After more than two decades together, millions of albums sold and countless awards won, Third Day has clearly entered the "do what we're interested in" stage of their career. Rock and roll veterans like Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Paul Simon (who Third Day covers here) and Bob Dylan regularly sway around the career path, indulging whims and long-term passion projects (cover albums, genre excursions like a Blues album or a Country album, collections of Show Tunes, etc.), and with Revival, the guys from Georgia scratch their Gospel Music itch with a Deep-South soaked batch of sweaty, funky soul music tunes that sound like a Sunday morning fifty years ago in Baton Rouge.
Recorded at legendary Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama (where legendary albums by The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Lynyrd Skynyrd were made), Revival is more than just a vanity project by this legendary Christian rock band. It's a labor of love that the guys clearly wanted to make for many years, and one that finds the band recalling the peak years of their performing and writing powers (on such albums as the back to back Conspiracy No. 5 and Time).
With vintage instruments in tow (harmonicas, tambourines, rusty electric guitars and plenty of finger snaps and hand claps) the band states their purpose right out of the gate with the title track; a groovy, swinging Gospel Music number that ambles along on a bed of soulful backing vocals, tinkling piano and a honking saxophone. The lyrics here are a spot on in their mentioning of what brings true revival: "Ain't gonna' find it in a politician / not from the government or any law / can't get it going by your own religion / only by the Spirit and the Word Of God". Mac Powell's distinct baritone is in fine form throughout the album, and booms out wonderfully on the title track.
"Gonna Be There With Me" ups the Gospel Music ante, with a soulful set of mariachi horns (a la Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire") and a wailing set of back up singers. The saloon piano break and old timey guitar solo in the bridge brings the good vibes to a musical head. The menacing guitar intro of "Leave This World Behind" is an old school Third Day delight, and the song adds a needed "rocking" surge of energy.
The middle third of the album leans more towards recent Third Day radio pop, but still maintains the spirit of the more overt old-school Gospel material. "Gather Round Now" makes a great use of a Blind Boys Of Alabama type vocal backing group, and marries a hard rock feel with a swinging Gospel groove, making for a delightful-yet-dangerous combo.
The band maintains the pace and quality of the Soul Music vibe all the way through Revival, and it's obvious that the band's love and respect for this type of influential American music has been there all along. The band has been playing with Gospel music choirs since their beginning (see "Worship Song" on their debut album, "Have Mercy" from their second album or "King Of Glory" from their fine worship album, Offerings), but they have not gone "whole hog" until now. Revival is exactly the kind of labor of love project that a veteran band should make. It's true to its roots, lovingly crafted and capably executed. Like a Rolling Stones Blues cover album, a Sting medieval music side trip or a Bruce Springsteen folk music jaunt, Revival finds Third Day playing with a format that they clearly have "in their marrow," and in doing so, have put out one of the best albums of their career. It's also one of the best things you'll hear this summer, and will sound great live when the band takes it on tour. Turn it up loud (if you have it on vinyl, all the better) and get down with the old-school vibe.
- Review date: 8/1/17, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com