MercyMe formed in 1994 and put out six independent albums before signing with INO Records. Their debut album for that label was 2001’s ALMOST THERE. It was produced by Peter Kipley. Band members were: Bart Millard (lead vocals), Mike Scheuchzer (guitars and background vocals), Jim Bryson (keys), Nathan Cochran (bass and background vocals), and Robby Shaffer (drums). In the liner notes the band writes: “To all of our ‘fans’. Thank you for supporting us these last seven years. Watching you worship makes all of the 3 a.m. driving shifts, hard work, and flat tires worth every minute”.
Peter Kipley and Reggie Hamm wrote the pop song ‘I Worship You’. It reminds us that worship can be fun: “I’ve been walking with a big grin/Singing with my eyes closed/Lifting up my hands/I’ve been lost in the moment/Sending up praises/Now I think I understand/When I open up and let it flow/I feel Your touch and then I know/I can never live without it/And I’m never going to doubt it/Everyday it’s new, yeah”. ‘Here Am I’ is a rock song about the lost: “On the other side of the world/She stands on the ocean shore/Gazing at the heavens she wonders/Is there something more?/Never been told the name of Jesus/She turns and walks away/What a shame/Just across the street in your hometown/Leaving from his nine to five/Gazing down the road he wonders/Is this all there is to life?/Never been told the name of Jesus/He continues on his way/What a shame”. ‘On My Way to You’ is a prayer: “Teach me to think like You think/Show me the things that are true/Finish the work You have started in me/As I’m on my way to You (2X)/Create in me a pure heart and make me new/Less of me, Jesus more of You”.
‘How Great is Your Love’ is one of three songs penned solely by lead vocalist Bart Millard. It’s a pleasant adult contemporary song that glorifies God: “Praise the Lord O my Soul/And glory to the King/Forever You are robed with majesty/We come to You O Lord/Lay our praise at Your feet/How great is Your love/So much higher than the heavens/With faithfulness that reaches the sky”. ‘I Can Only Imagine’ was the album’s second single. It won a Dove in 2002 for ‘Song of the Year’ and went on to top the Billboard 200 Sales Chart for seven weeks. This now modern Christian music classic anticipates heaven: “Surrounded by Your glory/What will my heart feel?/Will I dance for You Jesus?/Or in awe of You be still?/Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?/Will I sing hallelujah?/Will I be able to speak at all?/I can only imagine”.
‘Bless Me Indeed’ was the album’s lead single. It didn’t fare well, but I like this pop song that cries out to God: “My Jesus, I need You now/May Your grace look my way/To hear You sing over me/Make Your desires and mine the same/Bless me indeed/Open wide my horizons to share Your Name/Bless me indeed/Let Your hand keep me from harm and pain/Bless me (2X)”. ‘Cannot Say Enough’ is a lovely ballad: “What can we say to describe just a glimpse of Your glory?/How can our words portray but a thread of Your majesty?/But still we praise our Savior/In Spirit and in truth/For we cannot say enough about You”.
‘House of God’ is a cool rock song of invitation: “Welcome to the house of God my friend/All are welcome, all may enter in/Come experience the peace and hope within/We come here for God and God alone/The house of God/All draw near, make yourself at home/The house of God”. ‘Call to Worship’ testifies: “I will worship the One who calmed the raging sea/And I will worship the One who hushed the rage in me/And I will worship You and I will worship You/My hands I lift to You/My voice I lift to You//My heart I lift to You/Hallelujah!”
‘All Fall Down’ is one of five songs written by the five group members. This one is about having a sure faith: “My soul finds rest and comfort from only You/My fortress and my rock/I won’t be moved/You are my cornerstone whose love endures.../And I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (2X)”. Last up is the adult contemporary number ‘In You’ which looks towards heaven: “It’s the Creator calling the created/The Maker beckoning the made/The bride finding what she’s always waited for/When we find ourselves that day/In You, where the hungry feast at the table/The blind frozen by colors in view/The lame will dance, they’ll dance for they are able/And the weary find rest/O the weary find rest in You”.
ALMOST THERE is a very strong album of mostly adult contemporary and pop sounds, with a bit of rock mixed in. Bart Millard’s lead vocals are just great! This album is about praising and worshipping God wholeheartedly for His love, faithfulness, majesty, saving power, and creation. The songs also express a desire for intimacy with God and to be more Christlike. It is made clear that Christians are to share the Gospel with those who don’t believe it or haven’t properly heard it. I’m rating this one a perfect 100% and recommending it to fans of Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith. For more info visit: www.mercyme.org.