Here in America
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 May
Long before I even had a job related to Christian music, I had always hoped to someday meet, interview, or review Rich Mullins. Though I was long aware of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Petra, and other enduring artists, it wasn't until I was exposed to Rich Mullins through his
It was a pleasant surprise when I heard there would be a "new" Rich Mullins album in 2003. I can't tell you how many times
friends and colleagues have joked, "He's still making music?" and
there's been some understandable skepticism toward a project that
seems like another plan by a record label to milk their beloved
The project was created with honest intentions over two years of compiling and refining. The idea began with the cassette tape masters of Steve Cudworth, an independent artist who toured with
Rich throughout the mid to late '80s, recording their concerts
for the sake of artistic self-improvement. The album was almost
shelved, however, because of the inherently poor quality of
cassette tapes—indeed, there are tracks on
Within the week, Reunion was then contacted by LeSea Broadcasting, which offered six hours of concert video footage, as well as four hours of Rich speaking to an audience at a spiritual retreat. The final piece fell into place when BMG publishing called to say that they had some original demo recordings of Rich, including a few songs that were never included on any of his albums.
Most all of the CD features Rich at the piano, including the three demos. There's the familiar title track, a charming ode to Americana and God's grace manifested in our history and landscape. Of more interest to longtime fans are the other unreleased songwriting demos. "Never Heard the Music" is a typically fine pop testimonial from Rich, "O Come All Ye Faithful" is a powerhouse worship song not to be confused with the Christmas Carol, and "The Lord's Prayer" is similar to but not to be confused with the classic sung at weddings. Though a little rough sounding, these are far better quality than his previously released
Of the remaining live tracks (most of which are songs from his 1987 Pictures in the Sky album) the highlight is surely listening to a young Rich Mullins teach a song called "Awesome God" to an audience for the first time. It's fun and a pleasant piece of Christian music history, but it's also missing the pay-off—we never actually get to hear Rich and the audience perform the song in its entirety.
Rich's humorous and wise musings between songs, as well as his strong performances (he really was the closest Christian equivalent to Billy Joel), create a charming sense of nostalgia. By itself, however, it's not a very strong disc. It's cool to hear Rich's music and sayings, but the quality is often poor and it doesn't include his "best" songs. It's the DVD that seals the deal.
While the CD is largely comprised of lesser-known older songs and unreleased tracks, the DVD features a one-hour concert filmed only months before Rich's death, with Rich and his Ragamuffin Band (including Mitch McVicker and three quarters of the post-Rich Ragamuffin Band). The set is almost completely comprised of songs found on his
The DVD is made complete with 37 minutes worth of monologues taken from the aforementioned spiritual retreat. Anyone familiar with Rich Mullins will appreciate these 12 answers to questions that center on subjects such as obedience, temptation, a fairly prophetic take on modern worship, and the relationship between artist and audience. Rich's candor in his answers makes him equally fascinating and funny to listen to, demonstrating the strong (yet humble) personality that made him so beloved to his audiences.
Artist royalties for