The mid 90s produced a swag of great albums for Christian music. Albums emerged that indicated not all Christian musicians were pretenders. Some truly took the music to a higher level, one that would be expected of followers of the Creator.
Rich Mullins' A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band is a classic example of that. Revered by both mainstream Christian and the indie Christians, Mullins blends clever heartfelt tunes with engrossing dazzling arrangements. His Ragamuffin band consists of many well known names including Jimmy A on guitar and Chris McHugh, possibly the world's most innovative and talented drummer.
The album is mostly split into two sections, the Liturgy (tracks 2-6) and the Legacy (tracks 7-12), with "Here in America" being something of a prelude. The dramatic "52:10" kicks off the liturgy with virtuoso drumming and irregular time signatures (and on a personal note has been sitting in my top 3 songs of all time ever since I first heard it). "The Color Green" keeps things moving, incorporating a Celtic influence and is another highlight of the album.
"Hold Me Jesus" is one of the more well-known songs on the album, and is a slightly more intimate affair compared with previous songs. But "Creed" gets things moving again with a very lively recital of the Apostles' Creed (but smoother than the Petra song "Creed") and displaying splashes of instruments throughout. "Peace" rounds out the Liturgy with guts and beauty.
The Legacy, while still of high quality, perhaps doesn't quite reach the heights of the first half of the album. In a sense, the Liturgy songs have more of a legacy than the Legacy songs do. That said, there is quality music here in droves. The instrumental "78 Eatonwood Green" is a reminder of Rich's skills on the dulcimer. "Hard" and "I'll Carry On" are solid tunes if somewhat unspectacular compared to the rest of the album. The lowlight of the album is easily "You Gotta Get Up," which feels undercooked and not on par with the rest of the album.
However, the Legacy ends strongly. The cover of Mark Heard's "How to Grow up Big and Strong" has a neat little lyrical trick and is a fun way to build toward the end of the album. I haven't heard the original so I can't compare the two. "Land of My Sojourn" brings the dulcimer to the forefront again, and ties the album up well.
I'm slightly inclined not to give the albums full marks due to it being slightly inconsistent. But the highlights (of which there are many) are so high that this is essential listening. This album will remain a classic and will not date quickly. It is inspired, innovative and intimate.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 2/23/10, written by Steven J Benbow for Jesusfreakhideout.com
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