Artist: Brandon Heath
Label: Reunion Records/Provident Label Group
Times: 11 tracks / 43:47 minutes
Brandon Heath and Leaving Eden producer Dan Muckala are a very good team, and after successes with Heath's first two projects featuring fine radio airplay songs, Heath goes a "step away" from the predictable hit single formula.
Leaving Eden deserves a careful listen, for which the reward is great. It's very tempting to have little or no patience, hear the opening title track's climactic lamentation of ". . .teacher is hiding her Bible, but at least she's got a job / My local Salvation Army just got robbed" and think, "how awful!" and shut it down. Please don't. Seconds later, Heath reaches the denouement of the song with, "I'm going home," setting the rest of the pace. . . .
The recurring theme of Heath's project is that we've left Eden and are in the world God has given us, and sure, it has its plights and pitfalls; however, it's "where we belong" (from the closing song, "As Long As I'm Here")--where God has placed us. I am absolutely in love with the theme of "leaving Eden" and its natural progression: we've left Eden, God has fed us (the hit single, "Your Love"), along with our returned praise ("[you've put] The Light in Me"), God's being there for us ("It's Alright") and sends us out to use the strength He has given us ("Might Just Save Your Life" and "It's No Good to be Alone") and bringing us back home ("As Long As I'm Here"). I'm not sure whether Heath *planned* Leaving Eden this way as far as tracking the album is concerned, but it works and is a theologically sound progression of songs that is much more refreshing than a tried-and-true formula of chugging out the radio tracks.
And the flip side to listening very carefully will neatly and correctly dissect the overall ingredients of Leaving Eden. Muckula's deeply dark musical underpinnings (extra bass, bass drum and seething strings) for the title, lead-off track don't merge but slam into the hit single, "Your Love," which is sonically sequentially out of place. Lyrically, it works. The listener may think of songs, "The Light in Me," "Stolen," and "The One," as the style we've heard from Michael W. Smith about a decade ago. Nevertheless, the sequencing is a musical feast.
What would really tighten up and make Leaving Eden a project of the utmost excellence would be allowing Muckula's brightest and most daring moments to shine through more often. Apart from the superb title track, Heath's vocals intertwine so well with the ensemble of instruments in "Now More Than Ever" that the urgency of the speaker's yearning to be with God is captivating. Muckula doesn't need huge arrangements, either, as "Only Water" or "It's Alright" convey the same emotion as the aforementioned two songs, with very little instrumentation.
For the listener who has heard and enjoyed Heath's previous singles and "Your Love," Leaving Eden is worthy of much more than a listen--it's a reward, as Heath--who puts his songwriting hand in all eleven songs--has crafted a fine project on how we can spend our lives in response to God's presence in our journey of life.
Brandon Heath, GMA's two-time reigning Male Vocalist of the Year, returns with his new 11-song project Leaving Eden. At first listen I have to say I was disappointed with what I was hearing. It’s not that the songwriting is inferior. In fact, I feel that Heath’s songwriting is quite good. However, it was the production. Usually that is my biggest complaint with most CCM music that I hear.
When I saw Brandon on tour with Jars of Clay, I had never heard of him, yet that night my interest was stoked. The songs were good but the music was great. It was a rock and roll outfit that had most everyone in the crowd enjoying it (Even my little 6 month old as moving her arms and legs to the beat). So when I put the disc in I was hoping to hear some more of that rock sound. Instead, what I heard was, well, overproduced and way too busy. At times I would lose track of the vocals behind everything that was going on.
That being said, the melodies are very catchy. Lyrically, the songs speak about difficult things that happen in life and the reconciliation that occurs because of God’s love.
My favorite song off the album is “Your Love.” My kids and I enjoy the chorus:
Your love, your love
Hopefully at some point Brandon will lose some of the production and just record a disc full of guitars and drums. Heath has a lot to say and it is a shame that those words would get lost in the mix.
By Gar Saeger