Sounds like … the urgent alternative aura of Kevin Max, Seven Day Jesus, or Morrissey with a striking vocal resemblance to Jeff Buckley.

At a glance … following session work for Seven Day Jesus and Audio Adrenaline, the former frontman for Lackluster turns in an impressive solo CD stock full of passionate ballads, surging rockers, and provocative spirituality.

Those who saw Seven Day Jesus in concert or caught Audio Adrenaline on its farewell tour might already recognize Brian Whitman for his work as a guitarist and backing vocalist. The singer/songwriter is also known for fronting late '90s indie rockers Lackluster (featuring several Seven Day members) and starting Phoenix Music and Arts (a recording studio and social outreach organization all rolled into one), while also producing several up-and-comers on the west coast.

When it comes to his time in Lackluster or on solo terrain, there's no denying the wide-ranged rocker's resemblance to Jeff Buckley. But whereas that late great legend flirted with spiritual themes, Whitman's music is grounded in the gospel throughout This Great Defeat. Outside of the title, the theme can also be summarized in the liner notes, including a thought-provoking quote by WJC White: "God is not defeated by human failure."

The essence of redemption is immediately captured on "The Heart Reborn," a hypnotic alternative rocker that finds the frontman seamlessly switching from a rugged rock voice to vibrant falsettos. Those trends continue in the acoustic "Changed Man," which finds Whitman's pipes meeting somewhere between Buckley and Kevin Max.

The programmed introduction to "Return to the Start" seems a bit half-baked, but Whitman's voice is again the primary instrument, soaring across stirring lines of heavenly foreshadowing: "And when you arrive at that place/Sorrow and pain won't know your face." Whitman hits everything on target with "The Last Sunrise," echoing the most recent albums from U2, but with a quivering vocal delivery that sounds much closer to Max or Morrissey than Bono.

Those are lofty comparisons, for sure, yet Whitman preserves his own sense of artistry throughout, particularly the shimmering and ethereal "Not Afraid." His passionate cries of perseverance are nothing short of spine-chilling, while longtime listeners will be pleased with this version's improved production compared to the original Lackluster album. After all these years of playing in bands or extending his talents behind the scenes, Whitman reveals himself more than a copycat with good musical taste. He's a solo star in the making, sure to resonate with both faith-based and mainstream audiences.

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