Artist hits collections are often pass or fail when it comes to how they're handled by the label or artist. In the case of one of Provident's most successful artists today, Third Day, the Atlanta-based band has an incredible history of music to celebrate. This year, the label is releasing a two-volume CD/DVD combo set starting with Chronology, Volume One (1996-2000) in the Spring to commemorate the group's impressive history.
The first installment of the Chronology set launches with the opening track from the band's 1996 self-titled debut, a record that was originally released partially in a more raw form in 1995 before getting a proper major label rebirthing the following year. "Nothing At All" first appeared on the Reunion Records release, and it is given a new mix, as do most of the songs present, on Chronology, Volume One. While the biggest noticeable change in this version is the absence of Mac Powell's reading from the book of James, most of the other "new" mixes are hardly discernible as being much different. This is primarily a good thing, however, as it mostly preserves the tracks we know and love from the band as-is, with only tiny enhancements or changes along the way. The bulk of the tracklisting on Chronology, Volume One features selections from their debut, and rightfully so. While a lot of bands try to forget their humble beginnings when their most respected work may have followed, Third Day acknowledges them, and introduces some of their past to fans who may have not been following them since their start. "Forever," and one of their most recognized and beloved songs "Consuming Fire," precede the first album treat, a brand new recording and reimagining of "Thief." While it's great to hear an update of the classic song, its more grandiose presentation is just a bit over the top (particularly with the string accompaniment) when compared to the more subtle approach the original took. While the new one is still a unique revisitation, a bit of the original's charm seemed to be sacrificed in the process. The other reworked new track is an update of "My Hope Is You," from Conspiracy No. 5, which is a rather surprising choice for re-recording. The original still sounds fantastic, so it seems unnecessary to redo, and the new version doesn't really improve upon the 1997 original. While I could see maybe tearing into a new edgier update for something off their debut (even "Blackbird," "Consuming Fire," or even just a refreshing of the historical "Praise Song"), the new take on "My Hope Is You" gives it more of the look and feel of what Third Day is doing musically today.
With six cuts from their debut included, their sophomore record Conspiracy No. 5 is only represented by four, with some of the most memorable moments of the record seemingly overlooked ("Peace," "You Make Me Mad," "I Deserve?" and "Gomer's Theme" all come to mind). The new mix for "Who I Am" unites the album's hidden bonus improv reprise of the song with its original for a particularly extended version, while the album's memorable single "Alien" only makes an appearance in live form. Also, possibly the album's most forgettable track, "Have Mercy," is included as a bonus at the collection's end. The album's central dozen tracks cover selections from four of their albums, and the fact that so many songs from those albums that can be considered memorable are missing from this project merely proves just how much great music this band has generated in the past decade. Bonus tracks, following crucial selections from Time (1999) and Offerings (2000), include two live songs ("Blackbird" and "Alien"), "Have Mercy," and two songs from the band's phenomenal rare Southern Tracks EP ("Long Time Comin'" and "She Sings In Riddles").
While it might be tempting to glance at a seventeen track hits record that spans four albums and an EP and feel like it's somehow incomplete, the truth is Chronology, Volume One is a carefully chosen batch of songs that honor an impactful career in music. But as most collections would probably not even bother to go into the depth that Chronology digs into, it's all taken considerably further as a DVD disc is added to the mix. And while it might be expected for there to be a few music videos and, if you're lucky, a couple of interviews featured on it, Chronology goes further to reach into the band's past and find homemade videos of the group's first performances ever - while they were still just kids. In addition to the archival footage, are six live Dove Award appearances, four music videos (as well as two versions of "Cry Out To Jesus"), and a Chronology, Volume Two preview. Highlights from the rare footage include 1992 bootleg videos of a goatee-less Mac Powell and a mullet-wearing Mark Lee as they perform "Praise Song" as a three-piece for their church, and first-time performances with bassist Tai Anderson and drummer David Carr.
While many would agree that something to the caliber of Chronology is deserved of a band like Third Day, few would come to expect the time and attention put into cataloging and compiling all that's found on - not one, but - two volumes of collection material for the Atlanta rock quintet. Coupling the generous seventeen song audio disc with a DVD loaded with rarities and bootlegs gives fans one strong project suited for the most diehard Third Day enthusiast. The Chronology series easily sets a standard for what fans would expect in future artist best-of collections.- PReview date: 3/2/07, Reviewed 3/26/07 by John DiBiase
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