The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 1 Review

Thom Granger

CCM Magazine July 1991

Oh God you are my God
And I will ever praise you
I will seek you in the morning
And learn to walk in your ways
And step by step you'll lead me
And I will follow you all of my days.

Those simple words, sung with sincerity (by a child no less), serve to both open and close The World As Best As I Can Remember It, Volume 1, Rich Mullins' latest statements of art and faith, masquerading as Christian pop music.

This song ("Step by Step"), written by Mullins' aide-de-camp known simply as Beaker, is an unabashedly understated way to begin an album of sophisticated songs that finds its center in the scriptures, and its power in Mullins' poetic expressions of their relevance to his own life.

In "Boy Like Me/Man Like You" Mullins makes the relatively easy anology of his own childhood memories to Jesus' experience ("You was a boy like I was once, but was you a boy like me?/I grew up in Indiana, you grew up in Galilee/And if I ever really do grow up, Lord I want to grow up just like you"). Things get much more complex however in "Jacob and 2 Women", where his retelling of the Genesis account of Jacob and Rachel begins with the tongue-in-cheek comment that Leah was "just there for dramatic effect," and concludes that his portrait of a lonely Rachel with this enigmatic verse: "And her sky is just a hangman's noose/Cause he stole the moon and must be made to pay for it/And her friends say, 'my that's tragic'/She says, 'especially for the moon'/This is the world as best as I can remember it."

In between such extremes are a batch of songs in which both classic bible stories are amplified to connect to modern reality ("Where You Are," "Who God Is Gonna Use"); and the dilemmas of the Chrsitian life - effecting issues both large and social ("The Howling"), and those most intimate and personal ("The River") are intelligently addressed.

All of these comments pertain to Mullins lyrics of course, and though their qulaity is substantial enough to stand alone as poetry, it is the music on this album that elevates it to the status of a great recording. From the bagpipes that begin "Step by Step" to the hammer dulcimer that praises the God who formed the prairies in "Calling Out Your Name," Mullins and producer Reed Arvin have crafted a series of arrangementsfor these compositions that are remarkably "commercial" in the quality and accessability of the songwriting.

The only complaint here is a simple one - why so short? Mullins and Arvin recorded an "album and a half's worth" of material, and with current CD technology allowing for up to 80 minutes on a single disc, wouldn't it have been ambitious and true to the spirit of these recording sessions to have put out all the finished tunes out now? Nevertheless, even at 35 minutes or so, The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 1 is a most satisfying album, from one of contemporary Christian music's most remarkable composers.

Copyright 1991 by CCM Magazine

Thanks go to Eric Townsend and his webpage,
Rich Mullins: Never Picture Perfect, for sharing this article with COYN.

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