Sparrow / Capitol Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I normally don't like to review contemporary Christian music, simply because I usually find the songs to be too preachy and not centered enough on the music. Besides, Michael Ehret is the resident CCM expert on staff, so I normally don't have to worry about it.

But in the case of the soundtrack for the mini-series Jesus, there was a natural curiosity about this project. Having been raised in a strict Catholic environment, this shouldn't be too big of a surprise. (And while I have not watched the entire mini-series, the ten minutes I caught the other night really impressed me.)

Yet I can't help but wonder if this disc is truly a piece to complement the mini-series or just another soundtrack designed to promote certain artists. There are some absolutely beautiful moments on Jesus, but too often, I fear that this disc falls into the latter category.

Problem number one: this disc features "music inspired by" the mini-series - meaning that some of these songs will not be heard on the telecast. That means that the producers of this disc could take a more market-friendly approach and put songs on it that would appeal to buyers as well as to radio. Somehow, I don't think that's staying close to the original soul of the project.

And why so much pop music for this project? They sure didn't have it in Jesus's time - and if they did, no doubt that Judas Iscariot would have been a bigshot executive in the music business. (No, no, wait a minute... did I really say that?)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's look at the musical masterpieces first. The original soundtrack's theme as composed by Patrick Williams really makes me wish that more of the mini-series's music had been the focus point. There is a gentle texture to Williams's composition, so much so that it seamlessly flows into LeAnn Rimes's "I Need You". I have to admit, this is a beautiful song that rightfully showcases Rimes as a talent whose star has not yet peaked.

The same can be said for Lonestar, who make an appearance with "Love Can Change Your Mind". The more I hear this group, the more I like them, and this track should win them even more fans - that is, anyone who wasn't won over with "Amazed". And Sarah Brightman's classical touch on "Pie Jesu" is simply haunting. This is the kind of vibe I really wanted to feel on this soundtrack.

Instead, we are left with some really questionable performances. DC Talk is one of the leaders in the CCM music scene - so did they really have to cover Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky"? The song sucked then, and it sure isn't any better now. And while the original version of "Shining Star" (from Earth, Wind & Fire) was enjoyable, Yolanda Adams does it no justice with her cover.

Much of the rest of Jesus is hit-and-miss. 98°'s contribution "The Love That You've Been Looking For" is pleasant, but Avalon seems like overkill with their track "Fly To You". It almost feels like the producers wanted to strike a balance between boy bands and girl bands with this. Other artists making contributions I happened to enjoy were Hootie & The Blowfish, Steven Curtis Chapman and Edwin McCain.

I like Jesus because it's not overtly preachy - but then again, with the plethora of pop music that is on this disc, it would be difficult to really plant a religious message in some of the songs. And somehow, I think that this moves away from the original goal of the disc, which was to complement the television drama. Had there been a little more focus on the music from the telefilm, the sales might not have been as good, but I think the overall feel of the disc would have been more natural. (Okay, so that's what the score album is for... some call it marketing.)

Jesus is sure to plant a song or two on the pop charts for a few months, and it is a decent though flawed collection of artists... but if Jesus himself had been overseeing the production of this CD, something tells me he would have cleared things out the way he did the money changers in the temple. (See, Sister Mary Humerus? I did pay attention in class! Now, can I have my Spider-Man comics back?)

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sparrow / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.