Exodus is the second book in the Old Testament, making it the second book in the Holy Bible. It is where one can read about God using His unlikely servant Moses to deliver His people, the Israelites, from the captivity they had experienced in Egypt. According to my Collins Pocket Webster’s Thesaurus Second Edition (2007, HarperCollins Publishers), synonyms for the word ‘exodus’ are: departure, evacuation, exit, flight, going out, leaving, migration, retreat, and withdrawal. EXODUS is also the title of a multi-artist CCM album that came out in 1998 on Rocketown Records and was mainly produced by Michael W. Smith.
The title track, ‘Exodus’, is an uplifting instrumental written by Michael W. Smith that finds George Cocchini playing guitars. It runs just over five and a half minutes long and includes vocals off in the distance that praise God. DC TALK sings, Michael W. Smith plays the B-3¸and Bryan Lenox plays the bagpipes on the beautiful adult contemporary number ‘My Will’, which is about spiritual resolve: “Complexity haunts me for I am two men/Entrenched in a battle that I’ll never win/My discipline fails me/My knowledge it fools me/But You are my shelter/All the strength that I need/It’s my will, I’m not moving/Cause if it’s Your will, then nothing can shake me/It’s my will to bow and praise You/I now have the will to praise my God”.
‘Needful Hands’, by Jars of Clay, cries out to God: “As tears come slowly down/I’m reaching up a needful hand/You are my eyes when I cannot see/You are my voice see, sing through me/You are my strength in weakness be/To find that I could fall/And still Your grace surrounds, pursuing”. Instruments used on Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Brighten My Heart’ include the cello, resonator guitar, B3, and lap dulcimer. The lyrics, which include the following lines, are taken from A BOOK OF CELTIC DEVOTION: DAILY PRAYERS AND BLESSINGS, compiled by Robert Van De Weyer: “My heart is as dark as the soil sodden with winter rains/My soul is as heavy as the peat freshly dug from the bog/My thoughts swirl like willow branches caught in autumn winds/My body is as tense as a cat’s as it stalks its prey”.
Michael W. Smith and Cindy Morgan co-wrote ‘Make Us One’. Cindy sings lead, while Chris Rodriguez, Chris Harris, and Lisa Cochran provide backing vocals. This one is an easy listening prayer: “Seasons of rain/Battles unwon/Lead to the fountain/Wash and make us one/All hearts rejoice with mighty voice/Make us a rainbow/Lord, please make us one/Light in the sky/Breath of our life/Unite the rainbow/Lord, please make us one”. Chris Rice sings ‘Nothin’’, while Wes King, Chris, and Micah Wilshire play guitars on it. It is a folk ballad in the vein of James Taylor¸ but with decidedly Christian lyrics: “Nothin’ can bring me peace with God (3X)/Nothin’, nothin’/Nothin’ but the blood of Jesus.../Nothin’ can make Your people one (3X)/Nothin’, nothin’/Nothin’ but the blood of Jesus”.
The Katinas sing ‘Draw Me Close’, while Michael W. Smith plays piano and keyboards, and Jerry McPherson plays guitar on it. This worship classic was penned by Kelly Carpenter and includes these words of spiritual hunger: “You are my desire, no one else will do/’Cause nothing else could take Your place/To feel the warmth of Your embrace/Help me find the way/Bring me back to You/You’re all I want/You’re all I’ve ever needed/You’re all I want/Help me know You are near”. Next up is a cover of ‘Agnus Dei’, a terrific praise and worship song penned by Michael W. Smith. It first appeared on his 1990 album GO WEST YOUNG MAN. Third Day adds a more southern rock feel to it, with electric guitar, here. These lyrics will remind you of something from the book of Revelation: “Holy, Holy/Are You Lord God Almighty/Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb/You are holy, holy/Are You Lord God Almighty/Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb”.
Crystal Lewis delivers a great lead vocal on ‘Salvation Belongs to our God’, while Smith provides strings. Adrian Howard and Pat Turner wrote the song in the mid 1980’s. It glorifies God in no uncertain terms: “And we the redeemed shall be strong in purpose and unity/Declaring aloud/’Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks/Honor and power and strength/Be to our God forever and ever (3X)/Amen!’” Last up is a Michael W. Smith cover of Rich Mullins’ ‘I See You’ which runs six and a half minutes. It is performed here as an inspirational anthem with tons of energy. Nature lovers will appreciate these lyrics: “And the eagle flies and the rivers run/I look through the night/And I can see the rising sun/And everywhere I go I see You/Well, the grass will die and the flowers fall/But Your Word’s alive/And will be after all/And everywhere I go I see You...”
Some multi-artist projects come across as a hodge-podge of material thrown together for no particular reason at all. There can be an equal amount of hits and misses when it comes to the material. EXODUS, however, does not fall into this category. There is not a bad vocal on this album and the instruments are skillfully played. This is a mostly adult contemporary praise and worship project that aims to draw individual Christians closer to God and closer to each other, both of which are noble goals. Jimmy Abegg’s illustrations of the artists in the CD booklet are both playful and remarkable. I’m rating EXODUS a perfect 100%. A good companion project to it is 2000’s CITY ON A HILL on Essential Records.