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Sounds like … a collection of songs by Christian pop/rock artists, such as Michael W. Smith and Jaci VelasquezAt a Glance … the songs are good, but mostly familiar — there are some missed opportunities here for a truly great soundtrack.
I'll now commit one of the worst mistakes a critic can make and profess my ignorance to Joseph Girzone's successful Christian novel, Joshua. I do know enough to say that it's a modernized retelling of the life of Jesus and that it comes highly recommended. Naturally, if a novel resonates with enough people, it eventually makes the transition to television or the big screen. Produced by Epiphany Films, Joshua opens April 19th and stars Tony Goldwyn (the bad guy from Ghost) and F. Murray Abraham (Salieri from Amadeus). And naturally, what good movie doesn't have a soundtrack to go with it? Enter Michael W. Smith, who was tapped to write the original score for the film after impressing us all with his instrumental project, Freedom. I have yet to see the movie, so I can't tell you how well Michael's score plays with the film, but I'm sure fans are eagerly awaiting a soundtrack with his music. This is not that soundtrack.
Instead, this Joshua soundtrack is filled with the pop/rock songs used in the movie — five new tracks and seven well-known favorites. Some of the lesser-known previously released tracks seem to be perfect for a film. You can imagine Cindy Morgan's sweet "I Love You" used effectively with a romantic slow dance. Wes King's gentle and contemplative "Excavate" asks great questions ("What will I be remembered for?") and seems like it could be used in a variety of ways. Likewise, downhere's "Larger Than Life" can be used for anything from background music to opening credits, expressing a similar theme of self-reflection and our role in the universe. Some of the other Christian pop tracks (such as Rachael Lampa's "I'm All Yours" and Anointed's "It's a Matter of Love") seem a little more generic in sound and sentiment. Jaci Velasquez's "God So Loved the World" also is included, and I bet its simple expression of the gospel made it a natural choice for this soundtrack. Probably the oddest inclusion of the previously released songs is Third Day's "My Hope Is You" … the live version from their Offerings album. Apparently, the film features an on-screen performance of the song by the band, which is pretty much the only way one can justify including a seven-and-a-half minute track that includes Mac Powell telling the audience to shake hands with the people around them. As a live track, it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. I think the studio version of the song would have been more appropriate, but it works okay since it recalls an actual scene in the movie.
As for the new songs, they run the gamut. Mark Schultz sings a new version of "Faith, Hope & Love" from his Song Cinema album, this time joined by Nicole C. Mullen. It's not bad, but it's basically the exact same track found on Mark's album with Nicole singing over it (with sometimes distracting results). Pete Orta's "Braver New World" is more interesting, revealing a more roots pop/rock sound than that found on his solo debut. Stylistically, his vocals and guitar solo reminded me of George Harrison's music from the '70s. Another interesting revelation is Point of Grace's "Wings of a Dove," which features the vocal group fully embracing soulful gospel. The track sounds as though it was recorded live in a studio or on a small stage, and the simple old-time style is refreshingly different from the overproduced pop sound for which they're known. Jaci Velasquez is featured a second time on Joshua with "Innocence," a powerful and ethereal ballad with a strong melody and message. And, of course, it just wouldn't be right to leave Michael W. Smith off the album completely. "Love Is Moving," co-written by long-time writing partner Wayne Kirkpatrick, is vintage Smitty from the early '90s — it's a predictably irresistible song from the master of power ballads.
The Joshua soundtrack was trimmed down from its original length of 16 tracks. While I can't complain about the omission of the other four songs or this version's hour-long length, there still are missed opportunities here. There's not quite enough new material on this album, and the few originals aren't "must-haves" for serious music collectors. I will credit the album producers with including songs that a lot of people probably aren't familiar with, such as the tracks by Cindy Morgan and Wes King. But the real disappointment is the lack of original instrumental music by Michael W. Smith. Is there a second soundtrack in the works? Whatever the reason for the omission, the Joshua soundtrack is fine as a Christian music sampler, but only so-so as an original movie album.