Some people think it’s “cheating” for a songwriter to make use of a hymn for the bridge of his song. The idea is that the song needs to be good enough to stand on its own, and falling back on a hymn to carry it at the climactic point is like using a crutch. I can see both sides to the debate. On the one hand, it is a slight disappointment when a writer doesn’t put in the effort to come up with a new thought of his own and instead “plays it safe.” On the other hand, there’s an evil part of me that says, “Hey, maybe he would have come up with something dreadful and ruined the song anyway, so perhaps it’s just as well that he let Charles Wesley handle it.”
All kidding aside, I guess I’m just more relaxed than some about hymn bridges. And sometimes it just works, mate. Case in point, the title track of Brian Free & Assurance’s album Greater Still. The piano begins with a suggestion of the melody for “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” and then launches into the intro for the song, which has Assurance’s signature “swing.” Another musical hint is dropped in the chorus on the phrase “God’s grace.” For the bridge, they finally go all the way and sing most of the chorus of “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” syncopating the rhythm just slightly so that it fits with the rest of the song. They dive right back into the song chorus instead of singing the last line of the hymn chorus, after which the piano once more echoes the hymn melody to finish it off. It’s all done so tastefully and cohesively that the listener never once feels like the hymn has been awkwardly shoe-horned in just because everybody ran out of ideas. It’s woven into the fabric of the song as opposed to being tacked on.
Oh, I forgot to add that it has Tony Wood’s name on it, and I recently learned that Wayne Haun produced it. Which explains everything, of course.