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The Best of 2000 - Dove Award Nominees & Winners
Artist: Various
Label: Pamplin (2000)
Length: 16 tracks/68:19 minutes

Since their inception in 1969, the Dove Awards have served as a kind of rough barometer for determining the most popular Christian artists and songs.  The awards have also functioned as an almanac of sorts, tracking the quickly-changing face of popular Christian music from its gospel-dominated era during the late '60s and '70s to its inspirational and contemporary pop/rock leanings in the '80s and early '90s on up to its eclectic present-day state.  Although Doves are now handed out in categories as wide-ranging as hip-hop, modern rock and bluegrass, Pamplin Music's The Best of 2000 - Dove Award Nominees & Winners focuses mainly on  the pop and inspirational subgenres of contemporary Christian music.

Like most compilation albums, the Dove 2000 release is, not surprisingly, highly uneven in terms of song quality.  Sonic Flood's "I Want to Know You" is a hearty slice of energetic modern praise and worship, and Jenny Owens' "Free" combines a similarly infectious pop groove with intricately layered vocals and syncopated instrumental work to give the song its delightfully quirky temperament. The plaintive steel guitar and country-tinged texture of Third Day's "I've Always Loved You" are the perfect foil for the song's darting rhythm and Mac Powell's urgent vocal delivery.  And the swirling, minor-keyed texture of dc Talk's "Consume Me" instill the impressive song with its unique, almost haunting, quality. "The Only Thing I Need," on the other hand, in spite of its interesting pairing of contemporary pop-gospel artists 4Him and progressive rocker Jon Anderson of Yes, is still, underneath it all, a mostly nondescript number. And John Elefante's normally passionate vocals are all but absent on the unexceptional "Home with a View."  Indeed, a large proportion of the album's 16 entries, including songs like Avalon's "Can't Live a Day," Chris Rice's "The Power of a Moment" and Kathy Trocolli's "A Different Road", fall into the same category as the 4Him and Elefante songs--pleasant enough but ultimately forgettable.

Because of their plentiful radio play, nearly all of the songs on The Best of 2000 are likely to be familiar to most listeners.  Still, at least a couple of less-known tracks are included on the collection and these songs turn out to be the album's finest.  Point of Grace's "Forever On and On,"  from the Word Records' Streams worship compilation, is a striking piece whose ambient backdrop and wispy vocals draw the listener easily into its beautifully moody setting.  And the live version of Cindy Morgan's "Make Us One" from the A Night in Rocketown release adds a tangible sense of both intimacy and immediacy to its already beautiful studio counterpart.  And the quietly grand "Be Still and Know" harks back to Steven Curtis Chapman's finest acoustic folk from the late '80s and early '90s.  All said, despite the collection's preponderance of weaker material, given its nearly 70 minute running time, the stronger tracks alone constitute a fairly impressive album in their own right.  And, although the contemporary pop and inspirational music on the collection are only a small subset of the styles of music covered by the Dove Awards, it nonetheless offers a fairly diverse and extensive sampling of its particular slice of the contemporary Christian music spectrum.

Bert Gangl 8/12/2000


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