In 1998, Forefront Records celebrated their tenth birthday with a double disc treat of some of their artists' greatest hits on one disc and a unique collection of exclusive cuts on the other. The exclusive cuts included some of the Forefront artists covering songs from their labelmates. For example, they had Bleach's cover of dc Talk's "Heavenbound," Grammatrain's cover of Rebecca St. James' "God," and Seven Day Jesus' excellent cover of Audio Adrenaline's "Big House." Also included was Kevin Max's rendition of the renowned "Happy Birthday" song. It wasn't the best collection record, but an exceptional and creative one. Four years later, smaller label Essential Records also turns ten. To celebrate a more independent label's unexpected success thanks to surprise giants Jars of Clay and the untouchable Third Day, Essential releases Essential Hits: Ten - Celebrating A Decade of Wonder. Hey, they do have every reason to celebrate...
Ten starts off on the right foot. You have the jumbo radio hit "Flood" by Jars of Clay, a must-have for a record like this, followed by the pop quartet's first hit "One of These Days." "There You Go" marks a hit from Caedmon's Call's sophomore effort 40 Acres, followed by "I've Always Loved You" from Third Day's critically acclaimed Time. While with 18 No. 1 singles, it might be hard to pinpoint Third Day's greatest single, but it's a surprise to see this one included (don't get me wrong, I do really like the song). However, it's unlikely that "The Hammer Holds" was one of Bebo Norman's greatest hits while it's a fact that "God-shaped Hole" was not Plumb's. Did Essential forget "Crazy?" Or even "Stranded, "Late Great Planet Earth," or "Here With Me?" Apparently. "Billboards" may have been a Silage hit, but what about the members' infinitely better follow-up band Parkway? I'm thankful they included the underrated Imagine This on the record, however, their 1993 hit "Revolution" is an unmistakably more out-dated choice (being 9 years old) than their 1995 hit "Love." Ending the selection of 10 hits is True Vibe's power poppy "Now and Forever." No V*Enna? No Eric Champion? No All Star United? No Parkway? No Mukala? A better look at the label's history would have been a collection of songs from each of their artists during the 10 year span ( which doesn't total to all that many, but even a 2 disc collection would have been nice).
Although there aren't really any bonus tracks like covers, remixes, or special new recordings, Essential decides to push a little of the label's future with "Love Me More" by Paul Colman Trio (although "Turn" has already become a bigger hit and landed the number one spot on radio) and "Orbit," a cut from Sarah Sadler's upcoming solo record.
OK, but certainly nowhere near as good as it could or should have been, Essential Hits: Ten - Celebrating A Decade of Wonder doesn't offer much more than a brief look at the past and future of record label that has a lot more to offer than what they offer on this collection.- Review date: 5/23/02, written by John DiBiase
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