Unique sounding piece – Michael Omartian’s “The Race”

The Race

Released 1991

CONNOISSEUR’S CHOICE. I’m keen on The Race, and not just because I sprinted in school sports.

Michael Omartian produced Christopher Cross to Grammy glory in 1981 but before then Omartian had produced his own Christian albums. In 1991, Omartian produced, wrote and sung The Race with writing assistance from Michael Andersen and Bruce Sudano. This is not an ‘explicit’ Christian album with a sermon or two but one that relates to the listener the human experience with a slight polish and a faith experience that seems close to Omartian as well as bringing in some wider issues, such as the relationship between the three great monotheistic faiths. It’s a mostly engaging album that took me by the flow and enthusiastically received.

Musically it is a unique sounding piece with arrangements by Omartian well-thought out. Omartian has a penchant for an invigorating longueur as is evident on producing the exhilarating Jeremiah in 1983. “Cry from the East” is the longest sounding piece on the album that is the most visceral throughout and produces a nice counterpoint to the more conventionally arranged tracks.

One could say the album is different with its sound and content from anything else out there in the Christian market at the time. But it is more thoughtful than different with some brain gone into the writing and the album if one thought it odd is palatably presented. Indeed, there is something more to have on the album than others at the time and ones that were more popular. The themes are entirely in a league of their own, from the ancient faith to the modern experience on “Cry from the East” and the cries of the streetwise on “Heartbreak City” to the quiet times of “Morning Light” and an encompassing vision of God. “Kingdoms” sees the realm of power and position and takes the view of humility, and “Last Night on Earth” asks the question of one’s worthiness in the race of faith God called one to—did one ‘run the race’ well?

All in all, the album is riveting from a musical perspective, with only one or two lulls, and from a story telling view it is always engaging.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers

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