Imago Dei: Jes(us) from Recon Records continues the prayer and worship label’s tradition of concept albums, usually comprising multiple artists and styles around a single theme. This time, the focus is on Jesus as imago Dei, God incarnate, the true light that lights each one (Jn 1:9); the resurrected one who by his Spirit makes us alive, loves, comforts, frees and transforms us. Imago Dei: Jes(us) reminds “us” that we are created in God’s image and that Jesus, the fullness of God in bodily form (Col 2:9) declares “us” to also be the “light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16) and commissions us to go in his name, his character, his love. Our lives reflect and embody his kingdom rule: joy, shalom, justice and mercy. Each song is rooted in Scripture, beginning with the initial track “Mary’s Song (Magnificat)” sung by Robbie Seay with Misha Goetz. It is a simple prayer using Mary’s words in Luke 1, magnifying the Lord and asking that just as the Holy Spirit birthed Christ in Mary, he would birth him in each of us in a way that would make him known to the whole world. (This song has some shine on it with 3 different versions being released in just 8 months).
Thus begins a musical experience and journey that although stylistically diverse is thematically connected throughout: gentle alt rock, haunting acapella, folk, Celtic joy, jazzy pop, even allusions to country and even Broadway—The Colossians inspired “Raised with Christ” has a Les Mis/Andrew Lloyd Webber feel.
The artists range from weekend worship volunteers such as bassist Nigel Kirkland who has a day job in computer programming to guitarists Jay Leach who is a regular in the American Idol band and Ramon Stagnaro who accompanies the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban. Most of the artists in one way or another have a history with the label. Jay was the musical Director for the live performance of Intercessor, the label’s first release, at Church on the Way and other Los Angeles Churches, while Ramone Stagnaro played on an album to benefit AIDS victims in 1993, Healing Presence, and Misha Goetz is the daughter of Marty Goetz who had a primary role in both of those albums. Brit Nigel Morris, a longtime worship pastor (Anaheim Vineyard) and chaplain for the Anaheim police department, played on Recon’s third album Beautiful Jesus and is now back with his masterful beats.
The production is simple and immediate leaving room for artist and song, a signature of many of Recon’s releases. Part of the album’s intent is to create space between songs to listen as well as pray and sing. Between devotional and worship songs, Imago DEI: Jes(us) features a trio of instrumental pieces: “Together Again,” a symphony of hand-held drums and persussion that serves as a call to worship; “Come Lord Jesus” a guitar solo by artist Jay Leach; and later an instrumental version of the evocative vocal standout “Raised with Christ” featuring Stefanie Kelly. The album aims at providing instrumental spaces sans words within and between songs to soak in the power and presence of God.
WHAT’s the buzz on the Songs from Imago Dei: Jes(us)
“Mary’s Song (Magnificat)” featuring Robbie Seay & Misha Goetz – I loved “Mary’s Song” from the get-go. Simple, catchy, strong lyrically and great, great vocals. This song benefits from the stripped down straight-forward arrangement, but I think it’s strong enough to work in a variety of arrangements to be honest. A simple less-is-more winner!
“Raised With Christ” featuring Chelsea Ward & The ELM Choir
WOW….this song destroyed me. To tears. Superb.
“Together Again” featuring Nigel Morris – I’m a lover of lingering moments and places where we just allow things to be, build, crescendo, etc. without forcing or spoon feeding…expressive and worshipful.
“Imago Dei (Jesus Is Alive)” featuring Misha Goetz w/ Aaron Encinas/Jay Leach – Really strong lyrically, and Misha’s vocals are awesome… It’s a winner.
“Live Again” Featuring Sarah McCarty – I dig Sarah’s vocals. She has a great and unique sound that is really refreshing.
“Baptized in your light” Featuring Brandon Rodriguez w/ Misha Goetz & Ramon Stagnaro – This song really intrigued me. Especially with the lead vocal…reminded me of a few Vineyard worship leaders from the early 2000s (Billy Somerville & Martin Reardon) who were doing something “different” as far as their approach to song arrangement and sonic textures in a time where everything sounded pretty much one way…
“Jesus Garden of my Rest (original version)” Featuring Misha Goetz and Aaron Encinas – This was perfect. Glad this closed the record. Perfect departure from some of the more intricate arrangements/ensembles and it works profoundly to end/close as we begin (not born with instruments, studio tricks and really good compressors at our disposal)…we bring only our voices (God given) as a response back to him for who He is and what He’s done, thus creating the rises and falls, dissonance and consonance of true worship with our bodies alone – no additives or preservatives.
DV (Record Exec)