There are at least two reasons to buy good hymn CDs. First, good recordings of hymns will usually introduce you to hymns with which you are currently unfamiliar. I have learned many new hymn texts and settings from CDs I purchased. Good recordings of hymns also aid your worship. I like them in the background (or, preferrably, the foreground) on Sunday morning. So if you are looking for a good recording of hymns to add to your collection, I strongly recommend Best Loved Hymns.
On the disc, I was introduced to many “Best Loved Hymns” that I did not know. This ignorance, of course, was only partly my fault. Several years ago when I first purchased the disc, the Choir of King’s College introduced me to “All My Hope on God is Founded,” “Come Down, O Love Divine,” “The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended,” “My Song is Love Unknown,” and “Drop, Drop, Slow Tears.” The tune ABBOT’S LEIGH to “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” is one of the highlights of the CD, a much better setting, I am inclined to think, than Hadyn’s AUSTRIA, to which we often sing the hymn here in the United States. I also learned the original words to “Be Thou My Vision”, which make much more sense than our abridged American version.
Accompiament and Arrangements. Nearly all of the hymns are accompanied. Most have the organ, and some add brass. “Morning has Broken,” “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” and “Be Thou My Vision” are all ornamented with harp. Most of the arrangements are simple, the hymn with little alteration and a descant at the end–and the descants are glorious. “All My Hope,” “Praise, My Soul,” “All People,” and “Thine be the Glory” are particularly grand and majestic. For those who are not at all accustomed to any kind of modern music, “Let All Mortal Flesh” may be a bit offsetting at first, but with acquaintance it becomes increasingly satisfying. “O What Their Joy” is arranged more like an anthem than a hymn, and has a broad scope–mystical, somber, and glorious in its eight minutes of pure delight.
The Performance of the hymns by the Choir of King’s College and Stephen Cleobury is well done, in my opinion. A friend once commented to me that the CD was poorly mixed, but I have never noticed–but that may be my general apathy about how CDs are mixed. This is not “CCM,” and it is not Soundforth, the Wilds, or Majesty Music. This is a serious choir in England, desiring to sing serious hymns. No jingles, no puff, and not always “pretty.” But the recording is greatly satisifying and has done much good for my soul. Even the Liner Notes are helpful with this CD; I found them very informative.
I should say one word about a couple songs with which I suspect theologically. “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” comes pretty close to being postmillennial. And I have some discomfort when I read the text to “Drop, Drop, Slow Tears.” But these should not be strong enough to hinder you. It is really only the last verse of “Dear Lord” that gives away its postmillennialism (though it is well and subtly crafted into the text), and it could even be reinterpreted, I would dare say, to be premillennial. “Drop, Drop” does not seem to emphasize justification by faith through Christ enough for my doctrinal taste.
In sum, I would highly recommend this recording. It will quickly become, I believe, one of your best loved.