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Greatest Hymns

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Aug
Greatest Hymns
Sounds like … the trio's familiar blend of old hymns, inspirational pop, and African influences, with hints of Josh Groban, Watermark, Michael Bolton, and Bill Gaither.At a glance … this is in a sense Selah's "best of," collecting both hits and rarities of the trio's most loved hymn covers.Track ListingBe Thou My VisionGreat Is Thy FaithfulnessBika Mono Ve (Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior)/ It Is Well with My SoulThere Is a FountainAmazing GraceHow Great Thou ArtHis Eye Is On the SparrowBe Still My Soul/What a Friend We Have in JesusBy and By (We'll Understand It Better By and By)When I Survey the Wonderful CrossPart the Waters/ I Need Thee Every HourPrecious Lord, Take My Hand/ Just a Closer Walk With TheeThere Is Power in the BloodO Sacred Head Now WoundedBe Thou Near To Me (with Jim Brickman)

Selah's journey began in the late 1990s when Nicol Sponberg, her brother Todd Smith, and Allan Hall released an independent album of hymns and Southern gospel classics. Eventually Curb Records got a hold of Be Still My Soul and liked it so much that they singed the threesome and released the album nationally in 1999. After three more albums, numerous accolades, and a solo project from each member, Sponberg officially stepped down to pursue other ministries and was replaced briefly by Melodie Crittenden (who has also since left to spend time with family).

And now comes Greatest Hymns, a collection of radio singles, fan favorites, and a few obscurities that all feature the group's glowing harmonies and vocal acrobatics. Highlights include their radiant medley of "Bika Mono Ve (Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior)/ It Is Well with My Soul," their soothing rendition of "How Great Thou Art," a soulful old-time gospel version of "Amazing Grace," and the African-influenced "By and By (We'll Understand It Better By and By)." Faithful fans will especially appreciate harder to find tracks like "O Sacred Head" from the Max Lucado-inspired CD Next Door Savior and "Be Thou Near To Me," Crittenden's sole contribution to Selah, found on Jim Brickman's Grace.

It's an imperfect album, however, with drab and lackluster arrangements of "When I Survey the Wonderful Cross," "There Is a Fountain," and a previously unreleased cover of "Be Thou My Vision." Nor can this really be considered a best-of album without the trio's hit rendition of "You Raise Me Up," though its inclusion wouldn't fit this collection's premise, seemingly capitalizing on 2005's trend of hymns albums. Still, Greatest Hymns delivers what you'd expect—Selah's best inspirational material from their three non-seasonal albums, performed with breathtaking vocals.

© Andy Argyrakis, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.