On August 1st, legendary Christian pop/rock act Audio Adrenaline released their final recorded project, Adios: The Greatest Hits. For that collection of seventeen hits, I wrote a separate review to correlate with the album's release date. But at the same time, EMI CMG also released a "Special Edition" version of this project for the true fans, adding one extra new song and a DVD to the package. The end result is really the definitive way to properly wave goodbye to one of Christian music's tried and true.
This review is focusing on the "Special Edition" portion of Adios: The Greatest Hits, so for the audio portion of the project (i.e. the seventeen songs on the first disc), please click here. But for this "Special Edition" release, the appropriate send-off for one of my favorite acts of all time has been enhanced. To cap off the first disc, the collection portion of the project, a cover of Charlie Peacock's "Down In The Lowlands" has been added. What's bittersweet about this song is it pretty much follows the fun, pop/rock sound that made records like Underdog or bloOm so lovable. But what caught my ear about "Down In The Lowlands" is how well it uses Mark Stuart's ailing vocals to the song's advantage. It's a recording like this that makes me wish there could be ways to make the best of Stuart's vocal problems instead of hanging up the mic and going home. But since pain is accompanying Stuart's struggles, it's understandable that he must stop to prevent further damage. Regardless, "Down In The Lowlands" is a fine addition to the first disc, and a more satisfying end for the hits list than the more melancholy-yet-hope-filled "Starting Over."
While the extra song may be a gem in and of itself, the real prize of Adios: The Greatest Hits Special Edition is the DVD - but more specifically, the main documentary included. With Mark Stuart and bassist Will McGinniss serving as the band's remaining original members, "The Story Of Audio Adrenaline" documentary opens with the pair seated on a couch to begin telling of how the band got started. Stuart takes the viewer from the day he met McGinniss to how the band got signed to Forefront Records and their first experiences on the road. As the story reaches the band's 1996 record bloOm, drummer Ben Cissell joins the duo to explain how he came into the band and his role with them. Intermittently between stories, we're treated to sound bites from artists like TobyMac, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Relient K, who all offer their own little reflections on the band's ministry. And by the time the trio reach talking about the Some Kind Of Zombie era, guitarist Tyler Burkum joins the guys to explain his origin. With a smirk, Stuart tells how they met Burkum and first viewed an audition tape of his, and we're treated to a brief glimpse at the very tape Burkum sent in that would later earn him a spot in the band. The rest of the documentary covers their each consecutive album, their Grammy Award wins, and a bit of on-the-road fun that even shows the band's bizarre encounter with a bag of dead squirrels in the back of a van.
Although "The Story Of Audio Adrenaline" documentary clocked in at 45 minutes before the credits finished rolling, there seemed to be a few things missing from the story that could have really made it even more special. Original guitarist Barry Blair and original keyboardist Bob Herdman are only mentioned and seen in photos and are completely absent from the interviews. Although the story was focusing on who is in AudioA up until their final gig, it would have been cool to see those guys and what they're up to now, and hear them reflect on their time in AudioA and perhaps where it's gone since they left. Also, the documentary barely addresses their final two albums Worldwide and Until My Heart Caves In, with the former never even being mentioned and the latter mentioned by name only when talking about the Grammys. Also, with all of the studio talk, there isn't any footage of the guys in the studio, which would have been great to see as well as a neat way to tie the stories together. Finally, the very end of the documentary shows a string of artists offering their goodbyes to the band, including Sanctus Real, Jars Of Clay, The Afters, Needtobreathe, MercyMe, Chris Tomlin, and Pillar. Unfortunately, some of these are abbreviated into such brief (and sometimes insignificant) snippets that it really seems like a tease if not an afterthought. It would have been great to have included more of these in length as special features on the DVD. Nitpicking aside, though, the documentary remains to be an informative video that is likely to teach the most diehard fan something new about Audio Adrenaline.
The DVD closes with a unique photo montage that shows a series of photos as a camera zips around and lingers briefly on each one before moving on to the next. The photos, although few for spanning fifteen years, are a neat mix of common and rare images (most seemingly to be promos from the Lift shoot), all set to portions of "Starting Over" and "Leaving 99." Also, eight of the band's music videos from their career are featured - but not all of them, unfortunately. While "AKA Public School," "We're A Band," "Big House," "Some Kind Of Zombie," "Hands And Feet," "Get Down," "Ocean Floor," and a live version of "Leaving 99" all make the cut, the band's first music video (albeit embarassing) "PDA," "Blitz," "Free Ride," and "Rejoice" are all absent. Considering this is probably the band's third and final DVD, I don't see why all of them couldn't have been included for the fans.
It's difficult not to give Adios: The Greatest Hits Special Edition high marks for not only existing, but for offering what it does. While there are probably lists of things that could have been added to it to beef up its contents to honor such a career as Audio Adrenaline's, it's a fine project, the ultimate version of Adios, and the perfect addition to any fan's collection. It may make the goodbye even harder and more teary-eyed, but Adios: The Greatest Hits Special Edition is a wonderful bow out in every way.- Reviewed: 9/5/06 by John DiBiase
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