The latest installment of the popular Wow series seeks to compile 31 of Christian music's
greatest hits on two CDs. While it's never an easy task to put together a compilation of this
magnitude, the Wow series has come to be known as the one-stop source for hits within Contemporary
Christian music. Their annual releases have been collecting the most popular radio hits in CCM since
1996, so Wow knows a thing or two about #1 singles. They've also put out Wow Gold (collecting hits
spanning from the 70s to the 90s) and Wow the 90s previously in an attempt to produce a
definitive hits collection for the CCM buying crowd. So with yet another genre-spanning collection
in stores, how does Wow #1s compare to their previous two collections?
First off, Wow #1s focuses mainly on hits from the past 15 years, with Amy Grant's 1988
hit "Lead Me On" being the oldest track on the collection. Secondly, there is an abundance of new
and currently popular artists on Wow #1s that suggests an emphasis on collecting the greatest
hits in recent memory, rather than the "timeless" hits featured on Wow Gold. All of this
leads to a highly-listenable collection of songs that manages to sound more contemporary than both
Wow Gold and Wow the 90s. There's also an ample selection of "later hits," which
is a nice surprise. For example, "Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman and "He Reigns" by the Newsboys are
featured here rather than the more obvious choices of the earlier hits "The Great Adventure" or "Shine."
For all of its strengths though, Wow #1s is not a perfect collection since it covers
much of the same ground as Wow the 90s and Wow Gold. This inevitably leads to some
"song recycling" between the three Wow CDs and some songs do indeed appear on more than one (or in the
case of Rich Mullin's "Awesome God," appear on all three!) collection. Another problem that plagues
Wow #1s is the occasional misses on the compilation. Focusing too much on today's artists
leads to some puzzling choices on who deserves to appear on Wow #1s. For example, artists
like 4HIM and even Delirious? are missing, yet (sometime Backstreet Boy) Brian Littrell is featured
instead. It's a puzzling choice, since his place on the collection is hardly justified.
Overall, Wow #1s is a great, though not perfect, collection. Musically, it's a stellar
listen since its collection of hits holds up much better than either Wow Gold or Wow the 90s.
However, its strengths are slightly hampered by its redundancy and a slightly uneven lineup. Although
it's true that a perfect compilation could never be achieved (especially one of this magnitude),
Wow #1s still comes pretty close to achieving its goal of collecting some of Christian
music's greatest hits on one release. And while it isn't necessarily the perfect, one-stop
collection that it aims to be, it does sum it up the CCM genre pretty well and it reminds every fan
of CCM why they fell in love with the music in the first place.
- Review date: 7/2/05, written by Sherwin Frias