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Review: The Medicine by John Mark McMillan

July 2, 2010

Disclaimer: Integrity Media sends me stuff so I’ll tell you what I think about it. Don’t tell them no one really reads this blog.

If you’re familiar with John Mark, you may be wondering why we’re talking about an album that was released two years ago. After signing with Integrity, he decided to re-release The Medicine with four extra tracks and some video.

He wrote on his blog,

“The reason I decided to re-release this album on a record label, is because I thought the Medicine deserved a shot at a national audience. … It took me three years to write it and I hated the idea of the world not getting a proper chance to hear these songs before I moved on with the label.

“Aside from one minor tweak on one song, the album has not been remixed or re-mastered.”

Those of you unfamiliar with John Mark McMillan (except, probably, for How He Loves), brace yourselves.

The music is creative and raw. I love Integrity for not remixing or re-mastering John Mark’s work.

But it’s the lyrics I can’t say enough about. The man is a poet. On The Medicine, I can’t help but notice he’s a poet who seems to have spent a good deal of time meditating on resurrection – Christ’s, the final one, and those little resurrections that happen every day. These are not simple verses. Three years of work is evident in the craftsmanship.

I will also say that while I’m psyched that Integrity picked up John Mark McMillan (it’s about time someone did), and I admire them for signing an artists who is not as stereotypically radio-friendly as others, part of me wonders why they did it. Integrity is all about equipping the Church for worship, and most of John Mark’s songs are not ones you’re likely to hear in a congregational worship service. There aren’t many resounding choruses. There aren’t many easy lyrics. If you’re a worship leader looking for material, this might not be your first stop.

However, if you’re a person who likes good music and can appreciate poetry put to song, mark July 6 on your calendar. Or check out the website and get yourself in on one of three sweet pre-order packages. (Vinyl! Seriously. There’s vinyl. I love that.)

Video and some sampling of lyrics after the break.

From “Dress Us Up” –
“dress us up, in the blood of a son, who opened up his veins so that we, would overcome, hell and the grave, in the power of his love, after three dark days, he showed us how it’s done, and he still does”

From “Death in His Grave” –
“so 3 days in darkness slept, the morning sun, of righteousness, but rose to shame, the throws of death, and overturn his rule, now daughters, and the sons of men, would pay not their dues again, the debt of blood, they owed was rent, when the day rolled anew

“on friday a thief, on sunday a king, laid down in grief, but awoke holding keys, to hell on that day, the first born of the slain, the man jesus christ, laid death in his grave”

From “Ten Thousand” –
“for the thousand graves yawning, unlocked and unlatched, now ten thousand holes with rocks, on their backs, ten thousand tombs gaping wide, singing the praises, of ten thousand bodies, unlaced and unlaid

“as the ten thousand highways, unfold their doors, for the ten thousand, standing on nineveh’s shores, where the blood, of a husband silences wars, for the girl who, rises to meet him”

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2010 12:58 pm

    Lex, you are cracking me up… Why did we sign John Mark? Well, because we love him and his ministry. And we know that while all his songs may not fit in congregational worship, they help take you to the throne… and along the way, they rip out all that ‘junk’ we collect around our hearts. At least that’s the effect on me!

  2. July 7, 2010 10:50 am

    Thanks for the review! I picked up the album from iTunes Canada last night and am listening to it as we speak. I agree with your comment about JMM being a poet – so true, and he’s not just a poet, he’s one in the great tradition of american troubadour (along there with the Boss, Woody Guthrie, Jeff Tweedy etc). Though not american (I’m a Welshman living in Canada) I love his unashamed freeing of the american landscape to resonate with spiritual truths. Great stuff.
    Cheers
    Dan

  3. Scott Trent permalink
    July 12, 2010 5:32 pm

    Investigating the song How He Loves after hearing David Crowder’s cover on the radio led me to JMM this morning. Since, I’ve downloaded it from Amazon, burnt a copy for my car/home/wife and one obligatory ‘bro, you HAVE to listen to this’ to the first friend I run into. Also, I’ve cried harder than I have in years as I’ve sat in my office attempting to be productive. Some lyrics embrace your heart with their beauty, some with their raw power, and some wouldn’t seem to be too much on paper until you hear the haunting melody behind them. I am a worship leader/song writer of sorts and have a multitude of music I’ve acquired through the years, but The Medicine comes the closest to a perfect album I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. It’s like The Killers meets Bruce Springsteen meets Johnny Cash meets Eddie Vedder meets Keith Green meets Bono meets (fill in your favorite artist) as they all take a deep plunge in the crimson flow. Incredible.

    • Lex permalink
      July 13, 2010 10:07 am

      I feel you. I think every worshipper has a kind of JFK/9-11 moment (but in a good way) wherein they remember the first time they heard John Mark’s music. :)

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