Prime Cuts: No Longer I, High Wire, All You Need is Love
This is an album that almost never happened. After three solo outings, British worship leader Ian Yates was about to call it a day. If this were the case, it would have been a great loss to the church and the Kingdom of God. Maybe it's because of his British pedigree, "Awaken to Love" doesn't snugly fit into the worship music genre. Yates has a way of challenging us to re-think of worship music at a couple of fronts that are worth elucidating. First, for Yates, worship music doesn't have to be narrowly confined to having the right quotient of recycled clichés and riffs. On this record, Yates shows that a Beatles tune can also be a worship moment; and the old hymns can also have sharp contemporary relevance too.
Second, worship music doesn't have to sound uniformly manufactured. There are far too many copycats in today's music industry. Just because Hillsong Y&F has cornered a sound, it doesn't mean everyone has to use that as a definitive template. Yates is an iconoclast as far as standard blueprints are concerned; in fact, on many occasions on this record, he is a pioneer in chartering his own style.
Before we give further exposition of the two aforementioned observations, a word needs to said about Ian Yates. For those of us living on the opposite side of the pond, we may not be too familiar with Yates. Hailed from Liverpool, UK, Yates is married to Kate and he leads musical worship at their home church, Bootle Elim. He is also part of Elim Sound, an exciting initiative that seeks to inspire, create and equip worship leaders and teams within the Elim movement of churches through networking and resourcing. "Awaken to Love," a newly studio recorded album of 12 songs, is Yates' fourth solo release.
In terms of familiarity, many would resonate with Yates' "No Longer I." Fans who have had bought Redman's "Unbroken Praise" would realize that "No Longer I" was written by Yates, Redman and Sam Blake. A hybrid between the hymn "At the Cross" and a newly written song, "No Longer I" capitalizes on the theological richness of hymnody as well as it avails contemporary expressions of worship back to God. This is the type of worship songs that ought to be dominating our churches today. In a genre bereft of imagery and anything remotely poetic, "High Wire" is of note. Using the image of walking on a high wire as a metaphor of walking by faith, this visually-powerful song reminds us that worship needs to ignite not just our lips but our minds and our eyes too.
"Dream Again," is reportedly Yates' favorite song and presumably also the album's lead single. Though the words are stellar - urging us to preserve in our God-ignited dreams --- the song tends to be too crowded in its production and the melody tilts towards the nebulous side. Much better is "He Has Never Left You." Sparse, raw, intimate, and with Yates' NEEDTOBREATHE-esque vocals, "He Has Never Left You" creates lots of spine chilling moments that will ultimately warm our hearts with Christ's presence. Those who like anthemic worship in the style of Hillsong Worship and Jesus Culture will adore the thumping "Great is the Lord."
Unbending legalists may not bode well when a worship artist takes a secular song and turn it into a worship piece. But the truth is, any expression of love that the world sings about germinates from a longing for God's eternal love. Thus, God and His love is at the root of all love songs, secular or Christian. When the Beatles sing about "All You Need is Love," they are expressing what the Gospel is saying, with the exception that they don't go deep enough to discover God's love. Yates takes this extra step by rooting our need of love in God via this Beatles classic. And safe to say, Yates does a sublime job here.
If you want a worship record that stretches your faith, your perception, and your premonitions, Yates' new record will awaken all those instincts.