Recollection - The Best of Nichole Nordeman
Skeptics might scoff at a best-of collection from any artist after only four full-length albums, but in Nichole Nordeman's case, the idea is not entirely implausible. Ever since her watershed debut, Wide Eyed, Nordeman was never content with pat-answer religiosity, often posing hard-to-swallow questions about faith and pondering her own inadequacy in relation to the Divine. Her music became a breath of fresh air for those looking for an alternative to the myriad soft pop divas in Christian music's positive hits radar. This propelled the songstress to become the genre's own version of Sarah McLachlan and her various Lilith Fair colleagues. In time, her songs inched closer to the adult contemporary side of pop — in spots, they even became more worshipful and celebratory — but they retained their poetic edge, outsmarting even the most eloquent of praise & worship proponents, most of whom depended more on style than substance to get their point across. Naturally, the added accessibility turned Nordeman into a bit of a radio darling, and after a slow but steady ascension she became the Gospel Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year, a title she claimed for two years in a row. This entire back story is well documented on Recollection: The Best of Nichole Nordeman, an anthology that tries to do justice to a singer/songwriter track record that never depended much on singles. The few requisite hits are all here ("To Know You," "Who You Are," "Every Season," "Holy," "Brave"), including a few songs that didn't quite attain smash status ("Legacy," "What If," "Fool for You," "Real to Me") but that left enough of a dent on Christian radio to deserve a slot. That leaves the rest of Recollection, which is a very good if not totally comprehensive look at Nordeman's exceptional songwriting aptitude, especially notable in deep album cuts such as "Is It Any Wonder?," "I Am," "River God," and "Why?" — easily Nordeman at her most emotive. A number of omissions are felt — "Wide Eyed," "Small Enough," "Help Me Believe," "We Build," and "Someday" come immediately to mind — and the two new songs included ("Sunrise," "Finally Free") are functional but not essential. Even in light of those foibles, there's absolutely no filler on Recollection, making it the ideal introduction for Nordeman newcomers, as well as the perfect parenthesis before the celebrated composer's next career move.