REVIEW: Jeff Stice – Finished Well

Producer: Rick Sandidge & Shannon Newman
Record Label: Daywind Instrumental

“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.”

 – Ludwig van Beethoven

Normally when I write reviews, I tackle them from a perspective of listening. However, this album is different. I am so honored to be the one to review this album. As a pianist to be tasked with the undertaking of reviewing the final album from the legendary and incomparable Jeff Stice is not something I take lightly. “Jeff was an accomplished gospel music pianist…” I read that and I think to myself yes he was, but on a personal level I can say every time I ever met him or spoke to him, Jeff was such an encourager and so witty. But this isn’t to be some kind of eulogy that’s been written, so let’s get to the music.

The album opens with the classic “Reach Out and Touch.” It’s such a beautiful song. I like that some of the tracks have vocals, but the main focus is the piano. “How Big is God,” the iconic arrangement that Lari Goss and Anthony Burger created years ago is well known, but I like that Jeff has taken and arranged it for himself rather than just a cover of that one. The virtuosic piano stylings are exactly what we know and expect from Jeff.

“A Thousand Years” inclusion on this album is a nice surprise. I love this lyric, and if you know this melody you too will find it just as peaceful. “How Majestic is Your Name” is what you would expect more big chords, arpeggios, and a bombastic ending. Talk about something unexpected is “A Thing Called Love.” It opens with a harpsichord and then…yes this is the Jerry Reed song covered by Elvis and Johnny Cash. It includes some backing vocals. This is just a fun arrangement from start to finish.

If you love classics from the Great American Songbook, “High Hopes” will be right up your alley. Some nice jazz stylings and the backing orchestration and vocals make it just superb. The pop standard “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” features some licks that only Jeff could have pulled out that just works. The Robin Mark praise and worship anthem “Days of Elijah” features backing vocals. I love the improvisations Jeff chose to do on the second verse and chorus leading into the bridge. Definitely one of my ears favorite parts.

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” was a hit for Stevie Wonder and here Jeff gives his interpretation, and it is just so smooth and effortless. Another feel good track. Buddy Holly here as well? Sure why not? “Everyday” is another one of those standards that everyone knows, so it’s easy to just sing along as Jeff plays. Closing out the recording is the popular “Goodness of God.” I love that this is the last track on the album and is in a sense the final words that Jeff could ever leave with a listener of this album. “All my life You have been faithful. All my life You have been so so good. With every breath that I am able. I will sing of  (or in Jeff’s case) [play for] the goodness of God.”

There you have it. The finale ultimo of the life of Jeff Stice. From start to finish, this album I think is a love letter from Jeff. Featuring a variety of music, from Worship music to Pop standards and everything in between. I normally rate albums on a scale of 1-5 based on my personal opinion, but for this album I can’t really give it a rating, because I feel like anything less than perfect would be insignificant. Gone to early, but we’ll see you again soon Jeff. Thank you for everything. You truly have finished well.


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