Jim Brickman

Windham Hill Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1999, Jim Brickman had risen from a commerical jingle writer who no label would take a chance on with a solo piano career to one of America's most respected love balladeers. With each passing album, Brickman was given more of a chance to expand his musical horizons, both with instrumentation and with guest musicians. Destiny, his 1999 effort, possibly reflected the greatest expanse of those horizons - but it occasionally comes dangerously close to having too many cooks spoil the broth.

First and foremost, Brickman is an exceptional songwriter who is able to convey his emotion and his visions into his music. Granted, the ability for singers to put words to those mental pictures often sends the songs into the stratosphere, reaching levels that Brickman alone could never have reached - and that is not meant as a slam against him. A song like "Destiny," sung by Jordan Hill and Billy Porter, would just not have worked had it only been an instrumental. (If this song catches me at the right moment, it can have me in tears - and I'm not embarassed to say that.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And Brickman's ability to work other musical legends into the picture only serves as further proof of his talents as a songwriter. Herb Alpert's guest performance on "Rendezvous" dares to put the trumpet legend into the background of the song - a move which actually ends up emphasizing both musicians' performances. It's an amazing feat which works better than I could have imagined - and it suggests a possible direction for Brickman's music in time to come.

However, at one point one wants to get up and scream, "Enough is enough." Granted, Brickman's performance of "Hush Little Baby" continues with the tradition of putting a children's song on each disc, and I have no problem with this - but Carly Simon's vocals do absolutely nothing for this song. It is the first moment on all the albums Brickman has done where I can say that I absolutely didn't like what I was hearing.

And maybe it's because my first experience with Brickman came with his 2000 live disc My Romance, but hearing Michael W. Smith sing "Love Of My Life"... well, something's missing. (No offense to Smith, but Donny Osmond sings the absolute pants off of this number.) Smith's performance comes off sounding - well, a little cold.

Brickman might be featuring more vocals on Destiny, but there's still a strong solo piano presence - or, more correctly, instrumental pieces with piano as the lead instrument. Tracks like "Part Of My Heart," "Crossroads" and "Remembrance" all demonstrate that Brickman is still a master of his craft.

There is one thing about Destiny which puzzles me - namely, why two different songs have been featured as bonus tracks. If you go and buy this disc at the store today, the bonus track will be "What We Believe," featuring Pam Tillis on vocals - a pretty enough track, I admit. But early "special" editions of Destiny featured the first vocal performance by Brickman himself, recorded in a live setting - and Brickman, reflecting on his days working with Jim Henson, performs "Rainbow Connection". I have strong reason to believe that Brickman may be reading these reviews the week they're running, so... memo to Jim Brickman: Why didn't you leave this song on all copies of Destiny? I mean, the disc is fine as it is - well, with the one exception - but this track absolutely puts the whole disc into a new emotional level. (And, yes, I downloaded it from Napster during their golden days... damn glad I did, too.)

Destiny is possibly one of Brickman's best-known albums, and for several good reasons. All you have to do is put the disc in your CD player to discover why.

Rating: A-

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.