Jim Brickman

Windham Hill Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's been six years since pianist Jim Brickman released his first Christmas album The Gift - not a surprising thing, since he probably knew it was going to take a Herculean effort to top one of his best albums ever.

With Peace, he does just that. In the time between the two albums, Brickman has cemented his reputation in the music world and finely honed his skills on the keys. He's also become recognized both as a songwriter and as a performer, with several of his songs becoming adult contemporary hits. Add these improvements together with the magical feeling he brings to the holidays, and Peace turns out to be an excellent album - quite possibly Brickman's best effort yet.

Peace is a culmination of the work that Brickman has been doing to further his career. While there are more than ample showcases for just solo piano ("We Three Kings" - with a nice spash of "Carol Of The Bells" added in, "Early Snowfall"), Brickman all but shatters the New Age label that was thrust upon his music. On one side, there's the smokey jazz-club feel of "Let It Snow," with vocals courtesy of the Blind Boys of Alabama - and, frankly, it's a collaboration that is intensely powerful. On the other side, there's the ethereal "Rejoice (O Come, Emmanuel)," which would not sound out of place in a church setting. In between, there's the family-friendly adult-contemporary style which has made Brickman famous, from the powerful "Do You Hear What I Hear" (which showcases violinist Tracy Silverman a little more than vocalist Anne Cochran - and I don't mean that as a slight in any manner) to the proper-for-the-moment "Sending You A Little Christmas," featuring Christian artist Kristy Starling on vocals. (With the world situation right now, this song is sure to bring tears to more than a few eyes - even though, when we spoke, Brickman told me that wasn't the focus when the song was written.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It almost seems a little anti-climactic that Peace doesn't end with "Sending You A Little Christmas" - and that's not meant to slight the instrumental "Blessings" or the title track (which reunites Brickman with country singer Collin Raye, who sang on "The Gift"). In fact, both numbers are just as powerful as any other on this disc - but somehow, it seems like the case is overstated by tacking these on at the end. Still, it's an extremely minor quibble.

So what does Peace mean for Brickman? Besides furthering to solidify his reputation as one of the nation's leading performers and helping to establish him as an Artist - not merely as a New Age artist - this disc symbolizes something which is rare in this day and age. Brickman has created a holiday disc which could well become a standard for the season, much like Johnny Mathis and the Harry Simeone Chorale managed to do. Peace is the kind of disc that you'll pull out year after year - that is, assuming you can stop listening to it as you're packing up the tree in January. (Yes, kids, this one is good enough to listen to throughout the year without feeling out of place.)

Brickman knew he had work to do in order to top The Gift. Peace proves that he did his homework, and the results are ours to enjoy.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 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.