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"Economy", John Mark McMillan - CD Review

By Ed Rotheram on November 01, 2011

As I’m sure is the case with a few of the readers out there, until I heard this album my experiences of John Mark McMillan had been confined to his own rendition of ‘How He Loves’. On his version of his own song, John Mark brings his natural, gritty, raw brand of worship to the fore - a far cry from some of the other (some would say more predictable) brands of worship doing the rounds at the minute. Let’s take a closer look at John Mark’s latest offering - Economy.

I, like many, love music that reminds me of the sound that first got me hooked on guitars. The first bands I really took to in this vain were some of the guitar bands of the mid-90s - Counting Crows, REM, Hootie and the Blowfish and the like. Upon hearing the opening three tracks - ‘Sheet of Night’, ‘Daylight’ and ‘Our Hearts Bleed’ - these were the bands I thought of. John Mark’s voice sits way up in the foreground, with great melodies put over pleasing, driving chord sequences belted out by a stirring live rhythm unit of guitar, bass and drums. The drums in particular have an early Led Zeppelin feel - look up ‘When the Levee Breaks’ and you’ll know where I’m coming from.

From the rocky opening, tracks 4 and 5 on the album take the level down a shade or two, and into a couple of tracks that would sit nicely on U2’s The Joshua Tree: ‘Love You Swore’, and the standout track on the album - ‘Murdered Son’. Ethereal guitars sit over a solid underlying rhythm, again with John Mark’s voice providing captivating vocals. Again [as with the “sloppy wet kiss” line in ‘How He Loves’] John Mark shows within ‘Murdered Son’ how he is not afraid to express himself in words that may make others uncomfortable by portraying Jesus as “God’s Murdered Son”. Herein lies some of the beauty of John Mark’s worship - his heart is placed directly onto his sleeve at the beginning of the album, and doesn’t show any signs of being removed.

John Mark’s anointing for lyrical and arrangement skill again comes to the fore in “Who Is This”. Countless songs have been written around the words of Psalm 24, in which the gates are opened up for the King of Glory to enter, and yet here we find an original, compelling worship song, with some succinct guitar work thrown in. For me this is one of the standout tracks musically - the phased guitar that appears toward the end of this track being a particular high point.

I’ve heard Tim Hughes and Matt Redman describe worship as being an outward expression of a heart’s cry to the Lord. This is where John Mark’s worship begins and ends - I’ve likened many of the tracks to sounds and bands that I’ve heard before, and yet he (and the Lord) would simply define this as the sound that comes out when he pours his heart out. This is refreshingly pure worship, and worship that I enjoyed immensely.

-Review by Ed Rotheram

(review CD provided by Integrity Music)

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