I am thoroughly impressed.
You may not be able to match the music to the name, and you might not even recognize the name, but you've no doubt heard the songs.
One of the best known of these songs is the lead off track ... but it wasn't made famous by Rich. It was made famous by a young woman who recorded a cover of this song on the album that made her a star in 1982, 2 years after the song was first written by Rich Mullins. The album was Age to Age, the artist was Amy Grant, and the song is Sing Your Praise to the Lord. And what a song it is! Amy Grant did a wonderful job with the song, and it fit her to a T, but I had never heard the original version until I got this CD. As a matter of fact, Rich says he's wanted to do the original version ever since Amy recorded it and cut out the middle part (his favorite part). The song fits Rich Mullins so well it's scary, and it has a very different feel when you replace the pop line with Rich's trademark myriad guitars.
Certainly the very best know of his songs is next. A very popular praise and worship chorus that took a life of its own outside the contemporary Christian music scene and into churches and youth groups and rallies, Awesome God is an awesome song.
The Chicago Tribune says of Rich's music, "A smart blend of influences, everything from Celtic folk to charging rock, Rich Mullins' music moves across the fences like a movie and moves the soul like a trusted friend, gently guiding the listener to God." Amen and amen! His music has a powerful characteristic of gently drawing the listener in to its fold, and then moving side by side to the foot of the Father.
Rich doesn't shock the listener like some of today's music does. He doesn't use harsh rips and heart-pounding percussion. Instead, he lets the music flow with its own power. Like the tides of the ocean are guided by the moon, Mullins' music is guided by the spirit into a supernaturally powerful force on the heart, more powerful than any shock treatment, and much more subtle.
Another chart-topper, Creed, is a majestic outpouring of his own faith. I'd have a hard time picking my single favorite definition of faith, but Rich Mullins, Carman, and Petra would be on my list.
A new song, previously only heard in his concerts, is We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are, a gentle reminder of where our strength truly comes from. It's followed by If I Stand, another anthem of the Rock. It's got more than a hint of Smitty's influence (naturally - guess who's playing the piano for it?) but the voice is all Rich.
Rich Mullins is a man who's not afraid to sing his heart out. He doesn't hide his voice behind powerful instruments, rather, he uses the instruments to accent his voice, and sings his praise to the Lord for all he's worth.
He does a really funky-fun a capella number that says faith without works is about as useless as a screen door on a submarine, and I'll second that motion. How many people do you know who talk the talk, but then turn around and go their own way? How believable is faith like that? And I'll be the first to admit that I don't put my faith where my mouth is every time, but when I fall, I repent and try again, and hopefully get a little closer to walking in the footsteps of Christ the next time around.
Screen Door is much more than just a song to him, though. Rich seems to me to put his faith where his mouth is. "Your life speaks louder than your words ... I can make records for the rest of my life and talk about love, but it won't mean anything until I love somebody." Which is exactly what he's doing - whether it's because he's afraid of success (as some say) and wants to stay far enough away that he can use his gift without getting wrapped up in the glamour of Nashville, or if it's simply because his heart pours out to people, he now lives in a sheet-metal trailer on the Arizona - New Mexico state line and teaches music to Navajo children by day.
Looking through the liner notes, these songs encompass a virtual who's who of the best musicians in Nashville - Michael W. Smith, Wayne Kirpatrick, Billy Sprague, Jimmy A, Jimmy Lee Sloas, and Billy Crockett, just to name a few. And the liner itself is pretty cool, with photos from all across Ireland ... but it has a curious odor of crayons!
Songs on this album:
Sing Your Praise to the Lord
Sometimes By Step
We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are
If I Stand
Let Mercy Lead
Calling Out Your Name
My One Thing
Boy Like Me / Man Like You
While The Nations Rage
Verge Of A Miracle
Hold Me Jesus
Copyright 1996 by Christian Music Review Headquarters
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