Powerful, passionate, soulful and emotion-filled; these are all words that would accurately describe this remarkable piece of praise music from Atlanta-based worship leader and gospel vocalist, Ulysses Brown. When I first saw the title, I expected the same old, tired version of the very recognizable Christian hymn. But, make no mistake, this isn't your grandmother’s “Amazing Grace.” This version, while lyrically identical to the original, traditional version, is presented with a gospel flair, a completely original and updated melody line, and a surprising twist, breathing fresh life into a classic.
As with the previous Ulysses Brown tracks I have reviewed, “Come Unto Me” and “Love Lifted Me,” the production on “Amazing Grace” is minimal, utilizing only piano, bass, drums, organ and strings. And once again, that is fine by me! The real shining star of the production is Mr. Brown, himself. His vocal prowess is showcased at its finest, with tasteful runs and a smooth, soulful delivery. The updated melody, while at first unfamiliar and unnerving, is one filled with tension and release, building the momentum from the opening verse until the final crescendo. By giving the song this new melody,Brown forces the listener to rediscover the absolute beauty of the lyrical content, rather than becoming lost in its familiarity. The raw emotion in Brown’s voice delivers the true meaning of the lyrics: redemption and forgiveness, no matter what the sin.
The notable thing about this version of “Amazing Grace” is that, while the melody line is completely different than the original version, the lyrics are exactly the same, but with a clever, significant twist: the verses are done in reverse! The opening verse begins “When we've been here ten thousand years…bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…then when we've first begun.” This is actually the third verse of the original version that we have heard sung during worship services. The second verse remains the same as the original, since it is a three-verse song, leaving the first verse of the original for last here. As stated, this is a clever move. Rather than singing the verses in the traditional order, bringing the obvious comparisons to the familiar version, Mr. Brown’s performance sounds like a completely new track. Only the most discerning ear would note the fact that the lyrics were identical in the two versions.
“Amazing Grace” is the third song from Ulysses Brown that I have had the pleasure of reviewing. With each one, I have found myself becoming more and more impressed with his stellar vocal abilities. This track is absolutely the best vocal performance that I have heard from him so far, leaving me with the belief that Mr. Brown will soon become a household name in the gospel music industry.
—Reviewed by Michael Stover
MTS Management Group