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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Beyond Beautiful

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Oct
Beyond Beautiful
Sounds like … the inspirational adult contemporary of 4Him, NewSong, and Russ Lee, with some of the stylistic variation heard on similar projects by David Phelps, Scott Krippayne, and Matthew WestAt a glance … the occasionally interesting and varied production is not nearly enough to cover up the formulaic Christian pop songwriting found on Brother's Keeper's third albumTrack Listing Beyond Beautiful Flying Through the Clouds He Took the Scars Passion Walk with Me Give It Away Rich in Love Cross of Christ Soap Noah

Talk about a group in search of a sound. Originally singing a cappella, Brother's Keeper quickly shifted to boy band pop a la Backstreet Boys for their 1999 debut. 2002's Cover Me then offered a hit-and-miss hodgepodge of modern pop (dc Talk) and acoustic rock (Jars of Clay). It was only a matter of time, but now with Beyond Beautiful, Brother's Keeper has fully embraced the familiar, highly produced adult contemporary of groups like NewSong, 4Him, and David Phelps.

To the credit of the band and producer Regie Hamm (Phelps, Daily Planet, Russ Lee), the production values are somewhat distinctive from the typical Nashville AC sound. "Flying Through the Clouds" and the peppy "Give It Away" both benefit from prominent guitar and bass, while ambient programming and effects help characterize standard ballads like "He Took the Scars" and "Cross of Christ." Despite the misguide attempt at hip-hop, there's a good funk riff to "Soap," and "Noah" captures the same kind of sunny, acoustic-based pop as Matthew West.

Problem is, no amount of production gimmicks can cover up the shortcomings of the songs themselves, which at the core still rely on the formulaic writing typified by too many inspirational pop artists. The melodies are routine, and you need only look at the song titles themselves to ascertain predictably worded themes of Christ's sacrifice for us, cleansing our sinful nature, and God protecting his people from life's floods.

Depending on your tastes, the best or worst track is "Walk with Me," a by-the-numbers power ballad championing Christian brotherhood and accountability, featuring over-sung guest vocals (a la "We Are the World") by Phelps, Lee, Mark Harris (4Him), Bob Carlisle, Todd Agnew, Scott Krippayne, Rick Heil (Sonicflood), and Michael O'Brien (NewSong). Some will undoubtedly respond to this trio's openly evangelistic and well-intentioned approach to songs. But like the production, those qualities just aren't enough to set Brother's Keeper apart from other similar-but-better Christian artists.

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