PFR is a band that has had what you can easily label a whirlwind career. After debuting to a welcoming crowd in 1992 with their hit record Pray For Rain, PFR gained considerable momentum before deciding to part ways prematurely in 1996. With a departing hits album aptly titled The Late, Great PFR, the band and their members all but vanished from the music scene. In 2001, the band reunited for a brand new studio record on Squint entitled Disappear, but sadly did just that, once again, when the label was absorbed by Warner Bros later that year. Now, with a few solo projects under their belts, the trio is back again with a unique new project that ought to bring PFR back into the Christian music scene in an appropriate way.
The Bookhouse Recordings is a collection of seven re-recorded and re-imagined PFR favorites with the addition of three brand new songs. The album opens with an updated and electric-fused version of "Pray For Rain" from their debut in 1992. As a long time fan myself it's almost undescribable how great it is to hear this song once again. Now over twelve years later, the song still sounds great, with the more aged and experienced musicians reinventing the song's composition. Lead vocalist Joel Hanson sounds as good as ever on this stripped-down recording. While the production of their earlier albums was obviously more polished, here we have a much more live feel. Hanson's vocals are also more gritty and frail here than usual. In a lot of ways, it's PFR like you've never heard them before.
The band takes an oddly synth-heavy approach to "Great Lengths," the Beatlesque title track from their 1994 junior release. Patrick Andrew's raw and matured vocals are friendly and reminiscent of the original. The background vocals and harmonies are missed but this schizophrenic pop reincarnation is a worthy update. "In The Middle" is the first of the three brand new PFR offerings. The piano-driven song opens as a pseudo-ballad before breaking into a jazzy piano melody that would make any Maroon5 or The Swift fan take notice. The originally edgy "Wonder Why" is given an electronic redux and an even more aggressive feel while pop radio anthem "Anything" nearly becomes a piano ballad. "Home," another new one, is a folky acoustic tune vocalized by Andrew that feels more like something you'd find on Patrick's solo album than a PFR record. "That Kind Of Love" was a gem back in 1993 on Goldie's Last Day and is a highlight here once again. Not really showing much change, it is as great a song today as it was eleven years ago. "Dying Man," also from Goldie's, receives a face lift for the intro but overall doesn't show too much of a difference here either. "Prayer For Beslan" is the third and final new track and is musically different from anything PFR has done on previous albums. This industrial pop song addresses the siege on a school in Beslan, Russia and marks the first time the band has ever written a song about a world event. This edgy and moody offering might feel a little out of place in style and theme, but it's a unique highlight on the album. The Bookhouse Recordings closes with Great Length's "Last Breath." A dark song about the final hours of life and eternal security, "Last Breath" makes for a fine finish to this unique project.
The Bookhouse Recordings is the album PFR fans have prayed for. While it's not a set of ten brand new songs, and perhaps a little too short on running time, it's a fond trip down memory lane. Songs fans have grown to love are rejuvenated and revived for today's musical tastes. While production is pretty raw (the band only had one week to record the album), it allows the songs to speak for themselves. And while it may not be the PFR's best album to date, it's a modest and worthy chapter in their career and hopefully just a preview of more to come.- PReviewed: 10/18/04; Review date: 11/27/04, written by John DiBiase
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