Prime Cuts: Loved by You, At the Dawn, First Love
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Ian Yates is a musical equivalent to a deft storyteller. He has a way of creating mystery, intrigue, and suspense in his songs that make him a standout. His songs, like well-crafted novel, thrives on tension building: from its introduction to the song's denouncement, such melodic movements are breath-taking. It's skills like these that make Ian Yates one of must-hear worship artists of this generation. Fans of Matt Redman would have heard one of Yates-co-compositions "No Longer I," a worship track that has fast become a staple during Holy Week. Yates is also one of the frontman of UK worship team Elim Sound. On his own, he has also released three solo records, with "Mystery" being his much-anticipated fourth.This time around Yates has a hand in writing all the songs on this 12-song set all by himself.
In such times of anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, "Loved By You" is prophetic. Instead of sweeping our fears away, Yates zooms us right into the eye of our storms slowly and realistically. It's only at the chorus, he tend reveals to us God's goodness is the panecea. Wth lots of arresting lines, here's a favorite: "You didn't start the storm/You never cause me harm." In an age where poetry has been sacrificed in favor of conversational prose, "At the Dawn" is a breath of fresh air. Using the image of "dawn" to describe the historic turning points of salvation history, this song is art in worship.
Maybe because Yates is from the UK, he doesn't immediately download upon us every streak of emotions from bar one. Rather, with a Brit Coldplay-esque coolness, he nudges us gently (and more effectively) to return to God in "First Love." More heart to heart moments abound with a trio of ballads such as "Abide," "Lead Me" and "Mark Us with Your Love." If there's a weakness in the record, it's that there are far too many similar-sounding ballads. Perhaps a much more seasoned producer or co-writer may be able to rectify by diversifying how the songs are being executed.
Nevertheless, there are two songs that accelerate the pace. The first is the current single and title cut "Mystery." Never one to view the Christian life with rose-colored glasses, on the guitar-driven folkish title cut "Mystery," Yates deals with the tensions of our relationship with God and the life with blistering honesty. Then he indulges us with some keys-driven pop "Forgiven," a personal song for Yates, as he re-tells his own testimony of how he begins to understand grace and God's forgiveness. Yates has a knack of bringing to life real life episodes in ways that are not contrived or soporific. This album, in short, is real-time worship captured in songs.