Encore … For Future Generations
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2006 1 Jan
- Where There Is Faith
- Before the River Came
- Basics of Life
- The Center of the Mark
- For Future Generations
- Strange Way to Save the World
- Great Awakening
- Voice of God
- Dept of Gratitude - Andy Chrisman
- Carry the Light - Mark Harris
- Get Down Mountain - Kirk Sullivan
- Runaway Train - Marty Magehee
The year 2005 marked the 15th anniversary of 4Him's first album, but it was also their last year together. The vocal group has parted ways, pursuing individual callings as family men, solo artists, and worship leaders. With accolades, awards, and radio hits too numerous to count, 4Him leaves behind an impressive legacy.
Though the quartet's work was summed up with two previous greatest hits albums,
Eight of 4Him's most cherished songs have been rerecorded here, along with four others for a ten-minute medley, drawing from all their albums between 1990's self-titled and 1998's
That's essentially how the other rerecorded tracks work too. Generally speaking, the older the song, the more improved it sounds here. The problem, however, is that
A spark of change is found in the "Medley," which starts with the peppier "The Measure of a Man" before moving on to the ballads "A Man You Wouldn't Write About," "Why," and "The Message." One would think the upbeat songs would benefit most from a modern production facelift. The album's homogeny also makes the addition of new song "Unity" far less impressive, even with guest vocals by Point of Grace and Jeromy Deibler (FFH), because it sounds just like everything else by 4Him and friends.
Clearly there's greater artistic passion in the similar but more engaging solo material. Chrisman and Mark Harris have already released their debut solo projects, represented here by "Debt of Gratitude" and "Carry the Light," respectively. Both are more modern sounding and less formulaic, particularly Chrisman's slightly more sophisticated pop/rock sound. Even more revealing is Kirk Sullivan's rendition of "Get Down Mountain," a blue-eyed soul pop gospel number that recalls Bryan Duncan. And Marty Magehee's "Runaway Train" is darker musically and lyrically, hinting at his desire to write about the more challenging subjects not addressed enough in Christian music.
It's commendable that they're broadening their horizons, but it makes you wonder what they might have accomplished had they applied such variation to their own songwriting and recording as 4Him. The old songs here were primarily co-written by Harris; what would 4Him have sounded like if all four tried writing like they do on their solo efforts? Might they have dabbled in pop, rock, gospel, and other styles—all while incorporating the challenging with the worshipful?
For what it is,