Wednesday, January 19, 2011

As Long as I'm Here...

I might as well review this CD. A new year is upon us and the new releases are starting to trickle out. The first out of the gate, so to speak, is Brandon Heath's latest Leaving Eden. After a few listens I'll just say, somebody had to go first, and like the Olympic Figure Skating competition, it is an almost foregone conclusion that the first out will not win the Gold Medal. In the Night Beat galaxy, the Gold Medal is the 2011 Platinum Vinyl Award for Pop.

Let me start out by saying that Leaving Eden isn't a bad album. For an example of a bad album, see last years post The Anatomy of Boredom. Leaving Eden is a pretty good album, but pretty good isn't good enough.

Things went bad right of the bat for me. Leaving Eden, the title cut and opening track, struck me as a pretty depressing number, sort of one of those great "The World has gone to Crap, get me out of here Jesus" songs of the faith. I think he decided to write a song that included just about every bad thing he could think of and then wrote it (neighbor forgot her own name, Salvation Army robbed to name a few examples). As to the title. It seems to me that Eden is here and Heaven once again is Home. Eden was relatively perfect, except for the serpent, and Present Earth is nowhere near Eden, East or otherwhere. A better title would be Back To Eden or something like that.

After the downer of an opening track, things pick up for a while with Your Love and The Light in Me. The latter of these is in the vein of the Lazy Christian songs that want God to do everything for them, with lines like "keep me from going dim" and "keep me close to you". The bible tells us to "Stir ourselves up in the most holy faith".  Some things we are supposed to do for ourselves. The somewhat cryptic Only Water is a head scratcher for me, and I am still trying to figure out what the water is. If it is referring to the "Washing of Water by The Word of God" then I'm sorry, it is not ONLY WATER. I don't think it means the Cana Miracle, because that wasn't mentioned until the last seconds of the song. The fifth track is called Stolen, and though beautiful, all references to "a thief in the night" in the New Testament refer how to the unprepared will be caught. The bible refers to "The Thief" as the Devil, not Jesus. As much as it offends Christian sensibilities, Jesus will let a person walk away, and though the Holy Spirit will convict, he will not steal you back. He will wait for you to return where you will find Him where you left Him.

It's Alright and Now More than Ever are two songs about heaven as home, and how all things will be better once we are there. While that will be true, it will only be for a short 7 year vacation, though some did get an extended stay. Sorry folks, when the Bible says "The World" it doesn't mean "The Earth". The Earth is our home, so much so that in Eternity, God sets his home among men and not our home among God. It is a big distinction. He is coming back to a new Earth.

Finally, I'm going to nitpick. Two songs, Leaving Eden and Only Water have the dreaded "Death Pause" in them. I don't know what happens now with automated radio stations, but in the DJ era, when we detected a pause of over 3 seconds, we figured the song was over and cross faded into another cut. In this case no one would ever hear the last portion of the song. For another example of this I would suggest Hello Sunshine by Barlowgirl on their Love and War CD. To all the artists out there, for the remaining DJ's mental health, I say, in warmest Christian love, knock it off. If you want to fade in and out, do it quickly.

If it were Only Music (sorry, I couldn't resist), I would give this album 5 Emeralds, because it is Gorgeously orchestrated. Unfortunately, there are lyrics, and in CCM, the words are equal to the beat, if not more important. For me, the lyrics on Leaving Eden knock off two full Emeralds. I give it 3. A good, but not great album. I know I am in the minority, and the 2011 Best Male Vocalist is in the bag already as well as best pop or inspirational artist, but so be it. I will be Leaving this CD on the shelf.