Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Weight of Glory-Jamie Soles New Album Review

Weight of Glory- 2007
By Jamie Soles

Reviewed by Virgil Hurt

This is a longish review. Can’t help it. Soles gives you lots of songs and then packs a pile of meaning into every line of them. Get the CD. Listen to it haphazardly once or twice and enjoy the music and then listen to it again and again, carefully, thinking about the stories and The Story of God.

The Weight of Glory, begins with a flourish and that eternal Weight of Glory is immediately upon the listener, as he opens with Cain. Cain has killed his brother, and right at the beginning of the story of man, the plight of mankind is ever before us. This song is a departure from Soles’ other children’s music, at least in the tenor of the musical sound. While the children are likely to enjoy the music and the lyrics, it is not expressly children’s music. Perhaps this is a bit of a twist from Sole’s other music, at least the one I am most familiar with, That’s The Way My Story Goes. On that CD, I think it would be safe to classify the record as a children’s CD, but it is immensely enjoyable for adults as well.

Soles’ music is very enjoyable and he is a master at producing meaningful lyrics. His plan is to tell the story of the Bible. He often does this by telling Bible stories that are not taught in Sunday school. Or, he simply tells them from a novel perspective. With both methods, we get the story of the Bible AND we have to think about it. The ability to think is a much needed, and largely missing virtue, in Christian music today.

Consider Soles’ last stanza in the opening song, with God speaking to Cain.

Don’t despair, there is still tomorrow
I still care, though you’ve chosen sorrow.
But vengeance wears a wreath of pain.
And you shall bear it as the mark of Cain.

Cain, here, becomes a good representative of God’s people, even those who systematically and regularly reject Him. God is willing and able to punish, and He will do so. But we have the sense of reluctance in God to do this. He is patient and long-suffering, desiring his people to come to repentance. And thus, the Weight of Glory, it looms before all men, both the good and the bad, the just and the unjust.

The Weight of Glory continues with, Waiting for Me, an interesting story of Joseph rejoicing in God’s providence in providing a wife for him in the land of Egypt. Soles seems to really catch the spirit of Joseph portrayed in the Scriptures. He is really able to rejoice in God’s providence, even in the harsh past that brought him to God’s protection and provision in an ‘interim land’. A great line here as Joseph thinks back about his sojourn to Egypt. “I was seventeen when I left my home, Chained in a line for a land unknown.” Neither the music nor the rest of the lyrics of this song give any indication that Joseph is bitter about these circumstances. It is a joyful song about God’s provision.

In Shiloh, the Weight of Glory is presented as a duty to fulfill God’s plans. The people are in the Promised Land but they have not done all that they said they would do, nor what God had required them to do. They possessed some of the Land but not The Land. But even in this half-way obedience, which we see is disobedience, God calls them to Himself at Shiloh. In this song, Soles captures the sense of rest and relief and beauty that we have in God, His tabernacle and His rest. There is a great last line in this song, “Shiloh, If you love the Lord of Shiloh; your warfare will go well.” That is a sentiment seldom spoken today but one we would be well advised to get our minds around if we are to ever fully possess The Land.

Ahithophel has an eerie eastern sound to it, and I think, appropriately so, as Soles has woven together a couple of Bible stories that produce an unpleasant outcome in the life of David. This song sent me to do some Bible study, as I wondered where he got his source material for the opening stanza.

Ahithophel of Gilo, my counselor;
Your son Eliam, my mighty man;
Your granddaughter Bathsheba, my secret;
I sought not your counsel this time.

Okay, what’s my problem? I did not know that Ahithophel was Bath-sheba’s grandfather, nor that Eliam was also intertwined in the story, as her father and one of David’s mighty men. Remember that Uriah was a mighty man of David, as well. Folks, this is why you should pay attention to those genealogies that you like to skip over. There are many gems to be mined in those places! Soles speculates that Ahithophel deserted David partly due to his taking of Bath-sheba. The Scriptures do not make this clear but we do see these twisted family relationships causing these sorts of problems all the time in the world that we live in.

In Confession of a Fool, Soles offers up a humble look at oneself, as formerly a fool, and asking God to show mercy to those who still offer the confession of a fool, saying in their hearts that there is no God.

Crying is Wisdom in Proverbs 8, calling out to you. This is a beautiful song which calls us to the beauty of Wisdom’s banquet and to despise the bed of the harlot, where fools go, where death is found.

Make sure to look up all the Scripture references and read about the context of these songs. As I listened to What Are You Doing Here?, I turned to 1 Kings 19 and read the story of Elijah, as he was ready to perish from the earth. But God sent an angel and food and drink to save him from death. The music fit the story wonderfully.

The Weight of Glory breaks into the New Covenant with Jesus is Here! The hope and waiting is realized in this song of joyful celebration. “Prophets, priests, and kings, extend their welcoming, proclaiming to all who will hear, ‘Have no fear, Jesus is here!’”

Son is one of my favorite tracks on this album. It is simple, beautiful in poetry and music. The poetry is a string of mostly individual words, not much in the way of sentences. But the words paint the lovely story of Joseph and Mary and more; the story of redemption and hope in this new Son.

Blessed is the Beatitudes. This is not straight Scripture texts but for those of you who have enjoyed learning the Kings of Israel along with Soles, you will enjoy learning the Beatitudes with him, too.

What have I got if I gain everything but I lose You? is the refrain of Soul. It is a man talking to his soul. Great keyboards in this song.

Soles continues with the story of God as he marches through the New Testament, speaking of the life and trials of Christians, working for us the greater Weight of Glory all the time.

This Confidence in Me is about faith in God. This song, like so many songs on this disc, breathes of true humility. Soles is confident and hopeful but this confidence and hope are not derived from himself. He points us to God and His promises to find our confidence there. This is the Good News. This is another beautiful song and a fine way to end the record.

I suppose any decent review ought to give reservations. I have few and they pale in significance to the goodness of this album. It sounds a bit electric, synthesized to me. I prefer a simpler, acoustic, or shall I say, more natural?, sound. The tunes and the lyrics of many of these songs make me think of orchestras and strings and maybe brass, too, and I’d like to hear more of that sort of thing in the accompaniment. Maybe that is just not his sound or it is just too expensive to hire an orchestra.

I might also add that I was a bit unsteady about what I thought of this record on the first listen. I had agreed with Jamie to do a review, so he gave me the album. Thanks! It sort of hit me that I might not like it. And after the first listen, I wasn’t sure. But I have listened to the album several times now and like it very much and am looking forward to spinning it many more times. So, if the music is a bit different than what you expect from hearing Sole’s children’s albums, give it time and a few more spins and you will find that you like this CD very much.

You can purchase Weight of Glory on CD or download it in MP3 format at solmusic.ca.

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