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The Ultimate Collection
by Rebecca St. James

Reviewed by Tracy Darlington

"The Ultimate Collection is a top notch quality time capsule of the last fourteen years of St. James' ministry."

It was a hot summer night in July, 1995 at a small, local community park when I saw 17 year old Rebecca St. James in concert for the first time. Back then she was performing with accompaniment tracks. No entourage, no tour buses -- just RSJ, her father working the merch table, and her brother doing sound. Seeing her so passionate about the Lord at such a young age was inspiring. She sang “Here I Am” with abandon, and the small crowd of a few hundred lifted their hands in worship. Now with a Grammy, multiple Dove Awards, and a Gold album (Pray, 1997), Rebecca has come a long way. With a career spanning fourteen years so far, she now takes her pop/rock music on tour with a full band, background singers, family, and an elaborate light show worldwide, ministering to tens of thousands of people. But she hasn’t forgotten her roots. A few years ago she told me she still remembers being on that small stage back at the beginning of her career.

This double disk Ultimate Collection features 24 of Rebecca’s hits, from the early songs she sang so long ago like “Here I Am” and “Abba, Father” to her most recent cuts. The album opener “God Help Me” is a great track Rebecca often uses to open a concert, getting the crowd revved up and ready for her to emerge onstage. The cd set also showcases St. James’ classics like “God” and “Go And Sin No More”. It’s unfortunate the anthology lacks two of the key songs in Rebecca’s repertoire, “Side by Side” (I remember this being her second big radio hit) and “Me Without You” (a staple in her early concerts), but this is still a great collection.

In 2005 “America” was the theme song for the National Day of Prayer. Now it’s part of the Ultimate Collection. And they couldn’t forget to include the ubiquitous “Wait for Me”, possibly Rebecca’s most popular teen anthem. There are no new songs on here, but there are newer songs, like “Reborn” and “Blessed Be Your Name.” And although many Christian artists have performed “Breathe”, Rebecca’s rendition, included on this set, is probably my favorite version.

One of the bonus tracks will please Chronicles of Narnia fans. It’s the song she sang on the CD Music inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it’s aptly called “Lion”.

The Ultimate Collection is a top notch quality time capsule of the last fourteen years of St. James’ ministry. It reveals Rebecca’s growth and evolution into a seasoned role model and music artist who is just as passionate about the Lord as she was when she started.

Tracy DarlingtonTracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.