The latest installment of the popular Wow series seeks to compile 31 of Christian music's greatest hits on two CDs. While it's never an easy task to put together a compilation of this magnitude, the Wow series has come to be known as the one-stop source for hits within Contemporary Christian music. Their annual releases have been collecting the most popular radio hits in CCM since 1996, so Wow knows a thing or two about #1 singles. They've also put out Wow Gold (collecting hits spanning from the 70s to the 90s) and Wow the 90s previously in an attempt to produce a definitive hits collection for the CCM buying crowd. So with yet another genre-spanning collection in stores, how does Wow #1s compare to their previous two collections?
First off, Wow #1s focuses mainly on hits from the past 15 years, with Amy Grant's 1988 hit "Lead Me On" being the oldest track on the collection. Secondly, there is an abundance of new and currently popular artists on Wow #1s that suggests an emphasis on collecting the greatest hits in recent memory, rather than the "timeless" hits featured on Wow Gold. All of this leads to a highly-listenable collection of songs that manages to sound more contemporary than both Wow Gold and Wow the 90s. There's also an ample selection of "later hits," which is a nice surprise. For example, "Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman and "He Reigns" by the Newsboys are featured here rather than the more obvious choices of the earlier hits "The Great Adventure" or "Shine."
For all of its strengths though, Wow #1s is not a perfect collection since it covers much of the same ground as Wow the 90s and Wow Gold. This inevitably leads to some "song recycling" between the three Wow CDs and some songs do indeed appear on more than one (or in the case of Rich Mullin's "Awesome God," appear on all three!) collection. Another problem that plagues Wow #1s is the occasional misses on the compilation. Focusing too much on today's artists leads to some puzzling choices on who deserves to appear on Wow #1s. For example, artists like 4HIM and even Delirious? are missing, yet (sometime Backstreet Boy) Brian Littrell is featured instead. It's a puzzling choice, since his place on the collection is hardly justified.
Overall, Wow #1s is a great, though not perfect, collection. Musically, it's a stellar listen since its collection of hits holds up much better than either Wow Gold or Wow the 90s. However, its strengths are slightly hampered by its redundancy and a slightly uneven lineup. Although it's true that a perfect compilation could never be achieved (especially one of this magnitude), Wow #1s still comes pretty close to achieving its goal of collecting some of Christian music's greatest hits on one release. And while it isn't necessarily the perfect, one-stop collection that it aims to be, it does sum it up the CCM genre pretty well and it reminds every fan of CCM why they fell in love with the music in the first place.- Review date: 7/2/05, written by Sherwin Frias
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