Mark Baker | Santa Clarita, CA United States | 05/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1990, four men formed a group that took the Christian music world by storm. Their self titled debut, 4Him, was the highest selling debut to date. Their unique mix of pop with tight four part harmony continued to propel their career through the 90's and into this decade.
In 2005, 4Him decided it was time to move on to other ministries. To thank their fans, they released this CD. It contains rerecordings of nine of their classic hits plus five "new" tracks.
Of course, any fan will have their own opinion of the hits rerecorded for this CD. Personally, I feel they focused too much on their middle projects THE MESSAGE and OBVIOUS. Those are my least favorite of their works, so I would have liked to see more from their earlier and later efforts. In fact, their last two CD's get no covers here, despite some great #1 singles.
Very few of these songs sound that different. The tight harmonies are still present, and any fan can sing along right from the start. Such songs as "Where There is Faith" and "Basics of Life" are stripped down from their overproduced original sound, making them feel more modern. "For Future Generations" is a still a great power ballad. While there is a steady and noticeable drum beat, the emphasis musically is on the guitar and piano, making for a simpler sound.
I was surprised by a couple choices they made with these songs. "Strange Way to Save the World" from their Christmas CD made it. That thrills me since I have always loved this reminder that Christmas makes little since when you think about it from a human point of view. This version is just as tender as the original. In fact, it may be more tender, if that's even possible. Also a pleasant surprise is "Voice of God." I've always liked this simple ballad, and the guitar focused cover makes it even better here.
Then there's the medley. Clocking in at almost eleven minutes, it's by far the longest track on the CD. It combines "The Message," "The Measure of a Man," "A Man You Would Write About," and "Why." The first two songs get sung in their entirety while the older ones only get one verse each. I could understand a medley of choruses, but why include so much of the song? I think it would have been better to include these songs as separate tracks. And I doubt it would have made the CD much longer. Plus those last two songs are two of my absolute favorite 4Him songs. But they didn't ask me.
The group recorded one new song for the project. "Unity" also features musical friends Point of Grace and Jeromy Deibler of the group FFH. Based on the title, it will be no surprise when I say the song is a call for Christians to worship God together. It's got a great upbeat feel fitting in perfect with the rest of the CD.
I had seen the writing on the wall when two of the members released solo projects in the last couple years. The CD closes with each member doing a solo track. Andy Chrisman and Mark Harris do songs from their previously released projects (hence my use of the quotes around new earlier). They are solid pop songs that will please any fan of the quartet. The last two tracks are more interesting, however. Kirk Sullivan sings "Get Down Mountain," a gospel favored song inspired by Jesus' promise that if we have faith, we can move mountains. It's not bad, but such a strong gospel sound is out of place on a 4Him CD. Finally, Marty Magehee closes things with the rock song "Runaway Train." It took me a few listens to appreciate this song (I'm not a big fan of straight up rock), but I like it.
This CD is designed as a thank you to their fans. It's got some comments about their career and a retrospective timeline.
I'm sorry to see them go. I've been a fan almost since the beginning, and some of their songs still mean a lot to me. I wish them well in their new endeavors.
While fans don't need this CD, they will enjoy it. Those not familiar with 4Him's music would probably be better served getting one of their previous best of collections or a regular album."
A Fitting Farewell
djn4882 | Edison, NJ USA | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After 15 years in the Christian Music industry, 4Him takes their final bow with Encore... For Future Generations, released on INO Records. Encore features 12 of the group's number one hits re-recorded for this album by the guys, a brand new single ("Unity") and a bonus track from each of the guys' solo efforts. If I could sum up their final record in one word, "honest" would be it. Since the majority of these songs have been previously released, this review will look at the new arrangements of the musical content and not at the lyrical content (since this has not changed). It is clearly evident that there is a musical thread that runs through the 9 tracks of #1 hits. All of these songs have been stripped down to their core and have been re-recorded with a simple rhythm section arrangement, with no programming or gimmicks. This serves both a positive and negative effect. It's positive in that the songs from 4Him's first six albums have been stripped of the lavish orchestrations present on the first release. These songs now have a harder edge to them. There is an exception to this. "Strange Way to Save the World" has lost its piano/strings ballad vibe. I was hoping for more of a lush string arrangement, or orchestral arrangement and background vocals from all four guys, not just Andy Chrisman. On the other hand, the new arrangements are not as edgy as the latter albums, so songs like "Before the River Came" and "Great Awakening" don't sound as powerful as they once did. One of the standout tracks is the Medley, which lasts nearly eleven minutes and consists of "The Message", "The Measure of a Man", "A Man You Would Write About", and "Why". "Unity", the only new track by the group, gives diehard 4Him fans what they've been secretly longing for, and only got a sneak peak at eight years ago on a tour - a collaboration with Point of Grace. Jeromy Deibler from FFH also appears on "Unity". Each of the guys donated one of their solo tracks. This is the public's first look at Kirk's "Get Down Mountain" and Marty's "Runaway Train", the 2 tracks that completely shatter the 4Him sound. Kirk shows that he is diverse in many styles, as "Get Down Mountain" is a Black Gospel sounding track with full horn arrangement and backing choir. "Runaway Train" shows off Marty's musical theory training and production prowess, with the verses in an odd 7/8 time signature and various programming and effects tricks. Equally as impressive as the songs is the liner notes that accompany them. The group gives a detailed look through 4Him's career, complete with timeline of accomplishments and milestones. As I listened to the opening lines of "Where There is Faith" a chill came over my body because I know that this is the last 4Him CD I will ever buy. What a way for the group to go... an outstanding farewell."
4Him's Prophetic and Heartwarming "Encore"
T. Yap | Sydney, NSW, Australia | 04/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Prime Cuts: The Voice of God, Basics of Life, For Future Generations
Before the term "boy band" became voguish, 4Him has been making splashes within the orbit of contemporary Christian music. Raking an impressive 24 number one singles, eight Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination, their family-tight harmonies over smooth adult contemporary leaning tunes have been embraced apace. However, as much as they have remained a staple of the populist Christian music, this quartet has finally called it quits after 15 years. By re-recording some of their big hits plus one new song augmented by 4 solo cuts from each member, "Encore... For Future Generations" is their swan song.
With regards to the reprisal of their big hits, albeit given a more stripped acoustic production courtesy of Michael Omartin this time, they are this CD's highlights. While many Christian artists are circumvent in their reference to Jesus, replacing the Son of God with the generic "he," 4Him has never been circumspect. On the contrary, "Basics of Life," a riveting pop ballad, issues a clarion call to have "faith that is firmly grounded in Christ" in today's society of shifting alliances. Never one to step back as a spectator in the Christian life, the chest-thumper "For Future Generations" with its anthemic feel is fetching. Though it has been over a decade old, "Strange Way to Save the World" marshals one of the best attempts in limning a heart felt melody with the mystery of Christ's redemption. Buttress by some gentle guitar licks and some declaiming tickles of the keyboard, "The Voice of God" has never been sweeter and clearer.
As far as the new tracks are concerned, the ironically titled "Unity" find the boys partnering with Point of Grace and Jeromy Geibler of FFH on a harmony laden pop ballad that ought to propel them to the top slot for the last time. The beauty of a group like 4Him, is their harmonies. Their solo cuts just don't work: Marty McGehee's "Runaway Train" being the pits. With its polished beats and an abysmal melody, this is a poor attempt to cash in on N'Sync territory. While the horn-led Kirk Sullivan's bluesy "Get Down Mountain," just does not pass muster as a Gospel number. Sullivan's somehow limited range just doesn't lend itself to tackling a gospel number. Much better are Andy Chrisman's "Debt of Gratitude" and Mark Harris' "Carry the Light," they are more in line with mainstream pop abounding with some vamping guitars on Harris' number ala Keith Urban.
After 15 years, it's hard to say farewell to such a quartet that has inspired and encouraged with so many radio hits. For the unacquainted, "Encore... For Future Generations" is an excellent place to start. And for long time fans, this disc will bring back memories as well as strong reminders of the need to live out these songs. 4Him is a rare commodity in Christian music: they are the perfect amalgamation of embracing the rich doctrine of the church and putting them into harmony-laden work that stand toe to toe with secular groups such as Backstreet Boys, Westlife and Lonestar. Regardless of time, this is a collection of voices that matter, voices that are prophetic."
Don't Go!! Please Stay!!
Kimberly Edwards Taylor | Richmond, VA USA | 03/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Oh what a group!!
Kirk's soulful voice; Andy's clear as a bell pitch; Mark's great gift as songwriter and Mr. Marty's beautiful guitar and rock-star-in-the-making vocals make for a beautiful and harmonious group. Just came from the Finale concert - please go and see them! They were FABULOUS!!! These gentlemen are the true definition of a musical group.
They will be missed. Thanks for everything guys!! We love you!! Col. Hgts, VA"