Release Date: August 4th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Gonna Be There With Me
- Leave This World Behind
- Let There Be Light
- Faithful and True
- Gather Round Now
- In Your Hands
- Loves Me Like a Rock
- New Creation
- Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus
- Anything is Possible
- Great God Almighty
- You Redeemed Me (Bonus Track)
- The Return (Bonus Track)
- Revival (Radio Mix)
- Let There Be Light (First Take)
- Faithful and True (First Take)
It’s been a while since Third Day have released anything new. Not to say that fans of Third Day (or any band for that matter) ought to be restless whenever we don’t see new material after a certain time, yet when a band like Third Day have been releasing albums steadily since their debut album in 1996, we start to wonder and ponder whether the future of this group from Georgia are on the outs…especially with the vacating of Brad Avery, longtime guitarist, ten years ago, followed by bassist Tai Anderson in 2015. Even drummer David Carr is picking up photography (it is not known whether photography is on the side, or if he is also leaving the band as well)…and so I sit back and think- maybe Third Day’s time is done. And that’s ok. I was literally ok with that. Because after all, things change, people move on, and priorities become different when you grow up, have children of your own, and everything happens after that. If there wasn’t another album after Lead Us Back that was created in March 2015, I probably would’ve been ok with it. I still would’ve wanted the band to continue (like any fan), but in the end, I would’ve made peace with it, knowing that the Lord would’ve called each of them on to whatever He had in store for them. But…this definitely wasn’t the case for Third Day– Mac Powell and co.
Because even though Third Day have had quite the amount of personnel changes of late, the band is far from calling it quits, as this surprise new album Revival released earlier this year in August, to literally no warning. No press release (in fact, I believe the press article was only a few weeks before it were to be released worldwide), not much publicity, just a release of 13 songs (18 on the deluxe edition) of good southern-gospel/rock from a band that has redefined the genre of rock-worship (the infusion together of good rock music mixed with a vertical worship focus) since songs from the 1990s like ‘My Hope is You’, ‘Your Love Oh Lord’, ‘Love Song’, ‘I’ve Always Loved You’ and ‘Take My Life’ were released from the band. Now more than 20 years later since their self titled debut album, Mac and the band have presented what I reckon is one of their most refined and musically unique album’s I’ve heard since…well since Time and Come Together way back in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
With the band recording in FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and with longtime friend and producer Monroe Jones (who worked on previous albums like Time, Come Together and the two Offerings projects to name a few), Mac, Mark Lee (guitarist) and David Carr (drummer) have plenty to say and a unique way to say it in what I reckon will become one of the standout albums for anyone, in 2017, period. Regardless of whether you love Christian music, rock music, Third Day music, CCM radio friendly pop, this album deserves to be at least heard in its entirety, at least once. As Mac and the band have related to us, ‘…I believe it’s a record that a lot of our fans have been waiting for a long time for us to make. I’m proud of us too because I feel like there’s just not anybody in our market doing music like this so that can be scary, but at the same time it’s exciting. I’m proud of us taking some risks and some chances, and thankful to the label for trusting us to do that…’ My favourite album I’ve heard since MOVE in 2010, this is Third Day at its best, as 2017 continues to assert itself as being one of my favourite years in music (within the last 5 years). Third Day are not hanging up their boots yet, with Revival showing us they mean business when they declare that we ‘…ain’t gonna find it in a politician, not from a government or any law, can’t get it going by your own religion, only by the Spirit and the Word of God…’ (‘Revival’).
While it has only been a couple of years, society has now grown impatient, and if any artist doesn’t release new material within a certain time frame, we start to question and wonder. We all are susceptible to it, I know I am, and frankly, for the better part of the year, I was wondering when Mac Powell and the team at Third Day would be releasing their new album, whether it would be in 2017 or the year after. Yet we aren’t to fear any longer, as ‘Revival’ (both the song and the album as a whole) are a reminder that some of the band’s best work are both now and still to come. A welcomed addition into WOW Hits 2018, ‘Revival’ stands at a little over 3 and a half minutes, as Mac and the band invite us to take a journey along with them to their southern rock roots. Musically, this song is more of a throwback to their Move or Revelation music days, or maybe, just maybe, musically like their 1999 album Time more than anything else. Presented with saxophones, horns, choirs, light guitars, and Mac’s trademark booming voice, we hear a message that is as relevant as it is catchy and infectious. A song about how revival needs to spread like wildfire across a land that is so desperately yearning for change and difference, this is what I believe Third Day do best. As track #1 (and one of my favourite songs on the whole album!), “Revival” is a pleasant throwback musically to the Third Day of old, and is a reminder of why I enjoyed listening to the band in the first place. There is such much heart and intentionality about this song, and the purpose behind it is as much needed in today’s society as it is needed in our own lives as well. Inspired by ‘Revival Week’, an annual event held in Mac Powell’s childhood church in central Alabama, Mac divulges the meaning behind the song and what led him to write such a song as “Revival”- ‘…Revival Week required me to do some soul searching and ask myself, ‘Am I really at a place where I’m willing to surrender to what God would ask and have of me?’ Brothers and sisters, He wants so much more than just a revival week for us, but for every single day of our lives to be one in which we surrender to seek His wisdom and guidance through the Word of God, and celebrate the abundant life and joy that only He can bring. Let’s join together and hope and pray that God would see fit to bring about in every single one of us, revival…’ And with a heart behind the song like Mac’s, what can’t we not love about “Revival”, quite possibly one of 2017’s best kept secrets in Christian music!
On the back of ‘Revival’, we hear other great songs that can easily chart as well as the first radio single on radio, possibly even more so in months to come. Not to say that ‘Revival’ wasn’t a good choice at first radio single, it’s just that if you judge the new album based off the first radio single and nothing else, then you’d be pretty disappointed. ‘Revival’ is not the most cohesive or even musically ingenious song on the album, nor is it the most radio friendly or CCM-esque. Nevertheless, Mac, Mark, David and co have managed to present to us 2 versions of the album- a deluxe edition featuring demos of songs like ‘Let There Be Light’ and ‘Faithful and True’, a radio mix of ‘Revival’ and two new tracks ‘You Redeemed Me’ and ‘The Return’. And now onto the music…how does the rest of the album compare to ‘Revival’ and the tone that the song set for the whole album in general?
‘Gonna Be There With Me’ is full of choirs, Gospel-tinged electric guitar strums, piano riffs that you could probably hear in pubs and clubs, along with harmonicas, tambourines, and plenty of finger clicks and hand claps; you can almost be forgiven that this song was found and plucked out of the 1990s, like it was straight from Time, because that is the feel, of not only this track, but for most of the album as a whole as well. ‘Gonna Be There With Me’ is a song of thanks, knowing that no matter where we go, that ‘…anywhere that I would roam, Lord, it’s always good to know, that You’re gonna be there with me…’ The piano and saxophone instrumental solos are a nice touch, and remind us that Third Day’s vintage atmosphere is not lost, that their roots in Southern Gospel is very much alive on Revival. The powerful guitar intro at the beginning of ‘Leave this World Behind’ harkens back to the Conspiracy No. 5 or even their self titled album days, and is a nice addition to an already nostalgic album. The song itself speaks about how when we ‘…leave this world behind, don’t worry for me, when I leave this world behind, I’ll be in glory, don’t you shed a tear for me, I’ll be doing fine, there’s a reason that I’m here today, my heart is longing for a better place…’, a message that has been the cornerstone of much of the band’s earlier material. And though at times the guitar can sometimes overpower the song itself, the atmosphere of Third Day of old, alongside the trusty-ol-fade out that is used in a vast majority of the songs on Revival, ‘Leave This World Behind’ is nevertheless a standout on the album as a whole.
‘Gather Round Now’ is a song you’re probably going to sing around campfires or in groups- it is a testify-esque melody, declaring about our Jesus and testifying to what He has done in our lives. It features a ‘Blind Boys of Alabama’-style gospel choir and tries very hard to marry gospel and hard rock- and for the most part, it does a good job. However, the song does fall into the trap of repetitious lyrics a little too much, yet the music and the unique moments of infusing gospel and rock does its best for me to forget the fact that the lyrics of this song particularly, isn’t as imaginative as previous Third Day songs of the past. The band also record a cover Paul Simon’s ‘Loves Me Like a Rock’ that stays very much to how the original sounds like, and reminds us all that often songs sung by people in the mainstream can still have spiritual/religious connotations, even if it was unintended. ‘New Creation’ continues the marrying of gospel and hard rock with hand claps being the primary ‘percussion’ instrument, as Mac declares that he is a new creation in Christ, a subject matter that has been discussed at length in songs by other artists previously, yet this song by Third Day is nevertheless refreshing and unique, and this is primarily because of the music arrangements.
“Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus” places the message of how God loves us much more than everyone here on Earth, at the front and centre of the track, as Mac invites us to identify all the good qualities in his brothers, sisters, father and mother, wife and children, how much they love him, and then remind us all that God loves us so much more; while songs like ‘Anything is Possible’, ‘Devotion’ and ‘Great God Almighty’ round out the standard edition of the album, with the band reminding us about how with God, everything is possible, even the most impossible of situations (‘Anything is Possible’), while also providing us messages of how we offer up a praise and devotion to the Lord in response of what has been done for us (‘Devotion’), and giving us biblical examples and circumstances where God came to save His children, often at the 11th hour, but nevertheless, God still shows up and saves who calls upon His name. The deluxe edition then includes two newly recorded tracks- ‘You Redeem Me’ and ‘The Return’, the former being a statement of declaration, thanking God for redeeming us in the moment we needed it the most (while delivering the electric guitar and saxophone as the primary instruments in this song), while the latter one where its message is crucial- that Jesus is returning and we all have to be ready for such an event of Jesus’s second coming!
Apart from ‘Revival’, though most of the album features more rock and more gospel than we as fans of Third Day seem to hear nowadays, we have been gifted with three more songs of the radio-friendly variety- ‘Let There Be Light’, ‘Faithful and True’ and ‘In Your Hands’. In fact, both ‘Let There Be Light’ and ‘Faithful and True’ have demo recordings attached to the deluxe edition, while the song ‘Let There Be Light’ is played countless times on the radio in Australia. And then ‘In Your Hands’ has ‘radio song’ written all over it, so I guess all these three tracks have a shot at being on the radio at some point in the next year or so. And while these three songs have pretty much standard music as far as being fit to be on the radio is concerned, each of these songs present hard-hitting messages. ‘Let There Be Light’ is a prayer for light to overcome the darkness, for hope to insert into the places where there is none. For peace to come into the places of sorrow, and for love to come bring us back from the brink, to bring us back home- in the presence of the Father. A shoe-in for WOW Hits 2019? Quite possibly! ‘Faithful and True’ opens slowly with the acoustic guitar and then builds with the organ and a heartfelt message that God, our redeemer, is faithful and true, and if things aren’t the way we can see or hope for, we can at least stand upon that promise that is spoken over our lives from the beginning. ‘In Your Hands’ is yet another song that could peak a lot on radio in the future, a powerful ballad that features a lot of keyboards, that reminds us all that it is in God’s hands that we can find refuge and comfort, and strength to undertake the things that can seem so lofty and at times impossible if tried to be accomplished by our own strength!
What can I say about the album and band that I haven’t said already? Fans of the band will enjoy the album. Newer fans will also love this album. And I’m sure fans of music that may not necessarily be within the same genre or style as Third Day may also appreciate this album. Dare I say that Revival is in the running as being nominated for the Rock/Contemporary album of 2017/18 at next year’s Dove Awards? I will say it, because it has a great chance- alongside albums in 2017 like Jeremy Camp’s The Answer and Seventh Day Slumber’s Found. Formed long ago with the assembly of kids from Atlanta, Georgia, Third Day show no signs of slowing down as they release some of their most lyrically profound and enjoyable songs I’ve heard since their 2010 album MOVE. One of my favourite bands ever (alongside Newsboys and Delirious?), Third Day still have more years in the tank with their music ministry, and Revival is a testament to that. Well done Mac, Mark and David (as well as Trevor Morgan, Scotty Wilbanks and Tim Gibson, the touring musicians) for such a powerful and prolific album, and one that’ll be on repeat in my iTunes playlist for years to come!
5 songs to listen to: Revival, In Your Hands, Devotion, Let There Be Light, Faithful and True
RIYL: needtobreathe, Zach Williams, Rhett Walker Band, Building 429, TFK, RED, Daughtry