|Chronicles is a survey of Caedmon's Call's 12 years of music-making. Excluding rarities offered on their Guild CDs, and thus failing to be a complete retrospective, it offers a mix of studio and live recordings, plus two new songs. In addition, it contains brief interviews on their Fall 2004 album. Is it worth it?|
Background: Caedmon's Call lost founding member Derek Webb to a solo career and found itself in the unenviable position of promoting a new album, Back Home, without one of its best singers and songwriters. Replacing Webb with Andrew Osenga, the band played on--unevenly at first, from what I've heard, but eventually with full confidence. Now, it is poised to produce what could be its most significant work to date. How does Caedmon's Call reassure its fan base that the band is still viable and worthy of support for the ambitious Fall 2004 CD while possibly wooing new admirers?
The New Songs: Chronicles bookends highlights of the band's 12 years of music with two new songs, "All My Life" and "A New Day", which were contributed by the band's in-house songwriters Josh Moore (with Terry Kelley) and Andrew Osenga. "All My Life" points to the past and opens with a robust cello solo that leads directly into the full band playing. It's a rather simple song, but it has some nice lyrical touches ("My reluctance to be/My version of me/Is all the writing on the wall I ever need") and bodes well for Josh Moore's songwriter status. Andrew Osenga's song points to the future and demands repeated listenings; it reveals a kaleidoscope of sounds, revealing the band is very much alive and well, and it shows that Osenga is a talent to be reckoned with. (More on Osenga later.)
The Live and Studio Recordings of Old. The remaining songs survey every studio album the band has made; live recordings range over their career--some with Derek, some with Andrew Osenga. (Sadly, none of the rarities from the Guild CDs are offered. Given how rare Guild 1 is--I don't have it--I was really hoping some of these would appear here. Some of their best songs were on Guild 2, e.g. "The Rich Song" and "Potifar's Door".) Highlights: "Lead of Love" from their eponymous album boasts a lovely, mellow guitar solo by Derek Webb. "This World" dates from My Calm/Your Storm, and this recent live version is amazing; the band is definitely not dead--Andrew Osenga on mandolin! Like his work on Eric Peters' Bookmark, Osenga works subtle magic. The radio version of "Hands of the Potter" is even MORE percussive than the studio version. The new studio version of "Bus Driver" boasts a for-old-time's-sake reunion with Derek Webb, and Derek has fun with this old song; it's interesting to hear how he's changed as a vocalist.
The Enhancements. The CD also contains a video selling the band's upcoming Fall release. I'm intrigued by their project that embraces influences, ideas, and musicians from Christians around the world. Given Josh Moore's orchestral mindset, Osenga's subtle magic, the better-than-ever vocals of Cliff and Danielle Young, and the songwriting skills of Moore and Osenga, I believe the band can pull this project off.
Conclusion: I think Chronicles makes an excellent case for the continued life of Caedmon's Call. As musicians, they haven't been better. "All My Life" shows they can still exude that "Caedmon's sound". "A New Day" reveals that the band can renew and reinvent while remaining true to itself. They still have a lot of life left in them. Given the low price, worthy new songs, and powerful live performances, I recommend this CD to old fans and new acquaintances.