Prime Cuts: Oceans, God Be Lifted High in Me, Let Love Rain Down
You don't have to be a musical genius to spot two major trends that run parallel in many worship albums today. Take your pick, be it the latest record by Bethel Music or Hillsong Worship or Elevation Worship or Desperation Band, it's always the guys that get to rave on the rocking worship tunes quipped with their Stones-ersatz machismo guitar struts. While the women are mostly assigned to the mellow ethereal ballads as if their fragile vocals would shatter if they were to tackle anything of a higher decibel. As a result, we have inadvertently cemented stereotypes based unfairly on gender. Such a divide is tacitly saying that guys, especially Christian men, are incapable of dealing with the more intimate moments of worship often expressed through the slower ballads. Conterminously, it is promulgating the message it is somehow improper for gals, especially Christian women, to rock out in holy abandon to Jesus. With the release of Julie Elias' debut worship album, she's set to rattle such stereo-types.
If the face of Elias looks familiar, it's because she has appeared in some high profile TV shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI:NY" before. She also had acting roles alongside such big screen stalwarts such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Having moved on to a new chapter in life, Elias is now a song writer and worship leader helping young people worship through her Topic-Driven Concerts. Inspired by her worship experiences with teenagers, Elias has released her debut worship record. With two songs that she has written, "Love Rain Down" features Elias tackling worship covers from teams such as Hillsong UNITED, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Jared Anderson, Desperation Band, Kristi Brown and others. Let's start first with her two originals: "Let Love Rain Down," a celebrative song that speaks of how God turns the deserts of our lives evergreen with his torrential love, is appropriate quipped with a crisp verdant pop rhythm that is alluring and memorable.
The second Elias original, "I'll Depend on You," is a sonic companion for those of us in our waiting room moments. It's a song that is going to be prosaic for our anxious hearts as Elias gently leads us into an affirming trust in God again. As for her covers, though she keeps reverentially to the originals, it's an encouragement to see her tackling worship songs often associated with male voices. In this regard, her handling of Chris Tomlin's "I Will Rise" is stunning. Her command on the song through her measured delivery and her thoughtful vocal inflections bring out a depth and dimension of Christ's redeeming power that is truly transformative.
For an album that was conceived out of Elias work with young people, it's appropriate that Elias has eschewed the trite and often recycled covers (a la "Shout to the Lord", "Happy Day" and "My Chains Are Gone") and has gone after more youthful (and current) choices. Nothing is more hip and spiritually stirring than Hillsong UNITED's "Oceans." There is such an in-built drama in the song that it brings us to the water's edge so that when Elias sings "Spirit lead us where my trust is without borders/let me walk upon the waters" you can literally feel your feet moving. Don't let the balladry feel of Jesus Culture's "Rooftop" camouflage the song's message about the Biblical challenge not to be secret Christians. And for some sublime moments of worship, Kristi Brown's "God Be Lifted High in Me" fits the bill perfectly.
"Love Rain Down," in sum, is vault opener for the soul. It is a record that opens us up, whether you are a guy or gal, to the Spirit as we seek to worship Him together.