The roots of the band Jars of Clay can be traced back to Greenville College in Illinois. They released their self-titled debut album in 1995. It included the single ‘Flood’, which was a hit, peaking at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #12 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. In 2002 Jars of Clay released their fourth full length project, THE ELEVENTH HOUR (Essential). It was their third consecutive album to win the Grammy for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. It also won Best Modern Rock Album at the 2003 Dove Awards and peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200. All of the songs were written by group members Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, and Matt Odmark. The album was produced by Jars of Clay and executive produced by Robert Beeson.
First up is ‘Disappear’, a terrific pop love song: “I watch you smile, you steal the show/You take a bow, the curtain falls in front of you/You’re magical, on display/I gaze into your eyes and you turn to look the other way/But I’d really love to know, I’d really love to climb my way into your heart and see what I could find/I’d walk into your skin, swim through your veins/See it from your eyes/Cause I’d really love to try, yeah”. John Catchings plays cello on ‘Something Beautiful’, which cries out to God: “Do You see it on my face/That all that I can think about is how long I’ve been waiting to feel You move me?/Close my eyes and hold my heart/Cover me and make me beautiful/Change this something normal into something beautiful”. ‘Revolution’ is a fun, contagious rock song: “The time is right to cross that line, to let love find a way/If you know the words then try to sing along/And when you get the beat, grab a hammer, bang a gong/Cause you don’t gotta fight or make yourself belong to be a revolution”.
Anyone who has ever lost a loved one will appreciate these lyrics from ‘Fly’: “I saw the host of silent angels waiting on their own/Knowing that all the promises of faith come alive when you see home/Hold still and let your hand melt into mine/And I’ll fly with you through the night so you know/I’m not letting go (2X)”. The album’s first single ‘I Need You’ is a warm pop song of innocence: “You are the shelter from the rain and the rain to wash me away/I need You (6X)/You’re all I’m living for”.
‘Silence’ is appropriately a quiet song. It reminds us that the Christian life is not always easy: “Where are You? (2X)/Did You leave me unbreakable?/Leave me frozen?/I’ve never felt so cold/I thought You were silent/I thought You left me for the wreckage and the waste/On an empty beach of faith/Was it true?” ‘Scarlet’ features guest vocals by Fleming Painter and is poetic: “For love I have scaled the face of these kingdom walls/So let down your hair, let our kiss make fools of them all/And this old scarlet letter won’t keep me from holding you/And there is nothing you can do/Nothing you do”.
Next up is a great rock song, ‘Whatever She Wants’. It warns about the type of woman not to get involved with: “All her wants to fill a need/She wants to save you with her bandages after she makes you bleed/Like a vampire, a parasite/Stretch the necks of her victims/She finds her prey in broad daylight/When you’re up, she’s down, down she’s up, it whips around/It’s the ride the way that she needs it/Whatever she wanted for whatever you need/Speechless and silent while she takes everything”. The song was the album’s fourth and last single. The title track, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a pleasant sounding song that waxes philosophical: “Rescue me from hanging on this line/I won’t give up on giving you a chance to blow my mind/Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by/I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time/I’ve been down without you, cold without your love/In time will I be what you’re thinking of?”
The beautiful ballad ‘These Ordinary Days’ follows. It includes this lyric which is a pearl of wisdom: “The harm of words is sometimes we don’t quite know what they really mean”. Tab Laven plays banjo on ‘The Edge of Water’ which includes these words: “Do we give up this search and turn out the light and give up this holy ghost that rattles through the night?/I can’t see the sun for the daylight, I can’t feel your breath for the wind.../I get so used to these shadows/Will you chase away these shadows when you come back again?”
THE ELEVENTH HOUR is more a group of Christians making good music than it is a Christian band making a Christian music record. The lyrics from time to time do touch on spiritual themes, but this isn’t a blatantly evangelical record, and that’s okay. This pop, rock, and contemporary album is a pleasure to listen to. Dan Haseltine’s vocals are easy on the ears. This record is an artistic success that young adults should enjoy. It is soothing. I’m rating THE ELEVENTH HOUR 94%. For more info visit: www.jarsofclay.com or find them on Facebook.