Pictures in the Sky

by: Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins was a refreshing commodity in the contemporary Christian music scene of the '80s. Mullins wasn't given a record deal with a major label because he had a pretty voice that could be utilized for any song the execs or producers wanted to sell on Christian radio. Actually, his somewhat whiny nasal tone was one of his greatest weaknesses. And certainly nobody would accuse him of coasting on teen idol looks. Mullins got his break because he was a skilled musician and a genuinely talented composer with a strong ear for melody and a knack for vivid and substantive lyrics. But if Reunion Records was willing to sign a risky bet like Mullins, it apparently took time before they were ready to commit sufficient resources to bring his carefully crafted adult contemporary praise pop to life. Mullins' sophomore record, Pictures in the Sky, demonstrates his range as a songwriter, but Reed Arvin's production does little to showcase the artist's musicianship or his talent for innovative arrangements. Much of the album has the sound of a low-budget demo tape recorded using one cheap keyboard to cover all of the instrumentation. So catchy numbers like "It Don't Do," "Steal at Any Price," and "Pictures in the Sky" end up coming off as amateur noodling by a mediocre singer instead of the first-class pop tunes they really are. Only the acoustic guitar-based "What Trouble Are Giants" and the a cappella "Screen Door" are realized to their full potential. ~ Evan Cater

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