Restored for Worship
Kevin Riley Music (release date: July 21, 2015)
By Bob Marovich
What strikes you upon hearing Kevin Riley’s new album, Restored for Worship, is how well the project would work as an Easter cantata.
Literally beginning at the beginning, with dramatically-spoken snippets from early Genesis during the first of the Little Rock, Arkansas’ singer-songwriter’s several interludes, Restored for Worship follows the march of time from creation and the dawn of humanity to Jesus’s passion, resurrection, ascension, and the first Pentecost. Riley uses this construct to show how the “plan of redemption” that began before creation was made manifest in Jesus’s death and rising, thus restoring man’s capacity for worship. The title track, a musically complex selection that features Riley’s most inspired singing, sums it up.
The P&W songs that comprise the album are simple songs with simple melodies steeped in a semi-classical ambiance. The instrumentation is minimal, with acoustic piano and violin, a delicate rhythm section, and a synth serving as string section. Exceptions are the snarling electric guitars on “Mighty to Save” and the rock-driven rework of the camp meeting favorite, “Love Lifted Me.”
Although “King of Glory” is the single, “In Awe of You” is the most radio-friendly of the bunch. The minor keyed “Via Dolorosa” is a haunting evocation of Jesus’s walk to Calvary.
Riley’s baritone is as fundamentally uncomplicated as the music. He sings best within his vocal range and sounds uncomfortable outside those limits. With the exception of the title track, Riley is at his best with help from the background vocalists. If re-worked as a cantata, Restored for Worship could flourish with more variety–that is, if some songs are rendered by a choir, some by a group, and others by a soloist.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “In Awe of You,” “Restored for Worship.”