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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Various Artists
Fervent Records (2004)
Following on the heels of the Absolute Worship release, Fervent Records' Absolute Smash Hits is a similarly-minded 25-song collection by mostly lesser known Christian pop and rock artists. But, lest the listener dismiss the Absolute records as merely lesser cousins to the phenomenally popular WoW Hits anthologies, one should note that Absolute Worship sold more units at Christian retail stores in its first two months than any other compilation in 2003 or 2004. And sixteen of Smash Hits' twenty five tracks made it into the Top 5 on Christian radio, with seven of those songs hitting the Number 1 spot.
Chart success aside, the true merit of any album lies in the quality of its material, and to that end, Smash Hits certainly delivers the goods. "River" finds Out of Eden honing their infectious blend of dance-pop, hip-hop and '70s soul to a razor-sharp edge. By The Tree's "Invade My Soul" is a likewise seamless meld of eighties arena rock and Gen-X-friendly alterna-pop. The sparkling instrumental work and picturesque lyrics of "Sink 'n Swim" (I was/ A tender reed/ Bent in the wind/ And then the storm had passed/ And you helped me stand upright again) make for one of Plumb's most beautiful and affecting compositions to date. And the potent, slightly funk-inclined "More Love More Power" finds former Sonicflood front man Jeff Deyo truly coming into his own as a solo artist.
In fairness, a handful of the album's cuts sail just wide of the mark hit by those above. And the abundance of older material (nearly half of the tracks date back to 2002 or earlier) may be somewhat off-putting to listeners enamored by the WoW records' year-by-year approach. That said, the Smash Hits collection works quite well as a retrospective, covering the period from 1998 to the present. And, unlike the WoW efforts, which focus nearly exclusively on inspirational pop, Absolute Smash Hits' broader array of musical styles and inclusion of material by lesser known, up-and-coming artists paints a more representative picture of the Christian music market as a whole, making it an ideal companion volume to the WoW Hits series and a fine collection in its own right.
Bert Gangl 7/12/2004