Jim Brickman

Destiny

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Anyone soul-stirred by the Cleveland native's 1997 breakthrough Picture This will find the simple, mood-enhancing pleasures of Destiny -- a rich, accomplished work with not one throwaway cut -- a similarly perfect soundtrack to the big romantic interlude in the midst of life's day to day chaos. While Brickman delves a bit more into up-tempo smooth jazz playing over Herb Alpert's brisk, rising harmony lines on the strutting "Rendezvous," for the most part he sticks to his stock in trade: seductive, three-minute long pop songs that range in mood from happy-go-lucky ("Part of My Heart," "Meant to Be," "By Chance") to lilting and melancholy ("Crooked River"). Brickman says he aims to lift the listener into a journey of self-realization and provides the starting points with simple word or phrase titles like "Remembrance" or "Crossroads." He's rarely inclined to use outside harmonic enhancement on these pieces, but Richard Dodd's weeping cello accents on "Bittersweet" add a deeper sensitivity.

Brickman's facile way with a pop piano hook has translated to huge success on the adult contemporary charts, where has scored vocal hits with Martina McBride ("Valentine") and Susan Ashton and Collin Raye ("The Gift"). While Carly Simon's kindly performance on "Hush L'il Baby" keeps Brickman's tradition of including childhood nursery rhymes on every project intact, any of the other three instantly hummable vocal tunes (think power ballads lite) are candidates for first dance wedding songs that can endure through the ages. Michael W. Smith's raspy voice adds thrust to "Love of My Life," while young R&B stars Jordan Hill and Billy Porter make a convincing vow on the soaring title cut. "Your Love" sung by Michelle Wright is, lyrically and melodically, the perfect sequel to "The Gift."

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