Ian Yates’ new record Awaken to Love has a lot going on. When I first listened to the record a few months ago, I was struck by the beautiful atmospheric production that oozed the good synth vibes of my childhood (I grew up in the 80’s). Now that I have come back to listen again for this review, I am struck by the similar feeling it has to Netflix’s Stranger Things. If you are a fan of the good synth work of that show you will enjoy the production decisions of this album. I could go on and on about this, and I could be convinced of giving the record a glowing review for this reason alone. But that would be selling it short for there are some great songs and moments that make Awaken to Love a very good worship record. There are countless moments on the record that I just want to put on repeat and let the sonic goodness wash over me. Nowhere is this more evident than in the slow-burning, but ever-effective title track, “Awaken to Love.” Again, the whole album has a feeling that just fits for the current musical landscape, and Yates deserves credit for pushing into this sonic territory so deftly. But before I get sidetracked any further, below are a few moments I found to be delightful.
Awaken to Love opens with perhaps the most infectious song on the album. While many congregations will find this worthy of a go, it may not translate for every church. This doesn’t diminish from the song, which I thoroughly enjoy. The song’s message is one that will be repeated often on the record; that God will always be there to catch us, comfort us, and save us. For many, this a timely and poignant message that needs to be repeated.
The second track, “Great is the Lord,” is easily the most congregational friendly song on the record. Opening with soaring guitars and never letting go, this is a bona fide anthem; sing-able, memorable, and repeatable. Here is the rock anthem that make Sunday morning singing so much fun!
For those who enjoy the modernization of classic hymns, Yates takes a stab at “At the Cross,” which I never would thought would work. When it started I was intrigued and by the end, I was sold on the idea. There is just enough diversion from the original melody to keep those who know and love the song engaged, and with a Chorus that lifts the hymn into the 21st century. But it is the bridge that really hooks me. Once again there is a passionate anthem here. By the mid-bridge instrumental break, with the guitars cranked to 11, it is impossible not to feel the weight of the lyrics, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.” Very good stuff.
There are certainly more gems on “Awaken to Love,” particularly for guitarists (and synth players) there are some amazingly fun riffs to be heard on “Coming Home,” and “Deeper.” The fun of those songs lays the groundwork for some really good poppy tracks that are sure to be repeatedly listened to.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Awaken to Love. It is engaging, relevant, passionate and fun. Not every song will be a congregational standout, and that is fine. When Yates goes for the congregational song, he usually finds his mark, and when he does not, the songs are definitely more personal and engage the listener in appropriate and sometimes stunning ways. If you are like me, you may not have had much exposure to Yate’s music in the past. If not, I suggest you keep him on your radar, and go listen to Awaken to Love.