In 1981, the 26-year old Rich Mullins, freshly graduated from Cincinnati Bible College and working for Zion Ministries and their band called "Zion," recorded an album with the band called Behold the Man, of which, Mullins had written all of the eight songs. On it was a song called "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." Soon after the album was released, Amy Grant heard the album and decided to record her own version of the song, released on her 1982 smash hit, Age to Age. The song was a big success, and the career of one of the most influential Christian musicians was underway.
It was not until 1986 that Mullins finally recorded his first solo album. That debut album, simply entitled Rich Mullins, was largely unsuccessful, and it is not hard to see why. Essentially, it just comes down to the fact that Mullins was still very raw and inexperienced as a musician, and his album was produced on a relatively low budget. The intricate and creative melodies and stunning use of rarely-used instruments he would become famous for simply weren't there yet. The music itself sounds like average 80's pop; it's not bad, but certainly nothing that sets it apart. On today's ears, though, there are some moments that you might as well listen to radio static in between all the synthesizers, drum loops, and electric guitars. On the other hand, the lyrics are very good; Mullins is considered by many to be among the greatest songwriters in the history of Christian music, and this is what shines through all the plainness of this album.
As for the individual songs themselves, well, there really isn't anything particularly memorable, but there are several tracks that foreshadow his future career very well in terms of his raw potential. Certainly "Elijah" tops that list; Mullins re-recorded this song for his 1996 hits collection, Songs, long after he had found his sound, but even that version lacks the combination of passion and fun of the original. "Both Feet On The Ground" is also another good foreshadowing song, reminding me slightly of "Growing Young" and the previously mentioned 1996 version of "Elijah." And "These Days" reminded me of "Verge of a Miracle." Of course, musically speaking, there isn't anything catchy or memorable (in fact, most of the music itself is quite forgettable), and some will sound less preferable than the aforementioned static to some people ("Live Right" and "Prisoner" come to mind). The most creative instrumentation in the whole album is a flute opening on "New Heart." Amazingly, Amy Grant makes a guest appearance on the album, but even the presence of this big name is buried in the middle of forgettable music in the song "Live Right."
In short, if this were not a Rich Mullins album, there would be very little reason to even acknowledge it. It certainly is not a terrible album (far from it), and it is even quite enjoyable at times, but it is just not memorable. Even the lyrics, undoubtedly the strongest point of the album, are vastly inferior to the dazzling wordplay and metaphors Mullins would later conceive. There really isn't any reason to get this album unless you are a Rich Mullins fan interested in the evolution of his career. But those who do get it can readily appreciate it for what it is; the first album in a genre-defining career.- Review date: 8/2/2012, written by Mark Rice of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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