Album Review – Seven Stars (Chris Haines)

My good friend Chris Haines released his first album But God back in 2011, and I you had a chance to hear it, you’ll be pleased to hear that the eagerly anticipated follow-on album was released earlier this year.

In Seven Stars, Chris takes his considerable talent as a singer, songwriter and musician, and treats us to another collection of thoughtful and deep songs, all beautifully arranged.

The album kicks off with the upbeat yet intimate song of worship More of You, and is followed by Face of Flame which reflects on the theme of the glory of God.

The next track, Nothing can Separate is probably the most up-beat on the album, with a catchy tune rejoicing in the truth of Rom 8:38. It’s followed by gentle, almost lullaby-like prayer of blessing, Watching over You.

Augustine’s Song is lyrically one of the richest songs on the album, drawing from the thought of Augustine, backed by lovely guitar work. Lost and Broken showcases Chris’ talent for layered harmonies, and Agape is a intimate love song.

If I had to pick a favourite from the album, it would probably be one of the final three tracks. No Treasure features more of Chris’ signature use of doubled vocals and layerered harmonies, beginning as a melancholic prayer of surrender, before slowly building into an majestic orchestral climax. Strangers has a simple yet beautiful melody, and like so many others on this album, starts gently before gradually building into a crescendo, before stripping it right back down again.

The final, and title track Seven Stars, draws from the imagery of revelation, and builds a powerful sense of anticipation of Christ’s second coming.

Overall, I would say that this is another top album from Chris, with the quality of arrangements particularly impressive. They move effortlessly between waves of peacefulness and intensity, making the listening experience both relaxing and inspiring. Why not treat yourself or a friend to a copy for Christmas?

Album Review–But God (Chris Haines)

This is an album I have been anticipating for a long time, the first solo album from my good friend Chris Haines, a man gifted with the rare combination of being a great musician, singer, song-writer and theologian. Whilst Chris is also a worship leader and has written a number of excellent congregational songs, this is not your typical “me too” worship leader album in the style of Tim Hughes. Instead, I would describe this as a set of theological reflections on the gospel.

The opener and title track, “But God”, brings together ideas from Romans, Ephesians, and the parable of the prodigal son to describe the transformation that has taken place in our salvation. The chorus “You’re so rich in mercy” is a memorable one, and has stuck in my head the past week.

Track two, Glorious, has become a congregational favourite at King’s Community Church, and is one of my favourites on the album, a worship song focusing on the mystery of the cross. This is followed by Epignosis, probably the most beautiful melody on offer, an intimate worship song with some well crafted lyrics from Chris & co-writer Neil Cornish.

The mood shifts slightly for Troubled, a nice adaptation of Ira Sankey’s hymn “Able to deliver”. Track five is Amazed, and the first of two tracks that previously appeared on the King’s Community Church worship album “Magnify”. Amazed is probably the most successful congregational worship song Chris has written, but here he presents it in a fresh way, reimagining the harmony for the verse.

Track six is Search me, which was for me the best song on the Magnify album, featuring a great guitar solo. This time, Chris opts for a slightly gentler version of this lovely adaptation of Psalm 139, sadly lacking the solo, although the new arrangement fits well with the restrained mood of this album. Always good features rather melancholic sounding verses, before building to an uplifting chorus. God who sees is a gentle song, with a simple yet beautiful melody.

The final two tracks are also co-written with Neil Cornish, and feature some of the most interesting and creative lyrics of the album. The garden returns again to the theme of “but God”, exploring the gospel as a reverse of Adam & Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden. From my window is based on the warning of Proverbs 7 against the seductive charms of the adulterous woman. At first glance, this may seem a slightly strange way to end an album themed on the gospel, so it is fitting that the song finishes on a note of grace.

Though this is an independent release. the quality of musicianship, recording and production is very high throughout. The quality of Chris’ guitar playing shines through, and the subtle vocal harmonies add depth to the production. But this album offers a lot more than just a nice sound. With lyrics rich in grace and hope, listening is an edifying and uplifting experience.

Make sure you visit the But God album website allowing you to preview the tracks, peruse the lyrics and order your own physical or digital download copy. I am told that it will soon be available on iTunes and am already looking forward to see what Chris comes up with next.