Much has been made in recent years of the transformation of Las Vegas from the country's capital of sin and gambling to its capital of wholesome entertainment...and gambling. There may be no better symbol of that change than Danny Gans, a Christian-based variety entertainer who had gained enough local renown by the start of the new millennium to open up his own theater on the strip. In his act, Gans performs impressions of famous singers from Billie Holiday to Garth Brooks and does standup comedy. His debut album, Brand New Dream, however, finds him singing in his own voice and staying perfectly serious in a group of songs most of which carry Christian themes. The producer is Michael Omartian, a man who has given us the likes of Christopher Cross, and the musical style is mainstream pop/rock, primarily with a 1970s flavor. The album opens with "Be Strong," a Bruce Springsteen/Bob Seger-style roots rocker, but most of the music backs off from the rock edge of that song. More typical are Gans' covers of the 1969 Spiral Staircase hit "More Today Than Yesterday" (a duet with Nicole C. Mullen) and Marc Cohn's "Walk Through This World." But, as usual in religious music, the lyrics are more important than the music, and Gans, using material written by various people, shows a particular affection for extended metaphors that aspire to the status of parables. In the jazzy, rollicking "The Best Stuff in the World Today Cafe," for example, a restaurant has food so good the patrons become waiters and stay forever (sort of like religious conversions), while in "Touch of the Master's Hand," an old violin on the auction block stands in for a soul in need of God's redemption. "The Journeys Here at Home," the album's most personal song and one of only two on which Gans has co-writing credits, comments on the difficulty of matching career goals to domestic life. That song, and a couple of others, may have appeal beyond specifically religious audiences, though for the most part this is music for believers.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann