An inevitable result of the longevity of a successful band is the need for a “best-of” album. Eight years after the release of their immensely successful debut, Jars of Clay takes a cue from label mates, Third Day, and chooses not to release a simple collection of hits. Instead, Furthermore – From The Studio: From The Stage is actually two albums. Half of the songs were recorded in the band’s home studio and half were recorded live.

By far the strongest is the studio portion of the project. The songs are stripped down to the bare essentials: acoustic guitars, piano and light percussion. This is Jars of Clay at their best, a sound that’s very intimate and tender. A prime example is “Liquid.” The original 1995 version is beginning to show its age. Yet, by trading in the programmed drum beats and vocal echoes for a more simple arrangement, the band has allowed the song to age gracefully and mature into an intensely passionate cry for God.

This passion is echoed throughout their songs, including the band’s rendition of the Adam Again classic “Dig,” one of three new songs on the project. Dan Haseltine’s vocal delivery matches the late Gene Eugene’s original, eerie desperation.

The live tracks present a much louder Jars of Clay. “Revolution”-now supported by a gospel choir-bristles with an energy that creates a more powerful version than the original. Intense energy continues into “Flood,” a track that needs no backing choir, where the audience’s captured enthusiasm is truly infectious. It is disappointing that on both “Flood” and “Like a Child,” the audience wasn’t properly recorded. Therefore, sing-along portions sound awkwardly one-sided.

It is encouraging that the guys from Jars of Clay cared enough about their songs to reinterpret them rather than recycle them. The result is something that rarely happens when a group’s best songs are gathered together in one place: This is one of Jars’ strongest projects.

Copyright © 2004 Christian Music Planet, used with permission.

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