Review Summary: A retrospective summary of a superb career.Author's Note
: Y'all should not be even a little bit surprised I'm doing this. I have a reputation to uphold.
Acclaimed country trio Rascal Flatts announced at the turn of the year that they would embark on a farewell tour and hang em up after a twenty year run that has yielded sixteen number one singles, upwards of thirty million records sold and a slew of other bucket list achievements the majority of those who go to Nashville can only dream of attaining. Then of course, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour was postponed and ultimately cancelled. Though the band has yet to announce when and if the farewell tour will recommence (or if it will even be a farewell tour after all), they made good on the rest of the plans they had lined up for this year. New music; a 7-track EP was issued in July, and now a greatest hits package documenting their journey as a group and featuring only the most seminal and essential entries in their discography.
It hasn't exactly been ages since I checked out any of these; of course I'm always actively sifting through their back catalog. But listening to them all in sequence, in chronological order, all in the same bin, was different
. I wasn't going out of my way to dust off an old favorite, instead I'm almost unwittingly transporting myself back to the times these songs came out and the moments they found me in. "Life is a Highway" and "Fast Cars and Freedom" are still the go-to selections when it's time to roll the windows down, the weight of the world with them. "Rewind" still finds me wanting to relive every late night I ever had. "Here Comes Goodbye" is still as emotionally devastating as ever with its plot template of a breakup in progress. Rascal Flatts has always had a little bit of everything up their sleeve, and each of these hits show it, from the crescendoing vocal harmonies, to the spirited guitar fills, to the genre fluid compositions and production. There's a reason these guys were briefly the biggest act in the world. They've always made carefully crafted soundscapes that know no bounds in finding a target audience.
Another draw for this greatest hits package is that some of the songs included have been abbreviated to their radio single iterations, only heard over the airwaves and never available for purchase or streaming before. It's jarring and weird at first to hear songs like "These Days" and "Come Wake Me Up" and not be greeted by every little nuance I was so accustomed to hearing. But it's still a nice touch by my estimation. It certainly doesn't diminish the euphoria or emotional shock to the system these songs have always provided me. It's still a treat to hear Natasha Bedingfield go toe to toe with Gary LeVox on "Easy." It's still fun to watch "I Like the Sound of That" and "Yours If You Want It" paint vibrant images of love on fire in a way only these guys can. And of course, the truly impactful cuts ("I'm Movin' On", "Stand", "Changed") are always vivid reminders that not only is there a light at the end of every tunnel, but that life will not merely transmute to what you want. It's what you make it.
I'd been so wrapped up in what the Flatts had been putting out in recent times (you need to check out How They Remember You
right now), that I guess I had almost underscored in my own mind what their back catalog of masterpieces meant to me. It was certainly nice to check out the band on Doheny Avenue, err, take a walk down memory lane. If you listen in succession, it definitely plays like an overarching story; "I'm Movin' On" is a heartfelt admission of guilt and needing to change and "Yours If You Want It" is the sound of a bright, sunny future. But even if you don't, none of the songs here lose their weight in gold. Every song moves the story forward. You'll hear the progression in the group's strengths as you go. And hopefully, if you listen, you'll get so much as a glimpse
into the kind of impact that Rascal Flatts had on me. Of course, you don't have to. But I think you'd do yourself a disservice otherwise. It worked for me, didn't it?
Only time will tell if COVID-19 is just a footnote in the swan song for the greatest group of all time, if it merely prolonged it or even prevented it completely. But one thing's for sure. I love these guys to death and their music has truly changed my life.