Two groups who call themselves worship bands have released albums that slip beyond the genre’s normal boundaries — and that’s great.

Rock ’n’ Roll Worship Circus takes you on a wild ride through rock history. Ten Shekel Shirt makes you want to cheer — and cry. Both offer the normal batch of praise songs, but both also offer some insightful thoughts about modern life.

• “A Beautiful Glow,” Rock ’n’ Roll Worship Circus. Musically, the Circus draws on the sounds of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and almost every song offers a lyrical or musical treat — with a few shots of orneriness.

Gabriel Wilson’s lyrics explore relationships among people as much as they offer praise. What he has to say is well worth hearing. For example, the title track is a fast-paced rocker that makes it easy to imagine “your glory spinning in my mind.” And “Gift of Cool” examines how people with conflicting styles and backgrounds can draw together for worship. The song’s arrangement is reminiscent of Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” — possibly a subtle encouragement to walk on the wild side in order to reach out to others.

In other nods to the past, “Scary Drifter” feels like it could be a track from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and I thought “Morning Glory” was going to turn into “Wake Up Little Suzie,” by the Everly Brothers.

The big question is whether a CD that borrows so much from the past can be relevant to the present.

Answer: Yes.

The lyrics challenge listeners to open their hearts and minds and they encourage praise in new ways. The music borrows, but doesn’t steal. It offers new twists on old themes.

On the Web:

• “Risk,” Ten Shekel Shirt. Expectations were high for this band’s sophomore release. Those expecting more acoustic worship were probably disappointed. Those looking for more risk were thrilled.

While acoustic sounds play a large role, a few steps into edgier areas create the high points. The opening track, “Risk,” for example, announces the new tone with riffs from an electric guitar that set up a well-paced, deliberate account of how love begins with risk.

Despite the presence of some good up-tempo tunes, the heart of the CD lies in two acoustic ballads. “February” is the heart- wrenching account of the loss of lead singer Lamont Hiebert’s mother and brother in that month. “Over the Room” is about the courage and joy of those released from oppression. The song was inspired by the band’s trip to Thailand in which members learned about the struggles of children who are kept as sex slaves. Another result of the band’s trip is a link on its Web site to International Justice Mission, which seeks to help these children.

After “Over the Room,” the tempo picks up with “Safest Place” and the final track “Today,” leaving listeners right where they began — a new and riskier Ten Shekel Shirt.

On the charts

Top contemporary Christian albums as reported by SoundScan, according to The Associated Press:

1. “Almost There,” MercyMe.2. “Worship Together: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” Various artists.3. “Simple Things,” Amy Grant.4. “WOW Worship (Yellow),” Various artists.5. “Stacie Orrico,” Stacie Orrico. 6. “The Beautiful Letdown,” Switchfoot.7. “iWorship: A Total Worship Experience,” Various artists.8. “Sacred Revolution: Songs From OneDay03,” Passion Worship Band.9. “Offerings II: All I Have to Give,” Third Day.10. “Spoken For,” MercyMe.

— Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears every other week on the Religion page.

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