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Creation: The Story of Life

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Aug
Creation: The Story of Life
Sounds like … standard AC pop by artists like 4Him, Allen Asbury, Greg Long, and Bob Carlisle, occasionally strengthened by a string orchestraAt a glance … though Creation has plenty of beauty and excellence, it also has its share of pop mediocrityTrack ListingCreation Overture / Apollo 8The Story of Light - Mark HarrisBack to the Beginning - Billy SpragueThis Is My Father's World - Allen AsburyIt Was Good - Cindy MorganBeautiful to Me - Larnelle HarrisThe One Thing You Would Need - Andy ChrismanWho I Am to You - Greg LongThe Eden of My Heart - Bob CarlisleWhat a Wonderful World - Lisa BevillCreation Finale

Creation: The Story of Life is the first installment in a new series of albums developed in a partnership between Doxology Records and Mercy Street Entertainment Group. It's less a testimony of creationism vs. evolution than it is a musical devotional about the story of creation found in Genesis, exploring the relationship with God that we were originally made for.

A multi-artist compilation in the spirit of My Utmost for His Highest, Creation relies on the production and songwriting of Don Koch (4Him, NewSong) and features several popular Christian adult contemporary vocalists. But the strongest musical distinction comes with the inclusion of the Nashville String Machine Orchestra, arranged and conducted by Phillip Keveren (John Tesh). It helps Creation sound impressive from the get-go, beginning with a sweeping overture that includes a reading of Genesis 1 from the 1968 Apollo 8 space mission.

Some might unfairly say this seems like the soundtrack to some planetarium or IMAX theater presentation, but the strings provide a stunning introduction and add weight to the album overall. Perfect example: The overture transitions into "The Story of Light," a beautifully arranged pop song sung by Mark Harris of 4Him. Much grander and more captivating than the typical AC pop, it glorifies God and the plans he made before the dawn of time: "The sun and the moon and the stars took their place/As if God was giving creation a taste of what was to come on a Bethlehem night."

Next up is an upbeat song called "Back to the Beginning" from Billy Sprague, a veteran artist we haven't heard from in years. In it, he longs for the perfect relationship that Adam and Eve originally enjoyed with the Lord in the Garden. Though it sounds a little dated, it's not bad, recalling the likes of Phil Keaggy and Sting. Following is an orchestrated pop rendition of "This Is My Father's World" sung by Allen Asbury. A good performance with a vitalized arrangement, but it might have been nice to change gears and offer something more subtle and sweeping, rather than this contemporary AC version. Then the always skillful Cindy Morgan paints a detailed picture of God's love manifested through the intricacies of creation with "It Was Good," singing, "In the space between the waters, the dark gave way to light/The mountains rose from nothing, there was day and there was night/The stars spilled out like diamonds, one by one he turned them on/Scratched the line of the horizon, rose the moon and hung the sun."

Up to this point, Creation unveils a sweeping pop sound driven by vision and ideas, offering something different than the routine inspirational pop of the last twenty years. How unfortunate then that the orchestra and songwritng begin to take a back seat in favor of well-produced, though formulaic, AC pop techniques—or perhaps the vision is sidetracked by too much sentimentality. Larnelle Harris reflects on how creation reflects the beauty of God in "Beautiful to Me," which seems like an obvious sentiment after the preceding songs. The soaring tenor of 4Him's Andy Chrisman and the idea of God needing us as something to love are not enough to elevate "The One Thing You Would Need" above power ballad mediocrity. Greg Long then virtually restates the same idea in "Who I Am to You" with another power ballad.

Which brings us to "The Eden of My Heart," sweetly sung by Bob Carlisle as a romantic power ballad about a failed relationship—in this case, the one between Adam and God. The orchestration matched with Carlisle's softer vocal give the song extra poignancy, but it steers the album in an awkward direction with the subject of sin separation. It feels like there should be a darker song about the fall of man, as well as another that glimpses the cross and mankind's redemption. Instead, Lisa Bevill rounds things out with a contemporized cover of "What a Wonderful World," followed by a gentle instrumental finale that represents the seventh day of rest.

Mixing some excellent tracks with fair ones only yields a good recording, but despite its shortcomings, Creation works overall because the album smacks of effort. Production and performance matter heavily in this genre of pop, and Koch generally pulls it off. Future Creation titles include projects for kids, country, gospel, worship (no surprise), and the unfortunately titled Creation Xtreme. Chances are Creation: The Story of Life will be the best of the bunch.