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Making God Smile: But What About the Listener?

  • Christian Hamaker Senior Editor, Arts & Culture
  • 2002 15 May
<I>Making God Smile</I>: But What About the Listener?
Making God Smile, Silent Planet Records' gift to Beach Boy Brian Wilson on his 60th birthday (June 20), should be commended for its ambition and superb gathering of Christian artists, but the album is uneven and often not as enjoyable as Wilson's original arrangements.

Phil Keaggy's Good Vibrations is a case in point. Keaggy's admirable attempt at recreating the Beach Boys magic reminds the listener that it wasn't just the songwriting that made Wilson's music special, it was the Beach Boys' distinctive harmonies -- something that Keaggy and company can't quite match, although they sound like they had fun trying.

Kevin Max and Jimmy A's rendition of Help Me Rhonda trades off the simple, fun arrangement of the original for a more melancholy, electrified take on the song that saps the fun out of the tune, and Sixpence None the Richer's I Just Wasn't Made for These Times never quite jells (still, one sound of Leigh Nash's voice whets the appetite for Sixpence's long-delayed CD, Divine Discontent, due out in September).

Highlights on Making God Smile -- and there are several -- include Aaron Sprinkle's shining version of I Know There's an Answer (Hang on to Your Ego), a funky, bouncy number, rooted in a fun piano ditty; a soft and lovely take on Wilson's Love and Mercy from Randy Stonehill, one of Christian music's own gifted songwriters, with Terry Scott Taylor's gentle backing vocals; and Kate Campbell's acoustic Add Some Music to Your Day.

A note in the CD jacket from Silent Planet President Steve West says Making God Smile shows how "music serves a higher purpose, a healing purpose, as Brian has so often said. Fundamental to his artistic vision is the spiritual nature of the songwriting and recording process -- a sense that 'God is in the mix.'" West has put together a tribute that is interesting and, at times, joyful, but one that suffers in comparison to Wilson's originals. Nevertheless, the fact that such a strong group of singers and songwriters was inspired to participate in this tribute record is testimony to Wilson's fine musical legacy.