Jason Gray is the very definition of "thinking man's pop music" in that, though his songs might have a CCM smoothness to them and get played on the radio, there is always a deeper element at play whenever they come over the speakers. From early hits like "More Like Falling In Love" and "Remind Me Who I Am" (which has one of the genre's very best music videos), all the way to his new trio of thematic EP's, Gray is a songwriter who marries the pop formula to deeply introspective and thought-provoking lyrics and themes. And as he progresses into his career, Gray's musical backdrop has expanded to suite his bigger themes. 2016's Where The Light Gets In featured some of the singer-songwriter's most adventurous sonic textures to backdrop what was in fact a very sad and serious look at the end of his marriage (something Gray is very open to talking about in interviews and on stage).
With his recent trio of EP's all put together in one package as Order, Disorder, Reorder, Gray has put together a complete picture of the road he has been on since his life turned upside down, and in the process, one of the year's best albums. With the feel and scope of an old school double album, Order, Disorder, Reorder walks through the journey of spiritual growth that so often finds the Lord using our failures to create a profound journey from the "order" (or normal life we lead) to the "disorder" that can come from personal tragedy of living in a fallen world, or the bad decisions we make that lead to chaos, to the "reordering" of life that can happen when we turn to the Lord, and surrender the situation fully to Him.
The opening "order" section of the album (and first EP released) contains what might be, at first glance, a slightly vapid collection of songs that are sonically great and well-crafted but lacking in substance. But in relation to the overall theme of the album, this batch of songs clearly shows what it feels like for life seeming to be "all in place." "Maker Of Mornings (I Am Loved)" feels a bit like the "everything is great" song that opens one of the most recent Muppet movies, "I opened a gift this morning / When I opened up my eyes / I'm ready to count each blessing / O I opened a gift this morning When I opened up my eyes I'm ready to count each blessing Oh it's good just to be alive Lord, it's good just to be alive h it's good just to be alive / Lord, it's good just to be alive."
The following "The Wonder" celebrates child-like faith, while "I'm Gonna Let It Go" is a current radio hit for Gray, and with its infectious proto reggae beat, neatly fits into this batch of songs. This chipper section ends with the title track that starts to change the mood towards the darker themes of life, and with a slightly robotic delivery that drives home the theme of repetition, the song states the theme of the album plainly, "I thought / Everything was as it should be / I believed that it was all up to me / As if I was in control / Then I lost / Everything I thought that I knew / I couldn't see that You were leading me to Something beautiful / Order, disorder, reorder Over and over / Order, disorder, reorder / Over and over / It wouldn't be the way I choose / But this is how You make me new."
In the "disorder" section of the album, the beautiful "Remind Me You're Here" features the poignant observation that "I won't ask you for reasons / because a reason can't wipe away tears / no I don't need all the answers / just be here beside me / Father remind me you're here." Much like the Biblical character Job, people going through tragedy need a friend beside them a long time before they need an answer. "Honesty" continues this theme of confusion and angst, with Gray asking the Lord, "Why don't you answer me / what do you want from me?" "Fight For You" opens with a an optimistic and Biblical charge that "the Lord will fight for you," while "New Song" features a great electric piano line, a great guest vocal from veteran artist Blanca, and an upbeat look at what is ahead after the journey through "disorder." This section ends with the simple acoustic "Hard Times Prelude" and a look back at "what the hard times taught me."
The final "reorder" section of the album acts as the "coda," with Gray summing up what's been learned. "Glory Days" is again bright and sunny in its presentation, but still full of lessons learned and the hard-won perspective that comes with being "shattered in pieces." "Bring It All" states succinctly that "the wisdom of redemption, to be reborn doesn't mean reinvention, His perfect will comes to life in imperfection, when you give Him all of you." In the epic "Every Moment Belongs," Gray expertly takes stock of the whole process, singing "I wouldn't be who I am now / without the way that it all played out / 'cause every trial and triumph that I've been through / There just the chapters, and story of my rescue / And when the hours break, and were afraid / Your love grows strong / Through every mountain and valley to where I stand / You took each moment and made me just who I am / And from here, I can see You were with me all along /It's so clear to me now / Every moment belongs."
Order, Disorder, Reorder is a rare beast, a true CCM "concept album" that masterfully drives home its theme with solid pop music craftsmanship. While perhaps not as musically adventurous as Gray's last full album, it is stacked with great melodies and heart-felt lyrics and performances. Gray is both a restless soul and a dependable artist, and there is nothing contradictory about those terms. Order, Disorder, Reorder is one of the most introspective and moving pieces of music you will hear this year.- Review date: 11/4/20, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Centricity Music
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