All good things must come to an end. It's hard to sum up the fifteen year career of a band you've listened to for almost as long and have admired all that time in one final album. Finding the words to rightly pay your respects are just as hard as well. But, without launching into a eulogy rather than a record review, let's take a glimpse at Audio Adrenaline's final recording project, Adios: The Greatest Hits.
Due to frontman Mark Stuart's increasing vocal problems, the band announced earlier this year that 2006 would be Audio Adrenaline's final year as a band. To commemorate their impressive and memorable career, the foursome has constructed Adios, a retrospect showcasing the highlights of the past thirteen years of their fifteen year career. Although the group released their first hits collection five years ago, AudioA has since released three more studio albums. These projects spawned several radio hits, most of which showcased guitarist Tyler Burkum on lead vocals for the first time in Stuart's place. The inclusion of half a dozen of these songs into the mix with older, classic AudioA staples (such as "Big House," "We're A Band," "Never Gonna Be...," "Zombie," etc) is a bittersweet experience.
The songs on Adios are listed in almost complete chronological order (with two brand new cuts shuffled into the list), making the band's metamorphosis from their stellar sophomore release Don't Censor Me on down to their final studio recording Until My Heart Caves In all that more obvious. The face of the matter is, however, despite changes, the band never stopped churning out the hits, and this collection is an appropriate way for the band to bow out. But with any hits project, what the fans consider the band's best may differ from what actually appears on the collection. With their previous hits project, Hit Parade, more fan favorites were able to be included with the band having less albums to pull from. With Adios, the tracklisting is more focused on the songs that impacted radio most, and for that, what's included here makes perfect sense and makes for a fine farewell release.
Still, the fan (i.e. people like me), cannot help but think about how Adios could be taken a bit further. With as many memorable songs as Audio Adrenaline has had over eight studio albums, putting sixteen of them along with two new ones into one final swan song almost seems a bit thin. Perhaps a second disc with honorable mentions, or dividing the album entirely into two separate eras for the band, would have been ideal. That way, songs like "I'm Not The King," "Man Of God," "Walk On Water," "AKA Public School," "Don't Censor Me," "Rest Easy," "Underdog," "Glory," "Tremble," and still others could be featured. Better yet, the band's rarities could have also been included, from the more recent U2 cover "Gloria," to the Larry Norman tribute "Righteous Rocker #3" from eleven years ago. Adios goes far in honoring the band, particularly with the "Special Edition" version that comes with DVD material (which, at the time of this review, we haven't seen yet), but it seems to fall distinctly short of being all it could, and really should, be.
But looking at Adios: The Greatest Hits for what it does have, it's a fun project to say the least. Opening with the band's biggest hit of their career, "Big House," the album is off to a strong start. Continuing on with the energized live show staple "We're A Band," and moving along with the ridiculously catchy "Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus," Adios is a constant reminder to the listener just why Audio Adrenaline was so beloved. The first of the two new songs, "Goodbye" features Burkum primarily on vocals, offering up an official farewell to all who've supported the band through the years. Fitting in more appropriately with the style the band has exhibited in recent years, I find it strange this song isn't the last track on the record. But the honorable encore track closes with Stuart's rusty vocals appearing in the final seconds, giving it an added emotional quality that makes the song all the more sad to listen to. Hits from the band's fourth, fifth, and sixth albums (Some Kind Of Zombie, Underdog, and Lift respectively) precede the second and final new song, a cover of UK band The Alarm's "Blaze Of Glory." The fast and upbeat rock track features Stuart and Burkum sharing vocal duties for one last hurrah. Adios winds down with newer almost exclusively Burkum-sung hits "Leaving 99," "Pierced," "Miracle," "King," and "Starting Over" from Worldwide and Until My Heart Caves In. And one thing must be noted for sure: throughout the band's fifteen years, they never backed down from their heart for ministry and never stopped being the true definition of what a "Christian band" is. Their love for Jesus remained evident from album to album and show to show. This fact alone makes it even harder to see them go.
Two new cuts, an array of new and old classics, and a Special Edition version for the true AA fan, Adios: The Greatest Hits is a worthy curtain call for Audio Adrenaline and an absolute must-have bookend for a fan's collection. For those who aren't familiar with one of Christian pop's finest, Adios serves as an appropriate sampler to this band's amazing career. We'll miss you Audio Adrenaline. Thank you for the ministry and the memories.- PReviewed: 5/22/06, Reviewed: 7/30/06; both written by John DiBiase
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