If Hymnastics by Brad Hooks makes you think of gymnastics your thought matches the cover design, which includes sketches of gymnasts in various poses. Maybe it's a reflection of Hooks' acrobatic maneuvers with some of Christendom's most venerated texts. He puts these verses through widely creative and intricate contortions along the lines of Sufjan Stevens minus the horns. His use of programming and modern beats reminds me of David Crowder.
As a singer, he covers a wide range. One moment his falsetto sounds like Brit-rock; the next he is warbling (and whistling) like Andrew Bird.
Hooks succeeds admirably in updating hymns like no one before him. He also adds a couple of excellent original songs that fall in the contemporary worship category. Chris Tomlin should checkout "All Blessing" for one of his future releases.
For a generation that doesn't know or appreciate hymns the last thing you want is for them to sound dated. Hooks' attention to detail keeps that from happening. He infuses these classics with a fresh vigor by varying the music styles, which makes this fascinating and anything but boring. Some songs get a radical makeover with new melodies and even added words.
The most traditional sounding is "Blessed Assurance," which relies on keyboards that fluctuate between more and less. It feels like the right touch for this dearly-loved composition from Fanny Crosby, who though blind could see more than many who have sight.
Getting back to the gymnastic analogy, this isn't just a fun exercise. It breathes a spirit of worship, which is what these songs have always been about. They are not diminished by Hooks innovative production, just reinterpreted for new listeners.
Hooks has the talent to make this a series, but he also demonstrates proficiency in modern worship. He serves as the music director for Calvary Chapel Montebello and tours as a worship artist. It will be interesting to see what he does next.
I like hymn releases because I enjoy new versions of these classics. From my growing collection, I can't think of any that sound more modern, original and creative than this.