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The Best of Jonathan Rundman: 20 Songs from the 20th Century
Artist: Jonathan Rundman
Label: Salt Lady
Time: 20 tracks/73:21 + bonus disc
Jonathan Rundman is the King of Lutheran music, an even more obscure sub-genre of CCM. This is in itself a darn shame. Not only does Mr. Rundman own that sub-genre, but he is better than 90% of CCM, and probably two-thirds of pop-music in general. He has remained rather obscure, despite breaking out somewhat with his mammoth, 2-disc project Sound Theology in 2000. Since then, he has had a little more name recognition, but you can only reach so far as an independent Christian musician. He is too Christian for the pop music world, and too Lutheran for the CCM radio stations.
Rundman has decided to release his first greatest hit's compilation as an object for the majority of his fans (myself included here) who hadn't heard of him prior to the release of Sound Theology. This is a collection of 20 songs from Rundman's early career (pre-2000, hence the title).
I want address one issue up-front. Many of these are re-recordings of songs that appeared on earlier albums. Some may consider this sacrilege. I don't know how the sound & recording quality compares to the original versions; I can only speak to what I hear on this collection.
The sound on this disc is consistently top-notch, with strong mixing and mastering. Rundman, as always, delivers a sonic delight whether the song is an upbeat rocker or a tender, country ballad. The early stages of Rundman's songwriting is obviously influenced by the '80's & '90's alterna-pop bands that hit big. I hear touches of REM & They Might Be Giants, both the Violent Femmes and the Vigilantes of Love as well. Rundman has a twangier side as well, reminiscent of the Alt-Country of Ryan Adams, Buddy Miller, or Jay Farrar. Jonathan Rundman hasn't hit it big like any of them, but his talent isn't far from their heights.
The Best of Jonathan Rundman: 20 Songs from the 20th Century is a top-notch effort, as long as you don't own the original recordings. If you do, you should decide for yourself if the re-recordings are worth getting. To enhance the experience, Rundman has a few unreleased tunes added. Also of note is that he includes a bonus disc of (mostly raw) demos. This 20-track bonus disc isn't one you will return to often, but it adds nice value to the release.
Buying this disc is well worth it if you are a fan of Pop-Alt-Country-Folk music, and should be considered essential if you are trying to up your Lutheran Rock collection.
By Jonathan Nelson