Essential Hits Ten
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jul
The "anniversary album" is now a commonplace product in your local Christian music stores. Just a few years ago Forefront celebrated its tenth anniversary with a double CD that featured its successful roster of artists. I think I also recall a Word Records box set not too long ago, celebrating their history and diverse sounds. In the last six months alone, there have been anniversary albums celebrating Rocketown's five years and Reunion's twenty. Which brings us to Essential Records' tenth anniversary, commemorated by the release of Essential Hits Ten, a twelve-song collection featuring songs from Essential's most memorable artists over the years.
Essential scores points for mostly picking "the right songs." If you had to select a signature song for Jars of Clay, it obviously would be "Flood." Likewise, the producers appropriately chose FFH's "One of These Days," Bebo Norman's "The Hammer Holds," True Vibe's "Now and Forever," and Andrew Peterson's "The Chasing Song." Essential could have chosen any number of songs to represent these artists, and they wisely selected their first hit single or their most widely enjoyed song from their debut. Since Third Day's first two albums were with Reunion Records, this album features their first big hit from an Essential album, "I've Always Loved You" instead of a classic signature song such as "Consuming Fire" or "Love Song." The same is true of Caedmon's Call, whose first album was released on Warner's short-lived Christian label, though I'd have thought the band would have been better represented by "Thankful" instead of "There You Go."
All of these artists represent "the present," and Essential is good enough to also acknowledge "the past" on this collection by featuring some of the artists who are no longer on their label, or even recording at all. Though it's not my favorite track by them, "God-Shaped Hole" reminds me of the Plumb-shaped hole in Christian music right now (fear not, a new album via Curb Records is on its way).
Considering that the total album length is less than 50 minutes, it might have been nice for Essential to fill in the extra 20-30 minutes available on the CD with even more music. Why limit bands such as Jars of Clay, Third Day, or Caedmon's Call to a single song? The other idea would have been to add more of the artists no longer with the label. I'm not disputing the wisdom in leaving Parkway off the album, but Dan Mukala's brief foray into performance was as enjoyable as Silage and Imagine This. The most obvious omission from