Jars of Clay
Sixpence None The Richer
Michael W. Smith
What Flicker Records's Soul Lift failed to do Rocketown's Exodus project accomplished three years earlier: to bring together a handful of Christian music's most popular artists and craft an album of honest, glorifying worship to our Heavenly Father. Exodus ventured above and beyond that calling; it broke genre barriers and brought together fan favourites such as producer Michael W. Smith, dc Talk, Sixpence None the Richer, Cindy Morgan, and more, while recounting the story of God's chosen people, Israel, in their exodus from Egypt.
The story unfolds with a processional march, written by Michael W. Smith. As the nation of Israel marches on, they lift their voices in exaltation of their deliverer, singing "We praise you Lord, we lift your Name on high." Excitement surges through the veins of the journeying nomads, and they firmly root their faith in their Redeemer, their solid rock, each individual proclaiming that praising God is "My Will." dc Talk captures this introduction in their acoustically based track of the same name, which is one of their best. Not long after the adventure begins, however, Pharaoh rescinds his allowance and begins to pursue the newly freed Israelites. Jars of Clay acts as Moses's voice, as he cries for help from above, lifting "Needful Hands." Jars awesomely portrays the despair felt by Moses through a heavily strummed, nearly drawling melody, but reestablishes the Creator as the eyes, voice, and strength that the Israelites need to escape once more. In the clear, the mass company of wanderers continues their exodus, only to become impatient and grumble against Moses. They tire of walking aimlessly and demand food and water from their so-called leader. Sixpence None the Richer sees Moses asking God to "Brighten My Heart." As always, Matt Slocum is the musical genius behind this beautiful mess, incorporating a hybrid of cello, guitar, and piano to help the listener open their heart to God. Though trials and tribulations continually ensue, Moses and the Israelites continue marching onward, holding hands beneath the moonlight and unceasingly following the pillars of fire and cloud. Depicted by Cindy Morgan, "Make Us One" is a stirring ballad that vividly describes God's chosen people imploring Him to bridge the gap between Him and themselves. Michael W. Smith provides background vocals during this track's celebratory climax in which the Israelites raise their voices to Heaven and shout to the Lord. They now understand that "Nothin'" except for the grace and unsurpassable love of God above got them to where they now stand. Chris Rice elaborates on the fact using nothing but his voice and his guitar, modestly and pleasantly singing about how "nothin can wash away my sin...nothin' can make the devil run...nothin' can lead me to your throne...nothin' but the blood of Jesus." "Draw Me Close," each Israelite prays. "Never let me go." The Katinas' outstanding and beautiful vocal performance echoes the repentance of God's people, crescendoing to the poignant chorus, "You're all I want / you're all I've ever needed / you're all I want / help me know you are near." Ultimately, forty years pass in the desert; a whole generation has come and gone, and the sons and daughters of the first era of Israel eventually come to the land the Lord has promised: a land flowing with milk and honey. Grateful to have finally reached their destination, each tribe rings out in praise and exaltation, cantillating "Alleluia, alleluia, for our Lord God Almighty Reigns." Such is the premise of "Agnus Dei," Third Day's powerful, gritty cover of the classic Michael W. Smith worship tune. The celebration continues, as the Israelites chime out "Salvation Belongs to Our God." It is Crystal Lewis who lyricizes this surreal tune and turns It into an X-Files-like cornucopia of worship. As the narrative draws to a close, picturesque images slowly fade into view; Moses ascends the Mountain of God and receives the Ten Commandments...more generations pass, and David takes his place as king of Israel...Solomon builds the Temple, the Lord's dwelling place, and finally God's chosen people are able to see His glory and greatness among them. A suitable finish, Michael W. Smith performs "I See You," originally written by Rich Mullins. "I See You" personifies the entire story of Exodus, from beginning to end, showing God behind every moment of it all. Smith's keyboard is joined by an incredible showing of electric guitar and a full choir, repetitively praising the omnipresence of God, singing, "Everywhere I go I see you." Even after "the grass withers and the flowers fall," God's Word will be alive and with us, forever and ever. Amen.
Exodus could be considered Rocketown's first masterpiece worship compilation. The artistry is proven time and time again by a consistent record label that seems to be doing everything right. A rare gem among worship albums, Exodus will be remembered as a classic.
A well-done label site, with Shockwave interactivity, has info about all their projects and sound clips.
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