Prime Cuts: Faithful and True, In Your Hands, Loves Me Like a Rock
Overall Grade: 4/5
It's not a Southern Gospel record, yet it's one where the shimmering B3-Hammond and the woozy slide guitar front the sound. It's not an African-American Gospel album, yet it's one that brings you right into church where the pews rattle with praise. It's not a worship album per se, yet the words are soaked with the thoughts of the Almighty God. Revival, simply put, is in a league of its own. Though you can find threads of Southern Gospel, urban Gospel, worship, and CCM interwoven into its sonic tapestry, it bears a patented Third Day sound. With Third Day's recent detour into rock with 2012's Miracle and worship with 2015's Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship, Revival goes back to Third Day's earlier roots, making this record a catalogue treasure.
Made even more endearing is that this album was recorded at the Fame Studios which has birthed recordings from such icons as Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Shenandoah. This has been the dream of Third Day for the last 20 years. Again, this album finds the team partnering with long-time producer, mentor and friend Monroe Jones (1999's Time, 2000's Offerings: A Worship Album, 2001's Come Together). Other than a cover of Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock," the set features 12 originals coming from the team.
Lead single and title cut "Revival" is proleptic of the album. Without any technical sheen, "Revival" calls to mind the old Motown days where recordings were raw, messy, authentic, and without any technological surgery. Third Day sounds like they have taken a tutorial with the great Jerry Lee Lewis on "Gonna Be There with Me" quipped with those jaw-opening Lewis rollicking piano riffs. Those who like a heavy dose of electric guitar will appreciate "Leave This World Behind" and "Great God Almighty." Yet, despite the technical virtuoso, the songs are overpowered by their over-excessive walls of sound.
More stripped down moments abound with the ballads: "Faithful and True" has a Mark Knopfler-styled swampy blues feel that gorgeously serves to bring out the message of Christ's faithfulness in a rustic way. Continuing on the theme of Christ's faithfulness is "In Your Hands." If this song were to be released in the mid-90s when Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart were still viable on the country charts, "In Your Hands" would be a straight shooter all the way to #1. While the jaunty "Anything is Possible" has almost a live work-in-progress feel to it. And the beauty of "Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus" needs to be acquired, especially for those of us not attuned with the song's heavy reliance on African-American spirituals.
Of note is Third Day's take of Paul Simon's 1973 #2 hit "Loves Me Like a Rock." Commingling R&B, rock and lots of doses of Gospel, "Loves Me Like a Rock" is a fascinating piece that speaks of the importance of a mother's Godly influence over her son's life over critical junctures of his life. A must-hear for those of us who were not alive in the 70s. Revival, on the whole, is by no means perfect. Pockets of the album can be esoteric and foreign especially for those of us not too well-versed in old spirituals, but it is also a wonderful learning experience. This album needs time and repeated listening to be appreciated. And once when that's achieved, a whole new world opens up.