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August 2000 Pick of the Month
Offerings/A Worship Album
Artist: Third Day
Label: Essential Records
Length: 11 songs (plus a "hidden" track); 59:01 minutes

Third Day fans have been clamoring for an album of worship songs or a live album almost from the bands' beginning. Those who have attended a Third Day concert know that worship plays an important part of the evening--a central part. With Offerings, Mac Powell and company have attempted to satisfy both fan desires with one disc. All I can say is "Nice try." And I mean that literally. This is a very nice try--but, while gorgeous throughout, with hardly a blemish to comment on, Offerings is unsatisfying over the long run precisely because of the "all things to all fans" approach.

What I hear only makes me long for a pure worship album and a pure live album--or a pure live worship album. But, all this bucking back and forth between studio recordings and live recordings breaks the mood. Just when the live worship is kicking in and the connection is being made, the disc gives way to studio tracks and the electricity, comparatively, disappears. Third Day has electricity all the time, but never more than when they are playing live.  All that said, there are many individual highlights to this disc--live and studio. 

 Just last year the band released the critically and commercially successful Time, which gained the band three number one singles, four Dove Award nominations, and the Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year. Logically, the band should have rested and let the disc continue to percolate--as it has. "Your Love Oh Lord" from that disc is among the highlights on this disc and is one of the six live songs. Inspired by Psalm 26, the hymn captures the concept of how God's love, faithfulness, and righteousness inspires His creatures to worship.  Nicely segued from "Your Love..." is a live version of Third Day's cut from the Exodus project, Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei" here paired with Don Moen's worship chorus "Worthy."  Another live highlight is the disc closing "Love Song" from their breakthrough eponymous project. For this recording the audience was miked perfectly and they can be heard singing behind the band throughout the song--word for inspired word. It's a "goosebumps" and "wet eyes" moment. 

Among the studio highlights are two great covers--the fast-becoming favorite "These Thousand Hills" and a superb version of Bob Dylan's "Saved" from 1980.  "These Thousand Hills" was written by members of the sorely-missed Atlanta-based band, Jacob's Trouble in 1990. If you somehow missed this group, do yourself a favor and pick up at least their 1999 compilation Sampler Pack on KMG Records. Anyway, when Powell tears into this song, you can sense the anticipation of being in Heaven with Jesus that believers sometimes feel when standing in the midst of the beauty of God's creation. 

 These thousand hills roll ever on
 Footprints of a Mighty God
 They bring me to my knees in praise
 Amazing love, amazing grace
One of the jarring moments going from live to studio comes at the end of "Agnus Dei/Worthy" when Powell has led the group in worship and brought the sound level way down. With the crowd singing the strands of Moen's chorus still floating in your mind, Powell and company slam you into the studio with a driving, raucous version of "Saved." From arguably one of Dylan's best albums ever, "Saved" barrels along on the keyboards of Scotty Wilbanks and the backing vocals of Tabitha Fair and the Cobb Mass Choir. If Andre Crouch has never done this song, he's missed an excellent opportunity. However, Powell certainly has his way with the song. It's fantastic, but it took me a good portion of the song to get into the vibe--and then you go right back live with "My Hope Is You."  Mood swings anyone? Is it just me, or does Powell's singing remind anyone else of former folk/pop singer Cat Stevens? Just an observation. 

One new song, "You're Everywhere," written by Powell and the band, is the best of the new studio tracks. Based on the practice tapes of the song from the Conspiracy No. 5 recording sessions, this tune evokes some great images of God--and His omnipresence.

 Like the wind that blows no one really knows
 From where it comes or where it goes
 So it is with Your Holy Spirit, Lord
 Falling down on us to show that
 You're everywhere
 You're everywhere
The whole worship/live album concept might even have worked better if the band had done the disc half  studio and half live--like two sides of one cassette tape. Or even go all out and release a double disc, one of each. Maybe it's a quibble, this complaint about the mixed bag of live and studio, but I just can't help wondering "what if . . .?"

Mike L  Ehret 7/29/2000

With all the groups releasing worship albums, it's not surprising that Third Day should release a worship album. Mac sums up the group's perspective on performing worship music:  "Worship is so much a part of who we are and what we do that we consider most of our songs worship songs. Worship is an inseparable part of who we are as a band."

Offerings was produced by Monroe Jones (Chris Rice, Margaret Becker, Mark Schultz) and the band, includes six live concert versions of Third Day worship songs, such as "Agnus Dei" and "My Hope Is You."  There is also a live rendition of the hit songs, "Your Love, Oh Lord," from Time  and "Thief" and "Consuming Fire," from their self-titled album. Also featured are five completely new worship songs and the Bob Dylan's "Saved." As usual, Third Day gives the songs their own rootsy southern-edged rock.  Although Dylan's "Saved" was my favorite but I personally would have preferred a completely live album. The live cuts invoked a feeling that you were there that set them above the usual p&w album.

Shari Lloyd 7/29/2000



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