In 1998, Michael W. Smith gathered together some of the biggest names in Christian music to record a worship project entitled Exodus. Produced by Smith, the Exodus project featured prominent acts such as dc talk, Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer, Third Day, and Michael W. Smith himself to create an album that many credit with launching the modern worship movement. Six years later, it has truly stood the test of time, delivering an incredible batch of songs that continue to inspire to this day.
What makes Exodus so unique and powerful was the sheer quality of songs that the artists have contributed (Of the ten songs on the album, six of them were written specifically for this project). The album starts off with the instrumental title-track, composed by Michael W. Smith. MWS is a truly talented composer and the "Exodus" instrumental is definitely one of his best - featuring a great piano melody, marching drums, a choir, and some cool programming. When the choir sings "We praise you Lord, We lift your name on high" that's when the worship atmosphere of the project really kicks in.
It's a great opener that nicely segues into dc Talk's "My Will." One of dc talk's most well-known and beloved songs, it highlights a great vocal performance from each member and features one of the greatest, and most uplifting, choruses I've ever heard. This is a classic song by a great band at its peak - definitely the best song on the album.
Not to be outdone, Jars of Clay follow with their own song "Needful Hands". This is a classic Jars song in every way, and one of their best - a laid back vocal, tender acoustic guitars, and a truly wonderful chorus make this one of the definite highlights on the album. Sixpence None the Richer continue the laid-back, acoustic vibe with "Brighten My Heart." Featuring simple lyrics and a beautiful melody, it's a heartfelt cry to God to "Help me open my heart to you." Cindy Morgan and Chris Rice also do a great job with their contributions - with Morgan's majestic "Make us one" and Rice's "Nothin'" projecting a nice campfire vibe to the project.
As great as the originals are, the covers are also very well done. Third Day put together a great hard rock version of Smitty's "Agnus Dei" (from his 1990 album Go West Young Man). In fact, Third Day's performance is so powerful that I consider it to be superior to MWS's original. Crystal Lewis performs one of my personal favorites, "Salvation Belongs to Our God," while the album is capped off nicely with Michael W. Smith's version of "I See You" - a fitting tribute to his late friend Rich Mullins.
All in all, each of the ten tracks on Exodus is special in its own way, representing a unique expression of worship from each artist. It's a truly groundbreaking album that will be appreciated not only by worship music fans in general, but also for any music fan who might be interested in sharing the worship experience with their favorite artist.
NOTE: The Exodus project was re-released in 2004, offering all the original recordings plus three new tracks from newcomers Nirva, Taylor Sorensen and Robbie Seay Band.- Review date: 12/31/04, written by Sherwin Frias
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