In 1998, Kansas native Jennifer Knapp gained national attention in the Christian music scene with her debut album “Kansas.” With a voice akin to Sarah McLachlan and Natalie Merchant yet still unique, Knapp’s music has been called everything from acoustic roots rock to alternative folk rock. “Kansas” earned Knapp Dove Awards in 1999 for Rock Song of the Year and New Artist of the Year. She’s also been nominated for numerous Gospel Music Association awards.
With the release of “Lay It Down” in 2000 and “The Way I Am” the following year, Knapp continued to build a strong catalogue of songs, and win over fans worldwide.
Which brings us to Knapp’s 2003 release, “The Collection.”
According to the disc’s liner notes, in the summer of 2003 a Web site was set up by Goatee Records where fans were asked to vote on their favorite songs from Knapp’s first three albums. The 15 tracks chosen made up the first disc of “The Collection.” (The CD booklet also includes notes from fans around the world talking about why they chose each of the songs — a nice touch to give the album a feel of genuineness.)
The disc kicks off with “A Little More,” probably one of Knapp’s best-known songs with vocals reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge. I really couldn’t imagine any other song to lead off a collection like this. From there we bounce all the way back to her first album with the rocking “Undo Me.” From the syrupy acoustic sounds of “Say Won’t You Say,” to the bluesy rock of “Into You” to the strong, ballad-like rocker “Breath on Me” (definitely one of Knapp’s greatest songs), there something for every musical taste here.
Next up is the “meat” of the set, disc two (titled “A Diamond in Rough”), a collection of rare tracks, demos and unreleased material.
This disc opens with a never heard version of “Say Won’t You Say” that plays out as a duet with Michael Tait (of DCTalk and Tait). The song was recorded for use on a soundtrack, but after the movie fell through the song never saw the light of day (until now). Knapp teams up with Mac Powell (of Third Day) and Nicole Nordeman on “Sing Alleluia” which was originally recorded for “City on a Hill: Sing Alleluia,” a CD collection of Christian music.
One of the most peaceful tracks on the disc, “Hallowed,” also happens to be the shortest. The song, adapted from a bible verse (essentially the prayer “Our Father”), the song was originally recorded as a demo for “The Way I Am.”
There’s demos from each of Knapp’s previous releases (a slower “Undo Me,” an acoustic “Martyrs & Thieves,” demos of the previously unreleased “Return to Me” and “Sing Out in Joy”). Even the songs repeated from disc one as demos are sufficiently different so as to not seem redundant. One of the demos even has an Ani DiFranco vibe to it, while the demo of “A Little More” actually sounds better than the eventual release as it is less overpowering musically (a great example of a song sounding better stripped-down).
Overall, this was a well-crafted collection (with 15 tracks per disc). Priced the same as a single disc, those who didn’t need a greatest hits collection had an entire second disc to enjoy (instead of one new song which seems to be the norm lately with greatest hits collections).