Celebrate Freedom Live
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
In July of 2000, Dallas Christian music radio station KLTY sponsored a day-long concert event in conjunction with Provident Music Group. Featuring 19 artists performing for a total of 14 hours, Celebrate Freedom pulled close to 170,000 fans, making it the largest Christian music event to date. Celebrate Freedom Live attempts to capture the highlights of this event on one disc and, for the most part, it succeeds.
If there are no overdubs on this recording (and that's a rare thing with a live album), then God was truly with the artists that night, because all of the performances are as strong as I've heard. There's the powerful vocals and wailing B-3 organ in "Hope To Carry On" by Caedmon's Call. Michael W. Smith gives a typically spirited performance of "I Still Have The Dream" with a full band; noteworthy, since he mostly toured with an acoustic setup in support of his This Is Your Time album. And you definitely don't want to miss the knockout performance of Bryan Duncan's new tune "I'd Like To Thank You Jesus," from his upcoming album. It's an already incredibly energetic song to begin with, but the live setting allows for some impressive improvisations, the addition of Bob Carlisle on vocals, and a hilarious moment when Bryan forgets the words—"well I thought all love was lost / cause I forgot to count the cost / but I don't remember the words right here but they were great!"
The album sags a little in the middle, only because the songs are less well-known and not as energetic. If anything, the problem is that they put the most prominent artists at the front of the disc and put the newer artists in the middle and end of it. I know the track listing can't be the order of the concert itself, since there are pictures in the booklet which show who performed in the day and night portions (Michael W. Smith was definitely near the end of the show, but he's near the front of the disc). I'm not sure why they shifted the artist order around as they did, since the disc ends somewhat anticlimactically, but it's not really a good reason to recommend against this album.
If anything, I wish a double disc recording were released instead. The recording quality is so good, and the roster of artists is so diverse with plenty of hit songs to go around. The recording truly does capture the excitement of a live setting. It would have made for a more comprehensive compilation of the day's events—the single disc just makes it feel a bit too much like a sampler. Unfortunately, live albums are rarely a success for record labels (Peter Frampton being the exception), which explains why you'll have to stick with this small taste of a great show. That's too bad, because this is an exciting collection of exceptional live performances. You should definitely consider pickling up Celebrate Freedom Live, even if you only like half the artists on the disc.