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I Can Only Imagine: Lullabies for a Peaceful Rest

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Nov
I Can Only Imagine: Lullabies for a Peaceful Rest
Sounds like … gentle pop arrangements of familiar lullabies, as well as a few songs from members of MercyMeAt a glance … it is what it is, so you already know if it's for you or not, though the Bart Millard tracks are quite good

I expect most people are familiar with the runaway hit song by MercyMe, and the concept of the lullaby album is certainly nothing new. I Can Only Imagine: Lullabies for a Peaceful Rest is a combination of both, its primary selling point the fact that MercyMe's Bart Millard is featured prominently on the recording. He offers a surprisingly affecting semi-acoustic rendition of his signature song, arguably his best version because it captures the mystery and peacefulness of life in heaven without succumbing to the usual pop conventions. Yes, it's as tranquil as a lullaby, but it can just as easily be viewed as an unplugged arrangement.

Millard also contributes the pretty pop lullaby "Baby Sleep Tonight (Sam's Song)," a duet with his wife Shannon (who has a lovely voice similar to Sara Groves) for their son. It's a sweet song for which another child's name can easily be substituted, should someone else want to perform it. MercyMe fans may also take interest in bassist Nathan Cochran singing the band's own "Keeper of My Heart," a gentle worship song performed here in an acoustic arrangement worthy of Wayne Kirkpatrick or Wes King.

The rest of I Can Only Imagine is comprised of Nashville session vocalists singing simple standards such as "Jesus Loves Me," "Hush Little Baby," "All Night, All Day," "Lullaby and Goodnight (Brahms' Lullaby)," and "All Through the Night." Additionally, to give the album a little more spiritual weight, there are covers of hymns like "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Now Thank We All Our God." The essentials "Rock-a-bye Baby" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" both appear in instrumental form—the latter almost shamelessly rips off the piano riff from Billy Joel's own "Lullaby" for the beginning of this arrangement.

Part of the appeal of Twila Paris' 2001 release Bedtime Prayers is that it was comprised of original songs by a new mother and talented songwriter. I Can Only Imagine is beautifully done and wonderfully sung, but with the exception of the contributions by Millard and Cochran, there's nothing particularly special about a CD of familiar lullabies—plus, the keyboard whistle sound gets quickly overused. One might argue that the presence of additional well-known artists would help it more, but lullaby albums generally never sell strong. As such, I Can Only Imagine is a reasonably priced little album that may attract the most devoted of MercyMe fans, but will generally only appeal to little ones, new parents, and insomniacs.