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  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Apr
Sounds like … New Age-styled piano along the lines of Brickman's past work; also for fans of John Tesh, Yanni and 3rd Force.At a glance … many familiar hymns and a few original inspirational tracks receive fair but sometimes uninspired instrumental treatment, backed by a handful of guest vocalists. Track ListingAmazing Grace (feat. Ginny Owens)IsraelCrown Him With Many CrownsJoyfulJesuHow Great Thou ArtHeavenSeventh DayBe Thou Near To Me (feat. Selah)O Sacred Head Now WoundedHoly, Holy, HolyHear Me (Tears Into Wine) (feat. Michael Bolton)

It's hard to pin a category on pianist extraordinaire Jim Brickman. He's often tagged "New Age" at CD stores, but he's also been on the adult contemporary, country and contemporary Christian charts. Much of that has to do with his guest vocalists, a list which has included the likes of Martina McBride, Michael W. Smith and Mark Schultz, plus many others.

Grace, his latest, continues to blur lines as New Age sonic tendencies blend with historic and original hymns, occasionally including inspirational lyrics. "Crown Him with Many Crowns" is a prime example, revolving around Brickman's signature tinkling and a soothing violin, but with a decidedly praise-focused footing. "Heaven" could match the most memorable works of John Tesh or Yanni, while pointing listeners towards a much more prayerful motif. Vocal accompaniment by Selah on "Be Thou Near to Me" takes on a power ballad approach as it focuses on someone yearning to be closer to God.

Unfortunately the other two vocal collaborations aren't as inspiring, starting with a sleepy version of "Amazing Grace," during which Ginny Owens' unstretched range meanders over Brickman's unremarkable assemblage. Though "Hear Me (Tears into Wine)" shares a moving message of Christ's miraculous powers, Michael Bolton's crooning and the subsequent musical swells come across as incredibly sappy. The down swing continues with the languid lullaby levels on "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "Israel," both of which could be the background music of a Hallmark store at best. Such letdowns mean this CD isn't an all-around winner, but its shining moments indicate his true talents and his faith focus.

Interestingly, a version of this CD released to the mainstream market includes "Ave Maria," but the version we've reviewed, released to the Christian market, does not include it—perhaps because it's too Catholic for a mostly Protestant audience?

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