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SHORT TERM MEMORIES (2004)
Short Term Memories - Click to view! With a career as young as his eight-year-old label, it's hard for our fond memories of Chris Rice to be anything but short term. Yet at a point when a "best of" album from any other artist might seem premature, Chris manages to pull off his jokingly-titled collection with the same finesse he's exercised since day one. Short Term Memories reflects on the paradox that is Chris Rice, offering honest, simple messages with a witty twist and touching on heavy matters while maintaining an optimistic bounce. Adding that Chris's poetic perspectives are set to acoustics and vocals comparable to James Taylor, it's easy to realize why he's developed a comfortable niche at the top of the Christian music charts.

The track list offers a first-rate assortment of Chris Rice classics, from the recent, jaunty single "Other Side of the Radio," to the older but lively affirmation of "Smellin' Coffee." Infused with Chris's signature insight, the music invites listeners to experience quiet moments of worship ("Sometimes Love"), explore a Christian identity ("Face of Christ") or simply revel in the joys of Christian life ("Life Means so Much".) Also included are "Smell the Color Nine" and "Cartoons," light-hearted tracks that serve up an obligatory dose of Chris's wacky humor. However, like all "greatest hits" collections, Short Term Memories is lamentably brief. Of the eleven number one radio hits in Chris Rice's career, nine are featured on the album—resulting in a lineup that, albeit strong, overlooks some of the lesser-known gems in Chris's repertoire. Among the missing tracks are "Sam's Song," "My Cathedral," and "Hallelujahs:" songs that touched hearts—or that at least spoke to this reviewer.

As unfortunate as those omissions are, Short Term Memories partially compensates with its new material. The best in this category is Chris's version of "Go Light Your World," a song originally written by Chris that became a No. 1 hit on Christian radio after Kathy Troccoli recorded it in 1995. This piano driven melody charges listeners to illuminate the world with Christ's love, to "Run to the darkness / Seek out the hopeless, confused and poor." "Mama Prays" is an equally heartwarming tribute to parents and a recognition of the power of their countless prayers. Also featured is a previously unreleased version of "Untitled Hymn," in which acoustic guitar replaces the original basic piano for an inviting, more intimate feel. The final addition is a live performance of "Clumsy," a longtime fan favorite that is almost as excellent in concert as it is in the studio.

For serious Chris Rice fans, the familiarity of Short Term Memories may come as a bit of a disappointment. After all, Chris had few studio projects to draw from—a reality all too evident when owning even one amounts to about a fourth of the CD. The cover art is similarly familiar, with orange hues and the mysterious absence of the artist serving as the only details that set it apart from Deep Enough to Dream. Even the CD's beginning is eerily similar to this past project, as Short Term Memories, like Chris's debut, opens with the quiet musings of "Deep Enough to Dream." Slight as these parallels may be, the resulting sense of déjà vu may cause devoted enthusiasts to think twice before purchasing.

Then again, 'best of' albums aren't necessarily meant for hardcore fans but for lesser admirers who haven't invested in an artist's complete history. For these and anyone else interested in over an hour of great music, Short Term Memories is a must-have. It supplies a comprehensive selection of Chris Rice's best work, with a variety of songs that promises music to match every mood. Coupled with Chris Rice's unique songwriting style, Short Term Memories is a CD that's sure to leave a lasting impression.
- Becca Tuttle
June 2004
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