Picture This

Jim Brickman

Windham Hill Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Listening to the musical catalog of new-age pianist Jim Brickman, it almost feels like the more successful he became, the more room he was given to experiment with his music. By Heart dared to feature some additional accompaniment besides Brickman's solo piano - including the introduction of vocals.

Picture This, Brickman's third album, continues in this trend, daring to move further away from the core of solo piano - yet never forgetting the roots of Brickman's music. It's still not quite as absorbing as his debut No Words, but it's a nice accomplishment.

Similar to By Heart, Brickman seems to put a more upbeat spin on his music, creating the portraits one can see as well as hear, but not quite challenging the listener to probe the depths of their minds. Tracks like "Picture This," "Sound Of Your Voice" and "Dream Come True" all do this very well - often bringing in what sometimes sounds like synthesized accompaniment to help bolster the power of the solo piano. In fact, the addition of strings to some of the tracks accomplishes two things. It strengthens Brickman's presence while providing the songs with a more rounded feel. (The true power of what full orchestration - and by that, I don't mean in a classical sense - of Brickman's compositions can do is heard on the bonus track "Hero's Dreams" - wow!)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Daring to use a saxophonist on a new age album is bound to make some people have a "Kenny G" moment, where they squirm a second before running for the exits. But the utilization of Boney James on "Edgewater" reminds me more of the late Grover Washington, Jr. than the single-lettered last-name schlockmeister, and like the introduction of strings, helps to bring out the best in Brickman's work.

Vocals are used on but one track, "Valentine," courtesy of Martina McBride. Despite her background, McBride does not bring country into this track; instead, she allows her vocal talents to be guided by the song itself, and she delivers a rendition which pulls at the heartstrings. There's a reason this track is played a lot on the AOR stations around the country.

For all of the praise I have for Picture This, the disc does have one significant drawback - namely, it's not quite as memorable as No Words was. For some reason, Brickman just was not able to capture the emotional power in the same way he did on his debut effort - a complaint which now is two albums old. Am I saying that Picture This is a forgettable album? No. Am I saying it's bad? No. But like I said with By Heart, I guess I have a high standard of expectations for Brickman, and I know he can easily meet them. Picture This falls a little short of the bar in that regard.

Despite that, Picture This is yet another album from Brickman which not only proves his musical talents and power, but that piano music - and, for that matter, new age music - can be quite enjoyable.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 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 Windham Hill Records, and is used for informational purposes only.