Monday, June 9, 2008

Worlds Collide - Brian Bates

Worlds Collide
Artist: Brian Bates (
Label: Independent
Length: 10 tracks/43:10 minutes

It’s only May but this is my most pleasant musical surprise of the year. I had no idea what to expect when I took off the shrink-wrap. I chose not to read the promotional material, and the cover didn’t give me a clue as to what to expect.

There’s no substitute for well-crafted melodies with excellent performances and that’s exactly what I found here. There’s not a bad song on the recording. Smooth and soft vocals, acoustic pop with a little light rock, and backing from some veteran studio musicians like Jerry McPherson and Steve Brewster make for a pleasant listen. For this reviewer, it’s a welcome change. This is music that distinguishes itself through subtleties rather than following the trend toward rocking harder.

To top it all off the songs are full of meaningful lyrics. Bates co-wrote most of the songs with themes alternating between finding wholeness, intimacy with God and Bates’ personal encounter with some of the neediest in the world. He and several buddies traveled to Sierra Leone to visit some villages that they had "adopted." Two of the best songs ("You Danced" and "Elijah") are reflections on his experiences. In "You Danced" he marvels at how people who have so little are still able to be joyful. It makes him long for a similar freedom.

"Elijah" is a more sobering song. It’s not about the prophet of old, but a boy whose childhood was stolen. Elijah was forced to become a soldier and commit atrocities that drove him crazy. This song is a lament for Elijah and the others like him who have suffered terribly for what they have done.

"Under," written by Joel Hanson, may be my favorite song. It’s such an inspired combination of sentiments and sounds that it could be used in a worship setting.

Every burden I’ve ever carried
I’m leaving here, I’m leaving here.
Every wound my hands have delivered
I’m leaving here, I’m leaving here.

The symbolism of water in the chorus is a beautiful way of expressing what baptism is meant to be.

Under, I’m going under
Let the water, wash over.
Let me rise up out of these old ways
Into new life, into your name.

The artistry, the introspective but broad world-view rooted in Scripture, and an eye toward social justice, make this especially appealing to those who want to see change in the world.

This CD reminds me that an artist does not have to reinvent music to produce something that is relevant and unique. It’s a rewarding experience when an artist is able to express who God made them to be through engaging songs. I took to these tracks from the opening song, and there’s a good chance that those who hear this CD will have the same experience.
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