When author Robert Fulghum ("All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten") was asked to speak at a benefit for one of Lowell Bennion's humanitarian efforts, he said something very telling.
"I think Lowell Bennion and I talk about the same things," Fulghum said, "we just have different metaphors for everything."In short, one person's "moment of enlightenment" is another's "light in the wilderness." And finding that A-440 pitch where everyone can harmonize has become something of a quest for LDS word-and-tunesmith Michael McLean.
"Look Inside," the new collection of songs from McLean and Christian rocker John Batdorf, takes a peek behind name-brand religion to look for the common impressions shared by seekers everywhere.
Each listener can plug into the songs at his own level with his own names.
"It's interesting," says McLean. "Every time I move out into something new like this I get letters from LDS listeners that ask `Where did we lose you, Mi-chael?' "
As for Batdorf, he's been taking flak from his side of the Christian aisle for hanging out with a "non-Christian" Mormon like McLean.
Between the two of them, they've managed to upset a lot of people.
But the good news (pun intended), is their work has pleased and entertained even more.
McLean handled the lyrics here;Batdorf did the music. And though the words have a great deal of pop - and "pop" ("Because I've lost . . . because it cost . . . because my heart's been double-crossed") the album is really driven by Batdorf's vocals. His voice has a serrated vulnerability that calls to mind Ted Neeley and Peter Cetera. It's a voice that serves as a natural hook for almost every song.
The twosome sets romantic love songs next to songs of divine love here ("eros" vs. "agape," for the theologians in the crowd). Several rock numbers get mixed in with uptempo guitar ballads. And no label fits the sound that emerges. An idea might be to imagine the pop group Bread linking forces with Air Supply in a kind of "Bread Supply" (or "Living Bread Supply," as McLean might say.)
In the end, if you like religious music with a beat, you'll like "Look Inside." Two songs - "Never Had to Ask" and "I Will Not Be Afraid" - are especially memorable. Several feel like upbeat hymns - hymns torqued up several RPMs for the new generation.
The album goes its own way. One suspects if LDS composer Evan Stephens had decided to try his hand at writing spirituals, he would have missed the mark. But he might have come up with something fresh and different, something on the cutting edge of Christian music.
Something like this.