- Michael Bethany - “In 2017, I was in my prayer closet and the Holy Spirit gave me a word about doing this new album and to call it Overflow."
Michael Bethany has released his debut Gateway album Overflow. This is a live album recorded at The King’s University at Gateway Southlake, in Southlake, Texas. Michael released his first album independently in 2016. Overflow is released under Gateway Music.
Michael says, “In 2017, I was in my prayer closet and the Holy Spirit gave me a word about doing this new album and to call it Overflow,” According to Gateway Music the song Fill The Room, “Cries out for the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit; the reality of God to saturate lives in every moment and place of worship.”
Music and Production
Overflow is a mix of gospel and contemporary styles with the usual big worship sound, including heavy use of synth elements. Since it is recorded live, there are a few moments where musicians, especially the rhythm section, break out some savory gospel chops, but mostly the backing music stays predictable.
Worship Function and Accessibility
Michael is a pretty high tenor, so most of the songs are recorded in a key that is difficult for the average person to sing. I’m a baritone, as are most men, and found it difficult to sing along to most of the songs, but not all.
I think many of the songs fall into the category of worshiptainment, given how Michael improvises in many sections, making it hard for others to follow. However, he repeats some of the most singable sections in most of the songs, allowing for more participation. Although several songs could be used by churches that have experienced musicians, most would be difficult for the average-sized church.
He is Lord/He is Lord Overflow opens with a melody inspired by the hymn He Is Lord (Steve Vest, 1969). Michael uses snippets of the original melody and explores the theme of God’s lordship. He goes full circle and closes with a gospel-inspired rendition of the hymn. This is a great use of an old classic and something more worship songwriters should consider.
Gateway Music shines a spotlight on Fill the Room, releasing a companion video on YouTube. This piece runs just over ten minutes with an overflow track that takes about five minutes, making this a fifteen-minute song. That’s a long worship song, but the album’s name is Overflow, so it fits. Many times, sections of the songs are performed in a way that would be hard for the congregation to follow and involve significant improvisation and a ton of repetition.
Walk With You is inspired by The Garden (C. Austin Miles, 1913), another stalwart hymn of the Church. Michael expands on the theme of walking with God, as the hymn does. He closes with a poignant rendition of the hymn accompanied by the piano. It is always inspiring to see Christian artists reach back to the bulwark songs from history.
Hymns strongly inform Michael’s songwriting. This is encouraging and adds weight to the album. Several songs do veer into the Pentecostal tradition, which may make conservative traditions reticent to embrace the album. But this is common in the modern worship industry.
I’m very mixed about Overflow. I appreciate his nod to hymns, his energy, and his clear passion for the lord. Many of the songs fall into worshiptainment, something that dominates the worship music industry. In several songs, worshipers only take part in parts of the worship experience and are observers of other parts.
The album is entertaining, with a solid message, and Michael shows a high, gospel-infused musicality. His songs are probably not accessible to the average church in America, but it is a good album to have on the playlist for personal encouragement.
Great passion and message.
Even with hymn-influenced songs, accessibility is limited for the average church.
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.