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Pictures on Mantles: The Best of Russ Lee

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Feb
Pictures on Mantles: The Best of Russ Lee
Sounds like … the usual '90s adult contemporary pop generated by NewSong, Truth, 4Him, and Phillips, Craig & DeanAt a glance … this collection of songs primarily taken from Lee's pre-solo days are rapidly sounding dated and formulaic, but it'll still appeal to those waiting to discover his earlier work with NewSong and TruthTrack ListingFaithful Love (new)Can't Keep a Good Man Down (new)Living Life Upside Down (new)Pictures on MantlesSweetest Sound (new)My Heart Is Already ThereWhen I'm With YouLove RevolutionMiraclesIf You Could See Me NowI SmileLive What I Believe

Russ Lee's résumé continues to grow. Beginning with "ex-drug dealer" after accepting Christ in 1980, he continued with "singer/songwriter," "husband," "father," and "ordained minister." Now he's a record company president with his own label, and also an official music industry veteran with his new 15-year career retrospective, Pictures on Mantles: The Best of Russ Lee.

In some ways, this retrospective is incomplete, only technically including three songs from Lee's solo career. 2000's Words in Time yielded "I Smile" and "Live What I Believe," and the 2004 Christmas release Hear Those Bells provides this new album's title track, a song less about the holidays and more about the importance of family. There are also two new tracks with "Faithful Love" and "Sweetest Sound," but Lee's 2003 album The Second Mile is absent.

But this collection more than adequately draws on the best of Lee's pre-solo work. "If You Could See Me Now" and a new version of "Living Life Upside Down" are songs he popularized with Truth. The rest represent some of NewSong's most popular cuts from the mid-'90s, including the Go West inspired "My Heart's Already There" and a new organic cover of "Can't Keep a Good Man Down" that's supposedly truer to Lee's original vision when he co-wrote it.

Lee has clearly stated he's all about ministry, involved in everything from AWANA to international missions trips. Reviews are, in contrast, generally about quality of art, which makes it difficult to praise a collection of unremarkable and dated adult contemporary that sounds very passé by today's standards. Still, the disc does chronicle many of the songs Lee is best known for, thus appealing to anyone who's only recently embraced his soulful voice. And clearly his music ministry—including the many hearts Lee affects—has far more lasting impact that anything a review has to say.