Chronology, Volume One (1996-2000)
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Mar
- Nothing At All (new mix)
- Forever (new mix)
- Consuming Fire (new mix)
- Thief 2006 (new recording)
- Love Song (new mix)
- Who I Am (new mix)
- My Hope Is You 2006 (new recording)
- I've Always Loved You ("steel" mix)
- Sky Falls Down
- Your Love Oh Lord (Psalm 36)
- King of Glory
- Agnus Dei/Worthy
- Blackbird (live)
- Alien (live)
- Have Mercy (new mix)
- Long Time Comin'
- She Sings in Riddles
It's incorrect to assume all greatest hits collections are created equally. Record labels don't always put effort into such projects, which vary greatly from hastily thrown together afterthoughts to carefully constructed events like this one.
No surprise the red carpet treatment has been bestowed upon Third Day, whose popularity has endured for more than ten years. They're part of the reason Christian music saw a renaissance in the mid-'90s, selling millions of albums (most going Gold or Platinum) while continuing to score highly on Christian radio charts and drawing adoring fans to their concerts. Obviously a best-of collection is not only justified, but also perhaps overdue.
Well, Provident is sparing no expense with this one. In what's being dubbed as the "Year of Third Day," fans can expect not one, but two anthologies (the second releasing in August 2007), each disc bundled with a DVD of extras. It's a worthwhile set, and one of the more interesting best-of collections seen in a long time.
As the title indicates, Chronology, Volume One (1996-2000) focuses on Third Day's first four albums. With over 78 minutes worth of music, the compilation relies heaviest on their 1996 self-titled debut, tracing their career up to their first worship album Offerings. Remember when Third Day delivered Southern rock in the spirit of The Black Crowes and Hootie & The Blowfish? Have they recorded rockers any better than "Nothing at All," "Have Mercy," "Sky Falls Down," and their signature scorcher "Consuming Fire?" Have they written a ballad more sweetly affecting than "Love Song?" Is there a worship song in their catalog more stunning in scope and performance than "King of Glory?" It's all here, and after this trip down memory lane, I maintain that the first half of their career represents the salad days of Third Day.
If there's a weakness, it's that this collection tries to be all things to all consumers, which has its pros and cons. The downside is that the album doesn't preserve Third Day's best songs as you remember them. But the upswing is that fans looking for a compilation that has more to offer than the tracks they already own will find a lot to love in Volume One.
For starters, the songs from the first two albums have been newly mixed, if not redone altogether. This helps revitalize their early material, though not dramatically so. Aside from a little more low-end bass and more prominent vocals, I doubt most people will notice, and though the songs remain great, the production admittedly sounds a tad dated ten years later.
As for the re-recorded material, the dramatic "Thief" has always sounded a little out of place, particularly with its "Pinball Wizard" choir. Replacing it in this version are an overblown string arrangement, some programmed drums, and a lot more electric guitar—a bit much, but it works. The remake of "My Hope Is You" seems less necessary. Similar to how Third Day performs it in concert, the song feels retooled a fresh AC radio-friendly sheen. It's not the leaner, rootsier Southern rock band heard on the bulk of Volume One. Considering the rocking new vamp added to the end of "Who I Am," it makes you wonder why Third Day didn't just redo the whole song and remain committed to that sound.
Can't say I'm a fan of putting live versions of songs on a best-of album either. It tends to sound disjointed, though fans are probably used to it from the concert-and-studio mix of the Offerings albums. Live renditions of "Blackbird" and "Alien" are strong, and offer something different to the faithful. But interesting that Chronology features the studio version of "Your Love Oh Lord" when the live recording was the single. Conversely, their cover of Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei" is represented by their live Offerings performance, not the studio version heard on radio (from the Exodus album fans may not have).
But fans will particularly appreciate two tracks from Third Day's rare 1999 EP released in promotion of Time. "Long Time Comin'" and "She Sings in Riddles" rank among the band's best in Southern rock goodness, and again makes me wish the band stuck to their roots. Topping it all off, the DVD is an enjoyably personable collection that archives Third Day's first decade through music videos, performances from the Dove Awards, and bootleg live performances, plus some fun Mystery Science Theater 3000 styled commentary from the band.
If you had to have just one album by Third Day, this could be it—especially considering that Volume Two's song selection will probably be less thrilling by comparison. Small gripes aside, there's no denying that Chronology, Volume One gets the job done, capturing Third Day at their rocking best while offering plenty for fans to appreciate. All compilations should be done this well.