourning Into Dancing, Ancient of Days

In Christ Alone – Marty Nystrom (1993). Best known for his song, “As the Deer”, Nystrom was a well-established worship leader by the time this project released. Whereas Nystrom’s previous Hosanna! Music releases Forever Grateful and Enter His Gates felt a bit predictable, this project wasn’t afraid to deviate from anticipated patterns. Inverting the traditional worship set pattern, this album opens with a slow-tempo number. Not until the third cut (“Such Joy”) do things start to pick up. The jewel of this project are the songs themselves. Carried largely by the the songwriting of Don Harris, this album is a textbook example of how to pair scriptures verbatim with infectious melodies. Presented on the wings of slick, first-class vocal arrangements, the scripture songs on this project still stand up well today.

Noteworthy Cuts: Speak to One Another, As High as the Heavens, In Christ Alone

Be Magnified Featuring Randy Rothwell (1993). Sporting an unmistakeable mustache and mullet, this was the first of Rothwell’s releases in the Hosanna! Music to feature a picture of this well-loved worship leader on the cover. Rothwell, among others was one of the few in the Hosanna! Music worship leader roster who led from guitar and who’s projects lended themselves to more guitar driven songs. Whereas some his previous Hosanna! Music albums (Mighty Warrior and Army of God) captured a militant theme, Be Magnified was far more tender in its overall theme and lyrical content. Supported strongly by the title track written by Lynn DeShazo (another “regular” from the Hosanna! Music songwriting stable), Be Magnified is likely Rothwell’s strongest release and demonstrates the moving progression towards acoustic guitar driven worship in the series.

Noteworthy Cuts: Sanctuary, I Belong to a Mighty God, Be Magnified

He Will Save You with Bob Fitts (1996). Affectionately known by his colleagues as Bob “Nicer than God” Fitts, this album platforms Fitts’ heart for the nations. There’s not a bad track on this release and the seamless and carefully crafted transitions (courtesy of Don Harris) are a lesson in arrangement and orchestration. For many this was the album that first platformed Dennis Jernigan’s signature song, “You are My All in All”. Borrowing from the Vineyard Music catalogue, Andy Park’s “The River is Here” is paired with Fitts’ own, “Sing Hallelujah”, both receiving the polished Hosanna Music! production treatment that would make the former the definitive version among some circles. Fitts’ rich tenor voice combined with his earnest and sincere leadership made him a favorite within the Hosanna! Music series. Whereas, He Will Save You may be the author’s favorite album, every project he did in this series was a grand slam.

Noteworthy Cuts: This is the Day, Lord Most High, He Will Come and Save You

First Love with Paul Baloche (1998). It’s hard to think of acoustic worship and not think of Paul Baloche. Baloche’s tenure with Integrity Music is the longest in the company’s history and he has written hundreds of songs that have been recorded by him and fellow label mates. First Love was the project that introduced the world to one of Paul’s (many) well-known songs, “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. Featuring rock-driven arrangements and powerhouse BGV’s provided by Matthew Ward from legendary CCM group 2nd Chapter of Acts, this album captures the definitive sound of acoustic worship in the 90’s. Baloche is a well-seasoned top shelf worship leader and it’s evidenced on this project through his boundless energy coupled with sweet, tender reflective moments. There was something really special caught on tape when this album was recorded.

Noteworthy Cuts: Rise Up and Praise Him, Rock of Ages, The Happy Song

I would be amiss not to make two honorable mentions. Although these artists aren’t among the group of those who recorded the most projects in the Hosanna! Music series, the projects they did record were groundbreaking.

Shout to the Lord – Darlene Zschech (1996). This was the album that introduced North America to the music of then Hills Christian Life Center, now Hillsong Music. Famous for being the first-ever album in the Hosanna! Music series to be led by a woman, this project was originally to be led by former worship pastor, Geoff Bullock. Weeks before the project was slated to be recorded, Bullock resigned his post and “vocal director”, Zschech stepped-up to the plate. Although this was not the first recording of Zschech’s iconic song, “Shout to the Lord”, the version on this project became the best-known one throughout North America. The album itself was recorded mid-year in between the live album recording cycle at the the church. Because of this, it contains newly recorded versions of previously released songs alongside some new cuts. Beautifully recorded and produced, this recording’s importance can’t be over-emphasized as it was the project that expanded the church’s music beyond Australia.

Noteworthy Cuts: Let the Peace of God Reign, I Will Never Be, Power of Your Love

Revival in Belfast – Robin Mark (1999). In North America, Mark’s signature song, “Days of Elijah” had been slowly circulating around at large events and conferences and a version of it released on an independent project was available as an import. But for most, this was the project that introduced much of the world to that prophetic song and to Mark’s worship leading. In some respects this album ushered in a resurgence in Celtic sounds with many worship and CCM artists adopting traditional Irish sounds and instruments on the heels of its release. The album was a fantastic collection of extremely strong and accessible songs. Mark’s warm, laidback leadership combined with his thick Irish accent translates well and the songs are presented with a great deal of earnest petition. This project was widely popular in Canada in the UK and many of the songs made their way into weekend services in those regions.

Noteworthy Cuts: You’re The Lion of Judah, Jesus, all for Jesus, Be Unto Your Name

For those looking for a deeper dive into the history of Integrity’s Hosanna! Music, here’s both parts of the interview I did with original in-house producer, Tom Brooks. Disclaimer: It’s long and thorough!


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