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The Best Yet - not a beautiful letdown

I am always skeptical about "Best of" albums these days.  Years ago, I loved these compilations because it would save me from making one of my own.  But with the advent of the mp3 player, anyone has the ability to make a playlist of favorite songs.  So when I first heard of the November 4, 2008 release of Switchfoot's The Best Yet, I rolled my eyes.  "Here we go again.  Another record label squeezing out the most of a band just after said band departs from said record label."  Tim Foreman, bassist for the band, posted this comment on the Switchfoot message boards upon news of the upcoming release, "It's the music business, and this is how they make money. This isn't good or bad, it just is."  Yeah, I know.  But still, somehow it irks me.

Tim continued, "We chose the songs. These are songs that we would like to play for someone who has never heard of Switchfoot.  After-all, isn't that the whole purpose of a 'best of' CD?  It's not for the die-hard fan, it's for the guy that missed the boat the first time, but wants to still get on. I've been that guy before, so I'm not anti. If these songs are able to reach a few more pairs of ears, cool. It's definitely not something that was a part of our plan for this year as a band, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it's pretty minor. If it sounds cool to you, get it. If not, don't."

Tim has a good point.  The assemblage of eighteen songs, including "This is Home" from this past summer's Prince Caspian movie soundtrack (not included on any other Switchfoot albums), provides a good sampling of over eleven years of Switchfoot's catalog for a new fan.  Yet normally there is a sweetener to encourage the long time fan to pick up a best of disc.  Tim wrote, "We've been digging into the vault to find rare video content for the deluxe edition, so that the hard-core fan that does decide to buy it won't be disappointed."  The Deluxe Edition (not included in the press pack) is set to feature fourteen videos, some never before released for sale. OK, they have got me hooked now.  I shall cave in to the record label scheme.  Yes, I would rather some never before released live audio versions in lieu of some of the studio tracks.  But this will suffice.

So, how does one decide the means to present so many songs from such a long span of time?  I actually did not pay much attention to the track list until my first listen.  The disc begins with "Dare You To Move", which may have been the springboard to bring Switchfoot to a different level after the song was included in the soundtrack for the movie A Walk to Remember in 2002.  Next comes "Meant to Live" which is the one song that everyone at a concert seems to know and was the first radio single when the band signed to Columbia.  So the first two songs were most likely chosen to capture the new fan and long-time fan alike.

I did not have any other thoughts on the remaining song arrangement except that I found it interesting that there is an adequate mixes of the songs out of chronological order.  The album flows well with songs on the pop end of the spectrum like "This is Your Life" and "On Fire" combined well with the rockier tunes such as "Oh! Gravity" and "Awakening".  And "Twenty-four" is included; one of the songs I believe would have been a Jon Foreman song had he been doing the solo thing back then.

Yet it sounds a bit funny to me when I hear old songs right next to new songs.  Though this experience highlights the changes and growth (musically and number of band members) over the years.  You can really hear the difference of a five-piece outfit when the more recent "Lonely Nation" follows "Company Car, one of the earlier songs from the former trio.  Hmm... maybe I should random more often on my mp3 player rather than listening in sequence.

At the end of Tim's message board post, he claimed, "We're excited to put this behind us and finish making what we already believe to be our best record yet."  With the Music Builds tour over, the band is in the studio a lot these days aiming for a spring release.