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Eight years into a recording career that has included five albums, ten number one songs, and multiple Dove Awards (including New Artist of the Year), singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan has released her first greatest hits project, THE BEST SO FAR. However, any long-time fan of Ms. Morgan will probably immediatly be surprised to view the actual track list. Breaking it down we see that there are four songs from REAL LIFE, two from A REASON TO LIVE, three from UNDER THE WATERFALL, one from LISTEN, and two from THE LOVING KIND. One track from LISTEN? I can not understand the reasoning behind this decision. LISTEN is, by general consensus of Cindy's fans, critics, and Cindy herself, the definitive Cindy Morgan project. It is the album where she truely came into her own as an artist, where her songs transcended the pre-packaged box they often came in on her previous albums, where her writing for the first time clicked at every level (both on the ballads and the up-tempo tracks). It is, in my opinion, one of the finest contemporary Christian albums of the 1990's. Yet the powers-that-be decided to include a miniscule one track from that stellar project, the title track, and at the same time selected four songs from REAL LIFE (the album which is, in all ways, least "Cindy").
A far better collection would drop at least two, if not three, of the REAL LIFE tracks. "It's Gonna Be Heaven," "Real Life," and maybe "Let It Be Love," even though that song really can soar. In their place I would select "The Master's Hand" and "God Is Love." Both are fantastic songs which had some radio success. And then we might include one of the numerous tracks that Cindy has participated on outside of her own projects. "Somewhere Within the Heat" (a #1 duet with Carman), "You'll Be There," or the superb "Make Us One." Any of those three would be a worthy choice for inclusion on a project like this.
All of that being said, I really do like this album. The other selections are stellar. I've always believed that Cindy was at her best when she was sitting at a piano and singing one of her ballads. And her best of such recordings are here: "How Could I Ask For More," "I Will Be Free," and "Praise the King." "Listen" "I'll Stand," and "Sweet Days of Grace" sound just as good today as when they were first released. "I Know You" has always been one of my personal favorites. And "Take My Life" is one of Cindy's best-ever lyrics.
The album actually opens with the two new tracks, again produced by Brent Bourgeois. "Love Is the Answer," a cover, is a funky/jazz mid-tempo cut with a really great sax accompaniment. It's a great rendition of the songs which reminds me of a cross between some of the earthy pop of Listen and the jazzy/r&b elements found on some of UNDER THE WATERFALL's tracks. "Tell Me That You Love Me" was partially inspired by and written to Cindy's husband, Sigmund. The lyric, which is sweet and perhaps even a tad bittersweet, is pure Cindy in the imagery it evokes and in the honest portrayal of a relationship and a longing. Musically, it has an ultra-cool groove that I can't get enough of (vaguely reminiscent of an old Russ Taff song).
The question that remains, then, as with any greatest hits project, is "Is this album worth buying?" To the casual or new Cindy fan, definately yes. In spite of my complaint, the project is a really great overview of Cindy's body of work and it gives a really dramatic picture of the growth that she has achieved as an artist. This really is a solid collection from one of Christian music's most talented artists; more songs from LISTEN would've simply made it even better. Four stars.